02 Aug 2015

Faith and Works (Again)

Religious 6 Comments

I’m saying “(again)” because I’m pretty sure I made this point before, but now I have some extra flourishes.

Paul famously wrote that one receives salvation through faith, not works. However, even he links the two, like in Ephesians 2: 8-10 when he writes:

8For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

It is in that context that evangelical Protestants reconcile the apparent contradiction with the book of James. For example James 1: 22-27 says:

22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.

26 Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. 27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

(Later on, James is more explicit about faith and works, but in my Bible study we only got through chapter 1 so far.)

In his audio commentary on James, Dr. Vernon McGee deals with the apparent conflict by saying (these are my notes so not exact quotes):

==> Faith is the root and cause of salvation.
==> Works are the fruit and effect of salvation.
==> God can see your heart, and whether you have faith, so that’s how you’re saved.
==> But your neighbor can only see your works.

Finally, let me bring up my favorite resolution of the apparent conflict. John 6:28-29:

28Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?” 29Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.”

I really love that answer. It’s very Misesian, for those of you into Austrian economics. It’s linking mind and body, thought and action.

02 Aug 2015

#LoveLoses, Again

SSM 59 Comments

Ah, I just saw someone who was really happy about the SCOTUS ruling retweet this from one of her fans. (In fairness, I should disclose she’s not a libertarian–in fact she actively mocks libertarians. But, I think even many pro-SCOTUS SSM ruling libertarians have similar views.)


Again, the standard disclaimer: Just because some people loudly pontificating on a given issue are hypocrites, doesn’t mean everybody on their side is hypocritical (let alone wrong). But I’m occasionally relaying stuff like this (like the earlier Dalmia piece) so you can understand why some of us were stunned at the reaction to the SCOTUS ruling.

In reference to the above graphic, in case you don’t get what my point is: The people who are now mocking a brother marrying a sister among those idiot Southerners were exactly the same ones who a month ago were so scandalized that evangelicals might look down upon two men getting married. So this had nothing to do with the principles they espoused (like individual autonomy, minding one’s own business, live and let live, and of course #LoveWins), but instead was simply, “My personal preferences regarding which marriages are fine and which are yucky are better than yours. By the way you’re a bigot and I hope someone burns down your pizza shop.”

01 Aug 2015

Economists Are Odd Fellows

Economics 39 Comments

[UPDATE: I added the Paul Romer one, and clarified Landsburg’s position.]

I hope all of you take this in the proper spirit. Especially if you follow me on Facebook, you know that every once in a while I like to step back and point out the big picture. To be clear, I fully understand what’s going on in each of the below links, and I’m not criticizing the economists in question.

Rather, I’m just pointing out how odd we are.

==> Austrians famously think that there’s too much math in economics, and that it obscures the logic of the underlying theory. But we are always lectured that to be scientific, you have to be precise, and math is the way to be sure about what we’re saying as economists–you don’t want to slip in some assumption verbally without realizing you’re doing it. So anyway, Paul Romer and Brad DeLong are now really mad at those jerks from the Chicago School who sneak in mathematical assumptions into their papers without explaining verbally how their models work. Can’t these Chicago guys realize they are undermining the scientific method when they do this?

==> A pretty serious debate among serious macroeconomists right now concerns NOT whether raising interest rates is a good or bad idea, but which direction (price) inflation would move in, if central banks suddenly raised interest rates significantly. And when the leader of the dominant view responds to the minority viewpoint, some really sharp guys try to explain to other economists exactly what the response was, but admit they’re not really sure they understand it. Again: This is an argument over whether raising interest rates will cause price inflation to go up or down; really sharp economists can’t even 100% convince themselves of why they believe in their answer to that question.

==> I am a pacifist and yet I recently wrote a column on the most efficient way to wage war.

==> Steve Landsburg spent an hour thinking about it, and still couldn’t explain why giving all the available elite public school slots to only white kids–because they are white–would be unfair.

==> Edmund Phelps proudly announced that, if given the choice to wipe out half the humans who ever lived, he would not do it. (Because of classical music, of course. Duh.)

01 Aug 2015


Potpourri, Ron Paul, Shameless Self-Promotion 7 Comments

==> This podcast was not nearly as sultry as the image suggests.

==> Ron Paul responds to Paul Krugman’s “Old Man and the CPI.” (My own post coming soon…)

==> Tom Woods interviews Carlos Morales, a former Child Protective Services (CPS) worker. This is really good stuff for filling in a big hole in libertarian theory. There are people who are fine even with privatized courts and tanks but wonder, “What do we do about abusive parents in a free society?” This interview doesn’t provide the whole answer, but it shows that, “Just have the State fix it” doesn’t work here either.

==> I can’t remember if I already linked this, but Bob Higgs singled out Dan Sanchez’s essay on the State and war in his talk at the Mises Institute.

01 Aug 2015

Krugman Then Vs. Now, Bask

Krugman 7 Comments

This guy Dave Smith at EconLog posted the following citation:

==> Krugman, Paul (1994), ‘Past and Prospective Causes of High Unemployment’, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, Economic Review, Fourth Quarter, 23-43.

That looks like it could be the gift that keeps on giving. However, when I tried to get it, I could only find the article summary online. I tried emailing the KC Fed but haven’t heard back. Can any of you sleuths find it? The website made it look like you could download the whole issue, but I couldn’t get it to work.

