Blogroll Category: Current Affairs

I read blogs, as well as write one. The 'blogroll' on this site reproduces some posts from some of the people I enjoy reading. There are currently 499 posts from the category 'Current Affairs.'

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Government insists electric cars will still be terrible in 2035

Adam Smith Institute - Tue, 04/02/2020 - 07:01

Electric cars have their moments of course. Posing in a Tesla has merits among certain highly impressionable populations. Milk floats have always had their advantages. But in bad news for the success of technological development the government is insisting that by 2035 non-diesel and petrol cars are still going to be pretty bad for general usage:

The sale of petrol and diesel cars will be banned five years earlier than planned, under a climate change drive to be unveiled by Boris Johnson.

The Government announced in 2017 that it would impose a ban on diesel and petrol cars from 2040 as part of an effort to tackle air pollution.

However the Prime Minister is said to be speeding up the plans with a view to implementing the ban by 2035.

If the non-internal combustion engine cars were to be wondrous by that point then there’d be no need to ban them. For everyone would be purchasing them as a matter of choice. The only reason to ban people from purchasing ICEs is because they would be chosen given how appalling the alternatives are all going to be.

The ban is thus an admission - and insistence - from government that non-ICE cars are going to remain pretty terrible. But we’re going to be forced to have them, aren’t we the lucky ones?

Categories: Current Affairs

China bans Christian funerals in Zhejiang

Anglican Ink - Tue, 04/02/2020 - 01:58

Christian funerals have been banned in some areas of China as the communist government begins to enforce a set of repressive regulations on religious practices.

In the eastern province of Zhejiang, the government has put in force a set of Regulations on Centralized Funeral Arrangement, which bans priests from attending funeral prayers outside a religious place.

The government claims the new rules aim to “get rid of bad funeral customs and establish a scientific, civilized and economical way of funerals.”

“Clerical personnel are not allowed to participate in funerals” at homes and “no more than 10 family members of the deceased are allowed to read scriptures or sing hymns in a low voice,” the rules state. The new rules began to take effect recently, although enacted on Dec. 1, said a Catholic in Wenzhou Diocese in Zhejiang.

The regulations strictly ban “religious activities outside religious places, so the priest will not be able to hold funeral prayers outside the church,” he told UCA News.

Huang Jian, also of Wenzhou, said that after the new regulations were announced, “priests are not attending religious funeral ceremonies.”In villages priests could visit parishioners’ homes but could not conduct any religious ceremonies or prayers, he told UCA News.

Father Guo of Henan parish, which is part of the open church approved by the state, told UCA News that government officials have asked them to strictly follow the Regulations on Religious Affairs.“Otherwise there would be penalties. The punishment could even be closing the church and cancelling the priest’s priesthood certificate, letting the priest go home,” he said.

Father Guo did not deny that the situation of the Chinese Church is worrying.”It has been oppressed to this extent. I only do what I should do, otherwise I cannot face God,” he said.

“They don’t let me be a priest. If they don’t let me go to church, I’ll just go underground. Anyway, the church on the ground is now oppressed no differently from the underground. Be restrained.”

Father Guo said communists will hold memorial services when they die. “Why are we Catholics not allowed to hold a ceremony? This is exactly persecution,” he added.

Father Peter Lee, another member of the open church in eastern Shandong, told UCA News that government instructions had not come to him so far.

“I still hold sacraments at the homes of dead parishioners. The day before yesterday, I sent a greeting to a church member from home to the cemetery. No one blocked it,” he told UCA News on Jan.30.

“As a priest, we need to accompany church members to make them feel like everyone is a family. Particularly, baptisms and funerals are very important for families.” Zhang Haomin, parish leader in Cangzhou in Hebei province, said it had not received any notification from the government, “so everything will continue as usual.”

“The government now requires society to simplify funerals. The funeral ceremonies held by our church are simple, do not burn paper, and do not pollute the environment,” he said.

China has banned funerals, burials and other related activities involving the corpses of deceased victims of the coronavirus that originated in Wuhan in Hubei province.

The post China bans Christian funerals in Zhejiang appeared first on Anglican Ink © 2020.

Archbishops to the Church and the Communion: “You May Now Take Down Your Hand!”

Anglican Ink - Tue, 04/02/2020 - 01:48

This past week I wrote a post titled “The English Bishops on Marriage: The Sound of One Hand Clapping.” The one hand clapping was a December statement from the House of Bishops of the Church of England affirming the teaching of the Bible, the historic church and the Book of Common Prayer that marriage is the union of one man and one woman for the purposes of procreation, avoidance of sin, and mutual help and society. Many traditionalists were pleasantly surprised to see this affirmation; others were scandalized.

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have now clarified the matter and instructed the church and the wider Communion: “You May Now Take Down Your Hand”:

We as Archbishops, alongside the bishops of the Church of England, apologise and take responsibility for releasing a statement last week which we acknowledge has jeopardised trust. We are very sorry and recognise the division and hurt this has caused.

At our meeting of the College of Bishops of the Church of England this week we continued our commitment to the Living in Love and Faith project which is about questions of human identity, sexuality and marriage. This process is intended to help us all to build bridges that will enable the difficult conversations that are necessary as, together, we discern the way forward for the Church of England.

That didn’t take long. Let me paraphrase their message:

We who occupy the ancient sees of Canterbury (597 AD) and York (735 AD) repent in dust and ashes for having made some colleagues on the Left feel excluded. Dear friends, please stop denouncing us on social media. We didn’t really mean it. It just slipped out due to a clerical error.

You know we are all on board to deliver a massive redo of Christian doctrine called “Living in Love and Faith.” LLF will of course make mention of the primitive view that God made man in His image, male and female, and that husband and wife become one flesh. But it will balance this view with the weighty opinions of distinguished dons and prelates who understand that issues of sexuality are incredibly complex and must be contextualised and that while the Church continues to uphold traditional marriage at this present time, in the future the Spirit shall lead the Church into new truth.

For our Anglican Communion partners, we hope you understand that the one hand waving was a welcome to you to the Lambeth Indaba, where we will sit with you in table groups and educate you in the riches of “Living in Love and Faith,” and by the end of the Conference you will agree to walk hand in hand with us into new truth and put behind you forever that nasty time-bound Resolution I.10 from 1998. We so look forward to you joining us at the Queen’s Tea Party this summer.

In a follow-up post  on “St. Paul to the English Bishops on Marriage,” I suggested that the bishops’ half-hearted affirmation of traditional marriage was actually just “worldly babble,” which St. Paul warns against (2 Timothy 2:15-16). The Archbishops’ apology presages a future time when bubbly babble about inclusivity and diversity will not suffice and will be replaced by the grim gruel of political correctness. Again to paraphrase (with hat tip to Orwell):

You shall live in love and faith and the Sexuality Gospel will set you free.

Think not? Ask the cakeshop owner in the USA whose business was shut down for refusing to make a same-sex wedding cake. Ask the NHS nurse in the UK fired for offering a Bible and a prayer to a patient. Ask Episcopal Bishop Love. Did Justin Cantuar and John Ebor raise a hand for any of them?

The post Archbishops to the Church and the Communion: “You May Now Take Down Your Hand!” appeared first on Anglican Ink © 2020.

Minneapolis archbishop chastises priest who warned against Muslim immigration

Anglican Ink - Tue, 04/02/2020 - 01:29

Father Nick VanDenBroeke preached, “We should not be allowing large numbers of Muslims asylum or immigration into our country” and described Islam as “the greatest threat in the world.” His archbishop issued the following statement on 29 Jan 2020

From Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda:

I have spoken with Father VanDenBroeke about his homily on immigration and he has expressed sorrow for his words and an openness to seeing more clearly the Church’s position on our relationship with Islam. The teaching of the Catholic Church is clear. As Pope Benedict XVI noted, “The Catholic Church, in fidelity to the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, looks with esteem to Muslims, who worship God above all by prayer, almsgiving and fasting, revere Jesus as a prophet while not acknowledging his divinity, and honour Mary, his Virgin Mother.”  He called upon the Church to persist in esteem for Muslims, who “worship God who is one, living and subsistent; merciful and almighty, the creator of heaven and earth, who has also spoken to humanity.”  If all of us who believe in God desire to promote reconciliation, justice and peace, we must work together to banish every form of discrimination, intolerance and religious fundamentalism.

That continues to be our teaching today.  Pope Francis has echoed Pope Benedict, stating that it is important to intensify the dialogue between Catholics and Islam.  He has emphasized “the great importance of dialogue and cooperation among believers, in particular Christians and Muslim, and the need for it to be enhanced.”  He has called for all Christians and Muslims to be “true promoters of mutual respect and friendship, in particular through education.”

I am grateful for the many examples of friendship that have been offered by the Muslim community in our region and we are committed to strengthening the relationship between the two communities.

The post Minneapolis archbishop chastises priest who warned against Muslim immigration appeared first on Anglican Ink © 2020.

Anglican Unscripted 571 – What are CofE Bishops afraid of?

