Back from Texas: On the Coastal Mindset

Back from Texas: On the Coastal Mindset

05/12/2018Ilana Mercer

I recently traveled to Texas to speak about South Africa, at the Free Speech Forum of  the Texas A & M University.

To travel from the Pacific Northwest all the way to College Station, Texas, without experiencing more of the "Lone Star State" was not an option.

So, after driving from Austin eastward to College Station (where I was hosted by two exceptional young, Southern gentlemen), I headed south-west to San Antonio. There I lingered long enough to conclude:

The Republic of Texas is a civilization apart.

Ordinary Texans—from my brief travels—tend to be sunny, kind and warmhearted. Not once did I encounter rude on my Texas junket.

On the Pacific Coast, however, kindness and congeniality don't come naturally. Washington-State statists are generally aloof, opprobrious, insular. And, frankly, dour.

Southern historian Dr. Clyde N. Wilson tells of receiving "a package containing a chamber pot labeled 'Robert E. Lee's Soup Tureen.'"

It came from … Portland, Maine.

Unkind cuts are an everyday occurrence around here, where the busybody mentality prevails.

Stand still long enough, and they'll tell you how to live. They'll even give chase to deliver that "corrective" sermon. A helmeted cyclist once chased me down along a suburban running trail.

My sin? I had fed the poor juncos in the dead of winter. (Still do).

Having caught up with me, SS Cyclist got on his soap box and in my face about my unforgivable, rule-bending. Wasn't I familiar with the laws governing his pristine environmental utopia?

Didn't I know that only the fittest deserved to survive? That’s the natural world, according to these ruthless, radical progressive puritans.

Yes, mea culpa for having an exceedingly soft spot for God's plucky little creatures.

When a Washington statist gets wind of your core beliefs—why, even if your use of the English language irks His Highness—he will take it upon himself to fix your "flaws," try to make you over in his sorry image.

For the distinct cluster of characteristics just described, Dr.  Wilson aforementioned uses the term Yankee.

The professor, whose métier is American intellectual history, was described by Eugene Genovese as "an exemplary historian who displays formidable talent." Another stellar scholar, Thomas Landess, lauded Wilson as "a mind as precise and expansive as an encyclopedia."

Duly, Dr. Wilson makes the following abundantly clear: By "Yankee," he does not mean "everybody from north of the Potomac and Ohio.”

“The firemen who died in the World Trade Center on September 11 were Americans. The politicians and TV personalities who stood around telling us what we are to think about it are Yankees."

"Yankee" as a designation belongs to "a peculiar ethnic group descended from New Englanders, who can be easily recognized by their arrogance, hypocrisy, greed, lack of congeniality, and a penchant for ordering other people around."

"A perversity of character," said Thomas Jefferson succinctly of the Yankee character.

Indeed, "Puritans long ago abandoned anything that might be good about their religion but have never given up the notion that they are the chosen saints whose mission is to make America, and the world, into the perfection of their own image."

The cover of Wilson's "The Yankee Problem: An American Dilemma" is bedecked with the quintessential Yankee mugs of Hillary Clinton, George W. Bush and John Brown, each a murderer in his or her own right. The one butchered with his bare hands. The other two killed by proxy.

The contemporary face of the fanaticism alluded to here is pundit Richard Painter, who is the spitting image of Brown. A Republican until Trump, Painter is now a member of the anti-Trump high-command at MSNBC.

In zealotry, Painter could pass for the terrifying Radical Republican Thaddeus Stevens.

A broader truth hit me in the solar plexus during the sojourn from the American Deep North to The South. On hand to better contextualize it is my friend, Clyde Wilson:

“Texas is still a Red State, despite a large number of minorities. That is because Texas, as you observed, Ilana, has a real culture. That means that there is a reality there that minorities can identify with and assimilate to. Unlike, say, Chicago or New Jersey or L.A., where they simply become aggrieved ‘victims,’ clamoring for special benefits, that being the only culture present."

"The peculiar character of the Yankee was observed by Tocqueville in the 19th century and Solzhenitsyn in the 20th. The first great American novelist, James Fenimore Cooper, wrote a whole series of books about the New England Yankees who spread into and destroyed the unique culture of his home country of Upstate New York.”

