Archive for economics

I had the opportunity to read an advance copy of my friend Jeffrey Tucker’s new book Bit by Bit: How P2P is Freeing the World, and I wanted to share thoughts on the book with you. As you may recall, Mr. Tucker is a long-time friend of LCC and his work was highlighted in Doug Stuart’s recent blog post as well. Here is my brief review on Amazon.com:

Jeffrey Tucker is a fantastic essayist whose work I have admired for nearly a decade. This latest book collects a number of his most excellent pieces over the past few years discussing how technology is enabling more and more liberty in the world. For example, the technological innovation of the Bitcoin system is easily one of the most exciting developments for freedom in the past few decades, and Mr. Tucker explains why in a concise yet erudite manner.

The essays in this piece are quite fun to read, but do lack a bit of cohesive flow over the course of the book. Overall, I recommend that one reads it one essay per sitting, taking a moment each time to reflect on the joy that Mr. Tucker builds into his work.

My favorite piece in the book is about how capitalism is ultimately an act of love and community. This unique take on something most of us take for granted is illuminating and exciting. I cannot recommend this single essay enough to you. Many of these pieces can be found online throughout the web and especially at Liberty.me. I recommend that all readers take a look at Mr. Tucker’s regularly updated blog there and continue learning from him.

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Jan
07

Hack Back Against the State

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The past 100 years of mostly free markets have witnessed unprecedented advances that allow millions to enjoy life in ways our ancestors could not fathom. From communications to transportation, we live in a world with much greater potential than ever before.

Take our smart phones, for example. My wife and I listen to any lecture, talk show, audiobook, or genre of music we can think of, anywhere and anytime. We video chat with friends in Japan. We capture video of our children playing in the snow and immediately display the video on our TV before they’ve taken off their snow clothes. My wife virtually runs her business from her iPhone!

We learned to lay and grout tile, install and trim doorways, caulk stairs, and properly paint our basement.  All for free.

Even things like microwaves, lawnmowers, refrigerators, automobiles, or anything digital are plentiful for even the poorest in many countries. Take anything that is electric, powered, or even plastic, and it was not even invented when the Declaration of Independence was signed. Welcome to the Jetsons World.

Most of us delight in the benefits of technology. Yet for all the luxury around us, there is often a lack of excellence in goods that have been around for much longer. We can video chat with somebody around the world, but bandages won’t stick to our skin. We have constant weather information at our fingertips, but our washed clothes are still dirty. Fuel containers spill everywhere despite newfangled engineering “improvements.” Wiper fluid is hardly better than water. Mowers and trimmers take forever to start. And most importantly, our showers are no longer satisfying!

Until I started reading Jeffrey Tucker, these mildly annoying features of my day were, as they say, “the way things are.” But Tucker has a knack for recognizing and writing about the little evils spawned from the government that makes our lives a little (sometimes a lot) less pleasurable. I call them “little evils” because few people care enough to notice. There are no activists lobbying the government to reverse the cause.

When ignorance is bliss, knowledge like this can feel like hell.

I first learned about my shower head. Then I learned my “hot” water isn’t above a temperature suitable for killing bacteria! Next I discovered that my clothes and dishes aren’t really clean because the active ingredient in detergents has been removed! My kids learned that their bandages won’t stay on for longer than a few hours because the government regulated away effective adhesive glue. Most recently I learned how windshield wiper fluid is diluted.

For me, the worst are those new gas cans that have only one opening, for both ventilation and pouring. Why only one? As expected, it’s all in the name of safety and environmental concerns. Trouble is, I’ve spilled more gasoline in the short span of time I’ve owned the new can than with all of my other containers combined! To top it off, nobody I know has said anything good about these gas cans! Wait, no, there is one. A pilot I know who relishes that he can completely turn his can upside down without holding it while he fills his Piper Cub. Well, at least we can thank the government for fixing that problem!

Egregious or not, this occurs because government bureaucrats want to regulate our lives into despair. It’s why the cliché, “They don’t make ‘em like they used to” rings true. What is most troubling is that the source to these problems is so opaque. Most people just shrug and move on.

What are we to do? Thankfully, Jeffrey Tucker has, of course, given us the necessary ammunition to fight back against the state’s insistence on making my life a little worse off every day: hack your shower head, tweak your hot water heater, and stock up on soon-to-be-banned items.

Here’s the big list. This is worth reading. And sharing.

If you are unconvinced by how important this is, ask yourself, “When was the last time I enjoyed a really good, hot shower?”

