Power & Market
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Fox News host Tucker Carlson took to the airwaves of this popular show last night to lambaste Austrian economics and libertarianism, which he views as twin pillars of a failed ideology that doesn't protect American workers and their interests.
The GOP, he argues, is in thrall to free-market corporate interests and esoteric economic theories from dusty textbooks. Republicans remain wedded to unbridled libertarian political philosophy, tax cuts, deregulation, and unilateral free trade, all of which enrich elites but hurt average people. Meanwhile, presidential aspirants like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders offer the American electorate real-world solutions to economic insecurity, jobs, and healthcare.
It's a compelling story, but untrue. Does Carlson honestly think Republican members of Congress are overly theoretical and ideological? And here we thought they were a bunch of unprincipled and poorly-read hacks!1
Does he honestly think the budget-busting GOP of recent political memory, from Bush II (Iraq War, Medicare Part D, Department of Homeland Security, Patriot Act), John McCain, Mitt Romney are ideological libertarians? Why did Ron Paul and Rand Paul fare poorly among Republican primary voters, if in fact free-market ideology and its donor class dominate the party? And hasn't the party been overtaken by Trumpist protectionists?
Of course we're pleased when Right populists recognize the influence of the Austrian school, just as we're pleased when Left-liberals at the New Republic convince themselves that Misesean "neoliberalism" has taken over the world. We note that Mises and Rothbard continue to receive criticism decades after their respective deaths, a testament to their deep (and apparently nefarious!) influence and an honor given to few economists.
Carlson, a onetime Cato Institute staffer and Weekly Standard writer, understands both Republican politics and the DC world of think tanks and punditry. When he references the Austrian school or libertarianism, it's shorthand for "Koch money and influence" rather than any real ideology. It's his shorthand for the "self-interests of rich guys," interests given an intellectual veneer by academics and writers who are happy to accept billionaire crumbs in exchange for cozy non-profit sinecures. "Conservatism, Inc." (or "Libertarianism, Inc.") has become an self-serving industry unto itself, sclerotic and ripe for criticism.
There is truth to this. But it's not an ideological truth. Tucker Carlson knows better. He knows full well how tariffs make society overall worse off, how markets make poor Americans far better off than the poor in many countries, why government medicine doesn't work, and how minimum wage laws hurt the least-skilled workers. His argument is about priorities and strategy (and TV ratings), not ideology. And it accepts a fundamental tenet of the Left: self-interest for me is noble and warranted, self-interest for others (especially the rich) is suspicious if not sinister.
In other words, Carlson presents a fundamentally zero-sum perspective, which is to say a fundamentally political perspective.
That said, his populism—particularly his antiwar stance—should not be dismissed. Populism per se is not an ideology, but rather a strategy. It can be imbued with any political philosophy, and thus can be equally dangerous or beneficial. At its core populism questions not only the competence of elites, but also their worthiness. It asks whether elite interests comport with those of average people, and in most cases correctly concludes that political elites have interests at odds with those people.
When elites are state-connected or state-protected, i.e., when they maintain or even derive their wealth and influence through their relationship with the state, libertarians have every obligation to object. Elites in the West—from politicians and bureaucrats to central bankers and media figures to defense contractors and patent-coddled pharmaceutical execs—richly deserve our ire. They screwed things up, and ought to be held accountable.
Tucker Carlson is right about that.
Read more: Rothbard on Libertarian Populism
- 1. As I write this, I'm privileged to sit in a conference room at the epicenter of Austrian economics. A group of graduate students from around the world is in residence at the Mises Institute this summer, and this week they're discussing (chapter by chapter) Rothbard's Man, Economy, and State.Apparently the GOP forgot to send its congressional delegation to attend.
Governments have too much power over people. But most of us can’t truly grasp how deep this power goes until our lives are completely changed by a new policy.
Three years after President Obama lessened travel restraints to Cuba, the Trump administration imposed new restrictions for American tourists. This new policy impacts private and corporate planes and boats, cruise ship tours, and other group trips to the island nation.
