Nov
16
2016

Do People Really Have a “Scale of Values?”… Was Rothbard Wrong?

Walter Block and William Barnett’s answer is NO! And their reason is simple: scale of values is incompatible with Singularism, which must be true.

This idea of Singularism is a big deal to Block and Barnett; the two scholars had previously co-authored a paper positing that the Austrians start going by the clunky name “the Singularity School of Thought.” Basically, the singularity principle means that all of our actions are based on choosing one option above all others.

Scale of Values

Two of the most prominent Austrians in history, Murray Rothbard and Carl Menger, supported the idea of a scale of values. And it makes a lot of sense. The idea is that each human actor has a hierarchical scale of values out of which he makes every decision. He values A more than B, values B more than C, and so on. They see people as making decisions based on, not just one value ranking—that would be simple, but many separate value rankings all at the same time. Carl Menger also adds to the decision-making process an added layer of complexity: levels of utility. So that, people are making decisions based on maybe hundreds of distinct value rankings simultaneously.

Block and Barnett wonder if humans are really going through such a complex process for their every decision or if there is something simpler, more limited going on.

Singularism: One Choice at a Time

The authors saw a “contradiction” between Rothbard and Menger’s scale of values and Ludwig von Mises’ theory of singularism. The core issue for Mises (and now Block) is that only one single human action can take place at one time. Therefore, a person cannot make multiple decisions/actions at the same time. Block concedes that such a hierarchy of values might well exist in the form of “preferences,” but says that this is outside the domain of economics, which is only concerned with choice. Block and Barnett conclude, “Economic action consists of choosing one thing, and setting aside all others. It is logically impossible to do more than one thing at a time. Yet, that is precisely the implication of the scale of values” (91).

Jul
15
2016

Politics vs. Community Engagement

A survey by the National Conference on Citizenship found that Washington DC residents ranked last in the nation in “trusting all or most neighbors.” But Washingtonians certainly have trust for their rulers. Their trust in the media is number one in the country. And, as good consumers of the media, they ranked first in voter turnout in 2012.

DC is in the bottom half of the nation in terms of charitable giving. The survey even said they don’t care much about eating together as families (based on Census answers).

Ilir Zherka, Executive Director of the National Conference on Citizenship, remarked, “As compared to the rest of the country, D.C is the most politically active, but also the most socially disconnected place in the country.”

Real life is lived in the local community. True service can only be offered face-to-face to other humans. National politics is not about serving people; it is about lining the pockets of lobbyists and politicians and ruling over millions of nameless people.

 

May
14
2016

Responding to State Worshipers

Worship is an act of uncritical devotion. Some people worship God, an infatuated teen might worship her boyfriend; some folks worship state power. But uncritical devotion can make people believe things that just aren’t so, and it can even make them a little batty.

In a free market, the creepy companies might actually go “bye bye”

In a 2006 issue of The Journal of Corporate Citizenship, Walter Block and William Barnett II teamed up to defend liberty in the article “Rejoinder to Critics of Laissez-Faire Capitalism.” They were responding to critics who took issue with their controversial thesis: The key to promoting prosperity for people and for the environment is to “reign in government to the greatest extent possible.”

 

This viewpoint doesn’t ring of controversy to pro-freedom ears, but imagine you are a scholar who blames all the world’s problems on private companies and that most notorious of bugaboos “inequality.” Imagine if you worshiped state power as your savior from global ills.

Now let Block and Barnett put your worshiping at ease so you can go live today a little more guilt-free.

State Worshiper #1

Block and Barnett objected to J.A. Batten and P.G. Szilagyi’s claim that large corporations have the ability to “impose” their will on people. Economic and moral power, yes, for a time, but not political power to impose against human wills. Block and Barnett noted that the demise of creepy private companies like Enron and WorldCom testify to the health of the markets because these jerks no longer exist. And yet governments, who make these Enron-types look like “petty thieves,” remain intact.

