10 Dec 2017

The Superlative Jesus, Part 1

Religious 2 Comments

Frequent commenter Keshav left this interesting remark on a previous post:

Dan, what do you think about this quote by Robert Ingersoll?

“Why should we place Christ at the top and summit of the human race? Was he kinder, more forgiving, more self-sacrificing than Buddha? Was he wiser, did he meet death with more perfect calmness, than Socrates? Was he more patient, more charitable, than Epictetus? Was he a greater philosopher, a deeper thinker, than Epicurus? In what respect was he the superior of Zoroaster? Was he gentler than Lao-tsze, more universal than Confucius? Were his ideas of human rights and duties superior to those of Zeno? Did he express grander truths than Cicero? Was his mind subtler than Spinoza’s? Was his brain equal to Kepler’s or Newton’s? Was he grander in death – a sublimer martyr than Bruno? Was he in intelligence, in the force and beauty of expression, in breadth and scope of thought, in wealth of illustration, in aptness of comparison, in knowledge of the human brain and heart, of all passions, hopes and fears, the equal of Shakespeare, the greatest of the human race?”

This seems like a fun challenge. I’ll work through these in a series of posts. To help with the comparisons, I encourage you to flesh out Ingersoll’s challenge in the comments, by telling me exactly what he has in mind for each of these traits.

    Comparison #1

: “Was [Jesus] kinder, more forgiving, more self-sacrificing than Buddha?”

Jesus showed kindness to children, women, and lepers. He associated with prostitutes and tax collectors. When a woman was caught in adultery–a capital crime in the Mosaic law–Jesus said that he who was without sin should cast the first stone, then told her He didn’t condemn her (yet instructed her to sin no more). At the Last Supper (shortly before He is arrested). Jesus told His followers, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Jesus let Himself be taken into custody, knowing He would be tortured severely before being nailed to a cross, where He would hang for hours before suffocating. Even though He was sinless, He did this in order to reconcile a sinful man with a perfect God, providing a free gift of our salvation.

After these evil fools had beaten Him and nailed Him to the cross, Jesus hung there as they continued to mock Him. In the midst of that agony, Jesus still prayed, “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.”

I confess I’m not very familiar with Buddha’s life. I skimmed two online accounts of his life and didn’t see anything even in the same ZIP code as the above. (Indeed, I have a hard time even imagining how it would be possible to be more forgiving and self-sacrificing than Jesus.)

On this criterion, I think we easily say Jesus is the winner. It’s not even close.

09 Dec 2017

Be Like Aaron

Shameless Self-Promotion 2 Comments

Aaron Malek writes (and gives permission to reproduce):

Message: Hi Bob,

I enjoyed your talk today in Orlando. It was a great event. I didn’t get a chance to tell you in person, but I am really enjoying your book, Choice. I bought it at the Mises 35th event in NYC and didn’t pick it up right away because I am making my way through Man, Economy, and State. Recently, however, I picked it up and just started reading it to check out the beginning, and I didn’t want to put it down. It’s so interesting and well-written. You have a real talent for precision in your writing and lectures. My wife and I told you in NYC how much we’ve learned from your History of Economic Thought course. I’m about halfway through Choice right now and just wanted to tell you how much I like it. I think it will be a book that people will be reading for many years to come.

Best regards,


I think you should see if this guy has good taste. Here’s my book and here’s where you sign up for my History of Economic Thought courses.

09 Dec 2017

Video of Daniel Shaver Shooting

Police 1 Comment

I had resisted watching this at first, because I just couldn’t handle it. I will say that this isn’t “gory” but you do see the guy get shot, FYI.

I think the thing about this that outrages people is the buildup.

Some additional facts (please correct me if any of this is wrong):

==> The hotel desk had called 911 and said someone in Shaver’s room was pointing a gun at people out the window. This is what the police were responding to.

==> Shaver is an exterminator and apparently he had two pellet rifles (used for his job) in his hotel room, and had been playing with them around the window.

==> The cop who shot Shaver (Philip Brailsford) was not the one barking orders in this footage.

==> However, the cop who shot him *did* apparently have “You’re f*cked” carved into the dust cover of his AR-15, the weapon with which he shot Shaver. This fact was ruled as inadmissible evidence and the jury didn’t know it.

==> Apparently the reason the cops have the woman and then (unsuccessfully) Shaver crawl towards them, rather than just lying facedown, is that for all the cops knew, there were still armed person/people in the hotel room, and so it would have placed them in a more vulnerable position to advance and try to cuff the people in the open hallway.

07 Dec 2017

Come Hear Us in Orlando

Shameless Self-Promotion No Comments

Final plug: On Saturday December 9, I’ll be in Orlando with Jeff Deist talking about the future of liberty. Details here, and students you can get a scholarship at the link near the top of that blurb. (I *think* there are still open slots but I apologize if they tell you it’s full.)

05 Dec 2017

“Total Spending” Is Not the Same Thing as NGDP

Market Monetarism 19 Comments

Amongst my other problems with the market monetarist approach, is the frequent claim that they just want to maintain “total spending” or the “volume of the spending stream.”

No, that’s not correct. Nominal GDP is smaller than total expenditures each year.

