Tag Archives: economics

Solomon and Mann on Global Warming

Glenn Fox sent this out to the Free Market Environmentalist group on Facebook today. It’s an interchange by Lawrence Solomon and Michael Mann on global warming. It’s a fairly serious interchange. If anything, it confirms that consensus does not exist on the issue.

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Obama’s “Stimulus” Package

I felt like garbage much of yesterday. So I watched more TV than I usually do (I didn’t do laundry, that’s for sure!). During the twelve o’clock news I watched Barack Obama at a townhall meeting in Elkhart, Indiana push his stimulus plan estimated at over 800 billion dollars. It was really, really sad to watch. How depressing to see all of these false hopes bandied about willy-nilly, being received with a gleam in their eye from hard-working people who have no idea that they’re swallowing the biggest dupe in US economic history.
Professor Robert Barro teaches economics at Harvard University. Conor Clarke at The Atlantic recently did an interview with him where Barro called Obama’s stimulus package “the worst bill that has been put forward since the 1930s.” (HT: Justin Taylor).
I was home in Windsor this past weekend for my niece’s first birthday. One of the things I love about being home is sitting on my mother’s couch with the sun beaming through the windows with a cup of coffee and the Windsor Star newspaper in my hands. Saturday papers are great because they always have a column by the excellent Thomas Sowell. I don’t think that I’ve ever read something by the man without being in almost full agreement. His recent column on Obama’s stimulus plan, I think, explains clearly the stupidity of the whole thing (I could only find a link to the same column in the Washington Times). Sowell is a well-known author, columnist and fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.
Finally, how could I do a post about Obama’s 800 billion blow out without reference to Ron Paul – the guy who should be president. Here’s a YouTube video of Dr. Paul explaining why this package isn’t what many think it is and why it’s going to severely damage the US greenback. Hear Ron Paul:

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Gary North on John Robbins

I have long thought there to be an affinity between the late John Robbins and Gary North. Both are Calvinists interested in politics and economics. Both have a somewhat tenacious attitude (to quote Dr. North). I had no idea that the two of them worked together for Ron Paul.
Gary North offers some thoughts on their relationship after the death of Robbins this past summer.

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Vance: Does Capitalism Need Adjustment?

The Mises Institute’s latest Daily Article is “Does Capitalism Need Adjustment?” written by Laurence Vance. In the article he offers criticism of evangelical theologian Roger Olson’s book How To Be An Evangelical Without Being Conservative which offers a Rawlsian view of limited but active government.
Vance argues that instead of criticism of capitalism, which is rampant in our day of government bailouts, we need a rigorous defense of capitalism. I couldn’t agree more. And I hope someone does it and fast!

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If Gilles Duceppe was Frederic Bastiat, I’d Vote Bloc

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Walter Block on Free Market Environmentalism

Thanks to Brandon for offering a link in a comment on an earlier post on free market environmentalism. The link is to a YouTube video of Walter Block discussing the relationship between the environment and economics. Check it out:

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Market and the Environment

Two side interests of mine over the past number of years have been economics and environmental issues. In my mind, both fall under the rubrick of Genesis 1:26 and the command to humans to have stewardship over the earth. What’s sad is that often economics, especially the free market variety, and the environment fail to cohere in an amicable way. That’s why I have been excited to read about “free market environmentalism.” This may sould like a contradiction in terms, but I think that if you were to delve deeper into the subject you’ll see that the two fit together quite snugly.
Check out libertarian writer Walter Block’s “Environmentalism and Economic Freedom” hosted at the Mises Institute’s website. It gives you a taste.
Another good resource is the University of Guelph’s Food, Agriculture and Resource Economics group, in particular the writings by Glenn Fox – a self-styled “free market environmentalist.”
See also this interview with Ron Paul who ran for the Republicans in their primary last year:

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Francis Wayland – Classical Liberal?

One of the great things about studying history is seeing when a figure that you admire shares similar views on subjects other than what he is known for. Francis Wayland is one of the great American Baptists who upheld liberty of conscience when it came to religious conviction, was a supporter of the mission movement and wrote against slavery (for more on Wayland, see Dr. Haykin’s post). It therefore should come as no surprise that his political views run along the same lines. My friend Mark has a seven-point summary of Wayland’s views on private property.

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Doug Jones and Capitalism

Douglas Jones is an author that I like to keep my eye on – who could forget his hilarious The Mantra of Jabez? It’s a genius satire of The Prayer of Jabez. His contributions to the church are significant. For instance, the work he has done on the apologetic front, bringing the Christian worldview to bear on forms of unbelief has been helpful in my own theological development.

