Author Archive for Ryan McMaken

Mateusz Machaj and Tom Woods Discuss the Taylor Rule

As a follow-up to his recent Mises Daily article on the topic, Mateusz Machaj and Tom Woods discuss the Taylor Rule, its history, and its errors.

Also here.

How Third-Party Payers Drive Up Medical Costs

Caduceus Medical Symbol chromeMises Daily Monday by Willem Cornax:

The modern health insurance industry, a by-product of government regulation and tax policy, has led to a system in which the consumer of medical services doesn’t know the costs or final prices charged for services. Without a functioning system of price signals, prices cannot be contained.

Call for Papers: Speaking Truth to Power from Medieval to Modern Italy

With_Victor_EmmanuelJo Ann Cavallo sends along this call for papers.  She’s co-editing a new volume with Carlo Lottieri:

 Annali d’Italianistica 2016

Speaking Truth to Power from Medieval to Modern Italy

Guest-Editors:

Jo Ann Cavallo (Columbia University) and Carlo Lottieri (Università di Siena) 

We seek original, unpublished essays exploring instances in which literary characters and historical figures from the medieval to the modern period articulate personal, political, economic, or religious freedoms or otherwise challenge the established power of the state at the risk of their livelihood or their very lives.

In a court trial in which she faced a death sentence for adultery, Boccaccio’s Madonna Filippa wittily defends herself by refuting the legitimacy of a law made without her consent, proclaiming self-ownership of her body and evoking free market principles (Decameron 6.7). She thereby not only successfully regains her freedom but also succeeds in overturning an unjust law. Yet those who defend their rights and liberties against the powers that be have not always been quite so fortunate, especially in real-life scenarios. Just a few generations later, the humanist Poggio Bracciolini penned an account of Jerome of Prague’s pre-execution discourse which eloquently argued for intellectual freedom as it condemned the abuses of the Roman Curia. As many other critics of the Church also discovered, speaking out against unsavory papal practices could have fatal consequences even if one did not attempt to enunciate alternative metaphysical or scientific views as Giordano Bruno and Galileo later did.

While expressions of the right to personal, intellectual, or religious liberty presented an implicit threat to the political establishment, some authors aimed their comments and criticisms—whether in their own voice or through the invention of literary characters—directly against the machinations of the ruling elite. Well aware of the peril to one’s person in confronting princely power, Castiglione advised courtiers to use salutary deception like a doctor who sweetens the rim of a medicine cup (Libro del cortegiano 4.10). Machiavelli’s disregard for such tactics in his passionate critique of the ottimati in “Ricordi ai Palleschi” (1512) may have contributed to his imprisonment and torture in 1513 as an alleged conspirator planning to overthrow the Medici government.

We encourage essays that address underlying ideological premises or make use of political and social theory in treating imagined or actual expressions of personal or community rights in the face of institutionalized power. Attention to intellectual traditions that valorize human action, such as libertarian philosophy and the Austrian School of economics, is especially welcome. In contextualizing occurrences in which writers dared to confront power structures across the centuries, we also aim to shed light on similarities and differences in the peninsula’s shifting social, economic, and political configurations. Literary or historical examples to consider might include Alberti’s Momus, Tarabotti’s Tirannia paterna, Manzoni’s Storia della colonna infame, Morante’s La storia, and Pasolini’s Scritti corsari.

The deadline for submission is September 30, 2015; the volume will be published in the fall of 2016. All contributions will be refereed. Essays, not to exceed 25 double-spaced pages, can be written in Italian or English, and should conform to the style-sheet criteria set forth by Annali d’Italianistica (http://ibiblio.org/annali/norms.html).

Prospective contributors should address inquiries to both guest editors: Jo Ann Cavallo: jac3@columbia.edu and Carlo Lottierilottieri@unisi.it

Five Lessons Learned from the Scottish Referendum

BARCELONA, SPAIN - SEPT. 11: People manifesting ingependence onMises Daily weekend by Ryan McMaken

In spite of its failure in the short term, the Scottish campaign exposed elite dread of decentralization while establishing a precedent that regions can decide for themselves to secede even without a nation-wide vote. The campaign also illustrates anew ongoing trends in the decline of the nation-state.

Audio: A Scottish Libertarian Deconstructs the Vote

scotch2Jeff Deist and David Farrer deconstruct Thursday’s referendum vote from a libertarian perspective.

Audio file, 13 minutes.