Batten and Szilagyi worship the state so fully that they argued on the grounds that the most interventionist governments “all have the highest individual incomes.” Block cited his own research in his 1996 book Economic Freedom of the World, 1975-1995 against this idea, adding that, even if it were somehow true, it would be ­“despite government interventionism, not because of it” (p 18). One wonders how scholars sitting in expensive chairs could have such blind faith in the positive effects of government interventionism. Pure state worship.

State Worshiper #2

The next state-worshiper, C. Higgins, repeated the tired idea that income-inequality has increased in the places where the free market has flourished.

In fact, the opposite is true, according to Block and Barnett. The markets actually promote income equality. It is a positive-sum game. If only every game was positive-sum.

“In contrast, when a politician or bureaucrat prospers, he does so at the expense of the long-suffering taxpayer, as this is a coercive, zero-sum game” (p 19).

In reality, it is not private companies or the free market but rather the dictator and his fellas who steal off the largest proportion of wealth in society. The people in such societies are quite equal and quite poor.

 

Apr
4
2016

25 Reasons Why Americans Find Donald Trump Appealing

The Trumpalooza has taken over the American people in the build-up to the 2016 Presidential election. It is true, some people have serious concerns about a business-tycoon-turned-reality-tv star running the affairs of the country. They think he’s too brash, too rich, too cartoonish, too bigoted, too… something and everything. But, these dissenters to the brand of Trump are vanishing by the insult.

Trump has appeal, for real. And it is not just media-driven. Yes, he benefits immensely from free media coverage (Rand Paul complained that he, too would be doing quite well had he received a billion in free press). The press finds him irresistible probably for many reasons, but surely one of them is because the American people are enchanted by The Donald.

Just look at the crowds he attracts at a moment’s notice. Trump announced, with 48 hours notice, that he will drop by Mesa, Arizona the day after the December 15 Republican Debate in Las Vegas. 15,000 people showed up. That is some draw. And he grew out of two venues until he was offered an airport hangar to make his speech. This is the norm wherever Trump goes.

25 Reasons Why Americans Find Trump Appealing

1. Independence (Trump is Really Rich): Donald is famously rich; he’s worth $10 billion. This means he can be more independent than other candidates who depend heavily on wealthy donors. Since he refuses outside money, he is not controlled by those who would offer it.

People like Trump's brash style 2. New Money Rich: Dan Phillips of The Economic Populist made the point that Donald comes from new money rather than old money. “While Trump didn’t come from a poor family, his family wasn’t that rich, so Trump behaves like new rich – the brashness the ostentatiousness, the conspicuous consumption… I think a lot of Trump’s presentation and appeal is that he is in essence just a guy from Queens who made good for himself, and who may still have a bit of a chip on his shoulder. Trump’s Flyover Country supporters see a kindred spirit who happens to be a billionaire, but for those significantly concerned with propriety, they see an intolerably boorish lout.”

3. Political Outsider: Trump has never been a politician before. He talked about running in the late 80s, but never did it. Ben Carson is also a political outsider. At one point in this race, Trump and Carson were leading the polls in Iowa. When has that ever happened before? American voters are apparently not so interested in all the puppets that the Republican Party tramped out in front of the voters. Guys like Kasich and Christie and, my God, how exciting, Jeb Bush!

4. Ridicules the Establishment: The Establishment is supposed to be taken seriously by all of us. The pundits are supposed to be powerful enough to drown out anything they don’t want to discuss. Trump can say anything he wants without fearing the media will change the topic or ignore him. These Establishment people have manufactured so many unnecessary problems for the American people – and he absolutely ridicules them. Isn’t it fun to watch?

5. Presentations/Style: Unlike all of his opponents, Trump is not boring. He has a certain style and turns everything he does into theatre. Media pundits disparage him as an “entertainer” but a lot of people like his style and his ability to entertain.

6. Unfiltered Mouth: Trump speaks his mind. Agree with him, disagree with him. Nobody is telling him to say it. He works off his gut instincts. That is a plus for him because people see him as a successful fellow.

