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Some Recent Additions from Audio Mises Daily

May 14, 2014 in Economics

By Ryan McMaken

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All mp3 audio files:

Democracy, War, and the Myth of the Neutral State by Bassani and Lottieri

What Individualism Is Not by Frank Chodorov

Differences Don’t Necessarily Equal Discrimination by Andrew Syrios

Markets Are About Much More Than Material Goods by Gary Galles

Our Oligarchs Can Thank James Madison by Ryan McMaken

Why We Should Sell Alcohol at College Football Games by Mark Thornton

The full archive is here.

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Source: MISES INSTITUTE

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Improving Investment Treaties through General Exceptions Provisions: The Australian Example

May 14, 2014 in Economics

By Simon Lester

Simon Lester

The recent Australian elections were decided mostly by domestic policy issues, but their outcome had an impact beyond the border as the new government decided to rethink Australia’s somewhat unique view on the international investment regime. Whereas much of the world supports a core set of investment rules, Australia had long been a skeptic, particularly with respect to investor-state arbitration. Soon after the election, the Liberal-National coalition indicated that it would be more amenable to these rules. They put their new policy into practice quickly, and have recently released the completed text of the Australia-Korea free trade agreement (FTA), which includes an investment chapter with investor-state arbitration. This FTA will soon be submitted to parliament for approval.

In changing course, has the Australian government simply joined the rest of the world? Or have they tried to deal with some of the problems and concerns with investment treaties raised by critics over the years? In this piece, I evaluate one aspect of the Australia — Korea FTA: the “general exception” to investment obligations that exists for certain policy purposes, which parallels WTO exception provisions such as GATT Article XX and GATS Article XIV.

General concerns with investor-state arbitration

One of the main problems with investment treaties comes from vague and broad legal obligations such as “indirect expropriation” and “fair and equitable treatment.” Such principles are common in domestic law, but there is no international consensus on what they mean. Elevating them to international legal status opens up limitless opportunities for litigation and thus makes for a great deal of uncertainty (as well as raising fears of intrusion into domestic policy-making).

The problem is intensified when investment obligations allow direct lawsuits by foreign investors against governments. Generally speaking, international law only allows state-state disputes, which helps filter out frivolous complaints and acts as a check on the system. The possibility of investor-state disputes opens up the floodgates on litigation. Thus, it is investor-state provisions, combined with vague obligations, that are the main cause of concern.

Australia’s history of investor-state skepticism

The international investment regime came to the average Australian’s attention several years ago when the tobacco company Phillip Morris used an obscure Hong Kong-Australia investment treaty to challenge Australia’s plain packaging cigarette laws before an international tribunal. This challenge helped cement Australian doubts about these treaties.

As a matter of government policy, this skepticism was already in place. In its 2004 free trade agreement with the United States, Australia had objected to …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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New Anti-Immigration Pledge Violates American Principles

May 14, 2014 in Economics

By Alex Nowrasteh

Alex Nowrasteh

The standard caveat issued by those who advocate tight immigration restrictions is that while they support legal immigration, they want to crack down on unauthorized immigration. Now, some immigration restrictionists are taking it a step further in opposing even legal immigration.

The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) has sponsored a pledge for political candidates to oppose legal immigration as well as amnesty for unauthorized immigrants. FAIR’s pledge has already garnered some signatories like Mississippi state senator Chris McDaniel (R) and Nebraska Senatorial primary candidate Shane Osborn (R) who failed to ride the supposed anti-immigration polls into elected office.

The United States can have a smaller government and freer immigration.”

American principles implore us to oppose such an anti-immigration pledge. Indeed, one of King George III’s many “injuries and usurpations” listed in the Declaration of Independence was “obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners” and “refusing to pass others to encourage their migration.”

The very first Congress passed the Naturalization Act of 1790, which had zerorestrictions on immigration. You read that right: the first immigration law passed in the United States, by many of the framers themselves, supported open immigration. It shamefully restricted citizenship to white residents, thus excluding indentured servants, slaves, and former slaves, but there were no restrictions on who could come here and work.

Restrictions on naturalization were soon loosened even further. The 14th Amendment to the Constitution granted citizenship to freed slaves and their descendants and effectively extended citizenship to all children of non-naturalized immigrants regardless of race.. Finally, in 1898 the Supreme Court ruled, in the case of United States v. Wong Kim Ark, that all children of immigrants born under U.S. jurisdiction were citizens regardless of race.

