Liberty & Power: Group Blog
David T. Beito
Much might be said about the article’s main content, but I won’t get into that material here. What struck me comes right at the beginning in an explicit statement of the writer’s assumptions. The article begins well enough — splendidly, in fact — as its first sentence tells us, “A specter is haunting Europe — the specter of Socialism’s slow collapse.” The next sentence, however, begins with the prefatory phrase, “Even in the midst of one of the greatest challenges to capitalism in 75 years, involving a breakdown of the financial system due to ‘irrational exuberance,’ greed and the weakness of regulatory systems,” then tells us that European socialist parties nevertheless are not doing well.
Not that style alone reveals much, of course, but one might wonder why Socialism is written with a capital letter, and capitalism is not. This stylistic distinction tempts one to think of the parallelism in writing God with a capital letter, but the devil in lower case.
There’s something charmingly quaint about the leftists’ continuing attack on capitalism, which is a type of economic order that, if it ever existed at all in this country, has not existed in recognizable form since the 1920s — in a more plausible assessment, not since the years before World War I. Yet the so-called progressives never tire of beating the long-dead horse of capitalism. Are they so ideologically blind that they cannot see how governments at every level have intervened and intervened again until they have displaced or distorted every element of the economic order that might once have contributed to its capitalist character? We live, as F. A. Hayek observed as long ago as 1935, not in a market system, but in a situation of interventionist chaos, where virtually every market is so hog-tied by regulations, laws, and taxes or so artificially pumped up by subsidies, regulatory advantages, and tax loopholes that virtually nothing remains pure and unsullied by the filthy hand of the interventionist state. We inhabit, as we have for nearly a century, a blessed “mixed economy.” What’s this ongoing nonsense about the failure of capitalism? Before anything can fail, it must first exist.
Then comes the obligatory progressive whack at greed, as if those who conduct business among consenting buyers and sellers are intrinsically soiled by an unworthy motivation, whereas, in stark contrast, those whose greed is expressed through state-sanctioned robbery and extortion are, lo and behold, verging on sainthood. How did these people come to believe that getting something done by threatening violence against those who don’t care to join the party — that is, by working through the state – stands higher on the holiness scale than private voluntary cooperation? It takes a special kind of intelligence to achieve this sort of twisted moral outlook, but the New York Times, along with the other upscale news media, has succeeded in finding writers whose ability is equal to the challenge.
Notice also the assumption that markets are driven by “irrational exuberance,” rather than by rational calculation and bottom-line self-responsibility, and that any perceived market failure must have been the result of “the weakness of regulatory systems.” Can anything fly more flagrantly in the face of centuries of facts? When have governments ever acted more rationally than private individuals in free markets? And when have stronger regulations ever solved any real problem, as opposed to creating new or greater problems where private actors were chipping away at genuine solutions, had they only been left alone to carry out their plans? The shelves are groaning under the weight of the Code of Federal Regulations, yet the progressive will never rest until we have reached that nirvana in which everything that is not forbidden is required.
To reflect on the fact that the New York Times serves as a prime source of information for the better sorts and for the political class is to despair of the future of our prosperity and our freedom — what little remains of them. God save us from outrageously overbearing and intolerably impudent, yet tiresomely ignorant and analytically challenged, progressive news media.
(P.S. No one should interpret the foregoing commentary as in any way friendly toward so-called conservatives, whose sins are at least the equal of, and often worse than, those the progressives habitually commit.)
In soccer, a good goalkeeper rarely must make fantastic saves, and a good sweeper rarely must make desperate tackles; he or she has anticipated plays and positioned themselves accordingly. One style of play is more exciting and noticeable--to be sure--but does that make it better soccer?
In that vein, President Obama, invoking the powers granted to him under the Living Breathing Constitution that he keeps a copy of in his head, has suggested that the little ones stay in school even longer.
The federal politicians: they can even ruin a good summer.
David T. Beito
He served as president of the National Medical Association, the association of black physicians, and sometimes traveled to Africa for safaris.....
