14 Oct 2018

The Possible Utility of Mosaic Dietary Code

Religious 9 Comments

In my Bible study session tonight we covered Deuteronomy 14 which contained, among other things, the following rules for diet:

3“You shall not eat any abomination. 4These are the animals you may eat: the ox, the sheep, the goat, 5the deer, the gazelle, the roebuck, the wild goat, the ibex,a the antelope, and the mountain sheep. 6Every animal that parts the hoof and has the hoof cloven in two and chews the cud, among the animals, you may eat. 7Yet of those that chew the cud or have the hoof cloven you shall not eat these: the camel, the hare, and the rock badger, because they chew the cud but do not part the hoof, are unclean for you. 8And the pig, because it parts the hoof but does not chew the cud, is unclean for you. Their flesh you shall not eat, and their carcasses you shall not touch.

9“Of all that are in the waters you may eat these: whatever has fins and scales you may eat. 10And whatever does not have fins and scales you shall not eat; it is unclean for you.

11“You may eat all clean birds. 12But these are the ones that you shall not eat: the eagle,b the bearded vulture, the black vulture, 13the kite, the falcon of any kind; 14every raven of any kind; 15the ostrich, the nighthawk, the sea gull, the hawk of any kind; 16the little owl and the short-eared owl, the barn owl 17and the tawny owl, the carrion vulture and the cormorant, 18the stork, the heron of any kind; the hoopoe and the bat. 19And all winged insects are unclean for you; they shall not be eaten. 20All clean winged things you may eat.

21“You shall not eat anything that has died naturally.

In his commentary, Guzik writes: “Among these animals, they fall into one of three categories: predators (unclean because they ate both the flesh and the blood of animals), scavengers (unclean because they were carriers of disease, and they regularly contacted dead bodies), or potentially poisonous or dangerous foods such as shellfish and the like. Eliminating these from the diet of Israel no doubt had a healthy effect, and one of the reasons for the dietary laws of Israel was to keep Israel healthy!”

Does anyone know if there’s a work based on secular sources that compares the diet of the surrounding pagan nations to those of ancient Israel, and then assesses their relative merits–taking into account the local conditions, including primitive (by our standards) sanitation, food storage, and medical care? It would be interesting to see if the ancient Israelites “luckily” stumbled onto a pragmatic dietary code even though they couldn’t have known why it was advantageous at the time.

More generally, this is another example of how God’s statements were correct: If the Israelites had followed the Mosaic law “religiously,” then they would have enjoyed inconceivable prosperity and longevity. For example, as modern social scientists who understand the importance of property rights, imagine if every Israelite obeyed the prohibitions on theft and murder. Those seem too obvious to us to even bother thinking about, but it really would be amazing if a culture–even one surrounded by mortal enemies–consisted of people who really followed even just the 10 Commandments.

12 Oct 2018

Tom Woods on ReasonTV

Tom Woods 1 Comment

11 Oct 2018

The Nobel Laureates

David R. Henderson, Economics, Tyler Cowen 1 Comment

For those of you who are pure econ geeks, here are some links:

==> As usual, check out Tyler Cowen, on Paul Romer (make sure you read the thing about Romer saying World Bank reports couldn’t use “and” more than 2.6% of the words) and William Nordhaus.

==> Also as usual, the person whose take is closest to mine is David R. Henderson in the WSJ (paywall). He also gives a shout-out to me, if that nudges you to read it.

==> If you’re a grad student or above, this post by A Fine Theorem is pretty good for explaining the development of these fields. However, do you folks agree with his description of the classical economists and their view of growth? Seems a bit off, to me.

11 Oct 2018

Nordhaus vs. IPCC

All Posts, Climate Change, Energy, Shameless Self-Promotion 9 Comments

I’m going to write more on this in the coming weeks, but for now, let me point you to my reaction at IER to William Nordhaus winning the Nobel, on the same day the IPCC’s latest came out. An excerpt:

Now, any normal citizen reading the above two samples from our major media—who ostensibly are all up-to-speed on the “consensus” and would never dream of letting ideology get in the way of the empirical evidence—would be quite certain that William Nordhaus’ work supports the IPCC’s call to limit global warming to 1.5°C. And yet, as I’ll show in the next section, this is utterly false. Nordhaus’ work shows that such an ambitious climate change goal is far too aggressive.

07 Oct 2018

A Difference in Worldviews

Religious 12 Comments

At church today that pastor was introducing our series on the Book of Revelation. I was talking with my son afterwards, and I mentioned that–among other things–it dealt with “the end of the world,” quite literally. It details the Apocalypse.

That explains why so many movies are based on it: the end of the world is quite a gripping and dramatic topic.

But from the perspective of those who believe in Jesus, it is actually a relief. The suffering of this world finally comes to an end:

The New Heaven and the New Earth

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place[a] of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people,[b] and God himself will be with them as their God.[c] He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

05 Oct 2018

Can You Outsmart Steve Landsburg?

Steve Landsburg 1 Comment

Steve’s got a new book! I haven’t read the finished product, but I saw an early draft of the manuscript and this looks fun. If you like his blog you will love this book.

05 Oct 2018

Murphy vs. the Market Monetarists

Austrian School, Market Monetarism, Scott Sumner 55 Comments

It is a dirty rotten lie when people say I just go after Krugman. In my latest for Mises.org, I have a long critique of Scott Sumner and Kevin Erdmann’s narrative of the housing boom/bust. An excerpt:

On the face of it, Erdmann is trying to demonstrate that if we use an objective measure, then it seems there was nothing unusual—from a historical perspective—about the growth in the stock of housing in the mid-2000s. After all, even at its recent peak, the particular measure of “Housing Units per capita” was still lower than it had been in the late 1980s.

There are several responses I’ll give to this line of argument. First, who’s to say that the level in the late 1980s was correct? After all, there had been a devastating crash in the real estate market (and related crises in banking) following the “closing of loopholes” in the 1986 Tax Reform Act.

A second problem is that there is an admitted discontinuity in the data set, which is why Erdmann draws the dotted line in his graph. If we just start with the consistent data set beginning in 2000, then the chart is broadly consistent with the claim that there was an unsustainable surge in housing stock in the mid-2000s.

A third problem is that houses nowadays are much bigger than they were in the 1970s. Mark Perry reports that for new homes (of a certain category), living space per person has nearly doubled since 1973. A much more revealing statistic, then, would be something like, “Housing square footage per capita,” which I imagine would have been at all-time highs circa 2007 (though I couldn’t find the data needed to either back up or reject my hunch).

Finally and perhaps most serious, is the problem that Erdmann is playing central planner. We can’t look at aggregate statistics like “housing units per person” and decide whether “too much” or “too little” housing has been built in the country. If we could, then the socialist calculation problem would be a snap to solve.

04 Oct 2018

Keeping Up With the Murphys

Contra Krugman, Lara-Murphy Show, Shameless Self-Promotion 4 Comments

I am not sure how backlogged I am, so I’ll err on the side of posting some repeats:

==> Contra Krugman episodes 155, 156, 157, and 158.

==> Lara-Murphy Show episode 63 (“Why Learn Austrian Economics?”).

==> And my latest at mises.org: A collection of Krugman Kontradictions! Fun for the whole family.