Rothbard's Man, Economy, and State: a Memoir

Rothbard's Man, Economy, and State: a Memoir

04/13/2018Gary North

In October 1962, I was given a lifetime advantage: a copy of Murray Rothbard’s Man, Economy, and State. In the language of journalism, it was hot off the presses. It had just been published. I was sent a copy by F. A. Harper, known as Baldy, who was not bald. At the time, he ran the Institute for Humane Studies. Until early that year, he had managed the William Voker Fund. The Volker Fund had put up the money that subsidized the publication of Rothbard’s book. It was published by Van Nostrand, a small but respectable mainstream publishing house located in Princeton, New Jersey. Van Nostrand was also the publisher of a series of books that had been financed by the Volker Fund over the previous two years.

I was in my final year of college as an undergraduate. I had written to Harper the previous year about some questions I had about Ludwig von Mises’ Human Action (Yale University Press, 1949). Harper responded in a letter. I still have the fragments of that letter. For some unknown reason, I cut off the introduction to the letter, which would have had the date on it. I suspect this was in the summer of 1961.

By 1962, Harper was serving as my part-time mentor. I did not fully understand this at the time. In November 1961, he paid for me to fly to Burlingame, California, in order to spend a few hours with him. This was one of the turning points in my life, although I did not know this at the time. He gave me a copy of Israel Kirzner’s book, The Economic Point of View, which had been published by Van Nostrand in 1960. I wrote this on the front page: “presented by F. A. Harper November, 1961.” He was recruiting me. I have been grateful for this ever since. When he sent me Man, Economy and State, he was still in the process of recruiting me.

Within a few months after my visit, Harper was fired by the man who controlled the Volker Fund, Harold Luhnow, the nephew of William Volker, who died in 1947. Luhnow took over the management of the Fund in 1947. He shifted its focus from charitable activities in Kansas City, Missouri to financing the remnants of classical liberalism. In early 1962, he replaced Harper with Ivan Bierly, who had received his Ph.D. under Harper at Cornell years before. The Volcker Fund was renamed “The Center for American Studies.” That shift turned out to be crucial in my career. Bierly hired a new staff. One of the people he hired was R. J. Rushdoony. I wrote to him in the spring of 1962. I met him when he lectured for two weeks at a summer seminar sponsored by the Intercollegiate Society of Individualists. Rushdoony continued to recruit me in my senior year. He brought me to work for the Center as a summer intern in 1963, and I lived at his home. I spent the whole summer reading the basic texts of Austrian School economics, including Man, Economy, and State.

ACADEMIC GUILDS

Rothbard’s book was a masterpiece, both conceptually and rhetorically -- the art of persuasion. He had a rigorously systematic mind. He also had a stupendous memory regarding materials he had read, which he demonstrated in the book’s footnotes. He had an unmatched ability to write clearly. I mentioned this in my article in the 1988 Festschrift for Rothbard, Man, Economy, and Liberty. In my article, “Why Murray Rothbard Will Never win the Nobel Prize,” I said that he wrote much too clearly to win it.

Mises was a clear writer. But in Human Action, he offered fewer footnotes than Man, Economy, and State. He also did not use the paraphernalia of modern economics. There are no equations and no graphs in anything Mises ever wrote. The famous supply and demand scissors are absent in his books. In terms of presentation, Rothbard in Man, Economy, and State was far closer to the mainstream academic community than Mises was. But he was not close to the mainstream community with respect to the content of what he wrote. He was an academic pariah in 1962, and he remained a pariah all his life. He shared this position with Mises.

This was not a liability in the long run. One of the important points made by Thomas Kuhn’s paradigm-shifting book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, also published in 1962, was this: major shifts in the worldview of intellectuals are usually generated from either the fringes of an academic guild or from outside the academic guild. If they are generated from inside, they are generated from young men who are reacting against the outlook of the guild. They are on its fringes. The other source of change in perception comes from brilliant outsiders who are in no way under the authority of a particular academic guild.

Mises was funded from outside of academia. New York University paid him no salary for a quarter of a century. He retired in 1969. He may have been the oldest professor in the nation. The money to pay his salary had been put up by rich friends of Mises, most notably Lawrence Fertig, who was on the board of New York University. He donated through the Foundation for Economic Education after its founding by Leonard E. Read in 1946. The Volker Fund also put up money for Mises and Hayek at the University of Chicago. The Volker Fund had put Rothbard on its payroll, mainly to review books, beginning in the mid-1950's. Rothbard was not on any university or academic payroll in 1962. Only after the demise of the Center for American Studies in 1964 did he get his first teaching position, which was at Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute. The school did not offer an economics major. He taught budding engineers. He was on the fringes.

Mises and Rothbard were outsiders. That was their great advantage. This was not clear to me in 1963, but after I read Kuhn’s book in 1968, I understood. The economics guild had no control over either of them. Neither of them published in professional journals. Rothbard had published a few essays, but after 1960 he never bothered again. He made a wise decision. He did not have to conform to what any editor believed.

CLARITY AS A STANDARD

I have always appreciated clarity of exposition. In 1963, as today, I was of the opinion that an author had two primary responsibilities: accuracy and clarity. Persuasion is in third place. Rothbard was tremendous at all three. In this sense, he became my literary model. To the extent that I am known for my writing, I gained this skill more from Rothbard than anybody else.

In 1966, I took a graduate seminar on the American Revolution from Douglass Adair. He had been the editor of The William and Mary Quarterly. He had personally transformed it from a journal that published regional memorabilia into the premier journal of colonial history. He told us that he always used this criterion for screening manuscripts. If an article did not stand on its own merits without the footnotes, he would not publish it. He said that the footnotes were important to validate the thesis, but if the article was heavily dependent on the footnotes to make its point, it was not worth publishing. That impressed me at the time. I see in retrospect that everything scholarly/academic that Rothbard ever wrote would have qualified for publication in terms of Adair’s rule.

Adair made another observation. He said that every scholar would benefit from a year of editing a scholarly journal in his field. Why? Because he would discover how few of his colleagues have the ability to write clearly.

Rothbard had a huge advantage over his peers. He was the master of clarity in the field of economics. He was even more clear than Hazlitt. As a friend of Hazlitt's, I guarantee you that Hazlitt would have been the first to admit this. He was a humble man. For a man who achieved so much, he was an astoundingly humble man. He had an enormous respect for Rothbard.

F. A. Hayek was a clear writer, but as he admitted, he was not a systematic thinker. He divided schools of thought into two groups: systematizers and puzzlers. Hayek called himself a puzzler. In economic thought, this is clearly seen in Austrian School economics from the beginning. Carl Menger and Eugen Böhm-Bawerk were systematizers. Friederich Wieser was a puzzler. Not many people have ever read Wieser. Puzzlers are harder to read than systematizers.

Hayek gained attention in the English-speaking academic world beginning in the early 1930's. Mises was not well-known in academia outside of Austria. Hayek is still the best known Austrian School economist. He won the Nobel Prize in 1974. But Hayek never wrote a treatise on economics.

Henry Hazlitt was a clear writer. He was rhetorically gifted. He had the ability to sustain long, complex arguments, as he demonstrated in his refutation of Keynes, The Failure of the “New Economics.” It was published in 1959. We never see it footnoted in any scholarly journal. There are few people who have ever read it. Hundreds of thousands of people have read his little masterpiece, Economics in One Lesson (1946), but he wrote it in just a few months, and it is not systematic in the way that treatises are supposed to be. It was not meant to be a treatise. It was meant to be a popular book that introduced people to free-market principles. It succeeded. Nothing that Hazlitt ever wrote was a comprehensive treatise.

In 1949, the world of economic theory was waiting for a clear, comprehensive, systematic treatise.

