Power & Market

Human Action Now in Romanian

The Ludwig von Mises Institute Romania and the Private Academy have recently celebrated the publication of the Romanian translation of Mises’s Human Action.

Dan Cristian Comănescu—founder of the Mises Institute Romania and translator of the volume—offers Romanian readers an exquisite and faithful translation of Mises’s greatest work. In both content and appearance, the published volume displays the great care and love with which this tremendous task was undertaken. In his preface to the volume, Vlad Topan, president of the Ludwig von Mises Institute and founder of the Private Academy, described Mises’s magnum opus as

more than a simple treatise on economics, methodological prolegomena included. It is also a cultural and rhetorical product which speaks of a different scientific world—or a different world altogether… Human Action reveals to readers not only the cultural and intellectual stature of its author, but also a model for how a reader should be. Reading Mises you can rediscover what thoughtful, genuine reading and writing means, as well as how, if these activities were legitimately undertaken, that world and culture would look like.

Congratulations to the Mises Institute Romania for this accomplishment, which I know was not an easy one or without financial difficulties. For Romanian speakers, the full recording of the book launch can be viewed here.

 

Photos courtesy of the Mises Institute Romania. Vlad Topan (left) and Dan Cristian Comănescu (right). 

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How Two Venezuelans View American Socialists

Democratic socialists in America are trying to introduce their ideology as something new, when in fact, they are only retreading old-fashioned ideas that history has already disproven. They are ideas that have led to the economic devastation of every country in which they have been implemented.

Having seen the effects of this ideology on our home communities in Venezuela, we feel compelled to warn Americans that if they allow socialism to spread in the United States — as it has done in Venezuela — they will condemn their country to a future of misery.

We know that young people, sometimes, grow enamored with utopian ideals. The movements that cater to them are often labeled as many different movements, whether “social democrats,” “ social Christians ,” or “progressives.” These movements work hard to address their speeches and campaigns to the youth.

There’s nothing new about this. Even Friedrich Hayek admitted he believed once in this system as a young man, noting “Socialism promised to fulfill our hopes for a more rational, more just world… we have been looking for improvement in the wrong direction.”

Now young Americans are hearing and believing in promises similar to what Venezuelans did in the 50’s, and well into the period of Chavismo, that began in 1998 . The promises include “free healthcare,” “free education,” “a right to a job,” “free housing,” “gun control,” and, of course, that old-fashioned socialist motto “a state that works for you” (which really means, “ supports you”)

It is evident that a new generation of politicians want to be elected on this basis, and they have found a way to win by mobilizing people who agree with their ideas. So, they will continue promoting a climate of confrontation and division because they have no interest in convincing others who do not already think like them.

As with Hugo Chávez in his moment , this new generation of American politicians has the support of almost all mainstream media, some economic elite, and the academic world. They have been invited to appear on many of the most important TV shows, which gives them an excellent platform and increase their media presence, and generally they are treated with a soft and delicate indulgence. While other politicians have to fight for open their own spaces in the media and handle rude and non-friendly interviewers, these socialism-friendly politicians have had everything, as we say in Venezuela “served on a silver platter.” It is a true that second-hand dealers of ideas still do their work, as Hayek stated.

Finally, Americans have to be sure of something. The devastation that comes with a socialist political victory will not occur immediately. In our country, 40 years of progressive eradication of our economic freedom — before the Chavismo — were needed to reverse the great economic success of the “Economic Miracle” we enjoyed from 1950 to 1958. The problem is that the groundwork of this movement in the United States is sowing the seeds of a cultural and educational change — as was done from 1958 to 1998 in Venezuela. It won’t happen immediately, but eventually, the idea of getting something for nothing could come to dominate and in that moment — as is currently in Venezuela — it will be almost impossible to recover the freedom through a democratic system. At that point, it would become necessary replicate the Singapore experience.

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Help Translate 'Why Small States Are Better' Into English

09/21/2018Mises 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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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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Hyperinflation, Visualized

08/21/2018Tho Bishop

The continuing tragedy of Venezuela is a disaster that few Americans can truly comprehend. Annual inflation in the country, as calculated by Dr. Steve Hanke, has reached 61,436%.

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A recent article at Business Insider has done a great job of connecting this sort of data to real world items.

