13 Jul 2015


Potpourri 85 Comments

==> Justin Mohr asks me about the Great Depression.

==> Tyler Cowen posted this interesting excerpt on ACA (“ObamaCare”) enrollment.

==> Like Walter Block, Daniel Kuehn hates the term “market failure.”

==> MK Lords is disillusioned with certain elements of libertarianism. Just to warn all of you, after I get caught up on my day job, I am going to push back against the writings in support of the SCOTUS ruling on gay marriage coming from many libertarians. So partly to defuse the reaction that, “Oh jeez Bob you can’t stand it when people criticize your buddies,” that’s why I’m highlighting MK Lords’ piece here, because I know exactly what she means. In other words, I am a huge critic of annoying libertarian traits (especially if you follow me on Facebook you’ll know what I mean). So when I am going to push back on the SSM stuff, it’s because I really think the targets of my criticism are missing the boat.

==> It is astounding how the two (main) sides in the climate change debate have such different narratives. In this piece, for example, the message is that climate scientists are afraid to raise the alarm because they’ll be blacklisted and have their careers ruined. (?!) And it contains this gem of a sentence: “For more than thirty years, climate scientists have been living a surreal existence. A vast and ever-growing body of research shows that warming is tracking the rise of greenhouse gases exactly as their models predicted.” I think the only response is this.

==> Attention Josiah Neeley and others who thought I was attacking a strawman: Here is one of my star former pupils arguing that if only 1% of the population understood the benefits of vaccination, they would be justified in forcing the other 99% to undergo it. I wait for you to rush to my defense (after you apologize of course), now that you see this isn’t merely a matter of government school policies.

==> Which economist said it? “Real estate is one of the easiest forms of consumption to hit with a progressive tax. We already have property taxes, and we already estimate the value of properties. Just do it!” Thomas Piketty? Paul Krugman? Joseph Stiglitz?

85 Responses to “Potpourri”

  1. Josiah says:

    Re: your star pupil, it takes more than “Guy on the Internet Advocates for Something” to get my blood pressure up.

    When my son was born the couple next to us were hippies who were into homeopathy and skeptical of Establishment medicine. Their newborn was sick, but they steadfastly refused their doctor’s pleas to give him antibiotics. They wouldn’t even let them give the kid Vitamin K (on the grounds that it “sounds too much like a vaccine” and “wasn’t natural”). Eventually the doctor gave up and told them “you are legally required to do this, so if you won’t do it… you’ll have to sign this waiver form.”

    And that was it. No jackbooted thugs showed up; there were no nurses sticking needles into screaming babies as their parents looked on helplessly. They didn’t even tell them to leave the hospital. It was just paperwork.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Re: your star pupil, it takes more than “Guy on the Internet Advocates for Something” to get my blood pressure up.

      Josiah, what about the guy who on FEE explicitly argued against me, and the 35% or whatever of FEE readers who voted for him? The TV polls saying, “Should vaccines be mandatory?” don’t say, “For people going to gov’t schools”.

      And wait a second Josiah, are you saying, “Vaccines currently aren’t mandatory” is the same thing as “People who support mandatory vaccines can’t possibly mean that literally, Bob is a nutjob”? They might both be true statements, but you seem to think the former proves the latter.

      • Josiah says:

        Josiah, what about the guy who on FEE explicitly argued against me, and the 35% or whatever of FEE readers who voted for him?

        I was one of the people who voted for the other guy. I’m for mandatory vaccination (in some cases). However, contra some of the arguments of opponents, mandatory vaccination does not involve forcibly giving people vaccines or sending them to jail or whatever. It’s typically enforced by precisely the types of measures that you endorsed as an alternative. That’s why I said the whole debate was misguided.

      • khodge says:

        I am assuming the same people who decide Stolyarov’s “objective, scientific truth” are pretty much the same ones who trumpet the 97% AGW scientists. It seems to me that both he and Meyer ignore the margins.

        Note that Stolyarov makes it sound like blood-letting is a bad thing when, in fact, blood thinning medications are extremely common.

        • Carrie says:

          Good point, khodge. I am currently at an international virology conference filled with pro-vaccine researchers and people from the CDC. Last night I saw a talk from a research team working on an HIV vaccine. Their data and graphs show that upon vaccine exposure, there is no change in a person’s antibody levels. However, an injection of placebo + adjuvant caused the person’s antibody levels to crash. Instead of being concerned about this effect of the adjuvant, they are proclaiming this vaccine is a success, because its administration results in 60x times more antibodies than the so-called control group! The general public will read the headline: “HIV vaccine trial is a success,” failing to actually examine the data which may show quite the opposite. (I cannot post a link yet because this was a conference talk, not a paper—though it will be soon.) In addition to the philosophical arguments being made, the science of vaccine safety and efficacy is not what it seems. I am still baffled why libertarians who question climate science, mainstream American history, etc., often do not perform the same degree of investigation when it comes to conventional medicine and vaccination, and vilify those of us who do.

          • E. Harding says:

            Yeah. As Ben Goldacre says, papers in journals are hardly the best way to determine the effects of a medical intervention.

            • Carrie says:

              E. Harding, I’m not sure if your response is intended to be sarcastic or not. I hadn’t heard of Ben Goldacre so I just looked him up. It seems he holds a position at the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine, and writes about the bad science of alternative therapies and the anti-vaxxers, and the importance of rigorous studies (allegedly those in respected journals).
              On the other hand, he also has a book entitled “Bad Pharma,” in which he writes (according to Wikipedia), “Drugs are tested by the people who manufacture them, in poorly designed trials, on hopelessly small numbers of weird, unrepresentative patients, and analysed using techniques which are flawed by design, in such a way that they exaggerate the benefits of treatments.” … which sounds like it could apply to the pro-vaccine study I mention above.

          • Ken P says:

            The antibody levels in placebo group crashing is likely noise. You are probably misreading the data. It is uncommon for researchers to compare antibody responses in a vaccine group as a multiple of the placebo. The placebo is there to show lack of response and is effectively considered zero. It’s possible to have cross reactive antibodies but such individuals would have never been included in the study to begin with because that is effectively testing positive. When looking at data on HIV antibodies, I would recommend making note of what protein they bind to and what region of the protein. For example, gp120 is a viral coat protein that is a common target for researchers. Most of the protein goes through lots of mutations even within a single patient (over years of infection). Antibodies which bind the V1/V2 region are considered to contribute highly to protection.

            • Carrie says:

              Ken, that is the source of my concern. They are considering the adjuvant response to be “noise” and viewing it as a non-response, when in fact the adjuvant administration correlates with a 60x crash of antibodies below baseline. The antibody response to vaccine administration is truly flat on their graph. Yet their report states, “[We] were able to measure boosts in the production of a variety of HIV-specific antibodies ranging […about 60…] times higher than with a placebo.” That is NOT true based on their data. The vaccine group showed no ‘boost,’ and the adjuvant group showed 60x decline. They are referring to a boost over adjuvant, but making it seem like they mean a boost over baseline.
              I suppose I will have to wait for the official graph to be published to post it here when it is.

