The Libertarian Standard » Wirkman Virkkala http://libertarianstandard.com Property - Prosperity - Peace Tue, 09 Sep 2014 12:55:58 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 A new website and group blog of radical Austro-libertarians, shining the light of reason on truth and justice. The Libertarian Standard clean The Libertarian Standard thelibertarianstandard@gmail.com thelibertarianstandard@gmail.com (The Libertarian Standard) CC-BY Property - Prosperity - Peace libertarianism, anarchism, capitalism, free markets, liberty, private property, rights, Mises, Rothbard, Rand, antiwar, freedom The Libertarian Standard » Wirkman Virkkala http://libertarianstandard.com/wp-content/plugins/powerpress/rss_default.jpg http://libertarianstandard.com TV-G Another DeLong Cheap Shot http://libertarianstandard.com/2011/11/13/another-delong-cheap-shot/ http://libertarianstandard.com/2011/11/13/another-delong-cheap-shot/#comments Sun, 13 Nov 2011 23:27:13 +0000 http://libertarianstandard.com/?p=9451 Economist Brad DeLong has come out swinging against Austrian economics again, and once again he’s punched himself in the face. But he’s too numb to realize it. There’s a great response on the Mises Economics Blog by Jonathan Catalán, and I take a stab on my site, Wirkman Netizen.

It’s interesting that neither Catalán nor I attack, in our respective longer efforts, the worst calumny of DeLong’s, his insinuation that the Austrian distrust of fiat money comes down to anti-Semitism: “[I]n its scarier moments this train of thought slides over to: ‘good German engineers (and workers); bad Jewish financiers.’”

Since Mises was a Jew, and was treated badly for anti-Semitic reasons at times — why does DeLong think Mises left Austria? — and that  Mises never, ever supported anti-Semitism (nor did Hayek, for that matter), this is especially vile. It’s just another example of those leaning left (which means: technocrats who mislabel themselves as “liberals” and “progressives”) playing the racism/anti-semitism card when they lack a good hand.

DeLong should be ashamed of himself. But, then, one of the perks of being in the managerial class of the technocratic state means never having to say you are sorry.

 

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Give or Take http://libertarianstandard.com/2011/11/12/give-or-take/ http://libertarianstandard.com/2011/11/12/give-or-take/#comments Sat, 12 Nov 2011 17:40:37 +0000 http://libertarianstandard.com/?p=9445 All gave some, some gave all” — just another statist piety. Most lives in war are taken.

Conscripts, especially, do not “give their lives for their country.” The state takes those lives.

The day after Veterans Day seems as good as any to drop dangerous terms of art and speak in plain language.

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Protesting Narrow Economics http://libertarianstandard.com/2011/11/11/protesting-narrow-economics/ http://libertarianstandard.com/2011/11/11/protesting-narrow-economics/#comments Sat, 12 Nov 2011 03:24:44 +0000 http://libertarianstandard.com/?p=9431 I am pretty sure that, had I taken economics in school, I would never have developed an interest in it.

One of my hobbies is collecting economics textbooks. They are not uniformly bad — I have gained insights from those by Alchian and Allen, David D. Friedman, Gwartney and Stroup, and a few others — but they are not as good as the old “Principles”-style texts from days of yore. You know, general theory books covering a lot of ground for a wide audience including amateurs, written (in the best cases) in readable English (or other common tongue) and not littered with Q&As and “work problems” and “call-out” boxes of biographies of Adam Smith, David Ricardo, Karl Marx, and the ever-present Keynes. The best of the old-fashioned treatises, such as by F.W. Taussig, and especially the “anachronistic” efforts by Ludwig von Mises (Human Action) and Murray Rothbard (Man, Economy and State), outshine all econ texts used in colleges today.

