17 Aug 2009

Potpourri

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* Mario Rizzo on the issue of whether economists should have predicted (forecast) the financial collapse.

* The Economist on the experience of John Law and fiat money. (HT2TAE)

* Paul Green offers practical tips for Internet privacy. I have been urging techie/security guys I know, to write up such an article. What do people think of Green’s suggestions? I would like a second (and fifth) opinion before I go changing my antivirus software.

17 Aug 2009

A Pacifist No Longer

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A lot of people are emailing me about the controversy. What can I say? I run into some old timers telling me how great socialized medicine is, and I just lose it.

17 Aug 2009

Bill Maher: Americans Are Dumb (When They Oppose Bigger Government)

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Alex Tabarrok links to this Bill Maher rant:

Or take the health care debate we’re presently having: members of Congress have recessed now so they can go home and “listen to their constituents.” An urge they should resist because their constituents don’t know anything. At a recent town-hall meeting in South Carolina, a man stood up and told his Congressman to “keep your government hands off my Medicare,” which is kind of like driving cross country to protest highways.

I’m the bad guy for saying it’s a stupid country, yet polls show that a majority of Americans cannot name a single branch of government, or explain what the Bill of Rights is….

Can Bill Maher explain what the Tenth Amendment to the Bill of Rights is?

17 Aug 2009

Calling People "Illegals"

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That practice has bothered me for a while now. It’s true, I definitely fall into the “open borders libertarian” camp, but that’s not really the point in this post.

If someone says, “I am concerned that there are so many immigrants coming in, and I think that wouldn’t happen if the border lands and roads were all privately owned,” then OK let’s have that discussion. (Anthony Gregory does a great job laying out the view I endorse.)

What I’m complaining about is when a person says, “Our government no longer listens to the will of the people! We clearly told them we want border enforcement, and they don’t listen to us. Instead they let in these millions of illegals, and educate their kids for free.”

I’ve been trying to put my finger on it, and I think my problems are twofold. First, to call an entire group of people “illegals” is the same dehumanizing trick as to call others “birthers” or “truthers.”

Second, a lot of these people using the term don’t really care about the official statutes coming out of Washington. If the politicians suddenly voted to turn all the “illegals” into “legals,” the rabble rousers wouldn’t be placated. No, they would call back in to the talk shows going nuts because, “Those fools in DC gave amnesty to all the illegals!”

So it’s not really their illegal status per se that is at issue. I’ve never heard anyone call in to Sean Hannity and refer to the signers of the Declaration as “illegals.”

15 Aug 2009

Now They’ve Got Me Pegged

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An unanticipated drawback to writing this unorthodox book review is that Amazon now suggests some very childish books when I visit the site. (When I wrote the review, I had to get the picture of the Smash! Crash! cover from Amazon.)

15 Aug 2009

The Lord Never Wastes a Crisis

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Picture this: An Iranian man finds himself washed ashore a California beach. He stands up, dusts himself off, and starts announcing to people that they are going to die because of their fornication. He delivers the message with such conviction and lack of sympathy that it just clicks and people actually believe him. He’s not trying to reform them; if he were, then they would think he was bluffing. But no, he’s just informing them that they are going to be wiped out for their iniquities. He actually convinces all of Hollywood to empty their liquor bottles down the drain. The Iranian man’s warnings were just that compelling.

The above scenario would be impossible, right? Well, it’s true, it would be impossible for any man we’ve ever encountered to pull off such a stunt. But what if it were a man, who had just spent three days inside a whale?

Jonah must have been terrified of what the Ninevites would do to him, if he actually carried out God’s instructions. But after realizing his predicament, and knowing that God had every right to punish him by making him die of thirst over the course of days inside a pool of whale bile, Jonah was no longer so afraid. It was only after experiencing his aquatic trauma that Jonah had the ability to execute God’s plan for him.

Even God’s rebukes are designed to improve us.

15 Aug 2009

The Government Has Paralyzed the Credit Markets

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The government (including the Federal Reserve) has paralyzed the credit markets. It has attacked the markets in many ways, but one particularly insidious move was the inject a massive amount of new reserves, and then pay interest to keep them bottled up.

This is one of the most perverse outcomes of the Fed’s combination of decisions. Because nominal interest rates have been pushed so low, it is relatively cheap for the Fed to turn itself into the ideal place for banks to park reserves. In a booming economy with nominal interest rates at 7%, it would be very expensive for the Fed to bribe backs into restricting their loan portfolio. But not now, with the fed funds rate hovering at 0%.

In yet another case where the government creates the very problem it was (supposedly) trying to solve, check out this graph. Remember, the unprecedented actions were justified as a way to patch up the “credit crunch” and to unclog or unfreeze the credit lines on which businesses rely.

Isn’t it ironic, then, that–as the graph shows–bank lending didn’t go down until after Bernanke shot the moon? There was no “credit crunch” before that intervention.

15 Aug 2009

Two Kinds of People

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There is one group of people in America who truly care about social injustice, but they don’t consider the violation of property rights to be high on the list. That’s why they approve government programs that involve redistribution.

On the other hand, there are Americans who take property rights seriously; they get tingles when they watch Russell Crowe tell his boy in Cinderella Man(paraphrasing) “We don’t take food from the butcher that isn’t ours, because that’s stealing, and we don’t steal. Not ever.” And yet, these same people don’t really get all worked up about police brutality, or the fact that some people are living under bridges while others eat filet mignon.

(Note that the above two groups aren’t exhaustive–there are Americans who care about property rights and want to help the sick and the poor. But the above two groups catch a lot of people.)

What’s ironic is that both groups would see their objectives better satisfied, if they paid more heed to the concerns of the other. If the first group really took property rights seriously, and therefore couldn’t support any government “social” programs that relied on coercion, then as if by magic there wouldn’t be so many people living under bridges, and there wouldn’t be millions of people who couldn’t afford health insurance.

By the same token, if people in their capacity as private citizens got more involved with “making the world a better place”–through voluntary means–then their opponents on Election Day might be more willing to let things run their course, rather than voting in a political “solution.”

==> Related to the above musings, Anthony Gregory has an article at LRC explaining how the power elites have used the two-party system to constantly grow the size of government with every successive administration. (Those are my words, not his.)