              • Ken P says:

                Carrie, do you happen to know the researchers names/university or other info? I would like to see if they have previous published work.

    • Tel says:

      And that was it. No jackbooted thugs showed up…

      Ahhhh those were the days, happy memories!

      • Carrie says:

        And here we go:
        Proposed California SB 792: all childcare employees, including those operating daycare centers out of their homes, would have to be vaccinated. There would be no religious or personal belief exemptions. “A violation of the act is a crime,” says the bill.

        • E. Harding says:

          Sounds reasonable. The state, as an employer, has the right to determine employment policies.

          • Zack says:

            “This bill, commencing September 1, 2016, would prohibit a day care center or a family day care home from employing any person who has not been immunized against influenza, pertussis, and measles.”

            That doesn’t sound like it’s only referring to state employees to me.

            • E. Harding says:

              Less reasonable, but still makes some sense. Of these, the measles vaccine is by far most effective, then pertussis, then influenza. Pertussis is nasty, though, and there have been outbreaks of it recently, so its inclusion has some justification. The flu vaccine is more iffy, but makes some modicum of sense (thousands die of flu yearly).

              In short, it’s questionable, but hardly the worst thing in the world. I’d have to look at the opinions of healthcare professionals to see whether these infringements on liberty are justified.

              • Major.Freedom says:

                Healthcare professionals are not the sole source to determine whether pointing a gun at people if they don’t immunize and open a daycare, is a “justified” violation of liberty.

                More people die from not eating the right food. By your logic, it would be a “justified” violation of liberty to point guns at people who don’t eat alfafa and tofu and open a daycare.

              • Harold says:

                MF, the point is that some people consider outcomes, so perform some sort of cost / benefit analysis. The costs of pointing guns at non-alfalfa eating daycare owners may not be worth the benefits. The cost of requiring them to be vaccinated may well be. I know you do not recognise this sort of thinking but it does explain that some sorts of violence would not be undertaken. One obvious difference is that eating alfalfa affects only yourself, and would have no effect on your infant charges, whereas being unvaccinated would result in a certain amount of transmission of disease to the infant charges, possibly resulting in their death or disability.

                There are problems with this approach, sure. There is no way to objectively asses the costs and benefits perfectly. There are also problems with your approach of total avoidance of cost evaluation, such as the potential for enormous avoidable costs such as mass infant deaths due to epidemics.

                You dismiss the cost benefit approach because it requires some element of force, but you have not demonstrated that we ought to follow your approach.

              • Matt M says:


                I think that MF’s overall point here is that the opinion of “healthcare professionals” alone is not sufficient for a debate about whether it is worth it to use force in order to force vaccinations.

                The healthcare professionals can speak to the potential danger of not vaccinating, but they are wholly unqualified to speak of the economic and/or moral ramifications of such a decision, which also need to be considered.

                This is similar to the “97% of scientists agree that we we must do something about global warming” rhetoric. The scientists may be qualified to tell us whether warming is happening and what the consequences might be, but they are NOT the only input needed to determine whether any particular plan is worth adopting or not.

              • Tel says:

                The healthcare professionals can speak to the potential danger of not vaccinating, but they are wholly unqualified to speak of the economic and/or moral ramifications of such a decision, which also need to be considered.

                Healthcare professionals could speak to the potential danger of not vaccinating, but they choose not to.

                Up above we are told “Pertussis is nasty, though, and there have been outbreaks of it recently, so its inclusion has some justification” except that doctors basically don’t diagnose this disease in adults (nor do they bother testing), governments don’t bother with any information campaigns explaining that most adults have no vaccination to speak of because it is unreliable and it wears off, nor do they particularly care that the primary vector for infection of babies is via the adult population.

                Instead, what they choose to do is bash the crap out of the statistically irrelevant few percent of the population who don’t vaccinate school age kids.

                And yes, Harold did find some government fact sheet (that no one reads) which had been edited a couple of years ago to mention this, the impact of which is zero.

                Strange that when it comes to invading Iraq we can see every news channel across the board blasting 24 hours the detailed justification (lies) of an existential threat to Western Civilization. Amazing how they can beat the party line when it really matters.

                Newborn babies? Not so important really, let’s just skip over that issue and go back to whacking some anti-vaxers. He who smiles when thing go wrong has found someone to blame it on.

                MF, the point is that some people consider outcomes, so perform some sort of cost / benefit analysis.

                Harold, here’s some real world government cost benefit analysis (you know it’s good because it comes from government): German Measles — boys are excluded from immunization programs, it’s only for girls. Why? Because it can cause problems for pregnant mums. Makes total sense, right?

                Here’s another one: HPV — boys also excluded from immunization programs. Why? Because warts are statistically related to cervical cancer, that’s why.

                The conclusion must be that governments don’t believe in “herd immunity”, they simply don’t, because you can look at their actions and it is easily demonstrable. If governments don’t believe in it when it comes to their own cost benefit analysis then they have a whole lot of gumption telling me that we can’t trust individual economic calculation because “herd immunity”.

              • Harold says:

                It seems to me that E. Harding was saying he would use the input from the healthcare professionals as part of the information. It did not read to me that he would ask the healthcare professionals whether the costs were worth it. In which case MF’s comment seems wide of the mark.

                I think also the 97% concensus is about AGW occuring, not that something should be doen about it. The same issue arises here. You would almost certainly get an overwhelming agreement among healthcare professionals that vaccination reduces transmission of disease. That is a very different question from whether compulsory vaccination is a good idea.

              • Harold says:

                The fact sheet proves that they do not do zero publicity.

                “German Measles — boys are excluded from immunization programs, it’s only for girls.” How about MMR? Lots of fuss about that and the R stands for Rubella, or German measles. It is for boys too.

                HPV vaccination is recommended for boys in the USA. There has been discussion about it in the UK but still only for girls as part of the routine vaccination schedule. – although you can pay for it if you want. Cost benefit analysis has been done one study reported “vaccinating 12-year-old boys, in addition to girls, resulted in an incremental reduction in HPV-16/18 (HPV-6/11) incidence over 70 years of 16% (3%) in females and 23% (4%) in males. The benefit of vaccinating boys decreased with improved vaccination coverage in girls. Given the important predicted herd immunity impact of vaccinating girls under moderate to high vaccine coverage, the potential incremental gains of vaccinating boys are limited.” http://jid.oxfordjournals.org/content/204/3/372.long

                The benefits (for boys and girls) of vaccinating boys is low if there is high uptake among girls. Policy makers presumably decided it was easier to get high uptake in girls (who suffer most of the cancer harms). Each case needs to be looked at separately.

                I don’t know why pertussis vaccine is not promoted more for adults. It would seem a good idea to offer it to all parents at anti-natal visits. You would eventually get pretty wide coverage.

              • Major.Freedom says:


                Costs to whom exactly?