But while the racial requirements for citizenship were being stripped away, successive Congresses began to break with America’s traditionally open immigration system. The Page Act in 1875 barred the immigration of contracted laborers, prostitutes, and former convicts in their country of origin. The 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act halted Chinese immigration while agreements with Japan halted Japanese immigration in 1907.

Waves of immigrants from Eastern and Southern Europe came to dominate immigration flows in the early 20th century, prompting Progressiveseugenicists, anti-Catholics, populists, prohibitionists, and labor unionists to support numerical quotas on immigrants. They succeeded with the Emergency Quota Act of 1921, which imposed numerical limits on immigration for the first time.

Since then these immigration restrictions have shed their overt racial tones but have morphed into a complicated and restrictive …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Japanese Misesians

May 14, 2014 in Economics

By Ryan McMaken

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Marc Abela, organizer of the Mises Meetings in Japan (Abela is interviewed about libertarianism in Japan here) sends along this photo of himself with Tatsuya Iwakura. Mr. Iwakura is the translator of numerous essays and books by Austrians including Mises, Rothbard and others. His author archive on Amazon, which lists his many translations,  is here. His most recent translation is Anatomy of the State by Rothbard.

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Source: MISES INSTITUTE

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Exploring Libertarian Class Theory

May 14, 2014 in Economics

By Walter Block

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I run an Austro-libertarian seminar at Loyola University. We meet on Friday afternoons usually twice a month during the academic year (if you want to be notified of these events, e mail me at wblock@loyno.edu, and I’ll put you on my list). At a past meeting I happened to mention libertarian ruling class theory. Many of my students were appalled at me, some of the more brazen ones even accused me of going over to Marxism. Yes, of course, we libertarians reject Marxian ruling class theory, based on the exploitation of labor in the free enterprise system. Silly. Read Mises, Rothbard and Bohm-Bawerk on this. But let’s not throw out the baby with the bathwater. There is also such a thing as libertarian class theory. In sharp contrast, it is based on the exploitation of innocent people by those who violate the libertarian non aggression principle (NAP). I think most readers of this blog are a bit more sophisticated about this issue. However, even those might appreciate this bibliography I have put together on this subject:

Block, 2006; Domhoff, 1967, 1971, 1998; Donaldson and Poynting, 2007 ; Hoppe, 1990; Hughes, 1977; Kolko, 1963; Mises, 1978; Oppenheimer, 1975; Raico, 1977; Rockwell, 2001

Block, Walter E. 2006. “Radical Libertarianism: Applying Libertarian Principles to Dealing with the Unjust Government, Part II” Reason Papers, Vol. 28, Spring, pp. 85-109; http://www.walterblock.com/publications/block_radical-libertarianism-rp.pdf; http://www.walterblock.com/wp-content/uploads/publications/block_radical-libertarianism-rp.pdf

Domhoff, G. William. 1967. Who Rules America? Englewood Cliffs NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Domhoff, G. William. 1971. The Higher Circles: The Governing Class in America. New York: Vintage Books

Domhoff, G. William. 1998. Who Rules America? Power and Politics in the Year 2000, Third Edition, Santa Cruz: University of California

Donaldson, Mike and Scott Poynting. 2007. Ruling Class Men: Money, Sex, Power. Peter Lang.

http://books.google.com/books/about/Ruling_Class_Men.html?id=V-KjZ8p3N2oC

Hoppe, Hans-Hermann. 1990. “Marxist and Austrian Class Analysis,” The Journal of Libertarian Studies, Vol. 9, No. 2, Fall, pp. 79-94; http://mises.org/journals/jls/9_2/9_2_5.pdf http://209.85.165.104/search?q=cache:K12nTci91bQJ:www.mises.org/journals/jls/9_2/9_2_5.pdf+%22Marxist+and+Austrian+Class+Analysis,%22&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=1&gl=us

Hughes, Jonathan R.T. 1977. The Governmental Habit: Economic Controls from Colonial Times to the Present. New York: Basic Books,

Kolko, Gabriel. 1963. Triumph of Conservatism, Chicago: Quadrangle Books

Mises, Ludwig von. 1978. The Clash of Group Interests and Other Essays. New York: Center for Libertarian Studies. http://www.mises.org/etexts/mises/clash/clash.asp