Anglican Ink - Mon, 03/02/2020 - 20:00

Kevin Kallsen, George Conger, and Gavin Ashenden talk about the insane response the members of the House of Bishops are having to their statement of Civil Partnerships. They also talk about Brexit and the violence which continues in African Provinces.

The post Anglican Unscripted 571 – What are CofE Bishops afraid of? appeared first on Anglican Ink © 2020.

Mises and Destructionism

Mises Institute - Mon, 03/02/2020 - 19:30

Includes an introduction by Jeff Deist.

Ludwig von Mises and his work remain incredibly prescient and relevant today. The world needs his voice more than ever, and our speakers celebrate Mises as a supremely vital thinker well-suited for today's challenges. Recorded in Los Angeles, California, on October 26, 2019.

[All lectures from the Supporters Summit 2019 are available here.]

Categories: Current Affairs

Brexit: Predictions of Economic Doom Show Why People Ignore "Experts"

Mises Institute - Mon, 03/02/2020 - 19:15

The headline was unambiguous: " Brexit Is Done: The U.K. Has Left the European Union ." As of January 31, The European Union (Withdrawal) Act of 2018 has become law and the United Kingdom has begun the withdrawal process from the European Union. The transition process will continue throughout 2020 as the UK and EU governments negotiate the nature of the future relationship between the UK and the EU.

Now that the British exit from the European Union is a legal reality, the economic situation in the UK has been surprisingly sedate.

This will be a surprise for those who believed the assurances of media pundits and economic experts that the UK's economy would become every more crippled as Brexit edged closer.

Yet, economic turmoil has been sparse. Certainly, markets and companies have moved to adapt to the new coming reality of the UK as largely outside the EU's common market. But it is hardly clear that the country is poised on the edge of a Brexit-caused economic disaster. This is true even though Brexit has clearly been all but inevitable since December's general election.

Predictions of Doom

It wasn't supposed to happen this way.

Opponents of a British exit — and the economists they employed — insisted that not only would the eventual withdrawal be disastrous for the UK economy, but that even the market uncertainty associated with an eventual withdrawal would cripple the British economy.

For example, the UK Treasury released a report in May 2016 stating:

A vote to leave would cause a profound economic shock creating instability and uncertainty which would be compounded by the complex and interdependent negotiations that would follow. The central conclusion of the analysis is that the effect of this profound shock would be to push the UK into recession and lead to a sharp rise in unemployment.

According to the report, this economic disaster didn't require a completed exit from the EU. The mere act of voting in favor of leave, Brits were told, would trigger enormous economic problems.

Meanwhile, the OECD, in an April 2016 report that Brexit would cost Britain the equivalent of more then 3,000 pounds per household, and "would be a major negative shock to the UK economy, with economic fallout in the rest of the OECD."

More nuanced analyses debated the effects of "no-deal Brexit" as opposed to a more "soft" Brexit. But in the lead up to the election — and in the years following — the message was clear: Brexit is going to make Britain significantly poorer.

Yet, investors, entrepreneurs, and consumers, appear unconvinced that the barriers to international trade raised by Brexit will be sufficient to send the EU economy into a tailspin. Investors have not abandoned UK investment opportunities, and entrepreneurs are not anticipating a crushing tariff burden. Even if the EU insists on being petulant, the UK has other important trading partners. Thus, by January of this year, The Telegraph reported "The strength of the British economy is defying predictions of post-Brexit doom," and Bloomberg reports that in spite of predictions of massive losses in the financial sector, "London has extended its lead in foreign exchange and interest rate derivatives trading since the referendum." The Telegraph has also noted that as a finalized Brexit edges closer, hiring has increased and economic growth — as measured by economists' usual methods, has increased.

"Transaction Costs" Include More than Trade Barriers

The claim that Brexit would make everyone poorer was premised on an obsession with the idea that Brexit would drive up so-called "transaction costs" for British businesses in terms of tariffs and other barriers to the free movement of labor and goods. The assumption was that business with the continent was streamlined and basically frictionless, while withdrawal from the EU would raise many new barriers.

This is a common argument among economists and politicians who favor greater streamlining trade and migration through international agreements.

Certainly, minimizing transactions costs in this way always a good thing, all else being equal. It's good when trade increases, and countries — and the individuals within them — are able to take advantage of the the division of labor. It's also good when consumers and entrepreneurs are left to choose for themselves what products they wish to buy, and from where.

But the problem with economic integration of EU sort is that it also tends to come with political integration.

Thus, economic integration comes with a host of strings attached in the form of bureaucratic management from above. That management has been extensive, and the regulatory burdens associated with it are significant.

Ralph Peters at the Hoover Institution refers to the EU as "a bureaucratic monster that interferes absurdly with “the structures of everyday life.”

Even worse, trying to reduce this bureaucratic burden is extremely difficult for any single member of the EU. Any significant change to Europe-wide bureaucratic edicts requires an enormous amount of effort in marshaling support from other member states and pushing through reforms. The weight imposed on smaller businesses and entrepreneurs is especially damaging. And as Peter Chapman noted at Politico, "the EU's general antipathy towards entrepreneurs remains a huge barrier" to economic improvement. Although the nominal benefits of membership in the EU may be easy to see in terms of reduced trade barriers, the net benefits are far less clear to those who are aware of the true cost of the EU bureaucracy. Not only does EU membership come with high transaction costs in terms of added regulations, but the nature of the EU's unelected and foreign institutions likely made the bureaucracy less responsive, less flexible, and more permanent. That in itself is an added burden above and beyond the regulations themselves.

The alleged benefits of EU membership came with a host of new European bureaucrats telling British consumers and business owners what they could buy, and how they could run their businesses. Consequently, for many voters, the question of Brexit became one of whether or not EU membership was "worth it" in economic terms.

Some anti-Brexit commentators have noted the obvious: namely, that Brexit does not automatically bring relief from regulatory burdens. This is certainly true, but all this means is British entrepreneurs and consumers are presently banking on the idea that at least some regulatory relief will come, and that the cost of international trade will not rise to crippling levels.  But it does mean that if UK policymakers want to change or reduce these bureaucratic burdens, it's not necessary to go to Brussels to beg for relief. In other words, the private sector appears to be taking a long-term view while the anti-Brexit efforts are obsessing over the immediate future.

So, those who are anticipating economic advantage from Brexit are not without reason to be optimistic. As was noted by numerous pro-Brexit observers, the UK's trade relationships are global, and not lopsidedly reliant on favorable terms with the EU bloc. In many ways, membership in the EU has restricted UK trade with the outside world . China and eastern Asia are quickly becoming more important to a global trade strategy than the EU. This is true even for core EU countries like Germany. Moreover, should political coalitions of entrepreneurs and taxpayers and consumers seek regulatory relief, they have greater ability to seek change in London than in Brussels.

Economists Can't Predict the Future

So what happens next?

Admittedly, just because a severe economic slide in the wake of Brexit hasn't happened so far doesn't mean it can't happen. But then again, even if the UK's economy goes downhill, how much of that is attributable to Brexit? Boom-bust cycles are still a reality, and they can be triggered through many factors beyond leaving a trade bloc.

But there's one thing we do know: the same "experts" who predicted immediate economic chaos following a "leave" vote are unlikely to accurately accurately predict any coming effects of Brexit.

Indeed, the complexity of the coming changes in the legal, political, and international landscape are so complex that any responsible economist should admit he or she doesn't know what's going to happen.

In an article titled "Mission impossible: calculating the economic costs of Brexit," Roch Dunin-Wasowicz writes at the London School of Economics:

As a matter of fact, estimating the costs surrounding a future stochastic event (or structural break) is as easy as predicting next year’s weather. Financial mathematicians know this matter better than anyone . Considering that there has not been a previous exit from the European Union (nor in any highly integrated economic area), estimating the full costs was never going to be possible. The attempts that were made prior to the referendum involved many and heavy assumptions, including strong premises regarding the reaction of the other economies and trading partners within the EU, and beyond. Moreover, the issue involves a multitude of aspects beyond those strict trade-related, such as productivity and competitive edge, labour mobility, education, firm complementarity across borders, macroeconomic interdependence, (macroeconomic) policy alignments, financial interdependence, financial market flexibility, financial innovation, liquidity, systemic risks and financial stability, or prudential policy effectiveness.

This reality, however, won't stop anti-Brexit activists from blaming every negative development in the UK in coming years on Brexit — or on the people who supported it.

Categories: Current Affairs

Anglicans: Prepare for Post-Roe Fallout

Anglican Ink - Mon, 03/02/2020 - 18:52

Christians engaged in sanctity of human life ministries should prepare for intensified conflict following a potential “correction” of the Roe v Wade court ruling that struck down abortion restrictions across the United States, according to a speaker at a summit of pro-life Anglicans.

“While this is a necessary step to end abortion, it will not in itself do so,” stated Tom Glessner of the National Institute on Family and Advocates, who advised that pro-life advocates should speak of “correcting” rather than “reversing” Roe. “Any court changes on Roe will intensify conflict, not resolve it. We should be prepared for a post-Roe reality.”

Anglicans gathered January 23-24 at the Falls Church Anglican in Falls Church, Virginia for the annual summit, jointly sponsored by Anglicans for Life and the Anglican Church in North America’s Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic.

