10 Jun 2015


Potpourri, Tom Woods 19 Comments

==> Richard Ebeling doesn’t like trigger words.

==> Bryan Caplan catches an amazing piece on Paul Ehrlich.

==> Scott Sumner often seems incapable of understanding where his critics are coming from. In this post, for example, Sumner deals with Austan Goolsbee, who had posited a situation where real GDP growth is flat (because of a supply shock, presumably), and so the market monetarist response would have the Fed create 5% price inflation (to keep NGDP growing on target). Goolsbee then wondered: Would the markets really expect 5% price inflation to be a one-year thing, to go back to 2% the next year (when real growth recovered to 3%, if the market monetarists are right)? To answer him, Sumner pointed Goolsbee to the actual U.S. experience in 2008.

But no, that doesn’t really work. Goolsbee wasn’t asking, “Is it really possible for the market to quickly revise downward its expectations of price inflation?” He *knows* that can be done, for example if the Fed causes an awful economic crash–as everybody thinks Volcker did intentionally in the early 1980s, and as Scott Sumner and other market monetarists think Bernanke did unintentionally in 2007/08. What Goolsbee was getting at is that for the market monetarist Fed response to a temporary supply shock to work, it requires people in the market to go from experiencing 5% price inflation this year, to expecting 2% price inflation next year, all while the economy goes from high unemployment to full recovery. Does that really make sense? (Maybe it does or maybe it doesn’t, but Sumner doesn’t answer him by pointing to the worst economy since the Great Depression as proof that his system works…)


==> This Tom Woods interview with Doug Casey is a fun one.


==> Yet more evidence that Tyler Cowen and I think differently: He says that if he could go back in time and barter for an object to bring back to the present, and were interested purely in financial gain, that the “obvious” answer would be a painting by a famous painter. I would’ve thought the obvious answer would be to find the guy cleaning up after 13 men had just celebrated the Passover and said, “Hey, how much for that chalice?” If that fails (maybe because you can’t prove authenticity), then I would think you could buy stock certificates and make a lot more than what you’d get for a painting.

19 Responses to “Potpourri”

  1. Bob Murphy says:

    BTW I am aware that not everybody thinks the Last Supper was the Passover meal. See this article for example. Just pointing out the the Holy Grail seems to be the obvious thing to get with a time machine.

    • Z says:

      I don’t think most people think the Last Supper was the Passover meal. It was actually the ‘Passed over’ meal. At the Last Supper, Jesus was passed over for a cup of wine and slice of bread, as it was a sign that his time to leave was coming. The tradition of calling it the ‘Passed Over’ meal is separate from the Jewish holiday of Passover.

    • Grane Peer says:

      The ten commandments were written by the big guy himself, they would be worth more than a cup Jesus drank out of. Also a few litters of Jesus blood would command more cash than a cup.

      When you think about who would have the most money to spend on an ancient relic the Ark would be the most desirable. That is assuming you could sell it before the government takes it to be studied by Top Men.

      • Matt M says:

        The holy grail is supposed to provide immortality to those who drink from it, is it not? Presumably that’s worth more than cold hard cash.

        • Matt M says:

          Whoops, I didn’t notice the “purely for financial gain” qualifier.

          In that case I’d probably go with stock, just because that’s a sure thing and you don’t have any liquidity risk (or risk of the government or anyone else coming after you to obtain your significant historical object).

          That’s assuming you can only go back and forth once. If you can travel back and forth at your leisure, you could bring back the grail or whatever, see what you can get trying to sell it, and then go take it back and get something else instead if that proves to be too difficult.

          • Matt M says:

            Also (sorry for the chain replies… how about an edit feature, Bob?) stock would be very easy to obtain.

            Even IF you could travel back in time, how exactly do you propose to get your hands on *the most significant holy object in Judaism* I’m guessing they won’t just, like, hand it over to you…

        • Z says:

          Not really. At some point people would realize how meaningless life is and soon the holy grail would be more like a hot potato.

          • Grane Peer says:

            Are you sad, Z. You sound sad. Try to get some hugs today.

  2. Transformer says:

    I think I may be missing your point on Sumner.

    I take his statement “And during the third quarter of 2008 inflation expectations (TIPS spreads) fluctuated above and below 2%. ” to mean that as the fed was thought to be targeting 2% inflation, that is where TIPS spreads gravitated around , independently of where RGDP and NGDP were at. And by extension, if the fed was thought to be targeting 5% NGDP growth and RGDP dipped for a year, but was expected to recover the next year , then the market would just factor that in to inflation expectations.

    Can you clarify ?

    • E. Harding says:

      Yeah, I don’t get how Murphy on Goolsbee makes any sense.

      I’ve also been challenging excessive NGDP-centrism by pointing to examples in 2008 before 9/15, Indonesia in 1997, and Russia today.

  3. Major_Freedom says:

    I would barter for the location of the treasures of the Knights Templar.

  4. Major_Freedom says:

    I thought this was tragifunny.

    • anon says:

      Sounds like they’re just divorcing themselves from statist regulation and licensure of marriage. Which is something most of us could get behind if not for the legal ramifications on children.

      • Major_Freedom says:

        Sure, but still, you get robbed less when you’re married.

  5. anon says:

    Ehrlich is certainly one of the most interesting crackpots to circulate in the late 20th century. If you’ve ever seen him speak, he has the charisma of a passionate, well-trained evangelist with equal confidence and is capable of carrying a crowd even as an old man. It’s an impressive thing to see someone who’s spent his entire career being wrong just continuing to bulldoze ahead with unshakable certainty. I’d certainly enjoy having that sort of insane confidence, even if it did make me a blithering idiot.

    I suppose all that makes him ecology’s version of Hal Lindsey, though Lindsey at least had the foresight not to offer concrete dates with his prophetic interpretations.

  6. anon says:

    And on the subject of time travel, I’d have to think a sample of some rare DNA would be most valuable in both monetary and cultural terms. If you couldn’t authenticate a person like Siddhartha or Jesus (let’s not talk about Mohammed)–and I don’t see how you could, though taking a selfie with Jesus and John would be fun–at least snag a chunk of T-Rex flesh or something.

    • Harold says:

      Some commenters raise the point that your artefact would fail dating tests, since it would be “new”. Carbon dating tests for example. To get round this you would have to hide the artefact and retrieve it back in the present. You could scope out a location that had not been disturbed in the last 2000 years (or however long) before you went.

      Authentification would be a problem. If you got a painting it would be useful if you could stop off a few times on the way back to plant rumours of a “lost” van Gogh or whatever. Then when you “find” the missing painting in your attic it would match the old descriptions of the lost painting.

      Perhaps a complete set of the poems of Sappho would get you more cash. The bulk has been lost, yet her fame continues based on the snippets we have.

  7. Grane Peer says:

    Richard Ebeling is awesome but I rarely seek him out. Always appreciate when you link to his articles.

  8. john says:

    A time-traveled painting would be considered a fake because it wouldn’t pass aging tests.

    it would be impossible to prove the provenance of the holy grail.

    I must think on this further 🙂

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