Oppenheimer, Franz. [1914] 1975. The State, New York: Free Life Editions

Raico, Ralph. 1977. “Classical Liberal exploitation theory: a comment on Professor Liggio’s paper,” The Journal of Libertarian Studies, Vol. 1, No. 3, Summer, pp. 179-184; http://mises.org/daily/4567/; http://mises.org/document/1641/Classical-Liberal-Exploitation-Theory-A-Comment-on-Professor-Liggios-Paper

Rockwell, Jr. Llewellyn H. 2001. “Liberty and the Common Good” December 31;

http://www.mises.org/article.aspx?Id=860

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Source: MISES INSTITUTE

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The Great Rebuild

May 14, 2014 in Economics

By John P. Cochran

The Mises Institute is currently undertaking a major website rebuild. Peter Klein recently shared a link to an early version of the website. Brought back memories of how important Mise.org resources have been over many years in my teaching efforts to make Austrian and libertarian/classical liberal readings available to undergraduate students and to encourage self-learning. What an advance the website was, even in its infant forms, over getting access to hard copies and then making photocopies for distribution. The changes on site are in many ways as dramatic as the improvement in basic computing technology from the days when I began teaching. I wrote my dissertation on a Columbia portable PC with 56 K memory. I used wordstar, which came on two 5 and ¼ floppy discs, to do the drafting. Printing was done by a dot matrix printer. Whole set up cost me around $3K. Cut and pasting required removing disc 1 and inserting disc 2.

To make access to all the important resources even easier for the next generation of professors, scholars, students and motivated self-learners, do as I have done and Help Build the New Mises Website.

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Source: MISES INSTITUTE

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The Right Way to Avoid the Transportation Cliff

May 14, 2014 in Economics

President Obama on Wednesday visited the Tappan Zee Bridge in New York as part of an effort to get Congress to approve billions of dollars in new infrastructure spending to avoid a “transportation cliff.” However, Cato scholars Randal O’Toole and Chris Edwards suggest that new spending will do little for citizens and commuters, and instead argue that the government should reduce spending and downsize the federal role in transportation.

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Source: CATO HEADLINES

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Thailand's Reverse Revolution

May 14, 2014 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

Thailand continues its slow-motion political implosion. The prime minister has been ousted and a new election has been scheduled for July 20, but the latter will settle nothing unless traditional ruling elites are willing to accept a government run by their opponents. If not, the country risks a violent explosion.

Bangkok’s politics have long leaned authoritarian. Once ruled by an absolute monarchy, Thailand has periodically suffered under military rule. Democracy finally re-emerged two decades ago. Nevertheless, the 1997 constitution created institutions of establishment control, such as the Constitutional Court. The monarchy retains outsize (though indirect) influence, and is generally allied with top business and political leaders.

But in 2001, telecommunications executive Thaksin Shinawatra disrupted the system. Campaigning as a populist, he won the votes of Thailand’s neglected rural poor to become prime minister. Those accustomed to ruling were horrified.

Thailand continues its slow-motion political implosion.”

Thaksin won again in 2005. Instead of figuring out how to better appeal to the popular majority, his opponents organized the so-called People’s Alliance for Democracy which launched protests to topple his government. The resulting confrontation gave the military an excuse to oust the traveling Thaksin in 2006. The military regime tried him in absentia for alleged corruption and rewrote the constitution before calling new elections.

However, Thaksin’s successor party won a plurality and dominated the resulting coalition.

Thaksin’s opponents, who predominated in Bangkok, launched a wave of demonstrations, blocked Bangkok streets, besieged parliament, surrounded government buildings, and even took over Bangkok’s international airport. The security agencies refused to defend the government and the opposition-controlled courts ousted parliamentarians, including one prime minister, on dubious grounds. Establishment interests then pressured coalition partners to flip to the so-called Democrat Party (DP), which had not won an election since 1992.

When United Front for Democracy (so-called “Red Shirt”) Thaksin supporters flooded into Bangkok to protest the de facto coup, DP Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva no longer supported the people’s right to protest. The military conveniently decided that order must be maintained. The government killed scores and injured thousands of demonstrators, and imprisoned numerous opposition leaders.

But Yingluck Shinawatra, Thaksin’s sister, and her Pheu Thai party won an absolute majority in the 2011 election. So the PAD morphed into the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), led by former DP Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban, one of those responsible for the 2010 killings. He demanded elimination of the “Thaksin regime” and …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Can the CIA Survive Diane Feinstein's Artillery?

