09 Aug 2017

Tom and Bob Triple Play

Contra Krugman No Comments

I am swamped with work so I can’t really do more than just point you to these, but…

==> For Liberty Classroom, Tom and I did a Q&A with some of his subscribers, which he then made episode 960 of his show. It’s not as polished as a regular podcast episode but if you can get into the rhythm then it has some good content.

==> Ep. 97 of Contra Krugman was recorded in front of a live audience at Mises U. We talked about Cantillon effects and central banking.

==> Ep. 98 of Contra Krugman is on Irving Kristol and the “skinny repeal.” Plus Easter egg at the end.

07 Aug 2017

I Throw Scott Sumner Under the Bus

Market Monetarism 16 Comments

In a recent EconLog post, Scott writes:

You are about to take a bus from Zurich to Milan, right over the Alps. You have three buses to choose from:

1. Bus A is a self-driving machine, fitted with a rear-mounted camera and the latest automatic steering mechanism, designed by noted Swiss engineer Johan Taylor. When the camera sees that the bus has deviated too far to the right of the road, it automatically steers the bus to the left, and vice versa.

2. Bus B is driven by Johanna Yellen, widely regarded as one of Switzerland’s best bus drivers.

3. Bus C is a complicated human/machine hybrid. It has forward looking cameras, that feed road images into a large building, in real time. About 10,000 bus drivers sit at the controls of a simulator, and steer the bus as they think is appropriate. The average of all of their steering decisions is fed back to the bus in real time, in order to adjust the steering mechanism. To motivate good steering decisions, the 10,000 bus drivers are rewarded according to whether their individual steering decisions would have led, ex post, to a smoother and safer drive than that produced by the consensus.

Which bus would you take?

Put aside your views on monetary policy for a second. The answer to this is CLEARLY (2). We know this is the case, because people routinely take buses all the time. These buses are not self-driven or driven by 10,000 people, but instead by a driver. If people knew, “This particular driver has been rated one of the best in the country,” then they would be even more comfortable with it.

And yet, Scott obviously thinks the right answer here is (3), which corresponds to his monetary proposals. My comment:

I’m being dead serious: Anyone who answered “C” to Scott’s question is having his or her hand forced by prior commitment to NGDP targeting. There’s no way in the world you would get on that kind of bus if it were driving through the Alps. You would first want several years of tests on flat county roads.

And I’m not just quibbling with the analogy. For the exact same reason, you should be very wary of NGDPLT proposals.

For what it’s worth, Scott responded to me: “Bob, i’ve written papers on how the proposal can be tested, and gradually implement to reduce risk of error.”

06 Aug 2017

The Jewish Calendar a Microcosm of History

Religious 2 Comments

In our Bible study we covered Leviticus 23, and this was the ending of the commentary from Guzik. I thought it was very intriguing:

================

1. Structurally, the first four feasts are linked together, and the last three feasts are also linked – and there is a separation of time between these two groups of feasts.

2. The group of the first four feasts relate to the work of Jesus in His first coming, of His earthly ministry.

a. The feast of Passover clearly presents Jesus as our Passover (1 Corinthians 5:7), the Lamb of God who was sacrificed, and whose blood was received and applied, so the wrath of God would pass us over.

b. The feast of Unleavened Bread relates time of Jesus’ burial, after His perfect, sinless sacrifice on the cross, during which He was received by God the Father as holy and complete (the Holy One who would not see corruptionActs 2:27), perfectly accomplishing our salvation.

i. We may regard the burial (or actually, entombment) of Jesus as a small thing in God’s redemptive plan; but it was an essential part of Paul’s gospel: For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures. (1 Corinthians 15:3-4)

c. The feast of Firstfruits relates to the resurrection of Jesus, who was the first human to receive resurrection; He is the firstborn from the dead (Colossians 1:18) and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep . . . Christ the firstfruits, afterwards those who are Christ’s at His coming. (1 Corinthians 15:2023)

d. The feast of Pentecost obviously is connected with the birth of the Church and the “harvest” resulting (Acts 2); significantly, in the ceremony at the feast of Pentecost, two unleavened loaves of bread are waved as a holy offering to God, speaking of the bringing of “unleavened” Gentiles into the church.