The Mound Bayou surgeon provided an important link from the Booker T. Washington philosophy to a new era, Beito said.
"Without Dr. Howard, would you have had a Medgar Evers?" he asked."Would you have even had a Fannie Lou Hamer, who got her first introduction to civil rights at Dr. Howard's meetings?"
Evers' brother, Charles, said Howard, who died in May 1976 at the age of 66, remains one of his heroes."He was the actual founder of the movement years ago when it wasn't popular."
The story of one of these persecuted people, Linda Abu-Aziz Menuhin, has now been told in the pages of The Jerusalem Post by Lela Gilbert. After the Six Day War Menuhin wrote a letter to her aunt in America describing the shocking conditions Jews were enduring including the banning of Jewish institutions, people disappearing, and the horrific execution of nine innocents in front of a large joyous cheering crowd. The letter under the title, Anne Frank from Baghdad, was published in Israel.
In the piece Gilbert points out that, “these forgotten refugees were members of ancient Jewish communities that predated Christianity. More than a few were wealthy, powerful and successful. Nearly all of them left their homes with little more than the shirts on their backs, leaving behind houses, bank accounts, investments, personal treasures and their means of livelihood. They resettled, mostly in Israel. From then until now, they have received no reparations, no inventory of their lost possessions and virtually no consideration in negotiations for Middle East peace.”
Cross posted on The Trebach Report
Roderick T. Long
CALL FOR PAPERS
The Molinari Society will be hosting its sixth annual symposium in conjunction with the Eastern Division of the American Philosophical Association in New York City, December 27-30, 2009. We hereby invite the submission of papers on the topic of intellectual property (IP).
IP has long been a matter of debate among libertarians. For its defenders, it represents a just protection of innovators rights to the products of their labour, as well as a vital economic incentive for creative effort; for its opponents, it is one more state-granted monopoly privilege with elements of protectionism and censorship. The issues raised by IP seem especially urgent in the present age of electronic media, when the ease of copying and disseminating information is at an all-time high; and the legitimacy or otherwise of IP has recently become an especially hot topic of discussion in the libersphere in the wake of the long-anticipated publication of Michele Boldrin and David Levines book Against Intellectual Monopoly (as well as the re-release of Stephan Kinsellas Against Intellectual Property in book form).
Those submitting papers should be prepared, if selected, to present their papers at the December meeting.
Send submissions to Roderick T. Long at:
Deadline for receiving submissions: 5 May 2009
Notification of acceptance / rejection: 15 May 2009
David T. Beito
Note: In part, this post is an answer to a query by Mark Hatlie.
This following is an excerpt of a post at the blog of Historians Against the War. Comments are welcome:
While it is perilous for any historian to predict the future, we may well be headed for the Waterloo of Keynesianism (both military and domestic) and that is a good thing.
Crudely put, Keynesianism (so named for the British economist John Maynard Keynes) is the theory that government’s can speed long-term recovery by running high deficits so as to stimulate aggregate demand or investment. It is the entire basis of Obama’s stimulus plan. To some extent, Keynesian ideas were the basis of Bush’s massive bailout and big spending policies, most especially his now forgotten “stimulus checks.”
The popularity of the Keynesian theory is something a puzzle (at least to me). Few ideas more defy ordinary common sense. Taken in today’s context, it seems akin to telling an individual who has recklessly run up a hundred thousand dollar credit card debt to spend even more on fixing a driveway or garage (infrastructure). For some reason, such advice (which would be considered utter lunacy when applied to individuals) is widely accepted as the best method of economic recovery when taken by governments.
Read the rest here.
Jane S. Shaw
Their findings were picked up by bloggers at Business Week and U.S. News -- but with a difference. Both bloggers interpreted the article as saying the idea of capping presidents' salaries was a good one. Business Week asked its readers to share their views.
The authors' irony escaped their attention.
