Picks of the week, 30th September 2011

The Brazilian advert that the Guardian wants to ban.

1. Is this the sanest man running for president? – Nice bio of Gary Johnson, former governor of New Mexico and the "other" libertarian running for the Republican nomination. Also: Comedy Central interviews Johnson, where he calls drug policy "a litmus test for having a brain". Dear Gary: please move to Britain.

2. Irish health minister examining a "sugar tax" – The Irish government has form in pioneering nannying laws that other governments adopt enthusiastically. I've written about this before. If these paternalists used their brains they might realize that a sugar tax isn't even an effective piece of statism (a tax on the fat themselves would be equally unjust but at least would be thought through properly).

3. Why Ron Paul is winning the GOP primary – The short version is "because he's the only guy with good ideas (except Gary Johnson)", but the whole piece is worth a read to see how non-libertarians view the rise and rise of Ron Paul.

4. The cuts are a convenient lie for the whole political class: City A.M. does the maths – City AM's brilliant new opinion page featured this piece by Julian Harris, which destroys the government's pretensions to being tough on spending.

5. Who would push the fat guy? – Apparently utilitarians are bad people, scoring relatively highly on tests for psychopathy and sociopathy. For what it's worth, I'm a utilitarian and I would push the fat guy – but only in a thought experiment. In the real world, limited knowledge requires that we respect private property rights as if they were natural rights in order to produce the best results in the long run. Even though I don't believe in natural rights, I think it's good if we act like they exist.

6. The folly of "Smart Growth" – Great study of the Portland, Oregon, "smart growth" strategy, and relevant as the government tries to reform the planning system. The takeaway is that even though planners might like high-density urban housing, most people prefer low-density suburban housing. Far too many discussions of planning ignore what should be central – where the people concerned actually want to live.

7. Unintended consequences of food aid – If you're give emergency aid, the simpler the better. Giving food instead of cash can disrupt local economies and accidentally make things even worse.

9. Ralph Nader's grand alliance – Who knew that Nader liked Ron Paul so much? "Do you read all these right-wing theoreticians? Almost every one of them warned about excessive corporate concentration. Hayek did, [Frank] Meyer did, even Adam Smith did in his own way." Hear, hear. If libertarians and sincere left-wingers could agree to disagree about redistribution, they'd find that they have an awful lot in common.

10. Bookbenchers: Steve Baker, MP – A short interview with Steve Baker about the books he's reading inadvertently turns into a short primer on the books everybody else should be reading too.

11. Time to think the unthinkable and start printing again – Ultra-establishment economist Martin Wolf argues for "debt monetization" (printing money to pay off government debts). If the Eskimos have 10 different words for snow, then Western governments have 10 different words for printing money.