7. Insults Politicians: People don’t mind insults so much if they are directed at a hated class, namely, American politicians. Sure, he’ll hurl an insult at Rosie every now and then, but she’s not so well-liked herself. Mostly, he is referring to politicians when he lobs such names as “fat slob” and “loser.” Nobody is crawling to their defense.

8. His Insults are “True”: Like any good stand-up comic, Trump says things that we are already thinking, even if not consciously. Jeb is low energy, Fiorina does too often have the scowl of an angry ex. The insults are true enough that we laugh… and remember.

9. Impromptu Speeches: People might not view Trump’s hair as authentic, but they view Trump the man as authentic. They listen to him speak and think, “He believes it, he really believes it. And he is pissed off.” Nobody imagines a think tank writing him a gloating speech about how he is kicking everybody’s ass in the polls.

10. Political Correctness: Americans are fed up with the cloying political correctness they encounter at every turn. PC is evident in all public discourse. It assumes the worst intention when another person disagrees with you. Trump won’t put up with it. Americans want to fight back against the ====bullies. When the Black Lives Matter people stole Bernie Sanders’ microphone, Trump poked fun at him. Trump is not afraid of the political bullies in the crowds or in the media.

11. Media-Proof: The media is generally quite effective at marginalizing outsider candidates. But Trump is not exactly an unknown to the American public. People kind of know his background and style, and they kind of like it. Millions of Americans have already seen his decision-making style on their television when they watched The Apprentice.

12. Negotiation Skills: Donald wrote The Art of the Deal, which he says is the second best book in the world (the Bible is better, he says). He is famous for getting what he wants and enjoying his life. Americans sense that the man has clearly won his share of negotiations.

13. Winner: “America doesn’t win anymore.” This is a constant refrain in Donald’s politics. It is true. America has lost a couple of wars, SAT scores were higher before Disco (did Disco make us dumber?), and the economic recovery has been less than inspiring. American does seem to have a “winning” problem these days. Supporters of Trump think putting a winner in office might translate into American becoming a winner again. Hence, the perception of plausibility in Trump’s trite campaign slogan.

14. Screw Decorum: The greatly respected conservative intellectual Charles Murray criticized Trump for his lack of decorum. Murray thinks conservatives should be gentlemen. But many conservative Americans enjoy Trump’s aggression because it shows that at least he is willing to fight against their foes.

15. Populism: Trump positions himself as “the voice of the people”. He answers media questions as if he transmitted the feelings of the American people. He frequently invokes the “silent majority”, adding that it isn’t so silent anymore. His is a populism that appeals to disparate types of Americans: minorities, conservatives, white democrats.

16. No Policy Papers: It is true, Trump does not publish papers with detailed position statements. It seems that Trump prefers to see where his negotiations can take him. Multitudes appreciate the fact that he has no policy papers because that means that he has no comprehensive program to screw the American people. Who, if it is not the American people, are the main targets in political policy papers?

17. Immigration: Trump altered the political debate when he brought up the problem of illegal immigrants doing illegal things. The immigration issue is the Donald’s strongest because he sets himself clearly apart from most other Republican candidates. Incidentally, many Republican voters support Trump’s minority position in the Party. Blacks and (legal) Hispanics support Trump on immigration. Also, people want to see the big, fat, beautiful wall the Donald has fixed in his mind.

18. Always Opposed TPP: Of course, many politicians have come out against the TPP/ObamaTrade, but the only Republican to be against it from the beginning was Donald Trump (the only Democrat was Bernie Sanders). On the issue of free trade, Trump is enthusiastically against it. But there have been little more than yawns from other Republican candidates. This would seem to be an opportunity for Republican candidates to differentiate themselves from Trump, but he is leading the charge and framing this issue, too.

19. Questions American Empire: Trump was an early critic of the Iraq War. Jeb still unquestionably supports his bro’s entry into Iraq, his only criticism of Iraq is that the exit strategy could have been better. Trump is also not obsessed with foreign policy. Highly refreshing for Americans who have grown tired of the bellicosity of Republican politicians.

20. No Worse Than Alternative Candidates: Electing Trump is not “scary” for many Americans. People are just as afraid of Jeb and Hillary ruling over them.

21. Debates with Hillary: What could be more entertaining than Trump calling Hillary Clinton out on her emails? Republican voters remember well Romney and McCain’s feeble sparring matches with President Obama. Would Mrs. Clinton really be afraid of a debate with Marco Rubio and his “working-class credentials?”

22. Jobs: People feel that Trump will protect job losses to other countries, especially Mexico.

23. Etch a Sketch: The Establishment desperately needs some shaking up. $200 trillion in un-funded liabilities for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid seems to be a problem. The first step is to ridicule the establishment and shake things up a bit. If the establishment doesn’t even take the debt seriously, how can the American voter expect to ever get out from under it?

24. Twitter: The Donald uses Twitter to keep his messages going out to millions of supporters. His insult-laced Tweets are interesting enough that some actually get read. This attention by his followers probably helps him organize supporters very quickly as well.

25. Businessman: Donald Trump has spent his life as a businessman, building golf courses and other stuff people enjoy. Everybody says the Donald is a joy to work for. Americans like business tycoons, they figure these people have at least responded to the wishes of others to earn their fame. It’s true that Trump has used the bankruptcy laws to his advantage, but how many American’s are against that? How many of his peers on the Republican debate stage are against it?

Bonus: “Barack… You’re Fired”: Millions of Americans are waiting to hear it. Imagine Trump’s tweet on election’s eve.

Mar
20
2016

Should You Go To Jail for Lying?

In The Journal of Libertarian Studies, Dr. Walter Block argued with his libertarian colleague Frank van Dun over the issue of lying and criminal law. In an earlier article, Van Dun had offered the case of a man under the bridge who lies to some hikers about the safety of the bridge. The poor folks die, and it’s a very sad story. For Van Dun, the lying scum should be held guilty for his cold and seemingly murderous act. Block argued, however, that it is not a crime to give bad information or even to maintain silence, which also would have resulted in the hikers’ deaths. “His analysis implies either compulsory good Samaritanism or truth telling,” Block said.

Walter Block argued that the only scenario in which the man should be guilty is if the hikers had paid him for the information and he had been “contractually obligated” to tell them the truth. “Then he would be guilty of a contract violation that resulted in death, a very serious matter indeed.”

A lie is not a threat of violence. You might use my bad information to get yourself into trouble, but, if I had no legal obligation to give you “good” or accurate information, then it is simply up to you to weigh my advice against other kinds of information. People are sometimes helpful, sometimes competitive or mischievous. This is how life works; you are responsible for your own life and property.

 

Block, Walter.  “Reply to Frank van Dun’s ‘Natural Law and the Jurisprudence of Freedom’” Journal of Libertarian Studies. Vol. 18, No. 2, Spring 2004. pp. 65-72.

Dec
19
2015

Is Predatory Pricing Impossible? – How Mr. Dow Outsmarted the Monopolists

The story of Herbert Dow, the founder of the Dow Chemical Company, provides a wonderful case study against the efficacy of “predatory pricing” in the free market. In the early 20th century, Mr. Dow used the free market – not some state regulatory agency – to outsmart the Bromkonvention, a price-cutting cartel of 30 German chemical companies.

The case centers on the chemical bromine, which was used to produce film and used as a sedative. The German cartel set the global price at 49 cents a pound. American companies, including Dow Chemical, sold bromine for only 36 cents. The cartel told them to stay in the American market; Dow took his bromine abroad in 1904.

The Bromkonvention attempted predatory pricing to drive Dow out of the market. It started selling bromine in the American market at 15 cents a pound, taking a loss at the extraordinarily low price. Dow simply purchased hundreds of thousands of pounds at 15 cents and sold them back to Germany and England for 27 cents – a nearly 100% profit. The Germans couldn’t figure out why American demand was so high; they further cut the price down to 10.5 cents a pound, simply increasing Dow’s already incredible margins.