                Benefits to whom exactly?

                The irony in your repeatedly flawed approach which you don’t seem to want to accept as flawed, is that you are not even “taking into account” actual costs and actual benefits, that is, the costs and benefits to real empirical individuals.

                You say “the” costs and “the” benefits, as if there is only one agent in the world who experiences said costs and said benefits. And oh look, you believe you are speaking for this ephemeral blob agent.

                When you say “the benefits” of some people forcing other people to be immunized exceeds “the costs”, what you are actually saying is that the benefits TO THE AGGRESSORS are, in your opinion, greater than the costs TO THE AGGRESSORS.

                You are not even taking into account the costs and benefits to the victims.

                To you they are not relevant. You may pay lip service to the costs to the victims, but then you still ignore the benefits, and most of all, neither you nor I can determine the costs or the benefits to anyone else, including the victims. They decide that for themselves. They decide whether the benefits TO THEM AS INDIVIDUALS exceeds the costs TO THEM AS INDIVIDUALS from not getting immunized.

                You say I don’t take into account outcomes, but as I said more than once before, my approach automatically allows costs and benefits to be ” taken into account” BY THE AGENTS WHO DECIDE FOR THEMSELVES, which requires at minimum private property rights.

                You don’t determine my costs or benefits! I do.

                You are so lost and confused. You actually have convinced yourself that my approach somehow is incompatible with consequentialist, outcomes based, costs and benefits style reasoning, when ironically my approach is not only completely compatible with it whereas your approach is not, but my approach is the only approach that is so compatible.

                Your approach, which presumably is intended to “take into account” “the” costs and “the” benefits, is actually incompatible with costs and benefit based ethics!

                Your approach does not “take into account” ALL the costs and benefits.

                You want to add them up across individuals when that cannot be done. Costs and benefits are RANKED concepts, they are not numerical quantities.

                You can’t add your costs and my costs, and your benefits and my benefits, to come to any concept of “the costs” and “the benefits”.

                Ever wonder why Austrian economists tend to be libertarians? It is because all the concepts of economics, and all the concepts of ethics, are empirically individualist.

                The only way that the costs and benefits TO ME, and the costs and benefits TO YOU, which are THE ONLY costs and benefits in the real empirical world, can be “taken into account”, would be if we are each free from the other’s aggression. This is because aggression would otherwise PREVENT one of us, the victim of the other’s aggression, from actually taking into account via activity the costs and benefits to themselves, and thus the costs and benefits as such, and thus allowing us to say “the costs” and “the benefits” as such are “taken into account.”

                The messed up thing with your solipsistic, indeed antisocial, approach, is the troubling notion that unless YOU Harold “take into account” the various costs and benefits, to YOU, that they would otherwise not be taken into account at all.

                And even if your sloppy mindset did consider as a rough idea the existence of costs and benefits to your intended victims, you lie to yourself and fool yourself into believing that you have “taken into account” those costs and said meh, “the” costs are still less than “the” benefits.

                Except you didn’t actually show any such thing. All you did was ignore the fact that the costs to the victims exceeds the benefits to the victims. That negative will not go away simply because you get a psychological fix from knowing that the victims were forced to be injected.

                Think about it. By me respecting your private property rights, I am allowing actual costs and benefits to be “taken into account” in the real empirical world, by the appropriate people. The costs and benefits to you would be taken into account by you, and the costs and benefits to me would be taken into account by me.

                I don’t need to take into account your costs and your benefits, not only because I can’t know them unless I observe what you do, without me coercing you, not only because only you can decide them, but by me respecting your property rights, I don’t need to make sure you take into account the costs to you and the benefits to you. You will do that yourself.

                Your whole epistemology has been warped by collectivist bullshit, no offense.

                You dismiss the cost and benefit approach because the only approach compatible with it is private property rights.

                Private property rights is in my strong view more a meta-approach, than a direct approach. Direct approaches always lead to fallacious reasoning, because an individual using a direct approach necessarily ignores and cannot deal with the existence of other human actors.

                You see them, you hear them, but you do not understand them, and that is because you don’t understand yourself.

                Harold, you will not convince me of your BS, I don’t care how many other people agree with you and nod their heads at you when you prattle on about consequentialism.

              • Major.Freedom says:


                One final point:

                You wrote:

                “You dismiss the cost benefit approach because it requires some element of force, but you have not demonstrated that we ought to follow your approach.”

                This is hilariously deceitful and fake.

                You speak as if aggression is compatible with logic and reasoning.

                If you believe using force against me or anyone else is justified, then it is not my obligation to convince you such an act is not justified. It is your obligation to convince me or anyone else that it is justified.

                If you cannot convince us, then you have failed the test, and it is you who has to stand down, it is not me who has to accept such aggression.

                You have not demonstrated I ought to follow your approach.

                So where does that leave us? We will each follow our own approach. Mine is peaceful, grounded on reason, whereas yours is grounded on naked aggression, covered up behind a veil of seemingly innocuous “cost benefit analysis”.

              • Harold says:

                Your consequences are self defined and thus circular. You say you are the decider of your health, so health is whatever you decide it is. There is no point trying to discuss healkth outcomes if the meaning of words is pulled out from under you.

                Is it true that we cannot compare costs and benefits between people? I accept that we cannot measure this at the present. I do not see why it could not in principle be measured in some way. Intuitively most people agree that say taking one penny from a wealthy person will cause less suffering than say torturing one million children. You say such a comparison is meaningless. Intuition is not necessarily right, but it is pretty clear here. A lot of people have trouble with policy that goes so strongly against our intuitions. This causes them to question the basis of your philosophy to see if they can be squared. One way to do this is to say that there IS some sort of objective amount of whatever it is that people act for, even if we cannot measure it at the moment.

                “They decide whether the benefits TO THEM AS INDIVIDUALS exceeds the costs TO THEM AS INDIVIDUALS …”

                Yes, but they do not consider the costs to others. They are in a poor position to asses these costs, becasue significant study is needed to make the attempt.

                ” Harold, you will not convince me of your BS,” I do not believe I will.

              • Major.Freedom says:


                “Your consequences are self defined and thus circular. You say you are the decider of your health, so health is whatever you decide it is.”

                My health is whatever I decide it is, yes.

                That is not circular, it is unidirectional. The datum is my preference for myself. Out of this you come to know whether I am healthy or not.

                You are going in circles because all you said above is that you cannot but help understand it as “You decide your health….” and rather than understand this, you instead merely restate it in your own words, “OK, so you decide your own health”, find that it is nothing but a restatement, then you infer that back onto me as if I am saying that second statement as well, and thus you end up with the argument “MF decides his own health and therefore health is what MF says it is.”

                That argument is not mine. It is a combination of what I said and your understanding of it. You just echoed what I said and then interpreted that as being solely from me.

                But all I said is that I decide my own health, not you.

                You seem to want to define my own health, so that you can then make a non-repeating statement like “MF decides his own health, but that is not the full story because it just so happens that his decision matches my decision for him, thus he is not self-contained, but subserviant to my decision for him.”

