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New Essays on Kirzner

August 14, 2014 in Economics

By Peter G. Klein

Kirzner

The newest issue of the Review of Austrian Economics features a symposium on Israel Kirzner’s contributions to the Austrian school. My own essay with Per Bylund, “The Place of Austrian Economics in Contemporary Entrepreneurship Research,” appears in the symposium, along with essays by Peter Boettke, Mario Rizzo, and Henry Manne. Kirzner himself also offers some reflections on his career.

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Source: MISES INSTITUTE

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Seeking a Goldilocks Option for Iraq

August 14, 2014 in Economics

By Christopher A. Preble

Christopher A. Preble

President Barack Obama once famously called the Iraq War a “dumb war.” But, in announcing U.S. airstrikes to counter Islamic radicals gaining territory in northern Iraq, Obama has given hawks a second chance to get the open-ended conflict they always wanted. That would be an even dumber war.

The hawks say Obama’s airstrikes are too limited. The threat of ISIS (The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria), they argue, requires greater U.S. involvement. They claim that none of this would have happened if Obama had left U.S. troops in Iraq after 2011.

But these critics are too confident in the effectiveness of direct military intervention, both then and now.

For his part, Obama might be overly confident that we won’t get drawn in more deeply. Many avowedly “limited” interventions, including those supposedly focused on purely humanitarian objectives, lasted longer and cost more than anticipated (e.g. Somalia, Kosovo and Iraq post-Gulf War). The potential for mission creep is very real.

John Kerry assured Americans last summer that intervention in Syria would be “unbelievably small.” Obama might have erred in the other direction when he said last weekend that this latest Iraq operation would likely last months.

But that still doesn’t satisfy Obama’s most hawkish critics, who want a much larger mission. And if U.S. troops must remain behind for months, or even years, so be it. After all, they point out, we still have U.S. troops in Germany, Japan and Korea.

“If you’re going to get in, get in big and get in decisively now,” Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol said on MSNBC. “If you go in incrementally … you don’t have the effect you want to have in the region.”

It would be easy enough to dismiss Kristol’s point of view. This is the same Bill Kristol, after all, who sold the idea of war in Iraq going back to the 1990s, and who blithely dismissed warnings that a civil war would likely ensue after Saddam Hussein’s ouster.

Hillary Clinton’s recent comments to the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg provide the fullest example of the hawks’ critique, and it goes well beyond what is happening now in Iraq: a great nation like the United States needs “an organizing principle,” she explained, and “don’t do stupid stuff” doesn’t suffice.

A cynic might note that “do stupid stuff proudly” didn’t work very well for her when she decided to be one of only 29 Democratic senators to vote for the Iraq …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Hopefully Dr. Michael E. Mann Doesn't Sue Me for This Column

August 14, 2014 in Economics

By Trevor Burrus

Trevor Burrus

The battle over climate-change science is heating up, so to speak, and it has moved to the courts. The defamation lawsuit brought by climatologist Dr. Michael E. Mann — one of the creators of the famed “hockey-stick graph” that shows a recent spike in world temperatures — has now moved to the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, the equivalent of a state supreme court for the district. Mann alleges that a blog post by Rand Simberg on the blog of the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), and subsequently quoted by Mark Steyn at National Review Online, was libelous. The Cato Institute, joined by the Reason Foundation, the Goldwater Institute, and the Individual Rights Foundation, has filed an amicus brief supporting the defendants, arguing that courts should not be called upon to referee scientific disputes.

Because the climate-change debate is one of the most important and lively public policy debates of our time, stifling that debate with lawsuits will not only diminish our ability to have an open and honest discussion about climate change, it will hurt future discussions about anything controversial. Whatever you believe about climate change, you should hope that the D.C. Court of Appeals dismisses the case as soon as possible.

Specifically, Mann alleged that four phrases in Simberg’s post were defamatory: “data manipulation,” “academic and scientific misconduct,” “posterboy of the corrupt and disgraced climate science echo chamber,” and accusing the Penn State professor of molesting his data and thus being the “Jerry Sandusky of climate science.” He also cited a subsequent CEI press release that called his research “intellectually bogus.”

While some of these phrases might be impolitic and unprofessional, they are not defamatory. Pugnacious rhetoric is still protected by the First Amendment, especially in matters of public debate. Words like “fraud,” “corrupt,” “misconduct,” and “manipulation” could feasibly be defamatory if they were alleging actual criminal misconduct, but, in this context, it is well-understood that those phrases are not alleging technical law-breaking. Instead, they are used to raise the rhetorical punch of a phrase.

The entire situation is silly. If this were a playground, Dr. Mann would be a tattle-tale who complains to the teacher that someone said mean things about him. After spending years arguing that climate-change skeptics are shills for big oil, Mann has apparently decided that the government should shut them up instead.

These lawsuits chill speech on matters of public importance — but maybe that’s the point. To use a highly relevant …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Thinking Makes it So for WaPo

August 14, 2014 in Economics

By Jeff Deist

Head in Hands

Matt O’Brien at the Washington Post knows that Abenomics can work for the Japanese people, but only if they really, truly believe in it with all their hearts.

