Category Archives: Austrian Economic Theory

Hans-Hermann Hoppe, Marxist and Austrian Class Analysis


Marxist and Austrian Class Analysis
by Hans-Hermann Hoppe
Department of Economics
University of Nevada, Las Vegas
The Journal of libertarian Studies, Vol. IX, No. 2 (Fall 1990)

I want to do the following in this paper: First to present the theses that constitute the hard core of the Marxist theory of history. I claim that all of them are essentially correct. Then I will show how these true theses are derived in Marxism from a false starting point. Finally, I will demonstrate how Austrianism in the Mises-Rothbard tradition can give a correct but categorically different explanation of their validity.

Let me begin with the hard core of the Marxist belief system: 1 Continue reading

The Libertarian Alliance Christmas (sermon): I did want to say something positive, but I can’t. Sorry.


David Davis

Well, this is Christmas, I guess, and time goes around and comes around, and it seems like five minutes ago that I wrote the LA’s first Christmas Message on this blog, six or seven years ago. I’m not sure that there’s much else new to say from that time, but the Chimpanzee Type-Writors in the Blog’s freezing, damp Nissen-Hut must at least pretend to keep up appearances.

On every day and in every way, our rulers (do we need such people, really?) conspire to push us further and further down the outfall-pipe. It’s actually very depressing to be alive in Britain in 2013, knowing that one was being born some number of decades before, in a country which, while less blessed with the planet’s offerings, was at least less unfree in most ways.

All I’d really like to say to Libertarians this Christmas is that I think we are running out of time. It’s slipping by us all fast and I don’t know when there might be another time. I’m certain I said it before, possibly last year and the year before that and the year before that: it’s quite fortunate that statistNazis are rather inefficient and take longer than they might, to do what they need to do. Even Enoch Powell said once: “be of good cheer: for the rot has set in, but it will take quite some time”. There are some choices now open to us, as follows:-

(1) We can continue to try to “influence debate”, by publishing, by some of us (not enough to make a difference) going about having eggs and turned-off-mikes thrown at us in universities and on radio stations and in “Conservative” gatherings and meetings and stuff like that. We can continue to do that thing. But I don’t think anyone that matters, or is on our side, is listening. The ones not on our side will simply delete the file they got sent for airing, or turn off the mike when we get too near the truth.

(2) We can espouse “activism”, but all this will do is get us imprisoned, possibly for ever for we are right, and out families broken up, our computers “taken into local authority-care”, and our children “seized for hard-drive analysis”. As a strategy, this will therefore avail other people nought. The trouble is that we have been shown time and time again that “activism” pays, since people like Nelson Mandela, Gerry Adams, the dead pigs Castro and Stalin, the other dead leftist pig Hitler (he got lucky while young) and Ho Chi Mhinh “got into government”. But I don’t think any living Libertarian conservatives are willing to pay the price or are even young enough to see it redeemed.

(3) Each of us can build an “armoured library”. How you all do this is entirely up to you. It needn’t even be armoured, so long as you didn’t tell policemen, who’d of course tip off scumbag mobsters to come and accidentally burn it as soon as it was convenient for (them).

Sorry to be so depressing this year. It’s no use getting excited that “over 145 people” got to see the lecture at (somewhere or other) by “Dr Human Hope”, the really really articulate and perspicacious founder of the “freedom free thingy”, at some place or other, and which several hundred Libertarians from at least “20” countries attended. Nor, even, that his lecture got “published on the internet.

Merry Christmas: the time has come to face reality. Nobody’s really interested enough in liberty – either for themselves or for others, and certainly not for others – for us to make a difference any more.

I’m not saying we should give up and die. Just that we must not expect victory, for we shall not get it.

Hierarchy or the Market


by Kevin Carson
http://c4ss.org/content/18100
Hierarchy or the Market

The following article was written by Kevin Carson and published by The Freeman, April 1st, 2008.

In an article in last June’s Freeman, I applied some ideas from the socialist-calculation debate to the private corporation and examined the extent to which it is an island of calculational chaos in the market economy. I’d like to expand that line of analysis now and apply some common free-market insights on knowledge and incentives to the operation of the corporate hierarchy. Continue reading

Economics and Its Ethical Assumptions


by Roderick Long
http://c4ss.org/content/16325
Economics and Its Ethical Assumptions

The following article was written by Roderick T. Long and published with the Mises University, May 20, 2006.

When I was given the title “Ethical Assumptions of Economics,” my first thought was to say, “economics has no ethical assumptions.” But then I thought this might not be the best way to earn my keep here. So I’m going to talk about some senses in which economics might have implications for ethics. Continue reading

Thoughts on Capital-Based Macroeconomics


by John P. Cochran
http://mises.org/daily/6307/Thoughts-on-CapitalBased-Macroeconomics

Thoughts on Capital-Based Macroeconomics

Part I.

In 1979 the Cato Institute published a collection of Hayek’s post-Nobel-laureate contributions to Austrian monetary theory, policy, and macroeconomics titled, Unemployment and Monetary Policy: Government as Generator of the Business Cycle. The monograph made more available to an American audience material originally published by The Institute of Economic Affairs in London in 1975, including the foreword by Gerald P. O’Driscoll and “A Note on Capital Theory” bySudha R. Shenoy. This volume has been one ofmy favorites and has been a source I have used frequently during nearly 30 years of commentary on Hayek’s business cycle theory.It is good to see others highlight passages from the work as was done most recently in the “Quotation of the Day” posted by Don Boudreaux on November 12, 2012 at Café Hayek. Much of the content or similar content is available in New Studies in Philosophy, Economics and the History of Ideas. For those who prefer an audio rendition of many of Hayek’s arguments during this same period of time my mentor, Fred R. Glahe , has made an audio of Hayek’s lecture given at the Department of Economics of the University of Colorado on April 28th, 1975 available at the Mises Institute web site. The question and answer period with CU-Boulder faculty is quite interesting, especially in the context of the then-emerging stagflation and the breakdown of the Keynesian synthesis that occurred along with and because of the development of the Phelps-Freidman natural unemployment rate theory. Continue reading

The Story of the Mises Institute


http://mises.org/daily/6324/The-Story-of-the-Mises-Institute

The Story of the Mises Institute

[The Free Market, May 1988]

The Mises Institute comes at both economic scholarship and applied political philosophy from a very different perspective. It believes that “policy analysis” without principle is mere flim-flam and ad-hocery—murky political conclusions resting on foundations of sand. It also believes that policy analysis that does not rest on scholarly principles is scarcely worth the paper it is written on or the time and money devoted to it. In short, that the only worthwhile analysis of the contemporary political and economic scene rests consistently on firm scholarly principles. Continue reading

You Call That Austrian?


by David Gordon
http://mises.org/daily/6269/You-Call-That-Austrian
You Call That Austrian?

[The  Financial Crisis and the Free Market Cure: Why Pure
Capitalism Is the World Economy's Only Hope
• By
John A. Allison • McGraw Hill, 2012 • Viii + 278 pages]

This book contains the oddest sentence I have ever read about the current financial crisis, or for that matter about any financial crisis. John Allison, President of the Cato Institute, writes,

I also thought of titling the book How the Critique of Pure Reason by Immanuel Kant (1783) Caused the Financial Crisis, but that was too obscure for most people, although it was more accurate, since Kant was the major philosophical opponent of reason who put an end to the Enlightenment century (1700s) that indelibly shaped the founding of the United States. (p. 255, n.3)

It is not enough that Kant lies at the origin of Nazism, as Leonard Peikoff so cogently demonstrated in Ominous Parallels. (It comes as no surprise that Allison admires this great contemporary thinker and scholar. “Leonard Peikoff’s book Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand enabled me to integrate Rand’s philosophy and use it as a major competitive advantage for myself and for BB&T.” [p. 277]) No, he also caused the recession of 2008! The way in which this machine gunner of the mind brought about the catastrophe is not altogether apparent. Perhaps, by weakening confidence in reason, Kant’s destructionism made people blind to the errors of the inflationist doctrines that led to financial ruin. But were not inflationist and mercantilist policies popular long before Kant? Continue reading

We need to return to ‘real’ money to solve the economic crisis


By Dominic Frisby
http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/news/article-2226778/We-need-return-real-money-solve-economic-crisis.html

Dominic co-wrote a feature documentary about the global financial crisis, ‘The Four Horsemen’ and his most recent short film, ‘Debt Bomb’, went viral with 250,000 hits in two weeks. He also has a column about gold and money for Moneyweek.

He has recently written a book looking at the mess the West finds itself in – he explains how changing our currency system could help us get out of the financial crisis… Continue reading

Andy Duncan Interviews Guido Hulsmann


Hans-Hermann Hoppe: An Appreciation


https://mises.org/store/Product2.aspx?ProductId=610

Hans-Hermann Hoppe
and the Political Equivalent
of Nuclear Fusion
by Sean Gabb

I have been invited to contribute a chapter to this book of appreciations of Hans-Hermann Hoppe. Now, he is a person of forbidding achievements. He has made important contributions to economics, to political theory, to law, and to epistemology, among much else. He is also a person of much organisational ability, and the conferences he runs at Bodrum for his Property and Freedom Society have rapidly established themselves as one of the high points in the libertarian calendar. Continue reading

Jesus, der Kapitalist


http://www.amazon.co.uk/Jesus-Kapitalist-christliche-Herz-Marktwirtschaft/dp/3898797112/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1350681231&sr=8-1

Robert Groezinger is a good friend and a committed libertarian. I strongly recommend this new book, which sets out a Gospel-based argument, in the tradition of Gary North, for a necessary connection between the Christian Faith and a free market society.