PIECES OF THE ECONOMIC PUZZLE

Most of the pieces of the economic puzzle had been lying around in an unorganized pile ever since Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations (1776). They had been refined and trimmed by Carl Menger in 1871 in his Principles of Economics. The British economist Alfred Marshall in 1890 attempted to put the pieces together in his Principles of Economics, but as is true of so many British thinkers, he was something of a puzzler, not a systematizer. The British intellectual tradition is inductivist, not deductivist. It does not begin with first principles. The pieces in his textbook did not fit together well because they were not systematically based on methodological individualism in the way that Human Action is.

I will now make an admission. It was not until just a few years ago that I recognized what should have been screamingly obvious to me and everybody else. Human Action was the first comprehensive treatise on economics. This may seem like a preposterous statement, but if you look back over the books on economics prior to Human Action, there is no book that starts at the beginning – the acting individual – and develops a comprehensive theory of all aspects of the market process in terms of just a few principles, which Mises called axioms and corollaries. No other economist called them axioms and corollaries. That was what made Mises unique.

Rothbard was an a priorist (deductivist) in epistemology, just as Mises was. In 1962, this made a grand total of two economists. In Man, Economy, and State, Rothbard laid out the chapters of the book in a systematic fashion. From Chapter 2 on, each chapter is a development of the previous chapter. This is what a prioristsare supposed to do. They start with axioms, and they develop the axioms, point by point. Mises had done the same thing in Human Action. Rothbard did it with greater precision. He also did it with greater clarity.

The first person to understand the uniqueness and comprehensive nature of Human Action was Rothbard. He saw this in 1949. This gave him an edge over all of his contemporaries. That is why Man, Economy, and State, which took him over a decade to write, was so important to my generation of budding economists. He systematized what was already a systematic introduction to economic theory. He made it easier for us to grasp the importance of what Mises had done.

Mises put together pieces of the puzzle. Rothbard took that completed puzzle and made it more palatable for younger economists who wanted to see graphs. Fortunately, he never used an equation. That would have sullied the product.

Rothbard never claimed uniqueness for his book. He fully understood that it was a derivative product. But as an introductory treatise that uses the paraphernalia of the modern economic textbook, Rothbard’s book is more serviceable than Mises’s book. In 1962, the enormous volume of his footnotes represented a survey of almost everything that had been published in the journals over the last 50 years. I have never seen anything like it. Admittedly, this dates the book. But that was inevitable, given Rothbard’s strategy. He wanted to introduce the basics of Austrian economic thought, and he wanted it within a framework of the sweep of economic opinion as of 1960 or thereabouts.

CONCLUSION

I don’t know if younger scholars read Man, Economy, and State before they read Human Action. In retrospect, I’m not sure whether I finished Man, Economy and State before I finished Human Action. I do know that I read quite a bit of Human Action in 1961. I wrote to Harper about the book in 1961. But I don’t remember if I read the whole book before the summer of 1963. I had finished both books by late August 1963. But there is no question in my mind that Rothbard opened the categories of economics more clearly to me than Mises had done. Rothbard’s literary style and his approach to economics was exactly what I needed in 1963. His book gave me an edge on my contemporaries. It shaped my work dramatically both in graduate school and subsequently. I even wrote a term paper for a course in apologetics – the philosophical defense of Christianity – on Rothbard’s epistemology. That was in 1964.

If someone has never read any economics, and he wants to start at the top, I recommend that he read Human Action first. But if he is in graduate school as an economics major, he probably would be wise to read Man, Economy and State first. If you like supply and demand graphs, read Rothbard’s book first. If you don’t like graphs, read Mises first.

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Help Translate 'Why Small States Are Better' Into English

7 hours agoMises Institute

Last year, we told you about a new book from Andreas Marquart and  Philipp Bagus titled Wir schaffen das – alleine! (“We can do it – alone!”). The subtitle says: “Why small states are just better.” (Read an interview about the book here.)

Unfortunately for English-language readers, the book remains only available in German.

The authors, however, have now launched an Indiegogo campaign to fund the translation of the book into English.

The book is an important addition to the scholarship of decentralization and secession.