Timed with the National March for Life on January 24, the summit uniquely draws Anglican clergy, laity and bishops from the United States and Canada to discuss upholding the sanctity of human life from conception until natural death.

Speakers shared of vulnerability and redemption in the most sensitive of subjects, and participants were charged not to sit passively.

“The speakers and participants here may represent different political parties and ideals, but we all serve Jesus Christ and therefore we support life,” Deacon Georgette Forney of Anglicans for Life said in opening comments. “God calls every believer to serve as ministers of the Gospel of life through hands-on ministry and disciple making.”

Forney noted it is her organization’s primary mission “to equip the church” in addressing matters including abortion and euthanasia.

“Discussing the pros and cons of a heartbeat bill with someone who has had an abortion is not as important as sharing the Gospel, although both need to be done,” Forney stated. “We are here to help the next generation make better choices about life.”

Three busloads of Anglicans participated in the march, the first to be addressed in person by a U.S. president who brought increased coverage from national news media.

Summit presenters pushed back against an abortion rights movement that has in recent years emphasized “owning” an abortion, rather than a previous narrative of abortion as an undesirable but necessary action.

Twenty-seven percent of women who aborted reported experiencing suicidal thoughts. Among teenage girls that rate rises to 50 percent, reported Charmaine Yoest, Vice President of the Institute for Family, Community and Opportunity at The Heritage Foundation.

“This brings us back to real women and the real abortion experience that they do not want to talk about. It is not a tonsillectomy. Abortion is a real death of a living human being and the woman has experienced this,” Yoest insisted. “Grief’s alter ego is defiance; the heart’s cry of the defiant soul is power.”

The central premise of abortion, Yoest identified, is that abortion in its guise as reproductive freedom is not merely healthcare, but “the irreducible minimum of feminine empowerment.”

Yoest said abortion proponents have framed the issue about the “all-American rhetoric of choice and privacy”. Pointing to the campaigns of former President Barack Obama, Yoest noted he characterized abortion not just as an issue of choice, but rather as one of “equality and opportunity for all women.”

In the 1992 Planned Parenthood v Casey ruling, the Supreme Court majority argued that women have come to rely on abortion to maintain their position and advancement in society, and because of this the earlier Roe ruling must be maintained for power, self-actualization, and career advancement. The Center for Reproductive Rights on its web site states that reproductive rights are critical “ensuring global progress to just and democratic societies” – elevating abortion even further as critical to democracy promotion.

Yoest maintained that it is the mission of pro-life advocates to hold out an alternate vision of feminine power.

“There’s no such thing as an unwanted child,” declared author Ryan Bomberger of the Radiance Foundation.

Abortion provider Planned Parenthood asserts “unplanned equals unwanted equals unloved,” Bomberger relayed. “They decide that certain human beings are unfit to live.” In contrast, Bomberger claimed “most of us are unplanned,” sharing his own story of conception in rape, and adoption into a multiracial family of 15.

Seventy-nine percent of Planned Parenthood abortion facilities are within walking distance (two miles) of majority African American or Latino neighborhoods, reported Catherine Davis, founder and president of the Restoration Project. Thirty-eight percent of U.S. abortions in 2016 were performed on black women according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Summit participants also heard from speakers at a series of workshops on local ministries.

Cindy Collins of Speak Hope shared about ministering amidst victims of sex trafficking, many of whom are coerced into unwanted abortions by traffickers who see children as a threat to profits.

This context can be challenging, Collins reported, but she shared of being drawn into the heart of Jesus.

“Is not the child of a prostitute worth saving? The Lord thought so: Rahab is in his lineage,” Collins noted.

“Sometimes we over-complicate loving people,” observed Amy Ford of Embrace Grace, a ministry that connects local churches with those facing unplanned pregnancy. “We equip churches with everything they need to do this.”

Ford recalled speaking briefly at a conference of 10,000 women in Texas.

“I know statistically that 2,500 of you have experienced abortion. This does not disqualify you from ministry, because the blood of the Lamb covers that,” Ford told conference participants. “That was thirty seconds but these women were free to tell their stories and our booth was flooded.”

“Someone might hear a woman speak and think ‘That story is way worse than mine, and if God did that for her then maybe God will love me too,’” Ford offered.

The post Anglicans: Prepare for Post-Roe Fallout appeared first on Anglican Ink © 2020.

Bishops’ pastoral statement fiasco — An English episcopal fumble

Anglican Ink - Mon, 03/02/2020 - 18:49

What a game of Orwellian double-speak the Church of England’s bishops have been playing. Their ‘pastoral statement’ on heterosexual civil partnerships was surely not ‘pastoral’ at all? Surely it was thoroughly political and has now backfired?

After some of their number publicly distanced themselves from the statement their House had issued on January 22nd upholding the Book of Common Prayer’s teaching on marriage, the CofE’s senior pastors last week issued an ‘apology’. This followed a College of Bishops meeting, which included suffragan bishops.

What this apology was for was very unclear. It seemed to be for the offence caused by the re-iteration of the BCP’s teaching. The statement itself has not been withdrawn but the apology has shown how embarrassed the CofE’s bishops are by the traditional Christian sexual ethic in the teeth of the derision they have received from influential woke activists.

How did the bishops get themselves into this hole? Here is one possible explanation:

They felt they needed to say something following the introduction of heterosexual civil partnerships, which are much more of a rival to church weddings than same-sex civil partnerships are.

So, their staffers re-hashed the 2005 ‘Pastoral Statement’ on civil partnerships thinking they were creating a politically expedient holding space whilst the ‘Living in Faith and Love’ consultation on sexuality is ongoing. This intention would seem to be evident in the conclusion to the January 22nd statement, which affirms the traditional ethic and describes those who choose to reject the Bible’s teaching as ‘conscientious Christians’:

‘With opposite sex civil partnerships, and with those for same sex couples, the Church’s teaching on sexual ethics remains unchanged. For Christians, marriage – that is the lifelong union between a man and a woman, contracted with the making of vows – remains the proper context for sexual activity. In its approach to civil partnerships the Church seeks to uphold that standard, to affirm the value of committed, sexually abstinent friendships and to minister sensitively and pastorally to those Christians who conscientiously decide to order their lives differently.’

The politics seems to have failed. After revisionist campaigners launched a powerful assault on the statement, the bishops have cowered. It now looks as if the General Synod will allow services of blessing for same-sex relationships after the 2020 elections before eventually changing the Marriage Canon itself.

When they nodded through their latest ‘pastoral statement’ on civil partnerships, the bishops did not seem to get how much more militantly woke the Church of England has become since 2005.

CofE traditionalists can surely learn from this fiasco. Instead of taking part in the political games the bishops are playing, shouldn’t they be preparing to leave a denomination whose leaders have shown that they are embarrassed by Christ’s teaching on the exclusively heterosexual nature of marriage?

The Lord willing, biblically orthodox bishops in the Church of England and in the wider Anglican Communion will smell the smoke coming from the engine room and stay well away from the Lambeth Conference.

Would not their pastoral faces in the final photo shoot only play into the hands of the church politicians?

The post Bishops’ pastoral statement fiasco — An English episcopal fumble appeared first on Anglican Ink © 2020.

John Maynard Keynes and Ludwig von Mises on Probability

Mises Institute - Mon, 03/02/2020 - 18:30
I. INTRODUCTION

The complex issues relating to the interpretation and meaning of different concepts of probability and to the legitimate scope of their useful application in the social sciences and in economics belong to the more controversial topics within the subfield of economic methodology. Several of the most influential economists have expounded outspoken views about the matter. Thus it is probably no exaggeration to assert that John Maynard Keynes’s second-best-known book—after his The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money—is his A Treatise on Probability. Ludwig von Mises’s views about probability have been no less influential within the context of the Austrian school and even beyond. In this respect some commentators have claimed that Ludwig von Mises basically embraced the frequency interpretation of probability of his brother Richard von Mises,1 thus suggesting that Ludwig von Mises’s views on probability are no less antagonistic to those of John Maynard Keynes than his views on economic theory and public policy. This latter view will here be challenged. While it is not contended that any historical evidence points to any direct historical influence between the views on probability of these two authors, it will be argued that in some relevant respects Ludwig von Mises’s views with respect to the meaning and interpretation of probability exhibit a closer conceptual affinity with the views of John Maynard Keynes about probability than with the views concerning probability of his brother Richard von Mises.

As regards the views about probability of Ludwig von Mises, it is undeniably true that these display considerable nuance and that they can be considered as being of a sui generis variety. Even if Ludwig von Mises’s views on probability exhibit a closer conceptual affinity with Keynes’s philosophy of probability than with the frequency interpretation espoused by his brother Richard von Mises, an important difference between the views of Ludwig von Mises and those of John Maynard Keynes in this respect will nevertheless be acknowledged.