“Der Kapitalismus ist aus dem Christentum hervorgegangen – und braucht ihn, um zu überleben. Auch das Christentum braucht den Kapitalismus – und fordert ihn sogar. Nicht jedoch einen staatlich regulierten Kapitalismus, der nur für jene wirklich vorteilhaft ist, die gute Beziehungen zur Regierung unterhalten und somit zu Korruption und Betrug einlädt, sondern einen Kapitalismus, der so frei ist, dass selbst Geld unter Wettbewerbsbedingungen hergestellt wird. Zentralbanken aber stellen unser Geld unter staatlich garantierten Monopollizenzen her. Damit genießen sie ungerechtfertigte Privilegien. Anhand zahlreicher Beispiele aus der Bibel zeigt Robert Grözinger, dass die Gleichnisse, Aussagen und Mahnungen Jesu von den Prinzipien einer wirklich freien Marktwirtschaft untermauert sind. Grundsätze wie Individualismus und Privateigentum sind Fundamente, die schon im Alten Testament gelegt wurden. Daneben skizziert Grözinger die Wechselwirkung in der historischen Entwicklung von Christentum und Kapitalismus sowie die Unvereinbarkeit von Christentum und Sozialismus. Damit meint er nicht nur den Kommunismus, sondern auch seine weichere Form: den überbordenden Wohlfahrtsstaat, den uns die staatlich erzwungene Barmherzigkeit beschert hat. Und seine neueste, krasseste Version: den Ökologismus. Wie eine freie Gesellschaft auf christlichen Werten und freier Marktwirtschaft basieren kann, zeigt Robert Grözinger in Jesus, der Kapitalist.”

The Left-Rothbardians, Part I: Rothbard


by Kevin Carson
http://c4ss.org/content/12938

In “Libertarianism: What’s Going Right,” I mentioned Left-Rothbardianism as one possible basis for finding areas of agreement between market libertarians and the Left. I’d like to go into that in more depth now.

In 2004, I was extremely heartened by the “Era of Good Feelings“ between the Libertarian Party’s Michael Badnarik and the Green Party’s David Cobb. It gave me some hope for the revival of an even more hopeful project of some 30-odd years before. Continue reading

Twin Demons


by Lew Rockwell
http://mises.org/daily/6207/Twin-Demons

[This talk was delivered at the Mises
Circle in New York City
on September 14, 2012.]

The 20th century was the century of total war. Limitations on the scope of war, built up over many centuries, had already begun to break down in the 19th century, but they were altogether obliterated in the 20th. And of course the sheer amount of resources that centralized states could bring to bear in war, and the terrible new technologies of killing that became available to them, made the 20th a century of almost unimaginable horror. Continue reading

Critique of Contract Feudalism


A Critique of a Critique: An Examination of Kevin Carson�s Contract Feudalism, by Paul Marks

A Critique of a Critique: An Examination of Kevin Carson’s Contract Feudalism
Paul Marks

Economic Notes No. 108

ISSN 0267-7164 ISBN 9781856377515

An occasional publication of the Libertarian Alliance,
Suite 35, 2 Lansdowne Row, Mayfair, London W1J 6HL.

© 2007: Libertarian Alliance; Paul Marks.

Paul Marks is a researcher and commentator with a background in teaching (both at school and university level) and the security industry. He is a regular contributor to the Samizdata blog (www.samizdata.net), focusing on economics, history, politics and philosophy. In May 2007 he was elected as a Conservative member for the Brambleside ward of Kettering Borough Council (www.kettering.gov.uk). Continue reading

Contract Feudalism


by Kevin Carson
Note: Hans-Hermann Hoppe distinguishes between “clean” and “dirty” capitalism. He regards only clean capitalism as worth defending at the level of abstract principle, and says this: “ To be sure, Marx, in the famous twenty-fourth chapter of the first volume of his Kapital, titled  The So-called Original Accumulation,   gives a historical account of the emergence of capitalism that makes the point that much or even most of the initial capitalist property is the result of plunder, enclosure, and conquest. Similarly, in chapter 25, on the  Modern Theory of Colonialism,  the role of force and violence in exporting capitalism to the-as we would now say-Third World is heavily emphasized. Admittedly, all this is generally correct, and insofar as it is there can be no quarrel with label­ing such capitalism exploitative.”  I often find the differences between the Austrians and the left-libertarians to be more of emphasis and terminology than of substance. Indeed, in people like Roderick Long and Thomas Knapp, the two movements shade into each other. SIG Continue reading

Man, Economy, and State at 50


by Robert Murphy
http://mises.org/daily/6187/Man-Economy-and-State-at-50

[This review originally appeared in the Freeman,
September 2012.]

Based on art by Tim Kelly done for TheFreemanOnline.org

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the 1962 publication of Murray Rothbard’s grand treatise, Man, Economy, and State (MES). I was humbled when asked to write an appreciation of this indispensable work of Austrian economics. Rather than discussing the book’s obvious role in the modern revival of Austrian ideas, I decided to focus on the book itself.

Rothbard originally intended his work to be a textbook treatment of Ludwig von Mises’s own magnum opus, Human Action, which had come out in 1949. Indeed, Herbert C. Cornuelle, president of the Volcker Fund, was the one to pitch this idea to Rothbard that very year. Rothbard prepared an outline and a sample chapter on money, then received the blessing of Mises himself to go forward.

However, as Joseph Stromberg chronicles in exquisite detail in his introduction to the Mises Institute’s Scholar’s Edition of MES (2004), upon embarking on the project Rothbard eventually realized that a mere textbook would not be adequate. Cornuelle had visited Rothbard and asked if he thought the work should become a treatise in its own right. Rothbard pondered the question and eventually wrote in response (in February 1954), Continue reading

Big Business and the Rise of American Statism


by Roy A. Childs
http://c4ss.org/content/12431

This essay first appeared in Reason magazine, written by Roy A. Childs and published in 1971.

Preface

This essay constitutes a part of “revisionism” in history, largely domestic history. The term revisionism originally came into use referring to historiography after World War I. A group of young historians, eager to uncover the realities behind the blanket of myths surrounding the origins of this crucial conflict, discovered as a result of their investigations that Germany and Austria were not, contrary to popular mythology, solely responsible for the outbreak of that crisis. Thus, reevaluating the history of the immediate past, these historians came to see the Treaty of Versailles, forced upon the losers of that war, as monstrously unjust, and maintained that the rigid enforcement of its terms would lead to further world conflict. They came to advocate a radical overhauling and revision of the Versailles Treaty – whence the term “revisionism.” Continue reading

Unilateral Free Trade


by Patrick Barron
http://mises.org/daily/6135/Unilateral-Free-Trade

The Only International Economic Policy That a Country Needs: “Mind Your Own Business and Set a Good Example.”

The international economic scene is dominated by state interventions at all levels. Daily we read of disputes over exchange-rate manipulation, protectionist tariffs followed by retaliatory tariffs, highly regulated free-trade blocs that erect trade barriers to nonbloc nations, bilateral trade agreements, and more. For instance, Great Britain is a member of the European Union (EU) but not of the European Monetary Union (EMU), meaning that it abides by all the regulations and pays all the assessments to remain a member of the EU in order to trade freely with the other members of the 27-country EU. But it does not use the common currency, the euro, which is used by only 17 of the EU members. British industry chafes at the many seemingly meaningless and bizarre regulations that raise the cost of British goods just so Britain can trade freely within the EU. Some regulations are so onerous that some British manufactures will be put out of business. The pro-EU faction in Britain, such as the leadership of the three main parties — the Conservatives, Labour, and the Liberal Democrats — recognizes the damage but proposes to lobby for special exemptions on a case-by-case basis. The anti-EU faction, led by the United Kingdom Independent Party (UKIP), wants Britain out of the EU entirely, arguing that the cost of membership is too great and that the loss of sovereignty is unconstitutional. The same debate can be seen within every EU nation to some degree. Continue reading

China, Gold and the Next World Money


by Michael McKay

Below are some interesting comments by Richard Russell, made yesterday, re Gold and China. Continue reading

The Politics of Johann Wolfgang Goethe


by Hans-Hermann Hoppe
http://mises.org/daily/357/The-Politics-of-Johann-Wolfgang-Goethe

[A version of this was published in The Wall Street Journal
Europe
, December 30, 1999.]

This year marks the 250th birthday of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Most Europeans know that he was the greatest of all German writers and poets and one of the giants of world literature. Less well known is that he was also a thorough-going classical liberal, arguing that free trade and free cultural exchange are the keys to authentic national welfare and peaceful international integration. He also argued and fought against the expansion, centralization, and unification of government on grounds that these trends can only hinder prosperity and true cultural development. Because of his relevance to the ongoing construction of Europe, I’d like to nominate Goethe as the European of the millennium. Continue reading

History of an Idea


Continue reading

The rot sets in, but be of good cheer, for it usually takes quite some time.


David Davis

The Last Ditch is worth visiting from time to time. Sadly, since Tom Paine’s (that’s his screen name, as it were) wife died, he’s been writing less. I hope he recovers his former zeal for intellectually-flogging the guts out of our enemies, the GramscoStaliNazis.

A recent one is good reading, about the awful slow-motion-descent of the USA into modern British-style post-socialist horror and unredemption.