Photographer Carlos Garcia Rawlins took a series of photos showing every day items next to the stacks of Bolivars necessary to purchase them. 

5b7a8ceee361c033008b50f0-1334-889.jpg REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
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Have You Gained or Lost Weight? Congrats, TSA Is Now Tracking You for Suspicious Activity

07/31/2018James Bovard

If you fall asleep or use the bathroom during your next flight, those incriminating facts could be added to your federal dossier. Likewise, if you use your laptop or look at noisy children seated nearby with a “cold, penetrating stare,” that may be included on your permanent record. If you fidget, sweat or have “strong body odor” — BOOM! the feds are onto you.

Welcome to the latest profiling idiocy from the Transportation Security Administration. TSA’s Quiet Skies surveillance program is spurring federal air marshals to target dozens of Americans each day on the flimsiest of pretexts. The secret program, first exposed by Jana Winter in The Boston Globe, is security theater at its best. 

What does it take to become a Quiet Skies target? “The criteria for surveillance appear fluid. Internal agency emails show some confusion about the program’s parameters and implementation,” The Globe noted. 

Anyone who has recently traveled to Turkey can apparently be put on the list — as well as people “possibly affiliated” with someone on a terrorist watchlist (which contain more than a million names). The program is so slipshod that it has targeted at least one airline flight attendant and a federal law enforcement agent.

After a person makes the Quiet Skies list, a TSA air marshal team is placed on his next flight. Marshals receive “a file containing a photo and basic information” and carefully note whether the suspect’s “appearance was different from information provided” — such as whether he has “gained weight,” is “balding” or “graying,” has a beard or “visible tattoos” (bad news for Juggalo fans of the Insane Clown Posse). Marshals record and report any “significant derogatory information” on suspects.

TSA air marshals follow travelers targeted by this program, even writing down their license plates. Marshals must ascertain whether a “subject was abnormally aware of surroundings.” Does that include noticing the undercover G-men who are stalking them in the parking lot? No wonder the president of the Air Marshal Association, John Casaretti, considers the program unjustified.

Read the full article at USA Today
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How to Unlock the Free Market Possibilities of Net Neutrality's Repeal

06/11/2018Per Bylund

Past all the incendiary rhetoric, one of the key differences between Democrats and Republicans is the question of how far-reaching government intervention should be. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the most recent battleground over regulations: net neutrality.

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai -- a Republican appointee -- championed a commission vote in December to repeal net neutrality regulation, arguing that deregulating internet service providers would bolster the economy.

Under a repeal, broadband providers would no longer be prohibited from blocking websites or charging for higher-quality service or certain content. The FCC, under Pai's leadership, says that ISPs like AT&T and Comcast will offer a better variety of niche services to enhance the customer experience if they are liberated from pesky regulations.

The issue is hardly settled: Democrats in the U.S. Senate disagreed with the FCC move and last month voted 52-47 to quash the repeal, but their bill is not expected to pass the House. And, even if it does, President Trump is extremely unlikely to sign it. As it stands, the repeal of net neutrality is set to take effect today, June 11.

The FCC’s repeal uncorked a tidal wave of outrage from net neutrality advocates, who fear a future of slower internet service, higher costs and fewer consumer choices. But those advocates should hold on -- because the loosening of regulatory hurdles actually fits into a market-oriented mindset that breeds entrepreneurial innovation. Here's how:

Read the full article at Entrepreneur. 
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How Protectionism Squanders Capital

In his early career, Mises was a vocal supporter of the free trade movement, and well involved in the policy proposals of the free trade associations in Europe. In his later years, he maintained his pure laissez-faire view of international trade, but focused more on the battle of ideas. Although scattered throughout his other works, and not collected in a volume on 'international economics', his analyses on trade and trade policy are meticulous and detailed, but clear-cut, as well as indispensable to a correct understanding of international production and exchange. 

For those reading the recent news on the escalation of protectionist measures between the U.S. and its trade partners, here's an excerpt from Mises's Epistemological Problems of Economics (pp. 237-9). The discussion is fully applicable today, 85 years after it was first published. In a short subchapter, Mises (to use one of his favorite expressions) explodes the fallacy of the infant industry argument for trade protection, and employs an original and often neglected argument that highlights the role of monetary calculation and inconvertible capital goods in production and trade.

The infant industries argument advanced in favor of protective tariffs represents a hopeless attempt to justify such measures on a purely economic basis, without regard to political considerations. It is a grievous error to fail to recognize the political motivation behind the demand for tariffs on behalf of infant industries. The same arguments as are advanced in favor of protecting a domestic product against foreign competition could also be adduced in favor of protecting one part of a general customs area against the competition of other parts. The fact that, nevertheless, protection is asked only against foreign, but not also against domestic, competition clearly points to the real nature of the motives behind the demand. 

Of course, it may happen in some cases that the industry already in existence is not operating in the most favorable of the locations that are presently accessible. However, the question is whether moving to the more favorable location offers advantages great enough to compensate for the cost of abandoning the already existing plants. If the advantages are great enough, then moving is profitable and is carried out without the intervention of a tariff policy. If it is not profitable in itself and becomes so only by virtue of the tariff, then the latter has led to the expenditure of capital goods for the construction of plants that would otherwise not have been constructed. These capital goods are now no longer available where they would have been had the state not intervened.

Every tariff under whose protection new plants come into existence that otherwise would not have been built so long as the older plants established elsewhere were still utilizable leads to the squandering of capital. Of course, the fanatics on both sides of the ocean who want to “make the economy rational” do not care to see this.

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Historical Controversies Podcast: Season 3

04/18/2018Mises Institute

Today, Chris Calton kicked-off the third season of his Historical Controversies podcast, which will recount the controversial history of the American Civil War.

The complete series (including Seasons 1 and 2) is available on iTunes, YouTube, Soundcloud, Google Play, Stitcher, Mises.org, and via RSS feed.

If you enjoy the podcast, please leave a positive rating and review.

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Hyperinflation Has Venezuelan Merchants Weighing Cash, and Now It's Breaking Their Scales

03/15/2018Tho Bishop

It is interesting to see how prices emerge in a hyperinflationary environment like  see in Venezuela. While the government finally cut its “official” exchange rate of 10 bolivars to the dollar, it continues to vastly overstate the value of its currency.

Luckily markets continue to find a way. Assisted by good old fashion corruption, military members and other government officials are able to profit off selling government supplies. Of course the question still remains: how is economic calculation is possible in a monetary climate as extreme as Venezuela?

In 2016, the Wall Street Journal published a fascinating article about a Home Depot employee named Gustavo Diaz who runs one of the most subversive websites back in his home country, DolarToday.com. The website takes information gathered from Venezuela black markets and uses it offer a real market value for the Bolivar. This information undermines the ability of the government and central banks to hide the consequences of their policies, leaving market actors better informed.

As Mr. Diaz puts it:

It’s ironic that with DolarToday in Alabama, I do more damage to the government than I did as a military man in Venezuela.

Another interesting measure has been pieced together by Bloomberg. Their Cafe Con Leche Index looks at the price of a cup of coffee in Caracas. A March 14th report has a .50 cent cup of coffee now costing 75,000 Bolivars, pushing the annual inflation rate over 4000%.

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The rising price does create other challenges though. Increasingly merchants have relied on weighing cash used for transactions, rather than counting. Unfortunately this has created some new challenges for merchants, whose scales are not capable of handling the weights now required to buy goods such as ham. As Patricia Laya writes as part of a fascinating series Life in Caracus:

The store’s deli scales run to only six digits. And ham, my Whatsapp food-hunting community tells me, is retailing nowadays for about 1,480,000 bolivars per kilogram. It didn’t matter that I wanted only a few hundred milligrams. The cost was, at this market at least, incalculable.

A similar dynamic is impeding the use of credit and debit cards. The price of a set of sheets (33,541,963), a pair of Adidas sneakers (10,500,000) or even a slice of lasagna (401,450) can’t fit on the screens of older card machines; the solution is to split one purchase into several transactions. Even the invoice printers that many businesses use for reports to tax authorities are running out of space.

So how does a country like Venezuela reverse this sort of monetary chaos? Luckily the answer there is simple. It must end the socialist policies that destroyed the country, and abandon the Bolivar. At some point the latter will be inevitable. Hopefully for Venezuelans, the former is as well.

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