In a statement to the press, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that the travel ban was reinstated because of the “destabilizing role in the Western Hemisphere, providing a communist foothold in the region and propping up U.S. adversaries in places like Venezuela and Nicaragua by fomenting instability, undermining the rule of law, and suppressing democratic processes.”
With the new restrictions, Mnuchin said, the administration hopes “to keep U.S. dollars out of the hands of Cuban military, intelligence, and security services.”
On Twitter, Cuba’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Bruno Eduardo Rodríguez Parrilla said the U.S. wants to “[suffocate] the economy & [harm] the living standards of Cubans in order to forcefully obtain political concessions.”
Bruno Eduardo Rodríguez Parrilla, Cuba’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, strongly criticized the new travel sanctions.
“I strongly reject new sanctions announced by #US vs. #Cuba which further restrict #US citizens’ travels to Cuba, aimed at suffocating the economy & harming the living standards of Cubans in order to forcefully obtain political concessions,” Parrilla wrote on Twitter. “Once again they will fail.”
Regardless of how he feels, the conflict between the U.S. government and the Cuban regime shouldn’t impact people who have nothing to do with it. Whether officials of both countries recognize this or not, they have no legitimate authority over people’s lives.
Government Shouldn’t Dictate Travel Policy
This new attack on Cuba, Mnuchin himself admitted in his statement, is due to Cuba’s close association with Venezuela. But because these restrictions impact Cuban citizens directly, as many are only able to make a living thanks to U.S. tourists , Trump’s move might as well be seen as an act of war.
Whether you support the oppressive regimes in both Venezuela and Cuba or not, the nature of the current administration’s policy can’t be ignored, as it puts America, once again, in the role of the world’s police. And as we’ve seen in the past, to play this role means to put innocent people’s lives in jeopardy.
While to some, it might seem OK to punish the entire country for its corrupt government, the reality is that Cubans aren’t in love with communism . Quite the contrary, many agree that their government doesn’t represent them. But when the United States imposes sanctions or travel bans, it ends up fueling Cuban state propaganda while restricting the individual’s right to do what he or she pleases with their own money. In the end, those who hurt the most are the Cuban people, many whose livelihood depend on exchange with foreigners.
Like no other international mass shooting in recent memory, the Christchurch Mosque massacre in New Zealand is having a resounding impact on gun control discussions in the United States.
In short order, politicians from Bernie Sanders to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez praised New Zealand for its immediate decision to implement gun control. At the same time, they reiterated that the U.S. follow in New Zealand’s footsteps by passing so-called “assault weapons” bans.
In the American case, there were already several assault weapons ban bills filed in both the U.S. House and Senate before the Christchurch massacre. Although Republican control of the Senate will likely prevent the passage of these bills, these recent filings and the new outrage from the New Zealand tragedy have re-ignited discussions about gun control.
The Origins of the Assault Weapons Ban
AWBs have been a fetish of sorts for gun control proponents during the past three decades. California was one of the first states to pass this policy in 1989 with the Roberti-Roos Act, which banned the ownership and transfer of various brands of assault weapons. The weapons that fell under this ban consisted of rifles and even some pistols and shotguns. This became the inspiration for other assault weapons bans across the nation and eventually led to Bill Clinton’s signing of Federal Assault Weapons Bans of 1994 .
In 2004, the 1994 AWB expired under President George W. Bush’s administration. Many advocates for the AWB warned that expiration would lead to a sudden surge in crime. Not only did murder rates drop from 2003 to 2004, but they have continued falling into the present. Per capita, gun ownership increased by 56 percent from 1993 to 2013, while gun violence plummeted by 49 percent during the same period.
During the past 20 years, lax gun policies like Constitutional Carry, the ability to carry a firearm without a permit, have also become politically relevant. In 2019 alone, states like Kentucky , Oklahoma , and South Dakota embraced Constitutional Carry, which now brings the number of states with this policy to 16. Gun liberalization considered, crimes rates have continued to drop. In 2014, for example, homicide rates reached a 51-year low .
