Archive for March 2012 – Page 2

Spring Mises Academy Online Courses

Lew Rockwell on The Political Economy of War with Thomas DiLorenzo, which started last night, but is still open for enrollment:

After all, war is one of the State’s two signature activities (the other being taxation). War enhances the State’s power and glory, dampens dissent and the economy, and moves any country towards omnipotent government. In our own country, every war has enriched the State, and amplified its power, while attacking and shrinking society. In our own day of perpetual war, economic crisis, and increasing totalitarianism via the Pentagon, what could be more important than understanding “The Political Economy of War”? Thank goodness Tom DiLorenzo is teaching such a course… Tom is an extraordinary teacher, and this course will be scholarly, accessible, important, and hugely entertaining. Not to mention educational!

And Lew on The Betrayal of the American Right and the Rise of the Neoconservatives with David Gordon, which starts next week:

The neoconservative movement bestrides, like a clay-footed colossus, every rotten activity of the US government, from war to welfare, from the police state to the empire. How did a small group of ex-Trotskyites come to take over large swaths of the conservative movement, the Republican and Democratic parties, and much of the State itself? We must know the enemy, so David Gordon’s course couldn’t come at a better time. Funny and brilliant, David provides a scholarly and fun rundown of the movement running down our society. Using Murray Rothbard’s Betrayal of the American Right and many other works, he talks about such men as Leo Strauss, the philosopher of the “noble lie,” William F. Buckley, Jr., the CIA agent to who purged the American Right of its antiwar, anti-empire heritage, and many other chilling figures. With this course, you will understand an insidious movement, and why it is, for example, Ron Paul’s biggest enemy. We must know these enemies of freedom, their origins and their tactics—and their real ideology—to be well-equipped for the battle. Thank you, Dr. Gordon, for supplying the ammo. Oh, and did I mention that this may be David’s most un-PC course yet? Sign up!

Also coming up, Defending the Undefendable with Walter Block and Principles of Economics with Robert Murphy!

Krugman on Friedman: An Austrian Approach

Paul Krugman, in a most recent post, argues “Backward moves the macroeconomic debate” with “the result that our economic discourse is significantly more primitive now that it was 70 years ago.” Per Krugman, this backward movement is apparent in the use by some opponents of active demand management policy, such as Amity Shlaes, and of the “supposed legacy of Milton Friedman.”

He further argues, “The truth, although nobody on the right will ever admit it, is that Friedman was basically a Keynesian — or, if you like, a Hicksian.” While those on the “right” might never admit it, those familiar with the work of Roger W. Garrison would not be surprised that in a key important way, Friedman’s similarity with Keynes, or more correctly Keynesians such as Krugman, are more important than his apparent empirically based disagreements, the level of aggregation chosen for macroeconomic modeling. As early as 1992, Garrison in “Is Milton Friedman a Keynesian?” addresses the question gives and answer to Friedman’s own conclusion (Friedman on J M Keynes , p. 6), “He isn’t, but he is.” Garrison explains in more detail, “This ISLM framework, more broadly called income-expenditure analysis, has in many quarters—but not in Austrian ones—come to be thought of as the analytical apparatus common to all macroeconomic theories. Appropriate assumptions about the stability of investment and money demand, interest elasticities, and price and wage rigidities allow for the derivations of either Keynesian or Monetarist conclusions.”

A major theme of Cochran and Glahe, The Hayek-Keynes Debate: Lessons for Current Business Cycle Research, was that Hayek and the Austrians with their underlying capital theory and market process analysis provided a potentially more useful macroeconomics when compared to the analysis of Friedman, monetarist/classical; old or new, and or Keynesians; old and new. Garrison’s Time and Money, best known for its restatement of the Mises-Hayek Austrian business cycle theory into a capital-structure based macroeconomics which contrasts a saving supported sustainable growth to policy induced unsustainable growth provides strong support for this argument. Garrison is often at his best when he compares and contrasts different approaches to addressing macroeconomic conditions (see chapter 12, “Taxonomy and Perspective”). Read More→

Two Articles to Refute

For senior scholars with a little spare time, or younger folks who like slaying fallacies, here are two articles to refute.

First, Fareed Zakaria, “The Savior of Europe.” (He’s referring to Mario Draghi, the new head of the ECB.) This is your classic something-for-nothing article: we can create stability, stave off crises, and restore economic health just with a little manipulation by the ECB.

