Political Entrepreneurs

The Economic Engine of Political Change

June 2013

Madmen Gets Recommended on Bloomberg Briefs’ Summer Reading List

June 28th, 2013 by Edward Lopez

It’s too big a stretch to call this a review, but Madmen has been recommended by Bloomberg’s Richard Yamarone on his summer reading list . Sandwiched between The Battle of Bretton Woods by Benjamin Steill and Worldly Philosopher: The Odyssey of Albert O. Hirschman by Jeremy Adelman, page two of the brief reads: A somewhat related book, Madmen, Intellectuals, and Academic Scribblers (Stanford University Press) by Wayne A. Leighton and Edward J. Lopez, looks at the systematic causes of political change, with influences by such “academic scribblers”…
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Better Living Through Political Entrepreneurship

June 27th, 2013 by Edward Lopez

Today I discovered a book the old fashioned way: while browsing the stacks at a brick-and-mortar library . Published in 2010, Better Living Through Economics is a collection of essays that documents the impact of basic economic research on improving public policies. The collection is edited by John J. Siegfried, who is Professor of Economics at Vanderbilt University and the Secretary-Treasurer of the American Economic Association. All the contributors to the volume are top economists in the profession. Better Living has a…
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Call for Conference Papers: Public Choice Society 2014

June 27th, 2013 by Edward Lopez

Now in my second of two years as president of the Public Choice Society, I’m happy to draw attention to the call for conference papers for the 2014 conference, which will be at the Francis Marion Hotel, March 6-9, in Charleston, South Carolina. The website opens for submissions on October 17. Spread the word!

Madmen on Stossel (now available online)

June 17th, 2013 by Wayne Leighton

The May 16, 2013 edition of the John Stossel show, featuring an interview with your Madmen co-authors, is now available online and can be seen here  (around minute 30:45 in the program). Bemoaning the seemingly undending array of rules and regulations that stifle small businesses and often hurt consumers, Stossel asks: “Is there no hope.” He quickly adds, “There is!” And thus starts our interview. As we say in the book, on this blog, and wherever we…
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From the Pages of Madmen, Intellectuals, and Academic Scribblers (p.189, ch.7)

The most successful entrepreneurs know what they do well, they know the market and the opportunities within it, and they choose those activities that create the most value. This is true in economic as well as political markets.

From the Pages of Madmen, Intellectuals, and Academic Scribblers (p.178, ch.7)

[W]hen the right elements come together at the right time and place and overwhelm the status quo, it is because special people make it happen. We call them political entrepreneurs.

From the Pages of Madmen, Intellectuals, and Academic Scribblers (p.176. ch.7)

While we started this book with Danny Biasone saving basketball, we end it with Norman Borlaug saving a billion lives. These stories are not that different. Both faced vested interests, which were reinforced by popular beliefs that things should be a certain way—that is, until a better idea came along.

From the Pages of Madmen, Intellectuals, and Academic Scribblers (p.174, ch.6)

Because there was a general belief that homeownership was a good thing, politicians found the public with open arms.... Everybody was winning—except Alfred Marshall, whose supply and demand curves were difficult to see through the haze of excitement at the time, and except Friedrich Hayek, whose competition as a discovery procedure was befuddled... In short, once politicians started getting credit for homeownership rates, the housing market was doomed.

From the Pages of Madmen, Intellectuals, and Academic Scribblers (p.166, ch.6)

Everyone responded rationally to the incentives before them. In short, the rules that guided homeownership changed over time, which in turn changed the incentives of these actors. And bad things happened.

From the Pages of Madmen, Intellectuals, and Academic Scribblers (p.153, ch.6)

They understood the economics. The ideas had already won in ... the regulatory agency itself. All that remained to be overcome were some vested interests and a handful of madmen in authority.

From the Pages of Madmen, Intellectuals, and Academic Scribblers (p.146, ch.6)

If the idea for auctions of spectrum use rights had been part of the public debate since at least 1959, why didn’t the relevant institutions change sooner? What interests stood in the way?

From the Pages of Madmen, Intellectuals, and Academic Scribblers (p.121, ch.5)

When an academic scribbler comes up with a new idea, it has to resonate well with widely shared beliefs, which in turn must overcome the vested interests at the table. Many forces come together to explain political change, even though it may seem like coincidence of time and place.

From the Pages of Madmen, Intellectuals, and Academic Scribblers (p.120, ch.5)

It’s the rules of the political game that deserve our focus, not politicians’ personalities or party affiliations.

From the Pages of Madmen, Intellectuals, and Academic Scribblers (p.119, ch.5)

In short, ideas are a type of higher-order capital in society. Like a society that is poor in capital and therefore produces little consumer value, a society that is poor in ideas and institutions will have bad incentives and therefore few of the desirable outcomes that people want.

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