Dow later challenged the Germans in many other markets during the WWI era. He produced indigo, aspirin, Novocain and phenol, which was used to make explosives during the war.

Dow’s bromine war shows the free-market solution to the problem of predatory pricing posed by cartels at home and abroad. Those who huddle together and agree on artificially high prices are by definition the lazier and stupider of the companies; they are running away from work and intelligence. The way to break them up is to outsmart them and laugh at them.

Nov
21
2015

Book Review: “Get a Job, Build a Real Career and Defy a Bewildering Economy”

Charles Hugh Smith is an economist and blogger who writes primarily on his Of Two Minds blog. He published his book “Get a Job, Build a Real Career and Defy a Bewildering Economy” this year to help job-seekers navigate career planning in the newly emerging economy.

Today’s Emerging Economy

Charles Hugh Smith paints a picture of today’s emerging economy as one that is based on using new technologies to deliver more value at lower costs. His premise is that, since many business sectors and especially governments are grossly inefficient and expensive today, there must be a reversal of the trend to constantly spend more and consume more. Indefinite expansion of consumption is the core problem because it is unsustainable. In fact, it has not really been “sustained” for several years. The enormous consumption has been based increasingly on debt. The rising interest payment on the debt will lead to insolvency of dinosaur industries and government services that protect themselves only by political power and not by economic efficiency.

What are these new technologies that are supposed to lower costs and enable increases in production? They are referred to as DSFRA technologies (digital-software-fabrication-robotics-automation). Smith sees the opportunities both in the new sectors created by technology and also in the traditional industries that can take advantage of the DSFRA technologies to become more efficient (27). There is opportunity to improve upon the services currently performed by highly centralized bureaucracies, where labor costs are way too expensive considering their inefficiency.

Creative Destruction

Economist Joseph Schumpeter famously used the term “creative destruction” to talk about the tendency of innovation to destroy the traditional economy and its various monopolies. Capital must expand; the only way for capitalists to find productive investments is to neglect and destroy less productive investments. There is a constant battle between security and innovation. Free-market capitalism is despised by those who want to maintain the status-quo in the economy – who want to protect fat monopolies because they are on the “inside” and benefiting from them. The free-market provides opportunities for those who don’t depend on the status-quo.

Smith talks about the difference between free-market capitalism and state-cartel capitalism. These are two combating sides of capitalism. They are not even close to the same ideology. He does a good job explaining why people either love or hate free-market capitalism. “Those who see it disrupting oppressive social and economic arrangements view it as liberating, while those whose security depended on inefficient, corrupt, obsolete systems maintaining power indefinitely view it as destructive” (31). Those latter folks who love security and turn a blind eye to inefficiency are supporters of state-cartel-capitalism. Perhaps the supporters of increasing consumption and increasing debt should be labeled as the “conservatives” of today.

“The great irony of free-market capitalism,” Smith wrote, “is that the only way to establish an enduring security is to embrace innovation and adaption, the very processes that generate short-term insecurity” (36). To put it in a more Darwinian way, “Eliminating risk eliminates the possibility of successful adaptation.” The implication for the jobseeker is this: no risk, no reward.

Smith predicts that these inefficient status-quo bureaucracies will be replaced by “do-ocracies,” where an individual’s influence will be based on how much of value a person does. Influence will be earned.

Beyond Centralized Bureaucracy

Smith blames hyper-consumerism as the source of modern-day alienation in the workplace. But it’s not just the workers – it’s also the employers who are interchangeable and commoditized today. He builds on the analysis of cultural historian Christopher Lasch, who examined the alienating factors in American society in the late 1970s. Smith gave a brilliant summary of these factors discovered by Lasch: “A narcissistic personality crippled by a fragile sense of self that sought solace in consumerist identifiers and a therapeutic mindset that saw alienation not as the consequence of large-scale, centralized commoditization and financialization but as individual issues to be addressed with self-help and pop psychology” (69).

