Archive for November, 2009

Audio of the Latest Mises Circle Now Available

I can’t believe I missed it. I usually wake up giddy when these things roll around. For those wondering what I’m talking about, I’m referring to the latest Mises Circle event held this past weekend in Newport Beach, California.

Mises Circle? Is that like Stonehenge?

For the unitiated, the Ludwig von Mises Institute holds periodic traveling mini-conferences, bringing together some of the most fascinating scholars working under the economics umbrella. This latest event featured Doug French, Robert Murphy, Thomas DiLorenzo, George Reisman, Peter Klein, and David Gordon, all speaking on the topic “Economic Downturn: Cause and Cure”. Check out the audio files here.

November 16, 2009 at 4:33 pm 1 comment

Are Illinois Republicans and Democrats Against Voter Choice?

Now that the 2010 Illinois candidate filing deadline for major parties has passed, I took a look at who our potential representatives will be after the November 2010 elections. What I learned was that the Republican and Democratic parties in Illinois are failing the voters.

The common perception of the electoral process is that two or more political parties put candidates up against each other to allow the citizens to select their representation. Apparently, that’s not the way it works in Illinois. Of the 139 Illinois legislative races up for grabs in 2010, 62 of those (45%) are unopposed, giving Illinois voters no choice in their representation. Of these, 47 are unopposed Democrats and 13 are unopposed Republicans.

To break this down further, 10 of the 21 State Senate races (48%) and 52 of the 118 State Representative races (44%) will be unopposed.

This gives third parties a tremendous opportunity in 2010…that is if we decide to step up and give the voters a choice. The Libertarian Party, commonly described as fiscally conservative and socially liberal, is uniquely positioned to be able to find common ground with voters regardless of the opposition. Voters who otherwise would have stayed home out of frustration will have the opportunity to make their voices heard. Unopposed politicians will not be able to claim a mandate when they can clearly see the percentage of voters who took time out of their day to come and vote for a long-shot.

I strongly encourage third-party readers to click here to search your address and see which political districts you may be eligible for. Signature requirements for Illinois legislative races are not completely unreasonable and will give third parties a tremendous opportunity to present an alternative to the corrupt politicians who have been running Illinois for so long.

Once you know what districts you’re eligible for, click here to see whether your district is unopposed and contact your local party affiliate to let them know you want to get involved. To put it bluntly, the people of Illinois have had enough, and you can help them take their state back.

November 11, 2009 at 11:11 am Leave a comment

Taking Protectionism to its Logical Conclusions

The Ludwig von Mises Institute has re-posted a classic bit of satire by nineteenth century French economist Frederic Bastiat entitled “The Candlemakers’ Petition”. In it, domestic candlemakers call for government protection of their industry against the unfair competition of sunlight. I strongly encourage everyone to take ten minutes out of their day to read this excellent piece, if only for the closing thought:

Make your choice, but be logical; for as long as you exclude, as you do, coal, iron, corn, foreign fabrics, in proportion as their price approximates to zero, what inconsistency it would be to admit the light of the sun, the price of which is already at zero during the entire day!

Note: as I was writing this, I noticed that a modern update has been posted by D. W. MacKenzie entitled “A Petition from Producers of Everything Connected with Healthcare”. Check it out and have fun.

November 9, 2009 at 3:08 pm Leave a comment

Wall Street Journal Endorses Austrian Economics?

Could it be? Am I dreaming? These were the thoughts running through my head on Friday when I read that the Wall Street Journal had published an op-ed lamenting the fact that the ideas of Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises are not given the credit they deserve.

Mark Spitznagel, founder and chief investment officer of the hedge fund Universa Investments LP explains the Misesian story of how government-induced credit expansion encourages continued investment in wasteful and unsustainable lines of production (as opposed to allowing the free market to allocate resources into the lines most highly-valued by consumers) and eventually leads to a situation where the system “collapses under its own weight”. Furthermore, Spitznagel credits Ludwig von Mises with predicting the Great Depression and states,

“How curious it is that the guy who wrote the script depicting our never ending story of government-induced credit expansion, inflation and collapse has remained so persistently forgotten. Must we sit through yet another performance of this tragic tale?”

