03 Sep 2009

Faint Praise From Goldline

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I’ve been meaning to complain about this for awhile, but with gold flirting with $1000 now’s a good time: Who were the ad wizards that came up with Goldline’s catch phrase, “And it’s never been worth zero!” ? Couldn’t Purina say the same thing about cat food? Should I go long on cases of Fancy Feast?

03 Sep 2009


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* John David Fernandez explains the joy that is Mises University. An excerpt: “There is no intellectual arrogance displayed by any of the professors. All of them have a great sense of humor, and always willing to chat or autograph a book. You can talk to them about anything, including the nitty-gritty details of anarchism or classical-liberal theory. You can ask them to read a paper you’re working on, or to comment on what they would do if they were made president for a year and asked to solve the country’s economic woes. Some of them can even sing a mean Neil Diamond — oh, sweet Caroline!”

* Steve Horwitz gives a lot more evidence on that paragon of laissez-faire, Herbert Hoover.

* Lilburne gives an amazing account of the battle of wits between Nicholas Biddle and Andrew Jackson over the Second Bank of the United States. Really, the second half of this essay is dynamite; Lilburne isn’t just good for Krugman-bashing. If the quotes are legit, then Biddle tried to wreck the economy in an attempt to maintain his power. Not saying there’s any relevance to today, of course…

* The New Yorker reviews Pete Leeson’s book on pirates.

* A popular Berkeley (!) physics professor takes on some of the myths in the global warming debate. (HT Rob Bradley)

* “Why Obama Should Learn to Love the Bomb.” I was hoping this was a White Paper on Iran from Bill Kristol, but it’s much less interesting.

* Chip Knappenberger explains the significance (and remaining holes to be plugged) in the recent Lindzen-Choi paper that’s got talk radio in such a tizzy. The opening sentence: “MIT climate scientists Richard Lindzen and collaborator Yong-Sang Choi soon-to-be published paper (Geophysical Research Letters, American Geophysical Union) pegs the earth’s “climate sensitivity”—the degree the earth’s temperature responds to various forces of change—at a value that is about six times less than the “best estimate” put forth by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).” Technical quibble: I think “six times less” means “one-sixth of.”

03 Sep 2009

Krugman On Why Economists Missed the Crash

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Tyler Cowen links to this 8-page Krugman essay–and be careful, you might have missed it if you merely check Krugman’s blog. (I.e. I didn’t see it linked from there; I think Tyler gets tweeted whenever somebody rips the free market.) Anyway, Krugman starts off great:

[I]n a 2008 paper titled “The State of Macro” (that is, macroeconomics, the study of big-picture issues like recessions), Olivier Blanchard of M.I.T., now the chief economist at the International Monetary Fund, declared that “the state of macro is good.” The battles of yesteryear, he said, were over, and there had been a “broad convergence of vision.” And in the real world, economists believed they had things under control: the “central problem of depression-prevention has been solved,” declared Robert Lucas of the University of Chicago in his 2003 presidential address to the American Economic Association. In 2004, Ben Bernanke, a former Princeton professor who is now the chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, celebrated the Great Moderation in economic performance over the previous two decades, which he attributed in part to improved economic policy making.

Wow! So a bunch of economists who either had the ear of government or were actively running policy, were horribly wrong. I guess that means we shouldn’t trust the government to pick experts to tinker with the economy then, right Paul?

Of course not. What this all proves is that economists worshipped the market because (a) there was so much money in touting pure capitalism and (b) they wanted to show off their fancy mathematical skills.

I know, you’re saying, “Surely you’re joking! Those are two reasons that Austrians usually give to explain the success of the Keynesian revolution. Wasn’t Paul Samuelson the godfather of mathematical economics?! Is he a free marketeer now?” Well no, I’m not joking, and don’t call me Shirley.

BTW I only skimmed the first page of Krugman’s treatise, but–if I may paraphrase the MarginalRevolution lingo–it is self-loathing, so go ahead and click it if you dare. I’m sure it must be packed with some great stuff about how unfettered capitalism just happened to blow up 16 years after the institution of the Federal Reserve.

03 Sep 2009

New York Times Offers Two Views on Fiscal Policy

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Some people accuse Fox News of presenting only one side, but I’m glad to see that the newspaper of record offers a wide range of views. For example, in a column from August 27, the contributor declared:

So new budget projections show a cumulative deficit of $9 trillion over the next decade. According to many commentators, that’s a terrifying number, requiring drastic action — in particular, of course, canceling efforts to boost the economy and calling off health care reform.

The truth is more complicated and less frightening. Right now deficits are actually helping the economy. In fact, deficits here and in other major economies saved the world from a much deeper slump. The longer-term outlook is worrying, but it’s not catastrophic.

Presumably to balance this sanguine view of massive deficits, the NYT ran a column taking the opposite view three days later:

And what about other challenges? Every desperately needed reform I can think of, from controlling greenhouse gases to restoring fiscal balance, will have to run the same gantlet of lobbying and lies.