“Plenty of Northerners, like Governor Horatio Seymour of New York and Governor Joel Parker of New Jersey, blamed the War between the States on New Englanders, and not the South, which simply wanted to be let alone."

"One cannot really grasp American history unless you understand how Yankees have dominated and distorted it since the late 18th century.”

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Remembering Rothbard — And Bernard Malamud

05/25/2018Doug French

Economics professor Bernard Malamud made the local paper today as he is retiring after teaching at UNLV for 50 years. I had Professor Malamud for a class, but darn if I can remember what the class was.

Malamad showed up in 1968 when UNLV was but a dream. “The campus was a desert; there was nothing here,” he told the R-J “There were rabbits running around and coyotes running around, and what Tom [White] described was a big-city university. That’s what we’ve become.”

The article mentions several predictions he flubbed. He had projected the Las Vegas population to top out at 750,000 or a million. The real estate boom and subsequent 2008 crash, “As far as the spurt in property values here, I thought, hey, we’re just catching up to where we ought to be catching up, to big cities like Phoenix and even Los Angeles,” he said. “The bust and the severity of the bust did surprise me.”

What surprised me is he has been teaching History of Economic Thought. He told the paper, that it’s his favorite class. “It’s covering the whole spectrum of economics,” he said. “I get to reminisce about each of the themes of the economics discipline.” I would guess he would leave out the Austrian school despite having officed down the hall from the modern dean of the Austrian school, Murray Rothbard, along with the current dean of the school, Hans Hoppe.

Until January of 1995, Murray Rothbard taught the History of Thought class. I’ve written before about the experience. I had no idea who Rothbard was and a fellow student told me to avoid Murray, calling him a kook. Professor Malamud, an avid Keynesian, likely didn’t recommend Rothbard either.

The first night of class, Murray hit the door and started talking immediately, something about dumb politicians threatening the evil oil companies that were raising gas prices. From that thought, he just continued right into his History of Economic Thought lecture. He didn’t take roll, or hand out a syllabus. Murray didn’t have time for that; he had centuries of history to cover.

So the 8 or 10 of us in the class furiously took notes trying to keep up. I didn’t know it at the time, but only half of us were taking the class for credit, the other half were just auditing the course, having taken it previously for credit. Murray changed his History of Thought lectures each semester, so students took it as often as it was offered. In the fall of 1990, the course had a financial history emphasis.

Professor Malamud is a nice guy. He attended my thesis defense, but, as I remember, had to leave beofre I finished to teach a class. It’s unlikely he will be honored at an event such as the Mises Institute’’s 35th anniversary which was completely dedicated to Rothbard and where a group off Murray’s former students had a panel reminiscing about him and the effect he had on our lives (unfortunately the audio/video has not been posted by the Institute as of this writing).

Imagine how different the History of Thought class was with Rothbard (his 2 volume “An Austrian Perspective on the History of Economic Thought” was essentially his lectures) as opposed to Malamud’s version.

Natalie Bruzda writes some of the names Malamud was lecturing about when she visited.

Sir William Petty, an English economist who died in 1687, was on one end of the spectrum. John B. Taylor, an economist and professor at Stanford University, was on the other end. His favorite economist, John Maynard Keynes, also appeared on the whiteboard.

Murray never got to Keynes, who he referred to in class as “Maynard” followed by his signature cackle. My guess is Dr. Malamud didn’t spend any time on the Scholastics or the School of Salamanca.

In New York, our panel of Murray’s students remembered Murray’s lecture style. As I told the LMR report, “If students took everything down, lecture notes might start with Aristotle, then veer off to Hillary Clinton, then maybe to the New York City Mayoral race and back to Aristotle.”

I hope Dr, Malamud has a long and healthy retirement. He is 76. No doubt, another Keynesian has been hired to replace him.

Murray left us far too early, but his work lives on, as do our memories.

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Quarter Pounder with Cost Theory

05/25/2018Tho Bishop

Today in stupid lawsuits we have two Florida men suing McDonalds for not giving them a discount for asking for a Quarter Pounder with Cheese without the cheese. They are asking for $5 million in damages. 

