20 Apr 2014

He Is Risen

Religious 70 Comments

1 Corinthians 15: 1-11:

Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

3 For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. 6 After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. 7 After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. 8 Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.

9 For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. 11 Therefore, whether it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

19 Apr 2014

Maybe Sargent Should Have Used 1,000 Words?

Economics, Noah Smith 15 Comments

We don’t see eye to eye on many issues of economic policy, but Noah Smith is quite possibly even a bigger smart*ss than me, so I try to follow his blog out of solidarity. I have to agree with Noah that the gushing over Thomas Sargent’s 2007 graduation address to Berkeley students has been completely overblown. (I saw people on Facebook referring to it as the greatest economic lecture ever, etc.) Also, in case you’re curious, I have no idea why people starting talking about it now, when the event occurred 7 years ago. Perhaps something to do with asymmetric information.

Anyway, Noah is mad because it smacks of policy advocacy. It’s not the neutral discussion of objective economic law, the way Noah’s heroes Paul Krugman and Brad DeLong dispense.

But I’m more concerned that at least two of Sargent’s 12 principles don’t even make sense. First and most serious: “6. In an equilibrium of a game or an economy, people are satisfied with their choices. That is why it is difficult for well meaning outsiders to change things for better or worse.”

Huh? One out of twelve main points that the science of economics can teach young people, is that it’s difficult for government policy to make things worse? (If you read the whole thing, I think it’s pretty clear that Sargent is including the possibility of well meaning outsiders working through the government to try to change things for the better.) And doesn’t this superficially at least conflict with Sargent’s 5th principle, that there are tradeoffs between equality and efficiency? Or is he saying in #5 that there are tradeoffs, but in #6 that we can never really move along that dimension much from our starting point?

7. In the future, you too will respond to incentives. That is why there are some promises that you’d like to make but can’t. No one will believe those promises because they know that later it will not be in your interest to deliver. The lesson here is this: before you make a promise, think about whether you will want to keep it if and when your circumstances change. This is how you earn a reputation.

This is the kind of thing where it sounds like he’s saying something deep, but if you actually read the above three times in a row, you see it doesn’t really make sense. If I can break it down, it’s something like:

a) Sometimes it would benefit you today, if you could promise to do something in the future that is against your interest. But when it comes time for to follow through on that promise, you won’t, because you will be responding to the incentives at that time. However, recognizing this, people won’t believe you today if you try to make such a non-credible commitment, meaning that in practice you will not be able to benefit today from issuing such a promise.

b) Try to gain a reputation as someone who will not respond to the incentives you will face in the future. Then people will believe you when you promise to do something that is not in your interest.

Look, I know what Sargent is trying to say in the above, or at least I think I know what he’s trying to say. But my point is, what he actually said makes no sense to me.

So in summary, I agree with Noah that this is hardly a “summary of economics.” Not only is it an odd collection of principles (the last one seems to come out of left field), but at least one is flat-out wrong and would (if it were true) justify getting rid of 99% of the world’s economists, and another one is very poorly worded.

Yet having said all of that, I’m sure the kids loved it, because the whole thing was 297 words.

19 Apr 2014

More of Krugman’s Conscience

Krugman 22 Comments

OK, I realize I might not be the fairest judge on this, but I’m pretty sure it is an accurate statement to say that Paul Krugman recently called cancer patients whiners. Go ahead and see if I’m right by reading my latest Mises Canada post.

19 Apr 2014

Murphy and Hurtt Do Lonnie’s

karaoke 3 Comments

19 Apr 2014

WordPress Bask

All Posts 8 Comments

(For newcomers, “bask” = “blog ask” because free bloggers don’t beg!)

I’m not sure when it happened–it may have been when my web guy updated to a newer version of WordPress–but if you try to use the Category pull-down menu (off to the left) you’ll see that it doesn’t work. It used to take you to an archive of all the posts with that particular Category label, but now it just takes you to a single post with that label.

My web guy is not sure what caused this. Does anyone else have any clues before I turn him loose and engage the labor theory of value?

19 Apr 2014

Judge Napolitano on Bundy Ranch Standoff

Bundy Ranch, Judge Napolitano 80 Comments

For those who think Andrew Napolitano is some lightweight celebrity pundit, you are totally wrong. I listened to him lecture on Constitutional law when he was down at Mises University last summer, just because I figured, “Well I really ought to say that I saw him teach.” I went in the back, thinking I would read some other stuff so that I wasn’t “wasting” an hour.

HOLY COW. He is literally one of the best lecturers I have ever seen in person. I was absolutely spellbound.

Anyway, you can see that he gives a very nuanced explanation of the legal environment on the Bundy situation:

18 Apr 2014

My Interview With Liberty.me

Shameless Self-Promotion 7 Comments

They describe me in the comments as “possibly the best karaoke singer/comedian/economist in the world.” If they added, “from upstate New York” I would be a shoo-in.

18 Apr 2014

Welcome to the Infinite Banking Institute YouTube Channel

Infinite Banking Concept, Shameless Self-Promotion 3 Comments

Many of you may know that my work with Carlos Lara (see our book) has led to a formal collaboration with Nelson Nash and David Stearns to educate the public on the Infinite Banking Concept (IBC). For a quick autobiographical introduction to the topic, see my essay here.

We’ve formed a YouTube channel for the Infinite Banking Institute. The first two videos are now up:

For more information on IBC, see their main website.

To find an Authorized IBC Practitioner in your area, check out the Finder.