Blogging on political economy and philosophy from the prospective of a Hayekian classical liberal. All pieces by Zachary Woodman, student of Economics at Hillsdale College.
|Posted by Zachary Woodman on March 12, 2014 at 3:35 AM||comments (0)|
Edward Snowden is reminding us that the NSA’s mass-surveillance techniques are not actually doing much to reduce terror. The Washington Post reports:
America’s spy agencies are so focused on “mass surveillance” that they have missed clues about terrorist incidents, such as last year’s Boston Marathon bombing and an attempted attack on a jetliner on Christmas in 2009, former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden said Monday.
In an hour-long video discussion hosted by the South by Southwest music, film and technology conference in Austin, Snowden, who is living in asylum in an undisclosed location in Russia, asserted that the National Security Agency’s efforts to collect information in bulk have backfired.
“We’ve actually had a tremendous intelligence failure because . . . we’re monitoring everybody’s communications instead of suspects’ communications” — a situation, he asserts, that has “caused us to miss” intelligence.
Snowden’s assertions are consistent with the empirical evidence. FISA court requests and surveillance techniques are rarely used to actually combat terrorism. In fact, between 2006 and 2009, 1,618 warrants under expanded PATRIOT Act powers were issued for drug-related crimes compared to only fifteen for terrorism. That might explain why there is no positive correlation between more FISA Court Orders and number of terrorism convictions:
Relation of international terrorist prosecutions and NSA court orders from ACLU data.
The continuing efforts to defend what the NSA does on the grounds of security are very dubious. Rather than just assume surveillance helps stop terror, the burden of proof is on defenders of the program to show that it actually does reduce terror.
|Posted by Zachary Woodman on March 11, 2014 at 9:15 PM||comments (0)|
A new paper from the Mercatus Center has evaluated the efficacy of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau from a public choice perspective. The paper from Adam C. Smith (not the same as the "original" Adam Smith) and Todd Zywicki lays out the theoretical framework of Behavioral Law and Economics that the CFPB grew out of, and then critiques it by showing the following (from Page 7):
1. Political realities belie the attempts of behavioral theorists to construct policy corrections.
2. Actual political decision-making is susceptible to a number of distorting influences, most importantly bureaucratic overreach, behavioral bias on the part of the policymaker, and lack of appropriate information regarding consumer choices.
3. Bureaucrats do not hold the same preferences about political outcomes as behavioral theorists do. They are affected by self-interest like anyone else, which can cause deviations from prescribed policy measures.
4. Regulations based on behavioral findings tend to lean toward heavier forms of intervention that eliminate viable, alternative forms of exchange, thus impeding innovation and creativity in the marketplace. This in turn limits the overall amount of market activity (in this case consumer credit).
5. Policy-makers are unlikely to incorporate evidence-based analysis into their decision-making in a manner consistent with the scientific method. Instead, policymakers are susceptible to “confirmation bias” in evaluating evidence.
You can read it in its entirety here (pdf).
I find it fascinating that, for some reason, policy makers are conceited enough to believe the behavioral reality of decision-making doesn't apply to them.
|Posted by Zachary Woodman on March 9, 2014 at 5:10 PM||comments (0)|
The Financial Engineer has a great infographic illustrating this recovery compared to ten previous post-World War II recessions. As you can tell from the graphic, average growth of recoveries of all previous recessions was 13%, this one only seven. Here's the image: