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New Chinese Translations of Rothbard, Hoppe, Mises, Molinari, and More

June 13, 2014 in Economics

By Ryan McMaken

sense

Ravi Wu reports the completion of several volumes in Traditional Chinese:

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Source: MISES INSTITUTE

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Does War Promote Innovation?

June 13, 2014 in Economics

By Peter G. Klein

Silver_into_bullets

The belief that war, and government spending more generally, fosters economic growth by spurring innovation is one of those fallacies that won’t die, no matter how often it is challenged and refuted. Today’s New York Times gives us the usual spiel:

Fundamental innovations such as nuclear power, the computer and the modern aircraft were all pushed along by an American government eager to defeat the Axis powers or, later, to win the Cold War. The Internet was initially designed to help this country withstand a nuclear exchange, and Silicon Valley had its origins with military contracting, not today’s entrepreneurial social media start-ups. The Soviet launch of the Sputnik satellite spurred American interest in science and technology, to the benefit of later economic growth.

As I noted in a recent Mises View, this sort of argument is devoid of any economic analysis. First, it confuses technological innovation (impressive to engineers) and economic innovation (valuable to consumers). Second, it confuses gross and net benefit — of course, when government does X, we get more X, but is that more valuable than the Y we could otherwise have had? (Frédéric Bastiat, call your office.) Third, it confuses treatment and selection effects of government spending — government typically funds scientific projects that would have been undertaken anyway, such that a main benefit of government spending on science and technology is to increase the wages of science and technology workers. Fourth, as writers like Terence Kealey have pointed out, if you look carefully at the details of the sorts of programs lauded by the Times, you find they were grossly inefficient, ineffective, and potentially harmful.

I addressed these claims in more detail in Free Market article from last year (and also in this talk, starting around 1:37). The Times writer’s claims are simply ex cathedra pronouncements, not arguments backed by evidence.

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Source: MISES INSTITUTE

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Joe the Plumber Said 'Your Dead Kids Don't Trump My Constitutional Rights.' Could He Be Right?

June 13, 2014 in Economics

By Robert A. Levy

Robert A. Levy

Joe “the Plumber” Wurzelbacher did himself (and gun advocates) no favors when he wrote “your dead kids don’t trump my constitutional rights.”

He posted those incendiary words soon after Elliot Rodger went on a killing rampage in California, killing six people, three with a knife and three with a gun. In the weeks since, there has been more gun violence, most recently in Oregon.

He incited near universal furor. But is there a kernel of truth to that claim?”

To be fair, Wurzelbacher’s letter — directed to the parents of the gunshot victims — was replete with expressions of sympathy; but those civilities were undermined by his indelicate and insensitive harangue against Richard Martinez, whose son was among the murdered. Martinez had attacked “craven, irresponsible politicians” and the National Rifle Association for his son’s death.

Not surprisingly, the media have focused on Wurzelbacher’s rabble-rousing dictum that public safety — even if kids are mowed down by guns — is subordinate to Second Amendment rights. What should we make of that claim? Is there a kernel of truth in defense of Joe the Plumber?

Let’s start with this proposition: Constitutionally guaranteed rights are not absolute. For example, the First Amendment instructs that government “shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech.” Yet we have laws that prevent incitement to riot, lying in commercial ads, and defamation, among other abridgments.

Similarly, when the Second Amendment directs that “the right … to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed,” it does not ensure that a deranged person can possess a machine gun in a schoolroom. Some people, some weapons and some circumstances can be regulated. The Constitution does not preempt common sense.

On the other hand, the Supreme Court declared in District of Columbia v. Heller (I was co-counsel to Mr. Heller) that the right to bear arms is “fundamental.” That means individuals enjoy a presumption of liberty and government bears a heavy burden to vindicate regulations that compromise core Second Amendment freedoms. The burden-of-proof point is critical.

Even Judge Richard Posner, who had been highly critical of the Heller decision, wrote in an Illinois case that:

“a right to carry firearms in public may promote self-defense. Illinois had to provide us with more than merely a rational basis for believing that its uniquely sweeping ban is justified by an increase in public safety. It has failed to meet this burden.”

Ditto for the latest calls …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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State of New Mexico Proposes New Medical Cannabis Program Rules; Hundreds of Medical Cannabis Patients to Turn Out for Hearing

June 13, 2014 in PERSONAL LIBERTY

By drosenfeld

Rural Patients and Veterans Concerned They Will Lose Access to Medical Cannabis

Patients and Advocates Tell the Governor Don’t Take Away Our Medicine, Go Back to the Drawing Board

SANTA FE, NM – On Monday, June 16th, the New Mexico Department of Health will hold a hearing on proposed rule changes governing the state’s medical cannabis program. The hearing will be held in the auditorium of the Harold Runnels Building, 1190 St. Francis Dr., Santa Fe, 87502.

