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Game of Thrones and the Politics of Fantasy

The internet is filled with talk of the fourth season of HBO’s Game of Thrones. This is welcome news, as Game of Thrones probably offers economists more teachable moments than any show currently on the air (even House of Cards). Fans are probably familiar with its economic themes and strongly critical view of government, which have attracted the attention of many libertarians, including yours truly. But the show’s “politics without romance” approach has been catching on in other circles as well, and (shameless self-promotion) my own economic take has been featured by CNBC and NASDAQ.com.

But instead of using this post to explore themes from the show, I want to talk more generally about why I think it’s so effective in portraying the devastating reality of war, power, and government. The secret, in my opinion, is the fantasy setting. While it might seem counter-intuitive that an elaborate fictional world with so much supernatural activity could actually describe the real world, Game of Thrones works well because it seems so removed from our own experience.

There are many ways we could think about this, so I’ll stick to just a couple. First, fantasy worlds give us a place for our ideas to play. Maybe if we can’t yet make the real world more to our liking, we can create a fictional world to act as a kind of thought experiment in which to develop our ideas and share them. The possibility to create new worlds is one reason sci-fi and fantasy have long been home to ideas about liberty.

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Is Warren Buffett really an Austrian….

Who enriches himself while talking a Keynesian game?  Jeff Deist offers a hypothesis:

http://www.economicpolicyjournal.com/2014/04/does-warren-buffett-talk-like.html

 

 

 

Per Bylund on Obamacare in the ‘Wall Street Journal’

800px-Barack_Obama_reacts_to_the_passing_of_Healthcare_billPer Bylund’s column “What Sweden Can Teach Us About ObamaCare” is in today’s WSJ:

President Obama has declared the Affordable Care Act a success—a reform that is “here to stay.” The question remains, however: What should we expect to come out of it, and do we want the effects to stay? If the experiences of Sweden and other countries with universal health care are any indication, patients will soon start to see very long wait times and difficulty getting access to care.

Sweden is praised as a rare example of a socialist country that works. A closer look at its health-care system tells a different story.

The overall quality of medical services delivered by Sweden’s universal public health care consistently ranks among the world’s very best. That quality can be achieved by regulating treatments to follow specific diagnoses as well as by standardizing procedures. If ObamaCare regulations do this, the quality of American health care may not go down either.

Sweden’s problem is access to care. According to the Euro Health Consumer Index 2013, Swedish patients suffer from inordinately long wait times to get an appointment with a doctor, specialist treatment or even emergency care. Wait times are Europe’s longest, and Swedes dependent on the public-health system have to wait months or even years for certain procedures, or are denied treatment.

For example, Sweden’s National Board of Health and Welfare reports that as of 2013, the average wait time (from referral to start of treatment) for “intermediary and high risk” prostate cancer is 220 days. In the case of lung cancer, the wait between an appointment with a specialist and a treatment decision is 37 days.

This waiting is what economists call rationing—the delay or even failure to provide care due to government budgetary decisions. So the number of people seeking care far outweighs the capabilities of providers, translating into insurance in name but not in practice. This is likely to be a result of ObamaCare as well.

Rationing is an obvious effect of economic planning in place of free-market competition. Free markets allow companies and entrepreneurs to respond to demand by offering people what they want and need at a better price. Effective and affordable health care comes from decentralized innovation and risk-taking as well as freedom in pricing and product development. The Affordable Care Act does the opposite by centralizing health care, minimizing or prohibiting differentiation in pricing and offerings, and mandating consumers to purchase insurance. It effectively overrides the market and the signals it sends about supply and demand.

Continue reading at WSJ.

See also, Bylund’s Mises Daily articles on health care and Sweden’s economic system:

The Market is Taking Over Sweden’s Health Care

How Government Cutbacks Ended Sweden’s Great Depression

Scarcity, Monopoly, and Intellectual Property

6727David Gordon writes in today’s Mises Daily: 

Faced with a welter of arguments in conflict, what is the perplexed libertarian to do? Butler Shaffer’s superb monograph offers an easy way to unravel the IP puzzles. He starts from a fundamental principle basic to libertarianism and explains how the implications of this principle shed light on IP issues.

What is this principle? It is that rights stem from “the informal processes by which men and women accord to each other a respect for the inviolability of their lives — along with claims to external resources (e.g., land, food, water, etc.) necessary to sustain their lives.” (p.18) The “informal processes” that Shaffer mentions proceed without coercion. In particular, law and rights do not depend on the dictates of the state, an organization that claims a monopoly over the legitimate use of force in a territory.