As the Miami Herald reports:

The suit claims, "customers have been forced, and continue to be overcharged for these products, by being forced to pay for two slices of cheese, which they do not want, order, or receive, to be able to purchase their desired product."

Having to pay for cheese they do not receive because they asked that it be held off of the burgers, well, they are not "lovin' it," to borrow from McDonald's current slogan....

According to Lavin's suit, Kissner and Werner "have suffered injury as a result of their purchases because they were overcharged, and were required to pay for cheese, which is not a component of either a Quarter Pounder or a Double Quarter Pounder, that they did not want and did not receive."

As absurd as the lawsuit is, there is a worthwhile economics lesson here. The case is clearly grounded in the idea of a Cost Theory of Value, which basically viewed the price of goods as the result of combining the cost of production with enough profit to make the entire venture worthwhile. In the view of Mr. Kissner and Mr. Werner, the fact they are asking for a sandwich requiring one less factor of production means that McDonalds is now wrongly profiting more from their order than a fellow customer who likes their cheese. 

If McDonalds is in need of an expert to debunk this argument, I would suggest Bob Murphy.

As he explained in his excellent article Problems with the Cost Theory of Value:

Fundamentally, the cost theory is deficient because it doesn't actually explain the determinants of market prices. Rather, the cost theory merely explains relationships among market prices.

"Costs" are prices too. To "explain" the price of a $10,000 car by reference to the prices of the engine, tires, glass, and so on, doesn't really explain market prices per se. At best, it pushes back the explanation one step: Why does the engine have a price of $5,000, etc.?

 

Even on its own terms, the cost theory of value (at least as I have summarized it above) acknowledges that the present day "spot" price of a good is determined by something other than the costs of its production. The theory explicitly deals with the cases where the actual market price is either higher or lower than the long-run "anchor" price set by the cost theory, and tries to explain the forces that would move those "aberrational" prices back toward the long-run "natural" price.

The classical economists weren't dummies. They understood that a sudden urge among the public to buy more of a certain good would lead to an immediate increase in its price. But the cost theory could only comment on this situation by saying that the market would tend toward a restoration of the same rate of profit in the industry through an increase in production to match the increased demand.

In other words, the cost theory of value could explain the long-run target toward which the day-to-day spot prices would tend. The cost theory could not explain what actually formed those spot prices on any given day.

Because the cost theory couldn't explain how actual market prices were formed "from scratch," it was useless when it came to non-reproducible goods. Obviously the price of the Mona Lisa, or of an original Shakespeare manuscript, would have nothing to do with the cost of producing these masterpieces.

Cost Theory Has Things Backward

Here we see the methodological problem of the cost theory: By explaining final retail prices through the cost of making the goods, the cost theory implies that economic value is an objective property of physical items that flows from resources into the goods that they produce. In contrast, the subjective value theory of Menger and others starts with the valuation of consumer goods and works its way back through the prices of labor and other inputs accordingly.

When a consumer is deciding on a purchase, the cost of producing the item is usually irrelevant. For example, going along with our hypothetical example above, if a new company decided to use twice as many resources to make an equivalent car, it couldn't charge $20,000 simply because "that's how much it cost."

For a different example, if a farmer discovers a meteorite chock full of gold on his property, he will charge whatever the market will bear for it. He won't sell it for less than other gold producers on account of his virtually zero cost of production.

To put it simply, the fact these Florida Men purchased their Double Quarter Pounder without Cheese shows that they thought the sandwich was worth the price they paid for it. If not, they wouldn't have ordered it. That it costs the store slightly less to make that sandwich than others is entirely irrelevant, which explains why profit margins vary widely on the McDonalds menu. 

Case dismissed. 

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Offending NFL Fans Isn't Just Bad for Owners, but Players Too

05/24/2018Tho Bishop

One of the most obnoxious stories in America the past year has been the controversy over players protesting during the national anthem. While I personally sympathize with both concerns from athletes about police brutality in minority communities, as well as the desire of most football fans to simply not have any sort of political advocacy mixed into their sports, the resulting media coverage - from both political and sports outlets - has been largely nauseating. While the NFL offseason obviously brought discussion of the topic down to a simmer (with the exception being the occasional update on Colin Kaepernick - and now Eric Reid's - lawsuit against the league), the NFL's decision this week to change its anthem-policy has it once again at a raging boil. 

