17 Mar 2020

Bob Murphy Show ep. 109: Larry Reed on Maintaining Hope and Speaking Truth to Power

Bob Murphy Show 1 Comment

Here’s the audio, and video below:

One Response to “Bob Murphy Show ep. 109: Larry Reed on Maintaining Hope and Speaking Truth to Power”

  1. Paul says:

    Dear Bob,

    This podcast episode already feels anachronistic in the sense that in this moment it feels to me that the U.S. is at a juncture so critical that anyone with an appreciation of any measure of a free society should halt every non-self-preservation activity and work to get some sort of message out that people will hear.

    One thing I see occurring is very little “compared-to-what” analyses, not even on the libertarian outlets I visit and listen to. It seems as if where the libertarian outlets are discussing current events, it’s either COVID-19, its treatments and its expected effects/non-effects on the health of individuals and populations, or separately that financial markets are crumbling no matter what.

    I wish these things would be discussed together under an analysis along the lines of:

    Is there anything worse for the elderly, free societies, and human civilization than to shut down the economy?

    And include considerations such as:

    Are there any businesses that can be considered “essential”?

    Note that both of those questions properly conform to Betteridge’s Law of Headlines (at least as far as my current understanding of economics goes).

    Also, what do the initial stages of socialism, fascism, communism, totalitarianism look like?

    Do they look like “billionaire donates to keep X [going/afloat]” or “large establishment company establishes new [unprofitable] division to provide X”? Because that is going on right now, which could be interpreted as large players making sure they are in with the regime while simultaneously burning through capital.

    At local levels, I see proclamations of donating money to restaurants and this is promoted as supporting the community instead of burning through yet more capital. And I haven’t seen anyone mention car washes, chimney sweeps, janitorial firms, or fence installers, but still there is the additional burning through capital without attendant capital formation activities.

    And I see COVID-19 as the stated cause instead of stating government action as the cause when appropriate (e.g., government action doesn’t directly make people ill and COVID-19 doesn’t make store shelves empty).

    I recommend everyone open up Google Maps on their own towns, switch to satellite view, and find the industrial zones of the town you live in. You can spot them because they are usually complexes of rectangular buildings with small-ish parking lots when compared to retail outlets. Take a look at how many of these businesses are probably “non-essential” and try to imagine how many people are burning through capital. Assuming all of these open back up, how much profit will they have to make to get back on course? How many have a substantial number of fixed costs which cannot be offset during a shutdown? And how many acres of car lots do you see? Who, in any occupation, is going to be buying a new vehicle? What is the cost of all that inventory? What about other inventory in the various warehouses? Who buys that? Are margins going to be going up or down? What is going to happen to their vendors? Will prices go up while margins go down? Will margins go negative while prices shoot for the moon? How many independent hair and nail salons do you see? Knick-knack retailers, picture frame shops, antique dealers, print shops, martial arts academies, patio stores, and furniture stores?

    Annual double-digit increases in healthcare costs, commonly provided through “insurance”, have been the norm, at least here in California. What are those increases going to look like when the number of people paying for healthcare from productive activities is reduced by 5%? 10%? 20%? If healthcare employers can no longer afford to pay their bills, will the government require the workers to continue going into work? Suppliers to continue delivery?

    A question that seems to be a step beyond my current understanding of economics is:

    Aside from the profit to shareholders, wages to employees, expenses paid to vendors, and revenue provided by customers, what is the result of not producing the unseen? If a car wash is closed, then there are just the people who either now wash their own car or just drive around in a dirty car. BFD. So, what?

    Is it truly the task of state militias to hand out food? What happens when they become the only ones with food? What happens when they establish checkpoints at freeway on-ramps and off-ramps, to make sure nobody is hoarding food or price gouging?

    Does the establishment of a totalitarian society require orders that citizens not group together?

    What major temporary government program has ever been relaxed? How long ago was that?

    Note the reaction of most people and industry leaders. They are publishing and posting about how to conform to the current conditions. How to work from home more efficiently. How to restructure your business to have employees work from home. How to acquire new customers through online meetings. These are all people figuring out how to acquiesce to the establishment of a totalitarian society. How to persist under martial law. How to pretend everyone can exist within such an economy without mass starvation.

    Widely circulated reports suggest everyone should stay home and watch Netflix.

    Watermelons are reporting on the benefits to the environment provided by Corona Virus.

    Developers and governments are creating additional tracking apps for the stated purpose of preventing people from spreading something. What if that something is “black market” medical supplies? Or liberty?

    I also want to suggest a carefully considered message to future generations. When I look at comments across popular outlets and discussion sites, I see the nature of the comments provided by anyone attempting rational discourse on things like crashing economy and destruction of currency, etc., are dismissed, and this is in line with conversations I have with people IRL. (I just had an entire discussion removed in a very popular forum where I was dispassionately arguing that gold has uses – literally, just that thesis.) I tend to think the people doing the dismissing are being very rational because so many of the core liberty believers have been predicting doom and gloom (you and yours truly, included) that we genuinely created a boy who cried wolf scenario. With hind-sight being 20/20, would it have been better to completely never attempt to make time-based predictions? Only discuss ramifications in a flatly non-time-predictive manner? To always be the most brutally harsh critic-cum-harasser every time someone on our “side” attempted to make a time-based prediction?

    Tom Woods mentioned on a recent podcast that he is “here to the bitter end”. What if Mises had made the same commitment, and instead of the life he lived, went up a smokestack?

    In an alternate universe, I’m in my garage wrenching on something while this BMS episode plays in the background. I occasionally pause to meditate on some abstract concept mentioned relating to the formation of the universe and the current evolution of thought.

    In the actual universe, it seems like the immediate events are of a nature that has never been seen in the U.S., except perhaps with war under Lincoln, and I’m finding it hard to even get through the podcast introduction and the only thing I want to do in the garage is prepare for Armageddon.

    I have never felt this way, not with the two previous crashes – not even close. I am old enough to have been an adult and well into the workforce in the first and a Ron Paul for president supporter as the second began in 2007.

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