Capitalism as an Unnatural System


Article by John Medaille.
http://attackthesystem.com/?p=11860

Ever since capitalism made its appearance in the late Middle Ages and came to dominate both production and politics in the late 18th century, there has been a vigorous debate on just what the nature of capitalism is. Central to these debates has been the question of capitalism’s relationship to the state, and particularly the question of whether capitalism was an enemy or a child of the state. There have been no shortage of great names in this debate: Smith, Marx, Mill, Mises and many other great minds weighed-in with weighty tomes on the topic. Yet I do believe that the honor of formulating the question in the most succinct and elegant terms possible must go to Sorin Cucerai in his brief but powerful essay, “The Fear of Capitalism and One of its Sources,” in the May issue of Idei in Dialog. Continue reading

Why Mises and Not Hayek?


by Hans-Hermann Hoppe
http://mises.org/daily/5747/Why-Mises-and-not-Hayek

Let me begin with a quote from an article that my old friend Ralph Raico wrote some 15 years ago: Continue reading

Anthony Gregory — Contra Kevin Carson on the Humanity of Corporations and Government Teach ers


A debate on C4SS
http://c4ss.org/?p=8145

MUTUAL EXCHANGE

Mutual exchange is the Center’s goal in two senses—we favor a society rooted in peaceful, voluntary cooperation, and we seek to foster understanding through ongoing dialogue. Continue reading

What to Make of “Capitalism”


Note: This posting has generated nearly a hundred comments, and has been viewed by pushing towards 10,000 people. We are not surprised, as the issues discussed are central to the future direction of the libertarian movement. For this reason, we are pinning it to the top of the blog until the comments and views fall away. SIG

by David D’Amato
http://c4ss.org/?p=8156

For the United Kingdom’s The Guardian, Pankaj Mishra says the world is “looking at a fresh political awakening,” citing examples from Egypt and Greece to Israel and China. “[E]xtreme and seemingly insurmountable inequality,” Mishra argues, are the source of the new “public anger,” and that inequality is itself the result of “the west’s model of consumer capitalism.” Continue reading

“Market” Panic: The Era of Regime Certainty has Begun


by Thomas Knapp
http://c4ss.org/?p=8015

In a 1997 paper for the Independent Review, economist Robert Higgs argues persuasively that the Great Depression lasted so long largely due to the phenomenon of “regime uncertainty”: Continue reading

Personal Perspectives 27, Austrian Economics and Anarcho-Capitalism: Peace, Prosperity and Freedom (2011), by Michael McKay | www2.libertarian.co.uk


 

Austrian Economics and Anarcho-Capitalism: Peace, Prosperity and Freedom
Michael McKay

Personal Perspectives No. 27
ISBN 9781856376372
ISSN 0267-7156 (print)
ISSN 2042-275X (online)

© 2011: Libertarian Alliance; Michael McKay

Personal Perspectives 27, Austrian Economics and Anarcho-Capitalism: Peace, Prosperity and Freedom (2011), by Michael McKay | www2.libertarian.co.uk

Doug French, In Defence of Mortgage Defaulters


Property and Freedom Society Videos


Here is all I have had time to upload so far:

http://vimeo.com/channels/203292

 

Hans-Hermann Hoppe, Welcome to the Property and Freedom Society Conference, 2011


The Sixth Annual Conference of the

Property and Freedom Society,

held at the Hotel Karia Princess,

Bodrum, Turkey,

26-29 May 2011

Hans-Hermann Hoppe,

Welcome and Introductions

Bitcoin Again


Howard R. Gray

Bitcoin will have one potent chance to insert itself into the economy as savior, no more so when the US dollar reaches the Weimar moment which is very likely to be soon. Is Bitcoin real enough to do that?

What is the point of a fiduciary currency when there is no faith left? Bitcoin, or one of its competitors or co operators, may well create a way to survive a valueless currency when the moment arrives. Legal tender laws could be amended to accommodate novel currencies and money, which may well be the only way a government, can survive a currency melt down without a political meltdown. I suspect we are about to find out soon how all this will work.

Merely switching one dud currency for another won’t go down well, there will be a need for money backed by value, bitcoin is one entity that might not pass muster on this one but an amalgam of bit-money and bitcoins could make it to the table instead. If there is a unique way to print out cash with an encrypted graphic similar to a bar code then there may be ways to transfer cash outside of the net in the open market in real as well as cyber space. Is any of this possible, you tell me?

Cyber-ducats, Barter-Bits, Info-Franks or whatever the money may become, the result will be the first stages of removing state monopoly from value exchange. Liberating interest rates and exchange rates from the power of the banking classes would be a huge advance in liberty. Government would have to operate on value of the services it provides rather than the favours it bestows on those it corrupts to support it. Yes they can bust in and arrest the miscreants who use cyber money, which will only work so long as they can pay the black flack suit guys and gals, not so easy when you are playing the Zimbabwe gambit.

Hayek and his view of private money has laid the foundation of why private or non state money is a good thing. The technology of doing it may just be about to emerge. Now let us imagine how to run a deficit spending Keynesian economy should any of this happen. Hmmmmmm…..

Evolve, if you will, to a world where there are free market interest and exchange rates, how would that work out? Imagine a wee bit further where there is private money and public or government currency in a situation where the arbitrage between the two might just create a stable monetary system to replace the Breton Woods model. Amended legal tender laws to accept viable money in competition with state currencies would add a deep dimension to the international currency exchange trade. Which way would Gresham’s law operate here?

Honestification of currencies to ensure that they become more like money would be a real advance. No more coin clipping, printing press or computer key currency fraud, wouldn’t that be nice?

The SWATistas in the black outfits might be better off if they stay home when this one goes down. An emergent natural monetary order might permit very rapid recovery from a transnational fiscal meltdown. Entitlements will be gone, government grants will be gone, overseas aid will be gone, Keynesian economics would be gone, no IMF or UN and so on and so forth. Then what? Perhaps Mr. “Spooky dude” Soros just might put his feet up and retire.

None of this is vaguely viable but one can dream!

Kevin Carson in Forbes Magazine


 

As Kevin Carson has noted in the past, the IMF’s “actual purpose was to subsidize the disposal of surplus American goods and capital in foreign markets. The World Bank and IMF were created as an adjunct of William Appleman Williams’ “Open Door Imperialism,” a safety valve for the chronic overproduction and overaccumulation under state capitalism.”

Should We Abolish the IMF? – E.D. Kain – American Times – Forbes

Should Businesses have the Right to Discriminate against Homosexuals? by Sean Gabb


This is a draft. Comments welcome. In light of any comments, I’ll revise the article, or just attach comments.

http://www.seangabb.co.uk/?q=node/542

Free Life Commentary,
A Personal View from
The Director of the Libertarian Alliance
Issue Number 207
19th April 2011 

Should Businesses Have the Right
to Discriminate Against Homosexuals?
by Sean Gabb

On Wednesday the 13th April 2011, two men, James Bull and Jonathan Williams, kissed each other in the John Snow public house in Soho. Apparently, they were then asked to leave by a member of staff who called their act “obscene.” This alleged incident led to the usual sort of outrage. On the Friday following, several hundred homosexuals gathered in the street outside the pub to kiss each other. The pub closed early. Though its landlord has not so far made any comment to the media, the Metropolitan Police are now on the prowl, to see if he or his staff can be done under the “hate crime” laws.

When I read this story last week, I simply sniffed and moved on. Not long ago, every sentence of the newspaper report would have had people scratching their heads. But modern England is a strange place. The only oddity now is that anyone running a pub in Soho could even notice if two men were kissing, let alone think it good for business to object. I have been drawn back to the story, though, by a news release from Peter Tatchell. Among much else, he declares that “Businesses that provide a service to the public have a duty under the law to not discriminate.” While this may be an accurate statement of the law as it stands, removing the words “under the law” makes it a plain statement of what Peter believes. He believes this, and so do many other people. Indeed, among the media and political classes in modern England, it is an almost a self-evident proposition that, if you offer goods or services for sale, you have at least a moral obligation to do business with anyone who has money to spend. Refuse to do business with someone because you dislike the group of which he is a member, and expect to be vilified, where not taken to court.

Now, if it is frequently repeated by those in authority, a proposition may cease to be disputed, or even examined. It does not become true. And this proposition is false. No one has a moral obligation to do business with those whom he dislikes. Any law that compels him to do such business is not a victory for human rights, but a violation of rights. I have much respect for Peter Tatchell. He is more excitable than most of my friends. On the other hand, he has, over the past thirty years, played an honourable and perhaps decisive role in striking down the various legal persecutions of homosexuals. He also takes a straightforward line on freedom of speech that is nowadays rare among socialists. But he is, in his view of anti-discrimination laws, both wrong and even dangerously wrong. I hope that he will regard what I have to say on this issue as entirely friendly criticism.

Personal and Economic Freedom: A False Dichotomy

I read John Stuart Mill’s essay On Liberty when I was seventeen, and was immediately smitten by it. Reading the essay marks my final transition from liberal conservative to libertarian. Even at the time, though, I found my eyes opening at this claim, in Chapter V:

…[T]rade is a social act. Whoever undertakes to sell any description of goods to the public, does what affects the interest of other persons, and of society in general; and thus his conduct, in principle, comes within the jurisdiction of society…. [T]he so-called doctrine of Free Trade… rests on grounds different from, though equally solid with, the principle of individual liberty asserted in this Essay.

Mill is wrong here. Freedom is the right to do whatever we please with our own lives and property. The right is limited only by an obligation to refrain from force or fraud in dealing with others. The introduction of money into one man’s association with another makes no difference in itself. For example, a man may want to sleep only with other men. That is his business. He may choose to hold a sex party in his house, and to invite only men. That also is his business. It is his body, to with as he pleases. It is his property, to do with as he pleases – so long, of course, as he does not make a nuisance of himself, as reasonably conceived, to his neighbours. To make a law compelling him to sleep with women as well is make him into a slave. To make a law compelling him to admit women to his party, and men who want to sleep with women, is also to make him into a slave. He has bought or rented his house with his earnings, and telling him how to spend his earnings is as much a form of slavery and telling him what to do directly with his body. What makes the case any different if he offers himself to men as a prostitute, or charges for admission to his sex parties? Why should he be forced by an anti-discrimination law to sell his body to some woman who may desire him – or to take admission money from heterosexuals?

