16 Nov 2009

Another Bailout on FDIC’s Plate?

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(HT2 Peter Klein)

16 Nov 2009

The Hope of Victory

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Inspired by true events, I wrote up this article for LRC. Lots of love/hate mail on this one so far. An excerpt:

[T]his clever answer doesn’t really solve the problem of evil. Is it really true that a secular humanist, armed with all the knowledge of economics, could convince a David Rockefeller or a Henry Paulson that his standard of living would be improved by abiding by the tenets of classical liberalism? If those examples leave the reader unsure, what about Kim Jong-il? If Ayn Rand were locked in a room with the North Korean leader, could she really convince him that the value of his own life would be enhanced by refraining from looting others?

16 Nov 2009

Potpourri

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* Is gold going to crash? EPJ says that Goldman was short gold mining stocks when outsiders last peeked. So do they know something we don’t, or were they just helping the Plunge Protection Team to slow down gold’s meteoric ascent? (And don’t meteors crash into the ground? Shouldn’t we call it gold’s carbon dioxidic ascent?)

* Dick Clark points out to me that there could be trouble with gold mines, even though gold itself continues to rise. I obviously know nothing about gold mining. However, my Julian Simonesque worldview (as well as some articles by Michael Lynch) led me to reject the peak oil theory, so I guess my instinct is to reject peak gold as well.

* A Christian (vs. Freudian…) slip by Landsburg’s copy editor.

* I met Taylor Conant at the Mises Circle this weekend. He mentioned his take on the usual dismissal of conspiracy theories, and I thought it was pretty neat.

* Bob Roddis alerts us to this Bruce Bartlett critique of Hayek. I couldn’t really find anything too objectionable in Bartlett’s piece except this weird argument: “At a minimum, I think it’s safe to say that Hayek was wrong about the inevitability of totalitarianism arising from growth in the size of government. The collapse of communism is proof enough of that.” Wow, I’ve gotten frustrated with eager Austrians who say the collapse of communism vindicated Mises’ calculation argument. But it never occurred to me that it refuted Hayek’s serfdom claim. How so, Bruce? Hayek didn’t call it The Road to Perpetual Serfdom. And I’m pretty sure Hayek was aware of the fall of the Roman Empire and other brutal governments. He must have been a serious idiot then to have thought that serfdom could never end!

* Oh boy. Steve Landsburg–a staunch believer in modern evolutionary theory–points out another absolutely ridiculous claim by Richard Dawkins. And instead of saying, “OK yeah, Dawkins and other evolutionists should stop claiming it is the most solid result in all of science, because it’s clearly not,” most of the commentators argue with Landsburg. (And yes yes, many Bible thumpers are just as over-the-top in their claims as Dawkins. Waaaa.)

* While at Landsburg’s blog, I followed his link to this neat brain teaser. Free Advice: If you click through and read it, I strongly urge you to try to figure it out first before reading the suggested solution. I was in an airport with time to kill and did just that, and really enjoyed it a lot more. It’s the kind of thing where it seems at first you can “prove” in 15 seconds that the answer goes one way, but if you think about it you realize you overlooked something crucial. Discuss.

15 Nov 2009

Is the Christian God a Tyrant?

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In last week’s post someone remarked:

Ultimately, I am anti-totalitarian. For various reasons, I view both the Judeo-Christian God and the State as ultimately striving for totalitarianism. Therefore, I am both anti-theist and anti-statist. And I feel that those who are one and not the other to be fundamentally saying, “there is no good case for an all-powerful state/god, but there is a good case for an all-powerful god/state.”

I have two quick responses:

(1) Supposing the Genesis account is true, then standard libertarian theory says God owns everything in the universe, including your body. You are his slave, but justly so. God is no more a tyrant than a magazine owner is a censor for refusing to publish your article submission.

(2) This has nothing to do with there being a “good case for” or against an all-powerful God. The God as described by the Christian Bible either exists or does not. If He does, and your political beliefs say you don’t like it, then tough. That has nothing to do with whether you should be an atheist or a theist. You can say you are an atheist and oppose the totalitarian motivations of (lying and/or insane) priests, but you can’t say, “I don’t believe in God because I don’t agree with totalitarianism.”

13 Nov 2009

Economists Say the Darndest Things

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I am reviewing this Institute for Policy Integrity survey [.pdf] of economists on climate change because we at IER are preparing a response. (They are all over the media saying, “Economists and scientists both have consensus: the government needs to act now.”) One of the survey questions asked the economists their estimate of the “social cost of carbon” (i.e. the external damage from emitting an extra ton of carbon). I found this analysis on page 18 funny:

The average estimated social cost of carbon was over $120,000, but that is highly sensitive to two outlier responses. One respondent answered $10,000, and another submitted $10,000,000. Those values are more than twenty times higher than the next highest estimates. It is possible that the respondents mistyped their entries, that they misunderstood the question, or that these answers represent protest responses….Perhaps the response that best captures the uncertainty regarding the damages generated by greenhouse gas emission was: “No one knows, including me.”

13 Nov 2009

Paul Krugman Solves My Family’s Financial Crunch

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I explain here. An excerpt:

…I am very surprised to confess that Krugman has convinced me of the virtues of currency debasement. As I was reading his blog post on the tragic fate of Ecuador, I applied Krugman’s lessons to my personal life, and suddenly everything became clear. In a flash, all of my household’s financial stresses were solved.

Please allow me to share Krugman’s tale — and my own personal salvation — so that you too may be freed from the bondage of creditors and scarcity.

13 Nov 2009

George W. Bush Warns Ivanka Trump of the Dangers of Nepotism

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OK I made that up to make sure you were paying attention. The real story is almost as good (HT2 Tony Garcia):


Bush warns of threats to freedom, economic growth

Former President George W. Bush, outlining plans for a new public policy institute, on Thursday said America must fight the temptation to allow the federal government to take control of the private sector, declaring that too much government intervention will squelch economic recovery and expansion.

With the Obama administration establishing far-reaching controls in the auto, real estate and financial sectors, Mr. Bush said that “the role of government is not to create wealth, but to create the conditions that allow entrepreneurs and innovators to thrive.”

“As the world recovers, we will face a temptation to replace the risk-and-reward model of the private sector with the blunt instruments of government spending and control. History shows that the greater threat to prosperity is not too little government involvement, but too much,” said Mr. Bush, who has remained largely out of the limelight since leaving office and rarely criticizes his successor.

“Trade has been one of the world’s most powerful engines of economic growth, and one of the most effective ways to lift people out of poverty. Yet a 60-year movement toward trade liberalization is under threat from creeping protectionism and isolationism,” Mr. Bush said.

Mr. Bush did not cite his successor by name, but many of his warnings seemed directed at policies Mr. Obama has embraced.

In one of his first major decisions on trade policy, Mr. Obama in September imposed a tariff on tire imports from China, making good on a campaign promise to the United Steelworkers union to “crack down” on imports that hurt American workers and industries.

Besides the obvious examples of hypocrisy, let’s not forget that even on the narrow issue of protectionism, Bush enacted steel tariffs in 2002. But they were temporary so it was all good.

12 Nov 2009

How the Fed’s Original Rules Were Relaxed to Allow It to Pay for World War I

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This is a really good article by John Paul Koning. At first I thought it was just going to be a standard “the government uses inflation to pay for wars because the public wouldn’t stand for the taxes and borrowing.” But it’s really specific. Koning goes over the safety mechanisms that were originally in place on Fed lending, and shows how they were systematically pulled back in order for the Fed to sop up the Treasury’s “war bonds” and make the world safe for democracy.