Second, “14 Ways a 90 Percent Top Tax Rate Fixes Our Economy and Our Country,” over at HuffPo.

A Temporary Form of Democratic Surplus

Ever heard of social imperialism? That’s an old name for the aggressive foreign policy of governments wishing to deflect attention from the fact that they are unable to solve domestic problems. If you just cannot quite get yourself to repair a public pension system, or a public health system, well, then you might consider invading a few foreign countries to improve things over there. The late Kaiser Wilhelm II was a pioneer of social engineering. In our day he has found emulates all over the western world. Unable to solve our public-debt problem or to equilibrate our governments’ budgets, we liberate foreign populations from their autocratic rulers and bring them the blessings of democracy.

The remarkable thing is that very same countries that today are bent on spreading democracy with the sword have less than perfect democracy at home. For example, the Republican Party in the US recently had difficulties with the vote count in several primary referendums. On the other side of the Atlantic, in the European Union, we have the tradition of repeating referendums until we get the correct result. Irish voters needed three referendums until the ratified the Lisbon Treaty. We also have another cherished tradition of never ever letting unreliable people get to vote in the first place. The German population was never asked to ratify the Euro or the various power-grabs of the Commission in Brussels. The French, too, were not asked to vote again after they turned down the Lisbon Treaty in May 2005.

The proverbial cherry on the western-democracy cake was delivered just this month. The European Parliaments Legal Affairs committee, whose mission is to safeguard the “integrity and trustworthiness of the legal framework as a whole in Europe” has voted 14-12 on a copyrights issue, even though the committee has only 24 members. This has been aptly called “a temporary form of democratic surplus.” Is it a fruit of the Lisbon Process, initiated twelve years ago, which aimed at turning the EU into the most innovative region of the world economy?

Williamson’s Howlers

The Politically Incorrect Guide series includes many excellent books, but unfortunately Kevin Williamson’s Politically Incorrect Guide to Socialism  is not among them. One turns to the book with interest, as the author is a firm opponent of socialism and has read Mises, Hayek, and Rothbard.  Unfortunately, the book cannot be recommended. Williamson lacks the ability to report facts accurately and his work contains preposterous errors.

Here are some examples. Williamson writes:

“The modern experience suggests that the economist Ludwig von Mises was only partly correct when he wrote, ‘The socialistic State owns all material factors of production and thus directs it.’ That was true for the authoritarian, single-party powers of his day. In our own time, the converse is a more accurate description of the real economic arrangement: under socialism, the state directs the material factors of production as if it owned them. The state does not have to actually own factories, mines, or data centers if it has the power to dictate, in minute detail, how business is conducted within them,” (Politically Incorrect Guide,p.15)

Can Williamson be so ignorant of Mises as not to know that the point he raises against Mises was a key insight of Mises himself? Mises writes in Human Action, e.g., “The second pattern (we may call it the Hindenburg or German pattern) nominally and seemingly preserves private ownership of the means of production and keeps the appearance of ordinary markets, prices, wages, and interest rates. There are, however, no longer entrepreneurs, but only shop managers (Betriebsfuhrer in the terminology of the Nazi legislation). These shop managers are seemingly instrumental in the conduct of the enterprises entrusted to them; they buy and sell, hire and discharge workers and remunerate their services, contract debts and pay interest and amortization. But in all their activities they are bound to obey unconditionally the orders issued by the government’s supreme office of production management. .  . This is socialism under the outward guise of the terminology of capitalism. Some labels of the capitalistic market economy are retained, but they signify something entirely different from what they mean in the market economy.” http://mises.org/humanaction/chap27sec2.asp

In another howler, Williamson writes: “The United States in the twenty-first century is not very much like nineteenth-century Prussia (Prussia today isn’t much like Prussia then, either.” (p.95) Evidently, Williamson does not know that Prussia ceased to exist in 1947.

Williamson’s ignorance is not confined to the European continent. He writes: “In India, British colonial rule came to a largely peaceful end thanks to the efforts of Mohandas K. Gandhi. . .” (p.51). In point of fact, after the 1947 partition between India and Pakistan, violent conflict between Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs resulted in deaths estimated between 500,000 and 1,000,000.

Rather than presume to instruct others in history and economics, Williamson should acquire some elementary knowledge of these subjects.

