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Rich Karlgaard with what could have been.
… Suppose the U.S. economy, since 1949, were giving up 2% extra growth per year because of bad economic policy. Or, as Ramsey might say, because Presidents, legislators and unelected regulators were born stupid or try their best to act that way.
Now, 2% a year doesn’t sound like much. Most of us could spend 98% of our budget next year without too much pain. The quip about compound interest is noteworthy only because it would take a genius like Einstein to observe something so profoundly simple yet subtly opaque.
But run the numbers yourself–and prepare for a shock. If the U.S. economy had grown an extra 2% per year since 1949, 2014′s GDP would be about $58 trillion, not $17 trillion. So says a study called “Federal Regulation and Aggregate Economic Growth,” published in 2013 by the Journal of Economic Growth. More than taxes, it’s been runaway federal regulation that’s crimped U.S. growth by the year and utterly smashed it over two generations. …
… So let’s, for the sake of argument, posit that some regulation has been good for us, while many other regs have only hurt economic growth. Let’s also argue that sensible regulation, combined with the retirement of outdated regulation, could have brought about the same improvements to health and safety–but at a cost of 1% potential growth per year, not 2%. Where would the U.S. economy be today?
–The 2014 GDP would be $32 trillion, not $17 trillion.
–Per capita income would be $101,000, not $54,000. …
Two new biographies of Ayn Rand are reviewed by Charles Murray.
In 1991, the book-of-the-month club conducted a survey asking people what book had most influenced their lives. The Bible ranked number one and Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” was number two. In 1998, the Modern Library released two lists of the top 100 books of the twentieth century. One was compiled from the votes of the Modern Library’s Board, consisting of luminaries such as Joyce Carol Oates, Maya Angelou, Edmund Morris, and Salman Rushdie. The two top-ranked books on the Board’s list were “Ulysses” and “The Great Gatsby.”
The other list was based on more than 200,000 votes cast online by anyone who wanted to vote. The top two on that list were “Atlas Shrugged” (1957) and “The Fountainhead” (1943). The two novels have had six-figure annual sales for decades, running at a combined 300,000 copies annually during the past ten years. In 2009, “Atlas Shrugged” alone sold a record 500,000 copies and Rand’s four novels combined (the lesser two are “We the Living”  and “Anthem” ) sold more than 1,000,000 copies.
And yet for 27 years after her death in 1982, we had no single scholarly biography of Ayn Rand. Who was this woman? How did she come to write such phenomenally influential novels? What are we to make of her legacy? These questions were finally asked and answered splendidly, with somewhat different emphases, in two biographies published within weeks of each other in 2009: “Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right” by Jennifer Burns, an assistant professor of history at the University of Virginia, and “Ayn Rand and the World She Made” by Anne C. Heller, a former executive editor at Condé Nast Publications. …
A WSJ OpEd argues there might be less immaturity in the NFL if the route to the big show had some time in the minors like baseball.
With the 110th World Series starting this week and news of bad behavior in the National Football League more or less simmering on the back burner, it has occurred to me how significantly the path to becoming a star in professional football differs from that in baseball.
The famous big-league baseball executive Branch Rickey customarily gets credit for revolutionizing the road to a professional career in the sport by creating the St. Louis Cardinals’ farm-team system in the 1920s. However, for decades professional minor-league baseball teams had served as a proving-ground for young players. My grandfather Bob Groom pitched 10 seasons in the majors from 1909 to 1918 and experienced firsthand the minor leagues’ rites of initiation.
Groom signed his first professional contract on March 7, 1904, with the Class D Springfield, Mo., team and played five seasons in the MissouriValley and PacificCoast leagues before going up to Washington, D.C., to play for the original Nationals of the American League, later the Washington Senators. His first minor-league contract paid him the magnificent sum of $2 a day plus room, board and travel during the season, though it was his responsibility to get to the two weeks of required (unpaid) preseason training. …
The country is being over run by pigs. But not the political kind. Scientific American writes on the infestation of the country by wild pigs. Luckily it is nowhere near as expensive as the political pigs because the country could not survive two sets of costly parasites.
For centuries wild pigs caused headaches for landowners in the American South, but the foragers’ small populations remained stable. In the past 30 years, though, their ranks have swollen until suddenly disease-carrying, crop-devouring swine have spread to 39 states. Now, wild pigs are five million strong and the targets of a $20-million federal initiative to get their numbers under control.
Settlers first brought the ancestors of today’s pigs to the South in the 1600s and let them roam free as a ready supply of fresh pork. Not surprisingly, some of the pigs wandered off and thrived in the wild, thanks to their indiscriminate appetites.
Wildlife biologists can’t really explain how pigs from a few pockets were able to extend their range so rapidly in recent years. “If you look at maps of pig distribution from the eighties, there’s a lot of pigs, but primarily in Florida and Texas,” says Stephen Ditchkoff, a wildlife ecologist at AuburnUniversity. “Today, populations in the southeast have exploded. In the Midwest and the north it’s grown to be a significant problem.” …