P. J. O’Rourke

May 28, 2009

I don't link to many videos, but this one deserves an exception.

Best take yet on the Times reporter with the subprime mortgage

May 28, 2009

From Roissy

Sentence of the day

May 28, 2009

From Professor Kling:

Of course, if the real goal is to promote government at the expense of civil society and to create a one-party state in which business success is based on political favoritism, then the stimulus is working exactly as intended.

Treasuries, the Fed and inflation

May 28, 2009

Good thoughts here.  Of course, I've been happy to see the recent moves, since I'm short long-dated treasuries.

Great quote

May 27, 2009

From Chronicles:

Your republic will be as fearfully plundered and laid waste by barbarians in the twentieth century as the Roman Empire was in the fifth; with this difference; that the Huns and Vandals who ravaged the Roman Empire came from without and your Huns and Vandals will have been engendered within your own country, by your own institutions. —Thomas B. Macaulay

Modern academia

May 25, 2009

One can learn a lot about the research methods of the modern economics profession in the comments of this post.  I must say that I love this line: "And cold weather has never been a problem with our O-rings. I'm an engineer. Inductive data doesn't impress me."  I often get in long discussions with economics PhDs at work and our disagreements seem to always come back to this point.  Perhaps those of us who were trained as engineers will always come back to problem of designing systems that have to function in the real world.

How regulatory decisions are made 101

May 25, 2009

At least in the financial world, the regulators just ask the banks how they want to be regulated.

Why isn’t this common sense?

May 25, 2009

Thoughts on reasoning versus trial and error:

This insistence on finding optimal theories a priori through reasoning is, in my belief, antithetical to actual progress in most areas.  The world is a messy, complex place, and in general it is far better to go try something out, from which you can learn, and which can always be revised, than to sit around trying to perfect it and convince other people of its perfection.  While I am not much of a scholar on Austrian economics, my understanding is that Hayek saw part of the advantage of a free market as allowing decentralized learning through experimentation.

And this is why I favor markets for huge problems like governments and banking which currently face poor incentives and undergo little learning. There is no need to figure out a priori which system is the best.

The depression that wasn’t

May 25, 2009

"Harding did what Hoover is supposed to have done, reducing taxes and government expenditure. By 1923 the recession was over. It was the Great Depression that didn't happen."  Read it all here.

Albert Jay Nock

May 22, 2009

A nice, but flawed article on Nock by Mr Goldberg. First the good:

Nock was born in 1870, which he believed was as good a year as any to mark the beginning of the end of civilization. . . .

He took pride in the fact that he was merely reminding those willing to be reminded that whatever is fashionable and new in the ideas of men is little more than a rebranding effort. We may change the wardrobe of humanity, but not its nature. And yet, to Nock’s exasperation, humanity’s innate folly is the belief that the clothes will somehow remake the man.

And the bad:

And that is why the Right is in so much better shape than it was during Nock’s time, even as liberals are mounting a statist revival. Yes, statism is on the march again, but anti-statism isn’t an amusing pursuit for cape-wearing exotics like Nock anymore; it is the animating spirit of institutions launched and nourished by lovers of liberty. Retreating into the Nockian cocoon of the good life may be appealing, but it is morally defensible only if creeping collectivism is impervious to resistance.

Really? The Right is in better shape, by what measure? The size of government has increased dramatically. Failures of government intervention are still seen as failures of freedom even as society becomes ever less free. Even when the Right manages to temporarily roll-back creeping statism, its victories are temporary – changes are never such that government’s form is changed or its powers are lessened.

Mr Goldberg concludes that Nock was incorrect in his assessments. I don’t see how Nock could have been more correct. I don’t think anything about today’s society or form of government would surprise him.

I look forward to reading the other essays mentioned in the article (here and here).

Update: I have one more quibble. Mr Goldberg says Nock is not an anarchist. I’m not sure he’s easy to classify (a good place to start might be here). If he’s not an anarchist, he’s close:

What completely vitiates Mr. Hayek’s work, Mr. Eric Johnston’s, and a whole shoal of others, is that they concede a small and strictly limited measure of State intervention — a sort of five-percent Statism. Apparently, like Mr. Shaw, these writers never heard of the Law of Parsimony, and have no idea of what it can do. If they had even considered the history of this country’s twenty-five years’ experience under the Income Tax Amendment, they would begin to see the reason why their notion is as absurd as the notion of a small and strictly limited implantation of tuberculosis, syphilis, or cancer.