U.S. Constitution Reflects Lockean Natural Rights

(p. A13) Over the past three decades, Richard A. Epstein has repeatedly argued–with analytical rigor and astonishing erudition–that governments govern best when they limit their actions to protecting liberty and property. He is perhaps best known for “Takings,” his 1995 book on the losses that regulations impose on property owners. Of late, he has exposed the flaws of a government-administered health system.
In “The Classical Liberal Constitution,” Mr. Epstein takes up the political logic of our fundamental law. The Constitution, he says, reflects above all John Locke’s insistence on protecting natural rights–rights that we possess simply by virtue of our humanity. Their protection takes concrete form in the Constitution by restricting the federal government to specific, freedom-advancing and property-protecting tasks, such as establishing a procedurally fair justice system, minting money as a stable repository of value, preserving a national trade zone among the states, and, not least, guarding the rights listed in the Bill of Rights.

For the full review, see:
JOHN O. MCGINNIS. “BOOKSHELF; Book Review: ‘The Classical Liberal Constitution,’ by Richard A. Epstein; Our understanding of the Constitution lost its way when we embraced the idea that rights are created by a benevolent state.” The Wall Street Journal (Mon., March 23, 2014): A13.
(Note: the online version of the review has the date March 23, 2014, and has the title “BOOKSHELF; Book Review: ‘The Classical Liberal Constitution,’ by Richard A. Epstein; Our understanding of the Constitution lost its way when we embraced the idea that rights are created by a benevolent state.”)

The book under review is:
Epstein, Richard A. The Classical Liberal Constitution: The Uncertain Quest for Limited Government. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2013.

The Vagueness and Regulatory Discretion of Dodd-Frank Is “a Recipe for Cronyism”

(p. 218) Aaron Steelman has an “Interview” with John Cochrane. On Dodd-Frank: “I think Dodd-Frank repeats the same things we’ve been trying over and over again that have failed, in bigger and bigger ways. . . . The deeper problem is the idea that we just need more regulation–as if regulation is something you pour into a glass like water–not smarter and better designed regulation. Dodd-Frank is pretty bad in that department. It is a long and vague law that spawns a mountain of vague rules, which give regulators huge discretion to tell banks what to do. It’s a recipe for cronyism and for banks to game the system to limit competition.” On how to stop bailing out large financial institutions: “You have to set up the system ahead of time so that you either can’t or won’t need to conduct bailouts. Ideally, both. . . . The worst possible system is one in which everyone thinks bailouts are coming, but the government in fact does not have the legal authority to bail out.” . . . Econ Focus, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, Third Quarter 2013, pp. 34-38. https://www.richmondfed
.org/publications/research/econ_focus/2013/q3/pdf/interview.pdf
.

Source:
Taylor, Timothy. “Recommendations for Further Reading.” Journal of Economic Perspectives 28, no. 1 (Winter 2014): 235-42.
(Note: italics, and first two ellipses, are in original; the last ellipsis is added.)

The Great Lakes Return to Greatness

(p. 16) But after reaching historic lows in 2013, water levels in the Great Lakes are now abruptly on the rise, a development that has startled scientists and thrilled just about everybody with a stake in the waterfront, including owners of beach houses, retailers in tourist areas and dockmasters who run marinas on the lakeshore.
Lakes Michigan, Huron and Superior are at least a foot higher than they were a year ago, and are expected to rise three more inches over the next month. Lake Ontario and Lake Erie are seven to nine inches higher than a year ago.

For the full story, see:
JULIE BOSMAN. “Creeping Up on Unsuspecting Shores: The Great Lakes, in a Welcome Turnaround.” The New York Times, First Section (Sun., JUNE 29, 2014): 16 & 20.
(Note: the online version of the review has the date JUNE 28, 2014.)

Salutati Defended the Independence of Florence

(p. 124) The independence of Florence–the fact that it was not a client of another state, that it was not dependent on the papacy, and that it was not ruled by a king, a tyrant, or a prelate but governed by a body of its own citizens–was for Salutati what most mattered in the world. His letters, dispatches, protocols, and manifestos, written on behalf of the ruling priors of Florence, are stirring documents, and they were read and copied throughout Italy.

Source:
Greenblatt, Stephen. The Swerve: How the World Became Modern. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2011.

