28 Jul 2015

Sequester Fun, and Murphy on Liberty Classroom

Krugman, Shameless Self-Promotion, Tom Woods 13 Comments

My latest post at Mises CA shows that Krugman can’t get away with saying Keynesians just needed to be more careful back in 2013, and that had they checked the numbers they would’ve known the sequester was no big whoop. Au contraire, I dug up Jared Bernstein going nuts because right-wingers were ignoring “the arithmetic” (his term).

Tonight from 9pm – 10pm Eastern I will be doing a live Q&A for Tom Woods’ “Liberty Classroom,” where I’ll be teaching courses on the History of Economic Thought in the fall.

28 Jul 2015

More On SSM From *Reason*

SSM 23 Comments

[UPDATE #2: Someone in the comments thought I was being too harsh on Dalmia, that she wasn’t necessarily contradicting her own past views on the subject. Yes, she was. See my update at the bottom of the post.]

[UPDATE: The Tenth Amendment Center was similarly nonplussed by Dalmia’s article.]

I was minding my own business, reading Ed Stringham’s article on SF private police, when I saw a “Featured Article” from Shikha Dalmia titled, “Privatizing Marriage Is a Terrible Idea.” Naturally I clicked on it, because I had been reading scoldings from some of the cool kids on Facebook that those of us who had been skeptical of the Supreme Court ruling didn’t realize that this would finally get everybody to see the wisdom of separating marriage and State.

Anyway, Dalmia not only says privatizing marriage is a terrible idea, she says it’s “incoherent.” Then there’s this:

At the most basic level, even if we can get government out of the business of issuing marriage licenses, it still has to register these partnerships (and/or authorize the entities that perform them) before these unions can have any legal validity, just as it registers property and issues titles and deeds. Therefore, government would need to set rules and regulations as to what counts as a legitimate marriage “deed.” It won’t—and can’t—simply accept any marriage performed in any church—or any domestic partnership written by anyone. Suppose that Osho, the Rolls Royce guru who encouraged free sex before getting chased out of Oregon, performed a group wedding uniting 19 people. Would that be acceptable? How about a church wedding—or a civil union—between a consenting mother and her adult son? And so on—there are innumerable outlandish examples that make it plain that government would have to at least set the outside parameters of marriage, even if it wasn’t directly sanctioning them. [Bold added.]

It would be difficult to come up with better ammunition for Gene Callahan’s running critique of libertarianism. At least in Dalmia’s case, we see that her support for gay marriage has nothing whatsoever to do with freedom, individual expression, and tolerance. No, she thinks it’s fine for a man to marry a man or a woman to marry a woman, and that’s why she wants the State to issue marriage licenses in those cases. But if three people consent to marriage? Nope, #LoveLoses because that’s just icky.

Here is what you need to do if right now you find yourself holding an outlier view, according to Dalmia:

Privatizing marriage can’t sidestep the broader questions about who should get married to whom and under what circumstances. In a liberal democracy, those who want to expand the scope of marriage have no choice but to fight—and win—the culture wars by slowly changing hearts and minds, just as they did with gay marriage. There are no cleaner shortcuts.

And there you have it. You want the right to do something? Reason‘s featured correspondent on this issue tells you: Convince 51% of us that it’s not weird.

In closing, let me acknowledge that of course there are different perspectives on this topic, and many other self-described libertarians are doing a better job of living up to their official value system. To showcase the irony, I grabbed this screenshot:

Reason on Polygamy

In case it’s not clear, Chapman doesn’t think the arguments against polygamy hold up.

UPDATE #2: To better understand why I’m making such a big deal out of this, and why Dalmia is contradicting her own stance on the issue, remember her opening sentence from a previous article on the Supreme Court ruling: “By advocating for limited government that stays out of the bedroom, we libertarians have played a crucial role in the American victory for same-sex marriage.”

So now we see that she was bluffing here, cloaking her personal tastes in a broad cloak of high-sounding principles that she doesn’t endorse. She very much wants the government in your bedroom, to limit occupants to two people at a time. Furthermore, they must be adults and unrelated biologically.

To be clear, I am not endorsing polygamy, incest, etc. What I’m saying is that some of the self-described libertarians running victory laps after the Supreme Court ruling are enunciating explanations that don’t make any sense.

27 Jul 2015

Jeff Deist Interviews Me About New Book, New Job, Etc.

*Choice*, Mises, Shameless Self-Promotion 7 Comments

26 Jul 2015

“How Do You Reconcile Your Christianity and Libertarianism?”

Libertarianism, Religious 43 Comments

Such was the question a guy asked me at Mises University (where I spent last week). To be clear, he was also a Christian and (presumably) attracted by libertarianism, but had doubts about how the two fit together.

I realize why atheist libertarians, who argue on Facebook with statist Christians, would walk away thinking that the two frameworks are incompatible. But for me, they are so naturally complementary that it’s hard for me to understand where the confusion comes in. I think the main thing going on is that (in my humble opinion, of course) many loud Christians are being inconsistent with their stated core doctrines, and many loud libertarians are doing the same.

