Thursday, February 27, 2020

Pathologists Debunk 13 Coronavirus Myths

The coronavirus, now known as COVID-19, originated in Wuhan, China, and has spread to at least 26 other countries.

Here is some sound background information on the virus from Syra Madad, the senior director of the NYC Health + Hospitals System-wide Special Pathogens Program, and Stephen Morse, a professor of epidemiology at Columbia University, debunked 13 of the most common myths about the coronavirus.



-RW

Are Rising Oceans an Existential Threat?


By Dom Armentano

An important part of the climate change debate is that the thermal heating of the oceans and the increased melting of land-based glacial ice will lead to higher sea levels that will seriously threaten some coastal communities.  Cities such as Miami have been urged to make substantial infrastructure investments in order to help mitigate the future costs of increased ocean flooding.

The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) of the United Nations concludes that ocean levels could rise between 2 and 3 feet by 2100. A similar report in 2017 from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)  suggests that the “global mean sea level” increase could be as much as 6 to 8 feet by the end of this century. Al Gore, in his 2006 book “An Inconvenient Truth,” famously opined that increased global warming might well produce a 20 foot increase in ocean levels sometime “in the near future.”  And as the climate continues to warm—from the increased burning of fossil fuels presumably—these forecasts can sound alarming.

Satellite laser altimeter readings since 1993 and older tide gauge measurements all appear to confirm that global sea levels have risen by roughly .12  inches per year for several decades. If the rate of increase remains steady, 12 years from now by 2032--when some politicians claim that climate warming could well push the planet beyond the point of no return--ocean levels will have risen approximately 1.25 inches above where they are today.  And eighty years from now, at the turn of the next century,  sea levels would be about a foot or so higher than they are at the moment. 

 Admittedly any acceleration in  global warming could make all of these numbers higher (and an abatement of some warming could make these numbers lower) but even an unlikely doubling of ocean level outcomes by 2100 would still leave sea heights well short of a 2 foot increase. 

Whether these projected increases are troubling or not is far from obvious, however.  The general consensus among climatologists is that there is substantial risk that rising ocean levels in the near future will spill over and flood coastal properties and force substantial migrations of people along the coast to move further inland.  Wouldn’t it  be prudent, then, to impose carbon taxes (to cut emissions) and implement various coastal regulations in order to mitigate these inevitable property and migration costs? 

The answer to these questions  by some economists and climate skeptics is: It all depends.   After all,  any substantial increase in sea levels must occur in discrete, fairly small marginal increments (roughly one/eighth of an inch per year) over many decades;  this would give society a reasonable amount of time to observe, to plan and to adjust.   Investing or regulating now for something that may or may not happen many decades from now can be just as risky (costly) as doing nothing.  In addition, it is difficult to argue that the 3 inch increase in ocean levels predicted to occur over the next 24 years will produce calamity when  ocean levels have risen nearly that much since 1930  without any radical societal disruption.

The carbon tax issue is even more ambiguous.  First, despite the media reporting, there is still serious debate over whether carbon dioxide, a relatively minor greenhouse gas (.042% by volume),  contributes significantly to global warming. Second, absent some world-wide enforceable agreement, carbon taxes in the U.S. would accomplish only some de minimus reduction in total emissions.  If the oceans are rising, carbon taxes in the U.S. are not  a politically attractive or even practical short-term solution.

But are the ocean levels even rising? Some climate skeptics, such as  Niles-Axel Morner, the former head of the Paleogeophysics  Department at Stockholm University, have long maintained that while sea levels certainly have been variable over the last 50  years, there has been no significant upward trend. Professor Morner holds that laser measurements from satellites have failed adequately to take into account important solar and planetary forces that systematically overstate actual ocean heights.

 Moreover,  Morner has published empirical evidence (International Journal of Earth and Environmental Sciences, 2017) that concludes-- based on his study of sea levels in the Fiji Islands--that there are “no traces of (a) present rise in sea levels; on the contrary, full stability.” And while Morner’s theories have been criticized,  his unique observational data appears to support the notion that the risk of any doomsday coastal flooding due to global warming may be overstated.