                “There is no point trying to discuss healkth outcomes if the meaning of words is pulled out from under you.”

                You just don’t like it that I am not letting you pull the meaning of words out from out under me.

                I am keeping my health to myself, and that upsets you because you don’t have a say in it. You want to have a say in it. You need to have a say in it. You want to be ultimate arbiter and judge for my health. If you cannot be, you falsely interpret that as my deciding my own health rather than you, as being “circular”, because you start with me, and rather than end with you, it both starts and ends with me. Hence in your mind it is circular. In fact, it is unidirectional from me, and rather than give up all meaning and definitions to you for ultimate judgment, I deny you that.

                And that upsets your Ego.

                “Is it true that we cannot compare costs and benefits between people? I accept that we cannot measure this at the present.”

                You just conceded the entire argument. You have just admitted that the “costs” and “benefits” you initially referred to above, are in fact attempts at forming concepts that are predicated on the notion of adding up the costs among different individuals and subtracting that from the notion of having added the benefits among different individuals.

                The reality on the ground, in the real empirical world on the other hand consists entirely, and solely, of billions of conceptually and ontologically distinct, and unique, sets of costs and benefits.

                Your costs and benefits are decided by you, not me.

                My costs and benefits are decided by me, not you.

                Your costs and benefits are separate from my costs and benefits.

                If you initiate aggression against me, the only instance of “benefits exceeding the costs” would be yours (in the short run, but in the long run you lose as well since you deprive yourself of the counterfactual of my productivity that you will never benefit from) whereas for me the costs would exceed the benefits.

                Thaw is all that would occur. One instance of benefits exceeding the costs, and another, separate instance of costs exceeding the benefits.

                By me refusing you to gain at my expense, you falsely believe that costs and benefits as such are not being taken into account. Namely, you have conflated your own costs and benefits, with costs and benefits as such.

                You have attempted to alienate your own costs and benefits onto all of society, including me. You are falsely interpreting your own costs and benefits, to be everyone’s costs and benefits.

                Thus when I deny you exploiting me, the losses you percieve for yourself are making you feel like the world is not letting benefits exceed the costs, and it is all my fault.

                Hence, you accuse me of not even considering benefits and costs, when on the contrary my defending my person and property from your aggression is the only way I can ensure that benefits to me will exceed the costs to me. But with your aggression, the costs to me will be greater than the benefits to me.

                This truth is making you feel uncomfortable, and rather tha stand down, you have convinced yourself of the lie that a “proper” consideration of costs and benefits should be what you say it is for me, and not what I say it is for me.

                You are simply engaging in a nihilistic refusal to allow me the privilege that you have given yourself, namely, to be the ultimate judge and arbiter for my health.

                You only notice the antagonism with me because I won’t let you determine my health as you have come to believe in your own mind to be what should be a no brainer. You have likely lived many years believing in your mind that you are deciding everyone’s health for them, at least idealistically and conceptually.

                But I am not letting you decide what you have always believed was normal for you to decide, namely, other people’s health.

                Here I am saying nope, your irresponsible, sloppy, solipsistic worldview that you have carried with you for many years, stops here with me. You don’t go any further.

                I don’t care if you call anything I say circular.

                I don’t care if you believe I am crazy.

                I don’t care if you believe that by me denying your determining of my health, that all of a sudden what used to be objective and certain, is now all of a sudden unconstrained and uncertain, as if you letting go somehow means the thing is no longer held.

                Don’t worry, you don’t have to decide my health for me. I do that myself. You are not who decides my health. I am.

                “I do not see why it could not in principle be measured in some way.”

                I measure it myself. I am the standard. Not you.

                Measurement of an acting subject is only possible with the acting subject itself, or himself or herself, as the standard from which the measurement is made.

                There is no ruler, no sensor, no absolute conceptual “yardstick” that can measure my highest values and the rest of my unique scale of ranked preferences for myself.

                The flaw in your approach is due to an absence of the right tools in your intellectual arsenal. You lack them, and so you cannot help but make certain conclusions that are totally wrong, but nevertheless “feel” so right to you.

                “Intuitively most people agree…”

                Nope, this is not a rational argument. The concept of intuitively, and of most people, are prone to be abused and misused. They do not determine correct versus incorrect arguments.

                “…that say taking one penny from a wealthy person will cause less suffering than say torturing one million children.”

                The only reason that feels “intuitive”, is because of the subtle and very tacit presumption that almost always accompanies that idea, which is for the subject to imagine themselves, their own selves, as being rich and then losing a penny, versus torturing a million children, and then imagining which of the two would incur greater costs on that same subject.

                Thus, one imagines being rich and losing a penny, and then one imagines torturing a million children with the psychological remorse and regret that would entail, and then concluding “You know, the costs of a rich person losing a penny is far less costly than a million children being tortured.”

                Then one imagines one has made a metaphysical statement about costs and benefits as such as if they are speaking about something objective, “out there” in the reality which is allegedly scientifically known to incur greater costs from torturing a million children than making a penny go from a rich person’s hand to someplace else.

                Again, what actually occurred on the ground, in the real empirical world, is that a rich person who lost a penny would incur whatever loss the rich person decides. If they decide the costs of making sure every penny they own is accounted for, is greater than the benefits, then they may decide that losing a penny every now and then so that they can focus on more important things, that those more important things have a benefit that outweigh the costs of penny pinching accounting.

                Again, it is up to them. If they decide it is a gain to engage in penny pinching accounting, then a lost penny would in fact incur a cost that is not erased by anyone else incurring a gain for themselves in some way.

                The only “intution” that tells us a rich person losing a penny is less costly than a million children getting tortured, is the intuition grounded on the false doctrine that costs and benefits can be added across separate individuals.

                “You say such a comparison is meaningless. Intuition is not necessarily right, but it is pretty clear here.”

                To you it is clear, but it is clearly false to me, because I know better.

                “A lot of people have trouble with policy that goes so strongly against our intuitions.”

                You mean. Your feelings.

                Yes, a lot of people do have trouble dealing with their feelings. Most of the time they don’t even know the cause of them.

                It is why innocent victims are created using your feelings first approach. You subject reason to feelings, and even if there is a truth, your feelings towards it determine for you whether to embrace it and uae it, or try to fight it and frustrate yourself.

                “This causes them to question the basis of your philosophy to see if they can be squared.”

                Questioning is healthy. I encourage questioning.

                But I think that you aren’t doing enough questioning. You are absolutely sure that collectivist costs and benefits is the right approach, and you are repeatedly attempting to convince me to subjugate myself to your determination for me.

                I won’t do it.

                “One way to do this is to say that there IS some sort of objective amount of whatever it is that people act for, even if we cannot measure it at the moment.”

                Ah yes, the faith based approach. But call the faith “objectivity” and hope nobody notices.