June 13, 2014

Drug Policy Alliance

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Source: DRUG POLICY

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Rothbard the Quant

June 13, 2014 in Economics

By Peter G. Klein

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Murray Rothbard was a foremost defender of apriorism in economics and a critic of positivism, empiricism, and scientism (1, 2, 3). But he was not opposed to quantification, particularly in the study of economic history. In fact, he strongly supported the use of statistics in doing applied economics. I was reminded of Rothbard’s view of data when rereading Strictly Confidential for this week’s Rothbard Graduate Seminar. Consider this passage from his lengthy and detailed review (1961) of George B. DeHuszar and Thomas Hulbert Stevenson’s History of the American Republic:

[A] critical defect is the almost complete absence of any quantitative or numerical data. It is often difficult to find the dates at which happenings occur, so vague and imprecise is the narrative. Apart from a few references to population figures, there are virtually no statistics of any kind in the work.

Now, I am an open and long-time condemner of the overuse of statistics, and I deplore as much as anyone the new trend in “scientific” economic history to hurl vast quantities of processed statistics at the reader, and conclude that one has captured the “feel” and essence of the past. But some statistics, surely, are necessary; and it becomes annoying to read constant references to “increases” in steel production, or living standards, or whatnot, when not the foggiest quantitative notion is presented to the reader of how large these increases and movements are. There is also an almost desperate need to present government budget statistics, so that the reader will know how large government in relation to the private economy has been in any given era; but neither in this nor in any other area does DeHuszar give a shred of quantitative data.

Rothbard is equally critical of the authors’ conceptual framework (more precisely, their lack of a consistent conceptual framework) and their failure to bring to life the grand sweep of American history. But this emphasis on the need for quantification may surprise some of Rothbard’s critics, and some of his defenders too.

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Source: MISES INSTITUTE

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Jamaica Poised to Decriminalize Marijuana Possession, Approve Medical and Religious Use, and Expunge Past Offenses

June 13, 2014 in PERSONAL LIBERTY

By drosenfeld

Marijuana Reform Gaining Unprecedented Global Momentum

On Friday, Jamaican Minister of Justice Mark Golding released a statement announcing government support for a proposal to decriminalize the possession of up to two ounces of marijuana and the decriminalization of marijuana use for religious, scientific and medical purposes.

June 13, 2014

Drug Policy Alliance

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Source: DRUG POLICY

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America: Stay out of Iraq

June 13, 2014 in Economics

By Benjamin H. Friedman

Benjamin H. Friedman

President Obama said today he would essentially take the weekend to decide whether to use the U.S. military to help Iraq’s government repel Sunni Islamist rebels—the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)—who recently took Mosul and swaths of other territory in northern and central Iraq. Obama ruled out using U.S. ground forces, but drone strikes and traditional air support remain on the table. The usual Congressional hawks are outraged that has not happened already.

The major reason using force to defend Iraq’s government is a bad idea is that it always was. Advocates of going into Iraq, like advocates of staying in Iraq in past years, tend to employ sunk costs logic, where the pursuit of a dumb idea before somehow makes it sensible now. Invocations of dead and wounded Americans’ sacrifice give such thinking added resonance but do not make it sensible.

Surge mythology notwithstanding, our efforts to reorder Iraq have always been misguided. The goal – a multiethnic, democratic, stable Iraq- was a nice idea but never vital to U.S. national security or worth thousands of U.S. lives and vast stores of our wealth. Our presence there did not stabilize Iraq, let alone the region, or keep oil prices down. Nor is regional stability or oil production worth much U.S. effort.

Iraq is worth far too little to us to justify the sort of effort required to repair it, and that we don’t know how to anyway.”

The idea that we need to fight ISIS because of its potential to use terrorism against the United States suffers similar flaws. During the Iraq War, hawks constantly warned that leaving Iraq would allow terrorist havens to form there. Their mental model was 1990s Afghanistan. They ignored the fact that al Qaeda (the original group that attacked Americans ) came from particular conflicts, rather than being some kind of plant that grew in failed states. And even in Afghanistan, the problem was more that the government — the Taliban — allied with al Qaeda, rather than the absence of government. And hawks forgot that U.S. gains in drones and surveillance technology since the 1990s had destroyed havens—now those were easy targets.

