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Fleeing communism in a balloon

Adam Smith Institute - 3 hours 45 min ago

Forty years ago, on September 16th, 1979, one of the most thrilling escapes of the Cold War took place from Communist East Germany, when two families, eight people in all, fled to freedom in West Germany in a homemade hot air balloon. It took them one-and-a-half years, one failed attempt, and three balloons to complete it.

Peter Strelzyk, a 37-year-old electrician, and Günter Wetzel, a 24-year-old bricklayer became friends at a local plastics factory, and began to plan their escape. Like other Communist dictatorships, East Germany was a prison, with its population prevented from leaving. A wall barred their way in Berlin, and a barbed wire border with watchtowers, machine-gun nests and minefields sealed the larger border with West Germany. Hundreds had been killed as they attempted to leave.

They decided to fly over the border fortifications in a hot air balloon, having seen about ballooning on television. They measured the weight of themselves, their wives, and their four children, and calculated the balloon would have to hold 2,000 cubic metres of hot air. They reckoned it would take 800 square metres of cloth to make a balloon that could hold it.

It took 2 weeks on a hand sewing machine to stitch the fabric into a bag 20 metres long by 15 metres wide. The gondola was constructed from an iron frame, a sheet metal floor, and clothesline running around it every 15 centimetres. The burner was made of 2 propane cannisters to feed the gas through water pipe to a stove pipe nozzle.

At their first attempt in a forest clearing, they could not get the balloon to inflate, despite using an improvised blower to fill it first with cold air. They found the material was too porous, and resolved to try a different second attempt. They went to a distant city to buy 800 metres of 1-metre wide synthetic taffeta, telling the store it was to make sails for their sailing club. Having sewn a second balloon, they found the burner would inflate it, but could not generate enough heat to lift it. They doubled the number of cannisters and inverted them to make a bigger flame, and attempted a second try.

This time the balloon ascended, but when it entered a cloud, water vapour condensed on it, increasing its weight and making it come down. They landed next to a mined area 180 metres from the border, and realized they were still in East Germany. They walked 8 miles back to their car, leaving the balloon gear behind for the Stasi (secret police) to discover. They decided on a speedy 3rd attempt in case the gear was traced back to them, and they bought taffeta in assorted colours from a variety of stores to avoid suspicion. They sewed a third balloon.

Wind and weather were good on September 16th, so they took off at 2.00 am. The balloon malfunctioned several times and caught fire several times, but it held them aloft. They had to keep relighting the burners by hand because air rushing out through tears in the fabric kept putting them out. They were detected on West German radar, and had searchlights in the East turned on to search for the "unidentified flying object."

They came down near the town of Naila in Bavaria, and knew they were in the West when they saw the Western traffic lights and the Audi police car that came to inspect what had happened. Wetzel broke his leg in the landing, but otherwise they and their families were safe. More than that, they were free. Stern Magazine paid for the exclusive rights to their story, and their heroism and ingenuity was immortalized in the movie, "Night Crossing." After the collapse of Communism and following German reunification, the Strelzyks returned home, while the Wetzels remained in Bavaria.

It was an epic story that illustrates the determination people have shown to free themselves from the shackles and daily oppression of Communist regimes. The ideology has always failed. It has always produced poverty and squalor, and it has always had to be supported by brutality, concentration camps and executions. And always it has needed to keep its people prisoner and stop them seeking a better life beyond its grip. This is the ideology praised by modern-day Socialists such as Jeremy Corbyn and John MacDonnell, and it is regimes like that of East Germany that they bestowed praise upon. The night-time balloonists of 1979 knew better.

Categories: Current Affairs

The Nationalist Case for Free Trade, in the Words of Classical Economists

Mises Institute - 3 hours 46 min ago

The founders of classical economics, namely David Hume (1711-1776), Adam Smith (1723-17790), and David Ricardo (1772-1823) and their British followers were fervent advocates of the principle of free trade between nations. Even more so were J.-B. Say (1767-1832), Frederic Bastiat (1801-1850) and their Continental disciples of the liberal school (who for simplicity I will broadly classify as classical economists because of their link to Adam Smith). Despite their devotion to free trade, the classical economists were nationalists. They viewed free trade as one of the most important means for advancing the security, prosperity, and cultural achievements of their own nations. In this sense, they tended to be what Ludwig von Mises described as “peaceful” or “liberal” nationalists,1 who recognized the existence of profound differences among nations and nationalities and loved their own nations above all others, yet discerned that the economic and cultural flourishing of each nation was inextricably linked with the flourishing of all other nations. In recognizing this international harmony of interests, the classical economists were naturally thoroughly cosmopolitan and anti-war.

The cosmopolitanism and pacifism of the classical economists has in the past been misconstrued — often deliberately — by their protectionist opponents as a lack of affection and concern for their nation and its interests. This erroneous interpretation of the classical case for free trade has once again gained currency in the writings of some contemporary libertarians and free-market economists who have embraced the anti-nationalist, globalist agenda. Fortunately, eminent historians of economic thought have previously demolished this gross caricature of the classical position and clarified the rationale of the classical economists in promoting free trade. Let us take two examples.

Lionel Robbins was a British economist who was heavily influenced by Mises, Hayek, and the founders of the Austrian school early in his career. He was also one of the foremost historians of the classical school of economics, having written several articles and books on the subject. Robbins was emphatic in defending the view that the British classical economists promoted free trade because it improved the economic conditions for Great Britain:

To the extent to which [classical economists] repudiated former maxims of economic warfare and assumed mutual advantage in international exchange, it is true that the outlook of Classical Economists seems, and indeed is, more spacious and pacific than that of their antagonists. But there is little evidence that they often went beyond the test of national advantage as a criterion of policy, still less that they were prepared to contemplate the dissolution of national bonds. If you examine the ground on which they recommend free trade, you will find that it is always in terms of a more productive use of national resources. . . . I find no trace anywhere in their writings of the vague cosmopolitanism with which they are often credited by continental writers [such as the protectionist, Friedrich List]. . . . All that I contend is that we get our picture wrong if we suppose that the English Classical Economists would have recommended, because it was good for the world at large, a measure which they thought would be harmful to their own community. It was the consumption of the national economy which they regarded as the end of economic activity.2

In a classic work, published just after World War II, Edmund Silberner surveyed the thought of the leading economists of the nineteenth century, including the British classical and French liberal economists, on the problem of war, its causes and solution.3 Silberner pointed out that the classical economists, whom he called “liberals,” viewed war as “economically and socially harmful” and “not only immoral but stupid” because “it is in effect the natural state of men ignorant of the laws of political economy.”4 Silberner summarized the classical-liberal position on the connection between free trade, prosperity, war, and the science of political economy as follows:

By favoring international accord . . . [free trade] contributes not only to the material prosperity of nations but also to the intellectual and moral progress of mankind as a whole. Of all known economic systems it is therefore . . . the most favorable to each nation as well as to the human race in its entirety. . . . [T]he establishment of commercial freedom will bring about one of the most profound revolutions in history. Free trade will assure to all men the maximum possible of material well-being, which in fact will know no other limits than the natural resources of the globe and the creative work of men. What is more, the influence of free trade will not be restricted to the economic field: freedom of international commerce will also considerably increase the external security of nations. . . . The role assigned by the liberals, in this matter, to political economy is most significant. This science must deal with war because peace is an essential element of public prosperity. Political economy . . . is regarded by the liberals as the science par excellence of peace. The diffusion of economic knowledge thus tends, in their eyes, to prevent wars.5

Having demonstrated the profoundly cosmopolitan and pacific attitudes of the classical economists, Silberner, like Robbins, emphasized that they were first and foremost nationalists. Thus he wrote: “Though hostile to militarism, they make it clear that their attitude is opposed neither to an enlightened patriotism nor to the principle of nationalities.”6 In addition, the classical economists not only saw free trade as the most effective policy for avoiding war but also as the best means of preparing for a war that was impending. According to Silberner, “whatever their differences of view [on the relative effectiveness of free trade as a deterrent to war] they all take it for granted that, if war is truly inevitable, free trade, by enriching the nations, prepares them better for it than does the protective system, which impoverishes them all.”7 Finally, despite their abhorrence of war, the classical economists, “with a few exceptions,” were “opposed or hostile” to surrendering national sovereignty to a “supernational peace organization.”8

We need not, however, depend only on the interpretation of modern historians of thought on this matter for we have the words of the classical economists themselves. There is no better place to start than a famous statement by one of the first classical economists, David Hume. Hume’s dictum poignantly illustrates how, in the eyes of classical economists, free trade perfectly harmonized nationalism and cosmopolitanism.