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August Building Permits Drop for First Time in Eight Years

09/21/2018Ryan McMaken

Building permits for private housing units in the US dropped by 5.5 percent in August, which was the largest drop recorded in more than two years. The last time housing permit activity dropped by a larger amount was during June of 2016 when permits fell by 12.3 percent.

The trend in all permits (seasonally adjusted):

permits_SA.PNG
 

The decline was driven by a drop in multifamily permits. In fact, single-family permit growth didn't drop below zero at all — although single-family permits grew at the weakest rate (2.1 percent) recorded since May of 2014.

The trend in single-family permits (seasonally adjusted):

permits1unit_SA.PNG
 

The general trend here, since early 2017, is one of stalling growth rates in permit activity.

If you're like me, though, you're not a huge fan of seasonally-adjusted numbers. So let's look at the non-adjusted permit totals.

Given that permit activity does tend to be highly seasonal, it's helpful to compare this past August with other Augusts. So, if we look at each month of August since 2005, we find that August 2018 was the first August in eight years during which permit activity (for all units) actually turned negative when compared to the previous August. August 2018's permit activity was down 5.9 percent, year over year.

Total permits reported for August of each year:

singlefam.PNG
 

As with the seasonally-adjusted data, the decline was driven largely by a drop in multifamily permits. Looking at permits for building with 5 or more units, we find that permit activity in August 2018 was down 21 percent from the previous August. To find a larger drop in August, we have to go back to 2009.

Multifamily permits reported for August of each year:

multifam.PNG
 

Meanwhile, single-family permits were up by 1.6 percent in the non-adjusted data, comparing August 2017 to August 2018. This was the smallest August increase in single-family permits in four years. Nevertheless, it was an increase.

In short, we're seeing a similar trend in the August non-adjusted data that we see in the adjusted data: single-family permits are more or less flat, and growing at a weak rate.

Unlike single-family permits, though, multifamily permits aren't growing at all, and in August, they dropped off by the largest amount seen since the last recession.

Why Might Permit Activity Be Dropping?

Given that permits tend to be an indicator of future building activity, these numbers suggest that builder confidence is slipping. This could be due to at least two factors. One factor is likely rising mortgage rates . In August, the average 30-year fixed rate was the highest it has been since 2011. That's likely to put downward pressure on demand for both single-family homes and condos in multifamily buildings.

Secondly, thanks to the Trump tariffs, the cost of both lumber and steel has risen, driving up construction costs. This means builders won't be able to deliver units at a prices that are likely to attract as many buyers as might have been the case without the tariffs.

On the other hand, it's possible that the weakness in the August numbers are a fluke and and that permit activity will bounce back. If both construction and borrowing costs continue to go up, though, sustaining demand will require greater growth in incomes.

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An Armed Pregnant Woman Defended Herself, Now She Faces 24 Years in Jail

09/20/2018Tho Bishop

Last December, Krissy Noble (then going by her maiden name Tran) shot and killed a man who broke into her apartment and attacked her. She was 11 weeks pregnant at the time.

As ABC News described the incident:

[When her attacker was] inside, the man tackled her and began trying to cover her mouth with his hand, which she thought smelled of chemicals, the report states. He then started hitting her in the face with his fist.

After she was able to break free, Noble grabbed a pistol off the coffee table and shot the man three times before running to her neighbor's apartment and telling her to call 911, according to the report.

Noble told police that "she feared not only for her safety but for the safety of her baby, and felt that she had no other option in this situation, according to the report.

Authorities have ruled that Noble’s use of force was justified, however she now faces 24 years in jail for her actions. Why? She previously pled guilty to a felony marijuana charge.

As she told ABC 13:

"Right now I'm looking at the max, 24 years, that's my baby's life. I mean, I'm going to miss 24 years of my child... I won't even, I won't even know my child, I'll miss out on everything.”

The tragedy of Nobles’s story has several layers.

