You are browsing the archive for 2014 January 26.

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Binswanger on Anarchism

January 26, 2014 in Economics

By David Gordon

Harry Binswanger, a leading Objectivist philosopher, advances a simple argument that he thinks suffices to undermine libertarian anarchism. The argument is found in his article of January 24 for Forbes, “Sorry, Libertarian Anarchists, Capitalism Requires Government.” http://www.forbes.com/sites/harrybinswanger/2014/01/24/sorry-libertarian-anarchists-capitalism-requires-government-2/

Binswanger’s argument starts from a correct premise. In a free market exchange, each party to the exchange expects to benefit. In Objectivist language, a trade is an exchange of value for value. But force is not a value—it is the negation of value. Therefore, protective services are not a proper subject for market competition. They must be provided by a government monopoly.

As Binswanger puts his argument, “Production is the creation of value, and trade is the voluntary exchange of value for value, to mutual benefit. Force is destruction, or the threat of it. It may be the destruction of a value, as when a hoodlum throws a rock through a store window. Or it may be the destruction of destruction, as when a policeman pulls a gun on that hoodlum and hauls him off to jail. But in either case, it is the opposite of wealth-creation and voluntary trade.

Force properly employed is used only in retaliation, but even when retaliatory, force merely eliminates a negative, it cannot create value. The threat of force is used to make someone obey, to thwart his will. The only moral use of force is in self-defense, to protect one’s rights. . . . The wielding of force is not a business function. In fact, force is outside the realm of economics. Economics concerns production and trade, not destruction and seizure.

Ask yourself what it means to have a “competition” in governmental services. It’s a “competition” in wielding force, a “competition” in subjugating others, a “competition” in making people obey commands. That’s not “competition,” it’s violent conflict. On a large scale, it’s war.”

I’m surprised that Binswanger missed the obvious mistake in this argument. A policeman arresting a suspect is not engaged in an economic exchange with him. So far, Binswanger is entirely right. But someone who purchases defense services from a protection agency is not using force. He is exchanging money for the service of protection; and that is, contrary to Binswanger, an exchange of value—money—for value—protection. The fact that protection may involve the use of force on criminals does not change its status as an economically valued good. Binswanger, in brief, confuses, the economic transaction of purchasing protection …read more

Source: MISES INSTITUTE

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Economics and Value Freedom

January 26, 2014 in Economics

By David Gordon

Mises and Rothbard taught that economics is a value-free science. Propositions of economics, such as the law of diminishing marginal utility, neither state nor imply any judgments about what is good or bad, right or wrong. Robert Grant, an Irish philosopher who teaches at Trinity College, Dublin, disagrees. In an article that appeared January 23 on the Irish news website thejournal.ie ,  http://www.thejournal.ie/readme/values-are-inescapable-in-life-and-in-economics-davos-oxfam-inequality-report-1278565-Jan2014/Grant claimed that “the view of economics as value-free is, at best, illusory and, at worst, dangerous.” Economics is not value-free, according to him; and the myth that it is helps nefarious supporters of the free market occlude the truth that the free market helps the rich, not the poor.

Grant’s argument against value-freedom in economics is not very good. He points out that economists choose to investigate certain topics rather than others, Their choices reflect the values they hold. “The very decision about what aspect of the world to examine is an expression of what is important to us, ie, an expression of our values. . ., economists can choose to aim their analysis at the private financial markets and the banking system, or they could focus on public issues such as welfare economics, or how to make healthcare affordable. Each analysis may display incredible intellectual and mathematical sophistication, yet the choice is a normative one. It means that you deem some particular issue to be more worth your time and effort than the myriad of other issues you could investigate. Values are inescapable.”

Grant has fallen into an elementary confusion. Of course he is right that your choice to study something expresses your values. It hardly follows from this, though, the results of your investigation are, in whole or in part, value judgments. When it is claimed that economics is value-free, the claim is about the propositions of economics, not the reasons economists have for studying these propositions.

According to Grant, the false doctrine of value-freedom in economics has horrendous results: “We are told the ‘free’ market is an efficient processer of information, and that if left to its own devices, it will naturally produce efficient results that are better for everyone. But this is simply not the case. The market expresses the values of those who control it. It is no coincidence that our current market structure works better for some rather than others.”

Grant is again confused. Grant disagrees with those who contend the free market is better …read more

Source: MISES INSTITUTE

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A “Quasi” Bank Run in Motion

January 26, 2014 in Economics

By David Howden

HSBC has apparently stopped letting customers withdraw more than £5,000 from their British bank accounts unless depositors can provide evidence of “why they wanted it.” According to the BBC:

Stephen Cotton went to his local HSBC branch this month to withdraw £7,000 from his instant access savings account to pay back a loan from his mother.

A year before, he had withdrawn a larger sum in cash from HSBC without a problem.

But this time it was different, as he told Money Box: “When we presented them with the withdrawal slip, they declined to give us the money because we could not provide them with a satisfactory explanation for what the money was for. They wanted a letter from the person involved.”

Mr Cotton says the staff refused to tell him how much he could have: “So I wrote out a few slips. I said, ‘Can I have £5,000?’ They said no. I said, ‘Can I have £4,000?’ They said no. And then I wrote one out for £3,000 and they said, ‘OK, we’ll give you that.’ ”

He asked if he could return later that day to withdraw another £3,000, but he was told he could not do the same thing twice in one day.

When a bank holds fractional reserves, there will come a time when not enough cash is in the vaults to honour the redemption requests of depositors. These instances give rise to the common bank run, though historically banks have tried to avoid this fate through “ingenious” clauses on their deposits.

Option clauses, for example, were widely used in the Scottish “free banking” era as a way to get depositors to stop asking for their money. A bank could elect not to hand over a deposit when asked, but would at least remunerate the customer for this inconvenience. At the time this was widely seen as problematic, as it drove a wedge between the motivations of depositors (have their cash safe and available) and bankers (use depositor funds and remain solvent).

Today’s banks don’t even do this – they just change the rules of the game half-way through. Depositors think they have full access to their money when they make a deposit. Not only that, they think they are the owners of their money. Wrong on both counts. According to the law of most lands, when you deposit your money in a bank it becomes property of the bank and it …read more

Source: MISES INSTITUTE