The Obsession over Assault Weapons: Much Ado About Nothing?
Indeed, “assault weapon” is a politically loaded term with no standard definition. They are often confused with assault rifles, weapons with single-shot, burst fire, and fully automatic fire settings, which are employed by militaries around the world. These weapons are not readily available to the civilian populace in America due to stringent regulations from the 1934 National Firearms Act (NFA)and the Hughes Amendment of the 1986 Firearm Owners Protection Act (FOPA). Firearms like the AR-15, a whipping boy for the gun control crowd, only has semi-automatic settings.
Despite these facts, the media have run with the assault weapon canard. Interestingly, research shows that weapons that fall under the arbitrary assault weapon label account for a small percentage of crime. According to Gary Kleck in Targeting Guns, assault weapons were only used in 1.4 percent of gun crimes before any national or state assault weapons bans were implemented in the 1990s. In 2001, the Bureau of Justice found that 8 percent of criminals used assault weapons in firearms-related crimes.
In 2017 alone, only 403 people were killed by all types of rifles. To put this in perspective, this was a year when there were nearly 15,000 total murders, which includes both firearms and non-firearms related deaths. From 2007 to 2017, the much-maligned AR-15 accounted for only 173 deaths in mass shootings.
Assault Weapons Bans Enhance the On-Going Trend of State Control
Crime statistics aside, there is another key reason to be worried about AWBs. These new laws involve conceding more government control over human behavior.
As Ryan McMaken notes , the past century has been one of federal consolidation of power, in which numerous Anglo-Saxon traditions have been subverted by the managerial state. This is most apparent when dealing with the issue of militias. The tradition of a decentralized militia goes back to the libertarian Levellers of 17th century England. This decentralized militia practice did not stay confined to the British Isles as it soon became a part of American colonial culture.
In the early days of the American Republic, Founders like Patrick Henry and George Mason continued that tradition by stressing the importance of the militia instead of centralized standing armies. With the codification of the Second Amendment, both the militia and private firearms ownership aspects became bedrocks of American civic culture up until the early 20th century.
A key component of militia units is their access to military-grade weaponry. However, the militia’s autonomy from the federal government and civilian access to military weapons has been significantly undermined during the past century. David Yassky explains how the Dick Act (the Militia Act) of 1903 and subsequent acts have put the National Guard increasingly under the federal government’s thumb. Yassky points out that “anyone enlisting in a National Guard unit is automatically also enlisted into a "reserve" unit of the U.S. Army (or Air Force), the federal government may use National Guard units for a variety of purposes, and the federal government appoints the commanding officers for these units.”
It also doesn’t help that the passage of the aforementioned 1934 NFA and Hughes Amendment of the 1986 FOPA make it prohibitively expensive for everyday gun owners to acquire military weapons such as machine guns. In the case of the 1986 FOPA, civilians were banned from purchasing machine guns manufactured after the date that this law was enacted.
Trust As The Mechanism For A Better Entrepreneurial Business And A Better World: 5 Tips For Startups
Every day, we as consumers, citizens, family members, and friends experience hundreds of examples of how our trust undergirds the world we live in, and how fragile the world can be when trust is violated or broken. We’ve all experienced relationships that have faltered and beliefs that have been challenged as the result of a moment that altered our trust in a person, institution, or even corporation. It’s something so basic that the average person likely spends little to no conscious thought about trust, and how it effects the efficiency of the world around them.
A loss of focus on the importance of trust has led generations and entire nations to be seduced by the promise of regulation as a mechanism for protection against the violation of trust. The reality is that regulations and regulators replace the trust economy altogether and redirect the responsibility to act ethically and honestly away from the economic actors themselves and place it on the regulations and regulators. This ultimately leads to the outcry for further regulations and more complex legislation to take hold of the “evil corporations” and “greedy investors”. A clear understanding of the way in which the trust economy works to self-regulate shows how unnecessary and frequently harmful the regulatory system can be.