Part of the problem is that the textbook industry is a mostly corrupt adjunct to the university system, the main idea being to milk as much money as possible from students. The often-annual revisions in textbooks are usually trivial . . . but quite necessary for the planned obsolescence of the media, allowing universities to renege on buy-backs, thus keeping multi-hundred dollar purchases coming into their revenue streams. Change a few pictures, charge $300+.

This perverse industry has arisen, in part, in response to the near-unlimited demand stemming from subsidized tuitions and student loans.

Sometimes I pity the professors. College teachers often find themselves the lead grifters in a long-running scam on the public purse. I’d be ashamed of myself.

So, were I college student today, I’d probably balk, too. But I hope I wouldn’t be as witless as Greg Mankiw’s protestors:

The students’ general criticism is that Ec 10, in which some 700 students are enrolled, “espouses a specific — and limited — view of economics.” Their specific criticisms are that economics as taught in this class, formally called Economics 10, failed to prevent the financial crisis and does nothing to narrow the gap between rich and poor.

They’d like a more diverse intro course that includes exposure to more progressive economic frameworks.

“I’m someone who lives below the poverty line, my family’s extremely poor. And having a class like this that promotes gaining at the expense of millions of people disturbs me and bothers me at my core,” freshman Amanda Bradley told National Public Radio.

Read the rest of the piece. Amity Shlaes goes on, arguing that Harvard’s economics department lacks the old Schumpeterian insight into destructive creation*, much hint at all of Ludwig von Mises’ great contribution to business cycle theory (malinvestment theory), and, last but not least, Public Choice analysis. This is a great piece.

Shlaes is right. Harvard econ is narrow — though widening it up with the nonsense one often finds in “‘history,’ ‘sociology’ or ‘government'” is not the way out. Broadening out of the neoclassical paradigm that is Harvard’s main focus would certainly get students thinking better.

Sad, in one way. Taussig was a Harvard economist, and not a bad one, all in all. His 90-year-old essay “Is Market Price Determinate?” would be great reading for Harvard neoclassicals. A great challenge. And perhaps it might lead to more Schumpeter, Mises, and Public Choice.

 

* I know, Schumpeter said “creative destruction.” But that’s the wrong order. Capitalism proceeds by gales of destructive creation. Schumpeter’s reversal of these words gives the wrong picture.

 

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New Libertarian Website Launched http://libertarianstandard.com/2011/11/03/new-libertarian-portal-launched/ http://libertarianstandard.com/2011/11/03/new-libertarian-portal-launched/#comments Thu, 03 Nov 2011 20:50:58 +0000 http://libertarianstandard.com/?p=9382 Cato Institute has launched a new website: libertarianism.org. In a previous incarnation, the domain served as a promotion page for David Boaz’s Libertarianism: A Primer.

Designed to be an introductory and exploratory — if not quite a portal — site, it sports an elegant, stylized dove-wing logo. This is Cato’s version of what the Advocates for Self-Government offer at libertarianism.com. But Cato’s new site offers more links and videos on its front page, so it is bound to get more hits. The site offers a basic banner introduction:

LIBERTY. It’s a simple idea, but it’s also the linchpin of a complex system of values and practices: justice, prosperity, responsibility, toleration, cooperation, and peace. Many people believe that liberty is the core political value of modern civilization itself, the one that gives substance and form to all the other values of social life. THEY’RE CALLED LIBERTARIANS.

Well, that’s one way of putting it.

Just below the banner, a video of an F.A. Hayek lecture on why ethics not arise from our reason. A familiar Hayekian topic, and I just started listening to it. Below that are three other videos, one by Milton Friedman on humility, a short (and terrific) Murray Rothbard lecture on economic recessions, and Joan Kennedy Taylor on feminism. Today’s featured essays are by George H. Smith (“Religious Toleration Versus Religious Freedom”) and Tom G. Palmer (“Myths of Individualism.”)