I was reminded of this when I listened to Mark Skousen explain to Tom Woods why he (Skousen) thought economists needed to consider his alternative output measure, GO–Gross [Domestic] Output, which the BEA started tracking in 2014.

Incidentally, even Gross Output is a sliver of “total spending,” when we consider how much spending occurs each day in the financial markets.

I’m bringing this up (I think I’ve done it before) mostly just to remind ourselves of some basic facts about the real world, rather than parsing it according to our models. But I also think it cuts against one of Sumner’s ostensible virtues, since I think–though I admit I can’t find a good example* right now with just a little bit of Googling–that he is proud of NGDP being an objective, measurable thing “out there” versus real GDP which is an idea in our minds (since we need to deflate nominal spending by a price index to compute real GDP–it’s not directly observable).

* It’s not merely that I can’t find a good example, but I found this post where Sumner sounds like he’s saying almost the opposite. But I am 96% sure that Sumner has said that NGDP is something we can all observe, as opposed to real GDP which is more subjective by its very nature.

05 Dec 2017

Steve Landsburg Wants You to Go Forth and Multiply

Economics, Steve Landsburg No Comments

He gave the Hayek Lecture this year at IEA:

This guy’s got a one-track mind, amirite?

05 Dec 2017


Potpourri 5 Comments

==> An economist and the Pope walk into a finance class…

==> Wind and solar fans admit awkward fact about tax code.

==> My interview with David Gornoski concerned liberty and Christianity. It was not your typical discussion.

==> Richard Ebeling on neo-liberalism and then on communism.

==> Brad Birzer vs. the Senate.


03 Dec 2017

Heaven vs. Hell

Religious 26 Comments

I think I’ve touched on this before, but perhaps it’s worth revisiting…

An understandable stumbling block for people who encounter the Christian worldview is the notion that some external being is threatening to burn you for eternity if you don’t live up to his rules, even though you never agreed to them. What the hell?!

If we frame the situation like that, then yes it sounds grossly unfair, and God seems like a tyrant. I can understand why people write books like this (in the same way that I can “understand” why people rob banks and commit murder).

But even though (as we’ll see) I think these standard descriptions are perfectly accurate, I think there is a much more defensible explanation of the situation humans face. Here goes:

  1. Imagine for the sake of argument that there really is an afterlife.
  2. When you die, you encounter God. That is, there really is a Being who is the Author of everything.
  3. When you “meet God” for the first time, you suddenly see the entire history of humanity. You get it. You have the superhuman ability to understand how every event interlocks. You see the awesomely complex chain of events, starting in the beginning, and ceasing at the end of the world.
  4. Now, at this moment of infinite comprehension, you freely choose to react in one of two ways:

Choice A: You can be in absolute awe at the beauty of God’s construction. You see how He designed the very structure of reality to turn everything into the fulfillment of His loving plan for creation. (Fans of Adam Smith already have an inkling of how this works, with the “Invisible Hand” that turns our greed into service. But it’s more general than that, where “things just work out” in the long run, so that good triumphs.) You suddenly understand why the Holocaust happened, and why God allows infants to die of leukemia. In the presence of a Being who could invent a story so intricate and lovely, your only sensible response is to sing praises to Him with all your might, glorifying His accomplishment.

Choice B: You can be in absolute horror at the misery of your own actions on Earth. You had no idea what a horrible person you were, but with 20/20 hindsight and foresight, you can see the ripple of destruction you unleashed, going down through the generations, long after you died. Note, this isn’t God judging you, it’s you judging yourself. You feel shame, guilt, confusion, terror, and also FURY because IT’S NOT FAIR that you were plopped into this world with no say in the matter. You are OUTRAGED. How DARE God trick you into doing all of these horrible things, when if He’d just EXPLAINED IT BETTER. If you had realized how everything fit together, you would’ve preferred to NEVER HAVE BEEN BORN but this tyrant created you anyway AGAINST YOUR WILL. How DARE HE?!!?

Now, since the passage of time is something that happens in the material universe in order to make it comprehensible to our finite minds, note that your choice above is final. You choose how you want to react to the instant and infinite comprehension, and then you are effectively in that condition for eternity.

In case it hasn’t hit you over the head: We can summarize Choice A as “heaven” and Choice B as “hell.”

Finally, note that there are things you can do while you’re still alive to condition yourself to make one choice versus the other. If you consciously tell yourself that you deserve hell and that all things good flow from God, and that only through a loving and merciful God do we have any shot at salvation, then you aren’t going to be shocked when you see just how awful your life was. It will just be filling in the specifics; you already vaguely knew that you deserved hell and were no better than Charles Manson when compared to God’s righteousness. If you spend hours per week singing praises to God and reading about His power and mercy, then you are preparing yourself to pick Choice A. Yes, you will be dismayed to see just how bad your actions were, but you’ll know “it’s not about you” and you will forget about yourself when you finally experience the full majesty of the LORD as you’ve been pining for since you were a little kid.

On the other hand, if you don’t think you need a personal Savior, if you think you are leading a pretty decent life and that you’re basically a good person, and/or you’re not even sure if there’s a “higher power” out there…then you are going to react in the second way when you confront the truth in your shell of confident narcissism.