II. THE SUMMA DIVISIO IN THE PHILOSOPHY OF PROBABILITY: EPISTEMIC VERSUS OBJECTIVE INTERPRETATIONS OF PROBABILITY

Interpretations of probability are commonly divided into (1) epistemological (or epistemic) and (2) objective. Epistemological interpretations of probability take probability to be concerned with the knowledge (or belief) of human beings. On this approach, any probability assignment describes a degree of knowledge, a degree of rational belief, a degree of belief, or something of this sort. The approaches of both Ludwig von Mises and John Maynard Keynes belong to this category. Objective interpretations of probability, by contrast, take probability to be a feature of the objective material world, which has nothing to do with human knowledge or belief. The theory of Richard von Mises belongs to this category.2

Despite the fact that Ludwig von Mises himself clearly embraced what must be considered an epistemic view regarding the interpretation of probability, the objectivist view has been propounded by several Austrian economists, especially among those belonging to the praxeological camp. These authors apparently take it for granted that Ludwig von Mises had simply adopted the philosophy of probability of his brother Richard von Mises. Thus in a characteristic passage of Man, Economy, and State M. N. Rothbard wrote:

The contrast between risk and uncertainty has been brilliantly analyzed by Ludwig von Mises. Mises has shown that they can be subsumed under the more general categories of “class probability” and “case probability.” “Class probability” is the only scientific use of the term “probability,” and is the only form of probability subject to numerical expression.3

In the two footnotes accompanying this passage M. N. Rothbard refers both to Ludwig von Mises’s discussion in Human Action, and to Richard von Mises’s Probability, Statistics, and Truth, thus conflating the views of the two brothers.4

Views like the ones expressed by M. N. Rothbard are often, if not always, accompanied, and rather consistently, by a rejection of quantitative methods for the conduct of applied research in economics. Again M. N. Rothbard tells the story of how he came to decide to leave the world of statistics in rather dramatic terms:

After taking all the undergraduate courses in statistics, I enrolled in a graduate course in mathematical statistics at Columbia with the eminent Harold Hotelling, one of the founders of modern mathematical economics. After listening to several lectures of Hotelling, I experienced an epiphany: the sudden realization that the entire “science” of statistical inference rests on one crucial assumption, and that that assumption is utterly groundless. I walked out of the Hotelling course, and out of the world of statistics, never to return.5

According to Professor Rothbard the questionable assumption is the following:

In the science of statistics, the way we move from our known samples to the unknown population is to make one crucial assumption: that the samples will, in any and all cases, whether we are dealing with height or unemployment or who is going to vote for this or that candidate, be distributed around the population figure according to the so-called “normal curve.”6

Statements like these have been both severely criticized and misunderstood. Thus David Ramsey Steele, in his review of Justin Raimondo’s An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard writes:

If the young Rothbard really had found something that refuted all statistical theory, this would be a momentous discovery, and a great consolation to tobacco producers. But, sixty years on, the edifice of statistics has not registered any tremors.

In the Rothbard-Raimondo account, statisticians accept the bell curve because of a single example, the distribution of hits around the bull’s eye on a target. In fact, statisticians don’t view the bell curve as sacrosanct. Since a great many phenomena are, as a matter of fact, so close to normally distributed that the assumption of normal distribution will yield correct predictions, normal distribution can be treated as an empirical generalization and a useful instrument.

Alternatively, normal distribution can be strictly derived by the Central Limit Theorem, which shows that where some variable is influenced by a large number of unrelated random variables, that variable will be normally distributed. This result holds subject to certain conditions, which are very widely, but not universally, encountered. Statisticians are open to the possibility of non-normal distributions where these conditions don’t apply. It doesn’t seem likely that Rothbard successfully debunked all of statistics around 1942.7

This interpretation of Rothbard’s position is certainly questionable. It doesn’t seem likely after all that Rothbard was intent upon questioning the mathematical validity of the Central Limit Theorem or of any other theorem of formal probability calculus. It may still remain true, however, that in contexts where random collectives do not exist (that is, contexts characterized by lack of independent repetitions), as will often be the case in economics, objective probabilities cannot be used. Given that Rothbard embraced an objective, frequency interpretation of numerical probability, his rejection of statistics is a defensible and logically consistent corollary. Moreover the rejection of the use of objective probabilities in economics is in agreement with the conclusions of some of the most recent research about these matters, and with general arguments for interpreting probabilities in economics as epistemological rather than objective.8

It is worth pointing out that for quite some time the objectivist view had also been rather influential in certain Marxist-Leninist circles. Whereas the objectivist view had indeed been dominant in statistical theory and practice throughout most of the previous century, it was in particular in certain Soviet writings that attempts had been made to provide the objectivist view with supposedly Marxist-Leninist philosophical underpinnings, and to dismiss the subjective characterization of probability as inevitably leading to subjective idealism.9

The critical issue we want to examine here, however, is whether the precepts of praxeological methodology and epistemology indeed entail an exclusive commitment to the objectivist viewpoint. An examination of Ludwig von Mises’s viewpoint in this respect has not convinced us that this is actually the case.

In fact, and as mentioned briefly already, Ludwig von Mises’s views with respect to the interpretation of probability, are more akin to Keynes’s views than to the philosophy of probability of his brother Richard von Mises. In order to substantiate this view, we will compare Ludwig von Mises’s position concerning this matter with the positions both of John Maynard Keynes and of Richard von Mises. The two main approaches to the interpretation of probability theory which will be considered here are thus the frequency interpretation, as developed systematically by Richard von Mises, and the logical interpretation, as developed systematically by John Maynard Keynes.10

In the third and fourth sections hereafter I present a general characterization of the views on probability of these two authors. In section V I argue that the thesis that Ludwig von Mises embraced the objective frequency interpretation of probability of his brother Richard von Mises is disputable in view of a number of Ludwig von Mises’s own statements with respect to this subject matter.

In the sixth section I examine further whether and in what respects Ludwig von Mises’s views on probability indeed exhibit a conceptual affinity with John Maynard Keynes’s interpretation of probability. In the seventh section an important difference between the respective views about probability of Ludwig von Mises and of John Maynard Keynes is highlighted.

III. RICHARD VON MISES’S OBJECTIVE APPROACH TO PROBABILITY: THE FREQUENCY INTERPRETATION

The principal goal of Richard von Mises was to make probability theory a science similar to other sciences. According to the frequency view probability theory is considered a science of the same order as, say, geometry or theoretical mechanics. He criticizes the view that probability can be derived from ignorance:

It has been asserted—and this is no overstatement—that whereas other sciences draw their conclusions from what we know, the science of probability derives its most important results from what we do not know.11

Probability should be based on facts, not their absence. The frequency theory relates a probability directly to the real world via the observed objective facts (or the data), in particular repetitive events. As Richard von Mises wrote:

By means of the methods of abstraction and idealization (…) a system of basic concepts is created upon which a logical structure can then be erected. Owing to the original relation between the basic concepts and the observed primary phenomena, this theoretical structure permits us to draw conclusions concerning the world of reality.12

In the logical approach to be examined in the next section, probability theory is seen as a branch of logic, as an extension of deductive logic to the inductive case. In contrast to this view, the frequency approach sees probability theory as a mathematical science, such as mechanics, but dealing with a different range of observable phenomena. Probability should thus not be interpreted in an epistemological sense. It is not lack of knowledge (uncertainty) which provides the foundation of probability theory, but experience with large numbers of events.

A probability theory which does not introduce from the very beginning a connection between probability and relative frequency is not able to contribute anything to the study of reality.13A key question raised by this view relates to how mathematical sciences relate to the empirical material with which they are concerned. Since Richard von Mises was an empiricist, the starting point for him was always some observable phenomenon such as an empirical collective. In fact, according to the random frequency definition it is possible to speak about probabilities only in reference to a properly defined collective. Probability has a real meaning only as probability in a given collective. The basis of Richard von Mises’s theory of probability is thus the concept of a collective. The rational concept of probability, as opposed to probability as used in everyday speech, acquires a precise meaning only if the collective to which it applies is defined exactly in every case. Essentially a collective consists of a sequence of observations which can be continued indefinitely. Each observation ends with the recording of a certain attribute. The relative frequency with which a specified attribute occurs in the sequence of observations has a limiting value, which remains unchanged if a partial sequence is formed from the original one by an arbitrary place selection.14

To deal with such phenomena, we obtain by abstraction or idealization some mathematical concepts, such as, in this instance, the concept of mathematical collective. We next establish on the basis of observation some empirical laws which the phenomena under study obey. Then again by abstraction or idealization we obtain from these empirical laws the axioms of our mathematical theory. Once the mathematical theory has been set up in this way, we can deduce consequences from it by logic, and these provide predictions and explanations of further observable phenomena.

Applying this scheme to the case of probability theory, there are, according to Richard von Mises, two empirical laws which are observed to hold for empirical collectives. The first of these can be named the Law of Stability of Statistical Frequencies; it refers to the increasing stability of statistical frequencies and is designated by Richard von Mises as “the ‘primary phenomenon’ (Urphänomen) of the theory of probability.”15

As Mises explains:

It is essential for the theory of probability that experience has shown that in the game of dice, as in all the other mass phenomena which we have mentioned, the relative frequencies of certain attributes become more and more stable as the number of observations is increased.16

The first law of empirical collectives was fairly well known before Richard von Mises. The second law, however, is original to him and it relates to a decisive feature of a collective. This feature of the empirical collective is its lack of order, that is, its randomness.