In my episode of Economics for Entrepreneurs with Hunter Hastings we spend a good deal of time discussing the beef industry. Clearly, if a food manufacturer produced adulterated product and customers became sick, we can imagine, with the trust economy as the master, how long that business would be able to continue selling product. The consumer’s trust that the product will be clean and safe would be destroyed. Conversely, as we look at these industries under regulation, we find that the consumer is confused about who to blame for any safety issues and often continues to buy from the offending party while continuing to look to government for the solution. As a result, we end up with a complex web of rules and institutions that, in the end, fail to close the loopholes and allow businesses to increase their concentration of power, leading to less innovation and less competition.
Consider the current case and controversy surrounding Facebook and its curating of news and information. Facebook seems to have violated the trust of a certain segment of their base by failing to convince them that their curation of news and treatment of private data is safe and unbiased. The natural reaction in the modern era is to look towards regulation as the answer rather than simply understanding the limited power that a private company holds over consumers in a non-regulated sector. The reality is that this violation of trust opens the door for a bevy of entrepreneurs to try their hand at supplanting Facebook by providing a product that focuses on transparency and innovates in regard to privacy and safety. Regulating Facebook, conversely, would only create a bureaucratic monster that likely would increase the barriers to entry for entrepreneurs and place an ever-increasing compliance cost on the backs of taxpayers, all while securing monopoly type powers for Facebook itself. For further evidence, Ryan McMacken makes a great case for why regulating Facebook would be a disaster in his recent article 3 Reasons Why Facebook's Zuckerberg Wants More Government Regulation .
The lesson to learn for entrepreneurs is that trust decreases the complexity of a transaction, increases efficiency, and has the potential to decrease cost. A contract between individuals who have successfully completed hundreds of transactions without significant disputes or quality claims is likely a shorter document (perhaps even a boilerplate agreement) with less time spent on legal fees and more left unsaid and uncontrolled by the contract. Conversely, a counterpart who has a history of issues, default, or simply creating headaches may find that the document they receive has been pored over by legal teams and leaves absolutely nothing to chance. Additionally, the less desirable customers are likely to find that their counterpart has priced, to a certain degree, the risk associated with accepting this company as a customer and may decline to extend credit or, at a minimum, may limit terms. Additionally, an entrepreneur will find that the development of trust can yield easier access to new markets, lower barriers to entry, and eventually lead to higher profit margin as a trusted product is valued higher on average than a product which may yield higher rates of defect.
So how can we, as entrepreneurs, earn trust in a startup environment where there have not been a multitude of completed transactions?
1) Leverage past relationships and previously developed reputations.
For those of us who have forged longstanding reputations in previous endeavors, continuing to operate in a circle where this reputation is known, and past relationships have already been developed means a leg up against the “from scratch” start-up taking a leap into the unknown. A properly placed endorsement from another trustworthy individual or entity can ensure that others unfamiliar with your past will be assured of your integrity and continued strength.
2) Be authentic.
Everything has a cost. We can try to show potential customers that we value their needs, but if the sales pitch at any point fails to meet with reality then trust is broken, and the short-term gain becomes moot. Under-promising and over-delivering may mean a longer road to those first sales, but can generate a great amount of trust currency to be leveraged later.
Ultimately trust rests in action. Vigilantly ensuring that the product is delivered as promised and avoiding any complications ensures that your customer has a positive experience and learns that you are as good as your word. Solid customer service for a start up business can be as important as the product itself (which can be difficult given limited resources and lean organizations).
4) Small concessions can build great trust.
One of the advantages of being a start-up is that your organization is not large and institutionalized. You are not forced, due to the problems of organizational size, to implement hard and fast rules. Rather you can be more human in your interactions. Use discretion to affirm the authenticity of your willingness to work through even the minor problems and your customer will certainly gain trust in your organization.
5) Trust works both ways.
Nascent businesses must be more careful than well established companies in trusting their counterparts. The start up nature means that problems normally routine for a better-established firm may bring about the end of a startup. Therefore, a startup may wish to forgo its first sale in favor of finding a customer that will deal more honestly and ensure that a solid relationship can be established.