Rep. Maxine Waters of California admits that members of Congress don't read the bills they vote on. (Of course, we already knew this.) She made the confession during an interview Friday with Norah O'Donnell on MSNBC. The subject of the interview was the provision in"stimulus" bill that prohibited interference with contractual bonuses at bailed-out companies. O'Donnell pressed Waters to say if she realized that prohibition was in the bill she voted for, and Waters admitted she did not. O'Donnell vented frustration that members of Congress are ignorant about contents of legislation. Waters explained that she and other members read the"important" parts and are mainly concerned with the amount being spent and the beneficiaries. She said they rely on staff to feed them information. When O'Donnell questioned that procedure, Waters misdirected the interview by asking O'Donnell if she reads every word of the newspaper. (As though that were relevant.) Then she asked O'Donnell if she read every word of her mortgage. Unfortunately, O'Donnell let the interview wind down instead of going in for the kill. She could have pointed out that when a person fails to read her own mortgage, she may harm herself, but congressmen vote on things that affect everyone, using money extracted forcibly by taxation, and that no one is permitted to opt out. Congressmen are largely unaccountable because any single voter's" clout" is negligible.
As Mario Rizzo has wondered, if our alleged representatives don't know what is in the laws they pass, in what sense can we be said to have consented to be governed by them?
Watch the interview for yourself:
Jeffrey Rogers Hummel
Rather than summarize Kirchner's well-researched Policy Monograph, I can best give you a feel for his conclusions by quoting it directly:"The idea of 'bubbles' in asset prices quickly breaks down as soon as one tries to give it analytical coherence or empirical substance. Most commonly, the idea of a 'bubble' is little more than a tautology or circular argument."
Kirchner looks at theories of both rational and irrational bubbles, and finds them all lacking. In the process, he subjects the works Robert Shiller to withering critique:"Shiller's earlier work Irrational Exuberance was largely built around the observation of statistical mean reversion in equity prices, with the behavioural finance component tacked on in an effort to disguise the fact that he otherwise had nothing to say about the determination of asset prices."
In the process, Kirchner effectively defends the efficient market hypothesis (EMH) from behavioral critiques:"violations of the EMH are often misinterpreted as an argument against the allocative role of markets. In this respect, the EMH is analogous to the idea of perfect competition in markets for goods and services. No one believes that any real-world market for goods and services is perfectly competitive, and violations of the assumptions of the perfectly competitive model do not lead us to reject the model's usefulness or the role of markets in setting prices."
Continuing to quote Kirchner:"The behavioural finance and experimental economics literature questions the rational choice assumptions underpinning standard models of economic and financial behaviour. This literature is notable for failing to advance a generally applicable alternative behavioural model, but even if such a model were found, it might struggle to explain the irregular occurrence of 'bubbles.' Much of this literature relies on static experimental results divorced from real-world institutional settings. The irony of the behaviouralist literature is that it has no general behavioural model. Instead, this literature now serves mainly as a laundry list of actual or potential exceptions to the efficient markets hypothesis--to be ritually recited to either dismiss the role of markets as allocators of capital or to explain away market outcomes that do not conform with the prior beliefs of the analyst."
Kirchner continues with an excellent survey of"'Bubbles' as historical myth," which he wraps up with an account of Greenspan's policies, absolving Greenspan of responsibility for both the dot.com boom and the housing boom. Withal, his monograph merits close reading. With the added benefit that Kirchner favorably quotes David Henderson's and my Cato Briefing on Greenspan's monetary policies. :-)
Coda: Another economist who has recently risen to the defense of the efficient markets hypothesis is Scott Sumner, on his blog, "The Money Illusion." He points out an internal inconsistency in some behavioral critiques:"if investors are foolish to ignore the risk of Black Swan events, why should we trust probability values in anomaly studies?" More important, he offers a fundamental explanation for the housing boom that I have not seen elsewhere:"The housing bubble in 2004-2006 was partly driven by rapid immigration from Latin America (as was the bubble in Spain itself!), and also by a perception (which turned out false) that coastal zoning constraints were spreading into interior markets. Many Hispanic immigrants were snapping up older ranch houses, allowing native born Americans to move on to bigger McMansions. The immigration crackdown in 2007 dramatically slowed this immigration (as did the worsening economy.) Population growth estimates going several years forward fell sharply, hurting housing speculators. Ground zero of the sub-prime bust is in working class areas of the Southwest and Florida. Any guess as to who bought homes in those areas?"