Austrian Research at the University of Angers

PeterPhilippGuidoThe University of Angers, France has become an excellent place for doctoral work in Austrian economics, thanks to the leadership of Guido Hülsmann. Several top younger Austrian scholars such as Eduard Braun, Amadeus Gabriel, and Matt McCaffrey ‎– all former Mises Summer Fellows — received their PhDs under Professor Hülsmann’s supervision. Senior scholars such as Jeff Herbener, Shawn Ritenour, and myself are frequent visitors.

This week I was privileged to participate in a research seminar at the University’s GRANEM research center, along with Hülsmann and Philipp Bagus‎ of Rey Juan Carlos University in Madrid, on financial markets and institutions. Bagus presented a paper on the government bailout of the Spanish banks, and I presented a paper on the US private equity sector and it’s relationship to entrepreneurship, with Hülsmann as moderator and discussant.

Look for more exciting activities at Angers in the years to come.

Mises, Rothbard, and Others in French

650px-New-Map-Francophone_WorldKurt Schuler writes:

Nearly two years ago I mentioned the French economist Philippe Nataf and his small but active publishing house, Editions Charles Coquelin. Its namesake Charles Coquelin was a 19th-century French classical liberal who wrote on banking and business cycles, among other topics. The publishing house issues works by French and other thinkers in the classical liberal tradition to the present. I recently saw Philippe again, and he informed me that Editions Charles Coquelin has now published translations of Ludwig von Mises’sTheory of Money and Credit and part of Murray Rothbard’s Man, Economy and State, with more to come. Among the older works of the publishing house is a 2005 biography of Jean-Baptiste Say. Readers interested in ordering these works can do so through the site of Editions Charles Coquelin or, for at least some books, Amazon France.

‘Everything we are told about deflation is a lie’

By Tim Price

[The Cobden Centre]

“The European Central Bank has given its strongest signal yet that it is prepared to embrace quantitative easing to prevent the euro zone from sliding into deflation or even a prolonged period of low inflation.”

- ‘Draghi strengthens QE signal’, Financial Times, April 4, 2014.

Yes, heaven protect Europe’s embattled citizens and savers from a prolonged period of low inflation. How could they possibly survive it ?

If history is any guide, probably quite well. As Chris Casey points out in his essay “Deflating the Deflation Myth,” the American economy during the 19th Century twice experienced deflationary periods of roughly 50 percent:

Source: McCusker, John J. “How Much Is That in Real Money?: A Historical Price Index for Use as a Deflator of Money Values in the Economy of the United States.” Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society, Volume 101, Part 2, October 1991, pp. 297-373.

This during a period of “sustained and significant economic growth”. But just think of all those poor consumers, having to make the best of constantly falling everyday low prices.

In their research article ‘Deflation and Depression: Is There an Empirical Link?’ of January 2004, Federal Reserve economists Andrew Atkeson and Patrick Kehoe found that “..the only episode in which we find evidence of a link between deflation and depression is the Great Depression (1929-1934). We find virtually no evidence of such a link in any other period.. What is striking is that nearly 90% of the episodes with deflation did not have depression. In a broad historical context, beyond the Great Depression, the notion that deflation and depression are linked virtually disappears.”

In his 2008 essay ‘Deflation and Liberty’, Jörg Guido Hülsmann writes as follows:

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The Sad State of the Economics Profession

6726Frank Hollenbeck writes in today’s Mises Daily: 

Most economists today, however, have sold themselves to the enemy. They work for government agencies such as the IMF, OECD, World Bank, central banks, or academic institutions where their research is heavily subsidized by government agencies. To succeed they have to “toe the line.” You don’t bite the hand that feeds you.

Today, these economists and bought-and-paid-for journalists inform us of the dangers of deflationand the risks of “ low-flation,” and how the printing press will protect us from this catastrophe. Yet there is no theoretical or empirical justification for this fear. On the contrary, a stable money supply would allow prices to better serve the critical function of allocating resources to where they are most needed. The growth resulting from stable money would normally be associated with rapidly falling prices as was the case during most of the nineteenth century.

Audio: Lew Rockwell Discusses Anarcho-Capitalism With Ben Swann

We don’t need a ruling class, Lew Rockwell tells Ben Swann. (Mp3, 35 minutes)

10,000 New Books at the Mises Institute

From the March issue of The Free Market: 

Gary North Donates 10,000 Books to Mises Institute

Dr. North said that he decided to donate the library to the Institute as a way to assist the Institute’s Fellows and faculty. “The Mises Institute has very bright summer interns: Ph.D. candidates working on their dissertations, with the assistance of scholars.”

The library “is heavily oriented towards history and social science,” North explained, recalling that “not many economists are gifted historians the way Murray Rothbard was. He would have loved [the library].”

The books arrived today:

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