 

Tide as Money

A number of things have served as money throughout history: shells, tobacco leaves, even cigarettes in POW camps and prisons.  Now those operating in the urban drug trade are using Tide detergent as currency.

Supermarkets and drug stores in some areas of the country can’t keep the detergent on the shelves.   During a recent police raid on a drug dealer’s home in Washington D.C., the police found what they expected—cocaine—but also noted the 20 large bottles of Tide on the dealer’s shelves.

It turns out users paid the dealer in Tide rather than U.S. dollars.  And why not, Proctor & Gamble’s best selling laundry soap is holding its value better than the government’s greenbacks.  The flame-orange bottle makes Tide recognizable.  It’s expensive, selling for up to $20 for a large bottle, so it has relatively high value per weight.  The bottles even have handles, making it portable.  It’s divisible- a person can trade in half bottles and so on.  It doesn’t spoil, making it durable.  And, everyone has to wash their clothes.  So Tide is valuable for other uses than just trading.  The fiat dollar does not do near as well in satisfying these requirements as a suitable money.

Rather than sticking up convenience stores for the cash in the register, thieves are now taking Tide off the shelves and running out the door with as many bottles as they can carry.  Robert McCrie, a professor of security management at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, told the Associated Press, “Tide is an ideal target for thieves, in part because high demand makes it easy to resell. The flat economy is a factor, as is the relatively low risk to criminals.”

Informants and undercover offices say that drug dealers actually encourage their customers to pay with Tide rather than cash.  “I’m out of marijuana right now, but when I get re-upped I’ll hook you up if you can get me 15 bottles of Tide,” one dealer was quoted as telling an informant, according to police.

“They’ll do it right in front of a cop car—buying heroin or methamphetamine with Tide,” says Detective Rick Blake of the Gresham, Ore., Police Department told The Daily. “We would see people walking down the road with six, seven bottles of Tide. They were so blatant about it.”

Dealers need to wash clothes, but they don’t do enough laundry to carry that much detergent for their own personal use.  Tide’s marketability allows the dealers to sell bottles to local stores and other businesses.

It’s clear that dealers and their clients understand what money is, whereas Ben Bernanke and his troops at the Fed do not.   Even addicts know they can’t print their own paper money and expect dealers to trade their goods for worthless script.

Dealers demand that in exchange for their drug inventory, customers provide a tangible good in trade.   Meanwhile, the Fed injects more debauched money from the ether into an economy now addicted to cheap money.

Professor Terry Ridgway R.I.P.

Mises Institute adjunct scholar Terry Ridgway passed away on March 13th.  Professor Ridgway taught economics at UNLV for 30 years.  Although I never had Ridgway as an instructor, my thesis chairman Murray Rothbard suggested that I select Prof. Ridgway to be the third member of my committee from the economics department.  Hans Hoppe was the second.

As his obituary states, Ridgway “was a very kind and charitable man.”   I remember him as being very easy to get along with, very fond of Murray, and while not necessarily Austrian, certainly a free-market guy.

RIP Professor Ridgway.

Eurozone Wealth Transfers and Sovereign Default

Phillip Bagus, interviewed on RT, discusses the second Greek bailout. (Jump to 16:15.)  I’ve transcribed the interview below.  Bagus explains the logic of imports and exports by bringing the analysis down to an individual level, much as Rothbard does in Man, Economy, and State, Chapter 3, Section 5.  He also makes a Rothbardian call for Greek national repudiation.  As Lew Rockwell said on the same show a month ago:

“Default is a wonderful thing. The people who are going to have to pay for these debts are not the ones who contracted for them.  They shouldn’t have to pay.  And another great thing that happens when Greece defaults: nobody’s going to lend the government any more money.  That is exactly what Greece needs.  They need a government that would shrink, so the people can be enlarged in their role…”

Lauren Lyster: As I was starting to get into before the break, Greece’s bailout is reportedly moving forward, after Greece did get more than 85% of private-sector investors to agree to the debt-swap.  Now this again is to reduce Greece’s debt, so it can take on more debt from international lenders to address their problem of too much debt!  But that’s for another moment.  Today the Greek government also approved using “collection action clauses” (CACs) to force more investors to take part in the swap, which is expected to bring that number up to 95% of those bondholders.  Now Greek officials hail the debt deal. Take a listen. Read More→

Fighting For the Pole

In the era of franchised unisex stylers like Supercuts and Great Clips  it’s hard to imagine that barbers and cosmetologists are fighting over who can have a barber pole advertising their shops.  The latest legislative fights over the swirling red, white, and blue poles are in the states of Minnesota, Michigan and North Carolina.