David T. Beito
In a fascinating column, Brian Doherty, author of the definitive history of libertarianism, Radicals for Capitalism, explores the pro-free market views of Harold Gray, the creator of the"Little Orphan Annie" comic strips:
The strip sneered at organized and impersonal charity. But to survive, Annie counts not only on her own grit but on the direct kindness of strangers, at the same time having to avoid the depredations of the professional do-gooder. The comic’s early days hold a winningly libertarian disdain for the uplifters and professional licensing and child labor laws that stymie Annie’s attempts to support herself and others who fall under her care.
Unfortuantely for Gray, he did not live long enough to prevent his work from being mangled into an aggressively pro-New Deal play and movie,"Annie."
David T. Beito
T.R.M. Howard was not everyone’s idea of a civil rights hero, and his accomplishments have been widely neglected. But as historians David Beito and Linda Royster Beito demonstrate in their book Black Maverick: T.R.M. Howard’s Fight for Civil Rights and Economic Power, he was in fact one of the most effective black civil rights leaders of his generation and a key figure in bringing civil rights to Mississippi and empowering black voters in Chicago. I put six questions to David Beito about his new book.
1. Howard’s life puts him at the center of a number of historic events, usually playing a vital role, particularly in the civil rights movement of the fifties and sixties, yet his name rarely figures in the short list of leadership figures cited in the media. Has his role been underappreciated?
Amy H. Sturgis
Winners and finalists are as follows:
Little Brother, Cory Doctorow (Tor)
Matter, Iain Banks (Orbit)
The January Dancer, Michael Flynn (Tor)
Saturn's Children, Charles Stross (Tor)
Half a Crown, Jo Walton (Tor)
Opening Atlantis, Harry Turtledove (Penguin/Roc)
HALL OF FAME
The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien
Falling Free, Lois McMaster Bujold
Courtship Rite, Donald M. Kingsbury
"As Easy as A.B.C.", Rudyard Kipling
The Once and Future King, T.H. White
The Golden Age, John C. Wright
Take a look at the Report done by students at MIT. The pictures of modern US weapons used by the Israelis tells it all.
Meanwhile the US & Russia discuss cutting back on their massive nuclear arsenals and delivery systems!
Below is the Conclusion of the Report:
The foregoing assessment is far from definitive in its evaluation of Israeli military potential. However it does seem to indicate that the IAF, after years of modernization, now possesses the capability to destroy even well-hardened targets in Iran with some degree of confidence. The operation appears to be no more risky than the earlier attack on Osirak and provides at least as much benefit in terms of delaying Iranian development of nuclear weapons. This benefit might not be worth the operational risk and political cost. Nonetheless, this analysis demonstrates that Israeli leaders have access to the technical capability to carry out the attack. The question then becomes one of will and individual calculation. Other priorities, such as the election of Hamas to the leadership of the Palestinian Authority, the turmoil surrounding the Israeli leadership, and the Iranian leader's recent statements about Israeli existence, may take precedence.
More generally, this assessment illustrates the utility of precision-guided weapons for counterproliferation. Assuming that the intelligence is available to identify targets of interest, precision-guided weapons can fill an important role of destroying the target with increased confidence, leading to smaller strike packages and lower risk to personnel and equipment. While limitations still exist, especially in the case of hardened targets, precision-guided weapons have become extremely capable, particularly when strike aircraft are confronted by relatively low-quality air defense. The use of precision strike for counterproliferation should therefore not be discounted lightly."
David T. Beito
Bruce Bartlett just informed me of the sad news that my friend, and stalwart L and P blogger, Professor William Marina, died this morning of a heart attack. It was all very sudden. As you can see, Bill blogged here only a few hours ago. Bill was a fearless friend of the truth and his passing will be a great loss for us all.