                “They decide whether the benefits TO THEM AS INDIVIDUALS exceeds the costs TO THEM AS INDIVIDUALS …”

                “Yes, but they do not consider the costs to others.”

                You mean like you are not considering the costs to me? That the gains to you are the ultimate standard even if you aggressively deny me achieving gains for myself?

                Hey guess what, did you know that social life is not zero sum? That each of us can achieve gains all at the same time, as long as there is no aggression against each other’s persons and property?

                That if I decide not to get vaccinated, and refrain from infecting you by way of ensuring that I do not release any viruses I to your body, that you and I can coexist peacefully?

                Now if I have a virus that I cannot contain to my body only, if I put my body into a place in spacetime that would infect your body against your will, then and only then would you have all the libertarian ethical right in the world to use force to make sure I don’t infect you.

                But blanket solutions of “I will immunize you against your will regardless of anything you say or do”, well that is not you defending your life, that is you attacking my life, and I have a right to defend my life.

                There is no costs to others caused by a person restricting their activity to their own persons and property, which is to say refraining from aggressing against anyone else’s persons or property.

                “They are in a poor position to asses these costs, becasue significant study is needed to make the attempt.”


                ”Harold, you will not convince me of your BS,”

                “I do not believe I will.”

                Not as long as it is based on “Obey my decision for your body and property, or else I will aggress against you.”

                I will never be convinced of that.

              • Harold says:

                “The datum is my preference for myself. Out of this you come to know whether I am healthy or not.” See, you are mixing up health with preference. To use smoking again, it may be your preference, but it will not improve your health (by mine and the dictionaries definition). By insisting that you define your own health you negate this argument, not by countering it but by re-defining health.

                I don’t know why you do this, as it does not affect your argument as far as I can see. It would be the same if you said “yes, such and such a thing will reduce health, but that is outside the scope of consideration because health does not matter, only preferences matter. If people choose things that reduce health then nothing should be done to stop them as they obviously prefer other things to health.

                The same argument could be applied to wealth. I could define it in money terms, then you say your wealth is not decided by how much money you have, but it decided by you.

                You say comparisons between people cannot be done in principle. I have seen nothing that proves this to be the case.

      • khodge says:

        At least the the polio vaccine was delivered to masses of children via sugar cubes, which was a reasonable tradeoff for whatever side effects there might have been.

    • CC says:

      It’s really discouraging that this whole forced vaccine thing is even up for a debate among libertarians.

  2. LK says:

    ” Justin Mohr asks me about the Great Depression.”

    And you say at 10.15 that the US money supply fell more in the 1920-1921 recession than in the 1929-1933 depression. Where are you getting your data from?

    The broad money supply as measured by M2 fell by about 6.37% from Q3 1920 to Q2 1921, but began growing again in Q3 1921. In contrast, M2 contracted by an incredible 35.31% between 1929 and 1933:


    Your claim is wrong.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Off the top of my head, LK, I think I meant in the same time period. If I said it differently in the interview, I misspoke, but it’s correct in my book. I was looking at numbers, not making stuff up.

      • Andrew_FL says:

        Out of curiosity Bob which series do you reference in your book? FRED has a number of different series that cover the relevant period, most of which appear to be M2, or estimates there of, though none of them actually called that, and mostly in the form of percent changes.

        When I convert the percent change series…es, into indices, two of them appear to show stronger “Great Contractions” than the third. I’m not sure why that would be and it would be nice if I could more easily figure out the provenance of these series…

  3. Levi Russell says:

    My big problem with Daniel’s piece is that he really reduces the libertarian problem with market failure to paranoia. As I state in my comment on the article, I think most of us who understand economics well have a problem with the intense focus on it to the exclusion of analysis of gov’t failure. That, and “market failure” is really a failure at the institutional level, so many “market failures” are actually legislative problems prohibiting or creating conditions which aren’t favorable to the working of markets.

    Probably the better distinction, IMO, is voluntary vs non-voluntary arrangements. This distinction is important for political reasons, but I think it has welfare implications as well. That is, if the gov’t forces you to do something, it’s likely that it doesn’t make you better off or you’d have already done it. Of course, this can’t be used to analyze everything under the sun, so don’t tear into me.

    • Tel says:

      I disagree. Normally, I’m not a fan of Daniel Kuehn, but in this case I think he did a good job.

      What he is saying is that “market failure” usually means a failure in the theory of markets and not that there’s anything demonstrably wrong with those markets themselves as institutions. There’s an old joke about economists:

      I found this excellent rule that seems to consistently work in practice.

      Ahhh, but does it work in theory?

      The point being, that in every other science, they attempt to modify the theory to make it fit the observations, but in economics they propose laws that attempt to force people to behave according to the theory.

      You have an interesting comparison between “market failure” and “government failure”, as Kuehn rightly points out, markets have no agency or goals themselves and so cannot in any meaningful sense “fail” at anything.

      Thing is, this rule applies to government as well. A government is defined by a Constitution, which only determines what powers a government has and what it doesn’t have (actually it’s more of a polite request for government not to assume extra powers), the Constitution does not define success criteria for government. The only way a government can “fail” is if it ceases to exist… anything else is considered “success” because we have no basis for judgement.

      Maybe we should define specific and measurable success criteria, and regularly review them. I mean there’s obviously room for improvement when you look at what we are doing now, right?

      • Levi Russell says:


        I thought the article was good too. I just thought there were some problems.

        The term “market failure” already has a very specific definition that is useful. As Don Boudreaux has said, it’s problematic but there’s no changing it now.

        • Tel says:

          One single very specific definition. Oh yeah, have you tried doing a search on the definitions of “Market Failure” out there?

          Here’s the most hilarious I could find:


          Definition of Market Failure This occurs when there is an inefficient allocation of resources in a free market. Market failure can occur due to a variety of reasons, such as monopoly (higher prices and less output), negative externalities (over-consumed) and public goods (usually not provided in a free market)

          So there you go, an efficient market has not failed, but an inefficient market has failed… much like an engine I suppose. Fortunately the same site gives nine different definitions for Economic Efficiency, including Social Efficiency:

          Definition of Social efficiency. This is the optimal distribution of resources in society, taking into account all external costs and benefits as well as internal costs and benefits. Social Efficiency occurs at an output where Marginal Social Benefit (MSB) = Marginal Social Cost (MSC).

          Social efficiency is closely related to the concept of Pareto efficiency – A point where it is impossible to make anyone better off without making someone worse off

          Astounding! Now I need to know how I go about measuring MSB and MSC. Fortunately they supply explanation of those concepts too:

          Marginal Social Benefit (MSB)

          The marginal social benefit, is the total benefit to society, from one extra unit of a good. The MSB = Marginal private benefit (MPB) + marginal external benefit (MXB)

          Hmmm, now I need to measure MPB and MXB as well. There doesn’t seem to be any real definition of MPB provided (I’ll just make something up for that one, nevermind). They do explain External Benefit like so:

          Definition – An external benefit occurs when producing or consuming a good causes a benefit to a third party.