The right of one man to sleep with another is nothing more than an instance of the right to freedom of association. Freedom of association also includes freedom of trade. Denying any one instance of this freedom is to set a precedent for others to be denied. Regardless of payment, consenting adults should be free to associate as they please. Moreover, freedom of association necessarily involves the right not to associate. No one has a right to be included. No one has a right not to be shunned. Though they currently favour sexual and racial minorities, anti-discrimination laws in business matters are an attack on the right of these minorities to be left alone.

It may be very hurtful to see notices outside hotels that say things like “Wogs and queers not welcome.” It may be very hurtful to be told “We don’t employ your sort in this company.” But it is not our hotel, and it is not our company. We have no moral right to share in the profits of these businesses, or to cover their losses. Equally, we have no moral right to dictate how they should be run.

Of course, while it should have every right to throw demonstrative homosexuals into the street, no one is obliged to drink at the John Snow public house; and the demonstration outside a few days later was entirely legitimate. As said, it is bizarre that anyone on Soho could regard this sort of discrimination as other than catastrophic for business. It may have come already, but I do expect a grovelling apology from the owners of the public house. And it is worth noting that, while homosexuals are not as generally loved as the media would have us believe, there is very little active dislike. Even without anti-discrimination laws, I do not think modern England is a place where discrimination is welcomed.

Free Markets v Actually Existing Markets

That is my answer to Peter Tatchell. However, this defence of the right to freedom of trade brings me to a matter that is presently controversial within the libertarian movement. Kevin Carson has denounced “vulgar libertarianism.” In more formal terms, Roderick Long has drawn attention to what he calls “right conflationism.” This is the tendency of many libertarians to defend the outcomes of an actually existing market as if they were the outcomes of a free market. It is a pervasive tendency, and I regret that I have often fallen victim to it myself. But it is something that must be identified and avoided.

For we do not live in anything approaching a world of free markets. Wherever we look, there is a relationship between government and big business so close that the two may often be taken, at the top, as one and the same thing – a system almost consciously designed to suck wealth upwards into the hands of the ruling class. We have limited liability laws that allow those in charge of a business to minimise their exposure to tort actions, and to attract large amounts of investment capital, and to give long enough existence for the business to grow far beyond what would otherwise be normal. We have transport and communication subsidies that allow big businesses to benefit from economies of scale, while externalising their diseconomies. We have tax and regulatory burdens that press harder on small businesses. We have intellectual property laws that – even if justified in principle – are practical subsidies on size. The outcome of all this is that England and America, and every other civilised country, are thoroughly corporatised and cartellised.

It is probably not a free market outcome that a quarter of all spending on food in this county goes through Tesco. It is probably not a free market outcome that we are all dependent for our energy needs on gigantic organisations, owned or regulated by the State, that extract their raw materials from the some of the most politically unstable regions on the planet, and that need continual state involvement to keep their lines of distribution open. It is hard to say what a genuinely libertarian society would look like. But it would probably not be “Tesco minus the State.” It would probably be a a place of small craftsmen and farmers and traders, of artists and of unlicensed doctors and lawyers, and of others needed if individuals and free associations of individuals are to live well. I do not think there would be no large enterprises, or that the wage system would disappear. But these would be far less important features than they presently are.

Primary and Secondary Regulation

This being so, we cannot simply announce that whatever some big business does is not our concern. We cannot apply the libertarian defence of free markets to the state capitalism that we presently have. There are, for example, about a dozen commercial banks in this country. Suppose they all – possibly with a nod and wink from the Government – decide not to open an account for some disapproved political party. Do we say that the banks have no obligation to do business with anyone who presents himself at their counters? Or do we bear in mind that political parties are required by law to have a bank account, and that the banks are all licensed and regulated into what amounts to a cartel, and that the banks should therefore be required to take whatever customers seem likely to run their accounts in a reasonable manner? The first is a valid answer for a free market. When the market is not free, does the second become a valid answer?

Again, let us look again at Tesco. Bearing in mind its great power within a pretty unfree market, is it so outrageous that there should be controls on its further expansion, and on how it treats its suppliers and customers? Should there be laws to punish any collusive agreements it may make with suppliers or competitors?

Or, to come now to the first point of this article, should pubs be at liberty to turn away customers who are not committing any breach of the peace, but whose conduct is offensive to the management or staff? Pubs are licensed. Some of their profit is gained from the limiting of competition. Should they be treated as if they were operating in a free market? Or should they be required to serve any customer?

For many left libertarians, the answer to this last question is “yes.” In Chapter 13 of his Organization Theory, Kevin Carson gives us the analogy of a pharmacist who refuses on religious grounds to dispense birth control pills. For a “vulgar libertarian,” he says, the reflexive answer is “Yes, of course…. Anyone participating in the market should have the right to buy and sell, or not buy and sell, as he sees fit.” But this answer is based on the implicit assumption that we live in a society that entirely free. Mr Carson says:

But in fact, pharmacists are direct beneficiaries of compulsory occupational licensing, a statist racket whose central purpose is to restrict competition and enable them to charge a monopoly price for their services.

The pharmacist should, therefore, be compelled to dispense whatever is lawfully demanded.

The Welfare Economics Trick

I must say, however, that this application of the principle disturbs me. I agree that many controls on business have been laid on to mitigate the less welcome consequences of other controls, and that libertarians should bear this in mind when denouncing any particular control. Even so, as applied in this case, what may be a true principle leads us straight into a socialist police state. It allows the same intellectual trick as welfare economics. This begins with a pious explanation of how “social welfare” is maximised when perfectly rational consumers buy goods and services in a perfectly competitive market. It then observes that there are no perfectly rational consumers or perfectly competitive markets, and concludes that government action is needed to correct “market failure.” I spoke some years ago with Henri Lepage, who was working at the time for the European Commission. He told me that this trick was played in almost every policy document brought out by the Commission. These begin with lavish praise of the benefits of free competition, and end by recommending laws on the minimum diameter of apples and the maximum curvature of cucumbers.

In the same way, the principle of accepting some controls that mitigate other controls can be used to justify any degree of regulation. I am qualified to teach in both schools and universities. As such, I am privileged. Does this mean that I have no right to complain if I am told by law whom to teach, what to teach, and how to teach? My local newsagent is privileged, so far as he is allowed by the local authority to sell cigarettes. Does this mean he has no right to discriminate against schoolchildren by insisting that no more than three of them at a time should come into his shop? We live in a society where almost every activity is regulated, and – looking only at the benefits rather than the costs of regulation – is privileged. As with welfare economics, belief in the value of freedom can be made, without any particular effort, into acceptance of state socialism. There is no doubt that primary regulations are demanded by an intelligent ruling class that expects to benefit from them. But there is equally no doubt that there are special interest groups – and these may be partly autonomous of the ruling class – that benefit from secondary controls.

Speaking up for State Welfare

My own view is that, while the arguments put forward by Roderick Long and Kevin Carson, among others, cannot be dismissed out of hand, we should be very cautious in applying these arguments. Where state welfare is concerned, I, for one, will accept their aguments. We have a ruling class that has pretty well monopolised the means of production. Welfare is a drug –  paid for by those outside the ruling class and with incomes worth taxing –  to antototto anaesthetise those at the bottom to what they have lost. There are libertarians who can sit looking though a plate glass wiindow in the Kings Road and announce very grandly that there are always jobs available for those willing to work. Really, though, the choice for many is state welfare or taking a job on minimum wage that works out to a net gain, after tax and job expenses, of £10 or £20 a week. It may be in someone’s long term interest to take the job. On the other hand, the long term can be a long time in coming. At the same time, it is difficult to go off welfare and then, if the job folds, go straight back on at the old level of benefit. It may be a rational decision to avoid the risk. It is not an unreasonable decision. I say then that we should private first and cut welfare afterwards.

Oh, and when I talk of “privatisation,” I do not mean the Thatcherite switch from a less to a more efficient mode of rent seeking. I mean a radical attack on the sources of corporate privilege. Welfare is bad for all manner of reasons. It is a heavy burden on the middle classes. It pauperises the lower classes. The only real beneficiaries are a ruling class that has bought the quiescence of those who might otherwise turn into a screaming mob. But it really is one of those secondary controls to mitigate the working of primary controls.

The Necessary Coincidence of Principle and Pragmatism 

This being said, I do not accept the wider applications of the arguments. Just because someone is regulated does not make him a net beneficiary of state privilege. Just because he is regulated does not mean that he has consented to the regulation. Just because he is regulated does not make further regulation legitimate.

The John Snow public house has a licence to sell alcohol. This may make it a net beneficiary – though it may not. Certainly, however, its licence does not give it a monopoly privilege. There is no shortage of other pubs in Soho. Because no one who wants to drink is obliged to drink there, the pub should not be prevented from discriminating. The John Snow public house does not operate in a free market. But it does operate in a market sufficiently free for the usual libertarian defence to apply. If the licensing laws were so strict that it was the only public house within a ten mile radius, the case would be different. But there is competition.

In the same way, I should not be subject to regulation in my teaching methods – subject, of course, to whatever my employers and customers might demand. In the same way, I think the example of the pharmacist is wrongly argued. There are very few places – at least in England – where there is no choice of pharmacists. We should argue against all occupational licensing, but also be prepared to defend the right of the licensed to run their businesses as they please.

Very big companies like Tesco may be an exception to this rule. On the other hand, we are talking about corporatism, not state socialism. In the Soviet Empire, entrepreneurship did exist, but was confined to the margins of a system where production and pricing decisions were made and enforced at gunpoint. In England and America, most large companies are state-privileged trading bodies. But they also survive and flourish in part because they make the right entrepreneurial decisions. If Tesco is allowed to externalise many of its costs, it is also a success because it gives us what we want. If it makes mistakes – as, for example, in its American venture – it has to bear the costs of failure. It is part of a state-privileged cartel, but is also in fierce competition with the other supermarket chains.