Richard von Mises’s ingenious idea is that we should relate randomness to the failure of gambling systems.

As he wrote:

The authors of such systems have all, sooner or later, had the sad experience of finding out that no system is able to improve their chances of winning in the long run, i.e., to affect the relative frequencies with which different colours or numbers appear in a sequence selected from the total sequence of the game.17

In other words, not only do the relative frequencies stabilize around particular values, but these values remain the same if we choose, according to some rule, a subsequence of our original (finite) sequence. This second empirical law can be called the Law of Excluded Gambling Systems.

The next step in Richard von Mises’s programme is to obtain the axioms of the mathematical theory by abstraction (or idealization) from these empirical laws. The first axiom can be easily obtained from the Law of Stability of Statistical Frequencies:

Axiom of Convergence

One of the main objections to this theory is that it is too narrow, for there are many important situations where we use probability but in which nothing like an empirical collective can be defined. In particular this definition is too narrow in the context of economics. This was the viewpoint of important economists such as Ludwig von Mises, John Maynard Keynes and John Hicks.

Nevertheless Richard von Mises considers this alleged disadvantage to be a strong point in favour of his theory. We can, according to Richard von Mises, start with the imprecise concepts of ordinary language but when we are constructing a scientific theory we must replace these by more precise concepts. Thus we can of course start with the vague ordinary language concept of probability, but for scientific purposes it must be made precise by a definition. This is done by the limiting frequency definition of probability. This definition excludes some ordinary language uses of probability for which a collective cannot be defined, but this is no bad thing. On the contrary, it is positively beneficial to exclude some vague uses of probability which are unsuitable for mathematical treatment. Summing up this line of argument, he writes:

‘The probability of winning a battle,’ for instance, has no place in our theory of probability, because we cannot think of a collective to which it belongs. The theory of probability cannot be applied to this problem any more than the physical concept of work can be applied to the calculation of the ‘work’ done by an actor in reciting his part in a play.18

The limiting frequency definition of probability is supposed to be an operational definition of a theoretical concept (probability) in terms of an observable concept (frequency). It could be claimed, however, that it fails to provide a connection between observation and theory because of the use of limits in an infinite sequence. It is well known that two sequences can agree at the first n places for any finite n however large and yet converge to quite different limits. A similar objection relates to the question of whether the representation of a finite empirical collective by an infinite mathematical collective is legitimate.

Richard von Mises’s answer to this difficulty is that such representations of the finite by the infinite occur everywhere in mathematical physics, and that his aim is only to present probability theory in a fashion which is as rigorous as the rest of mathematical physics. In mechanics, for example, we have point particles to represent bodies with a size, infinitely thin lines to represent lines with a finite thickness, and so on. Richard von Mises argues that he is trying to present probability theory as a mathematical science like mechanics, but it is unreasonable to expect him to make it more rigorous than mechanics. As he wrote:

the results of a theory based on the notion of the infinite collective can be applied to finite sequences of observations in a way which is not logically definable, but is nevertheless sufficiently exact in practice. The relation of theory to observation is in this case essentially the same as in all other physical sciences.19

To complete Richard von Mises’s programme, it must be examined how the second mathematical axiom—the axiom of randomness—can be obtained from the empirical Law of Excluded Gambling Systems. It turns out that the formulation of the axiom of randomness does involve some rather considerable mathematical difficulties. Even if these were eventually overcome, the quite subtle mathematical developments which finally gave Richard von Mises’s theory a rigorous mathematical foundation, are of little relevance in the present context. The main idea is reminded here, however:

Randomness condition:

The fixed limits to which the relative frequencies of particular attributes within a collective tend are not affected by any place selection, that is, by choosing an infinite sub-sequence whose elements are a function of previous outcomes. That is, if we calculate the relative frequency of some attribute not in the original sequence, but in a partial set, selected according to some fixed rule, then we require that the relative frequency so calculated should tend to the same limit as it does in the original set. In this respect Richard von Mises made the following stipulation:

The only essential condition is that the question whether or not a certain member of the original sequence belongs to the selected partial sequence should be settled independently of the result of the corresponding observation, i.e., before anything is known about this result.20

An important implication of Richard von Mises’s frequency theory is that, when dealing with unique events, statistical or stochastic methods will be essentially useless. Where collectives do not exist, probability theory and the calculations based on it will add nothing to our knowledge concerning the world of reality. Only where previous experience has established that events can be considered as belonging to a collective, can statistical methods play a role. The calculations of insurance companies for instance demonstrate that stochastic methods play a legitimate role in certain kinds of business decisions, namely when dealing with events belonging to a collective. The theory of probability starts with certain given frequencies and derives new ones by means of calculations carried out according to certain established rules. In other words, each probability calculation is based on the knowledge of certain relative frequencies in long sequences of observations, and its result is always the prediction of another relative frequency, which can be tested by a new sequence of observations. The task of the theory of probability is thus to derive new collectives and their distributions from given distributions in one or more initial collectives.21

Richard von Mises’s limiting frequency definition of probability was clearly intended to limit the scope of the mathematical theory of probability, and, in fact, of the scientific concept of probability.22We can only, he claims, introduce probabilities in a scientific sense—which here also means: in a mathematical or quantitative sense—where there is a large set of uniform events, and he urges us to observe his maxim: “First the collective—then the probability.”2324

Despite controversy it can be expected that the frequency theory of probability will remain significant for the conduct of natural science.25

IV. JOHN MAYNARD KEYNES’S EPISTEMIC APPROACH TO PROBABILITY: THE LOGICAL INTERPRETATION

The logical interpretation of probability considers probability as the degree of a partial entailment. Keynes’s Treatise is concerned with the general theory of arguments from premises leading to conclusions which are reasonable but not certain. Let e be the premises and h the conclusion of an argument. Keynes holds that the familiar relation ‘e implies h’ is the limiting case of a more general (probability) relation ‘e partially implies h.’ Keynes’s aim in the Treatise is to systematize statements involving such relations of partial implication. The logical theory uses the word “probability” primarily in relation to the truth of sentences, or propositions.

It aims at assigning truth values other than zero or one to propositions. In this process, that part of our knowledge which we obtain directly, supplies the premises of that part which we obtain indirectly or by argument. From these premises we seek to justify some degree of rational belief about all sorts of conclusions. We do this by perceiving certain logical relations between the premises and the conclusions. The kind of rational belief which we infer in this manner is termed probable (or in the limit certain), and the logical relations, by the perception of which it is obtained, we term relations of probability.26

Comparisons are possible between two probabilities, only when they and certainty all lie on the same ordered series. Probabilities which are not of the same order cannot be compared. Only when numerical measurement of probabilities is possible, which is only occasionally possible and which is thus a matter for special enquiry in each case, algebraical operations such as addition and arithmetical multiplication, can be performed. The numbers zero and one figure as extreme cases. A probability of zero indicates impossibility, a probability equal to one indicates the truth of a proposition.

The idea of a logic of probability which should be the art of reasoning from inconclusive evidence was systematically developed by John Maynard Keynes although hints towards this approach had been expressed at least since Leibniz. Keynes regards probability theory, like economics, as a branch of logic. Although Richard von Mises calls Keynes “a persistent subjectivist,”27Keynes makes it clear at the beginning of his book that his theory is, in an important sense, an objective one. For Keynes probability was degree of rational belief not simply degree of belief. The relevant passage is worth being quoted in its entirety:

The terms certain and probable describe the various degrees of rational belief about a proposition which different amounts of knowledge authorise us to entertain. All propositions are true or false, but the knowledge we have of them depends on our circumstances; and while it is often convenient to speak of propositions as certain or probable, this expresses strictly a relationship in which they stand to a corpus of knowledge, actual or hypothetical, and not a characteristic of the propositions in themselves. A proposition is capable at the same time of varying degrees of this relationship, depending upon the knowledge to which it is related, so that it is without significance to call a proposition probable unless we specify the knowledge to which we are relating it.

To this extent, therefore, probability may be called subjective. But in the sense important to logic, probability is not subjective. It is not, that is to say, subject to human caprice. A proposition is not probable because we think it so. When once the facts are given which determine our knowledge, what is probable or improbable in these circumstances has been fixed objectively, and is independent of our opinion. The Theory of Probability is logical, therefore, because it is concerned with the degree of belief which it is rational to entertain in given conditions, and not merely with the actual beliefs of particular individuals, which may or may not be rational.28

It is important to acknowledge the point for point disagreement which exists between the theories of Richard von Mises and John Maynard Keynes.29For Richard von Mises probability is a branch of empirical science; for Keynes it is an extension of deductive logic. Von Mises defined probability as limiting frequency; Keynes as degree of rational belief. For von Mises the axioms of probability are obtained by abstraction from two empirical laws; for the other they are perceived by direct logical intuition. On one point there seems to be some agreement. Neither thinks that all probabilities have a numerical value, but the attitude of the two authors to this situation is very different. For Richard von Mises only probabilities defined within an empirical collective can be evaluated and only these probabilities have any scientific interest. The remaining uses of probability are examples of a crude prescientific concept towards which he takes a dismissive attitude. For Keynes on the other hand all probabilities are essentially on a par. They all obey the same formal rules and play the same role in our thinking. Certain special features of the situation allow us to assign numerical values in some cases, though not in general. Through the acknowledgement that frequency probability does not cover all we mean by probability, Keynes’s position is thus also closer to that of other economists such as Ludwig von Mises and John Hicks. Finally the position of statistics is different in the two accounts. For von Mises it is a study of how to apply probability theory in practice, similar to applied mechanics. For Keynes statistical inference is a special kind of inductive inference and statistics is a branch of the theory of induction.