Rather than viewing ever-increasing centralization as the solution to modern-day alienation, Smith identifies it as the cause of alienation. People are less equipped with self-confidence and self-reliance because of centralization, and thus less able to take the personal responsibility necessary to overcome alienation. The therapeutic mindset sells people on the idea that their happiness and success depends on some protracted relationship with a highly-centralized organization.

Create Value That Solves Problems

Graduating from high-school or even college is no guarantee that you will have the hard or soft skills necessary to thrive in today’s economy. The skills of professionalism will not appear magically as students go through their coursework. These skills would include things like the ability to communicate clearly, to be accountable to others and to self-manage. Smith argues that these kinds of professional skills need to be learned systematically by job-seekers and students.

It is important for people to learn how to create value that solves problems. Charles Smith wrote, “The ultimate purpose of education is to learn how to acquire human and social capital, and the ultimate purpose of human and social capital is mastery of the skills needed to solve problems” (73).

If educators want to prepare students for the work-place, Smith says they should teach them two things: how to learn and the values/behaviors needed to develop human and social capital. Human capital includes personal attributes such as knowledge, abilities and personal attributes. Social capital refers to the economic benefits of social cooperation (trust, information-sharing, providing assistance to community members). In a word, human capital is personal ability or knowledge and social capital is the ability or knowledge of a social network.

Top 8 Professional Skills

  1. Career-long learning
  2. Cross-applying knowledge to different fields
  3. Adaptability to different work environments
  4. Accountability for work
  5. Effective Collaboration (online and offline)
  6. Clear communication
  7. Constantly developing human and social capital
  8. Knowledge of financial records and project management

Ethical Values Create Economic Value

In addition to these professional skills, job-seekers need strong ethical values to be productive. This is far more important than education; ethical values actually determine how much human and social capital you develop at any level of schooling. And ethical values are fashioned in the home and the community, especially during childhood. Smith identified some of the key ethical values needed for success: self-discipline, protracted focus and deferred gratification for long-term goals. Unethical people tend to have low self-discipline and gratify their appetites immediately – despite the long-term deterrents working against their decisions (jail-time, always being broke, undeveloped talents, general monotony).

Self-Accreditation

After giving an analysis of the higher education cartel’s ability to raise prices even as the value of degrees goes down, Smith offers a solution to the job-seeker who wants to avoid paying extortionist prices for the credentials that will help get him hired: accredit yourself.

Essentially, this process involves mastering the eight professional skills cited earlier, mastering new skills and then demonstrating your abilities to solve real problems for real organizations. Put these projects online and distribute them to networks so that your abilities are easy to verify by potential employers.

Conclusion

Overall, the book does a good job of showing job-seekers how to spend their time: getting busy doing projects and publicizing them online with measurable results and easy-to-demonstrate proof. Smith calls this “self-accreditation.” Smith identifies centralization as the great problem in today’s economy, especially in the top-heavy sectors that have a lot of waste, such as government, healthcare, education and security.

The most unique contribution Smith makes is at the beginning of the book with his rather sophisticated economic analysis of the emerging economy and the different forms of capitalism operating in the world today. His points on the importance of professional skills and the strategy of self-accreditation are spot-on, even if these are not completely new ideas.

Smith, Charles Hugh. “Get a Job, Build a Real Career and Defy a Bewildering Economy.” Charles Hugh Smith, 2014.

Buy the book at Amazon

Jul
11
2015

Austrian Economics: More Than a Hypothesis!

In a speech at Mises University in 2011, the legendary Austrian economist Hans-Hermann Hoppe argued forcefully that Austrian economics cannot be treated merely as a hypothesis. It is not an empirical science that must be tested out in the world, but rather a working out of logical principles. It must be true. It rests on principles that cannot be untrue.

Hoppe called his speech Praxeology: The Method of Economics. Austrian economics rests on praxeology, which is the study of human action. And human action is a person’s pursuit of valued goals using finite means including time. If the real economics rests on the implications of human action, then one needs to start out with some basic axioms on purposeful human action. Actually, it is more than a start; Austrians argue that a firm understanding of logically-necessary human action should serve as the basis for economic thought. Sure, empirical study will confirm the theory, but the theory doesn’t depend on it. Common sense will do the trick.