Dirty Markets Better than Dirtier Markets

Now, I readily accept that the left libertarians know as much about Austrian economics as I do. But I will make the point that the real problem of economics is not to know what equilibrium looks like once it has emerged, but to understand the process by which it is continually approached, and the value of that process. Markets are valuable not so far as they result in some neoclassical equilibrium, but as a discovery process, in which particles of knowledge dispersed among billions of individuals – knowledge about wants and costs and techniques, knowledge that would otherwise remain dispersed – are brought together into a rational structure of opportunities for exchange. Markets allow people to blunder around, or make intelligent guesses, and every so often to light on some previously unimagined way of making the world a better place. And the players in a market need not be entirely unregulated sole traders. They can be state-privileged trading bodies.

Real market outcomes will not necessarily look anything like a perfectly competitive equilibrium. There may be a single supplier in a market, which may earn very high profits in the short and long term. Or there may be general collusion among suppliers to fix prices. But, so long as there is no use of overt government force to close the market – as is the case with the British Post Office – this must be taken as an acceptable outcome for the time that it endures. If an outcome is not efficient – if there are ways for someone else to come into a market and cut prices or raise quality while still making a profit – any position, no matter how incidentally privileged, will eventually crumble.

I agree that the scales are systematically tipped in favour of big business. But I do not agree that this justifies the kind of regulation that is often accepted by the left libertarians. Actually existing markets do produce obvious dynamic efficiencies that would only be reduced by further regulation. Moreover, these further regulations only raise up oppressive bureaucracies that result in a less libertarian outcome than simply putting up with the facts of privilege.

But this takes me far beyond a mere discussion of whether the John Snow public house should be allowed to exclude demonstrative homosexuals. It is enough for me to say that its management and staff should be allowed to exclude anyone they please – and to bear whatever consequences may come about.

I mention no names!


It is no crime to be ignorant of economics, which is, after all, a specialized discipline and one that most people consider to be a ‘dismal science.’ But it is totally irresponsible to have a loud and vociferous opinion on economic subjects while remaining in this state of ignorance.” – Murray N. Rothbard

The Tragedy of the Euro – Philipp Bagus – Mises Institute


 

The Tragedy of the Euro – Philipp Bagus – Mises Institute

A re-arrangement of the deckchairs


David Davis

Estonia, strangely, is going to join a sinking currency.

Back in the USSA, by Kevin Carson


http://c4ss.org/?p=5477

Politicians and talking heads, of both the mainstream liberal and conservative persuasions, commonly refer to this as “our free market system,” or maybe “free enterprise.”

But we haven’t had anything even remotely resembling a free market for over 150 years. (For that matter we didn’t have one before, what with Enclosures, the Combination Law, mercantilism, slavery and colonialism.) Since the mid-19th century, what we’ve had is massive collusion between big government and big business. The corporate economy was created almost whole-cloth through a monstrous act of top-down government intervention, with the help of such things as the railroad land grants and other infrastructure subsidies, the exchange and pooling of patents, tariffs, regulatory cartels, and union-busting by uniformed thugs. The New Deal was just corporatist icing on the cake.

What we have is not a free enterprise system, but an interlocking directorate of giant, centralized government and corporate bureaucracies. The same personnel circulate, through a revolving door system, between senior corporate management and government political appointees. The same person who is now Assistant Vice President for Such-and-Such at So-and-So Corp LLC, is apt in five years to be Deputy Undersecretary for the Other Thing. And vice versa, of course. It makes about as much sense to treat a Fortune 500 corporation as a “private business” as it makes to treat a count in fourteenth-century France as a private landlord.

Within the large corporation, management bears more resemblance to the Soviet Nomenklatura than to free market entrepreneurs. They justify their power in the name of shareholder value, but in fact shareholders exercise almost no control over corporate management. Proxy fights almost never work, and corporations are typically controlled by inside directors. After a brief period of hostile takeovers in the ’80s, management quickly acted to restore insider control and nullify the threat of such attacks through measures like poison pills and greenmail; today, most takeovers are friendly and carried out by the management of both companies in collusion. If some seats on the board are occupied by institutional investors, it’s more accurate to describe it as a coalition between interlocking corporations. Bond issues are reserved mainly for financing mergers and acquisitions, and most new investment is financed by retained earnings, so the external control exerted by the capital markets is largely mythical.

American corporate management claims to represent shareholders as a legitimizing ideology, just as the Soviet bureaucracy claimed to represent the workers or the people — meanwhile having dachas, private cars, and shopping privileges in the luxury department stores reserved for Party members. In both cases, though, what you really had (and have) is a self-perpetuating oligarchy in control of a free-floating mass of unowned capital.

The typical Fortune 500 CEO invests money that she didn’t contribute from her own past savings, but that lacks any external owner capable of exercising any genuine control over it. Corporate management spends other people’s money, amounting to de facto owners of it. Shareholders are conventionally regarded as residual claimants, because in legal theory they have a claim on all revenue that’s left over after after all contractual claims are paid. But in the real world, it makes more sense to say that the shareholder is a contractual claimant with even fewer rights than a bondholder, and that management is the real residual claimant. A shareholder is entitled only to whatever dividend management sees fit to issue, if any. But senior management is entitled to whatever salaries and bonuses they can get, through mutual logrolling with the board of directors.

A lot of establishment libertarians, when they call for a “free market,” really seem to mean the present corporatist system without the welfare or the health and safety regulations — a world owned by Wal-Mart and Halliburton.

But when you hear a call for a freed market by someone at the Center for a Stateless Society, or anyone else on the free market left, please be aware that we mean something completely different by it. What we want is a society in which corporations are deprived of all the subsidies, privileges, protections, and artificial property rights they currently enjoy. What we want is a society in which all market activity consists of free exchange between equals, without anyone paying monopoly rents to the privileged and powerful. What we want is a society in which all functions of the state are replaced by voluntary association, whether by market transactions, mutual aid associations, or gift economies.

In short, the free markets we talk about have nothing to do with those of Dick Armey and FreedomWorks, the AEI, or the Heritage Foundation. We’re not talking about socialism for the rich and a Dickensian work house for everyone else.

When we say we believe in free enterprise, we mean it.

I don’t like it….it’s too quiet…


Michael Winning

Not much about poor Ireland right now, perhaps the journos are all stuck in the snow.

It says over at Conservative Home blog (HOward Flight, he of the comments about paying the underclass to beget more labour voters) that Germany might leave the Euro. I can’t see a problem myself, the Merkel-Hilda just has to say the word. I think most of “her” people are baying quietly for he to do it.

The Case against Economic Planning 1981, by Sean Gabb


An attack on economic planning, written in 1981

via The Case against Economic Planning 1981, by Sean Gabb.

I wrote this such a very long time ago. I begin to feel old!

The Trouble With Keynes | The Freeman | Ideas On Liberty


 

The Trouble With Keynes

October 1993 • Volume: 43 • Issue: 10 • Print This Post6 comments

Dr. Garrison teaches economics at Auburn University in Alabama and is a Contributing Editor of The Freeman.

The economics of John Maynard Keynes as taught to university sophomores for the last several decades is now nearly defunct in theory but not in practice. Keynes’ 1936 book The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money portrayed the market as fundamentally unstable and touted government as the stabilizer. The stability that allegedly lay beyond the market’s reach was to be supplied by the federal government’s macroeconomic policymakers—the President (with guidance from his Council of Economic Advisers), the Congress, and the Federal Reserve.

The acceptance in the economics profession of fundamentalist Keynesianism peaked in the 1960s. In recent decades, enthusiasm for Keynes has waxed and waned as proponents have tried to get new ideas from the General Theory or to read their own ideas into it. And although the federal government has long since become a net supplier of macroeconomic instability, the institutions and policy tools that were fashioned to conform with the Keynesian vision have become an integral part of our economic and political environment.

A national income accounting system, devised with an eye to Keynesian theory, allowed statisticians to chart the changes in the macroeconomy. Dealing in terms of an economy-wide total, or aggregate, policy advisers tracked the production of goods and services bought by consumers, investors, and the government. Fiscal and monetary authorities were to spring into action whenever the economy’s actual, or measured, total output, which was taken to reflect the demand side of markets, fell short of its potential output, which was estimated on the basis of the supply side. Cutting taxes would allow consumers and investors to spend more; government spending would add directly to the total; printing money or borrowing it would facilitate the opposing movements in the government’s revenues and its expenditures.

A chronic insufficiency of aggregate demand, which implies that prices and wages are somehow stuck above their market-clearing levels, was believed to be the normal state of affairs. Why might there be such pricing problems on an economy-wide scale? What legislation and government institutions might be standing in the way of needed market adjustments? These questions were eclipsed by the more politically pressing question of how to augment demand so as to clear markets at existing prices. The New Economics of Keynes shifted the focus of attention from the market to the government, from the economically justified changes in market pricing to the politically justified changes in government spending.

Politicians still appeal to basic Keynesian notions to justify their interventionist schemes. The continued use of demand-management policies aimed at stimulating economic activity—spending newly printed or borrowed money during recessions and before elections—requires that we understand what Keynesian economics is all about and how it is flawed. Also, identifying the flaws at the sophomore level helps students to evaluate in their upper-level and graduate courses such modern modifications as Post, Neo, and New Keynesianism as well as some strands of Monetarism.

The extreme level of aggregation in Keynesian economics leaves the full range of choices and actions of individual buyers and sellers hopelessly obscured. Keynesian economics simply does not deal with supply and demand in the conventional sense of those terms. Instead, the entire private sector is analyzed in terms of only two categories of goods: consumption goods and investment goods. The patterns of prices within these two mammoth categories are simply dropped out of the picture. To make matters worse, the one relative price that is retained in this formulation the relative value of consumer goods to investment goods as expressed by the interest rate is assumed either not to function at all or to function perversely.