With every passing day, it is becoming more and more apparent that the Keynesian policy recommendations so popular today, despite being discredited by the stagflation of the 1970s, are doomed to failure. Supporters of freedom cannot afford to let this opportunity pass us by. When even a statist organ like the Wall Street Journal is publishing op-eds admonishing policy makers, “Don’t encourage consumption, but rather encourage saving and the repayment of debt”, it shows that the loss of freedom is not inevitable so long as those who understand sound economic reasoning remain vigilant.

November 9, 2009 at 1:00 am Leave a comment

Unemployment Continues to Rise; Good Thing the Recession is Over

The October unemployment numbers were released on Friday, and they’re even worse than expected at 10.2%. If you believe the media, this is the highest rate since 1983. On the other hand, when the numbers are calculated as they actually were in 1983, the true unemployment rate is now at 17.5% (the chart below from ShadowStats.com shows a few alternate figures using different criteria).

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Does anyone remember back in January when Obama & Co. announced that unless we passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (worth $787 billion), unemployment would rise to approximately 9%, and that the “stimulus plan” would keep unemployment below 8%? Well, we got that plan–and quite a bit of other government meddling with the economy–and things are even worse than the administration claimed they would have been had they done nothing. Harvard economist Greg Mankiw has maintained a nice graphic (below) to illustrate how things are progressing.

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This really isn’t all that surprising. Despite the common belief that FDR’s New Deal got us out of the Great Depression (after only 17 years!), the reality was that businesses could see the writing on the wall, and chose not to make investments in what they felt was a hostile environment. As Robert Higgs argued in his book, Depression, War, and Cold War,

[T]he insufficiency of private investment from 1935 through 1940 reflected a pervasive uncertainty among investors about the security of their property rights in their capital and its prospective returns.  This uncertainty arose, especially, though not exclusively, from the character of the actions of the federal government and the nature of the Roosevelt administration during the so-called Second New Deal, from 1935 to 1940.

Now before you say that we’re lucky that businesses today aren’t so pessimistic, I call your attention to the chart below showing the current status of private domestic investment.

Gross Private Domestic Investment - 1948-10.2009

As the Washington Post reported on Friday in their article “Some Giants Sitting on Piles of Cash”, many business executives are smart enough to see that the climate being created by Washington is not one in which they should be taking risks. One of the businesses highlighted, Nucor Corp., is not investing because, as stated by their CEO Daniel DiMicco, “we don’t have a lot of confidence that the right things are being done in Washington to reinvigorate the economy…”.  On top of that, attempts by politicians to “stimulate” their favorite sectors of the economy are only ensuring that what investments are made, are made in the wrong areas.

It’s time for Obama & Co. to get out of the way and allow the economy to function as it should. The more politicians monkey with efforts to produce and to create real wealth, the longer it will take to see recovery. If this op-ed from the Wall Street Journal is any indication, things just may be beginning to look up.

November 8, 2009 at 12:57 am Leave a comment

2010 Calendars from the Mises Institute

A few months ago, I e-mailed Jeff Tucker at Mises.org suggesting that they create some kind of calendar with photos of important economists, quotes, significant dates, etc. I thought, “what better way to bring up the Austrian School of economics at work than to have pictures of old, dead economists on your wall?” Well, I’m happy to report that they took my advice and have made the 2010 LvMI calendar available in their online store. Now I’ll never forget Bohm-Bawerk’s birthday again.

Check out the calendar and be sure to order a couple for your home, your office…your car?

November 5, 2009 at 12:43 am Leave a comment

Answering the Objections to Capitalism

I always enjoy seeing competent economists answering the often-repeated, yet long-discredited objections to capitalism. Art Carden, adjunct fellow with the Independent Institute and professor of economics and business at Rhodes College has put together this wonderful article entitled “Common Objections to Capitalism”. Not surprisingly, he concludes that “Substituting elite power for voluntary exchange invites all sorts of epistemological problems and moral disasters. For these reasons, capitalism deserves to be defended.”

For those wishing to investigate further, I recommend the following articles:

“Anatomy of an Economic Ignoramus” by Thomas E. Woods, Jr.

“The Noneconomic Objections to Capitalism” by Ludwig von Mises

Also interesting is the video below, where a student gets Michael Moore to admit that America does not really have a free-market system.

November 3, 2009 at 3:40 pm Leave a comment

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