==> If you take the Sermon the Mount literally, it is quite difficult to see how you could support a violent State institution.

==> Yes, Romans 13 admittedly sounds like it is incompatible with Rothbardian libertarianism. But then again, it sounds like it is incompatible with denouncing Hitler, Stalin, or Saddam Hussein. So you could just as easily walk up to any evangelical Republican and ask, “How do you reconcile your political views with Romans 13?” (I’ve given better answers on this thorny question here and here.)

==> The Christian ultimately cares about people’s souls, not their worldly status. I think that’s why Paul did the “shocking” thing of telling slaves to obey their masters, and telling masters to treat their slaves kindly, as opposed to trying to abolish slavery with his pen. His point was to bring the freedom of the gospel to everyone, in all stations in life. Paul himself was filled with joy as he sat in chains.

==> There is a distinction between sin and crime, even in the Old Testament.

==> There was a period when the Israelites were ruled by judges who thought they were leading on their understanding of the Law given by God to Moses, with no political authority above them. Samuel the prophet famously warned what would happen when the fickle Israelites asked for a king to rule over them (and thus ended the period of judges). To be sure, this system wasn’t something out of a David Friedman essay, but it was quite far from a bicameral legislature and a two-party system running a constitutional (sic) republic (sic).

==> Even “extreme” libertarianism recognizes the importance of law enforcement, though I predict that in modern society it would become very peaceful, very quickly. The Bible certainly teaches Christians to aid the poor, orphans, and widows. Most evangelical Christians understand that this does not automatically mean that the State should run all of these initiatives. So, by the same token, if the Bible teaches people to respect property rights, and even (though here I think it gets trickier) says that civil authorities must wield “the sword” to punish criminals, it doesn’t follow that the State should run this initiative. If the Christian objects, “But of course the State has to do it–that’s the only possible way it can happen!” then we are simply having a secular argument about the private provision of judicial and police services. The fact that my critic and I are both Christians has nothing to do with it.

==> Last thing: I’ve said it before but it bears repeating: If I’m at FreedomFest (say) and somebody asks me if I’m an anarchist, I’ll say yes because I know what the person means–he wants to know if I’m a minarchist like Ayn Rand and Mises, or if I believe in full privatization of all useful State functions, like Rothbard.

However, I actually don’t think of myself as an anarchist. Indeed, I am arguably a monarchist, because I serve a King who is master of my life. Do you know Him?

23 Jul 2015

Cheap or Expensive, Pundits Hate Gas

Oil, Shameless Self-Promotion 11 Comments

My latest at IER. Incidentally, I have a neat chart showing the Fed’s balance sheet and falling gas prices. It’s funny how the fact that commodities went down when the Fed stopped inflating, somehow proves (according to Krugman et al.) that the inflationistas were wrong…

22 Jul 2015

A Helpful Mnemonic in the Minimum Wage Debate

Daniel Kuehn, Krugman, Minimum wage 48 Comments

I am working on a paper for the Fraser Institute on the minimum wage debate. Both Krugman and Daniel Kuehn stressed the importance of picking a “treatment” versus a “control” group, in order to see that the minimum wage really doesn’t have much impact on employment (at least for modest hikes). Of course the pioneering study in this tradition is the famous Card-Krueger paper, which argued that the 1992 minimum wage hike in New Jersey didn’t affect fast-food employment relative to the control group in neighboring Pennsylvania, where the minimum wage wasn’t raised.

Now I’ve been immersed (again) in this literature for weeks, and what you need to realize is that the prima facie regression results almost all show that yes, making unskilled labor more expensive causes employers to hire fewer unskilled workers. It’s only when you add sufficient “controls” that the result disappears.

In that light, on a hunch I decided to take 5 minutes and check FRED. Why look at this:

So, if you ever forget the year when New Jersey raised its minimum wage and thus gave the “natural experiment” for the famous Card-Krueger study, you can just look up to find the first time in over a decade when New Jersey’s unemployment rate surpassed Pennsylvania’s.

I know, I know, I couldn’t get this published in Econometrica. But this literature is chock FULL of misleading coincidences just like this, ones which all make it LOOK LIKE employers cut back on hiring when workers get more expensive, even though we have been told the empirical debate is settled.

(Also, less sarcastically, I realize there is a distinction between the unemployment rate and the level of employment. However, as I explain in this EconLib article, I don’t think we should so casually toss aside the welfare implications of rising unemployment.)

22 Jul 2015

Tom DiLorenzo: “How I Came To Austrian Economics”

Austrian School 2 Comments

This was the opening lecture for Mises University. (I’m in Auburn, AL all week for this flagship event of the Mises Institute.)

Starting around the 12:00 mark Tom pays a nice compliment to David Friedman.

20 Jul 2015


Potpourri 4 Comments

==> Larry Reed, president of FEE, gives a talk to the Young Americans for Liberty on his new book.

==> Well that’s kind of surprising…the headline says former ObamaCare chief to head insurance lobby.

==> Tom Woods talks to Jeremy Hammond about Ron Paul vs. Paul Krugman.

==> A description of my new book.