This is not satire:

So what’s going on here? Well, it might sound like a hokey religion, but central banking is really a Jedi mind trick. Just saying something can be enough to make it happen. That’s because the power of the printing press gives their words a distinct power. Well, that and the fact that the economy is already one big self-fulfilling prophecy. See, when people are confident, they spend and invest more, which then justifies their initial optimism—and keeps them spending and investing. The opposite, of course, happens when people are fearful. So, in other words, the economy alternates between virtuous and vicious circles. Central banks try to keep our positive spirals from getting out of control, and our negative spirals from happening at all. And that means convincing us to believe what they want us to.

This is embarrassing and horrifying at the same time, especially coming from a WaPo section called “Wonkblog.” Regime media believe, with religious fervor, that governments and central banks exist to prod us in one direction or another– with a sharp stick if needed. And they are hostile toward (if not literally unaware of) concepts of capital and production.

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Source: MISES INSTITUTE

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Police Paramilitarization, in Ferguson and Beyond

August 14, 2014 in Economics

As the unfolding events in Ferguson, MO—a town of 21,000 outside of St. Louis—demonstrate, America’s domestic police forces can come to resemble the standing armies the Founders feared. “Why armored vehicles in a Midwestern inner suburb?,” asks Cato’s Walter Olson, why fire tear gas canisters at people standing in their own yards? “Shock and awe” tactics are fast becoming the new normal as federal policy has fed an unhealthy warrior mentality among what used to be called “peace officers”—with federal subsidies and Pentagon giveaways of military ordnance. The clampdown in Ferguson highlights the dangers of our drift toward paramilitary policing, as well as the broader trend of law-enforcement lawlessness documented by Cato’s National Police Misconduct Reporting Project. For relevant Cato work/events, see:

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Source: CATO HEADLINES

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Economic Nationalism in Ukraine

August 14, 2014 in Economics

By Ryan McMaken

Ukraine spends six million dollars per day shooting its own citizens while it pulls out all the stops to make sure that energy becomes as expensive as possible for Europe this winter by cutting off the natural gas supply to Europe. Any sane foreign policy seeks a free exchange of goods, not a series of suicide pacts designed to damage the standard of living for domestic citizens as much as possible. Meanwhile, the US applies political pressure to Bulgaria to end its cooperation with Russia to create alternate (i.e., non-Ukrainian) pipelines for natural gas in Europe. As usual, ordinary citizens  are caught in a vise imposed by their governments. As is so often the case, however, nationalism on all sides will likely lead to a fevered irrationality that will allow many to think that it’s better to freeze in the dark than engage in trade and maintain with someone of a slightly different ethnic group in the neighboring nation-state. Daniel McAdams explains the diplomatic jockeying over one of the most precious national resources in the Europe:

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Source: MISES INSTITUTE

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TIME Op-Ed: We Must Demilitarize the Police

August 14, 2014 in Politics & Elections

READ OP-ED HERE: http://time.com/3111474/rand-paul-ferguson-police/
The shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown is an awful tragedy that continues to send shockwaves through the community of Ferguson, Missouri and across the nation.If I had been told to get out of the street as a teenager, there would have been a distinct possibility that I might have smarted off. But, I wouldn’t have expected to be shot.The outrage in Ferguson is understandable-though there is never an excuse for rioting or looting. There is a legitimate role for the police to keep the peace, but there should be a difference between a police response and a military response.The images and scenes we continue to see in Ferguson resemble war more than traditional police action.Glenn Reynolds, in Popular Mechanics, recognized the increasing militarization of the police five years ago. In 2009 he wrote:Soldiers and police are supposed to be different. … Police look inward. They’re supposed to protect their fellow citizens from criminals, and to maintain order with a minimum of force.It’s the difference between Audie Murphy and Andy Griffith. But nowadays, police are looking, and acting, more like soldiers than cops, with bad consequences. And those who suffer the consequences are usually innocent civilians.’The Cato Institute’s Walter Olson observed this week how the rising militarization of law enforcement is currently playing out in Ferguson:Why armored vehicles in a Midwestern inner suburb? Why would cops wear camouflage gear against a terrain patterned by convenience stores and beauty parlors? Why are the authorities in Ferguson, Mo. so given to quasi-martial crowd control methods (such as bans on walking on the street) and, per the reporting of Riverfront Times, the firing of tear gas at people in their own yards? (”This my property!’ he shouted, prompting police to fire a tear gas canister directly at his face.’) Why would someone identifying himself as an 82nd Airborne Army veteran, observing the Ferguson police scene, comment that ‘We rolled lighter than that in an actual warzone’?Olson added, ‘the dominant visual aspect of the story, however, has been the sight of overpowering police forces confronting unarmed protesters who are seen waving signs or just their hands.’How did this happen?Most police officers are good cops and good people. It is an unquestionably difficult job, especially in the current circumstances.There is a systemic problem with today’s law enforcement.Not surprisingly, big government has been at the heart of the problem. Washington has incentivized the militarization …read more

Source: RAND PAUL

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Movement on the Rise?

