31 Oct 2017

Two Pacifists Fight on Twitter

Religious 12 Comments

I screenshotted (screenshot?) it because I think the embed feature would screw up the order, but this was a pretty big gulf in our worldviews:

Here’s Bryan’s post.

30 Oct 2017

Confused by the Confusion

Economics, Krugman, Steve Landsburg 4 Comments

I’ve been busy with traveling (including the super duper awesome Contra Cruise II), and so I am just now catching up on all of the controversy surrounding the economics of a corporate income tax cut. As you can imagine, some conservative/libertarian economists said good things about it, and then DeLong and Krugman pointed out that the assumptions used in these blog posts were false, and furthermore said (quite explicitly) that only their hackery could have led such smart economists to say such stupid things.

But beyond that stuff (which goes without saying), there is something else weird going on here. After Steve Landsburg tried to give the intuition for a result that surprised Mankiw (when he–Mankiw–derived it), I wrote in the comments to Steve’s post:

Steve,

I’m a little bit confused by all of this. And I *don’t* mean by the competing/complementary blog posts, rather, I mean that leading economists seem like they’ve just been presented with the notion of a corporate tax cut for the first time 3 weeks ago. How is it that big shots are arguing over something so basic?

I feel like one of the bestselling textbook physicists just wrote a post saying, “Wow, it turns out, under certain assumptions (such as no air friction), that the mass of an object has nothing to do with its acceleration near the earth’s surface!”

Then another physicist chimes in on his blog, “I spent all morning trying to understand this result, but I think I see it now…”

I hope you understand, I’m not criticizing you or Mankiw. *I* hadn’t thought of any of this stuff before. But am I missing something? How can it be that the economics profession is grappling with the notion of, “How should we even conceptualize a corporate income tax cut?”

I really think mainstream economists are fooling themselves when they imagine that they are sitting atop a body of solid empirical knowledge. Look: Two teams of economists can look at LITERALLY THE SAME RECENT DATA regarding Seattle’s minimum wage, yet reach opposite conclusions–and neither team is lying!

Imagine President Trump said he wanted to send a man to Mars. And then leading rocket engineers started arguing on their blogs about whether you should point the rocket toward Mars or away from it. That is almost where we are, when it comes to economists arguing about the corporate tax right now.

Sure, you can say, “Oh it’s all political,” but the rocket scientists trying to get funding for their plan wouldn’t be able to say rocket thrust goes in the wrong direction.

All of this tells me that Ludwig von Mises was right when he argued that economic science is a logical, deductive science, and that aping physics was foolish.

29 Oct 2017

Once you get to know Him…

Religious 5 Comments

In the movies and also in real life, there is a phenomenon where you might think a guy is a jerk/mean/etc., but then you learn more about him and see a different side. (A recent example for me was the Woody Harrelson movie “Wilson.”) Although I think the sentiment is often used in an annoying way to cover up for somebody who really is a jerk, you might hear something like, “Oh I understand why people hate him, but once you get to know him like I do, you’d learn he’s really generous and would do anything for his friends…”

It occurred to me that this is the position Christians are in with respect to the God of the Bible. Sure, in the beginning of the story, He’s doing “crazy” things like flooding the whole world out of anger. But then later you see that He’s willing to send His only Son to be tortured to death, in order to save the people He loves.

And in their own lives, Christians would attest that God has done incredible acts of love and mercy and faithfulness. In my own life, things that originally seemed to be gross injustices were actually–I now realize–necessary for my development. The only things in my past I’d want to change were my own failings, not the bad things that “God allowed to happen to me.”

I realize this will likely not count for much for readers who think we’re talking about a fictitious being, but I’ll say it for the record: You would love and trust the God of the Bible if you knew Him like I do.

26 Oct 2017

Potpourri

Potpourri 3 Comments

==> Even though the Fed has merely been rolling over its balance sheet since the fall of 2014, the ECB continues to buy bonds, recently announcing only that it is cutting the size of its monthly purchases (from the current 60 billion down to 30 billion euros) as of this coming January.

==> The provocative but well-documented speech that Joe Salerno gave at the 35th anniversary of the Mises Institute (recently celebrated in NYC), where he pushes back against the claim that Rothbard dropped out of serious economics by the 1970s and just focused on politics/ideology.

==> A very frank essay by Richard Ebeling (my teacher when I was a student at Hillsdale College), in which he acknowledges the willingness of classical liberal heroes (such as Nock and Mencken) to speak out against the institutionalized racism of their day, and yet (Ebeling argues) they didn’t burn with the same moral fervor as the abolitionists had done. Ebeling concludes:

As a consequence, the debates and discussions concerning race, tolerance and the proper institutional order of a free society in an America whose history has been inseparable from the divide between blacks and whites was left almost by default to opponents of racism on the political “left.”