 Morner aside, what if anything, should be done about the alleged threat posed by higher ocean levels?   One proposal, consistent with a free market approach to the problem,  would be to swiftly terminate certain government programs (below cost insurance) that create perverse incentives to build and then re-build coastal properties.  Another would be to err on the side of caution and fortify several U.S. nuclear plants which may be especially vulnerable  to ocean flooding.  However,  the enactment of carbon taxes in the U.S. (but not in the rest of the world) or proposals to invest in expensive flood-abatement programs in major coastal cities does not seem warranted.

Dom Armentano is professor emeritus in economics at the University of Hartford in Connecticut.  This article first appeared in Vero Beach 32963.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

EU Warns: Italy's Debt Puts It On the Edge


Risks to Italy's ability to refinance its mountain of debt in the medium to long term are “high,” the EU’s executive arm, the European Commission said in a report.

“The large size of Italy’s public debt makes investors very sensitive to perceived risks,” according to the report.

“The need to roll over sizable amounts of debt, at around 20% of GDP per year, still exposes Italy’s public finances to sudden rises in financial markets’ risk aversion,” the commission said. “High debt-servicing costs also reduce the fiscal space to implement growth-enhancing and countercyclical policies.”

Italy’s debt ratio is close to 140% of GDP, the highest in the euro area after Greece, according to Bloomberg news.

-RW

Why Should We Consider Dead Economists?

Ludwig von Mises
By Jeff Deist


I. Introduction

What a wonderful gathering of students today, on this impressive and beautiful campus. We can see why Hans Sennholz loved this place, and why Drs. Herbener and Ritenour so enjoy living and teaching here. You are all too young to serve as the "remnant," so we will consider you the vanguard instead. I'm always impressed by young people with an interest in serious scholarship and ideas, who have the intellect to read 900-page books. We are told nobody reads anymore, and certainly not dense tomes about economic theory, but this raises a question: are the rare people who do read such books likely to be more important or less important in the future? I suspect the former.  
Imagine how pleased Ludwig von Mises would be by this conference today, to know people still find his work vital and relevant nearly half a century after his death. He is far better known today, and far more widely read, than during his lifetime. And most of his important works today are available in multiple languages, online, free and instantly to anyone around the world. What more could any important thinker want? 
There is a wonderful French expression, élan vital, which technically translates to "vital impulse" or "vital force" in English. The early twentieth-century French philosopher Henri Bergson developed the term to describe the creative force within an organism which drives growth, change, and desirable adaptation. Professor Mises liked it so much that he discussed it toward the end of Human Action, to make the broader point that human history is not deterministic, that individuals acting purposefully and willfully could change their fortunes. In other words, human volition trumps fate. We are all possessed of at least some measure of our own élan vital.
Now for some reason, dead philosophers get a lot more respect than dead economists! Maybe this is because philosophy seems ancient and timeless, suited to the human experience across any age. 

