Jane L. Johnson



Articles by Jane L. Johnson

Public Goods, Government Transfers, and Lawsuits for Clean Air and Climate Mitigation

Since the 1930s New Deal and the 1960s Great Society, the US federal budget has shifted from providing pubic goods to distributing transfers (in the form of both spending and lending) to favored groups, a continually metastasizing shift that has now created a federal budgetary and debt crisis. It has also allowed politicians to perfect the fine art of buying votes by awarding federal transfers to select voter groups as a means to winning elections.What are Public Goods and Who Pays for Them?Genuine “public goods” are those that are simultaneously “non-excludable” (available to all), and are “non-rival” (can be enjoyed over and over again by anyone without diminishing the benefits they deliver to others). Examples include national defense, police protection and enforcement of property

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The Biden Administration Uses Fudged Numbers to Justify Imposing Punitive Regulations

What is the Mises Institute?

The Mises Institute is a non-profit organization that exists to promote teaching and research in the Austrian School of economics, individual freedom, honest history, and international peace, in the tradition of Ludwig von Mises and Murray N. Rothbard. Non-political, non-partisan, and non-PC, we advocate a radical shift in the intellectual climate, away from statism and toward a private property order. We believe that our foundational ideas are of permanent value, and oppose all efforts at compromise, sellout, and amalgamation of these ideas with fashionable political, cultural, and social doctrines inimical to their spirit.

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Creative Destruction in American Higher Education: Schumpeter in Action

What is the Mises Institute?

The Mises Institute is a non-profit organization that exists to promote teaching and research in the Austrian School of economics, individual freedom, honest history, and international peace, in the tradition of Ludwig von Mises and Murray N. Rothbard. Non-political, non-partisan, and non-PC, we advocate a radical shift in the intellectual climate, away from statism and toward a private property order. We believe that our foundational ideas are of permanent value, and oppose all efforts at compromise, sellout, and amalgamation of these ideas with fashionable political, cultural, and social doctrines inimical to their spirit.

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The Biden Administration Uses Fudged Numbers to Justify Imposing Punitive Regulations

Americans’ daily lives are governed by both laws and regulations, the former enacted by Congress and the latter issued by the numerous regulatory agencies in the federal government’s executive branch. These agencies are collectively known as the administration state, the deep state, or pejoratively, “the swamp.”Few Americans realize the extent of federal regulations and the costs they impose on everyone. The United States Constitution makes no mention of regulatory agencies, nor did the Founders ever anticipate the growth of what might be considered the fourth branch of the federal government.Regulatory growth, moreover, has flourished with major bursts of government statutory expansion during the 1930s’ New Deal, 1960s’ Great Society, mid-2000s’ financial crisis, and the early 2020s’

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Creative Destruction in American Higher Education: Schumpeter in Action

Joseph Schumpeter (1883–1960), an Austrian political economist who emigrated to the United States in 1932 to become a professor at Harvard University, is known for his theories on business cycles and entrepreneurship.He is perhaps best known for advancing the concept of “creative destruction,” which he defined as the natural process of business firms failing at some point, freeing up resources (land, labor, and capital) that can then become more productive in some other use under different management who can bring innovation to manufacturing processes.Creative Destruction in US Higher EducationToday, Schumpeter’s creative destruction occurs in real time among start-up firms in many industries, especially technology. The phenomenon is not confined to technology, however, but applies widely

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Evil Twins: US Federal Budget Deficits and US Trade

One hears little today of the US “twin deficits,” a phrase familiar during the 1980s when the US had consistently run both federal budget deficits and international trade deficits. Economists hypothesized at that time that there was a theoretical and/or empirical relationship assuring the two deficits’ increasing or decreasing together.How Do Federal Budget Deficits Arise?Annual federal budget deficits exist whenever federal spending exceeds annual tax revenue. The US has consistently run these deficits in most of the postwar period, except during the Clinton administration in the 1990s. Fiscal year 2001 was the last time the US federal budget was in surplus.The fiscal year 2023 budget deficit was $1.7 trillion, with tax revenue at $4.4 trillion and federal spending at $6.1 trillion. The

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Banking’s Unique Business Model, And Why Capital is not a “Rainy Day Fund”

Banks are highly regulated businesses, as expected of entities to which we entrust our money, and from which we may expect to borrow someday to buy a home or start a business. Bankers interact with regulators daily. Investors wishing to establish a bank must first obtain capital pledges from future shareowners and apply for a bank charter from either federal or state government regulators. Once in business, a bank is overseen by one or more of the following state and federal regulators: a state banking commission if a state-chartered bank, Office of the Controller of the Currency if federally-chartered, the Federal Reserve if a member of that system and/or a one-bank holding company, National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) if a credit union, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation

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California’s Latest Hustle: Utility Bills Based on Ratepayers’ Income

Utility bills—for electricity, natural gas, water, and garbage—have by long-standing tradition been based on customer usage, measured in kilowatt-hours of electricity, therms or Btu of natural gas, hundred cubic feet of water, or number of garbage cans. Every residence and business has electric, gas, and water meters that measure utility usage.But changes are afoot in the utility business as federal and state governments urge Americans to convert from fossil fuels to electricity for home heating, appliances, and transportation. From this transition will undoubtedly follow changes in utility rate-setting models.Fixed Fees Coupled with Usage-Based Electricity RatesSome electric utilities currently charge customers a flat, fixed fee as well as usage-based charges, both on the same monthly

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Should the US Congress Audit the Federal Reserve?

