04 Sep 2017

“Pauly are you OK?”

Contra Krugman No Comments

Unfortunately these guys missed the deadline (which was mostly our fault because we should’ve given better guidance), but this was a very creative submission to our Contra Cruise contest.

04 Sep 2017

Jesus, the Magnificent Leader of Men

Religious 1 Comment

(I am picking the title here as a reference to this.)

I believe I’ve mentioned this episode before, but for some reason I thought of it again over the weekend and decided to repeat it. Consider this famous passage that occurred after the Last Supper:

30 And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. 31 Then Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’32 But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” 33 Peter answered him, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” 34 Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” 35 Peter said to him, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” And all the disciples said the same.

Of course, Jesus’ prediction comes true. Even though Peter had the courage to follow (at a distance) Jesus after He had been taken into custody (while the other apostles fled), nonetheless Peter eventually denied knowing Jesus when he was confronted about it:

54 Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest’s house, and Peter was following at a distance. 55 And when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat down among them. 56 Then a servant girl, seeing him as he sat in the light and looking closely at him, said, “This man also was with him.” 57 But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.” 58 And a little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not.” 59 And after an interval of about an hour still another insisted, saying, “Certainly this man also was with him, for he too is a Galilean.” 60 But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. 61 And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.”62 And he went out and wept bitterly.

For all of us who have remained silent when scoffers mocked things we hold dear–even in cases, Jesus–this should pierce our hearts.

But what I want to focus on is not Peter’s failure, but rather Jesus’ rehabilitation of him. For context, Jesus is making Peter the Rock upon which His church will rest. In just a short while, Peter is going to deliver a single sermon that wins thousands for Christ.

How is this possible? Peter is broken after his denial of His Lord. How can he possibly forgive himself for this failure and move on, serving the Lord?

Because Jesus fixes it, that’s how. After His resurrection but before His ascension, Jesus has this conversation with Peter:

15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 He said to him a second time,“Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time,“Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18 Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” 19 (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him,“Follow me.”

In isolation, this passage seems odd, and no doubt a critic could say, “Aha! Yet again, the God of the Bible is really insecure and needs to be constantly adored by humans.”

But of course, what’s really happening here is that Jesus is giving Peter the opportunity to affirm Him three times, to make up for the triple denial. Obviously this conversation isn’t for Jesus’ ego, it’s for Peter’s rehabilitation.

After all, Jesus has a job for him to do.

04 Sep 2017

Murphy on Dave Smith’s “Part of the Problem”

Humor, Politics No Comments

This was a very enjoyable interview. Here’s the link to the “recent interviews” page; let me know if you can figure out how to link directly to my interview.  We start out talking about standard Austrian economics stuff, but then we turn to the current political scene.

I think this one stood out for me because deep down, I always thought I should be a standup comedian, but I was too much of a chicken. (Dave Smith is a professional comedian, in addition to now being a podcaster who talks politics/economics a lot.)

Here are some highlights:

==> 22:30: Dave asks me about the criticism that Austrians don’t care about empirical evidence.

==> 26:30 I explain how the pop David Friedman is more Misesian (in terms of method) than Freakonomics.

==> 38:40 Dave makes the same point about Milton Friedman on Donahue.

==> 31:15  Dave on being Bob Murphy. “What’s it like?”

==> 35:25  I criticize Krugman. (!)

==> 36:50 Dave asks me about the h8ers.

==> 37:20 I steal Scott Adams’ line about dog whistles.

==> 45:30 Dave says he talks to alt-right people to try to turn them.

==> 49:50 I remember Ron Paul’s Rudy Giuiliani moment.

01 Sep 2017

A Very Interesting Public Opinion Poll

Politics 13 Comments

I think I first saw this linked at SlateStarCodex, so HT2 him, but this recent NPR / PBS News Hour / Marist survey of 1,125 adults from across the nation has some interesting results.

First, on the question of what to do with Confederate statues, among African Americans 44% said they should “remain as a historical symbol,” while 40% said they “should be removed because they are offensive to some people.” (The margin in favor of “remain” was much higher among whites and Latinos.) Since everybody except Jim Buchanan is in favor of democracy, I guess this means…?

What’s really bizarre is that on the question asking if the person agrees with the beliefs of the “white supremacy movement”:

==> 3% of whites said they “Mostly agree” while 88% said they “Mostly disagree.”

==> 4% of African Americans said they “Mostly agree” while 90% said they “Mostly disagree.”

==> 7% of Latinos said they “Mostly agree” while 76% said they “Mostly disagree.”

The above results have made the rounds, with chortling bloggers understandably announcing, “More blacks and Hispanics agree with white supremacists than white people do.”

I’m not sure what to make of these results–I’m guessing there might be some trolling and misunderstanding of the question–but I think it’s safe to say that America is not on the verge of going skinhead. Even if you say, “Well it’s because the white white (sic) supremacists were afraid to admit it,” OK that’s part of the point. Everybody knows this is socially unacceptable in our culture.

30 Aug 2017

If Nobody Gets My Analogies, Whose Fault Is It?

Scott Sumner 17 Comments

This post is really only directed at those of you who are faithful readers of Scott Sumner. If you don’t follow him, obviously you can feel free to chime in, but I don’t expect you to get the point here.

Anyway, Scott recently criticized David Glasner’s definition of “currency manipulation” because it relied on the intentions of the policymakers, and (according to Scott) we as economists can’t be mind readers. According to Scott, any concept that requires an analyst to get inside the mind of the government official is nonsense.

