Phillip W. Magness

Historian – 19th century United States

Are the “inequality” charts simply tracking tax code changes?

| September 7, 2016

The main historical argument made by inequality scholars such as Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez, and Gabriel Zucman asserts that the income and wealth distributions of the United States follow a U-shaped pattern across the past 100 years. According to this narrative, the century began at very high levels of inequality. Intervening events such as the adoption […]

A Phony ‘Phocion’: Alexander Hamilton and the election of 1796

| August 20, 2016

On October 14, 1796 the Philadelphia-based Gazette of the United States newspaper ran the first of 25 “letters” that would forever change the nature of presidential campaigns. Bearing the pseudonym of the ancient Athenian orator ‘Phocion,’ the letters presented a systematic and, at times, bitterly personal argument against Thomas Jefferson’s candidacy for President of the United States. Over […]

Commie Chic & Quantifying Marx on the Syllabus

| August 15, 2016

A recent story about the prominence of Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto on U.S. college syllabi has sparked a number of lively debates and discussions about the proper role of such an economically discredited yet philosophically prominent thinker in the classroom curriculum. I’m personally of the view that Marx’s intellectual contributions are severely overrated and I […]

Alexander Hamilton’s Xenophobia

| August 2, 2016

We are presently in the midst of a Hamiltonian revival. After sitting dormant for much of the 20th century, the first Secretary of the Treasury’s political program recently sprang to life in a vulgarized form through the Donald Trump campaign. While the Trump association has yet to taint Alexander Hamilton’s reputation despite their nearly identical […]

Non-ideal policy in an idealized public policy world

| July 26, 2016

Kevin Vallier offered a response on the BHL blog to my last post on the subject of the Universal Basic Income. It’s a lengthy post that should be read in full, but I wanted to briefly respond to a couple of points. In my previous post on UBI consisted of a challenge to the practicability of its implementation. […]

Donald Trump, Hamiltonian

| July 25, 2016

One of the many unsettling features of the Donald Trump’s strange political ascendance is found in his deep seated antipathy to the time-honored doctrine of free trade. Trump devoted a substantial portion of his Republican Convention speech calling for the adoption of protectionist tariffs and other trade restrictions against “any country that cheats.” He proceeded to blame […]

Why non-ideal UBI is still a unicorn hunt

| July 25, 2016

  Kevin Vallier has an interesting post up over at the BHL blog in which he takes on the public choice critiques that I have made of the Universal Basic Income proposal that is popular among some would-be reformers of the welfare state. It’s a long post and worth a read, but I want to […]

How many adjuncts are there in not-for-profit higher ed?

| June 29, 2016

Counting adjunct faculty is a strangely politicized topic, replete with bad information and even outright false statistical claims. Media reporting of the subject routinely repeats the false claim that adjuncts make up about three fourths of the academic workforce. Adjunct activist organizations such as the “New Faculty Majority” even incorporate this claim into their name. […]

When Mises met Keynes

| June 5, 2016

On June 23, 1926 John Maynard Keynes delivered an unusual economics lecture at the University of Berlin. This event has gone almost completely unnoticed by Keynes’ principle biographers despite what would seem to be a historically significant product. A few months after the event, Keynes heavily edited the Berlin lecture into his well known essay, “The End of Laissez-Faire.” […]

Adjunct Activists and the Terminal Degree Problem

| May 26, 2016

Most adjunct professors in the United States lack a PhD or other comparable terminal degree. Surveys of the past decade have consistently attested to this fact, indicating that only between 18% and 30% of current adjunct faculty possess a doctorate. Many of those faculty who do hold terminal credentials are highly qualified scholars. A portion of […]