The Importance of Scarcity

Pre-Keynesian economics, such as that of John Stuart Mill, as well as most contemporaneous theorizing, such as that by Ludwig von Mises and F. A. Hayek, emphasized the notion of scarcity, which implies a fundamental trade-off between producing consumption goods and producing investment goods. We can have more of one but only at the expense of the other. The construction of additional plant and equipment must be facilitated by increased savings, that is, by a decrease in current consumption. Such investment, of course, makes it possible for future consumption to increase. Identifying the market mechanisms that allocate resources over time is fundamental to our understanding of the market process in its capacity to tailor production decisions to consumption preferences. But as Hayek noted early on, the Keynesian aggregates serve to conceal these very mechanisms so essential to the intertemporal allocation of resources and hence to macroeconomic stability.

In Keynesian theory the long established notion of a trade-off between consuming and investing is simply swept aside. Consistent with the assumed perversity of the price mechanism, the levels of consumption and investment activities are believed always to move in the same direction. More investment generates more income, which finances more consumption; more consumption stimulates more investment. This feature of Keynesian theory implies an inherent instability in market economies. Thus, the theory cannot possibly explain how a healthy market economy functions–how the market process allows one kind of activity to be traded off against the other.

The “Multiplier-Accelerator” Theory

The inherent instability makes its textbook appearance as the interaction between the “multiplier,” through which investment affects consumption, and the “accelerator,” through which consumption affects investment. The multiplier effect is derived from the simple fact that one person’s spending becomes another person’s earnings, which, in turn, allows for further spending. Any increase in spending, then, whether originating from the private or public sector, gets multiplied through successive rounds of income earning and consumption spending.

The accelerator mechanism is a consequence of the durability of capital goods, such as plant and equipment. For instance, a stock of ten machines each of which lasts ten years can be maintained by purchasing one new machine each year. A slight but permanent increase in consumer demand for the output of the machines of, say, ten percent, will justify maintaining a capital stock of eleven machines. The immediate result, then, will be an acceleration of current demand for new machines from one to two, an increase of one hundred percent.

The multiplier-accelerator theory explains why consumption is increasing, given that investment is increasing, and why investment is increasing, given that consumption is increasing. But it is incapable of explaining what determines the actual levels of consumption and investment (except in terms of one another), why either should be increasing or decreasing, or how both can increase at the same time. Students are left with the general notion that the two magnitudes, investment and consumption, can feed on one another, in which case the economy is experiencing an economic expansion, or they can starve one another, in which case the economy is experiencing an economic contraction. That is, Keynesian theory explains how the multiplier-accelerator mechanism makes a good situation better or a bad situation worse, but it never explains why the situation should be good or bad in the first place.

Only at the two extremities in the level of economic activity is a change in direction of both consumption and investment sure to occur. After a long contraction, unemployment is pervasive and capital depreciation reaches critical levels. As production essential for capital replacement stimulates further economic activity, the macroeconomy begins to spiral upward. After a long expansion, the economy is bulging at the seams. Markets are glutted with both consumers’ and producers’ goods. As unsold inventories trigger production cutbacks and worker layoffs, the macroeconomy begins to spiral downward. Keynes held that the economy normally fluctuates well within these two extremes experiencing a general insufficiency—and an occasional supersufficiency—of aggregate demand.

Textbook Keynesianism

In the simplistic formulations of macroeconomic textbooks, investment is simply “given”; in Keynes’ own formulation, the inclination of the business community to invest is governed by psychological factors as summarized by the colorful term “animal spirits.” Keynes recognized that there are some “external factors” at work, such as foreign affairs, population growth, and technological discoveries. The market is envisioned, in effect, to be some sort of economic amplifier which converts relatively small changes in these external factors into wide swings of employment and output. This is the basic Keynesian vision.

Wage rates and prices are assumed either to be inflexible or to change in direct proportion to one another. In either case the real wage (W/P) is forever constant. The actual level of wages and prices is believed to be determined (again) by external factors—this time, trade unions and large corporations. If the real wage is too high, there will be unemployment on an economy-wide basis. There will be idle labor and idle resources of every kind. The opportunity cost of putting these resources back to work is nothing but forgone idleness, which is no cost at all. The assumed normalcy of massive resource idleness assures that the perennial problem of scarcity never comes into play. William H. Hutt and F. A. Hayek were justified in referring to Keynesian economics as the “theory of idle resources” and the “economics of abundance.”

Textbook Keynesianism has a certain internal consistency or mathematical integrity about it. Given the assumptions that prices and wages do not properly adjust to market conditions, that is, the assumption that the price system does not work—then the Keynesian relationships among the macroeconomic aggregates come into play. Even the policy prescriptions seem to follow: If wages and prices do not adjust to the existing market conditions, then market conditions must be adjusted (by the fiscal and monetary authorities) to the externally determined prices and wages.

In the final analysis, however, Keynesian theory is a set of mutually reinforcing but jointly unsupportable propositions about how certain macroeconomic aggregates are related to one another. Keynesian policy is a set of self-justifying policy prescriptions. For instance, if the government is convinced that wages will not fall and is prepared to hire the unemployed, then unemployed workers will not be willing to accept a lower market wage, ensuring that wages, in fact, will not fall. Thus, while the intention of Keynesian policy is to stabilize the economy, the actual effect is to “Keynesianize” the economy. It causes the economy to behave in exactly the same perverse manner that is implied by the Keynesian assumptions. This convoluted interrelationship between theory and policy has long obscured the fundamental flaws in the theory itself.

Students often ask the obvious question: Why is government policy grounded in such a flawed theory? From a political point of view, advocating and implementing Keynesian policy is the surest way to election and re-election. The gains from printing and spending money are immediate, highly visible, and can be concentrated on individuals who make up powerful voting blocs. The costs of this policy are incurred at a later date and can be spread thinly across the entire population, making the link between policy and long-run consequences difficult for the voting public to perceive.

The fading in recent years of old-line Keynesianism in academic circles provides little comfort. Even as the number of demand-managers continues to decline, it is from this shrinking group of economists that government officials seek advice and reconciliation. And opportunities to lecture to the seats of power rather than in the halls of learning have a way of changing some economists’ minds about the advisability (political if not economic) of managing aggregate demand. Printing and spending money in pursuit of short-run stimulation if not long-run stability remain the order of the day.

There is good reason, then, to study Keynesian theory: It helps us understand what the policymakers in government are likely to do in any given circumstance. But to understand the actual effects of their demand-management policies in the long run as well as the short, we need a more enlightening theory—one that recognizes what market forces can do on their own to maintain macroeconomic stability and how those forces are foiled by government-supplied stabilization.

The Trouble With Keynes | The Freeman | Ideas On Liberty

UK Proposal for Banking Reform: Fractional-Reserve Banking versus Deposits and Loans — Mises Economics Blog


 

UK Proposal for Banking Reform: Fractional-Reserve Banking versus Deposits and Loans — Mises Economics Blog

Mises OnLine University


Hi,

The Mises University is offering online courses on a variety of topics, all reasonably priced.

http://academy.mises.org/courses/

Thought it might be of interest to some of you here

For this crowd I would recommend:

Freedom Versus Authority: Europe 1789-1945 http://academy.mises.org/courses/freedom-versus-authority-europe-1789-1945/

The Political Economy of War http://academy.mises.org/courses/the-economics-of-war/

New Video Files for the Property and Freedom Society Conference


Sean Gabb

Note: I have said this many times to individual correspondents. But I am now getting so many enquiries that I will say it generally. I use a video hosting service called Vimeo. This allows me to upload high quality video of any length. However, there is an upload limit of 5Gb per week – which sounds a lot, but isn’t. This is also an inflexible limit, and there is no question of a rollover from the many weeks when I upload nothing.

Therefore, the videos for this month’s Property and Freedom Society conference in Bodrum must go up over several weeks. I have uploaded the main details for every speech, and have attached position holding videos for those that have not yet had the speeches uploaded. That is the reason for the four second clip of a baby crawling – it was the shortest piece of video I could find at the time.

These position holding videos are now being replaced one at a time. So far today, I have uploaded the following:

PFS 2010 – Hans-Hermann Hoppe, On Private Goods, Public Goods, and the Need for Privatization
http://vimeo.com/12598721

PFS 2010 – Norman Stone, World War I: Britain, the Ottoman Empire, and the Making of Turkey and the Modern Middle East
http://vimeo.com/12598642

At this moment – 1:20pm BST – I am uploading these videos:

PFS 2010 – Thomas DiLorenzo, America’s Culture of Violence: Myth vs. Reality
http://vimeo.com/12598489

PFS 2010 – Anthony Daniels (Theodore Dalrymple), “Public Health” as a Lever for Tyranny
http://vimeo.com/12598829

These should be ready for viewing within the next few hours. I will continue uploading until I reach the 5Gb limit. I expect to get everything up before then except two of the general discussions.

Therefore, please be patient. Everything will be available soon. In the meantime, do think of me. My dear friend Richard Blake, the critically-acclaimed and internationally best-selling author of “Blood of Alexandria” (available through all good booksellers), etc etc, is trying to work on his next masterpiece. I am preparing lectures. My Baby Bear has found how to unlock the bathroom cupboard and is unpacking all the aftershaves I have been given over the years for Christmas and never used. And all you want is video uploads…..

Regards,

Sean

Cobden Centre Lecture (Plus Free Food & Drink!)