Today, we are repeatedly told that ISIS is more brutal than al Qaeda and thus a bigger danger to Americans. But that logic confuses an insurgency with a group focused on attacking …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Common Core, the Worm in the Teacher’s Apple

June 13, 2014 in Economics

By Neal McCluskey

Neal McCluskey

The reality of the Common Core national curriculum standards is finally coming out, and suddenly the Core has big parts falling off. Unfortunately, it is a contraption on which, thanks to Core supporters wielding federal power, almost the whole country has been coerced to fly — and crash.

In the past two weeks, South Carolina and Oklahoma officially chose to dump the Core. Indiana did the same in March. They join Texas, Alaska, Virginia and Nebraska, which never adopted, while Minnesota adopted only the English standards.

Oklahoma is perhaps the biggest blow to the Core, as Republican Gov. Mary Fallin is the chairwoman of the National Governors Association, which created the Core along with the Council of Chief State School Officers. The dominoes are likely to keep falling, with both houses of the North Carolina General Assembly approving Core-dumping bills last week, and the National Conference of State Legislatures reporting that 64 bills to slow or stop the Core have been introduced in state legislatures this year.

National curriculum standard is crumbling, and we know who to blame.”

Indeed, it is in testing that the bigger exodus has occurred. Not counting states that eventually dumped the Core or never signed on, as of January, six states had left the two Common Core testing consortia selected and funded by the federal government. All of this happened before any state has officially used the Core’s exams. If test scores drop significantly after full implementation, as happened in New York when it used its own Core-aligned exams, opposition is likely to go from yell to scream.

Regrettably, to shore up the Core, supporters have often resorted to calling Core opponents misinformed, while simply asserting that high standards will drive high achievement. To a lesser extent, they have argued that dropping the Core would squander time and money

The two main arguments are hollow. Analysis from across the spectrum, including the left-leaning Brookings Institution, right-leaning Hoover Institution and my own work at the libertarian Cato Institute, has concluded that standards alone do not translate to improved achievement.

On the “misinformed” charge, while some anti-Core arguments are dubious — the Core would not impose a United Nations curriculum — most are substantive. For instance, despite Core proponents calling it “state-led” and “voluntary,” Core adoption was driven by Washington, which made it crucial for states to compete for grants in the $4.35 billion Race to the Top program. Adoption was also just …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Fixing the VA: Beyond the Usual Suspects

June 13, 2014 in Economics

By Michael D. Tanner

Michael D. Tanner

If the ongoing scandal in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care system provides evidence of anything — in addition to our ongoing failure to provide adequate care for our veterans — it’s that Washington’s response is sadly predictable.

The first instinct in Washington is to look for scapegoats, or at least a sacrificial lamb. Accordingly, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki has resigned. No doubt he should have, since he was apparently clueless about the ongoing problems in his department. But the keyword here is “ongoing.” The problems within the VA health system go back decades, long before the current administration.

In fact, as long ago as 2001, there were warnings that veterans were waiting more than two months to be seen, and the VA’s inspector general had warned about problems with the waiting lists as far back as 2005. For that matter, back in 1945, then-Secretary Frank Hines resigned after reports of shoddy care at VA-run hospitals.

If the ongoing scandal in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care system provides evidence of anything, it’s that Washington’s response is sadly predictable.”

The Clinton administration did do a fair job of making improvements, but the underlying structural problems remained, and it didn’t take long for the system to slip back to its old ways. After he left the VA, Kenneth Kizer, Clinton’s undersecretary of Veterans Affairs for Health, who is credited with upgrading the system, described the VA culture as “toxic.”

Washington’s second instinct is to throw money at the problem. The Senate has now done this, passing legislation sponsored by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) that would increase VA spending by roughly $2 billion, open 26 new clinics in 18 states and hire additional VA doctors and nurses. In the grand Washington tradition of add-ons, it also includes spending for things that have nothing to do with health care, such as guaranteeing “in-state” tuition at public colleges and universities to all veterans. Of course, since the bill is “emergency legislation,” it is not subject to normal budget rules, such as having to be paid for through taxes or cuts in other spending.

But the VA’s problem is not a lack of money. The VA spent $57 billion on health care last year, up 76 percent since 2007, while the number of unique patients increased by just 9 percent.

If there is one thing all Americans …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Mises Weekends: Jim Bovard, Libertarian Muckraker

June 13, 2014 in Economics

By Mises Updates

Jim Bovard talks with Jeff Deist about his incendiary career as a journalist, the American people as Mencken’s “Booboisie”, and why the Nanny State has him stocking-up on cigars.

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Source: MISES INSTITUTE