Power & Market
In the wake of the Notre Dame fire, both French politicians and private donors, including billionaires, pledged to rebuild the Church. Emmanuel Macron promised — rather unconvincingly — to have the church rebuilt within five years.
In response, some observers questioned why a government should be in the business of rebuilding churches. After all, doesn't Notre Dame have insurance?
Well, it turns out Notre Dame doesn't have insurance, and that leads us to a larger problem with the church.
Notre Dame is a government-owned building. As a spokesman for the French consulate in New York told Marketwatch :
The French State is self-insured for Notre Dame. It has no insurance. It is supposed to cover its own costs.
Notre Dame has no private insurance because Notre Dame is not a privately owned building. Like all church buildings constructed before 1905, Notre Dame is owned by the French state.
As recounted by Samuel Gregg for the Catholic Herald, the Catholic Church lost ownership of church buildings during the French Revolution. While the Church gained usage of its buildings during Napoleon's reign, state control remains:
The Revolution’s subsequent war against the Church included turning Notre-Dame into a temple for “the Cult of Reason” and “the Supreme Being” in 1793. Shortly after Robespierre’s fall in 1794, the cathedral became a storage place for weapons and food. It was seemingly forgotten to history.
A few years later, Notre-Dame’s fortunes changed when Napoleon determined that his regime’s security required reconciliation between the Revolution and the Church. Though the state continued (and continues to this day) to own the buildings, exclusive use of the cathedral was transferred to the Church following the 1801 Concordat between Paris and Rome. ...Though the Concordat provided the Church with some protection from anti-clericals, it also once again subordinated much of the Church’s life to the French state.
State ownership was again affirmed in 1905 with the "loi du 9 décembre 1905 concernant la séparation des Églises et de l'État." The law affirmed that only church buildings constructed after 1905 could be privately owned by the Church itself.
Today, the French state controls more than 32,000 churches, 6,000 chapels, and 87 cathedrals.
Moreover, any attempts to significantly change church buildings would have to be approved by government officials, and according to The Art Newspaper , this state of "dual administration" has "caused serious problems of management and conservation":
Under French law, the parish council owns the building itself and its furnishings and puts these at the disposal of the clergy for acts of worship. The parish council is responsible for the maintenance and restoration of the building but does not pay for lighting, heating or expenses connected with religious observances, which are the responsibility of the clergy. No building works can be undertaken without the agreement of the parish council, and the parish priest may not sell objects or remove them from the church without the permission of the mayor. If the church is listed, or classified as a monument of particular historical interest, the permission of the Commission on Historical Buildings must also be sought.
This led to conflicts, especially in the wake of Vatican II, when Catholic clergy enamored of the new iconoclasm in the church attempted to destroy altars, railings, light fixtures, and other church elements deemed too old-fashioned. Some secular authorities, on the other hand, valued these items as art, and prevented parish priests from selling off or destroying them.
In those days, the French state served as a bulwark against the clergy's bad taste. Mid-twentieth century clergy, after all, were notorious in their vapid and trite artistic sensibilities, which they pursued as a cloying display of their alleged devotion to the common man.
Had Notre Dame burned sometime between 1965 and 1980, French bishops probably would have insisted it be rebuilt with a brutalist spire of poured concrete.
Fortunately, most of those clerics are now dead, and few Catholics under age 50 think 1970s-style church architecture, furnishings, and art are nearly as charming as their elders seemed to think. This means the primary threat to Notre Dame now comes form the French state itself. Already, the terrible restoration ideas are pouring in, with suggestions ranging from a new glass-and-steel roof, to a spire designed to look like an Islamic minaret.
Since the French state owns Notre Dame, it's not a given the building will be actually rebuilt as a church. As I've noted before, many Frenchmen — including Macron and many of the donors — appear to regard the building's primary importance as that of a museum and community center. This could mean anything goes as far as reconstruction is concerned.
While Republicans continue to profess their opposition to socialism, their love of socialism is being demonstrated in the healthcare arena. Do you remember when they were campaigning for control over Congress and the presidency with full-throated calls to repeal Obamacare? Not anymore. According to an article in the Washington Post, Republicans have come to love and adore President Obama’s signature achievement as president. More important, of course, is their deep-seated, unwavering devotion to Medicare and Medicaid, the two socialist programs enacted during the leftist regime of President Lyndon Johnson.
The Post’s article states:
Even Republicans who furiously fought the creation of the law and won elections with the mantra of repeal and replace speak favorably of President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement.
“Quite obviously, more people have health insurance than would otherwise have it, so you got to look at it as positive,” Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) said in a recent interview….
“For the people who are in that tranche of expanded Medicaid, I think it has been very helpful,” said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.)….