I shall therefore venture to acknowledge, that, not only as a man, but as a British subject, I pray for the flourishing of commerce of German, Spain, Italy, and even France itself. I am at least certain, that Great Britain and all those nations, would flourish more did their sovereigns and their ministers adopt such enlarged and benevolent sentiments towards each other.9

As Robbins pointed out,10 Adam Smith “expressly repudiates” the globalist position that places the welfare of one’s own nation on all fours with that of other nations:

France may contain, perhaps, near three times the number of inhabitants which Great Britain contains. In the great society of mankind, therefore, the prosperity of France should appear to be an object of much greater importance than that of Great Britain. The British subject, however, who upon that account should prefer upon all occasions the prosperity of the former to that of the latter country, would not be thought a good citizen of Great Britain. We do not love our country merely as part of the great society of mankind—we love it for its own sake, and independently of any such consideration.11

Ricardo’s closest disciple, J. R. McCulloch (1789-1864), argued that free trade unites all nations and peoples in common interest. “Commerce embracing different nations,” declared McCulloch,

by. . . making every people to a great extent dependent on others . . . forms a powerful principle of union and binds together the universal society of nations by the powerful ties of mutual interest and reciprocal obligation.12

Now McCulloch is not saying that free trade will dissolve peoples and nations into a homogeneous globalist mass or eradicate the desire most individuals have for the flourishing and pre-eminence of the nationality or “people” they identify with. In fact he is saying quite the opposite: that free trade and the mutual benefits it confers on all nations are the only rational means available to sustain one’s own nation and secure its desired advancement and distinction among other nations. In McCulloch’s words:

It has been shown over and over again, that nothing can be more irrational and absurd, than that dread of the progress of others in wealth and civilization that was once so prevalent; that what is for the advantage of one state is for the advantage of all; and that the true glory and real interest of every people will be more certainly advanced by endeavoring to outstrip their neighbors in this career of science and civilization, than by engaging in schemes of conquest and aggression.13

Henri Baudrillart (1821-1892) was an eminent French liberal economist and economic historian and a follower of Bastiat’s. He was an avid free trader and anti-militarist, who objected to standing armies. Baudrillart however maintained that international free trade and division of labor are not only consistent with separate nations and nationality differences but require such separateness and differences. Wrote Baudrillart:

Those who do not consider at all the differences produced among men by climate, race, and institutions, are the very theoreticians of prohibitions who want every nation to be self-sufficient and devote itself to all industries at the same time. . . . By endeavoring to maintain that division of labor which Providence itself has established among men, political economy is obviously not hostile to the spirit of nationality; it bases the alliance of peoples on the difference of characters and faculties; it wants each to excel under the conditions peculiar to it, and each to produce so as to have means of exchange. To generalize and extend trade, it localizes industry.14

It is imperative to emphasize the nationalist basis of the classical case for free trade for two reasons. First, modern libertarians and “classical” liberals who favor open borders and are indifferent to the dissolution of historical nations often invoke the names of Hume, Smith, and Bastiat in support of their position. But as we saw, the liberality, pacifism, and cosmopolitanism of these great thinkers and their nineteenth-century followers is far different from the homogenizing globalism embraced by their modern epigones. Second, without taking a position on the vexed question of immigration, it is important to bear in mind that the classical rationale for the free movement of goods cannot be simply extended to justify the “free movement of labor,” that is, open borders, especially if the result is mass immigration. As nationalists, the classical economists would hardly look on with equanimity as their nation disintegrated.

  • 1. For Mises’s description and defense of liberal nationalism, see Joseph T. Salerno, “ Mises on Nationalism, the Right of Self-Determination, and the Problem of Immigration ,” Mises Wire (March 17, 2017), and the references contained therein.
  • 2. Lionel Robbins, The Theory of Economic Policy in English Classical Political Economy (London: Macmillan & Co. Ltd., 1953), pp. 10-11.
  • 3. Edmund Silberner, The Problem of War in Nineteenth Century Economic Thought, trans. Alexander H. Krappe (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1946).
  • 4. Ibid., p. 280.
  • 5. Ibid., pp. 281-82
  • 6. Ibid., p. 282
  • 7. Ibid.
  • 8. Ibid., p. 283.
  • 9. David Hume, “ Of the Jealousy of Trade ,” in David Hume, Writings on Economics, ed. Eugene Rotwein (Madison, WI: The University of Wisconsin Press, 1970), p. 82.
  • 10. Robbins, The Theory of Economic Policy, p. 10, fn. 5.
  • 11. Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments (New Rochelle, NY: Arlington House, 1969), p. 337
  • 12. John R. McCulloch, The Principles of Political Economy, 5 th ed. (New York: Augustus M. Kelley, 1965), p. 92.
  • 13. Ibid., pp. 92-93.
  • 14. Henri Baudrillart quoted in Silberner, The Problem of War in Nineteenth Century Economic Thought, p. 111.
Categories: Current Affairs

The perfect is the enemy of the good

Adam Smith Institute - 8 hours 45 min ago

It is entirely common within economics to mention that we live in a second best world. It may well be true that x or y, or even z, would be the best policy, the best construct. But as it turns out humans and reality don’t quite allow perfection to be achieved - we’ve got to use some second best bodge to get as close as we can to our goal without ever quite reaching it.

Something that is being forgotten by the public health crowd:

England's chief medical officer has raised fears that vaping is “a ticking time bomb” which could do long-term harm, amid growing concern about the safety of e-cigarettes.

Prof Dame Sally Davies, who will stand down later this month, made the comments just before Donald Trump announced plans to ban flavoured vaping products, in a bid to discourage children from taking up the habit.

In an interview with Civil Service World, Dame Sally raised concerns about the evidence to support the safety of e-cigarettes.

Is vaping entirely safe? That’s not even the interesting, let alone important, question:

Smokers are turning back to traditional cigarettes amid health scares over vaping, US experts have warned.

Vaping has been linked to six deaths across the United States, and 380 people have been hospitalised with lung illnesses in what the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has called an "outbreak".

As far as reports go - so far, it’s a little murky at present - those vaping deaths are connected with a particular contaminant in a particular product, not the process itself. But imagine it wasn’t so. Imagine that it is indeed that process.

People do indeed like taking nicotine. There will be ill effects from their doing so for there are ill effects to absolutely everything that humans do. Our favourite example of this is that hundreds of Americans a year die of being tangled in their own bedsheets. We do not therefore mandate duvets.

Of course, we are extreme by current standards on these matters. If people wish to kill themselves by smoking cigarettes then it’s their lungs, their lives. This is what to be a consenting adult means.

But even if you do not share this view the idea that we’ll limit vaping because of 6 deaths as opposed to the millions from tobacco smoking is ludicrous. We really are in this second best world where harm reduction has to be the goal, not harm elimination - on the very sensible grounds that as the switch back to proper puffing shows, harm elimination isn’t possible.