The most striking differences between John Maynard Keynes and Richard von Mises are thus:

— according to Richard von Mises, the theory of probability belongs to the empirical sciences, based on limiting frequencies, while Keynes regards it as a branch of logic, based on degrees of rational belief; and

— Richard von Mises’s axioms are idealizations of empirical laws, Keynes’s axioms follow from the intuition of logic.

It is a quite remarkable fact that the practical significance of these differences in principles does not prevent the two authors from reaching nearly complete agreement on almost all of the mathematical theorems of probability, as well as on the potentially successful fields of application of statistics. Thus their complete disagreement on all the philosophical issues is accompanied by complete agreement on the mathematical side. Moreover an essentially similar conclusion can be drawn as regards the potential scope of successful application of numerical probability concepts.

Thus in Part V of the Treatise in the context of his discussion of statistical inference, Keynes has the great merit of noticing that the applicability of some of the essential parts of the classical doctrine assumes independence or irrelevance.30

Keynes also suggested renaming the law of large numbers the Law of Stability of Statistical Frequencies, which provides a clear summary of its meaning:

But the ‘Law of Great Numbers’ is not at all a good name for the principle which underlies Statistical Induction. The ‘Stability of Statistical Frequencies’ would be a much better name for it. The former suggests, as perhaps Poisson intended to suggest, but what is certainly false, that every class of event shows statistical regularity of occurrence if only one takes a sufficient number of instances of it. It also encourages the method of procedure, by which it is thought legitimate to take any observed degree of frequency or association, which is shown in a fairly numerous set of statistics, and to assume with insufficient investigation that, because the statistics are numerous, the observed degree of frequency is therefore stable. Observation shows that some statistical frequencies are, within narrower or wider limits, stable. But stable frequencies are not very common, and cannot be assumed lightly.31

According to the frequency view the successful application of probability theory, in particular for purposes of statistical inference, is conditioned by the fulfillment of a particular presupposition: in a particular domain of reality, one or more collectives exist as a matter of fact. This means that adequate applications of the laws of large numbers rest on a supposition of homogeneity with respect to the phenomena which are subjected to study.

Quite remarkably Keynes, when examining the validity and conditions of applicability of Bernoulli’s Theorem and its Inversion, arrives at similar conclusions.

As he wrote:

If we knew that our material world could be likened to a game of chance, we might expect to infer chances from frequencies, with the same sort of confidence as that with which we infer frequencies from chances.32

These reservations are similar to those expressed by several Austrian economists. For instance Ludwig von Mises clearly doubts whether the empirical Law of Stability of Statistical Frequencies is operative in social reality:

However, what the statistics of human actions really show is not regularity but irregularity. The number of crimes, suicides, and acts of forgetfulness (…) varies from year to year. These yearly changes are as a rule small, and over a period of years they often—but not always—show a definite trend toward either increase or decrease. These statistics are indicative of historical change, not of regularity in the sense which is attached to this term in the natural sciences.33

V. RICHARD VON MISES VERSUS LUDWIG VON MISES, WITH RESPECT TO PROBABILITY

In this section a certain amount of evidence is presented which is drawn from Ludwig von Mises’s writings and which is difficult to square with the thesis that Ludwig von Mises embraced what is basically the frequency interpretation of probability of his brother Richard von Mises.

It is remarkable that some of Ludwig von Mises’s most revealing statements about the nature and meaning of the concept of probability relate to a context which is alien to economic science proper. If there is one field of scientific enquiry where the nature and interpretation of the probability calculus have been the subject of much and reiterated debate, it is the domain of quantum mechanics and the philosophy of quantum mechanics. We have already noted at the end of section III that, controversy notwithstanding, the frequency interpretation remains highly significant for the conduct of natural science. Here we turn our attention more particularly to a comparison of Ludwig von Mises’s concept of class probability with Richard von Mises’s concept of frequency probability.

The writings of Ludwig von Mises contain many important insights with respect to the philosophy of the sciences and it is not quite surprising that he had an outspoken opinion about the matter. In Theory and History, in a section entitled Determinism and Statistics, he expressed his view with respect to quantum mechanics as follows:

Quantum mechanics deals with the fact that we do not know how an atom will behave in an individual instance. But we know what patterns of behavior can possibly occur and the proportion in which these patterns really occur. While the perfect form of a causal law is: A “produces” B, there is also a less perfect form: A “produces” C in n percent of all cases, D in m percent of all cases, and so on. Perhaps it will at a later day be possible to dissolve this A of the less perfect form into a number of disparate elements to each of which a definite “effect” will be assigned according to the perfect form. But whether this will happen or not is of no relevance for the problem of determinism. The imperfect law too is a causal law, although it discloses shortcomings in our knowledge. And because it is a display of a peculiar type both of knowledge and of ignorance, it opens a field for the employment of the calculus of probability.34

Mises then provides the well-known definition of his concept of class probability:

We know, with regard to a definite problem, all about the behavior of the whole class of events, we know that A will produce definite effects in a know proportion; but all we know about the individual A’s is that they are members of the A class. The mathematical formulation of this mixture of knowledge and ignorance is: We know the probability of the various effects that can possibly be “produced” by an individual A.35

Significantly Ludwig von Mises is also explicitly critical of the mainstream indeterminist interpretation of quantum mechanics since he pursues:

What the neo-indeterminist school of physics fails to see is that the proposition: A produces B in n percent of the cases and C in the rest of the cases is, epistemologically, not different from the proposition: A always produces B. The former proposition differs from the latter only in combining in its notion of A two elements, X and Y, which the perfect form of a causal law would have to distinguish. But no question of contingency is raised.36

In Human Action Ludwig von Mises raised similar concerns when he wrote:

“The treatment accorded to the problem of causality in the last decades has been, due to a confusion brought about by some eminent physicists, rather unsatisfactory. (…)

There are changes whose causes are, at least for the present time, unknown to us. Sometimes we succeed in acquiring a partial knowledge so that we are able to say: in 70 per cent of all cases A results in B, in the remaining cases in C, or even in D, E, F, and so on. In order to substitute for this fragmentary information more precise information it would be necessary to break up A into its elements. As long as this is not achieved, we must acquiesce in a statistical law.37

These passages are important and interesting because they clearly illustrate the fact that in the context of the well-known historical debate between physicists who believed that quantum mechanics is incomplete and who were tempted to assume that “God does not play dice,” on the one hand, and the physicists who, on the contrary, believed that the fundamental laws of nature are irreducibly probabilistic, on the other hand, Ludwig von Mises takes sides with the former.38Ludwig von Mises clearly associates the use of the probability calculus with partial knowledge, that is, with ignorance and the imperfections of our knowledge, and not with the existence of any contingency in re. Similarly Einstein believed, from the very beginning, that quantum theory lacked some key ingredients and that, in a very significant sense, it was “incomplete.” He compared it with the theory of light before the advent of light quanta. Quantum theory, he believed, was perhaps a “correct theory of statistical laws,” but it provided “an inadequate conception of individual elementary processes.”39

Thus Ludwig von Mises’s concept of class probability, in contradistinction to the frequency concept of his brother Richard von Mises, contains a reference to the deficiency of our knowledge, that is, to the idea that any probability assignment describes only a state of knowledge. A statement is probable if our knowledge concerning its content is deficient.40According to this view the use of statistical laws signals partial knowledge and fragmentary information. There do not exist any statistical laws in an objective, physical sense.

As Popper reminds us too, the widely held view that whenever probability enters our considerations, this is due to our imperfect knowledge, is reminiscent of subjective interpretations of the probability calculus.41The objective frequency interpretation does not have this connotation.

According to the mainstream view with respect to this matter, (nearly all) the probabilities appearing in theoretical quantum mechanics are indeed objective probabilities. That is to say, they inhere in the world and do not simply reflect the degrees of belief, or the degrees of knowledge, of an observer.42

These remarks are sufficient to establish the fact that Ludwig von Mises’s interpretation of numerical probability theory, and in particular his interpretation of the concept of class probability, is in a fundamental sense distinct from that of his brother Richard von Mises. Indeed, according to Richard von Mises, the point of view that statistical theories are merely temporary explanations, in contrast to the final deterministic ones which alone satisfy our desire for causality, is nothing but a prejudice which is bound to disappear with increased understanding.43

The contrast between the views of Ludwig von​ Mises and of Richard von Mises in this respect can also be related to the fact that Ludwig von Mises’s worldview, in contradistinction to that of his brother Richard von Mises, apparently exhibited some leaning towards metaphysical determinism.44

It is true that the contrast between Ludwig von Mises’s concept of class probability and Richard von Mises’s notion of a collective remains somewhat concealed and thus runs the risk of going unnoticed because of the fact that on a few occasions Ludwig von Mises uses terminology which is reminiscent of the idea of “frequency.”