Arguments concerning freedom of association in markets and personal relationships surrounding race problems in America were all predominantly analyzed through the ideological prism of those who considered political paternalism and coercive reform as the only or best avenues leading to racial justice, peace and harmony.

This has now been mutating into the race-based “identity politics” of contemporary America that really threatens a return to a biologically determined classification of individuals, and the “rewards” or “punishments” to be bestowed on all based on the collectivist group category to which the powerless individual has been assigned by ideologically driven “progressive” social engineers.

Friends of freedom, therefore, in my view, must develop ways of breathing life into the philosophy and politics of individual liberty that takes back the moral passion and principled defense of freedom of association on racial issues with the same sense of right and justice with which the classical liberal enemies of slavery brought down that earlier institutionalized system of human bondage. Otherwise, we shall continue our journey on the ideological train of race-based collectivist government planning.

25 Oct 2017

LIVE FROM THE CONTRA CRUISE: Contra Krugman Episode 109

Contra Krugman, Economics No Comments

This was a good one. Tom and I really get into the nuts and bolts of different approaches to economics. We springboard from Krugman’s discussion of “rationality” in economics, spurred by the Nobel going to Richard Thaler.

24 Oct 2017

Vienna vs. Venus

Economics 3 Comments

I can’t believe I didn’t think of that title originally…

Anyway, years ago for Mises.org I wrote, “Venus Needs Some Austrians,” saying that the idea of “resource-based economy” (RBE)–as opposed to a money-based economy–and the “Venus project” needed the benefit of Mises’ arguments about calculation.

Kevin Tilsner of Zeitgeist Philadelphia Radio has been trying for a year (?!) to get me on his show, to debate the article. (He is a supporter of an RBE.)

We finally had our debate. It was extremely cordial, and we actually spent most of the time agreeing with each other. But don’t worry, in the last 15 minutes or so I activated my Mises Ring and dropped some truth bombs.

Unfortunately I was on my phone so the audio isn’t great, but if you want to give it a chance, I think it ended up being a very unorthodox yet fundamental discussion.

Here is the direct mp3 link, and here is the main show page.

Also, in the interview Tilsner alludes to Peter Joseph’s response to Mises’ calculation argument. Here is that talk, though I haven’t listened to it.

Finally, apparently Stefan Molyneux debated Peter Joseph on this stuff.

23 Oct 2017

Tom and Bob on Dave Smith’s “Part of the Problem”

Shameless Self-Promotion, Tom Woods No Comments

Taped on location on the Contra Cruise 2017.

23 Oct 2017

The Internal Consistency of the Story of Jonah

Religious 4 Comments

(I just got back from the Contra Cruise so I’ll do my “Sunday post” today…)

Last night my son and I read the following (Matthew 16: 1-4):

16 The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him to show them a sign from heaven.

2 He replied, “When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ 3 and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.[a] 4 A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.” Jesus then left them and went away. [Bold added.]

We had a really good discussion that hit the following points:

==> In the excerpt above, Jesus isn’t snapping at them because they are asking for a sign. After all, Thomas–who had seen Jesus raise others from the dead and who had heard Jesus predict His own death and resurrection–famously doubted the testimony of his friends, and said he wouldn’t believe Jesus had come back until he personally inspected His wounds. Jesus didn’t show up and rebuke him, but instead let him inspect His wounds.

==> Rather, Jesus is rebuking the Pharisees and Sadducees because they are hypocrites. They aren’t sincerely asking for a sign, in order to help quell their (understandable) disbelief. Jesus performed many signs of which they were aware, and they said He was violating the Sabbath (if He healed someone on the day of rest), even setting up a “trap” for Him on this score, and on another occasion they argued that He was able to cast out demons because He himself was in league with the devil.

==> The “sign of Jonah” that He will give the wicked generation of hypocritical cynics is that He will be dead inside the earth for 3 days before miraculously returning, just as Jonah was dead (either literally or effectively) inside the whale (/fish) for 3 days before miraculously returning. (Jesus explains the metaphor earlier in the gospel of Matthew.)

==> Of course God could make Jonah survive in the center of the sun for 3 days if He wanted, but I personally think it’s more elegant to imagine that Jonah was swallowed by a whale (not fish) and didn’t go into its belly, but was hanging out in its mouth a la Pinocchio, getting enough oxygen because the mammal had to keep surfacing to breathe. Imagine how absolutely terrifying that would be, in pitch black for most of the time, knowing you are either going to be swallowed and digested, or die of thirst while floating in salt water. It would be such a dramatic ordeal that after emerging unscathed, a coward like Jonah would have been transformed into someone who could deliver such a scathing message that the entire city of Ninevah would repent of its sins.