Categories: Current Affairs

William Huskisson, free trader and railway’s first victim

Adam Smith Institute - Sun, 15/09/2019 - 12:01

William Huskisson, who died on September 15th, 1830, was one of the team of young free-traders who revolutionized Britain in the 1820s by continuing the work of William Pitt, ending huge swathes of regulations and tariffs, and paving the way for the free trading nation that became the dominant economy of the 19th Century.

He represented a variety of parliamentary seats, including Liverpool, where there is a statue of him in St James Cemetery. Another one stands in Pimlico Gardens in London. His political career owed much to the support of two important patrons, Home Secretary Henry Dundas and Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger. He served initially as Secretary to the Treasury, and later as President of the Board of Trade. His 1810 pamphlet on the currency system established his reputation as an expert in finance, but his reputation rests on his unwavering support for free trade.

As a member of the 1821 committee investigating the causes of agricultural distress, he was responsible for a clause in its findings that recommended relaxation of the Corn Laws, laws that kept up the price of cereal crops via tariffs, and guaranteed the incomes of the landed gentry at the expense of the poor.

While in the Department of Trade, he reformed the protectionist Navigation Acts, giving other nations access to the transport of British goods, thereby increasing competition and lowering prices. He repealed restrictive labour laws and cut duties on manufactures and foreign imports, as well as repealing quarantine duties. In all of this he was very much a disciple of Adam Smith, as Pitt had been.

To deal with low incomes, he was asked, as President of the Board of Trade, to enact a legally binding minimum wage. He ejected the request out of hand, saying that to introduce such a measure would be "a vain and hazardous attempt to impose the authority of the law between the labourer and his employer in regulating the demand for labour and the price to be paid for it".

He managed in 1828 the difficult task of having the cabinet agree to a compromise on the Corn Laws, difficult because the landed aristocrats strongly resisted measures that might compromise the incomes derived from having their estates farmed. It was not until Huskisson's friend and colleague, Sir Robert Peel, finally repealed the Corn Laws in 1845 that the issue was resolved in favour of cheap food for the newly industrialized workers, and it was not until efficient transatlantic freight came about that it achieved its practical effects. After this Huskisson resigned.

He attended the 1830 opening of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, despite recent surgery that left him less than fully mobile. When George Stephenson's "Rocket" locomotive approached dangerously, he attempted to climb to safety aboard the Duke of Wellington's carriage, but the door swung open and he was struck by the locomotive and died from his injuries later that day. He is thus remembered as a great free trader who liberated much of Britain's economy, and as the first fatality of a railway accident. On the anniversary of his death we remember his achievements that preaged Britain's greatness, as well as the misfortune that killed him at the age of 60.

Categories: Current Affairs

Acts 1:12-end

Sussex Parson - Sun, 15/09/2019 - 07:20
Some jottings / headings:


The Bible a weird and fascinating book: the ascension and Pentecost coming and a PCC / synod meeting to sort out a technical admin issue?


Narrative and normative: this is not just a dusty history lesson, but what are we to learn from it exactly?


It was a church that obeyed Jesus and waited


It was an apostolic church – but of course it wasn’t just the apostles


It was a church that joined constantly together to pray


It was a church that made good decisions together:


It was a church that read the Bible in a striking way as significant and authoritative for its life and all about Jesus


It was a church which trusted in the sovereign plans of God


It was a church that intended to provide convincing testimony to the ministry, ascension and resurrection of Jesus


It was a church that saw itself as the New IsraelMarc Lloyd
Categories: Friends

The Guardian, inflation and the 50p piece

Adam Smith Institute - Sun, 15/09/2019 - 07:01

The Guardian wants to tell us how living standards have changed over the 50 years since the 50 pence piece was introduced. Fair enough - matters have improved massively by the only standard that actually counts, how many hours work do we have to put in to purchase what lifestyle?

We are however struck by one little detail:

Back then, when booze was relatively cheap, it really was possible to go for a night out and still have change from 50p. A 50p piece in 1969 could buy you three pints of mild or bitter (priced about two shillings, equal to 10p) while a tube fare on the newly opened Victoria line in London cost just 5d (2.2p). You’d still have enough left to buy a portion of chips and a copy of the Guardian, then priced at 6d (2.5p).

Few denizens of Fleet Street as was would regard three pints of mild as a night out - that was breakfast. But as we can see a copy of The Guardian used to cost the same as a quarter pint of beer. Today’s price? £2.20 on a weekday and £3.20 on Saturday:

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the most expensive pint of beer is in London at £5.19, while the cheapest is in Carlisle at a more reasonable £2.35.

That is, The Guardian has gone from costing a quarter pint of that happy produce of our isle to somewhere between a half and a full pint.

True, these days they’re more likely to spell their own masthead right - Grauniad is not just a joke - but it’s not obvious that the quality has improved otherwise over those decades, is it? We wonder, what is it that justifies the paper having an inflation rate four times that of the price of beer? Especially since they note that back then beer was relatively cheap, something by implication they’re asserting it isn’t today. Can’t all be Polly’s salary now, can it?

Categories: Current Affairs

Why Government Plans for Fixing Recessions Ultimately Fail

Mises Institute - Sat, 14/09/2019 - 20:00

An essential element of the "unorthodox" doctrines, advanced both by all socialists and by all interventionists, is that the recurrence of depressions is a phenomenon inherent in the very operation, of the market economy. But while the socialists contend that only the substitution of socialism for capitalism can eradicate the evil, the interventionists ascribe to the government the power to correct the operation of the market economy in such a way as to bring about what they call "economic stability." These interventionists would be right if their antidepression plans were to aim at a radical abandonment of credit expansion policies. However, they reject this idea in advance. What they want is to expand credit more and more and to prevent depressions by the adoption of special "contracyclical" measures.

In the context of these plans the government appears as a deity that stands and works outside the orbit of human affairs, that is independent of the actions of its subjects, and has the power to interfere with these actions from without. It has at its disposal means and funds that are not provided by the people and can be freely used for whatever purposes the rulers are prepared to employ them for. What is needed to make the most beneficent use of this power is merely to follow the advice given by the experts.

The most advertised among these suggested remedies is contracyclical timing of public works and expenditure on public enterprises. The idea is not so new as its champions would have us believe. When depression came, in the past, public opinion always asked the government to embark upon public works in order to create jobs and to stop the drop in prices. But the problem is how to finance these public works. If the government taxes the citizens or borrows from them, it does not add anything to what the Keynesians call the aggregate amount of spending. It restricts the private citizen's power to consume or to invest to the same extent that it increases its own. If, however, the government resorts to the cherished inflationary methods of financing, it makes things worse, not better. It may thus delay for a short time the outbreak of the slump. But when the unavoidable payoff does come, the crisis is the heavier the longer the government has postponed it.

The interventionist experts are at a loss to grasp the real problems involved. As they see it, the main thing is "to plan public capital expenditure well in advance and to accumulate a shelf of fully worked out capital projects which can be put into operation at short notice." This, they say, "is the right policy and one which we recommend all countries should adopt."1 However, the problem is not to elaborate projects, but to provide the material means for their execution. The interventionists believe that this could be easily achieved by holding back government expenditure in the boom and increasing it when the depression comes.

Now, restriction of government expenditure may certainly be a good thing. But it does not provide the funds a government needs for a later expansion of its expenditure. An individual may conduct his affairs in this way. He may accumulate savings when his income is high and spend them later when his income drops. But it is different with a nation or all nations together. The treasury may hoard a considerable part of the lavish revenue from taxes which flows into the public exchequer as a result of the boom. As far and as long as it withholds these funds from circulation, its policy is really deflationary and contracyclical and may to this extent weaken the boom created by credit expansion. But when these funds are spent again, they alter the money relation and create a cash-induced tendency toward a drop in the monetary unit's purchasing power. By no means can these funds provide the capital goods required for the execution of the shelved public works.