The public’s increasing reliance on the ACA was reflected in the dramatic failure of congressional Republicans to roll back the law or even unify around a plan to replace it as it has grown in popularity.
Even President Trump is caving:
Bowing to pressure from some in his own party, Trump recently backed off a new pledge to take another crack at eliminating the ACA and said a vote on a GOP health plan — still unformed — would be delayed until after the 2020 election.
This is one of the horrific consequences of socialism: It creates mindsets of dependency on the government, much like going on heroin. Once people go on either heroin or socialism, they’re done. At that point, they cannot imagine life without their narcotic. And they come to love it.
President Franklin Roosevelt, who ushered in America’s welfare-state way of life, understood this phenomenon perfectly. He knew that if he could just make people dependent on governmental largess, the federal government would own them. That’s what Social Security, the crown jewel of American socialism, was all about it. FDR knew that once he got seniors on the dole, he and successor regimes would own them.
Roosevelt’s protégé, Lyndon Johnson, learned this lesson well from his mentor. Give seniors not only a welfare retirement dole but also free or heavily subsidized healthcare, and they would thereafter belong to the federal government.
That’s how we have ended up with entire generations of older people who have been scared to death of losing their Socials Security and Medicare and absolutely convinced that they would die without them. Equally important, you’ll never see any seniors, except libertarian ones, who dare to challenge the federal government at a fundamental level. They’re too scared that the government will retaliate by threatening to cut off their retirement and healthcare doles.
The Post article says that one reason why Republicans have become enamored with Obamacare is their fear of what will happen if it is repealed. This fear was expressed by former Ohio Governor John Kasich, one of the leading Republicans to embrace parts of Obamacare, who stated that ending the program would bring “total chaos.” Kasich reflects the conservative mindset — that socialism equals stability and that freedom and the free market equal chaos.
In fact though, government involvement in healthcare, including Medicare, Medicaid, Obamacare, occupational licensure, insurance regulation, and income-tax manipulation, have brought America a healthcare system that is best described as “planned chaos.” The Post article hints at the real situation: “Democrats have often acknowledged that the ACA is not a perfect law and can be improved….”
Indeed, if Obamacare was the panacea it was made out to be, there would be no reason for Democrats to now be advocating an expansion of Medicare to everyone in the country. The reason they are doing that is because despite (or because of) Obamacare, the healthcare crisis just keeps getting worse. And the reason it continues getting worse is because each new government reform makes the situation worse.
America once had the finest healthcare system in the world, one that was based on free-market principles. Healthcare costs were reasonably priced, innovations were soaring, and doctors absolutely loved what they did in life.
Medicare and Medicaid succeeded in destroying that healthcare system. That’s when healthcare costs starting soaring, healthcare quality began decreasing, and increasing numbers of doctors began opting for early retirement.
Rather than repealing Medicare and Medicaid, American socialists, including conservatives, instead began enacting reform upon reform, hoping against hope that their healthcare socialism would finally succeed. Nothing worked. Each reform only made things worse. And it’s no different with Obamacare. The healthcare crisis will only get worse.
The same holds true if Medicare for All is adopted. At that point, American socialists, both Democrats and Republicans, will be calling for a full-fledged federal takeover of healthcare, with doctors working for the government and with the government in charge of people’s medical treatment and medical records.
No one should look to Republicans to save our country from socialism. They threw in the towel and made peace with the welfare state a long time ago. The only thing they have left is empty pro-capitalist rhetoric.
The only hope for the future of American healthcare and American liberty lies with libertarianism and libertarians. It is only we who have the correct diagnosis and the right prescription for America’s healthcare woes: Repeal Medicare, Medicaid, and Obamacare and end all governmental involvement in healthcare. Separate healthcare and the state, just as our ancestors separated church and state.
Diane Swonk says the 20,000 payroll number for February was a head fake. She blamed bad weather, the government shutdown, and other gobbledygook to explain away the 160,000 job miss for the year’s shortest month.
According to Michael Snyder, in a piece posted on Zerohedge.com,
The U.S. economy is growing at a 0.3 percent annualized rate in the first quarter , based on data on domestic construction spending in December released on Monday, the Atlanta Federal Reserve’s GDPNow forecast model showed.
Mr. Snyder lists 18 data points on his blog “ The Economic Collapse ” supporting the idea that an economic winter is coming.
#1 Farm loan delinquencies just hit the highest level that we have seen in 9 years .
#2 We just learned that U.S. exports declined by 4 billion dollars during the month of December.
#3 J.C. Penney just announced that they will be closing another 24 stores .
#4 Victoria’s Secret has just announced plans to close 53 stores .
#5 On Thursday, Gap announced that it will be closing 230 stores over the next two years.
#6 Payless ShoeSource has declared bankruptcy and is closing all 2,100 stores .
#7 Tesla is also closing all of their physical sales locations and will now only sell vehicles online.