What, then, are the implications of praxeology?

  • No one can purposefully not act
  • Every action is aimed at an improvement over what otherwise would have happened
  • A larger quantity of a good is preferred over a smaller quantity
  • What is consumed now can’t be consumed again
  • If the supply is lowered, either the same quantity or more is bought
  • Prices fixed below market-clearing prices lead to shortages
  • Without property, prices are impossible. And without prices, cost-accounting is impossible
  • An increase in property titles without a corresponding increase in real property does not raise social wealth – but leads to a redistribution of existing wealth
  • If the minimum wage is increased to $1,000 per hour, then massive unemployment will result
  • Every voluntary exchange benefits both exchange partners
  • Every coercive exchange has a winner and a loser

These examples are not hypothetical. They are firmly based in the “laws” of behavior and incentives, or what is called “a priori knowledge.” These things must be true, if you just stop and think about it. While a priori knowledge may not tell us very many things, it does tell us some important things.

Hoppe argued that the examples above are different from truly hypothetical questions that you would have to test, such as “Do people prefer McDonald’s or Burger King?” Logical positivists deny there is a difference between these two kinds of knowledge; they neglect common sense and say that everything is just hypothesis and could possibly be negated. I call balderdash and so does Hoppe. To negate any of the implications above should strike you as absurd. To think it is possible that raising minimum wage to $1,000 could increase employment should strike you as absurd.hoppe Logic will hold under all circumstances and should be respected rather than questioned at every turn.

Now this does not mean that the specifics of human actions can be predicted scientifically; for this is the job of entrepreneurs. Making predictions about future behaviors is more of an art than a science. The entrepreneur’s job is to predict the preferences of potential customers to make a profit. Hoppe explained that we cannot predict our future levels of knowledge until we actually have them. There are no “empirical constants” that can predict what people will do in the future.

But the kind of knowledge you can get from praxeology can have the great benefit of avoiding mass harm. For instance, Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973) pointed out in 1920 that socialism could not possibly raise living standards. This is because it is impossible to make economic calculations under socialism. He said it was impossible because there is no private property for the factors of production. And without private property there can be no prices for the factors of production. And the absence of prices is the real problem: we cannot compare the input and output prices to calculate the relative efficiency of production and discover whether we will make money or lose it. “If this is a hypothesis,” Hoppe asked, “then what do we need to do in order to find out whether this is true or not?” The answer is as inescapable as it is horrifying: “We have to introduce socialism first.” And, as we know from history, even though it is proven empirically to fail its victims and lower their living standards, socialist apologists simply say the planners weren’t given enough controls! Hoppe mocked the idea, imagining what the partisans of coercion might say in defense of socialism: “It might be different if we also controlled the weather or if Stalin puts on a hat which he did not put on the year before or if he murdered a few more Ukranians – then it might work out perfectly or alright.”

So the problem with talking about “empirical economics” is that it enables power-mongers to try their ideas out on less powerful people. Unfortunately, trying out bad economics causes great evils against real humans and then nobody bothers apologizing to the families of the dead because they excuse their bad economic theories endlessly. They posture and say that it wasn’t a pure enough test for their perfect ideas and must be tried again, risking more lives.

It is better to require economics to be rational and true from the beginning; true from its basic axioms.

 

Jun
21
2015

Minarchists and Anarchists Agree on 95% Reduction in Government, Says Walter Block

The incomparable Austrian economist Dr. Walter Block visited with Brian Wilson on the Libertas Media Podcast recently to discuss libertarianism – especially the movement and its various distinctions. Dr. Block made the statement that anarchists and minarchists agree that the government should shrink by 95%. Minarchists are those limited-government libertarians who believe a tiny government is necessary to protect property rights and uphold the law – something libertarian anarchists believe could be done more effectively in the private sector. Block said these two groups should work together as brothers-in-arms against the Statists to decease the government by 95% and only then should they worry about that final 5%. Perhaps this could have been an interesting debate between the founding fathers around the time of the American Revolution, but right now the aim should be getting rid of the welfare, warfare and waste.