Jones is a pastor at Christ Church, Moscow, Idaho, the same one Doug Wilson pastors. He is also a Senior Fellow at New St. Andrew’s College, oversees the Sabbath House and editorial director of Canon Press.
Recently, Jones started blogging at Scribblative Agincourting, and I must say, that I have been surprised at some of what he has written. Jones has long had association with the newer wave of Christian Reconstruction, a part of which is the philosophy of libertarian economics and political thought. Reading his blog, one sees a certain shift in Jones’ thought. Although I’m not sure if it’s necessarily a shift in the wrong direction.
Whether one agrees with Jones’ shift, he definitely gives pause for thought. He is an insightful writer, who pulls no punches, yet shows balance and conviction in his expression. Personally, as one with libertarian leanings, I find a lot that I agree with in Jones (it strikes me that he’s critical of conservatism more than he is of libertarianism). Whether he is a libertarian or not, he is worth listening to. This is why I’m posting links to some of his posts and the discussion that followed as a result:
I’ll start with the post that has sparked a small controversy in the blogosphere:
And the responses by Andrew Sandlin and David Bahnsen
And here is Jones’ recent response to Bahnsen.
It may be worth noting that Doug Wilson is slowly posting his way through Schneider’s book himself.

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Windsor Liberty Seminar Report

Sadly I had to miss the Windsor Liberty Seminar held at the University of Windsor last Saturday, but I am thankful to my friend and fellow member of Grace Baptist Church, Codex Markianus, for giving us the scoop. The three speakers at the event were Fred McMahon, Jan Narveson and Bruce Walker. It was hosted by the Institute for Liberal Studies. I had a good time preaching in Toronto, however, and am thankful to the Lord for that.
Check out his very thorough review of the three lectures here. I hope Mark scored me some free stuff!

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Markets and Miracles

At the Evangelical Outpost there is an interesting article called Markets and Miracles that discusses the roll of God in relation to market control. Here’s a key quote:

Progressives, fearing that no one is in control and that powerful will take
advantage of the weak, believe the state must step in to prevent inequitable and
unjust outcomes. Conservatives (as we would define them today), by contrast, put
their faith in the system itself and believe that left unhindered by the state,
is sufficient to lead to the best possible end result. Libertarians, who view
markets as morally neutral, contend that the individual, when allowed total
liberty, will usher in the ideal end state. While all of these positions have
some merit, they all ultimately fail when they leave out the most significant
reason for putting our trust in the markets: because all control ultimately
belongs to God.

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Windsor Liberty Seminar

The Institute for Liberal Studies will be hosting the annual Windsor Liberty Seminar at the University of Windsor on March 15, 2008 between 9:30am – 4pm. It will be held in the CAW Student Centre – the ironies I’ll hold off from pointing out. For more information contact info@liberalstudies.ca.

Speakers:
Dr. Jan Narveson (University of Waterloo) – Revitalizing Liberalism
Bruce Walker (Mackinac Centre for Public Policy) – Renting Your Land From the Government: The Property Rights Battle
Fred McMahon (The Fraser Institute) – The Effects and Mysteries of Economic Freedom

Afterparty at Phog featuring music by Lindy! and Wax Mannequin.

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Libertarian Links

Here are some things on libertarianism that have appeared on blogs I frequent:
Doug Wilson offers some positive thoughts on Presidential hopeful (emphasis on hope) Ron Paul. See here for reasons why not to vote Huckabee.
Justin Taylor offers a four part interview series with Robert P. George who teaches jurisprudence at Princeton Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4.

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Is Capitalism Immoral?

In 1957 William Henry Chamberlain penned a helpful piece for The Freeman called “The Morality of Capitalism.” Although it’s a bit dated, it is worth reading. Not much has changed in fifty-years.