Below this, a list of “people of LIBERTY,” a hero’s gallery of six libertarians, proto-libertarians and quasi-libs, rotating by page refresh. On my first look, they were all men: Milton Friedman, George H. Smith, Herbert Spencer, Thomas Sowell, Nathaniel Branden, and Frédéric Bastiat. I was pleased to see Spencer on that list: It’s deserved. Friedman is to be expected, since he served as the public intellectual face of libertarian ideas for so long. Other choices seem a tad bizarre. Why no women? I guess Branden stands in for Rand, in more than one sense. But couldn’t the good Cato webmasters nudge out Mr. Smith (who’s best known for his atheism writing, and most beloved, by me, for an excellent essay on Herbert Spener’s ethics) and replace him with Isabel Paterson or Rose Wilder Lane? Just for a tiny bit of “gender” balance?

After I refreshed the page, up popped Richard Overton, Robert Nozick, Julian L. Simon, Milton Friedman (again), Alexis de Tocqueville, and Murray Rothbard, three of whom I have spoken with on the phone. With another shuffle I finally see a woman on the list: Isabel Paterson. I trust that J. B. Say, Gustave de Molinari, Albert Jay Nock, H. L. Mencken, and Ludwig von Mises will hit the list at some point.

The site is expertly built. It looks lovely, one of the best-looking libertarian sites around.

There’s a lot to digest here. That’s good. It echoes the breadth of libertarian thought. So let the listening and reading (and criticism!) begin.

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Forecasts vs. Policies http://libertarianstandard.com/2011/07/14/forecasts-vs-policies/ http://libertarianstandard.com/2011/07/14/forecasts-vs-policies/#comments Thu, 14 Jul 2011 22:07:27 +0000 http://libertarianstandard.com/?p=8835 Arnold Kling, at EconLog, relates Scott Sumner’s simple query as to why the 2008 financial crisis has caused such low or negative growth down even unto the present day, and offers four possible answers. I will comment only on one of them:

Because the Fed made forecasting errors. Right-wingers are fond of brandishing charts showing that the unemployment rate with the stimulus is on a worse trajectory than what was forecast without the stimulus. That may or may not be evidence that the stimulus failed, but it is evidence that standard forecasts were not sufficiently pessimistic about the economy. Assuming the Fed used standard forecasts, that would explain the inadequate monetary expansion back then. It doesn’t explain their reluctance to expand now, though.

There are several places where this answer (which Kling does not favor) goes wrong. Most noticeable, to me, regards the possibility that the forecasts “were not sufficiently pessimistic about the economy.” This is not the only possibility. It is not even the most likely possibility.

The problem was that the forecasts were too negative, and the policy response too extreme and witless. Had financial collapse been allowed, and some major banks and other financial institutions — and a whole class of conceited Wall Street players — gone the way of the Brontosaur and the Dodo, the downturn would have been dramatic (housing prices would have collapsed, and a lot of real estate and credit default fortunes would have evaporated), yes, but the rest of us would have recovered pretty quickly. The nature of the boom-period pricing problems would have become apparent, since those who failed would have signaled their failure. Recovery would have started before the lawyers would have finalized the first few bankruptcies.

But that’s not what happened. Instead, we were forced to witness a self-fulfilling prophecy: The too-negative forecasts spurred on hysterical over-reaction, the bailouts. Which, in turn, covered up the semiotic function of markets, and generally disabled markets from clearing.

A more positive forecast — one untainted, say, by having friends in anguish at Goldman Sachs and Bear Stearns et al. — would have yielded saner policy, and better consequences.

This is a problem with the welfare state as it applies to government-businesss relations. You work regulatory expectations up to an unrealistic frenzy, where people think government is somehow “managing” things. This requires experts from the industries to get involved, with their own agendas. And they corrupt any reasonable attitude towards big business. They cannot help but pay favorites, because they — who live and breathe the industry the hail from — have favorites.

And folks in power becomes craven with fear, and foolish regarding policy. We lurch from an impossible-to-scale micromanaging regulatory scheme where businesses often are forced to endure expensive and crazy “oversight” by bureaucrats . . . to “welfare for the rich.” It’s absurd. Current policy could hardly be more idiotic.