Walter Block, the Big Tent libertarian

Walter Block, the Big Tent libertarian

The big question is one of principle: Can a person still be a libertarian if they are involved in politics? Anarcho-Capitalists, who are libertarian anarchists, would generally frown upon people being involved with the government in any way because they view it as an institution of systematic violence and injustice. But Walter Block, who describes himself as a “big-tent” libertarian, sees no violation of libertarian principles when a libertarian enters politics. Still, as big-tent as Walter Block might be, he noted at the end of the podcast that there are standards that must be met to call yourself a libertarian. There must be economic freedom, personal freedom and non-offensive foreign policy.

Ron Paul is an example of a libertarian who went into politics without abandoning his libertarian principles. But he fought every expansion of the U.S. government and worked to reduce it, constantly educating people on the need to do so. Perhaps it is really a question of the politician’s goal when he gains political power: will he use his power to grow the government or to reduce it. It would be difficult to label Congressman Paul’s involvement in politics as “anti-libertarian.”

We are all involved with the government every day of our lives; it is simply too overwhelming large to not deal with it from time to time. Block cites the example of taxes: if you pay your taxes (even if only to avoid jail) then you are participating with the U.S. government in some way. This is unavoidable. Ben Franklin was right. There are only two guarantees in life: death and taxes. And the government will be an instrumental part of at least one of these guarantees in your life. Block illustrated his point by saying that if a mugger demanded your money and you gave it to him, you would not be in the wrong… you would be a victim. And you are a victim of the government and forced to participate with it in many ways.

And it isn’t just paying taxes that forces you to “participate” with the state. Going to the library, working in any capacity for the government or a company contracted by the government, or even driving on public roads forces you to participate with the government. Why should we single out running for political positions as the sole way of participating with the state? As long as the motivation isn’t power—which it almost always is – an individual running for political office could be a consistent libertarian if his focus was on reducing the government and educating the public. I suppose this would most likely be a minarchist libertarian, but perhaps even an anarchist could take a public office for the express practical purpose of reducing the government by 100%. It would be like buying the New York Yankees, a team you hate, and running the franchise into the ground so they could never compete in the Major Leagues ever again.

According to Walter Block, if you can take money from the government, say through social security or getting matching campaign funds during an election campaign, then you should do it. He calls it “liberating” money from the government. Block said that at age 73 he gladly takes money from the government when they freely give it to him. He quipped that he would possibly also take money from them when they didn’t freely give it to him, but he was too much of a coward with regard to the consequences of jail and violence. Taking from the government is the same as taking from a robber gang (albeit with good PR).

May
3
2015

Stan Evans: Conservatives Coming to Save the World

Conservatives typically laugh at those who want to save the world. But that is exactly what Stan Evans and other founders of the modern conservative movement wanted to do: save the world from communism. They wanted to take over the Republican Party, then take over the nation and thereby defeat communism in the world. Anti-communism was the defining issue of the time for conservatives. Evans wrote a book defending Wisconsin Senator Joe McCarthy and his crusade against domestic communist, a 600-pager called “Blacklisted by History: The Untold History of Senator Joe McCarthy and His Fight Against America’s Enemies.”

Stan Evans, who died at 80 on March 3, 2015, played an important role at the beginning of the modern American conservative movement. He authored the Sharon Statement in September 1960, a defining document of the conservative movement which laid out the guiding values for the Young Americans for Freedom (YAF). The Heritage Foundation summarized the principles in the Sharon Statement:stan evans

“Free will and moral authority come from God; political and economic liberty are essential for a free people and free institutions; government must be strictly and constitutionally limited; the market economy is the economic system most compatible with freedom; and Communism must be defeated, not merely contained.”

Evans worked a journalist in Indianapolis in his 20s and later taught journalism at Troy University. He also headed up the conservative-backed National Journalism Center in Washington for 25 years.