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Capitalism and Pseudo-capitalism

My friend Mark posted a helpful comment on my previous post about fair trade and I thought I would put it up here for all to read. I think he is right when he says that most socialists who hate capitalism are actually opposed to “pseudo-capitalism.” Thanks Mark!
Woah, do you realize that you’ve played hackey-sack with a “fair trade” hackey sack? :)What I’ve found is that the term they use to describe what they do (namely ‘fair trade’) is loaded and sort of making a moral judgement about some of the dynamics. And yes, that moral judgement is based firmly on socialist economics.I’m reading “Capitalism and Freedom” by Milton Friedman. Pretty good stuff so far! I think I’m going to read that and also “Libertarianism” by Hospers and then decide once and for all whether I’m totally comfortable with giving myself the label “libertarian”. I’m probably more comfortable with it than any other political label, though. So in that sense I’m sort of already libertarian. I’m definately not a socialist nor a communist. I’m definately a capitalist and I think some of the common complaints “against” capitalism are actually complaints about pseudo-capitalism. Often, what we see, is not really pure capitalism (because that would be a little too ‘free’ for some peoples likings). Radical capitalism could lead to radical freedom in certain senses, and that scares many people. So, in many senses, pure capitalism has only been around only as much as the powers that be have allowed it, which depending on the place and time may not even be very often. I believe the classical use of the terms “liberal” and conservative” are pretty good, but I’ve never associated myself with modern liberalism, and I’m increasingly distancing myself from much of what passes for “conservative” now-a-days. As loudly as the pundits harp on the other side, I think the real difference in political philosophy between a typical conservative and a typical liberal today is quite small. Yes, there may be differences on an isolated moral stand or two, but those are exceptions to a general agreement in philosophy (once some of the differences in partisan lingos are overcome). This sort of thing is to be expected when votes, not principles, are what drive a campaign.You said: “..you cannot legislate morality”.Sheesh! What were you thinking when you said this..If our government doesn’t ingrain morality into our society, who will??? Let me guess, you’re thinking of something crazy like: The church, or the parents?

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The Fairness of Fair Trade

I don’t at all doubt the good intentions of those who promote the use of fair trade products, such as tea, coffee, clothing, etc. But as an ethical question, is fair trade really that fair? According to an article by Leo McKinstry in the British periodical The Spectator, the answer is no. In The Iniquities of Fair Trade (April 2005) McKinstry makes the point that “there is nothing particularly fair about ‘fair trade.'”
An enlightening quote that demonstrates his assertion concerns the actual impact of fair trade market values on the very farmers they are hoping to aid:
Because fair trade subsidies ignore market realities and guarantee prices, they encourage overproduction of certain goods, just as the wretched Common Agricultural Policy has done in the European Union. In the coffee market — where the British fair traders are most active — the central problem at present is oversupply, which has forced down prices. So by propping up unwanted production the fair traders are actually driving down prices even further, which increases the economic damage to farmers and workers. It is especially misguided for fair traders to underwrite inefficiencies and poor quality, when the major, low-cost, highly mechanised plantations of Brazil and Vietnam or the specialised, high-quality farms of Central America can meet the world’s coffee demands so much more effectively. Campaigners would do better to encourage inefficient, small-scale coffee producers, especially in Africa, to diversify into other areas.
People have failed to realise that you cannot legislate morality, and when the European Union has set regulations in place informing buyers who they can and can’t buy from they are in effect harming both the farmers and the consumer.
What is interesting to note is that the fair trade advocates are generally of a more socialist or left-wing perspective. This means that they are against a market driven economy. The irony is that they have to utilise the very market they are against to promote fair trade wares.
Another helpful article, that places the fair trade trend in perspective is Katharine Winans Fair Trades Dirty Secret hosted at Lew Rockwell’s site.

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Henry Hazlitt on Frederic Bastiat