#8 PepsiCo has started laying off workers and has committed to “millions of dollars in severance pay” .
#9 The Baltic Dry Index has dropped to the lowest level in more than two years .
#10 This is the worst slump for core U.S. factory orders in three years .
#11 We just witnessed the largest decline in the Philly Fed Business Index in more than 7 years .
#12 In January, sales of existing homes fell 8.9 percent from a year earlier. That was the third month in a row that we have seen a decline of at least 8 percent. This is an absolutely catastrophic trend for the real estate industry.
#13 U.S. housing starts were down 11.2 percent in December compared to the previous month.
#14 Compared to a year earlier, home sales in southern California were down 17 percent in January.
#15 In December, home sales in Sacramento County fell a whopping 22.5 percent compared to a year earlier.
#16 Pending home sales in the United States have now fallen on a year over year basis for 13 months in a row .
#17 More than 166 billion dollars in student loan debt is now “seriously delinquent” . That is an all-time record.
#18 More than 7 million Americans are behind on their auto loan payments. That is also a new all-time record, and it is far higher than anything that we witnessed during the last recession.
None of this has kept individuals, companies and governments from ramping up debt levels. Leverage abounds, everywhere. Grant’s Interest rate Observer writes, “companies are tapping credit lines to compensate for shortfalls in cash flow.”
Defining a zombie company as one failing to generate cash flow to cover interest expense for three consecutive years, Grant’s points out that 128 companies in the S&P 1500, fit the description. The percentage of living dead has increased over the past 12 months, ending January 31st, from 12.4 percent of the broad index to 13.6 per cent.
Money manager Jeff Gundlach told Grant Williams on Real Vision ,
the economic data continues to deteriorate. And we're starting to see reversals and unemployment claims now rising on a four week moving average basis. We're starting to see earnings estimates collapsing, margin estimates collapsing, sales dropping. You see housing is negative, Surprise indices-- confidence is deteriorating. None of these things are at the alarm-bell recession, but they're getting fairly close.
Gundlach and Williams spoke about the 800 pound elephant in the room, the U.S. government’s off balance sheet obligations. “123 Trillion, six times GDP. If we wanted to fund our liabilities, the 123 trillion-- over the next 60 years, we'd have to put 10% of our GDP aside, from negative 7 today to plus 10,” Gundlach quipped.
After reflecting on investors buying AAA-rated mortgage-backed bonds back in 2005, believing they were playing it safe, Gundlach said,
Well, we have similar-- maybe not as egregious-- but it's an echo of a rating problem in the bond market right now, in the corporate bond market, where the corporate bond market has exploded in size. It's more than double where it was 10 or 12 years ago, and a lot of it is, I think, overrated. There was a report by Morgan Stanley Research that suggested that fully, fully 45% of parts of the corporate bond market would be rated junk right now, if you use leverage ratios alone. Now, they use more than leverage ratios.
There's other variables that go into rating. But the leverage ratio seems to be really important.
Right now the ratings agencies are buying what debt issuers are selling —a rosy future. But with recession clouds gathering, Gundlach figures,
there's not going to be any working towards a better place. And so all of those bonds potentially could be downgraded into a junk status. And as we all know, when a triple-B-rated corporate bond crosses the line into junk status, the price goes down. It doesn't go up. So you can find people that have poured into corporate bonds-- that includes corporate pension plans-- which thought that they had a clever idea of matching up their liabilities, which are discounted by the single-A long corporate rate, and so let's match them with assets that are corporate bonds, so they move together.
As I wrote a couple weeks ago, when debt turns to junk, ETFs and institutional holders will desperately be looking to sell at any price. “So will they sell?” Gundlach wonders rhetorically. “I think the answer is yes. And so if you have a misrated market, and it goes into a downgrade problem, you get tremendous forced selling. And that's what happened in '08 with the securitized market, and this time, I think it's the corporate bond market's turn.”
MacroMavens Stephanie Pomboy echos Gundlach’s view,
In 2007, the lie was that you could take a cornucopia of crap, package it together, & somehow make it AAA. This time, the lie is that you can take a bunch of bonds that trade by appointment, lump them together in an ETF, & magically make them liquid.
So, with this storm brewing, the Fed’s committee to save the world has started its roadshow.
Brian Maher of the Daily Reckoning quotes Murray Rothbard and me in his incisive critique of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT), which has lately been embraced by proponents of the "Green New Deal."
On the Lions of Liberty podcast, Marc Clair and Ryan McMaken discuss the government shutdown and the need to decentralize the national parks:
While Congress and the president fight over funding a border wall, they continue to ignore the coming economic tsunami caused by the approximately 22 trillion dollars (and rapidly increasing) federal debt. President Trump may not be troubled by the debt’s effect on the economy because he believes he will be out of office before it becomes a major problem. However, the crisis may come sooner than he, or most people in DC, expects.