          The existence of external benefits (positive externalities) means that social benefit will be greater than private benefit.

          Right, now we are into those “externalities” and I’ve seen those before. Generally when an economist says “externalities” what that means is “you have to do what I say, because externalities” but anyhow, they also provide a definition:

          Definition of Positive Externality: This occurs when the consumption or production of a good causes a benefit to a third party. For example:

          When you consume education you get a private benefit. But there are also benefits to the rest of society. E.g you are able to educate other people and therefore they benefit as a result of your education.

          A farmer who grows apple trees provides a benefit to a beekeeper. The beekeeper gets a good source of nectar to help make more honey.

          If you walk to work, it will reduce congestion and pollution, benefiting everyone else in the city.

          So basically, if anything you do might benefit someone else, then that thar is a “market failure” because you aren’t consuming enough… no really, check it yourself if you don’t believe me. People really write this stuff, and that’s just one particular website, if you want it to mean something else I have a range of other options.

          I did discover Don Boudreaux’s 2007 interview on EconTalk, I certainly will listen to that (thanks for the suggestion), and he may very likely have a good definition but as for “this has a very specific defintion” naaaa, it doesn’t. It has many definitions and here’s the finishing touch (from the same site as above):

          For example, in a free market without government intervention, there would be under-consumption of education and public transport.

          Oh yessers, and a dreadful under-consumption of apple trees as well. Those beekeepers should stand up for their rights and demand government interference. As self appointed champion of the beekeeping classes (a.k.a the buzzoisie) I will agitate for the cause, I won’t rest until there’s a box of rotting apples on every street corner!

          Society wants it!! And I know, because I asked society and that’s what it told me (can’t explain exactly how that works though, stop asking questions you counter revolutionary).

          Some apple farmers keep their own bees I know, government should step in and break that up, because it’s a vertical monopoly… then they should step in again and demand more consumption of apples. You know it makes sense.

          • Harold says:

            Tel: “So basically, if anything you do might benefit someone else, then that thar is a “market failure” ”
            You got it! Now you see why some people are not so keen on leaving to the market. Market failure is not an exception but the rule.

        • Tel says:

          Against better judgement, I found more definitions of market failure and this one explains precisely the point I was making:


          market failure

          › a situation in which a market does not operate as it should, for example where the supply of a product is not related to the level of demand for it:

          So how exactly “should” a market operate? Well, we have this theory, and if the market doesn’t do what the theory says it does… that’s a bloody failure, not a failure of the theory, it’s a failure of the market!

          From Cambridge University (errr, you might not have heard of them, but big in the UK, or so I’m told). So what did I say above?

          … in every other science, they attempt to modify the theory to make it fit the observations, but in economics they propose laws that attempt to force people to behave according to the theory …

          There you go: “does not operate as it should”, exactly as I said it wouldn’t.

          • Levi Russell says:


            I have no doubt you can find a lot of vague and silly definitions of market failure. Fortunately, we have a standard in the profession and Mas-Colell, Whinston, and Green provide a succinct definition at the beginning of Chapter 11 (page 350 in my copy)

            “With this chapter, we begin our study of market failures: situations in which some of the assumptions of the welfare theorems [that is, the first and second welfare theorems specifically defined earlier in the section] do not hold and in which, as a consequence, market equilibria cannot be relied on to yield Pareto optimal outcomes.”

            So yes, proglodytes and free-market activists alike can use this term as they feel, but economics has a specific, technical definition of the term “market failure.”

            • Tel says:

              I did listen to Don Boudreaux and Russ Roberts talk about market failure as compared with government failure. It’s a good talk so thanks for the tip.

              However I note that Don does NOT give the same definition of “market failure” as your textbook. Don’s point is that what is called “market failure” really means that the institutions and property rights are not sufficiently developed in order to allow markets to operate in an efficient manner (he seems to imply a commercial profit making angle when he says that). Almost immediately afterwards Russ points out that you still have a “market” of some sort, even when property rights are poorly defined, it just may not come to an equilibrium at a point where the participants are happy with the outcome (and probably won’t be commercially viable, but it still can be regarded as “a market” just because voluntary interactions are occurring).

              Your textbook definition is perhaps related to what Don said, but hardly identical. For starters your text uses the criteria, “relied on to yield Pareto optimal outcomes” … well can anything be relied upon to do this? I mean an actual guarantee that the outcome will be optimal. Not a general tendency to some sort of improvement but a guarantee of optimality?

              So, can government be guaranteed to yield Pareto optimal outcomes? When some guy goes and builds a massive monopoly with market powers and then government breaks it all up, does the guy who was running the monopoly go an thank them for helping him out? I tend to find, “Pareto optimal” gets talked about much more often than it ever happens.

              What about taxpayers, are they better off because government spends their tax “fixing” some market failure? It’s a bit outrageous to even bring Pareto optimality into this. I would argue that NOTHING government does is ever Pareto optimal, ever. The guy with the gun pointed at his head always ends up worse off, because if he felt better off there would be no need to point a gun at him.

    • Daniel Kuehn says:

      The reason I do that is because it was a very little part of the piece.

      There’s certainly more that could be said but the only point that needed to be made is that there are disagreements in the liberal tradition and it’s a concept that is overly politicized among non-economists.

      All I really needed to make that point was to describe the sides in the broadest sensible terms.

      Nowhere did I say that characterizes all libertarians so there’s really no issue here unless your complaint is just that I didn’t write a different article.

      We talk about government failure all the time in economics – I don’t see how you’re thinking it’s excluded.

      • Bob Roddis says:

        DK, in your paper where you criticize Tom Woods for allegedly missing Wilson’s “stroke of luck”, you wrote:

        2. The austerity depression of 1920–21

        During World War I federal expenditures ballooned and although the new income tax was able to partially finance the war effort, most of the financing was done through federal borrowing and by the highly accommodating monetary policy of the Federal Reserve. The role of the Federal Reserve at this time was expressed unambiguously by the New York Federal Reserve Bank Governor Benjamin Strong, who told a Congressional committee in 1921 that ‘I feel that I, or the bank at least, was their [the Treasury’s] agent and servant in those matters’ and further added that the wartime inflation caused by the low interest rates maintained by the bank were ‘inevitable, unescapable, and necessary’ for prosecuting the war(Strong, 1930).

        When are you going to share your methodology for meticulously separating government intervention from “market failure”?

      • Andrew_FL says:

        “All the time” apparently meaning, roughly one sixth as often.

        I’m going to presume this is better than around the time G&M@Y was published though, when Ivy League students could expect a healthy dose of outright socialism. Progress!*

        *(The joke here being that Buckley’s survey of texts at Yale is not quite directly comparable with this result)

        • Daniel Kuehn says:

          I’m not going to rule one way or another on the quality of the study, but economists are primarily studying market behavior. Politics necessarily comes in but why would you expect parity? I’m certain political scientists talk more about state dysfunctions than market dysfunctions. Would you expect otherwise? If so, why?