Bastiat the Great
By Henry Hazlitt

Frédéric Bastiat was born at Bayonne, France, on June 29, 1801. His father was a wholesale merchant, but Frédéric was orphaned at the age of nine and was brought up by his grandfather and his aunt.
He seems to have had a good, though not an extraordinary education, which included languages, music, and literature. He began the study of political economy at nineteen and read principally Adam Smith and Jean-Baptiste Say.
Bastiat’s early life, however, was not primarily that of a scholar. At the age of seventeen he went to work in his uncle’s counting-house and spent about six years there. Then he inherited his grandfather’s farm at Mugron and became a farmer. He was locally active politically, becoming a juge de paix in 1831 and a member of the conseil genéral of the Landes in 1832.
Bastiat lived in a revolutionary period. He was fourteen when Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo and exiled to St. Helena. He lived through the Revolution of 1830. But what first inspired his pamphleteering activity was his interest in the work of Cobden and the English Anti-Corn-Law League against protection. In 1844 he rose to immediate prominence with the publication of his article on “The Influence of French and English Tariffs on the Future of the Two Peoples” in the Journal des économistes.
Then began the outpouring of a brilliant series of articles, pamphlets, and books that did not cease till his premature death in 1850. There came first of all the first series of Sophismes économiques, then the various essays and the second series of Sophismes, and finally, in the last year of his life, the Harmonies économiques.
But the list of Bastiat’s writings in this short span of six years does not begin to measure his activities. He was one of the chief organizers of the first French Free Trade Association at Bordeaux; he became secretary of a similar organization formed in Paris; he collected funds, edited a weekly journal, addressed meetings, gave lecture courses — in brief, he poured out his limited energies unsparingly in all directions. He contracted a lung infection. He could breathe and nourish himself only with difficulty. Finally, too late, his ill-health forced him to Italy, and he died at Rome, at the age of forty-nine, on Christmas Eve, 1850.
It is ironic that the work which Bastiat considered his masterpiece, the Harmonies économiques that cost him so much to write, did far more to hurt his posthumous reputation than to help it. It has even become a fashion for some economists to write about Bastiat patronizingly or derisively. This fashion reaches a high point in an almost contemptuous one-page notice of Bastiat in the late Joseph A. Schumpeter’s History of Economic Analysis. “It is simply the case,” writes the latter, “of the bather who enjoys himself in the shallows and then goes beyond his depth and drowns…. I do not hold that Bastiat was a bad theorist. I hold that he was no theorist.”
It is not my purpose here to discuss the theories of the Economic Harmonies. That is done very competently by Dean Russell in the introduction to the new translation of the Harmonies published simultaneously with this new translation of the Sophisms. But there is a germ of truth in Schumpeter’s comment, and we can acknowledge this candidly and still see the much greater truth about Bastiat that Schumpeter missed. It is true that Bastiat, even in the Sophisms, made no great original contribution to abstract economic theory. His analysis of errors rested in the main on the theory he had acquired from Smith, Say, and Ricardo. The shortcomings of this theory often made his exposures of fallacies less cogent and convincing than they otherwise might have been. The discerning reader of the Sophisms will notice, for example, that Bastiat never shook off the classic cost-of-production theory of value, or even the labor theory of value, though his total argument is often inconsistent with these theories. But, then, no other economist of Bastiat’s time (with the exception of the neglected German, von Thünen) had yet discovered marginal or subjective value theory. That was not to be expounded until some twenty years after Bastiat’s death.
Schumpeter’s judgment of Bastiat is not only ungenerous but unintelligent, and for the same reason that it is unintelligent to deride an apple tree for not bearing bananas. Bastiat was not primarily an original economic theorist. What he was, beyond all other men, was an economic pamphleteer, the greatest exposer of economic fallacies, the most powerful champion of free trade on the European Continent. Even Schumpeter (almost in a slip of the pen) concedes that if Bastiat had not written the Economic Harmonies, “his name might have gone down to posterity as the most brilliant economic journalist who ever lived.” What the “might have” is doing here I do not know. It has so gone down.
And this is no mean achievement, nothing to be treated patronizingly. Economics is pre-eminently a practical science. It does no good for its fundamental principles to be discovered unless they are applied, and they will not be applied unless they are widely understood. In spite of the hundreds of economists who have pointed out the advantages of free markets and free trade, the persistence of protectionist illusions has kept protectionist and price-fixing policies alive and flourishing even today in most countries of the world. But anyone who has ever read and understood Bastiat must be immune to the protectionist disease, or the illusions of the Welfare State, except in a very attenuated form. Bastiat killed protectionism and socialism with ridicule.
His chief method of argument was the method of exaggeration. He was the master of the reductio ad absurdum. Someone suggests that the proposed new railroad from Paris to Madrid should have a break at Bordeaux. The argument is that if goods and passengers are forced to stop at that city, it will be profitable for boatmen, porters, hotelkeepers and others there. Good, says Bastiat. But then why not break it also at Angouléme, Poitiers, Tours, Orleans, and, in fact, at all intermediate points? The more breaks there are, the greater the amount paid for storage, porters, extra cartage. We could have a railroad consisting of nothing but such gaps — a negative railroad!
Are there various other proposals to discourage efficiency, in order to create more jobs? Good, says Bastiat. Let’s petition the king to forbid people from using their right hands, or maybe even have them chopped off. Then it will require more than twice as many people, and twice as many jobs, to get the same work done (assuming consumption is the same).
But Bastiat’s supreme jest was the petition of the candlemakers and their allied industries for protection against the unfair competition of the sun. The Chamber of Deputies is asked to pass a law requiring the closing of all windows, dormers, skylights, outside shutters, inside shutters, and all openings, holes, chinks, and fissures by which the light of the sun can enter houses. The blessings that will result from this, in an increased business for the candlemakers and their associates, are then all solemnly itemized, and the argument conducted according to the recognized principles of all protectionist arguments.
The petition of the candlemakers is devastating. It is a flash of pure genius, a reductio ad absurdum that can never be exceeded, sufficient in itself to assure Bastiat immortal fame among economists.
But Bastiat had more than scintillating wit and felicity of expression. His logic, too, was powerful. Once he had grasped and explained a principle, he could put the argument in so many lights and forms as to leave no one an excuse for missing or evading it. Again and again he shows the fallacies that grow out of exclusive concern with the problems of individual producers. He keeps pointing out that consumption is the end of all economic activity, and production merely the means, and that the sacrifice of the consumer’s interest to that of the producer is “the sacrifice of the end to the means.”
If at least some of us see some of these truths more clearly today, we owe a large part of our clear-sightedness to Frédéric Bastiat. He was one of the earliest economists to attack the fallacies not only of protection but of socialism. He was answering socialist fallacies, in fact, long before most of his contemporaries or successors thought them even worthy of attention. I have not said much here about his refutations of socialist arguments, because these refutations occur rather in the Essays and in the Harmonies than in the Sophisms; but they constitute a very important part of his contribution.
Bastiat is accused of being a propagandist and a pleader, and he was. It was unfortunate that for so long he stood alone, while other “orthodox” economists refrained from criticizing socialism or defending capitalism for fear of losing their reputations for “scientific impartiality,” and so left the field entirely to the socialist and communist agitators who were less timorous in this respect.
We could use more Bastiats today. We have, in fact, desperate need of them. But we have, thank Heaven, Bastiat himself, in a new translation; and the reader of these pages will not only still find them, as Cobden did, “as amusing as a novel,” but astonishingly modern, for the sophisms he answers are still making their appearance, in the same form and almost in the same words, in nearly every issue of today’s newspapers.

