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This Week in Public Choice Theory

March 18th, 2012 · No Comments · Economics

Some miscellaneous random clips I snagged this week. Classic examples of the ongoing and pervasive real-world manifestations of what students learn in Public Choice Theory 101.

Might provide a little balance to those who obsess single-mindedly over “Market Failure.”

Officers were told to arrest people who were doing little more than standing on the street, but they were also encouraged to disregard actual victims of serious crimes who wanted to file reports. Arresting bystanders made it look like the department was efficient, while artificially reducing the amount of serious crime made the commander look good.

Planned Parenthood of Houston and Southeast Texas officials filed thousands of false Medicaid claims worth more than $5 million, according to a federal whistleblower lawsuit.

The federal government sent the city of Detroit $11 million to, among other things, buy new clothes for job seekers. Instead of just giving out vouchers to use at private stores, the city’s Department of Human Services opened its own clothing boutique. You know where this is going. A program intended to help 400 people clothed only two, and spent $148,000 to do it.

After more than 100 crashes in 20 months, traffic engineers are rethinking the peculiar design of that twin-ring roundabout on Hillsborough Street in Raleigh. They know better than to blame all the drivers who keep banging into each other’s cars there, in front of the N.C. State University Bell Tower.

Mohair subsidy, which originated post WWII out of concern about the future availability of wool for military uniforms. Today, more than a half century later — when military uniforms are largely composed of synthetic material — the program still benefits goat herders in Texas, now under the friendly jurisdiction of the Agriculture Committee. The subsidy was seemingly killed in the mid-90s and again in 2001, but it was resuscitated each time by the loving care of special interests. And while it was defunded again last year, the underlying authorizing legislation remains on the books, ready to revive the subsidy at any moment.

There are separate windows for Amtrak and commuter lines everywhere I’ve been. Given that many journeys include both commuter and inter-city segments, this seems crazy. If you can’t have integrated ticketing (and actually, I don’t see why you can’t), at least you should be able to have a single agent help you.


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