I was first introduced to Bill about twenty years ago by his friend Leonard Liggio. We had a wonderful lunch discussion about American history including his dissertation on the American Anti-Imperialist League. Of all the anti-imperialists, he had the kindest words for U.S. Senator William Borah, an insurgent progressive who opposed empire.
As I grew to know Bill a bit better, I could see that his admiration for Borah made perfect sense. Like many of the insurgents, Bill was suspicious of all forms of militarism, imperialism, and bigness in any form, whether private or public. Bill had strong libertarian inclinations but was best described as a decentralist. He was very much an independent thinker and full of surprises.
In our conversations, I consistently found Bill to be a source of infectious enthusiasm. He described himself as a Taoist and that too made sense when you got to know him. He had an upbeat, but somewhat fatalistic, attitude toward passing events. He was a wealth of insights on such varied issues as the history of bureaucracy, Chinese traditions of localism, the need to promote alternative forms of higher education outside of the universities, and sustainable housing.
Because of his experiences as a Fulbright Scholar and economist for the U.S. Joint Economic Committee, he had many illustrative stories about the corrupting influence of foreign aid and the military-industrial complex.
Remarkably, Bill had been on Dealey Plaza on the day of the Kennedy assassination. Although very much a radical in his opposition to centralized power, he rejected all the JFK conspiracy theories as nonsense and planned to write a book about it. Bill believed that Oswald did it, and did it alone and that the Warren Commission was essentially right. He often compared Oswald to Herostratus who had burned down the Temple of Artemis just so he would be immortalized in history.
Bill was not just a talker. Even while he taught classes at Florida Atlantic University, he made a success in real estate by making efficient use of small, odd-shaped parcels that might otherwise have gone to waste.
Although retired from his university position, he was still a bundle of energy and future projects. Most recently, he set up the Marina-Huerta Educational Foundation to build"self-help" affordable, and environmentally-sound housing. The Foundation built a community center in Guatemala and Bill hoped to introduce these techniques to the United States.
It is a great shame that he could not have lived longer to finish some of his projects.
Some time ago I received in the mail from the U.S. Census Bureau a form to be filled out, to wit, the 2007 Survey of Business Owners and Self-Employed Persons questionnaire. I naturally threw it in the trash.
A few weeks later, I received another questionnaire whose cover letter read in part as follows:
We have not received your response to the 2007 Survey of Business Owners and Self-Employed Persons (SBO) questionnaire, Form SBO-1, which was mailed to you several weeks ago. These data are essential to business and government decision making. We need information about your business to provide reliable data for your industry and geographic area.
We remind you again that your response to this survey is mandatory under Title 13 of the United States Code. Applicable provisions of the law are shown on the back of this letter.
I hastened to read the back of the letter, where I found the following:
Mandatory Provisions of Law Pertaining to Economic Censuses — Section 224 as amended by Section 3571 of Title 18 United States Code.
Whoever, being the owner, official, agent, person in charge, or assistant to the person in charge, of any company, business, institution, establishment, religious body, or organization of any nature whatsoever, neglects or refuses, when requested by the Secretary or other authorized officer or employee of the Department of Commerce or bureau or agency thereof, to answer completely and correctly to the best of his knowledge all questions relating to his company, business, institution, establishment, religious body, or other orgnization, or to records or statistics in his official custody, contained on any census or other schedule, or questionnaire prepared and submitted to him under the authority of this title, shall be fined not more than $5,000; and if he willfully gives a false answer to any such questions, he shall be fined not more than $10,000.
I thought about throwing the second form in the trash, as I had thrown the first one. Then I thought about telling the U.S. Bureau of the Census to go to hell. Then I thought about the large, threatened fines, and I filled out the form. I spent about 15 minutes doing so. My rate of pay for having done so works out to exactly zero dollars per hour, which is somewhat less than I usually charge for my services.
Well, big deal, you may be thinking. But I invite you to pause and consider afresh what this little episode in my life illustrates.
