Showing posts from 2013

Christmas Thoughts and Libertarian Ideals

If you believe in small government (and small business), how do you defend those ideals when confronted with arguments that "government is necessary" to help those in need? (Put aside the idiotic "needs" from cell phones to high-speed Internet connections now supported by government.)

Here's my answer:

Do something for your community. If you don't want activist government, you need to support charitable non-governmental organizations. Unless you give time, energy, resources, and money, to various causes, then progressives are going to have a more valid argument that government is the preferred charity.

My success in life is possible only because other people voluntarily helped me achieve more. The list of supporters is long, beginning, with my parents, grandparents, and extended family. My wife, my in-laws, and many friends also helped me along the way. Then there are the strangers who donated to the universities I attended, making scholarships possible…

Unintended Consequences: Ending Filibuster Creates Tyranny of the Minority

United States Senate Seal (Photo credit: DonkeyHotey) "Senator Kaine espousing the radical, radical notion of majority rule. That is now on tape, sir," Chris Hayes said Thursday night (21 Nov 2013).

And he couldn't be more wrong.

In theory, the GOP could control the Senate with members elected from states representing less than 25 percent of the nation. The math is simple: win lots of small, rural states, and you have a majority in the Senate, while needing only a minority of American voters. 

Can Chris Hayes and numerous other pundits (and politicians) be so dense as to not recognize that a minority of voters nationally, but representing majorities in small aging states, could elect a GOP majority in the Senate? And no, this isn't some gerrymandering trick, since Senators are elected state-wide. It's simply a fact that the rural states could dictate policy for the majority… within two or three election cycles.

[See the MSNBC clip at: A Historic Day: Nuclear Op…

Thinkers in Disagreement: Admitting Flaws (and Worse)

English: Murray Rothbard in the 90's (Photo credit: Wikipedia) One of the questions I've been asked is how I can reconcile drawing bits and pieces of my personal views on economics and politics from individuals with disagreements. The answer is simple: we each create a personal philosophy drawing from experiences and those thoughts to which we are exposed. We embrace some ideas and reject others, even the ideas of someone we admire.

Some of the ideas and views expressed by thinkers I admire deserve to be rejected — that's true in economics, philosophy, and other disciplines.

I lean towards Austrian economic theories, but not without skepticism.

A name that comes up when I mention Austrian economics is Murray Rothbard. He's dismissed in the same way some dismiss Ayn Rand. (Rothbard quickly rejected Rand as a "cult" leader.)

"Rothbard was a fascist, racist, conservative." I'm paraphrasing, but that's the charge against him. I suppose I …

Backlog of Topics

People have asked why this blog isn't more active — after all, there isn't a lack of important fiscal and cultural topics to address. I do have a dozen or so posts started, but not finished, and even more ideas on my "to-do" list. The challenge has been time, as it often is.

A quick rundown of topics I still hope to address:

The Republican Party and Democratic Party repulse me. They each want to control my life, just in different ways. Neither represents freedom. They vilify each other, without understanding the value of compromise and leaving us alone.

The government shutdown was stupid. I've written before that we shouldn't have a "debt ceiling." It was an idiotic idea to solve a real problem: Congress can't seem to control itself. The debt ceiling is a "Stop me before I spend again!" plea for help… from one Congressional cohort to the next. The real solution? Pass annual appropriations on schedule, via regular order.


Robert J. Samuelson: The Minimum Wage Muddle

I dislike the notion of a "minimum wage" but recognize that it isn't about to be abolished. And, there is the sad reality that many companies don't recognize that employees are the value behind any business or non-profit. Organizations are their people.

My first problem with the national minimum wage is that any nationwide standard ignores the cost of living variations from region to region. Beyond that, we have issues of how to set a minimum wage, how to index it to inflation, and many other complicated issues. If you set rates by region, would you also have regional inflation indices? What about tiered minimums, based on age or other variables? There are already odd exemptions to the minimum wage, namely in the dining industry.

Should there be a full-time minimum wage apart from a part-time minimum? How many people working 40-hour weeks earn the minimum wage? If they do earn the minimum, for how long do they earn this before their first raises? How long before …

Rhetorical Economist, Economics Rhetorician

English: Image of Deirdre McCloskey "for Public Use" as stated on her website (Photo credit: Wikipedia)Deirdre McCloskey might be the "rhetorician" I've most enjoyed reading. She's decidedly libertarian, often addressing the supposed "moral failings" of the philosophy. Though her degrees are in economics (Harvard grad, but we forgive her), she understands rhetoric better than many elite professors in that discipline. Her dry wit alone makes her books worth the time to read.

If I could suggest some books, as I do for my students:
McCloskey, Deirdre N. If You're So Smart: The Narrative of Economic Expertise. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990. (ISBN: 0226556719)McCloskey, Deirdre N. The Rhetoric of Economics (Rhetoric of the Human Sciences). Madison, Wis.: University of Wisconsin Press, 1998. (ISBN: 0299158144)and… McCloskey, Deirdre N. Economical Writing. Long Grove, Ill.: Waveland, 1999. (O…

Hating Capitalism… Because It's Easy to Hate?