The Cobden Centre

For honest money and social progress
 
The Cobden Centre is delighted to invite you to its Annual Lecture and Drinks Reception to be held on Wednesday 9 June 2010 between 6.30pm and 9.00pm at the National Liberal Club, On Whitehall Place, London SW1
(nearest tube station: Embankment).
 
The Emperor’s New Clothes:
How to Pay off the National Debt and Give a 28.5% Tax Cut
 
Toby Baxendale

Toby Baxendale is Chairman of The Cobden Centre and a graduate of the London School of Economics. Dedicated to furthering the teaching of the Austrian School of Economics, he and his colleagues are passionate about reviving the Great Manchester School of Cobden and Bright. Toby is an entrepreneur who owns a company that is Britain’s largest fresh fish supplier to the catering trade. He also has active interests in several charities and is a Magistrate and an Ironman triathlete. 

The dress code for this event is lounge suit or small casual.
To confirm your attendance please RSVP Dr. Helen Evans at
hsevans@btinternet.com  

http://www.CobdenCentre.org

Mutualist Blog: Free Market Anti-Capitalism: The Homebrew Industrial Revolution: A Low Overhead Manifesto


 

The Homebrew Industrial Revolution: A Low Overhead Manifesto


This will be my third book, based on the series of papers on industrial history I did at Center for a Stateless Society. The current manuscript, which is far from finished, is available as an ebook at my new WordPress blog dedicated to the project.
From the Preface (itself still decidedly unfinished):
In researching and writing my last book Organization Theory: A Libertarian Perspective, I was probably more engaged and enthusiastic about working on material related to micromanufacturing, the microenterprise, the informal economy, and the singularity resulting from them, than on just about any other part of the book. When the book went to press, I didn’t feel that I was done writing about those things. As I completed that book, I was focused on several themes that, while they recurred throughout the book, were imperfectly tied together and developed.
In my first paper as research associate at Center for a Stateless Society, I attempted to tie these themes together and develop them in greater detail in the form of a short monograph. I soon found that it wasn’t going to stop there, as I elaborated on the same theme in a series of C4SS papers on industrial history. And as I wrote those papers, I began to see them as the building blocks for a stand-alone book.
One of the implicit themes which I have attempted to develop since Organization Theory, and which is central to this book, is the central role of fixed costs—initial capital outlays and other overhead—in economics. The higher the fixed costs of an enterprise, the larger the income stream required to service them. That’s as true for the household microenterprise, and for the “enterprise” of the household itself, as for more conventional businesses. Regulations that impose artificial capitalization and other overhead costs, the purchase of unnecessarily expensive equipment of a sort that requires large batch production to amortize, the use of stand-alone buildings, etc., increase the size of the minimum revenue stream required to stay in business, and effectively rule out part-time or intermittent self-employment. When such restrictions impose artificially high fixed costs on the means of basic subsistence (housing and feeding oneself, etc.), their effect is to make cheap and comfortable subsistence impossible, and to mandate ongoing external sources of income just to survive. As Charles Johnson argued,

If it is true (as Kevin has argued, and as I argued in Scratching By) that, absent the state, most ordinary workers would experience a dramatic decline in the fixed costs of living, including (among other things) considerably better access to individual ownership of small plots of land, no income or property tax to pay, and no zoning, licensing, or other government restraints on small-scale neighborhood home-based crafts, cottage industry, or light farming/heavy gardening, I think you’d see a lot more people in a position to begin edging out or to drop out of low-income wage labor entirely—in favor of making a modest living in the informal sector, by growing their own food, or both…

On the other hand, innovation in the technologies of small-scale production and of daily living reduce the worker’s need for a continuing income stream. It enables the microenterprise to function intermittently and to enter the market incrementally, with no overhead to be serviced when business is slow. The result is enterprises that are lean and agile, and can survive long periods of slow business, at virtually no cost; likewise, such increased efficiencies, by minimizing the ongoing income stream required for comfortable subsistence, have the same liberating effect on ordinary people that access to land on the common did for their ancestors three hundred years ago.
The more I thought about it, the more central the concept of overhead became to my analysis of the two competing economies. Along with setup time, fixed costs and overhead are central to the difference between agility and its lack. Hence the subtitle of this book: “A Low Overhead Manifesto.”
Agility and Resilience are at the heart of the alternative economy’s differences with its conventional predecessor. Its superiorities are summed up by the cover image; a tiny teenage Viet Cong girl leading an enormous American pilot into captivity. I’m obliged to Jerry Brown (via Reason magazine’s Jesse Walker) for the metaphor: guerrillas in black pajamas, starting out with captured Japanese and French arms, with a bicycle-based supply train, kicking the living shit out of the best-trained and highest-technology military force in human history.

But Governor Brown was much more of a fiscal conservative than Governor Reagan, even if he made arguments for austerity that the Republican would never use. (At one point, to get across the idea that a lean organization could outperform a bloated bureaucracy, he offered the example of the Viet Cong.)

Mutualist Blog: Free Market Anti-Capitalism: The Homebrew Industrial Revolution: A Low Overhead Manifesto

P2P Foundation » Blog Archive » Mises and the Neo-Marxists: Paleotechnic Blood Brothers?


Sean Gabb

Mises and the Neo-Marxists: Paleotechnic Blood Brothers?

photo of Kevin Carson

Kevin Carson

10th October 2009

In an earlier post,  I argued that we’re experiencing an end to economic growth–not because of an end to progress and innovation, but because progress and innovation are making conventional metrics of “growth” obsolete.  GDP and other conventional metrics of economic “growth” measure the value of inputs consumed to produce a given level of output.  The implosion of capital outlay requirements to undertake production mean that the vast majority of investment capital is becoming superfluous, and that enormous amounts of paper GDP disappear from off the econometric radar.

For this reason the Austrian dogma of von Mises, that the only way to raise real wages is to increase the amount of capital invested, is shown to rely on a false assumption:  the assumption that there is some necessary link between productivity and the sheer quantity of capital invested.  George Reisman displays this tendency at its most vulgar:

The truth, which real economists, from Adam Smith to Mises, have elaborated, is that in a market economy, the wealth of the rich—of the capitalists—is overwhelmingly invested in means of production, that is, in factories, machinery and equipment, farms, mines, stores, and the like. This wealth, this capital, produces the goods which the average person buys, and as more of it is accumulated and raises the productivity of labor higher and higher, brings about a progressively larger and ever more improved supply of goods for the average person to buy.

But this view has been at the heart of most twentieth century assumptions about economy of scale, and an unquestioned assumption behind the work of liberal managerialists like Chandler and Galbraith (see Chapter One of my book Organization Theory,  “Chapter One: A Critical Survey of Orthodox Views on Economy of Scale“).

As demonstrated first by the shift of manufacturing from the old mass-production core to the job-shops of Shenzhen and Emilia-Romagna, and now by the rise of networked garage manufacturers like 100kGarages,  initial capital outlay requirements for physical production are imploding in exactly the same way that Rushkoff described for the information industries — which means that venture capital will lose most of its outlets in manufacturing as well.

For the same reason that the Austrian fixation on the quantity of capital investment as a source of productivity is obsolete, Marxist theories of the “Social Structure of Accumulation,” with long-wave investment in some new capital-intensive infrastructure as an engine of growth, are likewise obsolete.  Technical innovation, in such theories, provides the basis for a new long-wave of investment to soak up surplus capital.  The creation of some sort of new infrastructure is both a long-term sink for capital, and the foundation for new levels of productivity.

Gopal Balakrishnan,  in New Left Review, correctly observes capitalism’s inability, this time around, to gain a new lease on life through a new Kondratieff long-wave cycle:  i.e., “a new socio-technical infrastructure, to supersede the existing fixed-capital grid.”  But he mistakenly sees it as the result either of an inability to bear the expense (as if productivity growth required an enormous capital outlay), or of technological stagnation.

Balakrishan’s claim of “technological stagnation,” frankly, is utterly astonishing.  He equates the outsourced production in job-shops, on the flexible manufacturing model that prevails in various forms in Shenzhen, Emilia-Romagna, and assorted corporate supplier networks, with a lower level of technological advancement.  But the shift of production from the old expensive, capital-intensive, product-specific infrastructure of mass-production industry to job-shops is in fact the result of an amazing level of technological advance:  namely, the rise of cheap CNC machine tools scaled to small shops that are more productive than the old mass-production machinery.

By technological stagnation, apparently, Balakrishnan simply means that less money is being invested in new generations of capital; but the crisis of capitalism results precisely from the fact that new forms of technology permit unprecedented levels of productivity with physical capital costs an order of magnitude lower.

Two opposing themes in the Social Structure of Accumulation theory, mentioned by Balakrishnan, are at odds with each other.  The first is the rising set of costs, and the needto reduce them to restore the rate of profit.  But lowering costs and increasing profit directly creates an internal contradiction:   a surplus of investment capital without a productive outlet.

The SSA paradigm, in many ways, is obsolete:  its focus on new engines of accumulation, as sponges for enormous quantities of investment capital, is no longer relevant.

Both the Austrians and the neo-Marxists, in their equation of progress and productivity with the sheer quantitative mass of capital invested, are stuck in the paleotechnic age.

P2P Foundation » Blog Archive » Mises and the Neo-Marxists: Paleotechnic Blood Brothers?

Kevin Carson’s “Organization Theory” for Sale as pdf


Sean, will you please mention in a prominent place that a PDF is available for sale here, courtesy of Mr Carson himself:

http://www.mutualist.org/id114.html

Right now, the dead tree version is out of print because of a copyright dispute over the cover image. Anyway, Mr. Carson was so very kind as to send me a PDF copy of his book for free (after I’d ordered a couple of PDFs of another of his books for me and my love), which was great, since right now I’m too broke to order a dead tree copy, or to buy anything which doesn’t involve film or developing, heh heh, I was as exhilarated by his book as you seemed to be. So, the least I can do is to spam it to you and hope that you’ll put it in a prominent place on your page and hope your
readers go there.