David is a Chartered Secretary and has a BA (Hons) in Modern History and Economics. After living in London for many years where he worked as Finance Director and Company Secretary of an advertising agency, David has now returned to Scotland and is a director of Midlothian Management Ltd. David is a member of the Libertarian Alliance, the Mises Institute, the National Trust for Scotland, Historic Scotland and the Edinburgh Photographic Society.

The interview is also available on Stitcher and at Mises.org.

Bylund on Coasean Transaction Costs

Per Bylund recently published “Signifying Williamson’s Contribution to the Transaction Cost Approach: An Agent-Based Simulation of Coasean Transaction Costs and Specialization” in the Journal of Management Studies.

Bylund writes: “It is a simulation test of Coase’s transaction cost approach using agent-based modeling, and what I do is basically show that transaction costs have no explanatory power – but specialization and the division of labor does.”

 

Upcoming Austrian-School Events in Germany

Frankfurt_Am_Main-Stadtansicht_von_der_Deutschherrnbruecke_am_fruehen_Abend-20110808Guido Hülsmann writes:

In January 2015, the Mises Institut Deutschland will conduct a “Mises Seminar” at a very prestigious venue: the German stock exchange in Frankfurt. This event is open to the public and has just been announced on their website:

http://www.misesde.org/?p=8504

Each year they also organise an annual congress. The past two ones took place in Munich:

http://www.misesde.org/?p=7914

http://www.misesde.org/?p=5277

This fall, I will also speak at two other Austrian events that might be of interest:

http://wertewirtschaft.org/symposion/

http://www.uni-wh.de/economics/witten-institute-for-institutional-change/events/witten-conference-money-credit-and-banking/

Thornton: ‘US-Russia political tensions will speed up demise of dollar’

Mark Thornton interviewed on PressTV:

“The political tensions between the United States and Russia has increased or speeded up the process of which nations are doing business between countries instead of dollars and doing it with their local currencies,” Mark Thornton, Senior Fellow at Mises Institute, told Press TV on Wednesday.

“As a result, that puts pressure back on the United States because the United States wants everybody to use dollars in international transactions as well as a reserve currency in their central banks,” the professor at Auburn University added.

markrussia

The NCAA Racket

ncaa2Mises Daily Tuesday by Andrew Syrios:

The NCAA, a quasi-governmental regulatory cartel, prohibits colleges from paying athletes. So colleges employ a variety of schemes to offer unofficial “pay.” Meanwhile, the NCAA ensures there is no functioning job market for athletes at that level, and no competition to which students might go seeking higher pay.

‘Power and Market’ Is Now in Persian

Thanks to translator Matin Pedram, Rothbard’s Power and Market is now available in a Persian translation.

Front:

rsz_persian_translation

Back:

rsz_2unnamed_3

 

The Mises Institute Hosts Auburn Econ Graduate Students

As has been done for several years, the Mises Institute hosted our annual Auburn University Economics Graduate Student Reception on Friday at our campus next to Auburn University. It was organized by Jonathan Newman (Summer Fellow 2014, Mises U Alum, and Economics Doctoral Student at Auburn).

mises_reception1

mises_reception2 Read More→

Before Adam Smith There Was Chydenius

Stockholm, Old CityMises Daily Monday by Gary Galles:

The work of economist Anders Chydenius, which predates Smith’s The Wealth of Nations, provided a radically free-market voice for Scandinavia in the 18th century as Chydenius battled against mercantilists and those who thought government well-suited to plan economies with laws and edicts.

Dr. David Howden: Let Banks Fail! (Central and Otherwise)

 

Jeff Deist and David Howden discuss the history of banking in America before 1913, the supposed justifications for the Federal Reserve Act, and why American economists all seem to be thrall to—and on the payroll of—the Fed. David also lays out the realities behind transitioning to a future without the Fed. Next, they discuss his book about the Icelandic banking crisis, and how that country’s deposit insurance scheme created enormous moral hazards. David explains how Iceland, however, mostly had the good sense to allow its bad banks to fail and its foreign creditors to take a well-deserved haircut. The lessons to be learned, he tells us, are both cautionary and optimistic, at least for a homogeneous nation of 325,000 people.

Is Scotland Big Enough To Go it Alone?

scot2Mises Daily Friday by Peter St. Onge:

Some opponents of Scottish secession (and most other secession movements) claim that places like Scotland and Quebec are “too small” to be independent countries. A look at small countries vs. large countries, however, suggests that small countries often perform better economically.

