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Richard W. Rahn

Richard W. Rahn

Richard W. Rahn is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and chairman of the Institute for Global Economic Growth.

Articles by Richard W. Rahn

Illustration on taxing capital gains with no reference to losses from inflation by Alexander Hunter/The Washington Times

Capital gains must be protected from inflation

If your employer gives you a 2 percent wage increase, and inflation is 3 percent, has your real income increased or decreased? Assume you bought a horse barn and 40 acres of land for $200,000 in 1988 for a riding school you operated. You have just retired from your business and sold the land and barn for $360,000. In the 30 years from the time you originally bought the property, the value of the dollar has fallen by about one-half due to inflation — so, rather than having a $160,000 gain from the sale of your property — in real (inflation-adjusted) dollars, you suffered a $40,000 loss. Published April 9, 2018

Then and Now Illustration by Greg Groesch/The Washington Times

Most everything is better than you think

In 1914, just over a century ago, the average worker had to work about three hours to buy a bushel of wheat. Today it takes five minutes for the average American worker to buy that same bushel of wheat. The real (inflation-adjusted) price of aluminum is now about one-fifth of what it was in 1914. These ongoing, real price declines are characteristic of almost every agricultural and industrial commodity. Published April 2, 2018

Chart to accompany Rahn article of March 27, 2018.

Destructive information

There is some information that the government should never publish because it is so little understood by the political class and the media. A prime example is the trade deficit number. The trade deficit is of little importance, but as we now see, a focus on that number is causing the president and others to impose destructive tariffs and other harmful trade restrictions. The trade deficit, which is officially known as the "current account balance," is merely the residual of many other policies by both the U.S. and foreign governments. Published March 26, 2018

Andrew McCabe    Associated Press photo

Who is corrupt?

Is the just-fired Andrew McCabe (former number two and, at one point, acting director of the FBI) corrupt? I would argue yes, even though we do not know the full extent of his alleged transgressions. Published March 19, 2018

Illustration on U.S. government obsession with prosecuting money-laundering by Linas Garsys/The Washington Times

More meanness from government

"Name the person and I will find the crime" is a statement attributed to Lavrentiy Beria, Stalin's head of the Soviet secret police. There are more than 4,000 federal felonies on the books of the U.S. government, not counting all of the felonies created by regulatory agencies and state and local governments. Few Americans or citizens of other countries now go for appreciable periods of time without committing a felony, most often without intent or knowledge. Published March 12, 2018

Chart to accompany Rahn article of March 6, 2018.

Trump's really bad idea

Why does Virginia import oranges from Florida rather than grow its own? Why does the U.S. import almost all of its coffee and cocoa beans from countries in tropical climates rather than grow its own? Why does the U.S. import most of its primary aluminum rather than produce its own? Published March 5, 2018

Illustration on the rising tyranny of emotional reaction in creating public policy by Linas Garsys/The Washington Times

Fact-free zones in the public square

Fuzzy and fact-free thinking are too kind as definitions for much of what has passed as public policy analysis this past week. The discussions regarding the Parkland school shooting, the Russian political investigation and the immigration debate illustrate the problem. Published February 26, 2018

Shooter Warning Sign Illustration by Greg Groesch/The Washington Times

Accountability and willful blindness

Those who serve in the military know they will be held accountable when they are irresponsible or reckless because the lives of their fellow warriors are at stake. In contrast, there is often little accountability in much of non-military government civil service, which often results in sloppy work practices. Published February 19, 2018

This March 22, 2013, file photo shows the exterior of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) building in Washington. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

Tax and financial sharing among governments

Should one democracy have the right to impose its tax laws on another? With which countries, if any, should the U.S. government share your tax and other financial information? Published February 12, 2018

Chart to accompany Rahn article of Feb. 6, 2018.

A tale of two countries and their economic freedom

This past week, the "dean of the Venezuelan resistance," Enrique Aristeguieta Gramcko, was arrested for publishing a video accusing the Maduro government of leading a "narco-tyranny." There is a normal human tendency to try to shut down opposition when the facts are not on your side. The communists, fascists, and other assorted statists invariably go after those who do not support the party line. Published February 5, 2018

Chart to accompany Rahn article of Jan. 30, 2018.