3. Between the first set of four feasts and the second set of three feasts, there is a significant time gap – almost four months, which, significantly, was a time of harvest in Israel; even as our current age is a time of harvest for the church, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.(Romans 11:25)

4. The second group of the last three feasts relate to events connected with the second coming of Jesus.

a. The feast of Trumpets speaks of the ultimate assembly of God’s people at the sound of a trumpet – the rapture of the Church (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17), and of the gathering of Israel for the special purpose God has for them in the last days.

b. The Day of Atonement not only speaks of the ultimate, perfect atonement Jesus offered on our behalf, but also of the affliction – and salvation – Israel will see during the Great Tribulation.

i. It will truly be a time when the soul of Israel is afflicted, but for their ultimate salvation; as Jeremiah 30:7says regarding that period: Alas! For that day is great, so that none is like it, and it is the time of Jacob’s trouble, but he shall be saved out of it.

c. The feast of Tabernacles speaks of the millennial rest of comfort of God for Israel and all of God’s people; it is all about peace and rest, from beginning to end.

i. Tabernacles is specifically said to be celebrated during the millennium (Zechariah 14:16-19).

5. Significantly, there is good evidence that each of the four feasts relevant to the first coming of Jesus saw their prophetic fulfillment on the exact day of the feast.

a. Jesus was actually crucified on the Passover (John 19:14). His body would have been buried, and His holy and pure sacrifice acknowledged by God the Father during the Feast of Unleavened Bread following, and He would have risen from the dead on Firstfruits, the day after Passover’s Sabbath. Additionally, the church was founded on the actual day of Pentecost.

b. For this reason, many speculate it would be consistent for God to gather His people to Himself at the rapture on the day of the feast of trumpets – on the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah. This can certainly be regarded as a possibility.

04 Aug 2017

If Libertarians Reject the “Left/Right Spectrum” Then Why Do We Use Those Terms?

Libertarianism 31 Comments

I’m genuinely asking the question. (And this isn’t just coming from me; I’ve seen other people in the last few months making this point.)

On the one hand, we libertarians like to roll our eyes at standard political surveys or classification schemes in which Adolf Hitler is the polar opposite of Josef Stalin. We like to point out that they are both socialists and that it makes much more sense to have a spectrum of degrees of State control over people’s lives. I totally agree with this standard libertarian view.

On the other hand, libertarians often self-sort into left/right, or at least distinguish themselves from other libertarians with such labels. And to be frank, I know exactly what they mean. (I don’t want this post to turn into a proxy war for the recent flare up, so let’s keep it on-topic in the comments.)

Does the reconciliation go something like this? I’m just throwing it out there:

“It’s not perfect, but we have to use words conventionally and so if someone is a ‘leftist’ we mean the person wants to focus on reducing income inequality, oppression of minorities, police brutality, and gender stereotypes in the workplace. If someone is coming from ‘the right’ we mean the person cares about maintaining the culture, tradition, family, church. However, most people just assume that the *way* to achieve these goals is through State power, and hence a ‘radical leftist’ is a Marxist, while a ‘radical right-winger’ is a Nazi. So a left-libertarian is someone who rejects the means of State power to achieve them, but endorses the typical leftist’s goals, and likewise for a right-libertarian.”

How’s that?

04 Aug 2017

Who Bears the Burden of Government Debt?

Debt 13 Comments

As I explain in this video, I might get hit by a bus, so I wanted to go on record explaining this stuff. And here’s the link to the legendary “The Economist Zone” post.

02 Aug 2017

A Tale of Two Conspiracies

All Posts, Conspiracy, Libertarianism No Comments

In the last month I have become intimately acquainted with two conspiracies afoot in the libertarian economics community:

    CONSPIRACY #1

James Buchanan was a founder of Public Choice economics. Its scholars are actively seeking to end injustice perpetrated by the State, and to advance individual liberty. Buchanan invited an outspoken opponent of apartheid to his school, during the height of the U.S. debate over desegregation.