The New York Times op ed writers: They report, you decide.

03 Sep 2009

Gold Rising From Its Slumber

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Gold has just broken through $987 an ounce. I don’t suppose if it breaks $1000 before Labor Day, you guys would give me my “by summer” gold call, will you? Nah, didn’t think so.

Anyway here’s another way the government does its best to keep you in your financial prison:

[S]ince the IRS has determined gold to be a collectible, owning physical gold would subject the investor to the special long-term capital gains tax rate of 28 percent, not the normal 5-percent or 15-percent ones. (For less than one year it is 35-percent.) Owning shares of an ETF that holds gold or silver makes you subject to the higher rates.

03 Sep 2009

My Former Boss Interviews My Former Idol

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(Guess which is which.)

On May 22, 2006, Hillsdale College president Larry Arnn had a conversation with Milton Friedman. At the end of this clip, Friedman calls for abolishing the Federal Reserve. He also (as of 2006) thought it was foolish to predict 20 years of 2% inflation. Thanks to BlackSheep for the video.

02 Sep 2009

A Great Metaphor for the Whole Obama Administration

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Hey kids, check out this neat magic trick! (HT2EPJ)

If you go to this page hosted by the Department of Education, the third bullet point says:

Find information about community service organizations and share it with your child. You can begin by going to the Web site for the newly created Freedom Corps— www.usafreedomcorps.gov/—and looking for possibilities for volunteering and community service.

But go ahead and copy and paste that wonderful sounding URL into your browser. (Note that it’s not hyperlinked in the original, either; I transferred it here correctly.) You’ll see that it redirects you to a web page that does not have anything to do with freedom in its title.

02 Sep 2009

Glenn Beck on Van Jones

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In case some of you can’t figure out why so many people like Glenn Beck, here’s probably the best sample you’ll ever get of his show. He goes through and parses remarks that “green jobs czar” Van Jones made back in February, and then at the end plays a clip of Obama saying we need a new domestic security force as strong and as well-funded as the military. And through it all, Beck doesn’t sound like Alex Jones, but instead asks his sidekicks and the audience, “Where am I going wrong here? What am I missing? How is this not evidence of a Marxist takeover of the government?”

Now if you click through the link above, it will take you to a transcript of the segment, but you can also click the audio link which you will need to do, in order to appreciate the Van Jones clips.

In response to a lady asking him if his policies are Marxist (and I couldn’t tell if she meant the question sincerely, or was merely giving him a softball to defuse, the way someone might ask Obama, “Is it true you want to kill old people?”), Van Jones said:

How is that capitalism working for you? How is that capitalism working for you? How is that capitalism working for you this year?

Yes, that’s right, he said that three times in a row. (In fairness, since they were just playing snippets I don’t know if he prefaced that by saying, “No it’s not Marxism I’m advocating.”)

Also, at the end of the Q&A, Van Jones said: “In this stage of the struggle, and I’ll only speak to this stage of the struggle, I’m the best friend capitalism ever had. Thank you very much.” (Note: He might have said “the capitalists ever had,” I’m not sure and don’t want to go find it again. And the transcriber for Beck’s show missed a few other words I noticed, so I don’t want to rely on him/her.) So that’s a little bit creepy, isn’t it? (If you’re not a Marxist, I mean.)

At another point Van Jones said:

And this won’t ‑‑ we have to prepare for this to be a long process even though it probably won’t be. We have to prepare ourselves. We can’t just push the people. We can push the corporations and the politicians, but the people ‑‑ it must be a dance, you know. We have to listen, listen, listen, listen. And then learn. And then co‑lead, try to coauthor a different future with folks. And we have to assume that’s going to take a long time, but sometimes what should have taken another 20 years, Barack Hussein Obama [applause], can take a season.

Now look, let’s take a deep breath here. Just because one particular “czar” in the administration is a self-described communist (and I don’t know if he ever renounced that–here Grist “refutes” the notion by pointing out that Van Jones is currently in charge of government creation of jobs), that doesn’t mean the President of the United States is a communist. I’m trying not to overreact here. For example, suppose Ron Paul had pulled off the impossible and won the election. Presumably he would have sought input from people associated with the Mises Institute, perhaps even putting them on his payroll in some official capacity. Then his opponents would go nuts, saying that the far-right Paul was being given tax advice from self-described anarchists who thought the military and courts should be privatized. In response to the outcry, Paul would truthfully say, “Hey, I’m not an anarchist. The voters know my views; I expressed them on the campaign trail and they put me here in office. Even though I don’t share all the views of [Rothbardian Economist X], he’s a good economist and is helping to ensure that our efforts to scale back the bloated welfare-warfare state go as smoothly as possible.”

So anyway, this is what it is. But if you’ve never really listened to Glenn Beck and are curious to see what the buzz is, I think the clip (and you really have to listen to the audio to appreciate it) linked above is a great sample.