 

How to Make Goods More Expensive: Target Truckers

6877Mises Daily Friday by Salmann A. Khan::

Government management of the trucking industry has brought raising prices for both consumers and producers who depend on trucking.

Mises Alumni News: David Rapp

Dr. David Rapp (Mises U, 2013) writes:

I received my Ph.D. from Saarland University in Saarbruecken, Germany in May 2014 (grade: summa cum laude) and right now I am a visiting professor at Grove City College, Grove City, PA at Dr. Herbener’s invitation. I will be staying at Grove City College for the fall semester, conducting research and teaching the course “Investment Theory and Business Valuation.”

‘Why Ludwig von Mises Wouldn’t Have Feared Islamic State’

Territorial_control_of_the_ISIS.svgJohn Tamny makes some good points at Forbes

In reality, the entity that has left and right up in arms in search of a muscular response was born in a part of the world that is one of the least productive economically, that can’t claim to create even one consumer good (the oil wealth there is largely a creation of western ingenuity) that is desired by global consumers, that can’t claim even one university that would appeal to the best and brightest. Despite this, numerous wise eyes are on ISIS?

Even more puzzling is the reporting about this nascent group. A recent Wall Street Journal front-page headline referenced “The Islamic State’s Economy of Extortion.” The article explained that ISIS is a largely self-financed entity by virtue of it “exacting tribute from a population of at least 8 million,” along with other funds raised through “criminal and terrorist activities.” Ok, so a group that is financed by plunder is a threat to the most powerful, capitalistic nation on earth?

Mises likely would have mocked today’s consensus precisely because the basis of ISIS’s existence is one of theft, coercion, or both. As he similarly wrote in Socialism, “Our whole civilization rests on the fact that men have succeeded in beating off the attack of the re-distributors.” We thrive because we’re largely free, yet a terrorist entity that is financed by thievery supposedly “cannot be contained.” What’s interesting about this is how many on the American right buy into the latter narrative. Though incentives and reduced barriers to economic activity properly animate their policy views as applied to the health of the U.S. economy, apparently redistributionist economics can create vibrancy and effectiveness in the Middle East?

Even more interesting is how allegedly skillful are those inside ISIS. To read the previously referenced Journal article without a skeptical eye is to believe that ISIS is run by a team of McKinsey consultants, as opposed to the radical militants who are actually in charge. As Nour Malis and Maria Ari-Habib wrote, the “radicals from the group administer an orderly extortion system of business and farm tributes, public-transport fees and protection payments from Christians and other religious minorities who choose to live under the militants rather than flee.” Would such a scenario birth resource-abundant growth in the U.S., or any other part of the world? It surely wouldn’t, and economic logic suggests it’s not doing so for ISIS.

Some will say oil revenues can or could fund ISIS, and if that’s true, President Obama’s Treasury should seek a stronger, more stable dollar to push down the price of oil. The stronger dollar that would lightly suffocate Middle Eastern oil producers would at the same time exist as a magnet for global investment in the U.S. What could weaken ISIS funding would cause the U.S. economy to soar. As Mises wrote,

“More highly developed societies attain greater natural wealth than the less highly developed; therefore they have more prospect of preserving their members from misery and poverty. They are also better equipped to defend their members from the enemy.” (emphasis mine)

Taking this further, despite the U.S. still being the world’s most advanced country in a freedom and economic sense, to watch what goes on inside Washington, D.C. is to be horrified by the ineptitude that defines our political class. Lest we forget, Harry Reid leads the Senate, John Boehner leads the House of Representatives, while Nancy Pelosi leads the opposition in the House. In the United States of America.

Since we Americans can claim such “competent,” “enlightened” leaders in our nation’s capital, do readers want to speculate on the quality of leadership inside ISIS? It doesn’t take several Foreign Affairs columnists to deduce that there probably isn’t a collection of Thomas Jeffersons and George Washingtons at the top of an entity that has Washington transfixed. Figure our political class can’t agree on much of anything (this latest alleged terrorist threat once again a rare example of consensus), the fighting is constant, yet somehow we’re supposed to believe that a criminal organization’s activities are defined by competent consensus and quietude at the top such that failure to respond now dooms us to eventual massacre in the cities and states we live in?

Read the full article. 

Does Janay Rice Have a Right to Conceal Public Acts?