[Editors note: After this article was written, Theresa May officially announced she is leaving the position of Prime Minister on June 7th.]
Brexit has been a long, drawn-out saga. But finally, Theresa May’s indecision appears to be coming to an end. She has finally been cornered in a tragic opera with more twists and turns than Wagner’s Ring Cycle. May’s Götterdämmerung is reaching its conclusion. Brünnhilde is riding Grane, her trusty steed, into immolation on the funeral pyre of her heavily-amended withdrawal agreement.
Mrs May’s initial error was to seek consensus between Remainers and Brexiteers. In the words of one of her sacked advisers, Nick Timothy, she viewed Brexit as a damage-limitation exercise. Her mission statement evolved from her Lancaster House speech, when she declared she would deliver Brexit in terms which were clear, complying with the referendum and applauded by ardent Brexiteers. It became a fatally flawed compromise, which has failed to be ratified by MPs on three occasions so far, and a proposed fourth in the next week or so is likely to suffer the same fate.
Her problems started in earnest when she over-ruled her first Brexit secretary, David Davis. Unknown to her Brexit ministers, with her own civil service advisors she began negotiating behind her Brexit secretary’s back. Davis was informed of May’s Chequers proposal only a few days before that fateful Checkers meeting, following which Davis and Boris Johnson (Foreign Secretary) resigned from the Cabinet, while five other ministers and Parliamentary Private Secretaries also resigned.
If ever there was evidence that in politics you should keep your enemies close and your friends closer still, this was it. It has allowed those that have resigned to expose May’s duplicity to their fellow MPs and to organise the opposition to May’s Chequers proposal and the subsequent Withdrawal Agreement she cooked up with the EU.
Mrs May was always a Remainer, and her presence as Prime Minister has encouraged leading Europhiles to overturn the Brexit referendum. That is why she sees it as a damage limitation exercise: produce something that can be said to be Brexit, but still leaves the UK tied to Brussels. It is Hotel California, with Britain only leaving if both sides agree to it, or alternatively, Northern Ireland remains in the EU’s customs union. That cannot happen, not least because the DUP would end its vital support for May’s minority government.
Putting the Northern Ireland issue to one side, in order to get the agreement of the other EU nations for a full and final exit, the UK relies on “The duty of good faith which prohibits the deliberate exploitation of the implementation period to damage British interests” (Barclay’s emphasis). This was written in a letter by Steve Barclay, the current Brexit Secretary, to John Redwood, a senior Conservative backbench MP, in response to his concerns over the Withdrawal Agreement.
Good faith in politics? Barclay must be joking. Spain has a political interest in securing Gibraltar: won’t a future Spanish politician not be tempted to only agree to opening the door to Hotel California if Gibraltar is signed over? French fisherman enjoy free access to British fishing grounds. What French politician has the resolve to stand up to striking fisherman on a good-faith commitment? We haven’t seen one yet.
In short, May’s attempt to limit Brexit damage is a stitch-up, pleasing neither side of the House.
Labour’s Role in All This
In desperation, Mrs May has turned to Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party to gain sufficient support to push her Withdrawal Agreement through the House against the wishes of her own MPs. Corbyn is a Marxist, as is his Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell. Both of them have promoted far-left activists, who now have a high degree of control over both party policy and the selection of Labour MPs, meaning that moderates are being side-lined and expunged.
This creates Labour’s own crisis, with Marxist activists alienating moderate Labour voters in the constituencies. Furthermore, the Parliamentary Labour Party has its own split between Remainers and Brexiteers. The whole Brexit issue is a hot potato with which the Labour leadership would rather not be involved. It was with this in mind the Labour leadership held talks with Mrs May’s government, at her invitation, to try to find common ground.