30 Jul 2015

War Doesn’t Solve the Socialist Calculation Problem

Pacifism, Shameless Self-Promotion 98 Comments

My latest at FEE. An excerpt:

The logic of voluntary market arrangements holds in the case of conscription as well. Suppose a foreign nation has amassed millions of soldiers on the border, and is preparing to invade. Wouldn’t even a classical-liberal government have to hold its nose and impose a draft on its citizens, just to deal with this emergency?

The answer is no. To see why, change the example: If a foreign nation drafted millions of its people into working on collectivized farms, would the United States need to do the same, if it wanted to grow more food? Of course not. The way to maximize food production (especially if we care about quality) would be to get the federal government out of agriculture as much as possible.

A similar pattern holds in military struggles. A free society could easily defend itself from, say, two million poorly equipped conscripts with little training, by using only, let’s say, 100,000 elite, volunteer troops supplied with advanced weaponry and vehicles from 400,000 civilians working in factories cranking out helicopters, body armor, tanks, and artillery. Foreign dictators’ reliance on a large labor-to-capital ratio for their military hardly means that is an efficient practice for a freer nation to emulate.

30 Jul 2015


Bryan Caplan, David R. Henderson, Krugman, Potpourri 24 Comments

==> Alex Tabarrok relays some surprising facts about apartment hunting in Stockholm.

==> Tabarrok twin spin: Here he reviews a book on more effective altruism.

==> Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne was the “mystery guest” (via Skype) at Mises University this year. He pointed us to this Politico article, saying this reporter was the first mainstream one to fully grasp just how revolutionary blockchain technology will be. It goes way beyond Bitcoin. (Incidentally, if you’re new here, remember that I wrote a guide to Bitcoin with Silas Barta.)

==> Tom Woods interviews Gene Epstein on how he came to libertarianism.

==> Bryan Caplan 1, John Podhoretz 0.

==> I’m glad David R. Henderson caught the non sequitur in Krugman’s analysis of Greece. Specifically, Krugman argued that the current crisis is the fault of the rigid euro system, not the Greek government’s profligacy and overregulation, because after all the Greeks had high debt and stifling regulations 10 years ago. As David points out, uh, Krugman, they were also in the same euro system 10 years ago.

Let me pivot though and focus on something that doesn’t make sense to me. People have (rightly) ridiculed Krugman for this statement, quoted in David’s post:

ZAKARIA: Ken Rogoff on last week’s show actually said that you bared [sic] some responsibility here, because you advocated that the Prime Minister of Greece voted no, supported the no proposition, the referendum he took, in a sense defying the European creditors. The result of that was that he got worse terms. Do you think that’s fair?
KRUGMAN: Well, it’s certainly true that – I assumed – it didn’t even occur to me that they would be prepared to make a stand without having done any contingency planning.

So as I said, people have been making fun of Krugman for his overconfidence in the Greek government.

But here’s what I don’t get: Suppose Krugman’s assumption had been right, and the Greek government DID have a contingency plan, when they took his advice to stand firm (originally) against the troika. Well, even so, wouldn’t Krugman have had to know what that contingency plan was in order to say whether it was a good idea to reject the original bailout terms?

I mean, suppose Krugman’s brother-in-law calls him up and says, “Hey, I just got this job offer that pays $40,000, should I take it?” And then Krugman says, “Heck no, ask them for at least $50k.” Then the guy says, “OK I took your advice, and now I’m unemployed. Can I crash on your couch?” Krugman comes back and says, “Oh wow, when I told you to reject that initial offer and ask for more money, it didn’t even occur to me that you didn’t have another company waiting in the wings to hire you.”

Does that make any sense? Wouldn’t Krugman have to know not only that his brother-in-law had another offer, but also know what it was in order to sensibly advise him on whether to take the pending offer of $40k? For example, suppose the brother-in-law’s backup plan was a job paying $12,000. In that case, gambling with the $40k is pretty risky.

You think I’ve made my cutesy point, but I’m just getting warmed up here. Let’s start over. Krugman is acting like he’s got a pretty good handle on the Greek situation; he is quite confident in telling its officials what to do, and he’s quite certain he knows what caused the trouble, and what lessons the rest of the world should take from the whole episode. In that context, then, why can’t Krugman offer a Plan B to Greek officials, when they followed his advice and it blew up in their faces?

In summary, Krugman is saying something like: “I know so little about the actual Greek economy and fiscal situation that not only can’t I offer them a recommendation of what to do right now, but two weeks ago I was so ignorant that I assumed they had hidden information that would have rendered my advice useful to them.”

Am I being too harsh on the poor guy? I don’t think so. I think (as usual) his confident prognostications blew up in his face, and (as usual) he explains that it wasn’t his fault. It’s always somebody else’s fault.

28 Jul 2015

Sequester Fun, and Murphy on Liberty Classroom

Krugman, Shameless Self-Promotion, Tom Woods 21 Comments

My latest post at Mises CA shows that Krugman can’t get away with saying Keynesians just needed to be more careful back in 2013, and that had they checked the numbers they would’ve known the sequester was no big whoop. Au contraire, I dug up Jared Bernstein going nuts because right-wingers were ignoring “the arithmetic” (his term).

Tonight from 9pm – 10pm Eastern I will be doing a live Q&A for Tom Woods’ “Liberty Classroom,” where I’ll be teaching courses on the History of Economic Thought in the fall.