29 Sep 2018


Potpourri 8 Comments

==> After a long hiatus, I’ve resumed blogging at Lara-Murphy.com.

==> JP Koning joins the ranks of the nutjobs (including me) who think 100% reserve banking is a perfectly defensible thing. An excerpt:

“But times have changed. Zero-maturity reserves, which originally comprised precious-metal coins, evolved to a far-less-cumbersome medium: paper. And now they are digitized, existing as mere bits on a central bank’s ledger. In digital form, reserves do not incur any storage costs. And unlike gold coins or cash held in a vault, they do not need to be insured. So one major impediment to full-reserve banking — the cost of holding physical zero-maturity instruments — has been dramatically reduced.”

==> Check out how much a NYT article on Kavanaugh was edited (I’m linking to one intermediate batch of changes) even though the actual article at the link doesn’t give any whiff that it had been changed since original publication. Does anybody know, is this standard? I learned of this website (which tracks story edits) on Twitter, by someone claiming that this was pretty extreme.

==> Joseph Newhard has published another article on private military defense. I haven’t read it yet, but it looks like it’s at least partially a critique of my stuff.

==> This is old news at this point, but the relevant tabs were on my laptop computer and I kept forgetting to blog this… Anyway, back when Alex Jones got booted off of big social media platforms, Jonah Goldberg wrote a piece titled, “When the Tide Comes In.” He celebrated National Review’s history of excommunicating (his word) irresponsible people from the Right, and remembers fondly “Buckley’s decision to defenestrate the John Birch Society.”

In this piece, Goldberg goes so far as to say that Candace Owens should be banned from Fox News, not for anything she has said or any position she has held, but because she had previously appeared on Alex Jones’ show.

Now this is annoying for two reasons. First is the utter hypocrisy. It’s true, Goldberg alludes to the fact that NR’s past isn’t perfect, but he doesn’t give any specifics. Fortunately, Paul Krugman is under no compulsion to whitewash NR’s past. When I was reading his book Conscience of a Liberal (for a podcast interview I linked a month or so ago), I was surprised to read this quotation Krugman provided from a 1957 NR editorial: “The central question that emerges…is whether the White community in the South is entitled to take such measures as are necessary to prevail, politically and culturally, in areas in which it does not predominate numerically? The sobering answer is Yes–the White community is so entitled because, for the time being, it is the advanced race…” (I found another person quoting it here, if you want reassurance that Krugman isn’t making it up.)

Also in 1957, William Buckley apparently wrote in his “Letter from Spain” that “General Franco is an authentic national hero.”

But what’s even more annoying than the historical hypocrisy, is the present-day hypocrisy in real-time. I should have taken a screenshot at the time (and now the moment is lost), but when I first read Goldberg’s article, in the right column, showcasing other NR pieces, was another Jonah Goldberg article titled, “Kevin Williamson, Thought Criminal.”

I’m sorry folks, but I have to call a foul on that one. You don’t get to wag your finger at Candace Owens for appearing on Alex Jones’ show and then turn around and condemn the left for policing thoughts. Here is Goldberg’s argument about what happened to Kevin Williamson (who, you may recall, tweeted “sardonically” [Goldberg’s term] that women who got abortions should be hanged):

I could go on for another 2,000 words about all of the double standards I have in mind. But let’s stick with the subject at hand: Kevin Williamson’s views on abortion put him outside the mainstream. And he was fired from The Atlantic merely for refusing to recant them.

Meanwhile, extreme views on the left are simply hot takes or even signs of genius. Take the philosopher Peter Singer. He has at least as extreme views on a host of issues, and he is feted and celebrated for them. He is the author of the Encyclopedia Britannica’s entry on “Ethics.” He holds an endowed chair at Princeton. He writes regularly for leading publications. And he argues that sometimes it’s okay to kill babies, as in his essay “Killing Babies Isn’t Always Wrong.” “Newborn human babies,” he writes, “have no sense of their own existence over time. So killing a newborn baby is never equivalent to killing a person, that is, a being who wants to go on living.” He cutely asks whether people should cease to exist. (He ultimately and grudgingly answers “No.”) Oh, he also argues in favor of bestiality.

And he’s been profiled favorably in the pages of The Atlantic.

And that’s okay. I can’t stand his utilitarian logic-chopping and nihilistic view of humanity, but at least going by Nock’s Ark of the Covenant rules, he should be free to make his arguments anywhere willing editors want to publish them. We have a right to be wrong.

But that’s not the point: Singer’s work does not render him anathema in elite circles, it earns awards, praise, and celebration for its ruthless consistency and edgy provocation. He is not fired for what he writes never mind what he thinks. I have no doubt some people don’t think this is a perfect example of a double standard, and I could come up with some objections to it myself. But if you can’t see why some people — fellow American citizens — see it as a glaring double standard, you are part of the problem.

To be clear, in the block quotation above, I put in the bold, but the italics are Goldberg’s.

So, in light of the two pieces: On Jonah Goldberg’s moral scale, it is a qualitatively worse sin to appear on Alex Jones’ show, than to argue in print that “Killing Babies Isn’t Always Wrong,” and to endorse bestiality.

I too can perceive some double standards and people who are part of the problem…

8 Responses to “Potpourri”

  1. Transformer says:

    I liked the JP Koning post. He is consistently awesome in the blogosphere.