II.   Dead Economists vs. Presentism

But if Bergson's vital force moves us inexorably forward, why study dead economists at all? What can an economist like Mises, born in the late nineteenth century into a vastly different world, teach us today? Why in the world should a group of young students gather in Grove City, Pennsylvania, in 2020, to consider a school of economics with roots in Habsburg-era Vienna? 
These are fair questions, given the relentless doctrine of “presentism” which dominates everything in our culture today today. Presentism is the ahistorical and arrogant insistence on interpreting past events, historical figures, and existing bodies of knowledge by the supposedly enlightened standard of our time—standards which shift so rapidly that today’s wokest enforcers are tomorrow’s victims of the mob.
Presentism is at the core of the progressive worldview, which insists the past is always retrograde, the present is always better but still deeply imperfect, and the future has an ultimately happy deterministic arc. It is one manifestation of the hubris which comes from imagining we live in a unique time, and a uniquely enlightened time.
Presentism is the hallmark of the imagined economics smart set: the Paul Krugmans, Christine Lagardes, Thomas Pikettys, Noah Smiths, and Benyamin Appelbaums of today. The economics they advocate—mostly in blogs, social media, financial news shows, or pop books, and never in treatises—is sui generis, unique to them. It’s their own economics, created out of whole cloth by them individually, supposedly scientific and brand new, to suit today’s world. It’s a New Economics for 2020. And of course they all insist they’re merely following and interpreting the data, going where it takes them. After all, they're scientists! 
But exactly what theory or education or discipline do they apply to that data? Is it really economics?
Of course we know there is no New Economics any more than there is new physics or new calculus. There are advances and discoveries in economic science, and there are new technologies which of course have an enormous effect on economies. But economics is, and always will be, about human action in the context of choice, scarcity, opportunity cost, and subjective measures of value.  
It’s no secret where these economists and professors and New York Times pundits get their views, even if they don’t have much of a sense of their place in the field. And why should they? It’s entirely possible to obtain a PhD in economics without taking a single course in the history of economic thought. Their economics represent warmed-over Marx, or Keynes, or John Kenneth Galbraith, or Paul Samuelson, though they rarely mention these names. They don't announce themselves as neo-Keynesians, or Samuelsonites, or as advancing the views of any dead economist—because presentism makes that unthinkable. They are their own economists!
But it turns out their ideas and policy ideas aren't new at all. It’s all about demand, demand, demand, whether from workers or shoppers or homebuyers or restaurant diners or students paying $40,000 for a year of college. Every economic policy they conjure, whether fiscal or monetary, comes down to one goal: stimulating demand, encouraging all of us to want to borrow more and spend more. That’s it. All of their modern economic theories come down to consumption über alles. That’s how the modern profession thinks we create an economy. 
Austrian economists, by contrast, often tend to preface every argument with a reference back to the old masters like Mises or Hayek, as though there is only old economics. It's a marketing problem in a world of presentism! Are modern Austrians simply less egotistical than their peers, and thus attempt to provide support and foundation for their work? Do they simply recognize economics is built on an edifice of previous knowledge which can’t be thrown out with the bathwater at every new crisis? 
But this goes against the grain, because “everybody knows” those old Austrian theories no longer apply in our digital age. Hubris is the order of our day, not the humility of a cautious and circumspect social scientist engaged in truth seeking.

III. How Economics Lost Its Way

So why indeed should we consider dead economists? The answer, of course, is that they still have something to tell us about the world and how it works, that their work forms the foundation from which today’s analysis should begin. Something the Krugmans and Pikettys, always shooting from the hip and following the data wherever it goes, cannot provide.
In fact, from what I can tell most economists don’t concern themselves much at all with finding truth or helping us better understand the world. Their focus is not on serving humanity by working to increase our wealth and happiness. From my perspective economics exists mostly to provide sinecures for people whose chief concern is whether a tiny group of their peers think they’re smart. 
Somewhere along the way, economics stopped attempting to serve humanity by making us happier, healthier, and wealthier. Somewhere along the way, economics became a discipline of hyperspecialized technicians, of statistics and data and models. Somewhere along the way, economics got small. It lost its élan​ vital.
So what happened? In a sense economics simply succumbed to the ugly hubris of our day.
The mood in the West is not friendly to intellectuals, much less dead intellectuals. We prefer social media and short videos to books and lectures. We want journalism to provide entertainment, to match our short attention spans. We want someone to curate and provide us with easily digestible information and news, rather than seeking original sources for ourselves. We don’t have time for context or nuance. With limited knowledge of history, we tend to fetishize new over old, modernity over tradition, and data over theory. In our self-regard we imagine ourselves in a new era, where old knowledge and wisdom no longer apply. 
But we imagine this at our own peril. The accelerating pace of technology lulls us into believing human development is linear. Technology, not dusty old ideas from another century, seems the primary driver of change. But technology can’t answer the age-old question of whether humans choose compulsion or cooperation: it cannot create a “third way” between market and state. Ideas still rule the world, but sometimes we mistake new technology for new ideas.
All of the exciting developments seem to abound only in the physical sciences. Quantum mechanics promises to dramatically increase computing power. Physicists and engineers make the possibility of affordable private space travel closer to reality every day. Advances in artificial intelligence, computer science, and information technology promise to radically alter our physical world through an emerging Internet of Things. If there’s one thing that still excites the Western imagination, it is the possibility of radical advances in technology—all due, at least in large part, to advances and applications in the physical sciences.   
By contrast, the social sciences and humanities are moribund, reduced to hyphenated studies and manufactured “intersectionality” disciplines. Academic work in the soft sciences is shrill and brittle, far more concerned with political and cultural crusades than teaching students or engaging in serious scholarship. Music, cinema, modern art, and literature suffer under the weight of their own pretensions and heavy-handed messaging. Historians whitewash history, English professors ignore English literature, and sociology devolves into a definitional science. Yale scraps art history. 
Then we have economics, the orphaned social science whose practitioners masquerade as data miners. Economics has become the unwitting younger cousin to math, statistics, and finance, which explains why so many universities have shunted it off onto their business schools. Empiricism, the jealous impulse to apply scientific methodology to problems of human action, insists that economists have value only to the extent that they successfully test and “prove” their hypotheses.  
As a result, economics has been corrupted into a predictive discipline which fails to correctly predict anything; into a prescriptive discipline which prescribes the wrong policies; and into an empirical discipline which collects data but misses the point.

