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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

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

Illustration on political cognitive dissonance by Linas Garsys/The Washington Times

Claiming entitlement to their own facts

On Nov. 4, a conference was held in London to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution, which occurred in October 1917. Rather than learn from the untold human misery which stemmed from that event, many of those who participated were celebrating the revolution or decrying it as incomplete. Published November 6, 2017

Illustration on capital gains taxes by Linas Garsys/The Washington Times

An exception to the no-free-lunch principle

There are a few actions one can take that have no downside, only an upside. Economists teach students, "There is no free lunch," meaning an action that might be beneficial to some may well be harmful to others. An example would be an increase in the minimum wage, which is beneficial to those receiving it, but harmful to all of those who do not get jobs or are laid off because employers either cannot or are unwilling for competitive reasons to pay the mandated higher wage. Published October 30, 2017

Rogue Banks Illustration by Greg Groesch/The Washington Times

Institutions gone rogue

Are government-created institutions out of control? Domestic and international government institutions and agencies are created on the premise that they will make things better for the people. But all too often, those who lead these institutions and agencies drift away from the core mission or become corrupted. When they do so, they undermine faith in civil society. Published October 23, 2017

Chart to accompany Rahn article of Oct. 17, 2017.

Schooling the U.S. on economic freedom

Once again, there is more evidence that economic freedom leads to success. Many of the former communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union have made enormous economic progress from the time they became free almost three decades ago. Published October 16, 2017

Tax Cuts Growing the Economy Illustration by Greg Groesch/The Washington Times

Stuck on stupendous mistakes

What do you call someone who keeps making the same mistake over and over and fails to learn from others who have made a similar mistake? If one doesn't know history and basic math, and the fact that people adjust their behavior on the basis of incentives, then one should not prove ignorance by commenting on the likely effects of tax changes. Published October 9, 2017

Illustration on rebuilding Pueto Rico's economic structures by Alexander Hunter/The Washington Times

Drawing opportunity from disaster

The disastrous hurricanes that struck Puerto Rico might provide the excuse for the necessary, fundamental reform on the island. Puerto Rico has spent most of the past 12 years in recession, leading to its current bankruptcy. Published October 2, 2017

Illustration on the broken ideology of Socialism by Linas Garsys/The Washington Times

If oppression could inspire happiness

It is a fair bet that Sen. Bernie Sanders (and most of his followers), unlike tens of millions of others, never read George Orwell's "Animal Farm" or Friedrich von Hayek's "The Road to Serfdom." Why do so many embrace a system -- socialism -- that has always failed, whether it was a form of state socialism or the various utopian communities started in the United States and Europe over the last couple of hundred years? Published September 25, 2017

Chart to accompany Rahn article of Sept. 19, 2017

What the hurricanes teach

Hurricanes Harvey and Irma were as powerful as the big South Florida hurricanes of 1926, 1928, and 1935, but the death toll was very small compared to the earlier hurricanes in the area, even though the population is now more than 10 times the size. The Great Galveston hurricane of 1900 is estimated to have cost 6,000 to 12,000 lives. The hurricanes that have hit the U.S. in the last 50 years have resulted in relatively few lives lost, with the exception of Hurricane Katrina where an estimated 1,833 died. Published September 18, 2017

Illustration on Paul Ryan's predicament by Linas Garsys/The Washington Times

The Paul Ryan problem

It is tough to play hardball with your friends. Have you ever known someone who was exceptionally smart, very personable and highly accomplished, but was not particularly good at managing a large number of independently minded people? I have. His name is Paul Ryan. Published September 11, 2017