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Pope Francis has repeatedly blamed capitalism for the existence of hunger in the world. (Photo Credit: FAO)

Pope Francis addressed the United Nations assembly at a recent conference regarding solutions to world hunger, saying that states across the world should increase their aid efforts and coordinate more closely. He even suggested that capitalism and free markets are the cause of malnutrition itself in the third world.

The Pan Am Post contacted LCC about this event and the Pope’s remarks, requesting a few comments. Our statement, quoted in Guido Burdman’s article:

“Pope Francis’s comments, well-intentioned as they are, still reflect a deficient understanding of the fundamental economics that drives food production and distribution. Assuming that ever more centralized state action can both determine the proper nutrition for every individual throughout the world and then ensure adequate distribution completely overestimates the capabilities of any government, let alone a host of them attempting to act in concert. The best thing any government can do to improve nutrition is simply to get out of the way of the market doing its job, and that’s exactly the opposite of what the Pope intends. Such short term thinking will never solve real problems of malnourishment across the third world.”

You can also read the article in Spanish.

I do like Pope Francis and wish him every blessing as he serves the Catholic Church, but I also hope he realizes that being Pope does not automatically bestow economic wisdom. I would commend to him, as to anyone in the Catholic tradition, Dr. Thomas Woods’s excellent book The Church and the Market.

Do you agree with our assessment? What would you tell the Pope? Let us know in the comments.

Make sure to check out the full article, Pope Francis Insists State Welfare is the Answer to World Hunger, at the Pan Am Post.

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This guest post is by Joel Poindexter.

Christians who identify with a Left political ideology frequently appeal to state intervention in the market as a means of promoting the common good. This is especially true as it relates to many Christians who place an emphasis on promoting social justice. Having attended a Jesuit University where progressive politics were dominant and social justice was held in very high esteem, I can readily attest to this. For examples beyond my personal anecdotes, see the anti-libertarian conference Erroneous Autonomy at The Catholic University of America, and note some recent trends among protestant Christians.

I assume that proponents of such government action often have the best of intentions. I believe they act in good faith, both as Christians and as individuals dedicated to caring for the less fortunate. I also happen to agree that social justice can even be a worthy goal for Christians, provided it is confined to voluntary arrangements. However, a state-based approach to caring for those in poverty is especially problematic for the Christian.

Among favored government regulations of such social justice advocates are minimum wage laws and welfare programs intended to reduce poverty, including food stamps and medical subsidies. These aid programs are widely viewed as benevolent merely because of the surface results. After all, we can see the poor child who is fed and clothed through welfare payments.

However, the libertarian cannot help but see that what undergirds this regime is coercion. The state, by definition, applies force to achieve compliance. Hence, individuals in society face threats of imprisonment or financial penalties should they fail to abide by the law. This utilitarian approach has a host of negative consequences. Read More→

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I tend to find myself in the minority among friends with the viewpoints I hold as a libertarian and a Christian. I can frustrate my conservative and progressive friends at the same time in a single statement. I have had to learn to navigate the high seas of conservativism and progressivism, knowing that I can find some common ground among both.

A progressive friend of mine is the supervising an independent study for a doctoral student, and asked me to suggest some reading materials from the free market/Austrian economics perspective. There are plenty of materials I had to forego, not because I found them lacking in value (I really wanted to suggest everything ever written by Thomas E. Woods, Jr.!), but because it was a doctoral student looking for some academic works. After consulting with Art Carden and Norman Horn, I responded with the following list:

Bastiat Collection – Best works from within are The Law and That Which Is Seen, and That Which Is Not Seen

Human Action by Ludwig von Mises

Man, Economy, and State by Murray Rothbard

Capital and Interest by Bohm-Bawerk

Principles of Economics by Carl Menger

Applied Theory of Price by Donald McCloskey

Individualism and Economic Order by F.A. Hayek

Theory of Moral Sentiments by Adam Smith

There’s also a wealth of materials on econlib.org

I also added the following: “You can read Keynes’s General Theory, but honestly Keynes is part of the reason we have a consumerism problem (The whole, ‘Feed the addiction to keep economy growing’ approach!).”

For those of you looking to suggest reading materials for your friends, mind your audience. If the author labels every minor deviation from complete and total free markets as “socialist,” then that author will be unlikely to speak meaningfully to the progressive. Likewise, a conservative reader may be rather turned off by harsh criticism of those who adhere to a “God and country” viewpoint. Remember that everyone is at a different point in a journey, and if you wish to reach them, then meet them where they are. Otherwise, you are probably wasting your time.

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