In Human Action for instance Ludwig von Mises explicitly and unambiguously characterizes the notion of class probability as a variant of frequency probability.45

Nevertheless this terminological issue cannot invalidate our thesis that, all things considered, Ludwig von Mises’s philosophy of probability exhibits a closer affinity with an epistemological view—such as Keynes’s logical theory—than with the frequency view of his brother Richard von Mises. The conclusion at which we have thus arrived is nuanced. On the one hand Ludwig von Mises clearly relates the idea of probability to the state of knowledge of the knowing subject. This is true both of class probability and of case probability. A statement is probable if our knowledge concerning its content is deficient. This view is shared by all adepts of an epistemological interpretation of the concept of probability, including John Maynard Keynes. Richard von Mises, to the contrary, very explicitly rejects the idea that the concept of probability refers to a state of partial or deficient knowledge. On the other hand, Ludwig von Mises clearly recognizes that the meaning of probability is different according to the field of knowledge in which it is used or according to the kind of phenomena to which it is applied. He thus embraces a dualist view in the philosophy of probability.46But in this respect his view is again clearly different from and opposed to that of his brother Richard von Mises who obviously embraces a monist theory of probability.

Moreover, from the perspective of the logical theory of probability too, the concept of probability sometimes refers to relative frequency. Contemporary adepts of the idea of probability theory as extended logic are confident that their approach can encompass frequentist methods, but merely as only one specialized application of probability theory.47

Apparently this was also Keynes’s view since he wrote that “the theory of this Treatise is the generalised theory, comprehending within it such applications of the idea of statistical truth-frequency as have validity.”48

In other words, on this view the problems that can be solved by frequentist probability theory form a subclass of those that are amenable to probability as logic; probability theory as logic, however, can also be applied consistently in many problems that do not fit into the frequentist preconceptions.

It would be premature to conclude that such concerns about the meaning of probability as are raised by Ludwig von Mises have now become obsolete and unambiguously belong to the history of the philosophy of probability. As one adept of the logical interpretation of probability explained recently:

Probabilities in present quantum theory express the incompleteness of human knowledge just as truly as did those in classical statistical mechanics; only its origin is different.

In classical statistical mechanics, probability distributions represented our ignorance of the true microscopic coordinates—ignorance that was avoidable in principle but unavoidable in practice, but which did not prevent us from predicting reproducible phenomena, just because those phenomena are independent of the microscopic details.

In current quantum theory, probabilities express our ignorance due to our failure to search for the real causes of physical phenomena; and, worse, our failure even to think seriously about the problem. This ignorance may be unavoidable in practice, but in our present state of knowledge we do not know whether it is unavoidable in principle; the ‘central dogma’ simply asserts this, and draws the conclusion that belief in causes, and searching for them, is philosophically naïve. If everybody accepted this and abided by it, no further advances in understanding of physical law would ever be made; indeed, no such advance has been made since the 1927 Solvay Congress in which this mentality became solidified into physics. But it seems to us that this attitude places a premium on stupidity; to lack the ingenuity to think of a rational physical explanation is to support the supernatural view.49

Again a disagreement about the meaning of probability at the philosophical level need not preclude an approximate consensus regarding the legitimate scope of application of numerical probability theory. It is certainly doubtful whether the criterion of convergence and the conditions for the availability of a collective are ever satisfied in economic or econometric applications. Probabilities in economics are not the kind of physical entities that Richard von Mises seems to have had in mind in constructing his theory.

The empirical foundation for probability in this sense, that is to say for objective frequency probability, will typically be lacking. Richard von Mises himself seems to have suggested that the frequentist conception is not applicable to the moral sciences owing to the absence of events meeting the conditions of a collective. As he wrote:

The unlimited extension of the validity of the exact sciences was a characteristic feature of the exaggerated rationalism of the eighteenth century. We do not intend to commit the same mistake.50

On this point Ludwig von Mises and Richard von Mises seem to have agreed.

VI. MORE ABOUT LUDWIG VON MISES AND JOHN MAYNARD KEYNES, WITH RESPECT TO PROBABILITY

Attention has already been drawn to the fact that both Ludwig von Mises and John Maynard Keynes embrace an epistemological rather than an objective interpretation of probabilities. Both of these authors also point to certain limits of the applicability of numerical probability, and in particular of the laws of large numbers. These authors’ respective views on probability have another important characteristic in common, however. Both authors recognize and acknowledge the epistemological and scientific legitimacy of qualitative, nonmeasurable probabilities.

With respect to the question of whether a numerical measurement of probabilities is always possible, John Maynard Keynes was critical of the tendency to interpret probabilities as being, in general, numerically measurable. Thus he wrote:

The attention, out of proportion to their real importance, which has been paid, on account of the opportunities of mathematical manipulation which they afford, to the limited class of numerical probabilities, seems to be a part explanation of the belief, which it is the principal object of this chapter to prove erroneous, that all probabilities must belong to it.51

In similar vein Ludwig von Mises wrote:

The problem of probable inference is much bigger than those problems which constitute the field of the calculus of probability. Only preoccupation with the mathematical treatment could result in the prejudice that probability always means frequency.52

Ludwig von Mises, who distinguishes between two kinds of probability—class probability, which by and large corresponds to frequency probability, and case probability—accorded the second meaning of probability important scientific status.

In Ludwig von Mises’s words:

Case probability means: We know, with regard to a particular event, some of the factors which determine its outcome; but there are other determining factors about which we know nothing.53

Here too, however, the idea of probability relates to the general idea of partial or imperfect knowledge; in this respect, and only in this respect, case probability is indeed similar to class probability:

Case probability has nothing in common with class probability but the incompleteness of our knowledge. In every other regard the two are entirely different.54

Keynes, while he does not adopt the terms case and class probability, believes, like Ludwig von Mises, that frequency probability does not encompass all we mean by probability. Clearly the random frequency definition of probability is too narrow to encompass what we mean when we use the term probability. We do say of unique events that they are more or less probable. Many decisions that people make daily are based on probability statements that have no frequency interpretation.

In Chapter VIII of A Treatise on Probability, while discussing Venn’s elaboration of the frequency theory, he wrote:

It is the obvious, as well as the correct, criticism of such a theory, that the identification of probability with statistical frequency is a very grave departure from the established use of words; for it clearly excludes a great number of judgments which are generally believed to deal with probability.55

While the frequency theory of probability is concerned with a cardinally measurable degree of probability, case probability is not open to any kind of numerical evaluation according to Ludwig von Mises.56

According to this view, case probability focuses on individual events which as a rule are not part of a sequence, and case probability is not measurable in any but an ordinal sense; there is no cardinal measure of case probability.

What is commonly considered as a numerical evaluation of case probability, Mises argues, exhibits, when more closely scrutinized, a different character, viz. that of a metaphor.57When we proceed to a numerical evaluation of case probability, this amounts to an attempt to elucidate a complicated state of affairs by resorting to an analogy borrowed from the calculus of probability. As it happens, this mathematical discipline is more popular than the analysis of the epistemological nature of understanding. As has been pointed out already, a distinctive feature of Keynes’s view too is that not all probabilities are numerically measurable, and in many instances, they cannot even be ranked on an ordinal scale.58

Keynes’s views on the applicability of large number statistics to singular propositions are in this respect somewhat similar to those espoused by Ludwig von Mises. Keynes was clear on why one might adopt case probability judgments even where large number statistics are available:

In some cases, moreover, where general statistics are available, the numerical probability which might be derived from them is inapplicable because of the presence of additional knowledge with regard to the particular case.59

VII. THE DISTINCTIVENESS OF LUDWIG VON MISES’S POSITION IN THE PHILOSOPHY OF PROBABILITY

Acknowledging certain similarities between Ludwig von Mises’s and John Maynard Keynes’s respective positions in the philosophy of probability should not blind us to the fact that their respective views also exhibit some important differences. The most important of these relates to the fact that Ludwig von Mises advocates a pluralist, and in particular a dualist view of probability. According to a pluralist view of probability, there exist several different, though possibly interconnected, notions of probability which apply in different contexts, or with respect to different kinds of phenomena. Ludwig von Mises’s dualist position in the philosophy of probability is an aspect of his more general methodological dualism, which is based on a recognition of certain fundamental ontological, epistemological and methodological differences between the natural sciences on the one hand and the sciences of human action on the other, and between the natures of their respective subject matters. Moreover, in the particular case of Ludwig von Mises, his dualism in the philosophy of probability coincides with the distinction between measurable, numerical probability on the one hand and nonmeasurable, nonnumerical probability on the other, that is, with the distinction between class probability and case probability.6061

Ludwig von Mises’s solution to the problem of defining the concept of probability remains, no less than Keynes’s, original and highly relevant. Where others have pleaded in favour of the introduction of operationalist procedures in the social sciences, as an alternative way of making the qualitative quantitative,62Ludwig von Mises’s concept of case probability remains radically nonnumerical, geared to the needs of historical and entrepreneurial understanding.