Until we can let big businesses (including big financial institutions) fail, America will stagger among several competing policies, with no coherent sense. Consequently, the general signal to market participants will remain incoherent.

And, amidst such regime uncertainty, nothing like a thriving business environment, or “full employment,” will be achieved.

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Mises on the Beach http://libertarianstandard.com/2011/07/03/mises-on-the-beach/ http://libertarianstandard.com/2011/07/03/mises-on-the-beach/#comments Mon, 04 Jul 2011 03:46:10 +0000 http://libertarianstandard.com/?p=8799 When Michelle Bachmann confessed to taking the writings of Ludwig von Mises with her on vacation, I assumed she used the august Austrian economist as a soporific — not because Mises isn’t worth reading, or not exciting to read (I can’t tell you how my heart pounded when I first unleashed myself onto The Ultimate Foundation of Economic Science), but because Bachmann has never said anything to suggest a scholarly or subtle mind, the kind of mind best suited for pleasure in reading Mises.

But a Salon writer, Andrew Leonard, has proven himself less dismissive of Bachmann than I. He, knowing nothing of Mises, set out to read Human Action. His conclusion? Well, he didn’t get very far into the book. But he did get far enough to tell us what he found. After reading a few chapters, he was struck by

Mises’ absolute certainty that he was right, beyond any reasonable doubt, that he had grasped an essential truth of existence, comprehended the primary engine of progress, and that anyone who might think differently is a fool or a tyrant  —  or, perhaps worst of all from my vantage-point, a “servile scribbler” fostering complacency in the face of harsh enlightenment.

Now it all makes sense to me. On the one hand, Michelle Bachmann has the word of God to guide her, as expressed through His son Jesus. On the other, there’s the word of von Mises, as expressed through the price mechanism.

This is a familiar refrain. “Mises the Dogmatist” — a man, a thinker, too certain. Dagnabit.

Funny thing is, when I read almost any deeply anti-Misesian author — say, Paul Krugman — I encounter no small amount of certainty. Indeed, Krugman calls people he disagrees with names. Often, he won’t even take the trouble to make an argument. And he’s a Nobel Prize-winning economist!

Truth is, only a few people employ a rhetoric of inquiry. Mises, like Herbert Spencer before him — indeed, like most writers — favored the rhetoric of conclusions. This is fine. Readers often prefer this style.

And here’s something I noticed: They tend to object only when they disagree with the conclusions.

Indeed, if you only notice the rhetoric of conclusions — that “sense of certainty” — when you read writers whose message you oppose, your standing as a critic of rhetoric and method seems a tad suspect. To complain about “certainty” only in enemies is one of the many “beam/mote”  tactics that (as if led by an invisible hand) embarrasses partisan debaters.

Full disclosure: I read Mises not “on the beach” with Michelle Bachmann, but in the privacy of my own study. And I do tend to agree with his conclusions.

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Death Comes for the Philosopher http://libertarianstandard.com/2011/06/13/death-comes-for-the-philosopher/ http://libertarianstandard.com/2011/06/13/death-comes-for-the-philosopher/#comments Mon, 13 Jun 2011 20:47:19 +0000 http://libertarianstandard.com/?p=8719 Though John Hospers was never my hero, he came close. Now he’s dead, like most of the other philosophical writers I admire.

He died yesterday, a few days into his 94th year.

Since I grew up in one of the two states of the union in which his name appeared on the ballot for the U.S. Presidency, I must’ve come across his name in that year of 1972. But it didn’t stick. The renegade electoral college voter, Roger MacBride, who cast his ballot for the Hospers/Nathan Libertarian Party ticket, did leave an impression four years later, with his direct-to-the-camera spiel following the Democratic Nominating Convention.

That was probably my first notice of the word “libertarian” alone and naked, not prefixed by “civil.”