August 14, 2014 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

The New York Times wonders if the libertarian moment has arrived.

Maybe, suggested an article in the Sunday magazine.

Supporters of Rand Paul and father Ron think so. Award-winning economist turned left-wing pundit Paul Krugman is not convinced.

Unfortunately, there have been false starts before. Ronald Reagan’s election seemed the harbinger of a new freedom wave. His rhetoric was great, but actual accomplishments lagged far behind. Taxes were lower, but when he left office government looked pretty much the same as it did when he was sworn in, only bigger.

So, too, with the 1994 Republican takeover of Congress. As before, there was a tendency to confuse partisanship with philosophy. Admittedly, members of the GOP tend to toss around such phrases as “individual liberty” and “limited government.” However, their behavior in office looked little different from that of many Democrats. Like the Reagan Revolution, the Gingrich Revolution also sputtered out.

Since then there’s been even less to celebrate in America, at least. George W. Bush was an avid proponent of “compassionate,” big-government conservatism. Outlays rose faster during his administration than they had during Bill Clinton’s. No one did more to bail out business and enrich corporate America than Bush, the architect of the big-spending response to the 2008 financial crisis.

[pullquote]Americans across the political spectrum agree that something is wrong, that the status quo is no good. But they disagree on the remedy.[/pullquote]

Barack Obama continued the tradition, promoting corporate welfare, pushing through a massive “stimulus” bill for the bank accounts of federal contractors, and seizing control of what remained private in the health care system. About the only good news is that incipient federal bankruptcy has discouraged Congress from adopting other massive new spending programs.

Over the last half-century, members of both parties took a welfare state that was of modest size despite the excesses of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal and put it on a fiscally unsustainable basis as part of the misnamed “Great Society.” Economist Lawrence Kotlikoff figures government’s total unfunded liability at around $220 trillion. America’s annual GDP is just $17 trillion. How Uncle Sam will ever make good on all its promises is impossible to imagine.

The national government has done no better with international issues. Trillions went for misnamed “foreign aid” that subsidized collectivism and autocracy. Only the recent growth of international markets and sustained pain of domestic failure moved many poor countries to reform. And even so the foreign …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Peter St. Onge on Black Markets in Polish

August 14, 2014 in Economics

By Ryan McMaken

6796

From the Mises Institute of Poland:

“Fakt, że gotówka umożliwia dokonywanie transakcji na czarnym rynku jest jedną z jej największych zalet dla biednych. Nie stać ich na to, by przedzierać się przez gąszcz regulacji wprowadzanych w imieniu potężnych przez znudzonych biurokratów. Biedni muszą wybierać pomiędzy założeniem nieformalnego, opartego na gotówce biznesu, a niezakładaniem biznesu w ogóle”.

The Original in English: How Government Forces the Poor Into Black Markets

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Source: MISES INSTITUTE

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China and the US: Similar Frustrations, Different Policies toward North Korea

August 14, 2014 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

SHENYANG, CHINA — China-Korean relations are in a state of flux. The People’s Republic of China and South Korea have exchanged presidential visits. Trade statistics suggest that the PRC did not ship any oil to the North during the first quarter of the year. Chinese academics openly speak of Beijing’s irritation with its long-time ally.

The cold feelings are reciprocated. Last year North Korea’s Kim Jong-un sent an envoy to the PRC to unsuccessfully request an invitation to visit. In December Kim had his uncle, Jang Song-taek, executed. Jang had been the most intimate interlocutor with China and the bill of particulars against him included allegations of dubious dealings with the PRC.

These circumstances suggest the possibility of a significant foreign policy shift in Beijing away from the North and toward the Republic of Korea. For the same reason hopes have risen in Washington for Chinese willingness to cooperate more closely on Korean affairs. To the U.S. that means a readiness to place greater pressure on Pyongyang, more fully enforcing international sanctions, reducing investment, and cutting energy and food aid.

However, the PRC remains unwilling to risk instability by undermining the Kim dynasty. Both America and China are frustrated with the DPRK. However, they continue to view the costs and benefits of the most likely alternative endgames — messy North Korean collapse or unification with the South and alliance with America — very differently.

Chinese academics openly speak of Beijing’s irritation with its long-time ally.”

I recently visited China and held scholarly meetings amid excursions to long-missed tourist sites (such as Mao’s Mausoleum!). I also made it to Shenyang, where relations with the North are of great interest because of proximity, if nothing else; the city is about a two hour drive from the Yalu River.

I met one senior scholar who indicated that there was no doubt that Beijing-Pyongyang relations had changed since Kim came to power. The two nations “have a different relationship now and it is becoming colder than ever before.” In contrast, relations between the South and China were “becoming more intense.”

Although the dip in ties between North and PRC was a “big change,” Jang’s execution had been “weighed too heavily by Western researchers,” he indicated. In fact, economic relations had continued, including major infrastructure projects such as bridges over both the Yalu and Tumen Rivers. Jang’s fate was a matter of internal North Korea politics, …read more

Source: OP-EDS