The constituency for limited government, while growing, is still far outnumbered by those wanting government to provide economic and personal security. From lower-income Americans who rely on food stamps, public housing, and other government programs, to middle-class Americans who live in homes they could not afford without assistance from federal agencies like Fannies Mae and Freddie Mac, to college students reliant on government-subsidized student loans, to senior citizens reliant on Social Security and Medicare, to billionaire CEOs whose companies rely on bailouts, subsidies, laws and regulations written to benefit politically-powerful businesses, and government contracts, most Americans are reliant on at least one federal program. Many programs are designed to force individuals to accept government aid. For example, it is almost impossible for a senior citizen to obtain health insurance outside of Medicare.
The welfare state is fueled by the Federal Reserve’s easy money policies, which are also responsible for the boom-and-bust cycle that plagues our economy. The Federal Reserve’s policies do not just distort our economy, they also distort our values, as the Fed’s dollar depreciation causes individuals to forgo savings and hard work in favor of immediate gratification. This has helped create an explosion of business and individual debt. There has been a proliferation of bubbles, including in credit card debt, auto loans, and student loans. There is even a new housing bubble.
An economy built on fiat currency and public and private debt is unsustainable. Eventually the bubbles will burst. The most likely outcome will be the rejection of the dollar’s world reserve currency status due to government debt and the Federal Reserve’s monetization of debt. When the bubbles pop, the result will be an economic crisis that will likely dwarf the Great Depression.
The fall of the dollar and the accompanying economic downturn will make it impossible for the government to continue running up huge debts to finance a massive welfare-warfare state. Thus, Congress will be forced to raise taxes and cut benefits. Cowardly politicians will likely outsource the job of raising taxes and cutting benefits to the Federal Reserve. This will cause a dramatic increase in the most insidious of taxes: the inflation tax.
As the Federal Reserve erodes the value of the dollar, thus reducing the value of both earned paychecks and government-provided welfare benefits, a large number of Americans who believe they are entitled to economic security will react by engaging in acts of violence. Politicians will use this violence to further crack down on civil liberties. The resulting economic and civil unrest will further the growth of authoritarian political movements.
Fortunately, the liberty movement continues to grow. This movement counters the authoritarian lies with the truths of Austrian economics and the non-aggression principle. While the years ahead may be tough, if those of us who know the truth work hard to educate others, the cause of liberty can prevail.
A growing chorus of alarmist voices decries the rising economic inequality in the Western world and especially in the United States.1 Surprisingly enough, the same mainstream analysts complain about the anemic growth of labor productivity without seeing the correct link between the two.
Data shows a strong correlation between labor productivity and economic inequality (the two charts below). From the end of Second World War until the mid-1970s, labour productivity grew at a robust rate of almost 3% per annum while income inequality declined. Afterwards both trends reversed - labor productivity slowed to below 2% growth p.a. on average and almost stagnated since the Great Recession while both wealth and income inequality expanded steadily.2
What common factor could explain the two divergent trends that the mainstream analysts seem to overlook? In the 1940s Mises3 was impressed by the ”miraculous” rise in the standards of living of American wage earners which had been going on for more than two centuries. For him the answer was straightforward: capital accumulation is the driving force behind both labour productivity and standards of living convergence.
Building on Mises' work, Rothbard4 explained in detail what capital accumulation requires: (i) new capital investment that lengthens the structure of production and (ii) technological progress that overcomes the diminishing returns accompanying the increase in the supply of capital goods. However, Mises also warned that a depletion of the capital stock would hamper capital accumulation and labor productivity.5 Unfortunately, mainstream analysts and the United States seem to have forgotten this valuable lesson.
In terms of technological progress, the U.S. has maintained its world leadership during past decades. It ranks second in the world to Switzerland in terms of both innovation and business sophistication6, spends more for Research &Innovation than the OECD or EU on average relative to GDP7 and makes up for the majority of the top 25 universities in the world.8 Moreover it has issued the same amount of patents over the last three decades compared with the previous 150 years.9
In terms of capital stock, the picture is completely different. According to estimates of the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA),10 the stock of private non-residential assets per worker has increased in real terms at about 1% p.a. from 1947 to 2009 and stagnated since the Great Recession (left chart below). However, BEA's alleged sustained pace of capital growth seems hard to reconcile with the falling private investment and savings since the mid-1970s (right chart below).
In addition, the BEA methodology presents some serious shortcomings. Except for cars, BEA uses the “perpetual inventory method” to estimate fixed assets.11 According to it, the value of the capital stock is indirectly estimated as the sum of past investment flows minus the estimated depreciation. It means that all past investments are considered sound by default which is certainly not the case nowadays when recurrent boom and busts cause significant volumes of 12malinvestments. Other question marks relates to the accurate estimation of depreciation rates in the face of rapid technological progress and the use of GDP deflators while their accuracy is unreliable especially as regards real estate investment.