“The barber pole is the oldest sign in town besides the cross. It should not be displayed where there is not a licensed barber,” long time Arkansas barber Charles Kirkpatrick, told the Associated Press.  Kirkpatrick keeps tabs on such legislation for the National Association of Barber Boards of America.

Notice Kirkpatrick said “licensed” barber.  The implication is that the licensing signals to the customer that a certain level of quality can be assured by the government’s stamp of approval.  Yet according to Morris Kleiner, “Occupational licensing has either no impact or even a negative impact on the quality of services provided to customers by members of the regulated occupation. Additionally, as occupations become licensed, members of regulated occupations see their earnings go up.”

“They’re still trying to hang onto the vestiges that say they’re special,” says Jeanie Thompson, president of the Minnesota Salon and Spa Association and owner of a beauty parlor. “I can cut a man’s hair. Why shouldn’t I be able to put a barber pole up?”

While both barbers and cosmetologists deal in hair, barbers can offer shaves with a straight-edge razor and are supposedly specially trained to use shears and clippers.  Cosmetologists can provide manicures, pedicures and other spa services in addition to cutting and styling hair.

Barber pole symbolism dates back to a time when barbers pulled teeth and performed bloodletting.  “Barbers often twisted rinsed yet still blood-stained cloths around those same poles before hanging them out to dry,” writes the AP.

The AP reports that 10 states have rules allowing only licensed barbers to have barber poles.  One of those states is Nevada, which I learned first hand, as I had my late father’s small electronic barber pole hung and operating in my living room in Las Vegas.  One of my guests for a party one evening was a state senator who informed me that I was violating Nevada law.

State inspectors in Ohio find about a dozen violators of that state’s law each year.  The fine is $500 but most times state inspectors just demand that the pole be removed.

Minnesota barber Joel Martin believes the barber pole issue is about truth in advertising.  “A lot of men will not come into a shop that just says salon because they are looking for someone who has barbering experience,” Martin told the AP. “It tells people driving by that that’s what they can get here.”

In his studies on licensing, Professor Kleiner found, “individuals who have a license perceive themselves as being more competent.”   But research shows that licensees are not necessarily more skilled.

Barbers for years have tried to restrict competition by erecting licensing and advertising barriers.   The result is as Michale Rozeff  predicts in his article “Who Captures Whom? The Case of Regulation.”  Substitute industries arise to satisfy demand and earn a profit.  Millions of men now get their hair cut at chain shops with no licensed barbers cutting hair.  It’s cheaper, more convenient and the haircuts are just as good.

Prison Nation Going Broke

The New York Times reports of more financial woes for municipalities.  Suffolk County will run $530 million into the red over the next three years and has declared a financial emergency.  The New York state oversight board already seized financial control of Suffolk’s Long Island neighbor, Nassau County.

Danny Hakim writes,

Even as there are glimmers of a national economic recovery, cities and counties increasingly find themselves in the middle of a financial crisis. The problems are spreading as municipalities face a toxic mix of stresses that has been brewing for years, including soaring pension, Medicaid and retiree health care costs. And many have exhausted creative accounting maneuvers and one-time spending cuts or revenue-raisers to bail themselves out.

New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg told a radio audience, “Towns and counties across the state are starting to have to make the real choices — fewer cops, fewer firefighters, slower ambulance response, less teachers in front of the classroom.”

But this is not just a New York problem.  State government has taken over finances for a  number of cities in Michigan.  Jefferson County, Alabama filed Chapter 9 and Stockton California is close to filing BK.

Municipalities shoulder much of the judicial system that polices, administers, and adjudicates  the war on drugs and prison nation.  The prison population in America equals that of the cities of Los Angeles and Miami combined. Putting this many people behind bars to be forgotten about by society is expensive, costing $6 billion a year.

The fact is most people shouldn’t be there in the first place. Loyola professor and prison economics expert Daniel J. D’Amico explains that the huge ramp-up in prison population began in the 1970s. Before then, the rate of incarceration remained stable at around 110 people in prison per 100,000. President Richard Nixon first used the term “war on drugs” on June 17, 1971 and then came the “tough on crime” movement lter that decade.