Unfortunately most of these articles try to make this issue more complicated than it really is: it's all about money.

While it's natural to try to fit this story into some of the larger culture wars going on in the country, this is really just a simple business calculation. At the end of the day the NFL is not in the business of promoting patriotism, or providing a venue for social causes, or even really about the athletes who play in the league. It's all about getting the attention of fans, and the NFL clearly thinks most of them don't want protests during the national anthem. This also means that one key point has been ignored in this whole debate, it isn't only in the interests of league owners to not offend fans - it's in obvious long-term interest of players too. 

After all, if the same athletes were making the same plays in front of the same sized audience that watches the NHL, the value of each individual player would be significantly less than it is today. Being a great athlete is not an inherently profitable skill, there are plenty of athletic marvels who can't make a million dollars a year taking advantage of their specific abilities. It's the mass appeal of specific sports that allows individuals like LeBron James, Bryce Harper, and Antonio Brown become very wealthy individuals. In the case of the NFL, polling showed that over 60% of fans watched fewer NFL games due to the player protests. If declining NFL ratings remain a constant, and it impacts revenue, then players in 2028 may be worse off than players in 2018. 

As I explained last year when I defended the obvious league-wide blacklisting of Kaepernick, whether or not his cause was righteous or intentional disrespectful means little when the consumers of his product decide they don't like it. As Ludwig von Mises frequently noted in his works, consumers are empowered by the market economy to guide the decisions of businesses based on their willingness to consumer their product or a competitors. As he wrote in Bureaucracy​:

The capitalists, the enterprisers, and the farmers are instrumental in the conduct of economic affairs. They are at the helm and steer the ship. But they are not free to shape its course. They are not supreme, they are steersmen only, bound to obey unconditionally the captain's orders. The captain is the consumer. 

While this understanding of the NFL's decision should be pretty common sense, pundits who are offended by the fact so many NFL fans were offended by the protests have tried to take the NFL's decision to absurd ends. 

For example, I recently read Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk ask whether the NFL's new respect for the national anthem would lead the league to crack down on Kansas City Chiefs fan who traditionally substitute "CHIEFS!" for "brave" at the song's conclusion. Florio may think he is being clever, but the answer is obviously not, because Chiefs fans clearly don't see that behavior as disrespectful. People can judge that to be hypocritical, but at the end of the day the masses that consume Chief tickets don't care. So long as consumer values are inconsistent and conflicting, so will certain business policies.

It's also worth noting that it's possible the NFL's judgment in this matter may end up being wrong. After all, the league was able to ink a new Thursday night package with Fox this offseason that was worth $15 million more a game than previous deals with NBC and CBS, in spite of declining ratings. Last year's troubles also didn't stop Pizza Hut from being willing pay big to take over the spot of "Official Pizza of the NFL"  from Papa John's. Businesses make mistakes all the time, and perhaps the NFL's new rules will end up alienating a different block of fans, without regaining those who agreed with Donald Trump. Only time will tell.

What we can be certain though is that discussing this decision isn't about anything more than the NFL looking out for its bottom line. At the end of the day, the players should be as interested in that as the owners. 

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Who Killed the 10th Amendment?

05/24/2018Ilana Mercer

Not a day goes by when the liberal media don’t telegraph to the world that a “Trumpocracy” is destroying American democracy. Conspicuous by its absence is a pesky fact: Ours was never a country conceived as a democracy.

To arrive at a democracy, we Americans destroyed a republic.

One of the ways in which the republic was destroyed was through the slow sundering of the 10th Amendment to the Constitution. The 10th was meant to guarantee constitutional devolution of power.

“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

The de facto demise of the 10th has resulted in "constitutional" consolidation.

Fair enough, but is that enough? A perceptive Townhall.com reader was having none of it.