The fundamental error of the interventionists consists in the fact that they ignore the shortage of capital goods. In their eyes the depression is merely caused by a mysterious lack of the people's propensity both to consume and to invest. While the only real problem is to produce more and to consume less in order to increase the stock of capital goods available, the interventionists want to increase both consumption and investment. They want the government to embark upon projects which are unprofitable precisely because the factors of production needed for their execution must be withdrawn from other lines of employment in which they would fulfill wants the satisfaction of which the consumers consider more urgent. They do not realize that such public works must considerably intensify the real evil, the shortage of capital goods.

One could, of course, think of another mode for the employment of the savings the government makes in the boom period. The treasury could invest its surplus in buying large stocks of all those materials which it will later, when the depression comes, need for the execution of the public works planned and of the consumers' goods which those occupied in these public works will ask for. But if the authorities were to act in this way, they would considerably intensify the boom, accelerate the outbreak of the crisis, and make its consequences more serious.2

All this talk about contracyclical government activities aims at one goal only, namely, to divert the public's attention from cognizance of the real cause of the cyclical fluctuations of business. All governments are firmly committed to the policy of low interest rates, credit expansion, and inflation. When the unavoidable aftermath of these short-term policies appears, they know only of one remedy — to go on in inflationary ventures.

[Human Action (1949)]

  • 1. Cf. League of Nations, Economic Stability in the Post-War World, Report of the Delegation on Economic Depressions, Pt. II (Geneva, 1945), p. 173.
  • 2. In dealing with the contracyclical policies the interventionists always refer to the alleged success of these policies in Sweden. It is true that public capital expenditure in Sweden was actually doubled between 1932 and 1939. But this was not the cause, but an effect, of Sweden's prosperity in the 1930s. This prosperity was entirely due to the rearmament of Germany. This Nazi policy increased the German demand for Swedish products on the one hand and restricted, on the other hand, German competition on the world market for those products which Sweden could supply. Thus Swedish exports increased from 1932 to 1938 (in thousands of tons) : iron ore from 2,219 to 12485; pig iron from 31,047 to 92,980; ferro-alloys from 15,453 to 28,605; other kinds of iron and steel from 134,237 to 256,146; machinery from 46,230 to 70,605. The number of unemployed applying for relief was 114,000 in 1932 and 165,000 in 1933. It dropped, as soon as German rearmament came into full swing, to 115,000 in 1934, to 62,000 in 1935, and was 16,000 in 1938. The author of this "miracle" was not Keynes, but Hitler.
Categories: Current Affairs

Recessions Can Theoretically Happen in a Free Market. But Central Banks Only Make Things Worse.

Mises Institute - Sat, 14/09/2019 - 17:00

Given the nature of the modern global economic system, it is only natural to focus on the role of government-created money and central banks when discussing recessions and the ever-expanding credit structure. However, it is important to remember that theoretically, boom-bust cycles and other downturns are not impossible in a truly free market system. Although, the length, scale, and scope of such downturns are greatly expanded under a system of fiat credit expansion.

I’ll explain the mechanisms and effects of free market versions of various downturns and why they’ll still exist even in absence of credit expansion. In addition, I’ll explain how these events are muted in relation to similar events under the modern central banking structure.

Free Market Recessions

Imagine for a moment you’re living in a town that is a major lumber producer. Your town is a trade hub for logs for ship building and you also have a substantial manufacturing base creating high quality home furnishings. However, as ship building began moving toward aluminum and steel and people lost interest in wooden furniture, the town began to suffer. Since capital and labor can’t be instantly retooled, the town eventually went through hard times where, even with broad national economic prosperity, the area lagged in poverty and unemployment significantly.

This above scenario is not a hypothetical but what is happened in a place called Lumberton, N.C. The town and surrounding county was once a major hub for lumber for the marine industry and home of a number of furniture manufacturers. However, as the ship industry transitioned away from wood construction and people began to prefer IKEA over hand-built wooden furniture, the town’s fortunes declined. The city and surrounding county went into a lengthy period of depression where it experienced significantly higher unemployment rates than national averages and has experienced a population drop over the past decade. The town’s fortunes have since improved as the area has rebranded itself as a favored location for retirement, but it still, to this day, lags behind the nation.

The above scenario is a classic free market driven depression. Towns and cities that have built up an economy around a narrow business sector are at high risk of such recessions and depressions. Capital deterioration and obsolescence eventually causes the businesses of an area to become less competitive over time when compared to businesses elsewhere.

Over time, recessions can resolve themselves as entrepreneurs purchase the distressed assets at a discount and retool or rebuild in anticipation of future demand. However, this isn’t always the case. If an area is too specialized, such as the well-preserved ghost town of Saint Elmo, Colorado has proven, people will abandon the area if the geography is no longer conducive to habitation.

What Austrian-school economics identifies here, however, is that the above recessions tend to be amplified and exacerbated by government attempts to help. Stimulus efforts tend to be counter-productive since governments naturally attempt to prop up existing businesses and existing sectors. What this inevitably does is choke off the entrepreneur from the necessary land, labor and capital to form a more valuable business is tied up in a government-subsidized Zombie Company. It’s in the attempt to avoid the inevitable recession where the problem is lengthened.

Additionally, such a scenario is possible only if there’s a single dominant company or industry within a region. This is a common issue with small towns, but a diverse economy shouldn’t ever experience a large-scale disruption. A nation like Uzbekistan is at high risk of a free market recession since its economic output is dominated by gold mining, but a country like the United States, Japan or even Mexico should be entirely immune to large-scale recessions since no one sector has any economic dominance. Large scale recessions are evidence of public sector impositions on the economy, be it regulatory burdens or subsidies tying up resources in zombies.

Further, towns that have become unviable places to live, such as natural resource depletion, are exacerbated by government interference as residents that would otherwise have emigrated elsewhere, like the above Saint Elmo, are now given welfare subsidies that alter the calculation and convince people to stay. A good example of this welfare driven depression is in Issaquena County, Mississippi, which was once a river port until freight rail made the location obsolete and is now counting on welfare transfers as a major source of economic activity when they otherwise would have left seeking opportunity elsewhere.

Free Market Booms

A common misconception is that a boom-bust must always be sparked by credit expansion. However, this is not quite the case. While unstable credit expansion is the most common form to spark a boom, a boom is nothing more than investors confusing rising prices with sustained rising demand. Booms have been caused by an increase in a commodity-based money, such as in 17th century Spain with a large influx of gold from the Americas, to booms sparked by unstable fads.

For a fun example of a localized boom-bust, I turn to a fad in the early 1990s, POGs. At the time, I was a middle school student. A few entrepreneurial kids began marketing up the various images as rare or common and a brisk market took off. More of my peers began saving up their allowance money to buy up bags of the things to try and sell to classmates to take advantage of the growing fad. Soon, the lunch period generated a rather brisk trade.

However, since everyone wanted in on the profits, everyone started buying bags of these cardboard disks. Everyone became a seller and no one was interested in being the buyer. Predictably, the market cratered. A few kids tried to unload entire bagfuls of these things for a few Dollars and big losses but were eventually stuck with a product they didn’t want.

This POG craze was a classic Minsky Cycle. Yet, at no point in this was credit ever involved. No bank would hand a 12 year old kid a loan to buy bags of cardboard chips on expectation of turning them for a profit. This was a boom-bust financed purely by savings in a fairly strong example of a free market.

Where the fiat credit system causes problems, however, is it allows the boom to become significantly larger than it otherwise would have been. At the turn of the 21st century, housing was treated very much the same way as my middle school peers treated POGs. Buy with the expectation to flip to someone else for a profit in a short timeframe.