All these considerations have led not only us, but also the Federal Reserve Board (FRB) to suspect that BEA's estimates of the U.S. capital stock are overvalued.13 It is intriguing that the FRB adjusts the BEA estimates downwards, especially as regards real estate assets - "structures" in BEA's jargon, when it uses them as input for the calculation of the capital stock in manufacturing. As a result, there is a substantial difference between BEA and FRB estimates of the evolution of the volume of manufacturing capital stock from 1952 to 2016, in particular for the real estate component (left chart below).14 Therefore, we tried to recalculate the BEA estimate of the total stock of private non-residential capital per employee by extrapolating the difference between the two manufacturing indexes coming from BEA and FRB (right chart below).
The new results suggest that the real stock of capital per worker has grown in a clear and sustained manner only until the end-1970s and fell afterwards until the trough of the Great Recession. The recalculated capital stock is both more consistent with the observed declines in investment and productivity since the mid-1970s and confirms Mises' prediction that wrong policies would lead to capital consumption.
For the United States, the failed economic policy is the exponential growth of government intervention in the economy in the 20th century, which stifled entrepreneurship and capital accumulation. This is obvious in the rise of both government spending that redistributes away economic resources from their originators (left chart below) and the amount of regulatory burden (right chart below). Another key factor taking a toll on capital endowment is inflation, which gained traction since the de-facto abolishment of the gold standard in 1971.
Most importantly, inflationary policies trigger boom-bust cycles via the artificial lowering of interest rates below their free market level. In a recent article on the business cycle,15 Salerno emphasizes that, "overconsumption" and "malinvestment" are the two salient marks of the boom and not "overinvestment" as wrongly understood by some mainstream critics. It is no surprise that the capital stock per worker dropped during the business cycles that occurred regularly since the 1970s and culminated in the Great Recession. The illusion of the boom fuels not only capital consumption but also the polarization of wealth and incomes in the society. The fiduciary credit expansion fuels an increase in asset prices, most commonly on stock exchanges and in real estate (charts below).
Although starting from a limited number of transactions, all owners calculate their net worth with the newly inflated asset prices, boosting the value of household assets in excess of liabilities. As a result, the rich appear to get even richer in an economy on steroids. This explains why both the U.S. national wealth has grown much faster than national income since the end-1970s (left chart below) and the number of wealthy people increased significantly (right chart below).16
The rising inequality since the 1970s has been fueled by both the decline in labor productivity and the monetary expansion inflating asset prices. Both are perverse effects of government interventionist policies, which led to a gradual erosion of the U.S. capital stock per employee. This is the correct linkage between inequality and productivity as explained by Mises and other Austrian School economists.
People have different skills and preferences, so the free market does not lead to a complete equalization of incomes and wealth. Nevertheless, it does ensure the proper allocation of capital to increase labor productivity and satisfy the most urgent needs of consumers. As a result, the gap between the well off and the poor is not only gradually diminishing, but also gets less significant in terms of consumption. Eventually the disadvantage of wealth inequality becomes mostly a psychological one.17 As long as the capitalist consumes only a fraction of his wealth and invests the rest into productive businesses, the real beneficiary of the increase in labor productivity is the poorer part of the society.
- 1. See George Reisman’s devastating critique of Thomas Pikkety's Capital in the Twenty-First Century (2014) at http://georgereismansblog.blogspot.com/2014/07/pikettys-capital-wrong_28.html , or the OECD at http://www.oecd.org/social/in-it-together-why-less-inequality-benefits-all-9789264235120-en.htm .
- 2. In addition to the share of total income and wealth gained by the top 1% rich, the share of both the bottom 50% and especially the middle 40% went down since the 1980s, reflecting the "hollowing-out" of the middle class.
- 3. See Ludwig von Mises, Human Action ( 1998), pp. 611-612.
- 4. See Murray N. Rothbard, Man, Economy, and State with Power and Market, (2009) pp.537-543.
- 5. See Ludwig von Mises, Human Action ( 1998), pp. 844.
- 6. See the Global Competitiveness Index 2017-2018 at https://www.weforum.org/reports/the-global-competitiveness-report-2017-2018 .
- 7. See the OECD data at https://data.oecd.org/rd/gross-domestic-spending-on-r-d.htm .
- 8. See rankings at https://www.topuniversities.com/ .
- 9. See data from the US Patent and Trademark Office at https://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/ac/ido/oeip/taf/h_counts.htm .