IV. Why We Need Mises

This is exactly why we need Mises, who perhaps more than any economist of his time understood economics as a theoretical science. But readers of Mises appreciate not only the depth and breadth of his insights, but also the elegance of his language. Even writing in English, a language he adopted in middle age, Mises conveyed dense conceptual theories and big ideas with a vigorous style not normally associated with economists. Nothing in his writing is dry or technical. This is why, for example, opening Human Action to any random page can yield immediate benefits. To use an analogy from the days when music came on vinyl and compact discs, with songs in a particular order, there are no throwaway songs in Mises’s work.
Mises did not hesitate to borrow heavily from other fields in his writing, including history, sociology, and philosophy (especially epistemology and logic), always in the service of presenting economics holistically. His drive to understand the broader implications of human action and reason saved him from the kind of tunnel vision we see in academia today, where intersectionality—far from what its trendy name suggests—serves a narrow political purpose rather than the broader cause of advancing knowledge.
In this sense he demonstrated a characteristic humility, contrasted with the hubris displayed by so many brilliant academics: he understood his chosen profession as part of a larger human experience, rather than a self-serving body of knowledge with rigid boundaries to be guarded even as they continually bump up against other disciplines.
One great example of Mises’s wonderful use of language comes at the end of Human Action, in a typically ambitious chapter titled “Economics and the Essential Problems of Human Existence.” As usual, Mises’s syntax and diction hardly bring to mind a boring economics text:
Our “ineradicable craving” compels us to seek happiness, minimize discontent, and spend our lives “purposively struggling against the forces adverse to (us).”
“Civilization, it is said, makes people poorer, because it multiplies their wishes and does not soothe, but kindles, desires. All the busy doings and dealings of hard-working men, their hurrying, pushing, and bustling are nonsensical, for they provide neither happiness nor quiet.
Yet all such qualms, doubts, and scruples are subdued by the irresistible force of man's vital energy. As long as a man lives, he cannot help obeying the cardinal impulse, the élan vital.
Not the kind of stuff I remember from my undergraduate micro class!
Mises’s work exemplified the spirit and sense of life missing from economics today. We don’t revere dead economists to maintain their place in some academic hierarchy, or to satisfy an atavistic desire for an unchanging intellectual order. We revere them because their ideas still have purchase, because their work yields knowledge that is sorely needed today. We read them and promote them in order to understand the world as it is, filled with billions of purposeful but often irrational human actors. We need dead economists to save us from ourselves and to refute the stubborn myths of collectivism. We need them most of all because their work and their insights are far superior to those of most economists alive today. There is no New Economics, only new academic work which painstakingly advances the knowledge bequeathed to us.