May 14, 2014 in Economics

By Nat Hentoff

Nat Hentoff

Future American historians will marvel at how long the CIA engaged in such utter unconstitutional lawlessness as the torture of its captives and drone-plane executions of alleged terrorists — including U.S. citizens — without trials, using “kill lists” provided by President Barack Obama (“Obama’s kill list — All males near drone strike sites are terrorists,” RT.com, May 30, 2012).

Historians will also marvel at why none of the agents — including those at the highest levels of our government — were punished for violating U.S. and international law.

They may also marvel that the one person who came close to actually bringing this vicious cabal to justice was Dianne Feinstein, the previously uncritical chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. She pledged from the Senate floor that the CIA’s “un-American, brutal program of detention and interrogation will never again be considered or permitted.”

Moreover, with regard to her committee’s prolonged research of the CIA’s crimes, Feinstein accused the agency “of secretly removing documents, searching computers used by the committee and attempting to intimidate congressional investigators (of the CIA) by requesting an FBI inquiry of their conduct” — adding more unconstitutional conduct to her charges (“Feinstein: CIA searched Intelligence Committee computers,” Greg Miller, Ed O’Keefe and Adam Goldman, The Washington Post, March 11).

Coming from this wholly unexpected source, Feinstein’s fiery March 11 floor speech on the CIA began to foment bipartisan outrage, and inspired longtime Democratic chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Patrick Leahy, to announce, “I cannot think of any speech by any member of either party as important as the one the senator from California just gave.”

Leahy, a primary protector of the Constitution, released a statement, which read in part: “This is not just about getting to the truth of the CIA’s shameful use of torture. This is also about the core founding principle of the separation of powers, and the future of this institution and its oversight role.

“The Senate is bigger than any one senator. Senators come and go, but the Senate endures. The members of the Senate must stand up in defense of this institution, the Constitution and the values upon which this nation was founded” (“Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee, on CIA Interference with Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Investigation,” March 11).

And what was Obama’s response? His lapdog White House Spokesman, Jay Carney, said: “The president has great confidence in (CIA Director) …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Inequality Myths

May 14, 2014 in Economics

By Michael D. Tanner

Michael D. Tanner

From President Obama to Paul Krugman, ThomasPiketty to Elizabeth Warren, the Left has adopted “inequality” as the cause of the day. They paint a picture of a new Gilded Age in which a hereditary American gentry becomes ever richer, while the vast majority of Americans toil away in near-Dickensianpoverty. It’s a compelling political narrative, one that can be used to advance any number of policy proposals, from higher taxes to increases in the minimum wage.

Unfortunately, bad facts make for bad policy. Let’s look at just some of the ways they get it wrong.

Inequality has never been worse. Let’s not even discuss the fact that for large swaths of human history inequality was the norm (kings vs. serfs, anyone?). More significantly, inequality isn’t even at the highest level in recent American history.

Most of those discussing the rise in inequality, including Piketty, look at “market income,” which does not take into account either taxes or social-welfare transfer payments. I’ve fallen into this trap myself on occasion. But, obviously, both of those factors have a significant impact on net income. If those factors are taken into account, income inequality actually decreased in the U.S. over the decade from 2000 to 2010, according to Gary Burtless from the liberal Brookings Institution.

Looking at the issue from another direction, a study by Kevin Hassett of the American Enterprise Institute finds that consumption (that is, spending) for both the highest quintile and the lowest has been relatively flat over the last decades, weakening the argument that there has been increasing inequality.

Of course, I’ve been talking about income, and Piketty and others are more concerned about the disparity in accumulated wealth. The highest quintile, after all, may be saving their increased wealth rather than spending it. Over time, this can lead to increasing disparity. But even here, the evidence shows that wealth distribution has been relatively stable over the past several decades. According to research using the Federal Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Finances, the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans held 34.4 percent of the country’s wealth in 1965. By 2010, the last year for which data are available, that proportion had barely risen, to 35.4 percent.

The rich don’t earn their money, they inherit it. Piketty worries that inheritance will lead to much more inequality in the future. But, at least currently, inheritance plays a very small role. About 80 percent of American millionaires are the first generation of their family to attain …read more

Source: OP-EDS