The Federal Reserve system, including its twelve regional district banks that issue our US currency, is a creature of Congress, which passed the Federal Reserve Act in 1913 to create our central bank. The Fed is neither part of the executive branch of the federal government, nor is it an independent federal agency within the government, although members of the Fed’s Board of Governors are appointed by the Presidential and confirmed by Congress.The Fed’s unique independence has two features: 1) the regional Federal Reserve district banks are privately owned by their member commercial banks, and 2) the FR system receives no funding through the federal government budget. Thus, the Fed is arguably the most independent of the world’s central banks, a uniquely designed US institution.The basis

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How Would US States Actually Declare Bankruptcy?

Stephen Anderson, in his Mises Wire essays of February 1 (“Are Bankruptcies of Some US States in the Future?”) and February 23 (“US States Have a Long History of Defaulting”), worries that some US states may be on the precipice of bankruptcy.

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The Federal Mega-Debt is Here to Stay

US fiscal realities are well known. Total federal debt outstanding has now reached $34 trillion, up from $98 billion in 1981, $5.67 trillion in 2000, $13.56 trillion in 2010, and $26.95 trillion in 2020. And at 120 percent of the US economy’s productive capacity (gross domestic product), the federal debt matches that at the end of World War II.
That $34 trillion, when spelled out, is the number thirty-four followed by twelve (count ’em) zeros separated by four commas. So it looks like this, a lot of digits and commas for the human brain to comprehend: $34,000,000,000,000.
These official debt figures do not even include the large unfunded liabilities inherent in the largest federal entitlement programs, Social Security and Medicare, Medicaid, and several others that comprise about

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Are We Really All in This Together?

Whenever governing elites create a new crisis, they insist that “we’re all in this together.” It’s time to ignore their lies altogether.
Original Article: Are We Really All in This Together?

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Affirmative Action, Jewish Quotas, and Academic Central Planning

Race-based affirmative action began with President John Kennedy’s 1961 creation of a Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity (EEOC). Following that, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Then in 1965 President Lyndon B. Johnson issued Executive Order 11246 that prohibited employment discrimination based on race, color, religion and national origin by organizations that received federal contracts. 
In what is considered the first legal challenge to race-based affirmative action policies in university admissions, Defunis v. Odegaard reached the Supreme Court in 1974. The plaintiff was a Sephardic Jew who had been rejected by the University of Washington law school while the school admitted racial minorities with inferior credentials. The Court ruled the case moot because the law

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Can Classical Economics Explain the Approaching Fiscal Disaster?

There is a lack of buyers for US Treasury debt. Rating agencies have recently downgraded the US debt, and entitlement benefits’ “trust funds” will go into the red in a few years. The classical economists offer few answers to the depth of this problem. 
Original Article: Can Classical Economics Explain the Approaching Fiscal Disaster?

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WAITT, Are We Really All in This Together?

Acronyms—LOL, PIN, ASAP, CAPTCHA, RADAR, LASAR, SCUBA, and others that combine the initial letters of other words, the whole being pronounced as a single word—have become part of the English language. Let’s coin another one: WAITT (no, that’s not a misspelling of WAIT), an acronym for “We’re All in This Together.”
The five-word phrase itself appeared in the early weeks of the pandemic that began in early 2020. Although the pandemic has officially ended—at least until the next contagious bug may arrive on our shores—some Americans still behave as if it continues, and WAITT may lurk somewhere in the weeds awaiting its resurgence. If you have never seen or heard it before, just wait as it may reappear at some point.
As a double-edged relic that may appear appealing at first blush, the WAITT

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Can Classical Economics Explain the Approaching Fiscal Disaster?