In response to “Whodunit? Who ‘Meddled’ With Our American Democracy” (Part 1), the reader upbraided this writer:

“Anyone who quotes the 10th Amendment, but not the 14th Amendment that supplanted it cannot be taken seriously.”

In other words, to advance the erosion of the 10th in explaining who did our republic in, without mentioning the 14th: this was an omission on the writer’s part.

The reader is admirably correct about Incorporation-Doctrine centralization.

Not even conservative constitutional originalists are willing to concede that the 14th Amendment and the attendant Incorporation Doctrine have obliterated the Constitution's federal scheme, as expressed in the once-impregnable 10th Amendment.

What does this mean?

You know the drill but are always surprised anew by it. Voters pass a law under which a plurality wishes to live in a locality. Along comes a U.S. district judge and voids the law, citing a violation of the 14th's Equal Protection Clause.

For example: Voters elect to prohibit local government from sanctioning gay marriage. A U.S. district judge voids voter-approved law for violating the 14th's Equal Protection Clause.

These periodical contretemps around gay marriage, or the legal duty of private property owners to cater these events, are perfectly proper judicial activism. It flows from the 14th Amendment.

If the Bill of Rights was intended to place strict limits on federal power and protect individual and locality from the national government—the 14th Amendment effectively defeated that purpose by placing the power to enforce the Bill of Rights in federal hands, where it was never intended to be.

Put differently, matters previously subject to state jurisdiction have been pulled into the orbit of a judiciary. Yet not even conservative constitutional originalists are willing to cop to this constitutional fait accompli.

The gist of it: Jeffersonian constitutional thought is no longer in the Constitution; its revival unlikely.

A Court System Centralized

For another example of the endemic usurpation of The People, rendering the original Constitutional scheme obsolete, take the work of the generic jury. With his description of the relationship between jury and people, American scholar of liberty Lysander Spooner conjures evocative imagery.

A jury is akin to the "body of the people." Trial by jury is the closest thing to a trial by the whole country. Yet courts in the nation’s centralized court system, the Supreme Court included, are in the business of harmonizing law across the nation, rather than allowing communities to live under laws they author, as guaranteed by the 10th Amendment to the Constitution.

States’ Rights All But Obliterated

Like juries, states had been entrusted with the power to beat back the federal government and void unconstitutional federal laws.

States' rights are "an essential Americanism,” wrote Old Rightist Frank Chodorov. The Founding Fathers as well as the opponents of the Constitution, the Anti-Federalists, agreed on the principle of divided authority as a safeguard to the rights of the individual.

Duly, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison perfected a certain doctrine in the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions of 1798. "The Virginia Resolutions,” explains historian Thomas E. Woods, Jr., “spoke of the states' rights to 'interpose' between the federal government and the people of the states; the Kentucky Resolutions used the term nullification—the states, they said, could nullify federal laws that they believed to be unconstitutional."

“Jefferson," emphasized Woods, "considered states' rights a much more important and effective safeguard of people's liberties than the 'checks and balances' among the three branches of the federal government."

And for good reason. While judicial review was intended to curb Congress and restrain the Executive, in reality, the judicial, legislative and executive unholy federal trinity has simply colluded, over time, in an alliance that has helped abolish the 10th Amendment.

Founding Faith Expunged

And how well has First Amendment jurisprudence served constitutionalists?

Establishment-clause cases are a confusing and capricious legal penumbra. Sometimes displays of the Hebraic Decalogue or manger scene are taken to constitute the establishment of a state religion. Other times not.

This body of law forever teeters on conflating the injunction against the establishment of a state religion with an injunction against the expression of faith—especially discriminating against the founding faith in taxpayer-supported spaces.

The end result has been the expulsion of religion from the public square and the suppression therein of freedom of religion.

On the topic of religious freedom, Jefferson was prolific, too. The Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom was a crowning achievement for which he wished to be remembered, along with the Declaration of Independence and the founding of the University of Virginia.

Jefferson interpreted "Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the exercise thereof"—as confirms by David N. Meyer, author of Jefferson's Constitutional Thought—to guarantee both "an absolute free exercise of religion and an absolute prohibition of an establishment of religion."

