The last Federalist Paper

The very last “Federalist Paper ” — Federalist #85, written by Alexander “Non-Stop” Hamilton — was first published on August 13 and 16, 1788 (happy 234th anniversary!) in the The New York Packet and The Independent Journal. Among other things, Hamilton acknowledges that the proposed Constitution was “imperfect”:

“I never expect to see a perfect work from imperfect man. The result of the deliberation of all collective bodies, must necessarily be a compound as well of the errors and prejudices, as of the good sense and wisdom of the individuals of whom they are composed. The compacts which are to embrace thirteen distinct states, in a common bond of amity and union, must as necessarily be a compromise of the dissimilar interests and inclinations. How can perfection spring from such materials?”

But Hamilton not only defends the necessity of compromise; he also explains why imperfection is inevitable in human affairs by quoting from David Hume’s 1742 essay on “The Rise and the Progress of the Arts and Sciences“:

“… to balance a large state or society … whether monarchical or republican, on general laws, is a work of so great difficulty, that no human genius, however comprehensive, is able by the mere dint of reason and reflection, to effect it. The judgments of many must unite in the work: EXPERIENCE must guide their labour: TIME must bring it to perfection: and the FEELING OF inconveniences must correct the mistakes which they inevitably fall into, in their first trials and experiments.”

In fact, Hume may have played a much greater role in our constitutional politics than most people realize. (See here, for example.) Maybe we should add the great Scottish philosopher and historian next to Hamilton on the Twenty Dollar Bill!

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Blade Runner redux

To commemorate the 40th anniversary of the release of the original Blade Runner film (1982), I am reposting my 2011 paper “Clones and the Coase Theorem“, which I co-authored with my colleague and friend Orlando Martinez. (Shout out to Daniel Nina for introducing us to this classic sci fi film noir!) Below is the scene featuring the hypothetical “Voight Kampff Machine” (VKM) used to determine whether a person is a replicant or a biological human:

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What did the Feds find in Melania’s closet?

The Mar-A-Lago search warrant materials were recently unsealed and are available here. Under the label “Property to be seized” (see Attachment B on page 4) is the following statement: “All physical documents and records constituting evidence, contraband, fruits of crime, or other items illegally possessed in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 793, 2071, or 1519.” Most media reports have focused on Section 793, which is part of the Espionage Act of 1917, a controversial law that has been used to stifle speech and scapegoat political enemies, but what about Sections 2071 and 1519?

Let’s start with Section 1519. This statute (see here) makes it a federal crime to alter, destroy, or falsify any record, document, or tangible object with the intent of impeding or obstructing a federal investigation or a bankruptcy case. (For the record, Section 1519 only has 82 words: “Whoever knowingly alters, destroys, mutilates, conceals, covers up, falsifies, or makes a false entry in any record, document, or tangible object with the intent to impede, obstruct, or influence the investigation or proper administration of any matter within the jurisdiction of any department or agency of the United States or any case filed under title 11, or in relation to or contemplation of any such matter or case, shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both.”) Similarly, Section 2071 (see here) makes it a federal crime to hide, mutilate, or destroy any official document or thing “filed or deposited with any clerk or officer of any court of the United States, or in any public office, or with any judicial or public officer of the United States.” (It’s also a crime to “attempt” to do those things.) The maximum penalty under Section 2071, by contrast, is a “mere” three years in federal prison (compared to 20 years under Section 1519) as well as forfeiture of public office and disqualification “from holding any office under the United States” in the future.

Notice how neither Section 1519 nor Section Section 2071 make any reference to “classified” documents or to secrecy levels; in other words, both statutes apply to “classified” and “unclassified” documents alike. My best guess is that the Feds are trying to build a case against President Trump for altering or destroying evidence relevant to the ongoing investigation being conducted by the “January 6 Committee” in Congress. In the meantime, it’s important to keep in mind that under U.S. law the level of proof for obtaining a search warrant is “probable cause” but the level of proof for obtaining a conviction in a court of law is much higher: “proof beyond a reasonable doubt”.

FBI even searched Melania's wardrobe in Trump raid

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Bet on it

That is the name of a new and contrarian libertarian blog my colleague and friend Bryan Caplan, an economics professor at George Mason; check it out here.

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Farewell Jamaica!

Below are some memories from my visit to my wife’s beloved and beautiful birthplace:

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Street art in Kingston, Jamaica

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Three legends

The sultry and suggestive song “Go Down Deh” features three living legends from Jamaica: dancehall artist Sean Paul; Reggae musician Shaggy; and the Queen of Dancehall, Spice. Enjoy!

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Should Jamaica become a republic?

By way of background, the first country in the English-speaking Caribbean to become a republic was Guyana (1970), followed by Trinidad and Tobago (1976), Dominica (1978), and Barbados (2021). Although Jamaica has been an independent country for 60 years, Queen Elizabeth II is still the head of state here. (I am in Jamaica this week.) As an outsider, however, I find this constitutional question to be amusing at best given the Jamaican government’s terrible track record in the areas of crime, garbage collection, and road repair (just ask any Jamaican about these three areas of life). Also, as explained in this informative essay by Derek O’Brien on “Jamaica’s long and winding road to becoming a Republic”, any major change to Jamaica’s constitutional status would require a referendum. But guess what? A constitutional referendum on precisely this question has now been scheduled for the next general election in the year 2025. Is this referendum a “smokescreen” for the government’s inability to fight crime, fix major roads like the A3 (a state of affairs that I can personally attest to), and collect garbage in a timely manner (see here, for example)? What if, instead of becoming a republic, Jamaica joined the United Kingdom as an equal? What if Jamaicans were to send an entire delegation to the House of Commons in London, like the Northern Irish, Scots, and Welsh do? At the very least, if you ask me, Jamaica’s 2025 referendum should include that latter option as well …

Caribbean Basin Revisited: CQR
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Is it too late to stop or repeal or rename the Inflation Reduction Act?

Is Tyler Cowen the last remaining intellectually-honest economist in the world? Check out his devastating critique of the new climate and taxes bill. (See also his previous comment, pictured below, about the misnamed bill.) Among other things, the electric vehicle tax credits in this monstrous bill do not apply to any electric vehicle whatsoever, nor will they obviously apply to any electric vehicle to be produced in the near future.

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Average price of a bottle of Heineken beer in Europe

Although I prefer Jamaica’s Red Stripe beer over Heineken, check out the infographic pictured below (hat tip: u/acecruze) or this chart compiled by a website called GlobalProductPrices.com. Does this infographic tend to confirm or disconfirm Adam Smith’s concept of a “natural price”? (Smith defined “natural price” in Book I, Chapter VII of The Wealth of Nations as follows: “When the price of any commodity is neither more nor less than what is sufficient to pay the rent of the land, the wages of the labour, and the profits of the stock employed in raising, preparing, and bringing it to market, according to their natural rates, the commodity is then sold for what may be called its natural price.” See also this essay by economist David Andrews on “Adam Smith’s natural prices, the gravitation metaphor, and the purposes of nature.”)

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