- 10. The most authoritative U.S statistics of capital stocks are provided by BEA who estimates long term series of the net stocks of fixed assets for the US economy. See BEA data that I used at: https://apps.bea.gov/iTable/iTable.cfm?reqid=10&step=1&isuri=1#reqid=10&step=1&isuri=1 under section 4: Section 4 - Nonresidential Fixed Assets (Table 4.2)
- 11. See the BEA methodology at https://apps.bea.gov/national/pdf/Fixed_Assets_1925_97.pdf at M-6.
- 12. The Austrian Theory of the Business Cycle pioneered by Mises, Hayek and Rothbard explains how malinvestments create significant distortions in the structure of production and reduce directly the capital stock in the economy during the boom.
- 13. See https://www.federalreserve.gov/releases/g17/CapitalStockDocLatest.pdf , pages 5 and 6.
- 14. See BEA data at: https://apps.bea.gov/iTable/iTable.cfm?reqid=10&step=1&isuri=1#reqid=10&step=1&isuri=1 under section 3: Section 3 - Private Fixed Assets by Industry (Tables 3.2ESI, 3.2E and 3.2S ) and FRB estimates at https://www.federalreserve.gov/econresdata/notes/feds-notes/2016/annual-data-on-investment-and-capital-stocks-20160302.html and FRB data in Table G.17 at https://www.federalreserve.gov/releases/g17/download.htm#capstock .
- 15. See Joseph Salerno.2012. "A Reformulation of Business Cycle Theory in Light of the Financial Crisis", Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics, Vol 15/No1/3-44 at https://mises.org/library/reformulation-austrian-business-cycle-theory-light-financial-crisis-0 .
- 16. Capgemini Financial Services define HNWIs as those who have investable assets of more than USD 1 million, excluding primary residences, collectibles and consumer durables. It estimate that the number and wealth of U.S. HNWIs more than doubled in less than a decade of ultra-low interest rates; see report at https://www.worldwealthreport.com/reports/population .
- 17. George Reisman.2014. "Pikkety's Capital: Wrong Theory/Destructive Program", pp. 25.
A new record breaking skyscraper for Europe has been completed as the tallest skyscraper in Europe. Under construction for six years, the 87 story building (Lakhta Center) in St. Petersburg will become the headquarters of Russia's natural gas giant and its oil subsidiary, Gazprom. The building will not be finished on the interior and open to the public until next year.
This sets the stage for the Skyscraper Curse.
The STOXX European 600 Index, which consists of a variety of stocks from European stock markets is down 9% since September 27, about when the record was broken. HT: RB
Released to not much fanfare, Reuters has posted some very interesting interactive poll data on surveys showing the level of support for "the idea of your state peacefully withdrawing from the USA and the federal government."
Nationwide, overall opinion is heavily against with, among all people polled, 58 percent in opposition, and only 22 percent supporting. (Back in 2014, a poll showed 23.9 percent of Americans supporting secession.)
Results vary by region, however, with more than 60 percent opposing secession in the Southeast, Rocky Mountain, Great Plains, Great Lakes, and New England regions.
In the Far West (which includes California) and in the Southwest only 51 percent and 49 percent oppose secession, respectively.
The Southwest's numbers are bolstered significantly by the presence of Hispanics who apparently are much more sympathetic toward secession than the "white" (presumably "non-Hispanic white," since half of Hispanics consider themselves to be white) population.
Nationwide, 36 percent of Hispanics support secession while 42 percent oppose.
Looking just at Hispanics in the southwestern part of the country that have 20% or more Hispanic population (which therefore includes California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Colorado, and Nevada, support is 35 percent and opposition is 42 percent.
But, in spite of the "Calexit" effort, it appears California Hispanics are more inclined to oppose secession than Hispanics in other states of the region.
If we exclude California (and thus measure Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Colorado, and Nevada), 35 percent of Hispanics support secession, while only 38 percent oppose.
Of course, the data doesn't tell us the reason that Hispanics support secession more in this data. It's likely that the reasons vary.
Pew data has shown that among Hispanics polled, nearly as many self-identify as "libertarian" (11 percent) than is the case for Anglos (12 percent). Assuming that someone who self-identifies as libertarian is more likely to support decentralization and secession (something that isn't always true) then there's nothing shocking about these numbers.
Moreover, support for secession is higher among Hispanics regardless of whom they supported in 2016. Among those Hispanics who supported Clinton in 2016, support for secession is 33 percent in support of secession and 47 percent in opposition. Among everyone else, 22 percent support, and 63 percent oppose.
Nor is that all being driven by California Hispanics. Excluding California from these numbers, support for secession among Clinton-supporting Hispanics is even higher: 36 percent support, and 45 percent oppose.
And, among Trump-supporting Hispanics (which was 28 percent of voting Hispanics in 2016), secession almost wins a plurality: 45 percent support, and 47 percent oppose. But among non-Hispanic Trump supporters, support for secession is abysmal: only 19 percent support and 69 percent oppose.