V. Conclusion

Mises certainly lived his life with a certain quiet élan, even in the face of setbacks and slights that would enrage a lesser man. Through it all he maintained a quiet dignity and elegance reminiscent of Old Austria. Never giving up, never giving in, always turning to the next task with steady resolve, believing in his work when the world did not.
Of course Mises sometimes allowed himself to succumb to pessimism, which you know if you’ve read his memoirs. Anyone who lived through the Great War, who had to flee authoritarianism and uproot his life twice, who had to start over financially and otherwise in a new country, in a new language, who was treated so shabbily by the academic establishment, can be excused for this. 
We don't have that excuse. We have the full body of Mises's work to read and enjoy, to guide us in our thoughts and actions today. We can read more Mises in 2020, and less throwaway news and political commentary. His work inspires and engages us in ways that saturated social media outlets, lightweight editorialists, and maudlin self-help literature do not. Let’s face it: most articles, books, podcasts, and television shows today are not worthy of our time. Free online content is almost infinite today, but time surely is not. 
Yes, there are very dark clouds on the horizon. Liberalism, the good and true version, never fully took hold in the West. And it’s waning today. We shouldn't kid ourselves about this, or pretend otherwise. The West is politically illiberal today, and getting worse. But this does not counsel despair; it counsels us to summon our own sense of élan vital.

Jeff Deist is president of the Mises Institute. He previously worked as chief of staff to Congressman Ron Paul, and as an attorney for private equity clients

This article is excerpted from a talk delivered on February 22, 2020 at the Austrian Student Scholars Conference, hosted by Grove City College in Pennsylvania and first appeared online at Mises.org.
..g

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Warren Buffet Just Proved That He is an Ignoramus When It Comes to Economics

Billionaire Warren Buffett appeared Monday on CNBC.

At one point, he stated that some of the points made by socialist presidential candidate Bernie Sanders made sense because "too many people are being left behind."

Of course, he never focused on the many ways government regulations and taxes are hurting so many.

Though at one point he did point out the power of production, he quickly returned to advocating government interference and a give away program to lower incomes rather than freeing up individuals.

In other words, while an investment savant, Buffett does not appear to understand the power of free markets and incentives. He said, "We need more regulation." He has a shallow central planning mentality like so many. When it comes to economics he is just one of the masses in his thinking.



-RW

Tyler Cowen Warns: The Odds Are Rising That Supply Chains Could Collapse Because of the Coronavirus


The Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) is not under control, yet.

But the number of reported cases at the epicenter in China is falling.

President Trump is probably correct on this one:
That said, here is a commentary, by George Mason University professor Tyler Cowen on global supply chains, that helps to understanding what a worst-case scenario, where the globe is lit up by COVID-19, would look like:
The global supply chain, already under pressure from President Donald Trump’s trade war, now faces further strain from the coronavirus. And while cross-national supply chains are more robust than they may appear, if they fail they will do so suddenly and without much warning...

 Supply chains are not indestructible. If the new costs or risks are high enough, the entire structure will be dismantled. By their nature, supply chains do not fall apart slowly, because each part of the chain relies upon other parts to add its value. It does not help much to have the circuit components of the iPhone lined up, for instance, if you cannot also produce the glass screens. In this way, these supply chains are less robust under extreme conditions.

Global supply chains have yet to come apart mostly because trade and prosperity generally have been rising. But now, for the first time since World War II, the global economy faces the possibility of a true decoupling of many trade connections.

It is not sufficiently well understood how rapid that process could be...

The nature of the cross-national supply chain makes it especially vulnerable to shocks coming from the coronavirus. These supply chains do not adapt so well to complete cutoffs in materials or labor, as may happen if Chinese coronavirus casualties continue and workplaces find it hard to operate effectively.

Imagine that closed Chinese factories cannot produce the components of many American medicines. It is not a question of the supply chain simply losing some profits; rather, some critical pieces of the production process are missing. The medicines won’t work without these inputs. The U.S. medical establishment might try to source those components elsewhere, but it isn’t easy for other suppliers to produce enough of them at sufficient scale and quality.