The first is that a marijuana possession is a felony charge in the state of Arkansas. It’s worth noting that there is nothing particularly unusual about Noble’s case: her and several friends were found with an ounce of marijuana and drug paraphernalia during a routine traffic stop. Since no one claimed ownership, all faced criminal charges. Facing jail time, Noble accepted a plea deal that gave her a suspended sentence and barred her from possessing a fire arm.

That Noble would face a felony from such an incident speaks to the absurdity of the continued war on drugs. It may also explain why 66 of Arkansas’s 75 counties see unusually high opioid prescriptions.

The second is how over criminalization leads to a dangerous loss of basic individual rights. In the case of Noble, the gun used to defend herself was owned by her husband, who serves is the Arkansas National Guard. In the eyes of the Arkansas “Justice” system, Noble being caught with marijuana last December meant she had no right to use her husband’s firearm to defend herself from a brutal attacker. The law would leave her a defenseless victim.

Luckily there does seem to be momentum towards restoring gun ownership rights to non-violent offenders that have been caught up in America’s justice system. Legislators at both the state and federal level have relevant pushed bills in recent years, while federal courts have also found some that blanket bans for all felons are unconstitutional.   

Unfortunately for Noble, this precedent won’t apply to her case as she was still under her five year suspended sentence.

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Jeff Deist on the Kavanaugh Nomination, Civility, and "the Dregs of Society"

09/19/2018Jeff Deist

Jeff Deist joined Peter Lavelle on CrossTalk to discuss Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination and the state of modern political discourse.

CrossTalk on Kavanaugh nomination: Dregs of society

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Spitznagel on Bloomberg: Future Financial Crises Will Be Deeper

09/18/2018Mark Spitznagel

Recently Mark Spitznagel, Founder and Chief Investment Officer of Universa Investments, joined Bloomberg to discuss the lessons learned from the 2008 financial crisis.

"What [the 2008 financial crisis] taught us ultimately is that interventionism - monetary interventionism - is a Faustian bargain. It gives us short term gains, and longer term pains."

Watch the full video here.

 
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The Supreme Court Is Even Worse than You Think

09/18/2018Ryan McMaken

This morning on The Wasatch Report on the Cerberus Radio Network, Suzanne Sherman and I discussed how the US Supreme Court has become far more powerful than was ever intended. We also looked at the problem with the common American idea that the Supreme Court exists to limit federal power, or that its judges are impartial and non-political, seeking only a reasoned, legal interpretation of the laws. This has never been true, but the political nature of the court is far more damaging now because so much power has now been concentrated in the federal government.

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Three Lessons from the Kavanaugh Debacle

09/18/2018Jeff Deist

You might not particularly care if the Senate confirms Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court or not, but we should care very much about the spectacle playing out in the press and social media. The overall effect is to remind us of Washington DC's status as the center of the universe, how Supreme Court justices necessarily and justifiably wield tremendous power over our lives, and why we should feverishly vote this fall to make sure the bad guys don't win and inflict their judges on us for the next fifty years. 

It's hysterical, and demeaning. But people understandably feel forced into treating the Supreme Court makeup as a life and death political struggle. 

All of this diverts attention from what should be a key issue, if not the key issue, in Kavanaugh's nomination: the 4th Amendment. Judge Andrew Napolitano, who knows and likes the nominee, makes the damning case that his views regarding the misnamed Patriot Act, FISA courts, search warrants, and domestic surveillance are deeply illiberal and dismissive to constitutionalism.

Kavanaugh's legal opinions are nothing short of terrible when it comes to an individual's basic right to live free of government searches, snooping, or seizures of property without specific proof that rises to the level of reasonable suspicion. His record is not one of "originalism," but rather undue deference to the wishes of a rapacious executive branch. 

His nomination will not turn on this, however.

Instead it appears we will be subject to lurid testimony before the Judiciary Committee about the nominee's alleged high school groping, delivered by his accuser, in a dramatic turn that can only result in two segments of the country adamantly believing and disbelieving her. Are Senators on that committee prepared to act as would-be judges in what amounts to an accusation of criminal conduct? Are they competent triers of fact in a he said/she said scenario from 30 years ago?