Today’s US fiscal predicament includes unprecedentedly high federal spending financed by inadequate tax revenue and high federal budget deficits. There is a lack of sufficient buyers of US Treasury debt. Rating agencies have recently downgraded the US debt, and entitlement benefits are forecast to outstrip their trust funds in a few years. How might a nineteenth-century English economist be relevant to this predicament?
Might this fiscal predicament be resolved naturally by rational consumers following their own instincts, thus precluding mandated top-down austerity or other harsh measures? Does our constitutional structure allow sufficient legislative and executive branch compromise to improve our fiscal trajectory? Or perhaps the only resolution is a bipartisan fiscal commission to

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Federal Student Loans Drive Up College Tuition Levels

Like every other government program designed to make something “more affordable,” the student loan program has managed to drive college tuition to atmospheric levels and saddle students with massive levels of debt.
Original Article: Federal Student Loans Drive Up College Tuition Levels

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Federal Student Loans Drive Up College Tuition Levels

Mises Wire contributor Kevin Van Elswyk, in his November 29 article “Student Loans: The Continuing Crisis That Is Getting Worse,” nicely summarizes the current confusion and scandal of federal student loan programs, which at this point appear a miasma that will likely turn into an outright student grant program as more and more of these loan balances are forgiven.
It is most unfortunate that the US government, with good intentions to increase college attendance, ever became mired in this student loan morass. The effort originally began in the 1960s when economists observed that college graduates typically earn higher lifetime incomes than those who ended their formal education with high school. Thus Congress included in the Higher Education Act of 1965 a federal policy to encourage as many

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Today Is the Best Day of the Year to Rob a Bank

Today, the Fed takes a short break from robbing us via inflation and, instead, delivers huge amounts of cash to banks to service Black Friday purchases. The large cash infusions often make banks vulnerable to robberies.
Original Article: Today Is the Best Day of the Year to Rob a Bank

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Millions and Billions and Trillions—Oh My!

In The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy and her friends had to worry about wild animals and wicked witches. Today, Americans face a much more formidable foe: their own free-spending government.
Original Article: Millions and Billions and Trillions—Oh My!

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Millions and Billions and Trillions—Oh My!

Dorothy and her companions in the movie The Wizard of Oz feared lions and tigers and bears as they journeyed through the woods to visit the wizard. But real people living today might fear frighteningly large numbers more than large wild animals.
We live today with some very large numbers that contain many zeros and commas, figures so large that the human brain can barely comprehend them. With so many zeros to count, it is often easier to express these figures simply in words, such as a billion or a trillion. But expressing them with their many zeros and commas more aptly conveys their enormity.
How Much Is a Million?
We used to think that a million dollars was a very large sum of money. Now, depending on the context, it seems that a million dollars is chicken feed or a rounding error, and

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Today Is the Best Day of the Year to Rob a Bank

Depression-era bank robber Willie Sutton, when asked why he robbed banks, replied, “Because that’s where the money is.” By “money,” he meant United States currency. He never indicated how he scheduled his robberies, but some days of the year may be more profitable for bank robberies than others.
Disclaimer: Neither I nor the Mises Wire in any way endorses bank robbery, which is a federal crime.
First, here are some facts about US “folding money,” Federal Reserve notes in denominations of $1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $50, and $100. The Fed no longer issues $500, $1,000, $5,000, and $10,000 bills, but they are still legal tender and may still be in circulation.
This currency is printed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing division of the US Treasury, then supplied to Federal Reserve banks for

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The Federal Reserve is Running Losses. Does This Cost Anyone Anything?

Financial statements of the US Federal Reserve, which consists of the board of governors in Washington and twelve district reserve banks across the country, indicate that the consolidated system has generated both capital and operating losses for the past couple of years. The Fed was created in 1913 to issue and circulate an “elastic currency” that could respond to consumers’ demand for cash, end bank runs known then as “money panics,” and serve as a “lender of last resort” to the nation’s commercial banks. How is it possible that the Fed could be losing money after one hundred years of operation?
The debate has raged in the banking and finance communities. Two investigators, Paul Kupiec at the American Enterprise Institute and Alex Pollock at the Mises Institute, have analyzed Fed

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How Can Electricity Providers Promise 100 Percent Green Energy? Probably Not

We expect the lights to come on when we flip a switch, unconcerned with how the electricity is produced or how it reaches our homes. We are aware of telephone poles, wires overhead, and transmission towers, solar panels, and windmills across the countryside. But as long as we pay our electric bills, we trust electric utilities to provide our power somehow.
Who produces the electricity we use? Where does it come from? How does it reach us when we flip that light switch? And is electricity as “green” as we are often told it is?
Residential and business electric customers across the country are served by three different types of energy providers: the traditional monopoly known as an investor-owned utility (IOU), the public power utility owned by a municipality, and the community choice

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It’s Time for Some Debt and Entitlement Alarmism

Polls consistently show that climate change is a leading issue for young Americans. Millennials and Generation Z have been coached on climate arguments—and in most cases outright climate alarmism—in school and by the media, leaving them convinced that carbon-based energy has ruined their future on the planet.
It appears that children are being organized to advance adults’ political goals. Greta from Sweden addresses the United Nations, apparently coached by her parents and other adults, scolding us “How dare you” for allowing the planet to burn up in a few years. Twenty-somethings glue their hands to valuable works of art in major museums to protest the use of fossil fuels.
Young plaintiffs in Montana won a lawsuit claiming that the state has failed to uphold its constitutional

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