First, so far as I can tell from reading the U.S. Constitution, the government has no Constitutional authority to demand that I answer these questions about my business. Perhaps, if I am mistaken, someone can direct me to the relevant clause of the document.
Second, the government’s stated rationale for collecting the information is lame. No great purpose is to be served. On a FAQ sheet included with the questionnaire, one finds a section headed “Why does the government take this survey?” But this section’s text merely states that the Census Bureau is required by law to take the survey every five years and describes the variables that are surveyed and the way in which these data will be combined with other data the government collects. The section does not give a substantive reason for collecting the data in the first place, seemingly assuming that if a certain kind of information might be of interest to the government or someone else, that interest suffices to justify the information’s forced collection at the expense of those who possess the information.
Another section of the FAQ sheet tells us “Who uses the survey data.” Users are said to include the Small Business Administration, local government commissions, government agencies at all levels, “a national women-owned business trade association” not identified by name, consultants and researchers, and individual businesses. In truth, however, information about my business is in all cases, literally as well as figuratively, none of their business. If these people want information about my business, why can’t they make me an offer for it? After all, it’s my property.
Well, as Al Capone is supposed to have said, you can get a lot more done with a kind word and a gun, than with a kind word alone. And everything the government gets done — including its extraction from me of information about my business — it gets done by threatening people with violence.
Oh, Higgs, you might be saying, you’re just overwrought and hyperventilating. But am I really? Suppose that I had very strong feelings about the privacy of my personal affairs, so I simply refused to provide the information requested. Eventually, subject to the vagaries of the government’s escalating enforcement actions, I might be issued a summons, which of course, I, having the strong feelings that I have about the matter, would ignore. Hence, in due course, police officers would be sent to arrest me for having ignored the summons. And I, having the strong feelings that I have about the matter, would naturally resist the arrest. Wherupon the police officers might shoot me dead if they felt inclined to do so, rather than simply beating me savagely and hauling my broken body off to jail.
And for what would the police have battered or killed me in this case? Precisely for having refused to fill out a bullshit form to provide information about my business that no one had a just right to demand of me in the first place. Obviously there’s no real justice at work here, but where’s the logic in the use of such brutally dispropotionate sanctions in response to such a petty act of noncompliance?
The logic — the same logic that leads the government to attach similar criminal sanctions to a indefinitely great number of petty infractions of its idiotic rules — is that the government wants you and me to obey its dictates slavishly regardless of their importance. It seeks not simple compliance where compliance might be required to accomplish an important public purpose. Instead it seeks immediate, unquestioning, universal compliance — including compliance with dictates so trivial that they ought never to have been the subject of government action in the first place — in order to put us in our place.
And that place is with our faces constantly under the government’s boot.
We live in a police state, a tyranny of genuinely grotesque dimensions, but because it has developed gradually over more than a century, we have gradually grown accustomed to its outrages and to its moronic and insulting requirements, each accompanied by criminal sanctions that amount to death threats, should we continue to resist. It is not a pleasant feeling to live immersed in a sea of death threats, surrounded by a variety of armed government thugs prepared to dish out beatings, tasings, and death whenever anyone, for whatever reason, resists the government’s orders. That we Americans have resigned ourselves to living in such an environment and, in many cases, continue to refer to this police state as a free country speaks volumes about our ability to follow Winston Smith’s example, in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, of loving Big Brother. .
Jeffrey Rogers Hummel
"Almost everyone is aware that federal government spending in the United States is scheduled to skyrocket, primarily because of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Recent"stimulus" packages have accelerated the process. Only the naively optimistic actually believe that politicians will fully resolve this looming fiscal crisis with some judicious combination of tax hikes and program cuts. Many predict that, instead, the government will inflate its way out of this future bind, using Federal Reserve monetary expansion to fill the shortfall between outlays and receipts. But I believe, in contrast, that it is far more likely that the United States will be driven to an outright default on Treasury securities, openly reneging on the interest due on its formal debt and probably repudiating part of the principal."
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