In a healthy, free market credit system, the boom would be muted since interest rates would increase as demand for funds to buy housing depleted the savings base. However, with a central bank in play, interest rates were continually suppressed artificially and new money and credit was created out of thin air, fueling the price increase. The longer the boom continued, the more it convinced less risk-averse investors to try their hand at flipping. Interest rate suppression continued to fuel ever increasing housing prices, pulling more and more people into the bubble, leading to a collapse more spectacular than a few middle school kids blowing a few weeks of allowance money. Had interest rates increased as demand for mortgages increased, people would have balked at 12% loans, causing the bubble to burst much earlier.

Of course, instead of learning our lesson, the government has gone right back to manipulating the housing market and prices are higher now than they were at the 2006 bubble peak.

Government Makes the Problem Worse

As noted above, the role of the government has in a recession or boom-bust cycle is not necessarily being the cause, though in our modern world it has a strong role in this, but does have the impact of making the problem significantly worse than it otherwise would have been. Government involvement can turn a recession, like the one that quickly resolved itself and was forgotten in 1920, to a full-on Great Depression, which didn’t truly resolve itself until after the Second World War.

But make no mistake, economies have downturns. What is in demand today and how we build things today is not going to be the same in the future and this will inevitably lead to a decline as an economy changes its capital structure. People and plants can’t be retrained and converted to satisfy the newest demand instantly. In a free market, the impact tends to be muted, especially in a region with significant economic diversity, but it’s a mistake to think downturns and the boom-bust is impossible in absence of government interference.

Categories: Current Affairs

Life in 1 John

Blog & Mablog - Sat, 14/09/2019 - 15:33
Introduction:

We have considered the enticements of worldliness—the snare that tripped up our first parents. Those enticements are the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. When we are drawn to such things, and they make us unrighteous, and we also want to cling to our deep need to still be in the right, this results in us lying to ourselves. This self-deception is a radical problem. So our dilemma is the death grip of lust and lying about it. The alternative, the only possible alternative, is life from the dead.

The Text:

“And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life” (1 John 5:20).

Summary of the Text:

The Christian gospel, the Christian life, the Christian worldview, and the Christian everything, are all encompassed by the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Everything revolves around who He is, and what He did. Who is this Jesus? And what did He accomplish through His life, death, and resurrection? Who is this? And what did He do?

Now what do we as Christians know? We know, in the first instance, that the Son of God is come (v. 20). We were in darkness, but He came in order to give us light. We were in ignorance, but He came to give us an understanding. And what is that understanding? He came to give us an understanding of the one who came—e.g. that we may “know him that is true” (v. 20). He came so that we might understand why He had to come. If we know this, then we know that we are in Him that is true, that is to say, in His Son the Lord Jesus Christ (v. 20). This, John says, is the true God, and this, John says, is eternal life (v. 20). And he could have added to this, if he had wanted to, “but I repeat myself.” This is the true God. This is eternal life. They are not side by side—they are the same thing. The true and living God is our life.

Life Came Down

When the living God came down to us, life came down to us. Not only so, but this life has been mediated to us in a particular way.

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;)”

1 John 1L1-2 (KJV)

So the Word of life came down, and the apostles touched Him, and handled Him. This life was manifested to them, and they saw it. Having seen it, they bore witness to the life, and the result of this witness, this testimony, is that eternal life is shown to us. The life comes down from Heaven and is manifested. That is step one. This eternal life is seen and testified to. That is step two. This life that came down from Heaven also comes down through the centuries. The power of the Incarnation was the Holy Spirit of God. The power of apostolic witness and testimony is also the Holy Spirit of God.

“And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life”

1 John 2:25 (KJV)

We are recipients of promises, and so it is that we are trafficking in certainties (1 John 5:13). Please note that God wants us to have an assurance of our salvation. He wrote this so that we might know. But this is knowledge of life, and life is something that is pervasive. You don’t find assurance of salvation in some little locked cupboard in your heart. No, you find it because life goes everywhere, and gets into everything.

Airy Fairy?

Now for some, this seems like it is all “long ago and far away.” So somebody appeared to some ancient guys way back then, made an impression on them, and those guys then made some outlandish claims about it? How convenient that it all happened two thousand years ago. And so the question presses in on us—how can we be sure about this so-called “life”?

But I would suggest that we start somewhere else. Let’s start with something we have a lot more experience with, and which is empirically demonstrable. Let us start with the raw fact of death. As Chesterton points out somewhere, original sin is the one doctrine of the Christian faith that can be empirically shown. Open a news site on your browser. Can’t you read?

“We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him. Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren”

1 John 3:14-16 (KJV)

Before we discuss the eternal life that was manifested in the Incarnation and is manifested in the proclamation of the gospel, we need to make we understand the backdrop. That backdrop is the indisputable fact that we surrounded by death on every hand. We were born into it, and the death of selfishness is the air we breathe. The human race is bent and crooked timber, and we cannot build a straight house with it. So we are not arbitrarily saying that our little mystery religion is “special,” a claim made by all the other mystery cults. Sure. Claim and counterclaim, and everybody does that. But we are not simply claiming to have the secret cheat codes of the cosmos (doctrine x as opposed to doctrine y). Rather, we are claiming something else entirely, something which, if true, cannot really be denied by anybody. We are claiming to be alive. We have been born again. God has granted us the glorious miracle of the new birth. And when asked about it, the questioner discovers that we are alive because Jesus is alive.

The New Birth as Real Certainty

This is what it actually means to be evangelical. It means to be quickened. It means life. Remember the lust for worldliness that used to have you trapped. Remember the lies you would tell yourself in order to justify staying trapped in that sweet prison. Now in contrast to all that, the gospel means life.

“And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God”

1 John 5:11-13 (KJV)

This life is not impersonal. This is not some kind of spiritual joy juice. Remember our text. This is the true God, this is eternal life. And in the verse just cited it says that this life is in his Son.

The post Life in 1 John appeared first on Blog & Mablog.

Categories: People I don't know

Not all PIIGS are Created Equal: A Comparison of Portugal and Ireland

Mises Institute - Sat, 14/09/2019 - 12:15

The eurozone crisis was highlighted by five countries: Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Spain, and Greece. These peripheral nations were deemed to be the culprits behind the eurozone crisis due to their overspending. Namely, they had caused excessive deficits, coupled with large debt levels. They were dubbed by the media as the “PIIGS”

However, putting all five of these countries in the same basket obscures the real culprits behind the eurozone crisis. There was group 1, Ireland and Spain, which were countries without major fiscal irresponsibility issues, however, whose debt levels ballooned as a result of bailouts and the crisis. On the other hand, there was group 2, Italy, Portugal, and Greece. These countries have had big government spending policies dating back to the 1960s and as such could not have been expected to shift around due to EU restrictions on deficit and debt levels, when the political sentiment in the countries was not in favor of free markets. Putting all five countries in the same basket obscures the question of who really had irresponsible fiscal policies.

kovic1.PNG

 

Table: Index of economic freedom ranking

Portugal

Portugal suffered from a burdening welfare state, coupled with an economy that was based on government intervention. In 1962, the Social Welfare Reform was undertaken, creating a unified social welfare scheme. This reform exacerbated social spending, which reached 4% of GDP in 1969. At the time this seemed a non-negligible increase, however, the increase was even greater from 1969 to 1974. The increase during this five-year period was mainly due to additional coverage being provided to hitherto unprotected groups, as well as providing benefits such as pension and family allowance. As a result of all of these new people that were taken under the government’s umbrella, between 1971 and 1974 social expenditures rose at a rate of around 36% per year. Around 64% of this increase represented a rise in spending on pensions. Even with all of these new trends and the overall expansion, prior to the 1974 revolution, social expenditures as a percentage of GDP in Portugal never exceeded 6%. However, things began to change following the fall of the Estado Novo regime. Social expenditures surpassed 10% in the decade of the 1980s and by 1995 it was at around 15%. It finally climbed above 20% after the new millennium.