In 1980, fewer than half a million Americans were incarcerated. By 2008, the number was approaching 2.5 million. Another 4 million people are on probation. It is not violent criminals who are filling the nation’s jails and prisons. About half the prisoners in state penitentiaries are considered violent; less than 8 percent in federal prisons are violent, and fewer than 22 percent in the nation’s jails are there for a violent offense.

How can cash-strapped governments keep the monolithic judicial system operating?

Clarence Darrow starts Resist Not Evil by calling the state what it is: a violent aggressor. And a violent institution must have armies, functionaries, and civil governments to punish those who offend. But doesn’t everyone in America have a Sixth Amendment right to a trial?

Civil rights lawyer Michelle Alexander says the only way the system works now is by the accused giving up their constitutional rights.  Ms. Alexander explains,

But in this era of mass incarceration — when our nation’s prison population has quintupled in a few decades partly as a result of the war on drugs and the “get tough” movement — these rights are, for the overwhelming majority of people hauled into courtrooms across America, theoretical. More than 90 percent of criminal cases are never tried before a jury. Most people charged with crimes forfeit their constitutional rights and plead guilty.

Alexander writes that the system is rigged, quoting Cato’s Timothy Lynch.  “The truth is that government officials have deliberately engineered the system to assure that the jury trial system established by the Constitution is seldom used.”

The court ruled in Harmelin v. Michigan there was nothing cruel and unusual about life in prison for a first time drug offense. So people waive their rights and make the best deal they can, even it means years behind bars for a non-violent offense.

“The system of mass incarceration depends almost entirely on the cooperation of those it seeks to control,” Alexander writes. “If everyone charged with crimes suddenly exercised his constitutional rights, there would not be enough judges, lawyers or prison cells to deal with the ensuing tsunami of litigation.”

Criminal justice is yet another area where the government is going broke providing substandard service.

Rothbardian History

Robert Wenzel would like to see more Rothbardian history.

He seems to me entirely right; it’s imperative that those who knew Murray set down their stories about him.  Here is one of mine to start things off. Murray had an incredible memory for historical  detail. One I was telling him that I had manged to stump Mel Bradford by asking him Rutherford Hayes’ middle name. Murray said, “It was Birchard, of course.”

Deflation: A Student’s Best Friend

Despite hysterical warnings about the grave evils of deflation from central bankers, mainstream economists, and financial pundits, we are reminded on a daily basis of the Austrian insight that falling prices are a boon to consumers and a manifestation of growing economic prosperity. Indeed, as I have argued elsewhere, a secular decline in overall prices is a benign and natural outcome of a dynamic and growing capitalist economy operating under a genuine gold standard.  Unlike central bank fiat money, a commodity-money regime governed by market forces encourages the capital accumulation necessary to finance entrepreneurial innovations that reduce production costs, expand supplies of products and lower prices. I have also discussed recent empirical research that has discovered almost no correlation between deflation and depression. The bottom line is, all other things equal, lower prices are better than higher prices for consumers, and the lower the better, because the goal of an economy is to serve consumers. As Murray Rothbard once expressed it in a lecture, “I want all prices to drop to a nickel.”

The latest example of the benign consequences of falling prices on consumer welfare can be seen in the textbook market, where Flat World Management has introduced a novel publishing and distribution model for college textbooks. The firm publishes textbooks in many different fields and has recently published a new strategic management textbook co-authored by business professors Dave Ketchen of Auburn University and Jeremy Short of University of Oklahoma. The textbook, Mastering Strategic Management, was released in late December 2011 and is available for free online. It can be downloaded onto the iPad for $35.00 while hard copies are available in black and white for the same price and in color for $60.00. Meanwhile, one of the leading strategic management textbooks, Crafting and Executing Strategy: The Quest for Competitive Advantage by two University of Alabama Professors retails for $175.00! Another competitive advantage enjoyed by the Ketchen/Short textbook is the visual learning techniques incorporated by the authors, who have collaborated before in publishing graphic novel-style textbooks.

True to his discipline, Ketchen extols the virtues of rivalrous competition and falling prices for consumers:

Textbooks are ridiculously overpriced in most cases. . . . [W]e wanted to create a good book students could read for free. To me this is the Iron Bowl [the fiercely rivalrous Auburn versus Alabama football game] enters the textbook arena and I am going to enjoy taking their lunch money.