John Hospers was, though, a civil man, a civilized man. Like at least one later Libertarian Party presidential nominee, Harry Browne, he was committed to high culture as well as the arts of peace, prosperity, and freedom. Quiet in bearing, cautious in speculation, careful in reasoning, he also served as the epitome of the philosophic cast of mind. A professor of philosophy, in fact, his career in the field was illustrious.

It was not helped, however, by his 1972 run for the presidency, or by his political philosophy in general — a philosophy greatly influenced by his personal relationship (and its severance) with Ayn Rand. (Jesse Walker, on Reason’s Hit and Run, provides the links.) He once told me that the University of Southern California only reluctantly honored him with emeritus status.

I read his Libertarianism in 1980, shortly after meeting his LP running mate Tonie Nathan. I then  scoured back issues of The Personalist for his essays, and those of his friends. I remember, today, only one of those contributions: “Rule Egoism,” a short note that dovetailed nicely with J.L. Mackie’s comments about coalescing ethical standpoints in the second half of Ethics: Inventing Right and Wrong, which I read soon after. I leaned more towards Mackie than Hospers, however, and remained puzzled at how this fine thinker could admire Ayn Rand so much. She was so ungainly a thinker. Hospers was not. Even in error his caution and subtlety shined through.

I met him, for the first time, at a Liberty conference (I was a sub-editor at Liberty from its inception till 1999), and was quite familiar with his writing style from working on many of his brilliant manuscripts presented for publication. His writings were challenging, often straying outside the rigors of libertarian ideology. His style was always crystal-clear, without a hint of Kantian clumsiness, Hegelian obscurity, or Heideggerian impenetrability.

The world of scholars will remember him chiefly for his work in philosophy as editor, author and anthologist. His writings on aesthetics (Understanding the Arts), ethics (Human Conduct) and basic philosophy (Introduction to Philosophical Analysis) are all worthy contributions. He was also a great pedagogue. His editorship of The Personalist provided an early first academic outlet for a wider-than-usual variety of viewpoints, including the libertarian — a variety quite alien to American philosophical circles at that time.

In all his work, up towards the end, Hospers exhibited a strong intellectual curiosity, which disallowed him to take comfort the confines of any ideological box. I always admired this. I could not be angered by most of his forays into territory that put him at odds with the mainstream of libertarian thought, even when I was pretty sure he was dead wrong. Yet I did have great trouble with his late, post-9/11 warmongering, and handled it chiefly (I freely confess) by ignoring the man. Perhaps I was wrong to do so. Philosophical lapses of the aged deserve some tolerance, as we give, say, to Anthony Flew for his flirtations with ideas that he had, during the height of his intellectual powers, demolished so severely.

The arc of life necessarily involves declension towards the end — that’s to be expected. That arc hits dirt and ash at terminus. So it has ended for John Hospers, as it will one day end for each of us.

We bear this truth “philosophically” — as John Hospers advised.

 

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The Whelps of Tiger Moms and Irish Setter Dads http://libertarianstandard.com/2011/03/31/the-whelps-of-tiger-moms-and-irish-setter-dads/ http://libertarianstandard.com/2011/03/31/the-whelps-of-tiger-moms-and-irish-setter-dads/#comments Fri, 01 Apr 2011 02:36:12 +0000 http://libertarianstandard.com/?p=8282 Amy Chua, the Tiger Mom phenom, has finally received an apt check and mate from P.J. O’Rourke, in The Weekly Standard. Proclaiming himself an “Irish Setter Dad,” he finds the perfect use for the new Chua tome:

I gather Ms. Chua is a total bitch with her children, making them finish homework before it’s assigned, practice violin and piano 25 hours a day, maintain a grade point average higher than Obama budget numbers, and forbidding them from doing anything they might enjoy, such as exhale.