Yet somehow, the kind of constitutional thought that carries legal sway today prohibits expressions of faith or displays of a civilizing moral code in government-controlled spheres. Given my libertarian view of government’s immoral modus operandi, I find this amusingly apropos. Still, this is not what Jefferson had in mind for early Americans.

Indeed, why would anyone, bar Nancy Pelosi and her party, object to "thou shall not kill" or "thou shall not commit adultery, steal or covet?" The Ten Commandments can hardly be perceived as an instrument for state proselytization.

Nevertheless, the law often takes displays of the Decalogue or the nativity scene on tax-payer funded property as an establishment of a state religion.

"I consider the government of the U.S. as interdicted by the Constitution from intermeddling with religious institutions, their doctrines, discipline, or exercise," Jefferson expatiated.

He then gets to the soul of the subject: "This results not only from the provision that no law shall be made respecting the establishment, or free exercise of religion but also from the Tenth Amendment, which reserves to the states [or to the people] the powers not delegated to the U.S."

So, dear reader, if there’s one thing we know for sure, it’s that the Russians didn’t deep-six our republic of private property rights and radical decentralization—we did.

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Daniel Lacalle on Trump's Deal with China

05/22/2018Daniel Lacalle

Our friend Daniel Lacalle was interviewed recently by BBC to discuss recent developments between trade negotiations between the US and China. 

On his blog, he goes on to further explain why a trade war would be particularly devastating for China.

What the Trump administration was doing was a negotiation tactic. Aggressive, bulldozer-type and, of  course, questionable. But a tactic to address the massive trade deficit with China, the largest in the world, at $375 billion. The negotiation tactic is clear, as proven by the tariff moratorium on the European Union, Canada, Mexico and South Korea.

China needs the U.S. surplus more than the U.S. needs China’s trade and finances. And that is why the trade war will not happen. Because China has already lost it.

This is a duel at dawn in which it is most likely that no one will shoot … Because the pistols are loaded with debt, not with gunpowder.

The trade war will not happen for various reasons:

  • China badly needs the surplus with the United States to keep its extremely indebted growth model, way more than the United States needs China’s purchases of debt of goods. China added more debt in the first quarter of 2018 than the U.S., Japan and the EU combined, and it has reached an estimated 257% of GDP. If it does not grow exports to its main customer, the U.S., its problem of overcapacity and debt soars, and the economy crumbles.
  • China cannot win a trade war with high debt, capital controls and US exports’ dependence. A massive Yuan devaluation and domino defaults would cripple the economy. The U.S. dollar is the most traded currency in the world, and growing according to the Bank of International Settlement. The Yuan is 4% of currency trade.
  • China’s currency is not backed by either global use nor gold. At all. It is as unsupported as any fiat currency, like the U.S. dollar, but much less traded and used as a store of value. China’s gold reserves are an insignificant fraction of its money supply. Its biggest weakness comes from capital controls and intervention. However, even with capital controls, capital flight has continued. $51bn outflows in the first quarter of 2018, according to Natixis.
  • China does not have a nuclear option on the U.S. debt. For once, it is not the main owner of U.S, bonds, not even close (China is less than 8.6% of U.S. bonds outstanding). The United States can guarantee the demand for its debt issues even if China sells. But, in addition, China has increased its purchase of U.S. bonds by $168 billion dollars since the U.S. elections. If China sells its Treasury holdings, its own currency would massively appreciate and the domestic risks, lower exports, lower growth, outweigh the threat. Even if it sold, the demand for U.S. bonds has increased and when China has reduced Treasury holdings, Treasury yields have fallen. The Federal Reserve and the main U.S. Fixed Income funds could buy the bonds in a very short period of time, a week at most.  Remember that 2018 has seen a record pace of inflows to U.S. Treasuries. $3.4 billion inflows in one week, with year-to-date inflows of $18.6 billion (data April 14th, 2018).
  • China cannot maintain its growth – based on a huge debt bubble – if its exports fall. And its trade surplus with the United States has been growing while its trade surplus with the rest of the world shrunk. A drop in the growth of China’s exports would mean a collapse of foreign currency reserves. These reserves have been recovering a bit recently, but have fallen 21% since the 2014 highs.