Labours tactics were simple, only an increasingly desperate Prime Minister seemed unable to see them. Labour took and kept the moral high ground, appearing reasonable by accepting the invitation to talks. They ensured they would go nowhere (not difficult, given Mrs May’s stubbornness), then withdraw blaming her for the breakdown. Their hope is to force a general election following a No Confidence Motion only after Brexit has been resolved, capitalising on Mrs May’s disastrous handling of the Brexit issue. And if Mrs May brings her proposed withdrawal agreement to the House for a fourth time, they almost certainly won’t support it, again blaming Mrs May for her “failure to listen”.
The Labour leadership will be observing with interest the battle to succeed her, and it will be clear to them that either No Deal or a compromise in that direction will be the result. This is unlikely to worry them on two counts. Firstly, Labour will not want to alienate voters in their northern constituencies any further by compromising on Mrs May’s deal or anything close to it. And secondly, the leadership, being committed Marxists, will probably take the view that a “right-wing” Prime Minister will improve their own prospects in a general election.
It all points to a continuing strategy of not supporting Mrs May, avoiding any deal with the Conservatives, and hoping the Conservatives will elect a leader that will destroy the Conservatives’ electoral prospects.
Mrs May’s Likely Replacement
At the time of writing, it appears that Mrs May will fail disastrously if she puts her amended withdrawal agreement to a Commons vote for a fourth time. She has tried to appeal to the Remainers with a fourth vote by offering a possible second referendum if MPs back her bill. She has now broken every red line she previously set out. She may not even get the chance for it to be voted.
In the coming days, her position will surely become untenable, though we have all said that before. But this time, she will have exhausted every possibility and have nowhere else to go. And if the Conservative vote collapses in today’s European elections, the fence-sitters in Parliament will be galvanised into getting rid of her.
In the last few days, leadership contenders have been lining up their bids for the premiership. Those jostling for position are talking of everything but Brexit. The Remainers, such as Philip Hammond (the Chancellor) do not appear to be in the race and have become so unpopular outside Parliament that they wouldn’t get a mandate from the constituencies anyway. The next leader is very likely to be a staunch Brexiteer.
It would bore an international audience to list and analyse the runners, other than to concentrate on the clear favourite, Boris Johnson, who currently shows as 7/4-on. His nearest rival, Dominic Raab is 9/2-against. The news on Boris is for him both good and tricky. The good is that he is clearly the favourite with the constituency members, and if he can be one of the two names put forward, he should be home and dry. The tricky bit is Remainer MPs and fence-sitters in the parliamentary party, who claim to be one-nation Tories, would rather not support Boris.
He is regarded as right-wing, when in fact he favours freer markets, less regulation, and free trade. He is a classic Tory. It is the party’s middle ground that has become socialistic. In an op-ed in the Daily Telegraph he wrote the following:
“What we cannot now know – as the great French economist Bastiat observed in the 19th century – is the unseen opportunity cost of the way the UK economic structure has evolved to fit the EU over the last four and a half decades, and the productive ways in which it might now evolve.”
The reference to Frédéric Bastiat is important. He is referring to Bastiat’s parable of the broken window, which points out that the state’s intervention (the boy who broke the window) denies the more productive use of the baker’s money to his desired ends. The fact that Johnson knows the parable and understands the message is good evidence of his libertarian credentials.
That being the case, it is the socialistic element of the Conservative parliamentary party, masquerading as one-nation Tories, that he has to overcome. Reportedly, he has been having one-to-one meetings with his fellow MPs to do just that. Sometime ago, there was a well-founded belief that if Johnson became leader of the Conservative Party at least five MPs would resign the whip. Since then, Change UK, a dustbin of disillusioned Remainers has been formed with eleven MPs, three of which were Conservatives. It has been a complete failure and a sharp lesson to other would-be jumpers, so there are likely to be no more defections on a Johnson leadership.
Johnson has also been taking the advice of Lynton Crosby, probably the most successful political strategist today. It was Crosby who advised Scott Morrison in last weekend’s Australian election, when the expected Labour opposition victory was successfully overturned. He also advised Johnson in his successful elections as Mayor of London in 2008 and 2012.