Measuring human freedom

Do you think you live in a free country? How do you define "free"? To help answer these questions, the new "Human Freedom Index" (HFI) has just been released. The report is published by the Cato Institute, the Fraser Institute and the Liberales Institut at the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom and authored by Ian Vasquez and Tanja Porcnik. It is the most globally comprehensive set of third-party data for 159 countries, and uses 79 data streams from a multitude of sources in order to reflect a broad perspective. Published January 29, 2018

World Prosperity Illustration by Greg Groesch/The Washington Times

The wealth effect and the U.S. economy

How rapidly will the U.S. economy grow in 2018? How about the world economy? There is a growing consensus that the world economy might grow a little more than 3.5 percent and the U.S. economy a little less than that, which would be a great improvement over recent years. Published January 22, 2018

Illustration on the purpose of immigration law by Alexander Hunter/The Washington Times

Immigration and 'rathole' countries

Many people in poor places try to migrate to richer places — and so it has always been. But some poor places become rich places and immigration flows change as a result. There are many examples of "rathole" countries changing policies and becoming rich, and relatively rich countries becoming ratholes as a result of corruption and/or socialism (e.g., Venezuela). Published January 15, 2018

President Donald Trump smiles while watching the NCAA National Championship game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Monday, Jan. 8, 2018, in Atlanta, between Alabama and Georgia. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Better facts, more humor

Are you aware that the White House, congressional offices and most major media employ "fact checkers"? Given the amount of misinformation these organizations spew, a reasonable conclusion is that the fact checkers are often biased, ignorant, or ignored. Published January 8, 2018

Chart to accompany Rahn article of Dec. 19, 2017.

How can Honduras prosper?

On Nov. 26, Honduras held a presidential election, and current President Juan Orlando Hernandez has just been certified a winner after three weeks of street protests, led by the opposition who challenged the election results and made assertions of some voter fraud. Published December 18, 2017

The IRS goes after Bitcoin Illustration by Greg Groesch/The Washington Times

When the remedy is more destructive than the disease

The U.S. government once again proved that it does foolish and destructive things by trying to impose a tax that actually loses money. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) demanded information from a San Francisco bitcoin exchange about who was buying and selling bitcoins. The IRS claims that bitcoins and other digital/cryptocurrencies are property and thus subject to a capital gains tax on any price increases and other reporting requirements when bitcoin is used in transactions. It seems that the IRS discovered that in 2015 only 802 people declared bitcoin-related losses or gains, despite tens of millions of transactions (I am willing to bet that most of these folks reported losses, which are deducible). Published December 11, 2017

Bitcoin and Government Monopoly Illustration by Greg Groesch/The Washington Times

The end of government monopoly money

After two centuries of government monopoly money, private monies are re-emerging and will likely come to dominate ultimately. Back in 1976, Nobel Laureate F.A. Hayek published his little classic, "Denationalization of Money." In essence, Hayek argued that money is no different than other commodities, and it would be better supplied by competition among private issuers than by a government monopoly. His book detailed the problems with government monopoly money and how most of these problems could be overcome with private competition. Published December 4, 2017

Illustration on the economic benefits of lower taxation by Alexander Hunter/The Washington Times

Choosing political bias over economic reality

Why is it that those who have been right in the past are often ignored, while great attention is paid to those who have been wrong? Many "politically correct" forecasters' words are accepted as gospel by the media despite dismal records. Published November 27, 2017

Value of Smart Phones Illustration by Greg Groesch/The Washington Times

The myth of growing income inequality

If your income remains constant but the prices of many things you buy decline, you are richer. There are many articles and books asserting that the inflation-adjusted incomes for the middle- and lower-income groups in the U.S. and some of the other developed countries have remained almost flat while the upper-income "rich" have seen a great rise in their incomes. Not true when correctly measured. Published November 20, 2017

Chart to accompany Rahn article of Nov. 14, 2017.

Making a tax cut affordable

The folks in Washington have a knack for almost always asking the wrong question, and then coming up with an answer that makes things worse. The current debate about tax reform is a prime example. Many Democratic critics, some Republican critics (mainly from the conservative side), and many in the media argue that we cannot "afford" a tax cut. In reality, we cannot afford not to cut tax rates. Published November 13, 2017