    But as two of the reason he gives for the new viability of FRB are:

    – Basing FRB on central bank fiat money rather than precious metals makes holding the 100% reserve much cheaper

    – Central Banks offering interest on reserves provides a viable business model for FRB

    I am not convinced that Rothbard would be on board

    • Transformer says:

      oops, substitute 100% reserve for FRB (too much Chardonnay too early:)).

  2. Tel says:

    Consider the payments function. What would a bank look like if it decided to focus solely on facilitating payments? Such a stripped-down bank would allow depositors to make debit-card payments at the point of sale, wire funds, and engage in peer-to-peer payments. But it wouldn’t provide loans or overdrafts, among other services.

    You mean like, PayPal?

  3. Tel says:

    Peter Schiff’s “Gold Money” venture is a combination of payments system and wealth storage with a claim to be 100% reserve. In Australia you get hit with Capital Gains Tax if your non-physical gold goes up in nominal value, so it kind of sucks, but that’s because they don’t want you to avoid paying the seigniorage tax (a.k.a the inflation tax). You know, government backed cartel and all that.

    If you primarily use it as a payments system and don’t mind a bit of CGT then “Gold Money” is not so far different to PayPal. For that matter crypto coins can be seen as a payment system, and of course you have some capability to move from one to the other. None of this is outlandish or amazing, it’s a payments service using Internet technology.

    I should point out that it still comes down to who you choose to trust, and in all situations you can get hacked and lose your money to some Ukrainian teenager.

  4. Harold says:

    On the editing of te NYT article. It seems the first, struck out version was written before the Fox interview aired and the edited version was after it aired. The extent of the editing is not quite as extreme as the strike-out suggests, for example the first paragraph is:

    WASHINGTON — Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, facing mounting allegations of sexual impropriety and growing doubts over his confirmation to the Supreme Court, vowed on Monday to fight the “smears,” saying he will not withdraw his nomination.

    WASHINGTON — Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, facing new allegations of sexual impropriety and growing doubts over his confirmation to the Supreme Court, mounted an aggressive defense of himself on Monday, vowing to fight the “smears” and declaring that he will not withdraw his nomination

    There are a lot of overlaps of the two articles, but it would perhaps have made more sense to simply write another one after the broadcast.

    I don’t know if this is usual or not, but they do have to up-date the story as events happen. Why they chose to update the existing one rather than write another I don’t know, but it does not appear sinister.

  5. guest says:

    “Zero-maturity reserves, which originally comprised precious-metal coins, evolved to a far-less-cumbersome medium: paper. And now they are digitized, existing as mere bits on a central bank’s ledger. In digital form, reserves do not incur any storage costs. And unlike gold coins or cash held in a vault, they do not need to be insured.”


    In digital “form” (or even paper, for that matter) it cannot convey subjective values for the goods sold against the goods that are eventually bought (you sell a good or service in order to, eventually, buy other goods and services).

    If paper was valuable as money, I could just print, or write large numbers on, paper and hand it to you in trade. That you won’t accept my paper in trade proves that *it’s not the paper you’re valuing*. In the case of the FRN, it trades in a chain of speculative valuations until it gets to the people whose wealth is being syphoned by it.

    If digits were valuable as money, I could copy anything you use as digital money and hand it back to you. That you won’t accept my copied digits proves that *it’s not the digits you’re valuing*. In the case of bitcoins, they trade in a chain of speculative valuations (someone pulled the value “pizza” out of their butt) until it gets to the people whose wealth is being syphoned by it (new speculators).

    And, to the extent that bitcoins are exchanged right away for FRNs, bitcoins are riding the FRN bubble.

    100% reserve banking = Yes!

    Banking based on non-commodity “money” (funny money) such as FRNs and bitcoins – No!; But people should be allowed to fail in their speculation.

    • Harold says:

      “If digits were valuable as money…” I don’t see anything in the quote you provide that says digits per se are valuable.

      “I could copy anything you use as digital money and hand it back to you.”

      The thing that gives certain things (gold, paper notes, particular digits) with value is that they cannot be copied.

      “If paper was valuable as money,”

      I don’t think anyone said that the value of paper currency was in the paper, which is universally accepted as almost worthless.

      • guest says:


        It’s the view of some Austrians – Bob Murphy, Rothbard and possibly (not certain) Mises – that as long as a currency, at one point in time, derived its monetary value from its use-value, that later on the use-value could vanish and the currency could still serve the function of a medium of exchange.

        That is why they believe that unbacked paper and digits can be money.

        They don’t see that if the only reason people are using a money is because of what they believe another person will exchange for it, then that means that the money would have to be exchanging on a circular and speculative basis. A closed system of speculation.

        But since that is logically impossible (as Rothbard correctly noted just before he commited this very fallacy), in practice what this would have to mean is that someone is having their wealth transfered from them in a Ponzi scheme-like fashion to allow later speculators to benefit from earlier ones, with diminishing returns.

        You don’t see anything in the quote I provided that says such and such, but stick around because this is precisely what they believe.

        Way back in the day, the Austrian school took a PR hit because, although they recognized fiduciary media as a cause of the business cycle, they had missed that fractional reserve lending was functionally equivalent and they lost credibility when a crash came that their then current understanding couldn’t explain. And they lacked credibility in the mind of others for a long time.

        I believe their position on unbacked currency will result in a similar PR disaster, and I’m trying to head that off against the day that Keynesians, et al, will be tempted to say “I told you so”.

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