But being a male parent with a typical dad-like involvement in my children’s lives?—?I know all of their names?—?I thought Battle Hymn was great. That is, I thought it made me look great. Not that I read the dreadful book, but I did buy each of my children a copy and inscribed it, “So you think you’ve got it bad?”

The driving, manic Tiger Mom ethic — Always Excel in Academics and Music — is not only an anti-hedonic prescription for misery and resentment, as O’Rourke relates, it is also, he says, quite self-defeating:

Amy Chua, I’ve got bad news. “A” students work for “B” students. Or not even. A businessman friend of mine corrected me. “No, P.?J.,” he said, “?‘B’ students work for ‘C’ students. ‘A’ students teach.” Teaching in the Ivy League gives you a lot of time off, Amy?—?enough to write a crap book, worse than Yale prof Erich Segal’s Love Story.

This is hyperbole, of course, but there’s a germ of truth here.

Alas, O’Rourke takes his argument one step too far: He makes fun of Chua’s list of things Tiger Moms demand, and included on that list is “your children must be two years ahead of their classmates in math.”

Well, yes. Considering that American educational standards have lapsed so far that now we worry that high school grads cannot reach the level of what elementary students used to know at the end of Grade 6, any kid who rings on the right side of the Bell Curve and not ahead of his class in math or English is likely way behind his potential. If you want your kids to actually learn something in school, insist on higher standards than do your kids’ teachers. Good rule of thumb.

And it is not that difficult. It doesn’t require a ruler to the knuckles or Chua’s amazingly cold, criticaster spirit. After all, most of today’s kids’ time spent in public schools is spent spinning gears: wasted energy, motion, and emotion, with little engagement of the mind.

How do I know? I went through America’s socialized K-12 schooling in my younger days. It was obviously lacking then. (I became an education critic while in school. I’m surprised more such critics aren’t born in our nation of regimented “classrooms.”) I gather that things have gotten worse in the last 30 years, not better.

Besides, I’ve talked with kids who have actually learned things. From private schools. Or, especially, those schooled at home.

P.J. O’Rourke describes his kids, “Muffin,” “Poppet,” and “Buster,” as practicing “to be jerks.” He doesn’t say what kind of schooling he provides them, but it’s pretty plain they aren’t home-schooled. They sound like typical inmates of a typical public school (though you’d expect a prominent Republican Reptile’s kids to be in private institutions, and that certainly isn’t impossible. “Schools,” public or private, tend to be dreadful places for learning much but insolence.) So, I wonder: Whose kids would I want to work with, or even talk to? It might be fun to chat up Chua’s rebellious kids, rather than O’Rourke’s jerks. At least I’m pretty certain that Chua’s kids would have interesting things to say . . . if only in rebellion against their maddening mother.

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Nothing to fear but… http://libertarianstandard.com/2011/03/26/nothing-to-fear-but/ http://libertarianstandard.com/2011/03/26/nothing-to-fear-but/#comments Sun, 27 Mar 2011 00:01:38 +0000 http://libertarianstandard.com/?p=8251 ]]> http://libertarianstandard.com/2011/03/26/nothing-to-fear-but/feed/ 2 Had Other Writers Written the Libertarian Classics… http://libertarianstandard.com/2011/03/06/had-other-writers-written-the-libertarian-classics/ http://libertarianstandard.com/2011/03/06/had-other-writers-written-the-libertarian-classics/#comments Sun, 06 Mar 2011 21:15:28 +0000 http://libertarianstandard.com/?p=8189 Bill James, The Man vs. the Stats

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Virtue of Elfishness

Thor Heyerdahl, Rowed to Serfdom

J.G. Frazer, The Rites of Man

Richard Stallman, For a Gnu Liberty

John Ruskin, The Gaud of the Machine

Gene Roddenberry, The Once and Future Klingon

William Morris, The Rainbow Credenza

Coco Chanel, Karl Marx and the Clothes of His System

Aldous Huxley, Atlas Drugged

Nikola Tesla, Social Static Cling

 

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