I thought this was a very surprising move for Scott to take. So I left this comment:


On this post, I’m not trolling you. (In contrast, I *am* going to troll you a bit on your super-neutrality post.)

David is making an obvious point. If a government is intentionally lowering the real exchange value of its currency in order to gain an export advantage, then it is engaging in currency manipulation. A la your point about Bastiat, we don’t need to *care*, but the concept is coherent.

To push back against that, you write:

Surely if a concept of currency manipulation has any coherent meaning, it cannot depend on the motive of the policymakers in a particular country? We aren’t mind readers.

Well, what about this claim?

“Surely if a concept of tight money has any coherent meaning, it cannot depend on the mental framework of the policymakers. We aren’t mind readers.”

Do you agree with that? For example, if Fed officials take some actions during the day and we see interest rates go up, surely that’s all we need to know if we’re going to classify it as “tight” or “loose” money, right? Somebody might suggest that it depends what the motivations were–maybe the Fed officials didn’t even care about interest rates, and were just trying to get NGDP growth to be according to their subjective target–but you would say that’s nonsense because we can’t read minds?

I’m truly not being facetious here, Scott. If you had asked me (before I saw your current post here about Glasner) which monetary economist stressed the importance of evaluating policy in terms of the intentions of the policymakers, I honestly would have said, “Scott Sumner has made me appreciate this more than anybody else.”

Then, to be kind of a wiseguy but also to isolate just how silly Scott’s stance was, I left another comment:

David Glasner: In order to classify Dick Cheney as an attempted murderer, we need to know that he intended to shoot his hunting buddy.

Scott Sumner: What are we, mind readers? I can’t believe the legal concept of “homicide” involves intentions. This is nutty. What if a tree fell over and killed his buddy, would the tree be a murderer now too?

In my mind, I won the internet. Sure, Scott might push back and say my cutesy analogy leaves stuff out, but surely he would get what my point was, right?

Nope, not at all. Scott had no idea what I was talking about, and this other guy accused me of making a freshman error regarding monetary policy.

If somebody can tell me, “Ah, OK Bob I get what you were trying to do, but here’s why nobody else did…” I am all ears. I honestly get baffled when stuff like this happens. To be clear, I’m not expecting people to say, “Drat! We would’ve gotten away with it too, if it hadn’t been for your awesome analogy,” but I expect people to get the point I’m making. That’s the whole rationale for using analogies.

30 Aug 2017


Potpourri 3 Comments

==> Carlos and I took a long hiatus but now we’re back in the saddle. No joke, he uncovered some stuff in his research that I think is very interesting regarding the Fed unwinding its balance sheet, and how they may try to get out of the corner into which they’ve painted themselves. We explain in the latest episode of the Lara-Murphy Show.

==> My appearance on the Libertarian Christian Institute’s podcast, talking about an-cap law and defense.

==> I am quoted in this Pro Publica piece on the “social cost of carbon.” (He left out of the best part of my email, alas.)

==> I’m not endorsing the analysis, but Mark Spitznagel criticizes the use of cryptocurrencies as “safe havens.”

==> Roy Spencer argues that Houston flooding isn’t evidence of climate change.

==> This short clip from Jordan Peterson is interesting. It summarizes a lot of his perspective.

29 Aug 2017

“Ask Me Anything”

Shameless Self-Promotion 3 Comments

I agreed to do one of these things. Please clap.

(I’ll be attentive on Tuesday, August 29, from 7pm – 8pm Eastern, and then I’ll check again the next day for any stragglers.)

26 Aug 2017


Politics, War on Terror 34 Comments

==> Tom Woods interviews Scott Horton on his new book about Afghanistan.

==> Brittany Hunter on the “sunk cost fallacy” vis-a-vis Afghanistan.

==> Tyler Cowen weighs in on the issue of public shaming. This was interesting:

I see many people who have behaved very badly — and here I mean legally convicted criminals — but where the prevailing “mood affiliation” among American liberal intellectuals is to favor their rehabilitation. For instance, if a company does not ask job applicants if they have criminal records, this is considered to be good, and maybe it is. For one thing, many of those criminals are the products of bad circumstances and we may have various (true) theories that help to excuse their behavior. So we don’t go to the nth degree to shame and disgrace those ex-criminals, even if they have been convicted of prior violent activities.

How are we then to feel about contemporary neo-Nazis? Most of them have not been convicted of anything at all. Yet right now we are going to great lengths to shame and disgrace them. We regard them as on a lower moral rung than the convicted criminals. But is wishing for violence that much worse than having committed it yourself?

Incidentally, I think I have an answer on this specific way Tyler framed it. To wit, presumably a company that hires a convicted criminal *doesn’t think the guy is going to commit another crime on the job*. In contrast, the guys who participated in the recent march and then get fired, presumably didn’t come to work on Monday saying, “Wow that was a dark period in my life, and I’m totally beyond that now.”

Another element is that people who break actual laws are presumably punished by the legal system, whereas it’s not actually a crime to say horrible things. And so, it arguably makes sense that people reserve their capacity for public shaming / boycotting / etc. for such offenses.

So to be clear, not only do I think it is within their *rights* for companies to fire the people who were participating in the tiki march, but I agree with their decision. My concern with all this stuff, though, is that in the zeal to burn the neo-Nazi witches, hysteria has gripped the country and a lot of regular people are getting caught in the crosshairs. Further, the casual talk of “punch a Nazi” is also disturbing, since it is *not* within your rights to punch the tiki marchers.

P.S. I’ll leave the comments open on this one, but I don’t want a war breaking out so please don’t bring up anyone who is currently feuding in our ranks.