          Two other points that are somewhat related:

          1. What’s your denominator? It seems to me we should be interested in the number of government failure mentions divided by the number of mentions of government action. This is almost certainly much higher. It’s hard to think of obvious cases ringingly endorse government actions. Certainly nothing like the endorsements of markets.

          2. What they don’t seem to be counting at all is the inability of governments to improve on the market in setting wages, exchange rates, consumer goods prices, etc etc. which is discussed extensively and seems to go to the heart of the knowledge problem that is the chief problem with government. It’s also coincidentally ALL OVER ECONOMICS.

          Real economists think of this fairly and apolitically.

          • Andrew_FL says:

            All very interesting speculation. Perhaps you should see if it’s actually true.

            • Daniel Kuehn says:

              Well “speculation” is a little flimsy – I’m describing my profession. It’s more than speculation.

              You’re sure enough to call it one sixth and it mean all the much under even basic scrutiny. It’s a little rich to act as if I’m the one shooting from the hip here.

              So I asked a question of you in there – do you have any thoughts?

              • Andrew_FL says:

                Daniel, I wasn’t trying to be a smart ass. It sounded to me like you thought the study asked the wrong question, or attempted to answer the question the wrong way. I actually think it would be interesting for someone to examine the question the way you suggest. You’re in a better position to do so than I. Do the math.

      • Levi Russell says:

        So we talk about it “all the time,” then you justify why we don’t talk about it nearly as much as poli sci does. Fair enough, I guess, but if govt failure were important it would be talked about alongside market failure in undergrad texts. It clearly isn’t.

        Did you read Mark Thoma’s recent column? Pure nirvana fallacy from beginning to end. But yeah, the profession is awash in balanced analysis of govt and markets. Right.

        • Tel says:

          But it is talked about! You just don’t understand, it all comes from the definition of “Market Failure” which is explained right here…


          DEFINITION of ‘Market Failure’

          An economic term that encompasses a situation where, in any given market, the quantity of a product demanded by consumers does not equate to the quantity supplied by suppliers. This is a direct result of a lack of certain economically ideal factors, which prevents equilibrium.

          INVESTOPEDIA EXPLAINS ‘Market Failure’

          Market failures have negative effects on the economy because an optimal allocation of resources is not attained. In other words, the social costs of producing the good or service (all of the opportunity costs of the input resources used in its creation) are not minimized, and this results in a waste of some resources.

          Take, for example, the common argument against minimum wage laws. Minimum wage laws set wages above the going market-clearing wage in an attempt to raise market wages. Critics argue that this higher wage cost will cause employers to hire fewer minimum-wage employees than before the law was implemented. As a result, more minimum wage workers are left unemployed, creating a social cost and resulting in market failure.

          You see? When government imposes a minimum wage, that thar is your market failure. Ah ha! Government failure IS market failure, they are one and the same; so when those undergrad texts talk about market failure, they are automatically also talking about government failure. What a neat solution.

          If only government would just step in and fix this, finally we could get some equilibrium around here.

          Ignore what I said above BTW, that’s a completely different definition of “market failure” from a parallel universe quite removed from our own.

  4. Zack says:

    “Which economist said it?”


  5. Levi Russell says:

    “Which economist said it?”

    Friedman? I figure it’s not obvious, otherwise you wouldn’t put it up here.

    • Tel says:

      I agonized, felt hopeless for not knowing, and then finally looked it up.

      I was somewhat disappointed with the outcome, but not entirely shocked.

    • E. Harding says:

      It didn’t sound like Friedman, and the “just do it” reminded me of Sumner’s blogging style. I looked it up. It was Sumner.

      Anyway, a real estate tax is hardly radical.

    • Ken P says:

      I had already read that blog post. I often read Sumner even though I rarely agree with him.

      • E. Harding says:

        I find Steve Sailer, Scott Sumner, and Scott Siskind to be the Manliest Men on the Internet (also, the most correct and righteous).

  6. Bob Roddis says:

    Speaking of “market failure”, the Austrian position has long been that the depression of 1921 and 1929 were OBVIOUSLY AND UNQUESTIONABLY caused by central bank and government interference and not by “market failure”. The entire Keynesian Hoax is based upon obscuring this simple distinction which is never analyzed or even mentioned by them. A regime of the NAP should be the default standard for all social and economic analysis. The statists should have to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that there has been “NAP failure” which requires violent government intervention while being quite explicit regarding the nature of the violent intervention they are promoting.

    • Gene Callahan says:

      Ah, Bob’s version of Austrian economic “science,” where questions are not allowed!

      • Richie says:

        Is that similar to Gene’s version, where any person that disagrees is labeled as mentally retarded?


        • Major.Freedom says:

          Maybe similar to Gene’s version where he censors comments on his blog.

          Obviously for fair, patient, and non-self-serving reasons.

      • Bob Roddis says:

        1. Mr. Callahan’s “point” is a sidestep. It fails to address the historical failure of statists to differentiate state action from non-state action. Statists are quite rigorous in failing to make this distinction.

        2. I don’t think Mr. Callahan understands the non-violent sanctions that are available in lieu of violent intervention under the NAP.


        • Major.Freedom says:

          But anyone who does something peaceful (vis a vis other people’s persons and property) that you hate, must be stopped by violence.

          It is the only way the world can be tolerable to the intolerant.

        • guest says:

          “… the non-violent sanctions that are available in lieu of violent intervention …”

          Also to your point:

          The Political Economy of Moral Hazard by Jörg Guido Hülsmann

          “The Conventional Theory of Moral Hazard …

          “… It is a rather significant fact that, in the light of the conventional theory, information asymmetries produce moral hazard only in conjunction with the separation of ownership and control. We will argue that the latter is indeed the decisive element, whereas information asymmetries are but a sideshow. More to the point, we will argue that moral hazard systematically entails expropriation only when ownership and control of a resource are separated in a special way, namely, without the consent of the owner.”

          “Moral Hazard on the Free Market …

          “… We will argue that moral hazard does not necessarily entail expropriation whenever information asymmetries combine with a separation of ownership and control; that, whenever moral hazard results from them accidentally, there are strong forces at work to eliminate expropriation; and that moral-hazard-induced expropriation is therefore not only accidental, but also ephemeral on the free market.”

  7. Bob Roddis says:

    I have been waiting for several years for an explanation of how the 1920 depression was an example of “market failure”.


  8. anon says:

    What Lords seems to have issue with is humanity’s tribalism and arrogance. The first isn’t going away so long as we’re biologically human, and unless we develop keen insight and become a race of Socrates-es or at the very least Hayeks, neither is the second. Until that utopia arrives, complaining about annoying, arrogant people in any movement is pleonastic.

    If living beings have one thing in common, it is our broadly, innately obnoxious nature. Left liberals are obnoxious, right liberals are obnoxious, barking dogs are obnoxious, pine trees are obnoxious. Once we accept that, yes, the world is generally odious and full of odious things, we can actually get around to minimizing misery through the sweat of our brow, which is the whole goal of thin libertarianism, among other ideologies.