These hearings showcase several particularly American phenomena. They're televised, which turns every Senator into a grandstanding showman intent on bolstering a national image. They're voyeuristic, taking us inside the presumably boring personal lives of federal judges: Mr. Kavanaugh apparently drinks beer, uses credit cards, holds season tickets to the Washington Nationals, and is either a sexual assaulter or unassailable soup kitchen volunteer. Above all, they inject the phoniest of politics into what should be a simple inquiry into the nominee's basic fitness as a judge. Even when that nominee is a native of DC, a true company man who has been around the federal government all his life (Kavanaugh worked a stint in the Bush I administration), his Senate interrogators have to make a big show of some imagined clash of worldviews.   

Three clear lessons emerge from the Kavanaugh fiasco:

First: the politicization of the Supreme Court is total and cannot be undone. You'd be hard pressed to find an American who views the Court as anything other than an unelected super-legislature that issues sweeping "laws" governing everything from abortion to guns to healthcare mandates to government surveillance and spying. There's a reason people say any given court decision is "the law of the land." Justices are black-robed tenured monarchs, selected by presidents as a form of political spoils to carry out a political agenda. They are Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives, and rule accordingly-- starting with their intended political result in any given case, and working backward to fashion a legal argument justifying that result. Judicial activism is triumphant, and no pretense of impartiality remains regardless of the shifting "philosophies" offered for statutory interpretation.

Second: judicial overreach has not limited executive or legislative overreach. The doctrine of judicial review is specious at best, with no support in Article III of the Constitution. Our understanding of Marbury v. Madison is deeply flawed. Yet millions of American kids escape high school believing the Supreme Court is supreme not only over lower federal courts, but also over the other branches of government. 

Has this extra-constitutional power assumed by the Court served to limit the unconstitutional actions of those branches? Hardly. Congress runs roughshod over Article 1, section 8, while cravenly refusing to declare war; the General Welfare Clause and Commerce Clause are interpreted laughably; economic substantive due process--read "property rights"-- hasn't been recognized for nearly a century; the 9th and 10th Amendments are dead letters, the 4th Amendment is on life support; and the entire 20th century serves as stark evidence of the Court's willingness to rubber stamp unchecked executive power. 

Judicial review serves as legal cover for government power, not a check on it.

Third: centralized judicial power is as damaging to liberty as centralized executive and legislative power. Having a single court run by nine humans make top-down decisions for 320 million people is a recipe for disaster. Common law is inherently decentralized; it evolves locally and slowly creates universal precepts (i.e. prohibitions on murder) only when there is near unanimity of agreement across time and geography. The gradual imposition of positive civil law in America, along with the federalization of vast areas of law that once were determined locally, created a federal judiciary that is unworkable and unresponsive to millions of Americans. For the vast majority of us, recourse against the federal government for its lawless acts is an illusion-- we don't have 10 years and millions of dollars for lawyers.

***********

The divisive nature of Supreme Court nominations is a feature and not a bug of our federal politics and government.. Truth, justice, and fairness, the hallmarks (or at least goals) of a decent legal system, must give way to tribal war and endless "whataboutism" in any culture where politics predominates. This is what politics does to all of us, and to a judiciary that is supposed to constrain the politicians.

 

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Higgs on Hulsmann and Mises: The Last Knight of Liberalism

09/17/2018Robert Higgs

I have known Guido a long time, and when he was working on the book, I used to goad him by asking frequently, “When are you going to finish that Mises book?” I had no idea what a tremendous project that research was or what magnificent fruit it would bear. After reading it, I wrote to Guido as follows:

“I have finally finished reading your great book about Mises. When I use the word ‘great,’ I mean not simply that it weighs at least a kilo and contains more than 1,000 pages. I mean most of all that it is a magnificent scholarly achievement. I can’t remember when I have taken more pleasure from a book. It is a joy to read, in every way. The English is precise and polished, and everything is put just right. The research is amazingly broad, yet deep, too. The judgments are sensible and mature. The coverage–from the personal details to the content of Mises’s ideas to the context in which he lived and worked–is extraordinary, and the organization puts everything into comprehensible order. The bibliography is more than impressive. All in all, the book is simply an amazing accomplishment, and a fitting tribute to its great subject.

The Mises Institute deserves great credit, too, not only for its support of your work on this project, but also for producing a book that is a fine example of the publisher’s art: the typeface is clean and clear, and large enough to permit effortless reading; the layout is spacious and proper; the footnotes are where they should be, and they, too, are large enough to be read without a magnifying glass; the illustrations are splendid complements to the text; and the indexes are terrific. The work is thus not simply beautiful intellectually, but beautiful physically, as well.

If I had ever written anything half so wonderful–and I recognize that I lack the abilities to do so–I would consider my career a complete success, and feel myself justified in taking my ease, to rest on my laurels. I do not perceive that you have this plan in mind for yourself, and therefore the world will be the better, not only for your great book on Mises, but also for all the great achievements that lie in your future. I salute you, my friend, not without a touch of envy, but with my whole heart.”

(Hardcover and Audio book available now at the Mises Bookstore.)

h/t  LewRockwell.com
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What Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Need to Learn About Income Inequality

09/14/2018Tho Bishop

Earlier this week Aaron Ross Sorkin wrote an interesting article at the New York Times where he draws the connection between many of the political trends in this country—Trump and attacks on trade, rise of democratic socialist politicians, and the rise of general skepticism of the "expert class"—to the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis.

Of course issue that has been driven to the forefront of American politics since 2008 has been heightened awareness about growing income inequality in the country. Naturally the American left looks at the issue and gets it completely wrong, but that doesn't mean that the issue isn't completely without merit. There is in fact a faction in America that could be considered as the "unjust rich" who benefit directly as a result of a parasitic government and the modern financial system. 

This is all why I think one of the most important contributions Austrian economics offers to modern political discourse is connection between monetary policy and income inequality.

At Mises University this year, Dr. Karl-Friedrich Israel gave an excellent lecture on this topic, looking at the relevant data that exists, analyzing the work of non-Austrian scholars like Thomas Piketty, and focusing on the ways artificial credit expansion directly feed into this issue. Consider sharing it the next time a friends quotes Bernie Sanders or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on the topic.

Monetary Policy and Inequality | Karl-Friedrich Israel

Read more about the topic:

Central Banks Enrich a Select Few at the Expense of Many by Thorsten Polleit
How Central Banking Increased Inequality by Louis Rouanet
How Central Banks Widen Wealth and Income Gaps by Hal Snarr

More from Karl-Friedrich Israel:

How Much Do Central Banks Cost Us?
Inflation May Be Causing a Long-Term Rise in Unemployment
Five Reasons for Central Banks: Are They Any Good?

 

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Without the Federal Government, Who Will Regulate Dog Meat?

09/13/2018Ryan McMaken

The federal government is running a massive deficit right now. American wages are stagnant. The US is involved in multiple costly wars with no apparent objective. And the president raises taxes on Americans at will through his tariff policy.

But fortunately the Congress is getting down to what is really important. Federalizing laws banning the sale of cat and dog meat.

The silliness of Congress's involvement in the matter is so obvious that even CBS news begins its article on the topic with a snide comment:

The government shuts down at the end of the month, and Democrats and Republicans seem unable to make a deal to keep it open. They are, however, united in trying to stop people from eating pets.

But the new bill does provide a chance for politicians to crow about "accomplishing" something in Congress. Bill sponsor and Florida Democrat Alice Hastings released a glowing statement:

"The House of Representatives has voted to unify animal cruelty laws across the country, which would prohibit the slaughter of dogs and cats for human consumption," Hastings said. "I am proud to have championed this effort in Congress to explicitly ban the killing and consumption dogs and cats across the United States, and am greatly appreciative of my friend and colleague Congressman Buchanan for taking the 'Dog and Cat Meat Trade Prohibition Act' across the finish line today."

Boy, without the federal government, who could possibly regulate such things? I mean, other than the county commissioners who could just as easily pass an ordinance on the matter? The sale and handling of dog meat is already illegal nearly everywhere in the US. The new federal law is being passed because it gives politicians a shiny object to distract the voters with on the campaign trail this fall.

Keep in mind also that if the feds plan to enforce the new regulations, it will require work from federal employees who will need to surveil, investigate, and prosecute any suspected lawbreakers. The people who do it will collect a federal salary and, eventually, a federal pension.

Needless to say, there's no section of the Federal Constitution that expresses the necessity of federal involvement in regulating cat meat. But such trifles don't concern Congress when there is good politicking to be had. After all, from the politician's standpoint, only a few odd eccentrics like yours truly are going to bother condemning the bill. Meanwhile, the bill's supporters will be able to make stump speeches to suburban moms and college activists about how "I am fighting for you" in Congress by making dog-meat boutiques illegal under federal law.

This leads us to ask the question of how widespread this black-market industry even is. If is is not widespread then why the need for federal legislation? And if consumption of dog meat is widespread, then this tells us that somewhere in America private citizens — presumably taxpayers — like to eat dog meat. So, the federal legislation is either pointless, or it's trampling on the property rights of someone somewhere.

In either case, the question must be answered: are we to believe that dog-meat lovers have no rights just because lots of people think dogs are cute? Yes, I get it, I have a dog too and she's swell. Barring a Venezuela-style apocalypse, I'm totally not going to eat her.

On the other hand, if some people somewhere like eating dog, why is it my place to sign off on threatening those people with fines imposed by federal agents for doing something I find distasteful.

At this point in the debate, of course, the opponents of dog meat will start repeating totally arbitrary reasons for why eating dog ought to be verboten. "They' cute, they're intelligent, they make good companions." And so on.

But as anyone who has worked with pigs knows, those animals are very intelligent, too. Some are even cute. Some people keep pigs as pets. And yet, many of the same people who sob over dog meat have few scruples about ordering a sausage pizza.

Hardliner animal rights people are, at least, consistent in this. They are against all animal slaughter. And that's a respectable position — although not one I agree with.1

Dog Meat vs. Horse Meat

Unfortunately, we've already been over this, and the federal government has already been blazing the trail for regulating meat slaughter and sales for quite some time. In fact, it was just late last year that the Congress was debating ending an existing federal ban on the processing of horse meat. And although I've been a personal fan of many horses I have met, I also came out against that federal ban.

[RELATED: "Do We Really Need a Federal Ban on Horse Meat?" by Ryan McMaken]

In that case, though, opponents of horse-meat bans had something more in their favor: Americans were still eating horse meat in the mid twentieth century. Even more recently, Americans were feeding horse meat — ironically, given the current debate — to their cats and dogs. Moreover, as I pointed out in the article, Western society has a long history of eating horse meat, although it was never especially popular in the United States. But in the case of horse meat, why ought the "rights" of horses trump those of private taxpaying citizens who happen to make their living from selling horse meat? Or who enjoy eating it?

With cats and dogs, of course, there is very little history of them being eaten in the US or in Europe.

Eating dogs, however, is apparently common in China, Indonesia, and Korea. Some immigrants from those places still eat dogs.

But, there aren't enough people in the US who like dog meat to make the pro-dog-meat lobby in the US politically significant. Congress simply doesn't have to worry about any of those people when campaigning for re-election this November. Those horrible foreigners and new arrivals who like dog meat? To hell with them. And if they get caught eating a dog or cat? Well then its a $5,000 fine. Xenophobia continues to be great politics, just not in the way you think. It's not the Trump voters in this case who are wanting to stick it to foreigners and immigrants. This time, banning dog meat is all about pandering to soccer moms and well-to-do twenty-somethings who refer to their dogs as their children. It's probably a winning strategy.

  • 1. Unfortunately, with many hardcore animal rights activists, this admirable consistency often fails to extend to opposing the killing of human life pre-birth.
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