This is interesting, because Johnson appears to be working to a carefully constructed plan. He avoids press comment over Brexit and writes about anything else in his Monday column at the Daily Telegraph. His contributions in Parliament have been brief, the few on Brexit generally confined to democracy rather than trade. He has positioned himself to rescue the party from electoral destruction if called upon, rather than appear to be an overtly ambitious politician, unlike all the other contenders. It is quite Churchillian, in the sense there is a parallel with Churchill’s election by his peers to lead the nation in its darkest hour. He even wrote about it in a recent bestseller, The Churchill Factor1,and understands intimately what it took for Churchill to gain the support of the House.
It is therefore hardly surprising Johnson is the favourite to succeed Mrs May. His appreciation of free markets means he is not frightened by trading with the EU on WTO terms. Furthermore, President Trump admires him, and would be likely to fast-track a US trade deal with the UK. However, Johnson is likely to pursue a deal on radically different terms on a take-it-or-leave-it basis with no further extensions to Exit Day.
As soon as the 31 October deadline has passed, Remainers will no longer have a cause. They have yet to appreciate the fact, and they may vote for him in the hope that after restoring the party’s fortunes, they can get rid of him and mend relations with the EU. But the Brexit debate would effectively end after Exit Day and its divisiveness with it. Farage’s Brexit party will wither on the vine, its purpose of restoring democratic accountability to Parliament and delivering Brexit being restored.
Johnson would then have the task of rebuilding the party for the next general election, set for 5 May 2022.
In the coming days, having seen Mrs May’s last roll of the dice, all these factors will be uppermost in the minds of both backbenchers and of government ministers in their private capacity. If there is one thing that is certain, the Conservative Party is a survivor. If Boris Johnson is the best option, MPs will swallow their prejudices and elect him.
Excerpted from Brexit – Theresa May’s Final Act
Published by Hodder, 2015.
The economist Alex Tabarrok in a post today criticizes what he calls ”identity economics”. Tabarrok says: “Identity economics is bad economics”. By “identity economics,” he means a theory that jumps from an accounting identity to a claim about causation. Keynesian economics is a prime example of this fallacy, as Tabarrok’s quotation from Nick Rowe illustrates:
1. Y = C + I + G + X – M. Therefore an increase in Government spending will increase GDP.
2. Y = C + S + T. Therefore an increase in Taxes will increase GDP.
My guess is that you are much more uncomfortable with the second of those two examples than the first. You have probably seen the first argument before, but have probably not seen the second. But they are both equally correct accounting identities and are both equally rubbish arguments.
Murray Rothbard long ago in Man, Economy, and State made the same point. He offered a reductio ad absurdum of the Keynesian multiplier:
"Social Income =Income of (insert name of any person, say the reader) + Income of everyone else, Let us use symbols:
Social income =Y
Income of the Reader=R
Income of everyone else =V
We find that V is a completely stable function of Y. . . .Let us say the equation arrived at is: V =.99999 Y Then, Y =.99999Y +R
This is the reader’s own personal multiplier, a far more powerful one than the investment multiplier. To increase social income and thereby cure depression and unemployment, it is only necessary for the government to print a certain number of dollars and give them to the reader of these lines.
The US military's Afghanistan operation is going so well, the US military wants to stop telling you about it.
According to the AP:
Amid a battlefield stalemate in Afghanistan, the U.S. military has stopped releasing information often cited to measure progress in America’s longest war...
The move fits a trend of less information being released about the war in recent years...
A government watchdog agency that monitors the U.S. war effort, now in its 18th year, said in a report to Congress on Wednesday that the U.S. military command in Kabul is no longer producing “district control data,” which shows the number of Afghan districts — and the percentage of their population — controlled by the government compared to the Taliban.
The last time the command released this information, in January, it showed that Afghan government control was stagnant or slipping.
In other words, the US's 2-trillion-dollar effort there is going nowhere. So they're going to stop telling you about it.