The Process Innovation Called “Fracking”

(p. B1) I have come to North Dakota to observe the fracking of the Irene Kovaloff 11-18H, a well on the southern edge of the Bakken Shale. It is one of one hundred wells that will be fracked in the U.S. on this particular day in October 2012, 10 in North Dakota alone.
. . .
(p. B2) The hydraulic heart of fracking is the liquid pumped into the well. Almost all of it is water: snowmelt from the upper Rockies. In the Bakken and elsewhere, companies transform the water into a viscous liquid designed to carry sand deep into the new fractures. As it heats up underground, the gel reverts to a watery state. This change allows the sand to drop out and remain in the fractures, holding them open like pillars in a coal mine. The water flows back out.
. . .
Water and guar make up about 99.1% of the liquid; the chemicals are the rest.
. . .
The next night, the 30th frack of the Irene Kovaloff is completed. It takes three hours longer than expected, but otherwise the well is a success. Soon came light, sweet Bakken crude mixed with the water. On its first full day, it produced 800 barrels of crude–a good, but not great, result. By early 2013, Marathon had pulled 20,000 barrels of crude from the well. Considering that the oil had been locked away until the frack, it was good enough.

For the full article, see:
RUSSELL GOLD. “Book Excerpt: A Look Inside America’s Fracking Boom.” The Wall Street Journal (Tues., April 8, 2014): B1-B2.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the article has the date April 7, 2014, and has the title “Book Excerpt: A Look Inside America’s Fracking Boom.”)

Gold’s article was excerpted from his book:
Gold, Russell. The Boom: How Fracking Ignited the American Energy Revolution and Changed the World. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2014.

Political Entrepreneurs Can Find Ways to Overcome Vested Interests

[p. 202] In their recent book, Leighton and López (2013) place special emphasis on political entrepreneurship in making policy reform possible. For new ideas to overcome vested interests, they write (p. 134), it must be the case that “entrepreneurs notice and exploit those loose spots in the structure of ideas, institutions, and incentives.” They provide four case studies of this process: spectrum license auctions, airline deregulation, welfare reform, and housing finance. In their words (p. 178): “[T]he public face of political change may be that of a madman, an intellectual, or an academic scribbler. But whatever form these leaders may take, they are political entrepreneurs–people whose ideas and actions are focused on producing change.” As these authors stress, political entrepreneurship can be socially harmful, as when the pursuit of individual rents comes at the expense of overall inefficiency. But the returns from shifting the political transformation frontier out can be very large as well.
. . .
(p. 206) I owe a special debt to the recent book by Edward López and Wayne Leighton (2012 sic) for stimulating me to put down on paper a number of ideas I had been mulling over for some time.

Source:
Rodrik, Dani. “When Ideas Trump Interests: Preferences, Worldviews, and Policy Innovations.” Journal of Economic Perspectives 28, no. 1 (Winter 2014): 189-208.
(Note: the bracketed page number refers to the Rodrik article; the page number in parentheses refers to the Leighton and López book; ellipsis added; italics, and the bracketed letter, in the original.)

The book Rodrik discusses is:
Leighton, Wayne A., and Edward J. López. Madmen, Intellectuals, and Academic Scribblers: The Economic Engine of Political Change. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2013.

“The Lone Commando Who Answers to No One and Breaks Rules to Save Patients Is No Longer a Viable Job Description”

(p. D5) A keen sense of loss permeates “Code Black,” an affecting love letter from a young doctor to his hospital. Over the years, plenty of similar romances have been immortalized in book form, but this may be the first to play out as a documentary, and is surely the first to emerge from our newly reformed health care climate. You’d think you’d be in for some celebration.
But not in the least. In fact, among all its familiar themes, the film’s most striking is the profound sense of estrangement between the young doctors on the screen and all the recent efforts at improving the health care system. The spirit that brought them to medicine and keeps them there, they say over and over, was never even part of the national discussion.
. . .
. . . , as their department chairman points out, the day of the cowboy doctor is over; the lone commando who answers to no one and breaks rules to save patients is no longer a viable job description. Newly smothered in paperwork and quality control, many of these young doctors grieve for a self-image that has ridden off into the sunset.

For the full review, see:
ABIGAIL ZUGER, M.D.. “Saving Lives and Pushing Paper.” The New York Times (Tues., July 1, 2014): D5.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the review has the date JUNE 30, 2014.)