A collapse in the reserves of foreign currency would accentuate the capital flight that is already taking place, which would lead to increasing the already disastrous capital controls in China, and with it, three effects. Lower growth, higher debt and the risk of a very important devaluation of the yuan.

For China, a trade war would be devastating.

Of course, there are important negatives for the U.S. but not as dramatic.

The United States exports very little (12% of GDP), so any threat that leads to a positive agreement is an exponential improvement. But the duel is loaded with wet gunpowder.

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Ryan McMaken on The Ingraham Angle

05/22/2018Mises Institute

Ryan McMaken joined Laura Ingraham and Chris Hahn last night to discuss whether America is really facing an "epidemic" of school shootings. As Ryan notes, studies indicate that the stats show otherwise, and picks apart some of the most widely used claims made by opponents of gun rights.

Is There Really an "Epidemic of Mass Shootings" in the US? | Ryan McMaken

Further reading: There Are Fewer School Shootings Now Than During the 1990s

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Man Shoots Intruder, Turns Out to Be Cop — Gets 13.5 Years

05/21/2018Tho Bishop

Tyler Harrell was found guilty of a charge of aggravated assault today in a case that should concern anyone who cares about the right to self-defense.

Back in 2016, Harken grabbed his AK-47 after being awaken by a loud bang.  With him and his mom believing his house was being broken in to, he went on to shoot one of the intruders in the knee. Unfortunately for Harken, the people that broke down his door had government badges. The Austin SWAT team, allegedly responding to Snapchat photos of Harrellwith drugs, guns, and cash, were conducting a no-knock raid on the house. Their search found no drugs, but Harken faced the assault charge as well as an even more ludicrous charge of attempted capital murder, of which he was found not guilty. He now faces thirteen-and-a-half years in prison. 

While it's a shame that someone was hurt during the police raid, Harrell is the clear victim in this situation. After all, what is a reasonable person supposed to do when armed men knock down your front door without any sort of announcement? Anyone who favors gun rights must concede that the natural reaction is to defend yourself and everyone else in the home. Unfortunately, the overlap between the Blue Lives Matter and NRA crowds mean we are unlikely to hear many national voices come to Harken's defense. 

Unfortunately situations like Harrell's are not all the uncommon, as the government continues to wage its absurd war on drugs. As Tate Fegley noted following the disastrous Utah vs Streiff Supreme Court case: 

To read the decisions of the Court regarding the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits the government from conducting unreasonable searches and seizures, is to read of its slow death, with drug prohibition playing a role almost every step of the way.

Consider, for example, one of the most odious developments in modern American policing: the no-knock SWAT raid. There are, on average, over 100 raids per day and the majority of them are to serve low-level drug warrants. Such a dangerous procedure inevitably has led to a huge number of botched raids, resulting in unnecessary property damage and death. It is a common law principle that officers of the law “knock-and-announce” themselves prior to the search of a dwelling in order to give the occupant time to compose himself and answer the door. The Supreme Court has created exceptions to this principle, such as the possibility that suspects could destroy drug evidence, thus providing a necessary condition to the environment that allows a raid-happy style of policing to exist. In consideration of this, it is not hard to imagine how the Strieff decision could lead to widespread pretext stops and ID-checking in order to go on fishing expeditions for evidence.

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Pope Francis Endorses Slower Growth, More Poverty

I almost feel guilty when I criticize the garbled economic thoughts of Pope Francis. After all, he was influenced by Peronist ideology as a youngster, so he was probably a lost cause from the beginning.

Moreover, Walter Williams and Thomas Sowell have already dissected his irrational ramblings on economics and explained that free markets are better for the poor. Especially when compared to government dependency.

But since Pope Francis just attacked tax havens, and I consider myself the world’s foremost defender of these low-tax jurisdictions, I can’t resist adding my two cents. Here’s what the Wall Street Journal just reported about the Pope’s ideological opposition to market-friendly tax systems.

The Vatican denounced the use of offshore tax havens… The document, which was released jointly by the Vatican’s offices for Catholic doctrine and social justice, echoed past warnings by Pope Francis over the dangers of unbridled capitalism. …The teaching document, which was personally approved by the pope, suggested that greater regulation of the world’s financial markets was necessary to contain “predatory and speculative” practices and economic inequality.