The rise in social expenditures is not to indicate that times before the revolution were better. Portugal’s dictator António de Oliveira Salazar was a fascist dictator who ruled the country for decades with an authoritarian regime. Salazar’s Estado Novo regime was based on a corporatist economic system which intended to replace individual competition by collaboration of the most important social groups of the production process. With the fall of Estado Novo in 1974, the revolutionaries were faced with a myriad of state-directed companies, ruled by close friends of the dictator and the business elite. However, instead of opening up the economy and allowing firms from abroad to enter the market and dismantle inefficiencies in the market place, the revolutionaries nationalized companies in key industries. In addition, in the 1976 constitution, the preamble affirmed the need to open a path toward a socialist society. Laws were passed which made firing full-time employees arduous, people were given “rights” to work, housing, education, culture, health and a myriad of other things. These “rights” usually translate into higher spending and taxes. Before the revolution, Portugal spent 20% of GDP on basic necessities such as military expenditures and the judiciary, however that number increased to 46% after the revolution. In addition, Portugal has achieved a fiscal deficit every single year since the revolution of 1974.

These uncompetitive policies left an economic impact on Portugal, whose GDP per capita was 66% of the European average in the years after the revolution of 1974, however, this number soon fell to 60% in 2000. Changes to the constitution were made during the 1980s to foster privatization and its accession in the EU also brought welcoming changes, however, its economy was fundamentally flawed as it was a huge welfare state built on shaky, government-sponsored ground.

kovic2.png

Figure: Social expenditure as a % of GDP in Portugal

Ireland

Ireland is perhaps the most liberal economy of all of the peripheral countries and among the freest overall in the EU. Because of this, it is at first difficult to see why it is in the same category as the other four countries, whose economies were not as liberal. Ireland's economy was, to an extent, too competitive. It had the lowest corporate tax rate in the eurozone at the time at 12.5%, which attracted many banks to come to the island. In addition, these banks had access to cheap credit due to the low interest rates as well as the implicit backing of the euro by the political community. This essentially meant that banks could lend great amounts, knowing that the government will bail them out. Therefore, it is quite difficult to talk of Ireland in the same light as with all other countries. Although Ireland surely must have had certain policies that were not ideal in a laissez-faire economy, but the overall economy was resting on a fairly sound basis. Namely, there was government intervention in the housing sector through various tax breaks which fueled the property bubble. By giving out tax breaks for only one certain good, this distorts the market by making other investments, which would have been more profitable otherwise, look more expensive. However, even this, is miniscule as tax breaks for housing exist almost everywhere.

The euro played a huge part in the Irish bubble. The yearly growth in the money supply jumped, from a negative 6.7% in 2003 to 22% in 2006. Its main policy rate was around 13% before the introduction of the euro in the late 1990s, whereas the main refinancing rate of the ECB was as low as 2% in 2003. The growth of Irish banking assets jumped from 7.4% in 2002 to 31% in 2005. Total gross government debt as a percentage of GDP was 38.7% at the start of the millennium, steadily reducing to a low of 27.7% in 2007. Therefore, it is evident that government fiscal policy was not the issue here, it only became an issue after the crash. Total gross government debt as a percentage of GDP almost doubled in 2008 to 47.5% and by the end of the decade it was 83.5%. Total gross government debt only rose when Ireland decided to bail out its banking system.

Conclusion

As evident, the label “PIIGS” obscures the whole picture of the culprits behind the eurozone crisis. Furthermore, the macroeconomic dichotomy between Portugal and Ireland (and many other eurozone countries) brings into question the entire design of the euro. Without the euro, the problems of Portugal would have been restricted to Portugal — the same with Greece and Italy. A case could potentially be made for a common currency area with countries of similar development levels and history, however, to combine a country that rests on big government spending with one that rests on laissez-faire is shere suicide. It creates a situation where the central bank appeases to lesser-developed countries and allows their irresponsible behavior to be borne by those that were following the rules.

Categories: Current Affairs

Champagne - invented by an Englishman

Adam Smith Institute - Sat, 14/09/2019 - 12:01

In popular but inaccurate history, Champagne was invented by the Benedictine monk Dom Perignon, who died on September 14th, 1715. He allegedly discovered the 'methode champenoise' at the Abbey of Hautvilliers in 1697. No. Some 35 years earlier in 1662, an Englishman, Christopher Merret, delivered a paper to the newly-formed Royal Society revealing how to add sugar to a finished wine to create a secondary fermentation in the bottle.

A problem was encountered that the glass bottles of the time were fairly weak, and tended to explode with the pressure. The explosion of one in a cellar could trigger a chain reaction that exploded hundreds of bottles. Stronger bottles were needed. Here, too, it was English scientists and inventors who came up with the goods. Glass at the time was made using charcoal furnaces, but when this was banned so that wood was reserved for navy ships rather than charcoal, glassmakers began experimenting with coal.

Merret himself was among those who developed the stout bottles that could contain the bubbles, the early ones looking something like large onions. Because coal added impurities, the stout bottles tended to be dark and opaque, but they did the job.

Merret wrote, "Our wine coopers of recent times use vast quantities of sugar and molasses to all sorts of wines to make them drink brisk and sparkling and to give them spirit." It was the first recorded description of the process and the use of the word “sparkling” to describe fizzy wine. In England Merret and his contemporaries initially used the process with apples, rather than grapes, to make sparkling cider. It is, nonetheless, the 'methode champenoise' that is a source of French national pride. And the French rapidly caught on to the advances in English glassmaking technology, with early accounts of their champagne making referring to “verre Anglaise,” or English glass.

There’s a plaque honouring Merret’s achievements in the Cotsworld town of Winchcombe, but in fact he was one of a number of people who were experimenting with different methods of brewing and glassmaking. It was the early start of something remarkable, an age of invention and innovation that developed into the Industrial Revolution, the phenomenon that led to the modern world.

The historian T S Ashton describes how a schoolboy wrote, “About 1760 a wave of gadgets swept over England,” in answer to a question on the Industrial Revolution. That anonymous schoolboy has been quoted in many subsequent books on the subject because it sums up something unprecedented: an age of improvement in which it became respectable, even practically a duty, for people to experiment and innovate in order to make more of what people wanted, and to make it more efficiently. It was under way well before 1760, as Merret’s example shows us.

Much of this was the outcome of an empirical approach, with inventors testing new ideas in practice, and learning from experience how to adapt and improve them. The English tended not to build vast, all-embracing systems of thought like their Continental counterparts, but to concentrate on real-world experience. Their development of the champagne process is but one example among thousands. They did what worked, and then improved it. And they still do.

Categories: Current Affairs

Look to China to Learn About America

Mises Institute - Sat, 14/09/2019 - 12:00

Given that the American people have been inculcated with the notion that they are a free people who live under limited government, whatever the federal government does is considered part and parcel of a free society. Sometimes it’s helpful to examine what totalitarian regimes do in order to bring a sense of reality to Americans.

Most every American would agree that China is not a free society. It is ruled by a brutal unelected communist totalitarian regime that will suppress any dissent that is considered to be potential threat to the regime’s monopoly control over the political process. So, we can safely use China as a model for a tyrannical regime.

A few weeks ago, 28-year-old Simon Cheng, a Chinese citizen from Hong Kong crossed the border and entered mainland China, where he was arrested. The Chinese authorities apparently suspect him of involvement in the recent protests that have occurred in Hong Kong. No one has heard from him since. He has disappeared into the bowels of China’s communist criminal justice system.