This shouldn't be surprising, of course. Government legitimacy in general relies to a large extent on deception and on withholding information about the true cost, incompetence, and destruction of government programs and government policies.Governments hate releasing data on employee salaries, audits, spending, and metrics. Unless, of course, those metrics make the government look good.
Coming up with that make-us-look-good metric is often easy to do because it's easy for government agencies to track data on "how much stuff bought for x number of people" or "how many jobs created for Y number of government employees." Then, all they have to do is exclude any data about how many people weren't hired in the private sector because of government regulations and government taxes. They never mention the "stuff" that millions didn't get because of higher taxes. Governments naturally don't even try to collect that sort of data.
A similar phenomenon is seen in foreign policy. We hear all about how the government killed a dictator (i.e., Saddam Hussein or Moamar Qaddafi) while conveniently leaving out the fact these "humanitarian" missions just created power vacuums which paved the way for the rise of terrorist organizations like Al Qaeda.
When it comes to government programs, it's all benefits, and no costs.
So who can be surprised the Pentagon now wants to hide the fact the Afghanistan War is accomplishing nothing. After all, this might make it easier to point out the Pentagon is hugely over-funded. Moreover, the Pentagon has no idea what it even does with its money, since, as Reuters reported in 2016:
The Defense Department’s Inspector General, in a June report, said the Army made $2.8 trillion in wrongful adjustments to accounting entries in one quarter alone in 2015, and $6.5 trillion for the year. Yet the Army lacked receipts and invoices to support those numbers or simply made them up.
Disclosure of the Army’s manipulation of numbers is the latest example of the severe accounting problems plaguing the Defense Department for decades.
Unfortunately, it's fairly easy for military organizations to get away with this sort of fraud and data manipulation because they can always claim "national security" demands it. Many voters — often including those who fancy themselves proponents of "limited government" are happy to play along and declare the taxpayers have no right to second-guess the "experts."
The idea is the taxpaying public is too stupid or too ignorant to have anything other than worthless opinions when it comes to military and foreign affairs beyond the borders of the United States. Modern Americans have typically caved to this bullying tactic. Writing in the 1990s, however, at the end of the Cold War, Samuel Francis noted that such an attitude is incompatible with a free society :
The self-sufficiency, the civic independence, of the citizens of a republic, the idea that the citizens should support themselves economically, should be able to defend themselves,educate themselves, and discipline themselves, is closely connected to the idea of public virtue…A self governing people is simply too busy, as a rule, with the concerns of self-government to take much interest in other peoples’ business…A self-governing people generally abhors secrecy in government and rightly distrusts it. The only way, then, in which those intent upon…the expansion of their power over other peoples, can succeed is by diminishing the degree of self-government in their own society. They must persuade the self-governing people that there is too much self-government going around, that the people themselves simply are not smart enough or well-informed enough to deserve much say in such complicated matters as foreign policy…We hear it…every time an American President intones that “politics stop at the water’s edge.” Of course, politics do not stop at the water’s edge unless we as a people are willing to surrender a vast amount of control over what the government does in military, foreign, economic, and intelligence affairs.
Meanwhile, the government insists that the taxpayers have no right to privacy themselves. It's the taxpayers who need to be monitored, it seems. And Donald Trump apparently agrees. The Washington Post reported yesterday:
The Trump administration has signaled in recent weeks that it may seek the permanent renewal of a surveillance law that has, among other things, enabled the National Security Agency to gather and analyze Americans' phone records as part of terrorism investigations, according to five U.S. officials familiar with the matter.
So, while the military is cutting back on letting the public see its failures, the national security state insists that those who pay the bills submit to ever higher levels of surveillance.
Review of Theoria Generalis: Das Wesen des Politische n by Ulrich Hintze
Reviewed by Paul Gottfried
Review of The High Cost of Good Intentions: A History of U.S. Federal Entitlement Programs by John F. Cogan
Reviewed by Mark Thornton
Review of The Problem of Production: A New Theory of the Firm by Per Bylund
Reviewed by Mateusz Machaj
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