He even embraced global regulation, not understanding that this increases systemic risk.

The supranational dimension of the economic system makes it easy to bypass the regulations established by individual countries,” the Vatican said. “The current globalization of the financial system requires a stable, clear and effective coordination among various national regulatory authorities.

And he said that governments should have more money to spend.

A section of the document was dedicated to criticizing offshore tax havens, which it said contribute to the “creation of economic systems founded on inequality,” by depriving nations of legitimate revenue.

Wow, it’s like the Pope is applying for a job at the IMF or OECD. Or even with the scam charity Oxfam.

In any event, he’s definitely wrong on how to generate more prosperity. Maybe he should watch this video.

Or read Marian Tupy.

Or see what Nobel Prize winners have to say.

P.S. And if the all that doesn’t work, methinks Pope Francis should have a conversation with Libertarian Jesus. He could start herehere, and here.

Originally published at Dan Mitchell's blog International Liberty
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Federal Reserve Nominee Wants To Take Your Cash And Track How You Spend

05/17/2018Connor Boyack

Central banks are shrouded in secrecy and few understand how they operate. These institutions handle economic matters that we’re told are far too complex for average people to understand.

The Federal Reserve’s secrecy originated from its inception, when created by a group of elite men using secret code names at a place named Jekyll Island a century ago. No doubt at least one mustache was twirled mischievously. Of course the day to day of monetary policy is far less thrilling, but that doesn’t mean the consequences of these bankers’ actions are any less dramatic.

A decade after the latest financial crisis — fueled by the cheap money policies of former Fed chairman Alan Greenspan — low interest rates and “quantitative easing” have continued to inflate what Donald Trump once rightly called a “big, fat, ugly bubble.”  The monetary policies that the Fed imposes bring significant harm to many Americans who are impacted by the whims of bureaucratic economists with unchecked egos.

For all the secrecy afforded to the Fed and other central banks, most of these decisions are made in plain view of the public, enjoying the protection that comes with dreadfully dull technical language of modern economics. For an example, look no further than the nomination battle going on right now over Marvin Goodfriend to the board of governors.

Read the full article at The Federalist
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Ron Paul, Populism, and the Fed

05/16/2018Tho Bishop

I've been really enjoying David Beckworth's Macro Musings podcast - a nice, conveniently way of hearing some good econ discussions outside of my own personal bubble.

There was an interesting interview with Neel Kashkari who talks about why there has been very little movement within the Fed to really explore NGDP Targeting or pushing up the inflation target, in spite of the large amount of chatter about those topics among academics. He explains that it's because when Fed officials actually talk to real people in communities, in particularly community bankers, any discussion of playing around with inflation is instantly rejected - in part because the public as a whole has so much inherent skepticism and mistrust of the Fed as it stands now. (I'll also note that while I obviously don't like Kashkari's views on monetary policy, his candor and transparency in his Fed role has been great.)

I think this plays back to the success of Ron Paul's libertarian populist campaign, and a good push back to the argument that he never accomplished anything while in office. While it's certainly true that there aren't many legislative achievements to his CV, he effectively used his platform to push the Fed and money into public discourse and effectively won the argument. The impact isn't limited to simply the "public" either. Fed skepticism has become status quo GOP orthodox - to the point where some Republicans on the Hill have been frustrated with Trump's status quo Fed picks. We've also seen legislation advanced by House Republicans to reform the Fed (even though I don't think that highly of them) and Dr. Paul's Audit the Fed Bill has received the support of the majority Republican legislators when it has come up to vote. 

In fact, when you consider that Bitcoin was built on explicitly Austrian origins, it's possible that Ron Paul's impact didn't only help restrain the Fed, but actually inspired very real solutions to government-controlled fiat currency. The grassroots movements to legalize gold and silver at state levels obviously plays into this as well. All in all, by effectively using a populist appeal to engage and educate the public - rather than focus on trying to impose top-down reforms through legislation - Dr. Paul was able to have as large an impact on American monetary policy as perhaps any single legislator since the creation of the Fed. 

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