Now, one should be careful not to infer from this example that every new technology is automatically commercially viable and that its exploitation always improves efficiency and yields a profit. In fact, selecting among the array of new and untried production techniques is a matter of shrewd entrepreneurial judgment about future market conditions and requires careful allocation of scarce financial capital and real resources. Employing digital media in an innovative production technique does not automatically guarantee success by suddenly rendering resources costless and infinitely reproducible. Investing in digital media willy-nilly will result in squandered resources and will  be punished severely by the market like any other rash decision. In the above example, Flat World Management is speculating that the free online textbook will be widely adopted and that student users will perceive the iPad download and/or the hard copy versions of the textbook as complements to the free version, stimulating high-volume demand for the revenue producing versions. If this model proves successful, I foresee the possibility of a joint venture with Apple because the iPad will also be an important complement whose demand will be enhanced.

Intellectual Business Cycles

Much of my recent work deals with the theory and practice of entrepreneurship, and I have often referred to an “entrepreneurship research bubble,” characterized by a huge increase in research funding, faculty positions, courses, centers, degree programs, books, articles, etc. Indeed, the academic field of entrepreneurship has exploded in the last decade (see pp. 23-24 of the new book for some stats). While this is certainly good for students and scholars of entrepreneurship, it also has the predictable effect of attracting marginal projects, activities, and researchers to the field, many of which will likely not survive the inevitable shakeout. Of course, the field as a whole will probably be much stronger after the crisis, liquidation, and restructuring (and I sure hope to be one of the survivors!). More generally, Austrian-style business cycles exist in the world of ideas as well as the world of goods.

I was reminded of all this when reading some Rothbardian remarks from 1983 on the state of the libertarian movement. Murray was deeply concerned about the influence of outside funding, and how its rapid infusion, and sudden withdrawal, was distorting the movement’s intellectual structure of production:

[T]he libertarian movement has experienced all the syndromes of an “Austrian” business cycle in the real world. A massive and sudden infusion of funds in 1977-80 led to an artificial lengthening of the structure of production, an overinvestment in new and expanded institutions. Unknown nerds were plucked from obscurity, vaulted into positions of prominence and power, and given hundreds of thousands, even millions of dollars, to play with. After the hubris came the inevitable disillusion and drastic contraction, with the attendant painful liquidation of people and institutions that we see in every panic depression phase of the cycle. That liquidation is now taking place, unfortunately dragging many estimable people and organizations down with it.

The Circle Bastiat

The Circle BastiatThe Circle Bastiat, which flourished from 1953-1959, was a group of Murray Rothbard’s closest friends and disciples. Ralph Raico and George Reisman, while still in high school, began to attend Ludwig von Mises’s famous seminar at New York University. There they met Murray Rothbard, then working on his doctoral dissertation at Columbia, who had been an active member of the seminar for several years.

Raico and Reisman, impressed by Rothbard’s intellect, learning, and personality, soon became fast friends with him. They met him for long conversations, which ranged widely over economics, history, politics, and philosophy, after the seminar.

They were joined within about a year by Leonard Liggio, who had worked with Raico in the Robert Taft presidential campaign, and a little later by Ronald Hamowy, who had been friends since elementary school with Reisman. Robert Hessen also became part of the group, and sometimes Raico brought his friend, the philosopher Bruce Goldberg, to the discussions. (A couple of less well-known people also participated.) The friends met regularly at Rothbard’s Manhattan apartment and called themselves the Circle Bastiat, after the great nineteenth-century French classical liberal and economist. .The Circle came to an end after Raico departed for graduate study at the University of Chicago in 1959; Reisman and Hessen had left the previous year.

The Circle was notable not only for high intellectual quality but also for the remarkable good humor and camaraderie of the members. We have decided to name this blog after the Circle, both as a tribute and to set an ideal for participants to emulate.

Welcome!

Welcome to the Circle Bastiat, a new Mises Institute blog featuring reflections on Austrian economics, libertarian political theory, contemporary social and political issues, and the rest of the passing scene. David Gordon explains in the next post the origin of the name, “Circle Bastiat.” We hope to emulate the discussion in the original Circle — informed, interesting, and timely yet whimsical, irreverent, and fun. Enjoy!