Nonetheless, according to some critics, because segregationists were able to use some of Buchanan’s policy positions (like getting the government out of schooling altogether), Buchanan has a cloud of suspicion over him. Indeed, he used some political principles and phrases in his work that were also used by John Calhoun and Donald Davidson. (It doesn’t matter if Buchanan’s defenders can point out non-bad-guy precedents for that language.) Also, one of Buchanan’s fans said that “the weakening of the checks and balances” in the U.S. political system “would increase the chance of a very good outcome.” Yikes! Now it’s true, Buchanan’s fans come back and try to explain the context of that quote, but give us a break–what kind of person writes like that?

So even though any one of the specific arguments used against Buchanan and his followers might be a non sequitur, it doesn’t really matter. The critics have known these Public Choice types for decades; these people are just a bad crew. They obviously don’t care about poor minorities; if they did, then obvious racists wouldn’t flock to them and hide behind their “free market” rhetoric. Some of the critics might be more nuanced and admit that maybe Buchanan himself isn’t a huge racist or segregationist, but c’mon, he should’ve known better than to be used by such types and advance their racist agenda.

    CONSPIRACY #2

Ludwig von Mises was a Jewish economist who had to flee Nazi persecution. (Don’t take my word for it: Ask Batman.) The Ludwig von Mises Institute was founded in 1982, with its intellectual leader being Murray Rothbard, another Jewish economist.

Last week, the Mises Institute held its annual “Mises University” conference, in which more than 100 students come to learn about Austrian economics and applications of libertarian political theory.

The week was kicked off by a lecture from Tom Woods. As is his wont, Tom took the opportunity to promote the 1000th episode of his podcast, which is going to be hosted by a black guy. (And not a Clarence Thomas, respectable-to-National-Review kind of guy, but someone who writes on Facebook [I’m paraphrasing but very close]: “I can’t stand grown ass men who act like whiny little b*tches!” kind of guy.) For what it’s worth, Tom himself is a Catholic, and not in a hey-is-Joe-Biden-Catholic kind of way, but in a “Let me tell you why Vatican II was an abomination” kind of way.

During the week, two of the prominent lecturers are David Gordon and Walter Block, both Jewish. By far the lecturer afforded the most respect is Judge Andrew Napolitano, whose public talk and then restricted academic lectures are about the alarming loss of personal and economic liberties with the eroding of the U.S. Constitution, and how the students need to wake up to protect their ability to speak out against the government.

The week also featured Matt McCaffrey speaking on the Economics of War, in which he was *against* the practice. He closes with a quotation (around 42:40) from Mises about how peace is the father of all things, as a direct rebuke to the nationalist militarists of his day. McCaffrey explicitly says that Mises rejects militarism, autarky, and nationalism, and promotes peace and commercialism.

For my own humble part, I learned the most I’ve ever heard about Islam from a very traditional Muslim woman–who was a Summer Fellow at the Institute and was dressed in a way that would make her faith quite clear to anybody. During one of my talks–in which I explained ways that we could avoid the warfare of the State and how to minimize police brutality–I literally made fun of Nazis. (My talk from this year isn’t up yet, but you can see the slide from last year’s talk at 39:13 where I have an X crossing out a Nazi event.)

Notwithstanding the above, on the last day the president of the Mises Institute, Jeff Deist, concluded a speech on how to market libertarian ideals to the average person in this way:

I’m sure all of us would fight for our physical persons if we were attacked, or for our families if they were attacked. We might fight for close friends too. And perhaps even our neighbors. In fact we might like to think we would physically defend a total stranger in some circumstances, for example an old woman being attacked and robbed.

And we probably would fight for our towns and communities if they were physically invaded by an outside force, even though we don’t personally know all of the people in our towns and communities.

We might fight for property too, maybe not as fiercely. We certainly would protect our homes, but that’s because of the people inside. How about cars? Would you physically tangle with an armed robber who was driving away in your car? Or would you let him go, and not risk death or injury, just to save your car? How about your wallet? How about someone stealing 40% of your income, as many governments do? Would you take up arms to prevent this?