U.S. medical producers might try to bid more for the Chinese medicine components, but if the workers are prohibited from even showing up at the factory, no feasible market clearing price can make this arrangement work. Production just won’t be possible. Fashionable practices of near-zero inventories can make these shortages appear all the more rapidly. About 80% of the active pharmaceutical ingredients in U.S. medicines rely on Chinese or Indian components, so this does represent a very real public health risk for the U.S., even if the coronavirus itself does not...

So far the best bet is that current international supply chains will hold, for the most part, and deliver the goods. But the chance that they will not is rising sharply, as both the trade war and the coronavirus strengthen the hand of those who advocate for more dismantling of international trade networks. And if that dismantling does occur, it is likely to snap into place suddenly — with neither market prices nor advance warning offering much protection.
In the EPJ Daily Alert, I am reporting that, at the margins, some supply chain problems are already developing. I am reporting in the ALERT that some Oakland shipping terminals operators are not accepting cargo ships from China. In addition, of course, much manufacturing in China and cargo loading in China has been stopped or slowed.

In the ALERT, I liken the situation, though it is likely short-term, to that of a kind-of anti-productivity environment.

Productivity gains out of China have played a significant role in keeping price inflation under control in the US. Supply chain disruptions will act in an anti-productivity manner to put upward pressure on prices.

-RW

Monday, February 24, 2020

Warren Buffett Slams Cryptocurrencies

During an interview this morning with Becky Quick on CNBC, billionaire financier Warren Buffett made clear that he would never own any cryptocurrencies.



He is a little bit confused in his attack, since paper money has no intrinsic value either, but his fundamental point is solid but he clearly doesn't understand the regression theorem.

-RW

The Confused Plastic Bag Haters



John Tierney has an important op-ed in The Wall Street Journal.

It savages the anti-plastic bag crowd.

More than 100 countries now restrict single-use plastic bags, and Pope Francis has called for global regulation of plastic. The European Parliament has voted to ban single-use plastic straws, plates and cutlery across the Continent next year. In the U.S., hundreds of municipalities and eight states—California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, New York, Oregon and Vermont—have outlawed or restricted single-use plastic bags. Greens in California are pushing a referendum to require all plastic packaging and single-use foodware in the state to be recyclable, and the European Union has unveiled a similar plan, notes Tierney.

But is there any sound logic behind these activist moves?

Tierney says "no" and here us why:
Popular misconceptions have sustained the plastic panic. Environmentalists frequently claim that 80% of plastic in the oceans comes from land-based sources, but a team of scientists from four continents reported in 2018 that more than half the plastic in the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” came from fishing boats—mostly discarded nets and other gear. Another study, published last year by Canadian and South African researchers, found that more than 80% of the plastic bottles that had washed up on the shore of Inaccessible Island, an uninhabited extinct volcano in the South Atlantic, originated in China. They must have been tossed off boats from Asia, the greatest source of what researchers call “mismanaged waste.”
Of the plastic carried into oceans by rivers, a 2017 study in Nature Communications estimated, 86% comes from Asia and virtually all the rest from Africa and South America. Some plastic in America is littered on beaches and streets, and winds up in sewer drains. But researchers have found that laws restricting plastic bags and food containers don’t reduce litter. The resources wasted on these anti-plastic campaigns would be better spent on more programs to discourage all kinds of littering.
Another myth—that recycling plastic prevents it from polluting the oceans—stems from the enduring delusion that plastic waste can be profitably turned into other products. But sorting plastic is so labor-intensive, and the resulting materials of so little value, that most municipalities pay extra to get rid of their plastic waste, mostly by shipping it to Asian countries with low labor costs. The chief destination for many years was China, which two years ago banned most imports. It now goes to countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam. Some of the plastic from your recycling bin probably ends up in the ocean because it goes to a country with a high rate of “mismanaged waste.”
Yet single-use plastic bags aren’t the worst environmental choice at the supermarket—they’re the best. High-density polyethylene bags are a marvel of economic, engineering and environmental efficiency. They’re cheap, convenient, waterproof, strong enough to hold groceries but thin and light enough to make and transport using scant energy, water or other resources. Though they’re called single-use, most people reuse them, typically as trash-can liners. When governments ban them, consumers buy thicker substitutes with a bigger carbon footprint.
Once discarded, they take up little room in landfills. That they aren’t biodegradable is a plus, because they don’t release greenhouse gases like decomposing paper and cotton bags. The plastic bags’ tiny quantity of carbon, extracted from natural gas, goes back underground, where it can be safely sequestered from the atmosphere and ocean in a modern landfill with a sturdy lining...
Plastic bans are a modern version of medieval sumptuary laws, which forbade merchants and other commoners to wear clothes or use products that offended the sensibilities of aristocrats and clergymen. Green activists have the power to impose their preferences now that environmentalism is essentially the state religion in progressive strongholds. They can lord it over the modern merchant class and corporations desperately trying to curry social favor. The plastic panic gives politicians and greens the leverage to shake down companies afraid that they’ll be regulated out of business.
Most important, the plastic panic gives today’s elites a renewed sense of moral superiority. No matter how much fuel politicians and environmentalists burn on their flights to international climate conferences, they can still feel virtuous as they issue their edicts to grocery shoppers.
Tierney is correct in calling the anti-plastic bag movement a state religion. The anti-plastic bag posing is madness, driven by power freaks who will latch on to any idea they believe they can promote that can control the masses.