According to a New York Times article about the incident, “Under Chinese law, suspects held for administration detention can be held for up to 15 days without court hearings or access to lawyers.” Regardless of what the law technically says, however, the Chinese authorities can and do hold suspects for much longer periods of time, sometimes indefinitely. The reason is there is no independent judiciary to require them to release a person. The Chinese judiciary is subservient to the ruling regime and defers to its authority.

Moreover, the regime can and does torture prisoners. Again, there is nothing anyone can do to prevent this. The torture is oftentimes so brutal that some independent minded, courageous individuals who were were protesting come out of the prison process as broken people, ones whose minds have been fixed through brutal and tortuous reeducation.

Before the 9/11 attacks, that sort of thing could not happen here in the United States, at least not legally. If the government arrested someone, it was required to file formal written charges (e.g., an indictment) that would notify the person of what he was being charged with. He also would be entitled to a jury trial instead of judge trial or a tribunal trial. He had the right to an attorney to represent him. He also had a right to an independent judge. And no cruel and unusual punishments, such as torture. That’s all because our American ancestors had the wisdom to guarantee such rights in the Bill of Rights.

What if U.S. officials did to someone what the Chinese government has done to Simon Cheng. In that event, the Constitution enables him to file a petition for writ of habeas corpus, a right that stretches back several centuries in English history and which actually is a lynchpin of a free society. An independent federal judge orders the government to bring the person to court and show cause why he should not be released. At the habeas hearing, the judge orders the government to charge the person with a crime or release him. No indefinite detention, like there is China. And of course no torture.

All that came to an end with the 9/11 attacks. At that point, the national-security branch of the federal government adopted many of the same powers as the Chinese communist regime, and without any amendment to the Constitution. The military and the CIA, two of the principal elements of the national-security state, now wield the power to take anyone, including both Americans and foreigners, into military or CIA custody by simply labeling them a “terrorist,” hold them as long as they want in a military dungeon or secret CIA prison camp, torture them, and even assassinate them. While Americans still have the right to file a petition for habeas corpus, federal judges will customarily defer to the Pentagon and the CIA on their determination that a person poses a threat to “national security.”

This is what all too many Americans still don’t realize — that U.S. officials used the 9/11 attacks to destroy the freedom of the American people by adopting the same type of totalitarian powers that are wielded by the Chinese communist regime and other totalitarian regimes.

Want another example? As those of you who have been reading my articles for some time know, I have continually emphasized that America’s system of immigration controls has brought into existence a police state in the American Southwest. As part of this system, federal officials have been requiring American citizens to turn over cellphones and disclose their passwords so that officials can retrieve all of the information on the cellphone and make a copy of it. No warrant. No probable cause or even reasonable suspicion that a crime has been committed. Just raw omnipotent power to search the cellphone and, for that matter, the American citizen himself, including body cavities.

Now consider this excerpt from the NYT article:

Chinese border officers have stepped up checks on people crossing the border from Hong Kong. They have begun routinely searching the phones of people who enter the mainland from Hong Kong, apparently to identify people sympathetic to the protest movement and to prevent photographs or other information about the demonstrations from spreading to the mainland.

This is what all too many Americans simply will not permit themselves to consider: that the conversion of the federal government from a limited-government republic to a national-security state ended up destroying their liberty and their privacy. Oh sure, Americans can easily recognize tyranny abroad but they just are unable to recognize it at home. At home, they see the tyranny as “freedom” and, even worse, express gratitude for it. Unfortunately, all too many Americans reflect the words of Johann Goethe: None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.

Originally published by the Future of Freedom Foundation.

Categories: Current Affairs

The sad story of Kentucky baked chicken

Adam Smith Institute - Sat, 14/09/2019 - 07:01

It would appear that those desiring fried chicken don’t quite take to baked chicken:

KFC has revealed that its attempts to encourage people to eat healthier baked products was an £8 million waste of time.

A senior executive for the fast food chain said the roll-out of ovens in its restaurants had been largely pointless because customers were reluctant to move away from the traditional deep fried meals

Jenny Packwood, head of brand engagement at KFC UK and Ireland, told the Public Health England (PHE) conference the company had abandoned the project after disappointing sales of the Brazer grilled chicken sandwich, launched in 2011, the Rancher sandwich in 2012 and a pulled chicken dish which came out in 2015.

She also said the company had got “a lot of grief” about its modified fries, which although still deep fried, are thicker, meaning a lower surface area - the part which soaks up oil - per helping.

The move has resulted in an 18 per cent reduction in calories and a 12 per cent reduction in fat.

“It didn’t go brilliantly well,” she said.

“We tried and failed to launch a non-fried product.

This of rather greater importance than just being able to have a giggle at PHE’s expense. You know, the people don’t want what PHE says they should.

That importance being that a company, just like any other organisation, is simply a way of getting things done. There’s a certain amount of capital - these days brand and human capital being vastly more important than the physical kind - optimised for the task at hand. The point being that if we change the task then it’s better to change to a new organisation than it is to try to change the extant one.

Nando’s does rather a lot of not fried chicken and it seems to do rather well at it too.

The larger importance of this being things like fossil fuel companies. Say that we really do wish to stop using those fuels. That we need to build an infrastructure that allows us to do so. Attempting to coopt that current infrastructure, those current companies, isn’t going to work well. Simply because they are optimised to produce and deliver fossil fuels. Changing that organisation is very much more difficult than starting afresh. If we’ve a new task then a new organisation is the preferred route.

Which is why BP was markedly unsuccessful at doing solar cells last time around of course.

Categories: Current Affairs

Maybe the Whole Narrative is Wrong

Blog & Mablog - Sat, 14/09/2019 - 02:05

“How many times can the masses be shocked out of their conformist stupor before we begin to wonder whether they were ever in a conformist stupor to start with?”

Nation of Rebels, p. 95

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Categories: People I don't know

Sounds Like Fun

Blog & Mablog - Sat, 14/09/2019 - 02:00

“The goal is to have civilization and the kingdom of God become more and more synonymous and harder and harder to tell apart.”

Why Children Matter, pp. 64

The post Sounds Like Fun appeared first on Blog & Mablog.

Categories: People I don't know

How Cloudflare and Wall Street Are Helping Encrypt the Internet Today

CloudFlare - Sat, 14/09/2019 - 00:00
How Cloudflare and Wall Street Are Helping Encrypt the Internet TodayHow Cloudflare and Wall Street Are Helping Encrypt the Internet Today

Today has been a big day for Cloudflare, as we became a public company on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE: NET). To mark the occasion, we decided to bring our favorite entropy machines to the floor of the NYSE. Footage of these lava lamps is being used as an additional seed to our entropy-generation system LavaRand — bolstering Internet encryption for over 20 million Internet properties worldwide.

(This is mostly for fun. But when’s the last time you saw a lava lamp on the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange?)

How Cloudflare and Wall Street Are Helping Encrypt the Internet Today

A little context: generating truly random numbers using computers is impossible, because code is inherently deterministic (i.e. predictable). To compensate for this, engineers draw from pools of randomness created by entropy generators, which is a fancy term for "things that are truly unpredictable".

It turns out that lava lamps are fantastic sources of entropy, as was first shown by Silicon Graphics in the 1990s. It’s a torch we’ve been proud to carry forward: today, Cloudflare uses lava lamps to generate entropy that helps make millions of Internet properties more secure.

How Cloudflare and Wall Street Are Helping Encrypt the Internet Today

Housed in our San Francisco headquarters is a wall filled with dozens of lava lamps, undulating with mesmerizing randomness. We capture these lava lamps on video via a camera mounted across the room, and feed the resulting footage into an algorithm — called LavaRand — that amplifies the pure randomness of these lava lamps to dizzying extremes (computers can't create seeds of pure randomness, but they can massively amplify them).

