Anyone who has heard me give a policy talk in the past three years will have heard reference to Richard Epstein's Free Markets Under Seige: Cartels, Politics and Social Welfare (published by IEA in 2003). There can be little doubt that with the aging of Milton Friedman and James Buchanan, and the untimely passing of Robert Nozick, that the leading intellectual/scholar of classical liberialism is Richard Epstein. In Epstein we have a high powered mind, who can write eloquently, and is exceedingly relevant in his work on a wide variety of levels and topics. Students should take note of three things with Epstein: (a) he doesn't pull punches even on controversial issues, such as his work on discrimination law, (b) he thoroughly researches his topics and writes clearly and forcefully, and (c) he is continuously engaged with the intellectual world and amazingly productive.
In this particular book, Epstein emphasizes something which sometimes gets lost in the scholarly game. Most public policy discussions are really about basic economics. If we just got rid of the policies that cut against basic economics, then the lives of millions would be improved around the globe. And when I say basic economics, I mean the most basic things --- like price controls on food products, or restrictions on trade, or regulations on entry. We haven't begun to get into the refinements of monetary or fiscal policy. Just the first few weeks of Econ 101 and yet we see policies throughout the world that prove to be detrimental to the lives of so many continue to be implemented by governments (both left and right, and democratic and non-democratic). If only we could pick off the low hanging fruit of public policy, then much misery would be avoided.
Larry White over at Division of Labor gives an excellent discussion of just the sort of policies I am talking about in his discussion of price controls and bread in Zimbabwe.