800px-Revel_Atlantic_City_from_boardwalk

The Revel Hotel in Atlantic City

I don’t follow the NFL, so I had no idea who Baltimore Ravens ex-player Ray Rice is until stories about him started appearing in my Facebook feed. Given that a lot of people watch ESPN, it’s now well known that Rice apparently (and allegedly) beat his now-wife (Janay Rice) unconscious in a hotel elevator.

This wouldn’t be news at all, of course, if a famous person were not involved, and it would be just another story of domestic abuse.  And obviously, it’s blatantly unlibertarian and un-laissez-faire to beat people unconscious who pose no threat, so there’s no need to weigh in on at that aspect of the case.

What makes this case interesting from a property-rights standpoint, however, is the fact that the media is now being accused of “re-victimizing” Janay Rice, as if the media were in some way obliged to not show information that has been confirmed as true by numerous sources. I must confess I’m a Walter Blockian on this and neither the media, nor anyone else, is violating Janay Rice’s person or property in any way by merely showing true events that happened in a public place.

The only property issue here is the matter of whether or not the person who leaked the recording to the media was authorized to do so. That is, the hotel that made the recording may not have authorized the recording’s release to the public. Or it may be have been leaked by the police officers who had access to the recording. In either case, the relevant property dispute does not involve Janay Rice at all, but those who made and had access to the recording. If any party has a right to claim any control over the use and airing of the video, it is only the Revel Hotel which made the recording and owns the building in which the recording was made.

If Janay Rice, on the other hand, has a problem with the public nature of her beating, there is exactly one person she can blame for that: Ray Rice. The public elevator and hotel in which Rice chose as the venue for his actions is no different from the electronics aisle at Wal-Mart, or the parking lot in front of Ikea. One does not “own” the witnessing of one’s actions that play out in public, and if people witnessed it in person, or later in a recording,or even recorded it themselves, the public nature of the acts remains the same, and voids any expectation of privacy.

Thus, it is simply wrong to claim that the media is “victimizing” anyone at all by simply showing information that would have been plain to see for anyone who could have been standing near the Rices when he struck her. Moreover, Janay Rice has no right to claim ownership over the opinions of other people. That is, she does not own her reputation, which, as Block has noted, consists of thoughts in other people’s heads. Thus, to claim that Janay Rice is a “victim” of the media because the video’s release has affected the thoughts in people’s heads has no basis in reality. The events in this case were already public the second they happened. The fact that the number of people who saw the events has increased is unimportant.

The purpose of the “victim” claim is to assert that she has some right to constrain the actions of the media and others who are doing things she doesn’t like. But of course, she has no such right, and the only person who has victimized her is the person who hit her. Indeed, the claim of media victimization in this case is dangerous because it is founded on the idea that public information should be removed from the public eye if a person involved doesn’t like it. The argument being made is that the video “does not inform, but only shocks.” This is mere bumper-sticker philosophy since obviously the video does inform, although it may also shock. The same is true of a video of US military personnel shooting innocents. It’s both informative and shocking, but of course, the US government and its apologists make the same claim as Janay Rice, saying that video of such misdeeds should be hidden from the public for the sake of the victims, or even for the sake of the perpetrators who “are just following orders.” One might also include in this category efforts by police to ban video recording of things they do in public.

If the media were purposely distorting the facts that would be another matter, but in the Rice case, it’s hard to even make the claim that general politeness dictates that the media not play the video. The media’s use of the video doesn’t even rise to the level of gossip since there’s nothing necessarily mean-spirited in the airing of the video and (in this case) the media is (apparently) not attempting to distort the facts by strategically editing the video or smearing anyone involved.  And if there were distortion of facts, the distortion itself would be the relevant issue, not the reporting of facts. The claim to a right to control a person’s (or in this case, the media’s) prerogative to report or repeat public events after the fact is dangerous indeed, and stands up to no serious consideration of the actual property rights involved.

Misesians on 9/11, Then and Now

wtc

Libertarians were virtually alone in opposing the planned expansions of government power in the wake of 9/11, and then as now, we saw the attacks for what they were: criminal attacks on human persons and property which nonetheless have not been set right or rendered impossible by more than a decade of nearly untrammeled government theft, war, regulation, and spying.

An updated ’9/11 Reader:’

 

A New Austrian Textbook for All Economists

college2Mises Daily Thursday:

Randall Holcombe talks about his new textbook on Austrian economics: “The idea was to write a book for people who already know some economics,” Holcombe says. “But even a student who has only taken an introductory economics course will have enough background to understand what is in the book.”