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Free Books

That title ought to get your attention, if you’re like me that is. But no, sadly, Amazon.com is not giving away free books. Rather, there is a helpful website I wanted to bring to your attention. It doesn’t mail you free books (how great would that be?), but allows you to download pdf’s of good books. Of course, your friendly theonomist, Gary North, runs the site. It’s a treasure trove of good stuff (with the odd bad). I was chatting with my friend Scott about it, and thought I’d post, just so he wouldn’t forget.
I personally enjoyed the following books from this site (not that I endorse everything about the site or their books!):
Marx’s Religion of Revolution – Gary North. An excellent, excellent study of the life and thought of Karl Marx. A must read if you’re interested in that kinda thing.
Introduction to Christian Economics – Gary North. I think that North is at his strongest on economic issues, as he is a trained economist. A very helpful book.
Productive Christians in an Age of Guilt Manipulators – a critique of Ron Sider. This is a classic.
Trial and Error – George Grant. Against the ACLU – you gotta love that.
Killer Angel – George Grant. A biography of Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood.
By This Standard – Greg Bahnsen. While I am not a theonomist, I do have sympathies. I don’t agree with everything in this book, but I do find it very helpful in many ways.
Bringin in the Sheaves – George Grant. A book on the Christian response to poverty. Very thought provoking.
An absolutely horrific book (and introduction) on this site, whose spirit I definitely don’t endorse, even though I’m not a Keynesian is Hodge’s Baptised Inflation. They take Doug Vickers to task on his economic theory. It is a disgusting book that drags Vickers through the mud. It should not have been written by Christians. Sad.
Also available are a number of different newsletters and periodicals done by North, et. al.
To be able to view the documents, you have to first download DjVu, a link is provided on the site. In all honesty, it’s been a while since I’ve downloaded anything from here, so I can’t guarantee that all of the links work. It’s a trial and error thing I guess.

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Windsor Liberty Seminar – March 24, 2007


Sadly, I won’t be able to make it down for the upcoming Windsor Liberty Seminar. I wasn’t even sure if they were doing it this year, so I didn’t set the time aside this month for it. If it is anything like last year’s event, it is sure to be great.

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Milton Friedman Died

Economist Milton Friedman died yesterday at the age of 94. I thought I would share a story that I received in my email by Walter Block about some things not everyone knows about Friedman.

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