It's hard to see any unifying theory here, although I'm old enough to remember the days when panicked Anglos spread the theory that most Mexican-Americans were plotting to secede and "rejoin Mexico" or found the new country of "Aztlan" which would be a ethno-state of Hispanics. (The fact that Mexican-Americans have an extremely varied racial make-up, however, is usually ignored.)
Given that all my maternal relatives are Mexican-Americans, though, I always found this little theory to be laughably tone-deaf. For the most part, the only Mexican-Americans who have interest in some sort of Mexican ethno-state or Mexican re-unification are University ideologues in Latino Studies departments. Among man-on-the-street Mexican-Americans, the level of support for a plot to "rejoin" Mexico is likely a tiny minority.
On the other hand, it is entirely possible that More Mexican-Americans (most of which are native-born, of course) simply have a more international view of things, and haven't quite imbibed the mythology of the US as "indispensable nation" (whether viewed through a left- or right-wing prism) to the same degree that the Anglo population has. It could be the idea of a future in an independent country or something independent from Washington, DC doesn't fill Mexican-Americans with the same terror it apparently fills Americans in the Southeast or New England.
In any case, I've just focused here on the Hispanic numbers in this Reuters survey because it interests me. Check it out, as you can also filter the results by a number of other variables, including religion, income, and more.
Today is Ron Paul's 83rd Birthday! Dr. Paul is not only a Distinguished Counselor for the Mises Institute, but a founding member and perhaps the most influential advocate for Austrian economics the world has ever seen.
In 1984, Dr. Paul wrote about the role Austrian economics and Ludwig von Mises played in his deciding to pursue politics, and how it equipped him with the "intellectual ammunition" he needed to stand up to the pressures of Washington, D.C.:
[U]nder the predominance of interventionist ideas, a political career is open only to men who identify themselves with the interests of a pressure group.... Service to the short-run interests of a pressure group is not conducive to the development of those qualities which make a great statesman. Statesmanship is invariably long-run policy; pressure groups do not bother about the long-run. - Ludwig von Mises, Human Action
I decided to run for Congress because of the disaster of wage and price controls imposed by the Nixon administration in 1971. When the stock market responded euphorically to the imposition of these controls and the closing of the gold window, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and many other big business groups gave enthusiastic support, I decided that someone in politics had to condemn the controls, and offer the alternative that could explain the past and give hope for the future: the Austrian economists’ defense of the free market. At the time I was convinced, like Ludwig von Mises, that no one could succeed in politics without serving the special interests of some politically powerful pressure group.
Although I was eventually elected, in terms of a conventional political career with real Washington impact, he was absolutely right. I have not developed legislative influence with the leadership of the Congress or the administration. Monies are deliberately deleted from routine water works bills for my district because I do not condone the system, nor vote for any of the appropriations.
My influence, such as it is, comes only by educating others about the rightness of the free market. The majority of the voters in my district have approved, as have those familiar with free-market economics. And voters in other districts, encouraged by my speaking out for freedom and sound money, influence their representatives in the direction of a free market. My influence comes through education, not the usual techniques of a politician. But the more usual politicians in Congress will hardly solve our problems. Americans need a better understanding of Austrian economics. Only then will politicians become more statesmanlike.
My introduction to Austrian economics came when I was studying medicine at Duke University and came across a copy of Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom.
After devouring this, I was determined to read whatever I could find on what I thought was this new school of economic thought—especially the work of Mises. Although the works were magnificent, and clarified many issues for me, it was more of a revelation to find intellectuals who could confirm what I “already knew”—that the free market is superior to a centrally planned economy. I did not know how a free market accomplished its work, and so the study of economics showed me this, and how to build a case for it. But, like many people, I did not need to be convinced of the merits of individual freedom—for me that came naturally.
For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be free from government coercion in any form. All my natural instincts toward freedom were inevitably challenged by the established school system, the media, and the government. These systems tried to cast doubt on my conviction that only an unhampered market is consonant with individual liberty. Although reassured that intellectual giants like Mises agreed with a laissez-faire system, I was frustrated by knowing what was right, while watching a disaster developing for our economy. The better I came to understand how the market worked, the more I saw the need to implement these ideas through political action. Political action aimed at change can, of course, take various forms. In 1776, in America, it was a war for independence from British oppression. In 1917, in Russia, violence was used to strengthen oppression.
Fortunately, it is possible to accomplish the proper sort of change through education, persuasion, and the democratic process. Our rights of free speech, assembly, religion, petition, and privacy remain essentially intact. Before our rights are lost, we must work to change the policies of 70 years of government interventionism. And the longer we wait the harder it will be.