When you come upon an anti-plastic bag person, you are either talking to a duped person who is part of crowd madness or a power freak. Their ideas belong in the trash.

-RW

Sunday, February 23, 2020

The Greek Economic Crisis: The Movie



This could be an interesting one--or not.

It doesn't appear to have been released in the US yet.

From the trailer, it is difficult to tell if there is spin. It seems factual, though it is based on the memoir of the Greek socialist finance minister at the time, Yanis Varoufakis.

-RW

A Letter From LBJ to the Economist Who Said Mises Was Right


 Robert Heilbroner
Below is a copy of a letter President Lyndon Baines Johnson sent in January 1964 to the economist and author Robert Heilbroner.

At the time of the letter, Heilbroner was proposing socialist-type programs, $50 billion in anti-poverty spending, expansion of TVA, youth job guarantees, etc.

(via @mattybram)

By the late 1980s though, as Gary North explains, Heilbroner realized that the warnings about socialism by Ludwig von Mises were correct:
What defeated the Soviet Union was socialist economic planning. The Soviet Union was based on socialism, and socialist economic calculation is irrational. Ludwig von Mises in 1920 described why in his article, "Economic Calculation in the Socialist Commonwealth." He showed in theory exactly what is wrong with all socialist planning. He made it clear why socialism could never compete with the free market. It has no capital goods markets, and therefore economic planners cannot allocate capital according to capital's most important and most desired needs among by the public...

Mises's argument was not taken seriously by the academic community. Socialism was so popular by 1920 among academics that they did not respond to Mises...

Finally, when it became clear in the late 1980s that the Soviet economy was bankrupt, a multimillionaire socialist professor named Robert Heilbroner wrote an article, "After Communism," for the New Yorker (September 10, 1990), which is not an academic journal, in which he admitted that throughout his entire career, he had always believed what he had been taught in graduate school, namely that Lange was right and Mises was wrong.
Then, he wrote these words: "Mises was right."...
-RW

Saturday, February 22, 2020

So Much for British Economic Nationalism


Sometimes the benefits of comparative advantage are so strong that the most ardent economic nationalists must take advantage, despite hating the concept on a theoretical level.

 The new British passport will be made by a Franco/Dutch company at a factory in Poland.

Notes The Times:
Britain’s new post-Brexit blue passports will be given to applicants from next month, the Home Office announced yesterday...
In one of the ironies of Brexit, the 11-year, the £260 million contract was won by a subsidiary of the French multinational group Thales last year, after its British competitor De La Rue lost out.
-RW