Thanks for inspiring me. I have a lot of good things to say about you, but I want to keep this short. Be well, friend. :)

Yours,

lewis

David McDonagh on Keynes


The Keynesian “Revolution”
By David McDonagh

(This is the lightly revised text of a talk given to the Other LA)

We face the problem of “mind set” on this topic, as we haply do on all topics, where people tend to see what they expect to see. But note that this idea is quite distinct from seeing what we want to see, which is not humanly possible in any case at all, for we always see what seems to us to be the case.

Mark Blaug once retorted to Keynes’ statement that Ricardo had conquered England to a greater extent than had the Spanish Inquisition conquered Spain by saying that Keynes had conquered the economics profession even more successfully than Ricardo ever did.

Why did the Keynesian memes win out and how did they survive their rather clear refutation by the occurrence of stagflation during the 1970s? That is, the main problem I intend to consider below, but note that false theories are rather like human lives in that they may be very vulnerable to diseases at the infant stage, but once that is over, they can withstand attacks quite well up till old age when they, once again, seem to have weak defences. Similarly, false theories may not gain currency when they are first formed, but once a theory becomes popular, mere common sense objections will not matter much in science, or in wider academic study. This privilege against common sense is a major reason why Keynes’ theory survived the refutation of stagflation. Such objections become very potent, again, when the theory is on the decline, which can happen as a result a change in fashion, or if it is seen as being refuted by a rival paradigm, or by the external facts, –which is rather like a fatal accident.

Free, or freer, trade and state management or protectionism is often contrasted, with the latter often called socialism. Keynes favours management, never socialism, though his ideas were to a large extent shared with people like G.B. Shaw, who thought of himself as a socialist. Keynes preferred state management rather than the free market and thus belonged to the Radical-Joe-Chamberlain tradition of liberalism as opposed to that of the classical liberals, whom ebbed after Gladstone. But this means that for Keynes, as for Marx, it is really the lack of management or overall planning on the market that tends to irritate, rather than mass poverty, the problem of war [Marx] or mass unemployment [Keynes] that others thought were their main concern, though they did think they had solutions to those problems.. Keynes feels that the elite, the politicians, and others, have something to offer and he does not like the way economics has tended to be hostile towards politics or the civil service. He feels there should be some inequality in pay, but not much, and certainly not to the extent common in his own day. He admires the slow growth of taxation to curb the differences in income.

On the first page of the General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money (1936), Keynes’ main book, and the book I set out to criticise, as well as a partial critique of here, the author, oddly, openly confesses to “a solecism” (p3) but, instead of correcting it, he leaves it in the text. Has he set out to scotch grammar? That would be a very odd thing for any author to deliberately do. This solecism is (p3) that he sees the classical economists, not as Marx saw them, [viz. the authors who upheld the labour theory of value as against the ones who thought that supply and demand
were enough. Marx called the latter “the vulgar economists” as they settled for surface appearance rather than going to deep reality, which Marx took to be the proper job of any science.] but way more inclusive. Keynes sees the classical economists as being all the earlier economists. Many of those lived up to forty years after Keynes died [e.g. Hayek died in 1992 but Keynes in 1946].

The pristine classics were thrown out by “the Marginal Revolution”, which took place in the 1870s, when marginal theory replaced the labour theory of value paradigm. A few “vulgar economists”, Jevons, Menger and Walras, applied Ockham’s razor to the labour theory of value and marginal theory dispensed with the underlying reality. Keynes lets us know that he is to make a new revolution against those he terms “the classics” and he hopes it will be as complete as the one in the 1870s was.

The reader might realise that this is not a solecism at all, but an anachronism, i.e. an error of history rather than of grammar. The reader still might think it mighty odd that the author sees an error of any kind, but still leaves it in. But is it an error of any kind? After all, Plato seems to have been quite right when he says that no one can deliberately err. Is it not, rather, a clever and deliberate ploy that Keynes is here using, a device similar to the use that Nelson made of his blind eye? He is going to use this “solecism” device to pretend to see only what he wants to see. But no one can ever quite do that, if they remain sane.

Here we can see what sort of an author we are dealing with in Keynes. Richard Whately once said that “it makes all the difference in the world whether a man puts the truth in the first place or in the second place” and Keynes openly puts the truth in the service of his aims, and he aims to be revolutionary in theory even if he wants to remain Fabian and gradual in practice. But this “revolutionary” ploy does not mean that Keynes was insincere in what he wanted to say, but only that he was impatient to say it and that he also sought to dismiss the opposition; permanently.

It is fairly clear from reading the book that Keynes is largely attacking only one author, Arthur Cecil Pigou (1877-1959), and only others economists in so far as they agree with Pigou, so he has no need for an anachronism at all to do that. But Keynes clearly wants to say it is “the classics” that he rejects –he wants a revolution in theory to render his variously differing forerunners utterly defunct. And what he says, even of Pigou, ignores many things that Pigou says, even in the main book, _The Theory of Unemployment_ (1933), that Keynes, repeatedly, cites in this 1936 book.

Pigou repeatedly mentions the term “involuntary unemployment” in that 1933 book, for example, but Keynes, repeatedly, says that none before him even thought of that concept. Many authors conclude that Keynes had not read much, owing to him saying that “the classics” did not say this, or did not say that; when they so very clearly did. My guess is that he was quite well read in economics; even though he had values that were always in complete opposition to what he saw as the anarchy that the economists, though usually unwittingly, embraced. He rightly saw that economics was largely biased against politics and state planning. Marx with the same objection,
set out to be not only a hostile critic of economics, but also a supposed revolutionary to replace the market with moneyless communism. Keynes thought that money was vital and he was content with political demand management by means of inflation. He rather hoped that most of bourgeois society would go on much as before, but with the civil servants taking the place of the capitalist class in organising savings by taxation and so dealing with the problem of investment whilst unemployment might be cured by the stimulus of extra money in demand management. His epigones, in true Tory hyperbole, claimed that he saved the market from the Marxist threat, a brutum fulmen if ever there was one, rather like the imaginary wrath of God.

In any case, inflation is not really a stimulus, no more than is alcohol, though both may feel like it, for it destroys the power of money to relate to the real economy thus, ironically, destroying effective demand overall. This is the main fault in the Keynesian outlook; its main idea is false.

The ploy worked. Almost the whole of economics adopted the results of this “solecism” after 1936. This was “the Keynesian Revolution”, though Keynes did develop new terms in the theory of demand management, though little of the substance was unknown in the 150 years before Keynes, even if it was given a modern guise. But Keynes thought his forerunners, like Malthus, were misunderstood.

Oddly, the result in the textbooks fell out of Keynes’ hands and retained a few ideas he most hated, like equilibrium, as it owed almost as much to John Hicks, and others, many of whom did not fully comprehend Keynes.

Using his “solecism” ploy, Keynes said that the classics had no idea of the possibility of mass unemployment owing to Say’s Law, itself also redefined by Keynes. He described Say’s Law as maintaining that there was nothing for the entrepreneur to do, as supply exactly created its own demand automatically rather than merely boosting general demand with the coordination problem being the task of the entrepreneur, as Say, and most others before 1936, had it. Keynes also held that David Ricardo certainly had no knowledge of trade cycles, or of mass unemployment. Every economist after 1936, or very nearly everyone, took all this as the gospel truth, which it ironically was, for the Christian gospels, also, were more concerned with the message than with the truth, and they too were mere make believe. But their adherents were sincere, or at least convinced.

An illustration of the “mind set” that resulted after 1936 is shown by Thomas Sowell in _Black Education: Myth and Tragedies (1972). Sowell had copies of Robert Heilbroner’s _The Worldly Philosophers (1953), one of the many economists who adopted most, if not all, of the Keynesian outlook, on every desk, opened where Heilbroner says that Ricardo says nothing about the trade cycle, together with Ricardo’s _Principles of Political Economy and Taxation (1817) opened on the page where Ricardo begins his discussion of that topic. Sowell asked the class to read a bit of both books before asking them if what Heilbroner said about Ricardo was true. To his astonishment, they all replied that what Heilbroner said was true. When Sowell, flabbergasted, asked them why, he was told, in reply, that Heilbroner would not have written so if it is was not indeed the case.

I will say a bit about the myth of “revolution” in general. The word “revolution” is today a bit of romance jargon, and Keynes realised this, but he felt a dire need to make “the classics” defunct. He saw economic theory as part of the problem, not only of mass unemployment but also of the barbaric anarchy of modern times. Keynes knew there could be no actual fresh beginning, but something like one seemed to be needed. “Revolution” is actually just empty jargon, a constituted blank, which is often imposed on an account of the facts by the historians. When the vicar finds out that a couple indulges in sex before marriage he feels he has discovered yet another instance of
sin, but the idea that it is a sin is part of his ideology rather than the facts he has discovered about the couple in question.

The jargon word “revolution” clearly has a history and it was first used by the Whigs in 1688. It was taken from geometry, and it was, back then, used in the exact opposite of how it was used in 1789 by the Romantics and as how it is still largely used today. It was used to mean a return to the beginning of the drawing of a circle, to complete the revolution, and this meant exactly the same as “reactionary”, a reaction against recent innovation and an attempted return to the status quo ante. The idea was that James II had gone one half of a revolution away from how things should be, and that they needed to go back to how things were before he reigned, back before 1685. But in 1789 in France, the idea emerged with the new meaning being more like going off on a tangent than in
completing the revolution, for it introduced the current meaning of going on to a new epoch and leaving the past completely behind. But Keynes was right to think that gradualism was the case and that no event makes for a completely new beginning. At least he got one idea right.

Hoppe Festschrift Published


 

Hoppe Festschrift Published