  9. Andrew_FL says:

    If I know who it is can I say, or would you rather everyone get a chance to figure it out?

  10. E. Harding says:

    “Intelligent people on the left-liberal end of the liberal tradition do not want government intervention for the sake of government intervention, so they’ll often justify their policy views by invoking a market failure.”

    -Dan has clearly made a typo: he added a “do not” where it shouldn’t have been.

  11. E. Harding says:

    Murphy picks on Sumner again for no good reason, part XXXVI.

    • Andrew_FL says:

      Yeah a guy who claims to be a limited government free market guy says we should really stick it to the rich when the live la vida loca cause conspicuous consumption sticks in his craw, and Bob has no good reason to complain.

      • E. Harding says:

        Uh, no. Sumner has no problem with the rich being rich, he simply doesn’t want a system of government financing that disproportionately hurts the poor.

        • Andrew_FL says:

          E. Harding, no, he has no problem with the rich being rich per se. But he’s very much against conspicuous consumption. Have you no heard him wring his hands over how ridiculous it is to think the rich need more yachts?

          He’s very much opposed to rich people enjoying the fruits of their labor. That’s not the same thing at all. There’s this huge subtle difference, you see!

          • E. Harding says:

            “He’s very much opposed to rich people enjoying the fruits of their labor.”
            -I don’t even think that’s the case. He’s about putting the burden of the state on those who enjoy the fruits of (not necessarily their) labor the most.

            • Andrew_FL says:

              I’ll let Sumner’s words speak for themselves.

            • Levi Russell says:

              He recently decried the lack of luxury taxes and seemed just fine with the job losses suffered by low and middle income Americans back in the early 1990s when this very policy was implemented.

  12. Yancey Ward says:

    I’ve often been dismayed to find out that progressive politicians like Ted Kennedy opposed luxury taxes on yachts, expensive cars, and fancy jets

    Dismayed, but not surprised, I am guessing.

  13. Frank Jaeckle says:

    We keep hearing that vaccines are “safe” (except when they’re not). Science can teach us about levels of risk associated with various vaccination policies. Safety, on the other hand, is a subjective evaluation of risk. It is nonsense to claim, as Stolyarov does, that “objective, scientific truth” could tell us for whom vaccines are safe, even assuming that objective, scientific truth can be ascertained in a world where scientists are human.

  14. Major.Freedom says:

    DK wrote:

    “In many cases market failures actually help to explain why private actors would exhibit pro-social behavior that we might typically expect of a government.”

    Government activity is not pro-social, it is anti-social. Aggression and coercion against an individual’s property rights is anti-social, not pro-social.

    “The liberal tradition is diverse in its reaction to market failures. At the libertarian end of the spectrum you will find a lot of skepticism of market failures due to a suspicion that advocacy of some government intervention is lurking around the corner. This suspicion is, I think, a little too paranoid but it has a kernel of truth to it.”

    That is factually untrue on two levels. One, the “liberal” tradition, meaning the left liberal tradition, is not diverse. It is narrow. Virtually all “liberal” solutions to complex social problems involves government intervention. Two, and related to the first, is not “paranoid”. Paranoia is UNFOUNDED fear. The history of left liberalism however has shown that fearing the liberal arguments are attempts to justify government intervention is not unfounded at all, but highly accurate.

    Paranoia would be an apt description for the belief that “lurking within” libertarian solutions to complex social problems are advocacies of exploitation, fraud, and hatred of humanity.

    • Daniel Kuehn says:

      I mean liberal tradition as in classical liberal tradition.

      • Major.Freedom says:

        Well, the classical liberal tradition focuses on government failures and advocates for market based solutions instead.

        The “reaction” from that tradition to the doctrine of market failures is also narrow. Classical liberalism boils down to “The state should run the courts, the police, and the army. Let the market do everything else.” The reason there is such a thing as classical liberalism, as opposed to liberalism without qualification, is precisely on account of its very specific, I.e. “narrow”, views towards markets and states.

    • Matt M says:

      “pro-social behavior that we might typically expect of a government.”

      Spoken like someone who has never visited the DMV!

      • Major.Freedom says:

        The lineups, bad service, and red tape bureaucracy that you find at your typical DMV is actually a good example of a pro-social institution, as opposed to a pro-individual institution like your typical Genius bar at an Apple store.

        Pro-social ideology when put into action almost always sacrifices the individual, for the sake of one special interest group at the expense of everyone else.

        To be pro-social is to appeal to the lowest common denominator, which for humans is thoughtless physical movements. One more step to violence.

  15. Z says:

    Maybe you can do a post on what the term ‘market failure’ means. Let’s see if there is even a coherent definition there.

    • guest says:

      Market failure is when those idiot consumers won’t voluntarily buy my stuff at the price *I* set.

      Don’t they know that money can only circulate if they buy? It’s not like there’s any such thing as wasteful spending.

    • Levi Russell says:


      From Mas-Colell, Whinston, and Green, Chapter 11, page 350

      “With this chapter, we begin our study of market failures: situations in which some of the assumptions of the welfare theorems [that is, the first and second welfare theorems specifically defined earlier in the section] do not hold and in which, as a consequence, market equilibria cannot be relied on to yield Pareto optimal outcomes.”

      There you go!

  16. Tel says:

    A little bit of untold history and story of government fixing market failure, or maybe market fixing government failure, I keep forgetting which is which. Anyhow, “the War of the Chemists”:


    Doctors were accustomed to alcohol poisoning by then, the routine of life in the Prohibition era. The bootlegged whiskies and so-called gins often made people sick. The liquor produced in hidden stills frequently came tainted with metals and other impurities. But this outbreak was bizarrely different. The deaths, as investigators would shortly realize, came courtesy of the U.S. government.

    Frustrated that people continued to consume so much alcohol even after it was banned, federal officials had decided to try a different kind of enforcement. They ordered the poisoning of industrial alcohols manufactured in the United States, products regularly stolen by bootleggers and resold as drinkable spirits. The idea was to scare people into giving up illicit drinking. Instead, by the time Prohibition ended in 1933, the federal poisoning program, by some estimates, had killed at least 10,000 people.

    Although mostly forgotten today, the “chemist’s war of Prohibition” remains one of the strangest and most deadly decisions in American law-enforcement history. As one of its most outspoken opponents, Charles Norris, the chief medical examiner of New York City during the 1920s, liked to say, it was “our national experiment in extermination.”

    • Harold says:

      Industrial alcohol is still denatured with methanol, of course. Hence methylated spirits, but the effort of removing it is not worth it with legal beverages available.

      I was surprised to read that alcoholism had soared 300% during prohibition. I had understood that although prohibition is generally considered a failure, it did succeed in reducing alcohol consumption and addiction to some extent. Several sources agree that cirrhosis rates and consumption fell. Where does this 300% figure come from? I cannot find any trace of it.

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