Because of my interest in individual liberty and the free market, I became closely associated over the years with friends and students of Mises, those who knew the greatness of Mises from a long-term personal friendship with him. My contact, however, was always through his writings, except on one occasion. In 1971, during a busy day in my medical office, I took a long lunch to drive 60 miles to the University of Houston to hear one of the last formal lectures Mises gave—this one on socialism. Although 90 at the time, he was most impressive, and his presentation inspired me to more study of Austrian economics. My subsequent meetings and friendship with the late Leonard Read and his Foundation for Economic Education also inspired me to work harder for a society unhampered by government intrusion into our personal and economic lives. My knowledge has been encouraged and bolstered through the extraordinary work of the Mises Institute, with its many publications and conferences, and its inspiring work among students choosing academic careers.
My friendships with two important students of Mises, Hans Sennholz and Murray Rothbard, were especially helpful in getting firsthand explanations of how the market functions. They helped me to refine my answers to the continual barrage of statist legislation that dominates the U.S. Congress. Their personal assistance was invaluable to me in my educational and political endeavors.
Such friendships are valuable, but the reassurance that sound thinkers were on my side was inspirational. It gave me the confidence I needed to intellectually defend my political and economic positions on the campaign trail and on the House floor....
Austrian economics has provided me with the intellectual ammunition to support my natural tendency to say “no” to all forms of government intervention. Mises provides an inspiration to stick to principle and to argue quietly and confidently in favor of the superiority of a decentralized, consumer-oriented market, in contrast to a bureaucratic centrally planned economy.
Mises is clear about the responsibility we all have in establishing a free society. He concludes Socialism with this advice: Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders; no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way out for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interests, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle. None can stand aside with unconcern; the interests of everyone hang on the result. Whether he chooses or not, every man is drawn into the great historical struggle, the decisive battle into which our epoch has plunged us.
And in Human Action he states:
There is no means by which anyone can evade his personal responsibility. Whoever neglects to examine to the best of his abilities all the problems involved voluntarily surrenders his birthright to a self-appointed elite of supermen. In such vital matters blind reliance upon “experts” and uncritical acceptance of popular catchwords and prejudices is tantamount to the abandonment of self-determination and to yielding to other people’s domination. As conditions are today, nothing can be more important to every intelligent man than economics. His own fate and that of his progeny is at stake.
I’m convinced, as was Mises, that the solutions to the crisis we face must be positive (which is just one reason I am so pleased by the establishment of the Ludwig von Mises Institute). He stated in The Anti-Capitalistic Mentality that the “anti-movement” has “no chance whatever to succeed” and that “what alone can prevent the civilized nations of Western Europe, America and Australia from being enslaved by the barbarism of Moscow is open and unrestricted support of laissez-faire capitalism.”
Without Austrian economics, I would not have had my political career. The strongest motivating force in my political activities is to live free since I was born free. Liberty is my first goal. The free market is the only result that can be expected from a free society. I do not accept individual freedom because the market is efficient. Even if the free market were less “efficient” than central planning, I would still prefer my personal freedom to coercion. Fortunately, I don’t need to make a choice. Austrian economics upholds the market’s efficiency, and that reinforces my overwhelming desire and right to be free. If no adequate intellectual explanation existed as to the efficiency of the free market, no political activism of any sort would be possible for any pro-freedom person. Our position would only be a theoretical pipe dream.
I see no conflict however between a utilitarian defense of the market economy and the argument for a free market as a consequence of a moral commitment to natural God-given rights, for there is no conflict.
The economist’s approval of the market for purely utilitarian reasons actually becomes a more “objective” analysis if not approached from a natural rights standpoint. But when combined with a natural-rights philosophy, it is even more powerful. No choice must be made. The utilitarian argument does not exclude the belief that life and liberty originates with the Creator. When they are added together they become doubly important.
When one argues for the free market on utilitarian grounds, one starts with particular actions by the individual. In starting with a natural rights argument the “a priori” becomes “the gift of life and liberty” as natural or God-given.
The utilitarians may be neutral or antagonistic regarding the origins of life and liberty, but this in no way weakens their explanation of the technical advantages of a free economic system. However, those who accept a natural rights philosophy have no choice whatsoever but to accept laissez-faire capitalism.
Mises’s utilitarian defense of the market opens political careers for those who believe in liberty, courage, and even dares one who truly believes in the system to present it in political terms.
Mises in Human Action says:
The flowering of human society depends on two factors: the intellectual power of outstanding men to conceive sound social and economic theories, and the ability of these or other men to make these ideologies palatable to the majority.Ludwig von Mises certainly provided sound economic and social theories. I hope that my modest success in politics may encourage others to try it, and help prove Mises “wrong,” showing that a political career is open to men and women who do not identify themselves with the interests of a pressure group, but with the liberty of all.