We probably wouldn’t fight for bitcoin, or net neutrality, or a capital gains tax hike, by the way.

How about an abstraction, like fighting for “your country” or freedom or your religion? This is where thing get more tenuous. Many people have and will fight for such abstractions. But if you ask soldiers they’ll tell you that in the heat of battle they’re really fighting for their mates, to protect the men in their units–and to fulfill a personal sense of duty.

In other words, blood and soil and God and nation still matter to people. Libertarians ignore this at the risk of irrelevance.

Thank you very much.

Now that part I put in bold: Because this was a Nazi slogan (which they actually took from Oswald Spengler, a German conservative who would end up condemning Hitler and the Nazis), some critics concluded that the Mises Institute was actually secretly doing what it could to advance neo-Nazis. To be sure, Deist’s defenders responded that he wasn’t invoking the Nazis, but instead was reacting to a Jeff Tucker article from a few weeks earlier that had “blood and soil” in its title. (To be clear, Tucker wasn’t attacking Deist or the Institute in this article.)

Didn’t matter. The critics after all would never have written such a phrase, so the issue was settled. And in any event, even if this particular quotation has an alibi, that doesn’t erase the fact that these critics have followed the Auburn people for decades and just know how awful they are. Oh sure, they might officially say they oppose war and want to break up the strong centralized State so diverse people can pursue their own idiosyncratic lifestyles, but they have to say that. Really, if we read their minds, we know that what they are really doing is giving a nod and a wink to neo-Nazis. Is it any surprise that bigots flock to this “Rothbardian libertarian” rhetoric? It favors their agenda, and the people in Auburn should know better than to aid and abet these people.

Also, to be fair, some of the Institute’s critics are more nuanced. They aren’t saying we ourselves are actual racists just that:

(That guy is the current chair of the Libertarian Party, which is why I didn’t block out his name.)

    WHAT DID WE LEARN?

I could understand how Nancy MacLean and her fans could believe in both of the above conspiracies. It’s perfectly consistent to do so: Why wouldn’t a bunch of segregation-loving racists also like Hitler? It all fits.

I could also understand how some people would reject both of the above conspiracies as utterly baseless and palpably absurd. For example, Tom Woods, Tom DiLorenzo, and David Gordon have in the past crossed swords with some DC-based libertarians, and yet they all went on record saying how crazy MacLean’s accusations are.

But what really strikes me as ironic is that some people reject Conspiracy #1 as monstrous, going so far as to question MacLean’s standing as a scholar and demanding that her peers throw her under the bus, while at the same time the same people endorse Conspiracy #2, or at least keep their mouths shut about the whole thing because it’s just so awkward.

I’m not asking such people to speak out against the critics of the Mises Institute; I realize how awkward that really is, especially if jobs are at stake. But I’m asking you to relax now that you understand the motivations of MacLean and her fans. You really can’t be that upset at them anymore; their behavior should be perfectly comprehensible after the last week of Facebook drama.

    LOOSE ENDS

1) I’m closing the comments on this post. I don’t want to add even more fuel to the fire.

2) If you think we are overreacting to this, here are two examples of the kind of crap we have now had to endure:

First, on Facebook Tom had to clarify to people that we are not having fascist events on our Cruise:

Second, here’s a text I got last night from a woman whom I had invited to the event (her first time at the Mises Institute):

Third, since I’ve seen some of the critics of Deist’s speech wondering aloud what he could possibly have in mind when contrasting his approach with the more “libertine” one favored by other libertarian groups, here’s something I saw on Twitter yesterday. Normally I wouldn’t have brought it up, but like I said, I see people guffawing like Jeff is complaining about Elvis shaking his hips:

01 Aug 2017

My Talk on the Paris Climate Agreement

Climate Change, Shameless Self-Promotion No Comments

This mostly summarizes the articles I’ve posted here, but some of you might prefer to see me hamming it up.

31 Jul 2017

Jesus on ObamaCare

Health Legislation, Religious 13 Comments

This is where we now stand in US politics: