Friday, May 7, 2010

Assault of Thoughts - 5/7/2010

"Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assault of thoughts on the unthinking" -JMK

- The New York Times on Greece and Britain. I've been interested in the amount of attention the British election is getting in America. It's practically driven Greece out of the news, at least for the day. It seems strange to me - the election seems so much less consequential than Greece, which is threatening the entire continent - if not the world economy. But Americans like their election coverage, and I imagine it's nothing more than that. The article draws parallels between Britain and Greece, but leaves out by far the most important difference between the two: Britain is not on the euro.

- Jonathan Finegold Catalán has a good post on property rights and the oil spill. His analysis is right on target. I think there are lingering questions about whether the ocean (or any number of other things) is something that we want to identify as property. But whether or not it is a good idea to consider it "property" - the fact that it isn't property has important consequences, which Jonathan does a good job analyzing.

- Steven Horwitz has a good post on mergers and monopolies. Monopolies have always been a boogey man for Americans especially, but also for advocates of the free market. Intuitively that makes sense - monopolies are anti-competitive, right? But the reality is more complicated than that. Monopolies are often given a bad name that they don't deserve.

- I've been doing some soul searching after my partial differential equations final. Considering some political economy programs that place less emphasis on the higher math. One of the things I think I'd be interested in pursuing in such a program is the political economy of monetary policy making - specifically with respect to the Triffin dilemma and the dual mandate of the Fed. These choices are in many ways political choices (and perhaps that's not always a bad thing). Anyway, over the course of googling these things just to get a sense of the problem, I came across this interesting piece on the political economy of monetary policy by Volcker back when he was at the New York Fed.

- Sometimes I wonder about Arnold Kling's views on liberals and libertarians. By this definition, I'm definitely a libertarian and I think a ton of people are libertarians. This is quite simply a classical liberal position, and the classical liberal assumption on these sorts of things is shared by a lot of people beyond just libertarians. I have no idea why it's so hard for libertarians to realize this. I mean - define it this way if you want. Go ahead. But then the term "libertarian" becomes meaningless and indistinguishable from "classical liberal".

- Further findings regarding life on Mars. Very important stuff, if not entirely conclusive yet.

- Mark Thoma at The Huffington Post explaining why it is so essential for economics programs to place more emphasis economic history again. I couldn't agree more. My dream job would just be to be an economic historian. Unfortunately, that's a fairly restrictive skill set with restricted employment options so it's better left as a hobby and personal interest I think.

- Another sad example of moderates being dismissed by extremists.


  1. On the Arnold Kling thing - perhaps I'm thinking about this wrong, but he seems to just be saying "libertarians are non-utilitarians". That's kind of what it boils down to.

    Is that really a helpful (much less accurate) definition?

  2. Depends on the libetarian; some are and some are not. Anyway, the only classical liberals left are libertarians, therefore...

  3. As far as I can tell, the reason anti-monopoly law was originally created was not as a means to help consumers, but as a means to protect competitors. For example, the Armour brand of products (whatever one thinks of their labor practices - and even if think they were terrible, they were a major employer of African-Americans, which annoyed Unionizers to no end) drove down prices dramatically on canned meats and increased quality at the same time, yet they were essentially a monopoly. Lots of monopolistic firms operated that way as best as I can tell.

  4. Anonymous -
    That's how they became monopolies, after all. Low prices, high quality, low labor costs. It's a recipe for success and a strong economy.

    On classical liberalism - I couldn't disagree with you more. Ultimately I think you're just getting into semantics. Lots of non-libertarians embrace the classical liberal creed whether you want to call it that or not. I have no idea why so many libertarians act like small children - claiming the "classical liberal" name as theirs and not letting anyone else share. The name is ultimately unimportant - what sad is that you seem to be completely missing the reality that there are so many other classical liberals out there.

    Why do they do this? I honestly don't understand. They absolutely hate it when anyone else calls themselves a classical liberal. They often hate it when anyone else calls themselves a "liberal" for the same reason, and they even occassionally complain when someone calls themselves a "progressive" because they think they're the only ones that are pursuing progress. I've never seen a group of people so wrapped up in labels and so unwilling to acknowledge common ground that they share with others. It's like they're in permanent combat mode.

  5. Libertarians have very little in common with other ideologies. For example, modern liberals and conservatives all support some form of mercantilism; that is an anathema to classical liberalism. Also, classical liberalism holds that rights are not derived from the state, but are part of the nature of human beings - this has been as far as I can tell largely rejected by liberals and conservatives. Thus I would argue that what these groups have done is to walk away from what made classical liberalism unique.

    It could of course be that the classical liberal agenda is incorrect; but groups which reject the principles of such are not classical liberals.


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