Shortly before we rang the opening bell this morning, we recorded footage of our lava lamps in operation on the trading room floor of the New York Stock Exchange, and we're ingesting the footage into our LavaRand system. The resulting entropy is mixed with the myriad additional sources of entropy that we leverage every day, creating a cryptographically-secure source of randomness — fortified by Wall Street.

How Cloudflare and Wall Street Are Helping Encrypt the Internet Today

We recently took our enthusiasm for randomness a step further by facilitating the League of Entropy, a consortium of global organizations and individual contributors, generating verifiable randomness via a globally distributed network. As one of the founding members of the League, LavaRand (pictured above) plays a key role in empowering developers worldwide with a pool of randomness with extreme entropy and high reliability.

And today, she’s enjoying the view from the podium!

One caveat: the lava lamps we run in our San Francisco headquarters are recorded in real-time, 24/7, giving us an ongoing stream of entropy. For reasons that are understandable, the NYSE doesn't allow for live video feeds from the exchange floor while it is in operation. But this morning they did let us record footage of the lava lamps operating shortly before the opening bell. The video was recorded and we're ingesting it into our LavaRand system (alongside many other entropy generators, including the lava lamps back in San Francisco).


Categories: Technology

“We must learn from the past” says Archbishop of Canterbury at site of Indian massacre

Anglican Ink - Fri, 13/09/2019 - 23:00

Learning from the past is essential to prevent further atrocities like the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre, the Archbishop of Canterbury said, following his visit to the memorial site in India this week.

Archbishop Justin Welby has been travelling around key sites in India for the past 10 days at the invitation of the Churches of North and South India.

He was pictured lying prostrate in front of the memorial commemorating 100 years since the tragedy, when thousands of unarmed Indians of many different faiths were shot by British troops in 1919.
 
He said: “Coming here arouses a sense of profound shame at what happened in this place. It is one of a number of deep stains on British history. The pain and grief that has transcended the generations since must never be dismissed or denied… We have a great responsibility to not just lament this horrific massacre, but most importantly to learn from it in a way that changes our actions … The past must be learned from so nothing like this ever happens again.”

The visit to the Massacre site in Amritsar came towards the end of his trip, which began in Kerala, where he prayed with Christians from the Church of South India.

Speaking after his visit to Kerala he said: “I’ve been praying with Indian Christians today. It’s an extraordinary reminder that every time this happens, that despite national differences, different languages, all sorts of differences of history and culture, that when we come to Jesus Christ we are united.”

The Archbishop, who was joined on the visit by his wife Caroline Welby, said the purpose of his visit was prayer, pilgrimage and pastoral concern and that he was visiting as a religious leader to pray with Christians, to learn about Christianity in India and to share their experiences. On his fourth day in the country he spent time with the Church of South India’s Sisters Order and Women’s Fellowship in Bengaluru and said he had been inspired by their devotion and their “vital work among poor, oppressed and marginalised women and children.”

The second half of the trip took the Archbishop to Kolkata where he was hosted by the Church of North India and welcomed by the Moderator of the Church of North India, Dr Prem Chand Singh and the Bishop of Kolkata, Paritosh Canning. Archbishop Justin said he had been moved and inspired to see how the Churches of South and North India were a powerful force for good in wider society.

At St Paul’s Cathedral in Kolkata, the Archbishop was taken to the cathedral’s Friendship Centre who reach out to those in need from any faith or background. He said the centre was another example of the Church of North India’s commitment to those suffering from trauma, grief or other struggles. “The centre offers that simple, precious and rare gift: a safe space to be listened to and prayed for,” he said. “The world needs more of these places.”

The post “We must learn from the past” says Archbishop of Canterbury at site of Indian massacre appeared first on Anglican Ink © 2019.

Malaysian Government ban on joint prayers could increase discrimination between different faiths

Anglican Ink - Fri, 13/09/2019 - 22:58

A new directive from Malaysia’s Department of Islamic Development (Jakim) barring muslims and non muslims from praying together has been criticised by the Archbishop of South East Asia, Ng Moon Hing.

The Archbishop said the directive was confusing and would lead to further polarisation between faiths.

He said: “I think the Malaysian government has contradicted themselves. On one hand the Malaysian King (Yang Di Pertuan Agung) and the Prime Minister has recently again in the King’s birthday speech and PM in his Independence (Merdeka) speech emphasised Inter – faith and cultural relationships and dialogues and gatherings for the harmony of the nation, and on the other hand such a directive banning muslim and non muslim praying together is ridiculous and confusing.”

The directive from the committee to promote understanding and harmony between religions was issued last week. It stated that on the advice of the Federal Islamic Affairs Department (Jakim) both types of prayers should not be held in the same programme.

Such prayers should instead be “replaced with an activity where a message of unity is shared”, it stated.

Jakim also stated that there were no restrictions on non-Muslims to organise or be involved in such events

The Archbishop said: “For the past century, Malaysians and during pre-Malaysia days, there were no problems at all, even at government functions. I believe this directive is going against the very harmonious (muhibah) spirit of the nation and will polarise the nation further. I don’t understand how praying together could create discrimination and disrespect, instead the opposite, respect and appreciation will result.”

According to a state minister in one area of Malaysia the recommendation from Jakim doesn’t apply. Assistant Minister in the Chief Minister’s Office in charge of Islamic affairs in Sarawak, Abdul Rahman Junaidi said praying together was part and parcel of the state’s policy of religious tolerance and that in Sarawak, everyone prays together.

The post Malaysian Government ban on joint prayers could increase discrimination between different faiths appeared first on Anglican Ink © 2019.

Anglican Unscripted 533 – Therefore go and Virtual Signal

Anglican Ink - Fri, 13/09/2019 - 21:42

A notable week for your winsome trio as we talk about virtual signaling and some recent examples.

The post Anglican Unscripted 533 – Therefore go and Virtual Signal appeared first on Anglican Ink © 2019.

Kenya Clergy Conference 2019

Anglican Ink - Fri, 13/09/2019 - 21:11

The Provincial clergy conference organised and hosted by the Most Rev Dr Jackson Nasoore Ole Sapit Archbishop of Kenya and Primate of Anglican Church of Kenya was a five-day program from the 19th to 23rd August 2019 and held at Kabarak University in Nakuru County, Kenya. 

The conference theme was “A Wholesome Ministry For A Wholesome Nation” and featured bible expositions, reflections, worship, fellowship, revival and prayer sessions.

Bible expositions were taken by Rt Rev Dr Zac Niringiye from Uganda and the theme speaker was Most Rev Dr Benjamin A Kwashi from Nigeria.

The Most Rev Dr B A Kwashi preached from 2 Timothy 4: 1-6 with the following titles:
•    Living the Gospel 2 Timothy 4:1
•    Facing the World 2 Timothy 4:3-5
•    Finishing Well 2 Timothy 4:6

Other Speakers at the conference were Rt Rev Dr Emmanuel Chemengich, Rt Rev Dr Zac Niringiye, Rev Paul Waswa, Prof PLO Lumumba, Mrs Priscilla Were.

We praise God for the reports of God moving in special ways as participants made solemn commitments to God and were revived in spirit.

Quotes of note from the conference:

“Discernment is necessary for us to take a stand – to be different, be sober, endure, preach and teach, pray, and persevere.”

“Life should revolve around prayer as an expression of worship. Prayer orders life.”

“You must maintain a consistent walk with God – like Enoch!”

The Most Rev Dr Jackson Nasoore Ole Sapit, Archbishop of Kenya and Primate of Anglican Church of Kenya.

Archbishop Ben Kwashi, Jos Nigeria, Gafcon General Secretary 

The post Kenya Clergy Conference 2019 appeared first on Anglican Ink © 2019.

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