19 Sep 2012


Economics, Pacifism, Politics, Potpourri, Rothbard, Shameless Self-Promotion 12 Comments

==> Here’s my American Conservative article from a week or two ago, talking about the myth of British austerity. If I do say so myself, my second chart (the third in the article) is a really good rebuttal to Krugman on this topic. I think it deals well with the “they have austerity relative to their growth path, Murphy you dolt!” type of response I normally get on this from Keynesians.

==> Here’s the ebook sample of the book I co-authored with Brian Lee Crowley for the Macdonald-Laurier Institute (MLI) in Canada. I was mostly response for summarizing the current US fiscal situation (which was worse than I realized, even according to official sources) and then showing how both the Bowles-Simpson and Ryan Plans are far less aggressive on paper than what the Canadian federal government did in practice in the late 1990s.

==> Here’s the AEI event launching the book for the US audience (I wasn’t present, it was a panel of Canadians talking about what they did), and here’s an op ed on the topic.

==> My podcast interview on the Index Investing Show.

==> Lew Rockwell being interviewed by Bob Wenzel. I liked in particular their discussion of Rothbard’s promotion of the work of Etienne de la Boetie. Rockwell argues that libertarians don’t need to use violence against the State, because that is the State’s tool. This dovetails with what I tell people about, “How do we get there?”: Clearly we need more liberty-lovers on our side, before any kind of revolution would be successful. So we need to educate, to get more people to actually believe that our ideas are better. That educational effort moves people from the statist side to the liberty side. But, even at the point when it looks like we’re strong enough to win a fight, we don’t need to actually fight. We just keep using education to convince more people to come over. As de la Boetie showed, the State only exists because of the power the great majority hand over to it. To topple an unjust regime, people merely need to withdraw their consent. No shots are necessary.

12 Responses to “Potpourri”

  1. John S says:

    I’m terribly sorry to link troll (perhaps it’s less bad in the Potpourri section?–scold me if it’s not, Bob), but I think this is just an awesome video by Lawrence White. This should be the model for Austrian concept videos–pleasing visuals, audio, and less than 5 min. Please share on Facebook/Twitter: http://mercatus.org/video/should-we-end-fed

  2. Daniel Hewitt says:

    Your second chart shows spending and deficits decreasing as percentages of GDP. Doesn’t that undermine your point?

  3. Tel says:

    No shots are necessary.

    Sun Tsu says that if you know yourself and you know your enemy then you never lose.

    After all, if you know you are going to lose, then don’t go out to fight. And if you know you are going to win then there’s no need to fight.

    From this perspective, every bloody war of history has merely been a misunderstanding. Somehow we ended up with a lot of misunderstandings.

  4. Christopher says:

    And if you know you are going to win then there’s no need to fight.

    Right… because…

    wait! what?

    • Tel says:


      First in the list. The point is that no one wants to be a loser (especially when getting splatted is on the menu) so any situation offering perfect forward knowledge implies there’s no need to go to the battlefield because there’s nothing to learn.

      The only time it makes sense to fight is when there’s some confusion over who the winner might be (i.e. this battle reveals new information not previously known).

      • Blackadder says:


        Shouldn’t it be “if they know you are going to win”? After all, you may know that you’ll win, but the other guy might be stupid and not realize it.

        • Tel says:

          I guess that would be one of those misunderstandings.

          Yeah, it does make sense to ensure the other guy understands what’s coming. In a practical sense, it can be very difficult to do that.

          Neville Chamberlain tried to explain to Hitler that Germany wouldn’t win in an all out war, but he was willing to sign a treaty and draw a clear line in the sand.

          Many people think Chamberlain was stupid to try this, but the other approach would have been worse… some sort of pre-emptive strike, maybe start the war a year earlier, but forever after Germany would he been able to claim it was the innocent victim. Russia would have come into the war late and cleaned up.

      • Christopher says:

        Nowhere in that list does it say that so I assume it’s your interpretation. In any event, it doesn’t make much sense.

        Your latter statement “if we all had perfect knowledge…” is as realistic as “if we all lived in wonderland, we could wear funny hats and play hide and seek in gigantic tea pots.” But unlike the true wonderland statement, yours is wrong too: If we all had perfect knowledge and were maximizing utility, it might make sense. But as soon as you have some guy with a funny mustache saying “if the Germans aren’t strong enough to defeat the world, they don’t deserve to live anyway”, perfect knowledge isn’t going to help much.

        But your first statement was:
        “And if you know you are going to win then there’s no need to fight.”
        This is even worse because it basically says, if there is some aggressor who could be stopped easily there is no need to do anything about it.

        Please note that I am not disputing Bob’s statement which is perfectly fine. What you are saying is entirely different, though.

        • Tel says:

          Yes perfect knowledge is unlikely, misunderstandings happen often.

          This is even worse because it basically says, if there is some aggressor who could be stopped easily there is no need to do anything about it.

          Suppose there are a bunch of kids on the train, acting tough, but you know you could beat them if it really came to that. So what should you do? I would say just let them talk tough.

          This business of pre-emptive war as a defence is just so much George W Bush bullshit.

  5. Blackadder says:


    The central thesis of your American Conservative piece is that if a country’s nominal spending doesn’t go down, then it ain’t austerity. Okay, fine. But then towards the end you say this:

    [I]n this article I show how Krugman literally had to explain away at least 9 different examples (!) of governments successfully engaging in fiscal austerity without wrecking their economies.

    In law school they tell you never to ask a question you don’t already know the answer to, but I’m going to do it anyway. In how many of these nine examples of successful “fiscal austerity” did nominal spending actually go down?

    • Christopher says:

      In law school they tell you never to ask a question you don’t already know the answer to

      Seems difficult to increase your knowledge that way. 🙂

      • Blackadder says:

        The practice of law is not about increasing your knowledge.

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