The following was posted to the comments section of a very old blog post:
The Top Ten Reasons I Hate Capitalism:

10: Kim Kardashian
9: Vast economic inequality destroys democracy
8: Survival of the fittest (I'm definitely not among the fittest)
7: Donald Trump
6: The Attitude of the Fittest toward the Unfit
5: Reality TV
4: Walmart
3: Mark Zuckerberg
2: It appeals to the worst aspects of human nature
And the #1 reason I hate capitalism: I am not Bill Gates!


Perhaps that's what it comes down to. That's what the conservatives and defenders of Capitalism would have us believe.

Or perhaps there is just something inherently unfair and unjust about it. Yes, it is easy to dislike some of the wealthy in our supposedly capitalist nation. And the easy response is that the United States is not a purely capitalist nation, certainly not as Adam Smith envisioned capitalism and not in the sense that the Austrian economists believed in and promoted either a minimally-regulated free…

Econ Primer: Starting Soon with a Purpose

Late this spring, I mentioned that I was hoping to post articles on basic economic concepts. As it turns out, this idea will serve a purpose: I'll be teaching a writing course within the economics degree programs at a leading university business school. When invited to teach at a top university, one with a gallery dedicated to its Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences honorees, there's a fair amount of humility required. My doctoral research is in the field of how we communicate technical ideas, such as economic theories. Now, I have to demonstrate to some of the best students in the world that I know that on which I lecture.

Conveying economic ideas is fraught with challenges. Even when you present basic ideas as neutrally as possible, someone will find bias in your words. Of course there is "bias" involved even when deciding on which topics to write. Why is one topic, one issue, important within economics? Once you select a topic, choosing the experts to quote…

Libertarian Socialism: One of Many Libertarian Theories

In my recent defenses of "libertarianism" and classical liberalism, I have stressed that classical liberalism cannot be reduced to the economics of market capitalism. Although I happen to embrace Austrian economic theories and basic capitalism, I do not assume that capitalism is the only way to promote freedom. Corporatism and crony capitalism certainly do not promote or protect freedom.

While personal freedom and individual sovereignty delineate libertarian philosophical principles, there is no single "right" way to pursue these aims. I happen to believe that Austrian economists were more likely to be correct about social and political issues than many other thinkers, but if I don't consider other views then I might overlook an even better path towards freedom.

Libertarian socialism is a utopian philosophy, certainly, but it should be considered when we ask, "What systems promote individual freedom?" This raises questions about what is "freed…

The Astonishing Collapse of Work In America

The following article is simply depressing:
The Astonishing Collapse of Work In America
Nicholas Eberstadt holds the Henry Wendt Chair in Political Economy at the American Enterprise Institute and is the author of A Nation of Takers: America's Entitlement Epidemic (2012). Today just under 12 million men and women are officially classified as unemployed, roughly twice as many as in early 2000. But if our national employment ratio today were as high as in early 2000, when this measure reached its zenith, about 15 million more Americans would be working today. And remember: over 10 million of today's men and women with jobs are working fewer hours than they want to-well over twice as many as in early 2000. When we look at the jobs problem this way, we see it is vastly bigger than the official unemployment rate implies. How bad is "real" unemployment and underemployment? Compare today to the not-so-distant past, when a much higher percentage of adults worked.
By these fi…

Taxes Way Up… Spending Down, Slightly

Over at Reason, Nick Gillespie offers his usual common sense supported by statistics.
What Austerity Looks Like in 2013: Taxes Up 14%, Spending Down 4% - Hit & Run :  As we've noted here before, there's good austerity and bad austerity. The good (read: effective at reducing debt-to-GDP ratios and not crashing an economy) focuses on cutting spending, liberalizing labor laws, reforming entitlements, and either keeping taxes flat or reducing their drag on economic activity. The bad (read: what has generally been tried in Europe over the past few years) involves raising taxes while increasing spending or barely trimming it. That one-two punch stretches out recovery by diverting money and decision-making out of the private sector where it's more likely to benefit more people. All austerity is not created equal and it's clear that austerity which relies on tax hikes more than spending cuts almost always comes a cropper. That's not to say that cutting spen…

It's not All About the Money

Profit. Wealth. Return. "Success."

The most troubling trend among "libertarian" organizations and vocal "proponents" of libertarianism and classical liberalism is a near-worship of money and its accumulation.

Too many supposed libertarians confuse "the market" with freedom and liberty. They assume that the market, either the messed-up rigged marketplace we have today or a mythical laissez-faire market, is the foundation of classical liberalism. Usually, these are politicians trying to argue for an ethical system grounded in competitive market theory, or members of think tanks with a vested interest in conflating freedom with markets.

The truth is simple: freedom is about the sovereignty of the self. This freedom to make good or bad choices, the right to be whatever you wish to be, does include the potential to market your ideas and creations, but there is no mandate to participate in a capitalist economy (or crony capitalist or corporatist …