As I’ve aged, I’ve found myself transformed from scientist to engineer, from artist to performer, from philosopher to pragmatist. It’s a pretty typical pattern. Be it accident or serendipity, this journey has coincided with a sudden interest in politics. My middle aged pragmatism has paid off, personally, in this new hobby. I’ve definitely discovered that, at least in the political realm, experience is, for me, the best teacher I can find.
It has taken me a few days to finish this post. Unfortunately, I spent Sunday driving back home and Monday working like crazy… Oh well, I hope you enjoy this final installment of covering the Austrian Scholars Conference 2010. If day 1 and day 2 were proper indicators, it would not disappoint – and it sure didn’t!
The first session on “Money and Contracts” was absolutely stunning. Stephen Fairfax of Mtechnology presented on “Returning Gold to the Consumer Marketplace.” Personally, this was my favorite talk of the conference. Mr. Fairfax talked about the main problems surrounding a return to the gold standard: portability and consumer expectations. Transporting gold coins for small transactions is extremely difficult. A one ounce coin, relative to what it can purchase these days, is worth quite a lot. Moreover, people still want to use cash – they expect to be able to carry money in their pockets that doesn’t weigh ridiculous amounts.
Fairfax’s solution is, quite simply, to apply the modern age’s advances in technology to the production of money. You see, we tend to think of “gold money” as gold coins or gold bars, but coins and bars are not the only way to transport money. We have the capability now to make gold leaf, or even use metal sputtering methods to deposit precise amounts of gold in ordered arrays (also known as thin-film deposition) – even down to 1/100,000 of an ounce! And since people expect to use cash, then we can fulfill that consumer desire by embedding small but precise amounts of gold into polyester “bills” certified by the production company (with a guarantee to get coinage by exchange if you like). Fairfax’s plan to start a gold company to do just this is extremely exciting because it solves so many problems of getting back to a gold standard. Seriously, you must listen to his talk. [Ack! the mp3 seems unavailable right now, check back later] I am so excited that he is moving to the Austin area in less than a year; I would definitely look into working at a company like his after finishing my PhD to work out the technical details of this incredible idea.
The last session of the day was on “Ethics and Economics.” First up was Kevin Clausen, who talked about why Evangelicals are turned off by Austrian economics, why they shouldn’t be, and how to help them understand Austrian econ more clearly. He had some very salient points, and I appreciated what he had to say.
Laurence Vance (well known to LCC readers) spoke about the Moral Case for Drug Freedom, and gave a Christian, ethical argument for consistent liberty, which includes the freedom to take even recreational drugs. In no way was he saying that all drugs are perfectly ok to use (LCC agrees with Vance as well), but the point is simple: it is truly immoral for the government to lock someone up in a cage for using a substance that harms only the user. If harm comes to someone else as a result then it becomes a criminal matter, but otherwise it is a violation of rights for the state to use force against a drug user.
Last but certainly not least, Paul Cantor presented a special lecture on Economics and Literature. Cantor is an English professor who has applied Austrian ideas on epistemology and history to the study of literature. He makes an excellent case for how the market is a force for building culture, opposing the Marxist theory that capitalism destroys culture.
This Austrian Scholars Conference certainly is one of the most diverse scholarly conferences you can attend. Where else can you see presentations in the same place about economics, political theory, religion, science, engineering, literature, and even rap music? Absolutely amazing…
Here is my short list of favorite presentations from ASC 2010 with links to audio downloads:
- Gerard Casey: Two Roads, One Truth
- Daniel Krawisz: Praxeology of the Knowledge Problem of Socialism
- John Papalo: The Making of the Keynes-Hayek Rap: Economic Theory Meets Popular Culture
- Stephen Fairfax: Returning Gold to the Consumer Marketplace (unavailable right now)
- Laurence Vance: The Moral Case for Drugs
- Jeff Barr: Render Unto Caesar
- Paul Cantor: Economics and Literature
Finally, there’s a great slideshow of pictures from ASC that you can view here. See if you can spot me… (Thanks Chad and Manuel!)