VIII. CONCLUSION

While certain fundamental differences between the natural and the social sciences and the consequent need for a nuanced solution to the problem of finding an adequate definition of the concept of probability have been recognized by various authors and schools of thought, the solutions to this problem offered by both Ludwig von Mises and John Maynard Keyes remain both interesting from a theoretical perspective and useful from a more practical viewpoint.

We have been entitled to conclude that Ludwig von Mises’s views concerning the interpretation of the concept of probability, as they can be ascertained from certain passages of his writings, are in some respects more akin to the logical interpretation of probability as developed by John Maynard Keynes than to the frequency view as developed by his brother Richard von Mises. Summarizing, it can be acknowledged that this conclusion is supported by the fact that the views of Ludwig von Mises and of John Maynard Keynes about the interpretation of probability—that is, their philosophy of probability—have two important characteristics in common which are not shared by the probability theory of Richard von Mises.

First, both Ludwig von Mises and John Maynard Keynes adopt an epistemological (or epistemic) interpretation of probability, whereas Richard von Mises clearly embraces an objective theory of probability. The viewpoints of Ludwig von Mises and John Maynard Keynes, in so far as they amount to an argument for interpreting probabilities in economics as epistemological rather than objective, are thus in agreement with the conclusions of recent research. Second, both Ludwig von Mises and John Maynard Keynes, in their respective ways, acknowledge the existence and the epistemological and scientific legitimacy of nonmeasurable (or nonnumerical) probabilities, besides the usual measurable probabilities having a definite numerical value in the interval [0, 1]. Although Richard von Mises did acknowledge that there was an ordinary language or common sense notion of probability which was not covered by his frequency theory, he asserts that there is only one concept of probability that is of scientific importance. In other words, according to this view there is, in a scientific approach to the subject matter, no room for a purely qualitative notion of probability.

While some authors have gone so far as to question the adequacy of the orthodox frequency theory even for the physical sciences, there is a somewhat greater amount of consensus in favour of the conclusions (1) that in any case an objective interpretation of probability such as the orthodox frequency theory is not wide enough for economics, and (2) that in economics a qualitative nonnumerical concept of probability is both needed and scientifically legitimate. Both of the aforementioned characteristics have much relevance for the conduct of social science in general and of economics in particular.

An important difference between the views of Ludwig von Mises and those of John Maynard Keynes in this respect has nevertheless been acknowledged. Whereas Keynes advocated a monist view of probability and claimed that his interpretation of probability applies to all uses of the concept, Ludwig von Mises, in accordance with his methodological dualism, embraced a dualist view, recognizing more emphatically the existence of important differences between the natural sciences on the one hand and the social sciences, including economics, on the other. The particular solution offered by Ludwig von Mises thus remains highly distinctive and sophisticated, even if in comparison with the Keynesian approach, it has until present received somewhat less attention.63

  • 1. See, for instance, Hoppe (2006), who assumes that Ludwig von Mises is a representative of the frequency interpretation of probability. Whether or not this author’s views on probability are defensible, it is not quite correct to impute these same views to Ludwig von Mises.
    Moreover we are unable to detect any essential or exclusive connection between Keynes’s economics and Keynes’s views on probability; therefore a rejection of Keynesian economics—see e.g., Hoppe (1992)—need not entail a rejection of Keynes’s views on probability. Attempts to forge a supposedly essential connection between a particular philosophical (ideological) or economic Worldview on the one hand and a particular interpretation of probability on the other, are not new.
    Thus, as is also pointed out in Lad (1983), the objective interpretation of probability seems to have been rather influential in Marxist-Leninist philosophy and in Soviet thought under the influence of the mode of thinking of the Russian probabilist B. V. Gnedenko, who wrote about the subjective characterization of probability that “(t)he final outcome of consistently using such a purely subjectivistic interpretation of probability is inevitably subjective idealism” (2005 [1962], 25; also quoted in Lad [1983, 286]). Against this interpretation, Lad (1983) argues that an operational subjective construction à la de Finetti is free of Gnedenko’s charges and fits Marxist philosophical presuppositions better.
  • 2. The logical, subjective and intersubjective interpretations are all epistemological. The frequency and propensity interpretations are objective. For a survey and discussion of the different interpretations, see Gillies (2000).
  • 3. Rothbard (2004, 553).
  • 4. Rothbard’s interpretation is questionable for at least two reasons. First, Ludwig von Mises embraces an epistemic interpretation of his concept of numerical class probability whereas Richard von Mises’s interpretation of the concept of frequency probability is objective. Second, whereas for Richard von Mises there is indeed only one scientific use of the term probability, from the perspective of Ludwig von Mises both the concept of class probability and the concept of case probability are scientifically legitimate. See further. For other references by Prof. Rothbard to Richard von Mises’s theory, see in particular Rothbard (1997, 24n, 24-27, 122n, 229n).
  • 5. Rothbard (1995, 38).
  • 6. Rothbard (1995, 38).
  • 7. See Steele (2000). The Central Limit Theorem (in the classical sense) is the generic name of a class of theorems which give, in precise mathematical terms, conditions under which the distribution function of a suitably standardized sum of independent random variables is approximately normal. This theorem is one of the most remarkable results in all of mathematics. For an introduction to the Central Limit Theorem from a historical perspective, see also W. J. Adams (1974).
  • 8. See Gillies (2000, 187 ff.). The main reason why objective probabilities cannot be validly introduced in economics is not too difficult to grasp and can be related to the impossibility of introducing a satisfactory notion of independent repetitions of conditions and of random and homogeneous samples. In a typical experimental situation in physics, a sequence of independent repetitions of the experiment is perfectly possible. The experiment can be performed in the same laboratory on different days, or in different laboratories on the same day etc., and these repetitions will typically be independent. The conditions necessary for the introduction of objective probabilities are satisfied. It might seem as if there exists a certain structural similarity between a typical situation in economics and the typical experimental situation in physics. The two cases nevertheless differ in important respects. Could we not conceivably use observations of the behavior and performance of economic systems as samples of independent repetitions of conditions similar to the ones present in the typical experiment in physics? The different samples could be taken from either (1) data related to the same economic system at different times, or (2) data related to different economic systems at a similar stage of development. One author who recently re-examined these questions aptly summarizes his answer to this question as follows: “In the first case, if the samples refer to ‘snapshots’ of the economy which are too close together in time, it is hard to maintain that the more recent performance is not influenced by that of the previous periods; thus the independence of the samples cannot be maintained. If the samples relate to historical periods far enough from each other to render the assumption of independence plausible, one is unlikely to get homogeneous samples; thus invalidating the ‘experiment’. In the second case the use of a sample of cross-section data would still not give independence as economic systems tend to be integrated in terms of trade and production, and particularly as the flow of information from one country is likely to affect the behavior of agents in others.” See Gillies (2000, 192). This view with respect to the interpretation of probability is thus apparently dictated by the fundamentally different nature of the phenomena under study in the realm of human action, when compared with physical phenomena. Acting individuals in a market economy are very different from, say, the molecules of a gas. Since an economic system is composed of acting individuals, who have thoughts and beliefs, an independent repetition of any situation becomes difficult if not impossible.
  • 9. In this respect attention can be drawn to the influence of B. V. Gnedenko, author of the often revised and reprinted Theory of Probability containing an objective characterization of chance and at once the most complete statement of the Soviet Marxist understanding of probability. See also footnote 1 above and the discussion in Lad (1983).
  • 10. These correspond by and large—although not exactly—to Carnap’s two concepts of probability: probability as used in logic (degree of confirmation) on the one hand, and probability as used in statistical and physical science (relative frequency), on the other. See Carnap (1945). Keynes’s views on probability are contained in Keynes (2004 [1921]); for our analysis of Richard von Mises’s views we will use Richard von Mises (1981 [1957]) and (1964).
  • 11. Richard von Mises (1981 [1957], 30).
  • 12. Richard von Mises (1981 [1957], v).
  • 13. Richard von Mises (1981 [1957], 63).
  • 14. On the concept of collective, see also Mises (1964, 11–15). As explained further, a collective is a mass phenomenon or an unlimited sequence of observations fulfilling two conditions, the convergence condition and the randomness condition. According to Richard von Mises, many types of repeatable experiment generate collectives, or at any rate would do so if they could be continued indefinitely. The task of statistics is to identify which experiments have this collective-generating property and to elicit the associated probability distributions over their class of possible outcomes. The task of probability calculus in mathematical statistics consists in investigating whether a given system of statistical data forms a collective, or whether it can be reduced to collectives. Such a reduction provides a condensed, systematic description of the statistical data that may properly be considered an “explanation” of these data. See Richard von Mises (1981 [1957], 222).
  • 15. Richard von Mises (1981 [1957], 14). In fact, the expression “Stability of Statistical Frequencies” is Keynes’; see Keynes (2004 [1921], 336).
  • 16. Richard von Mises (1981 [1957], 12).
  • 17. Richard von Mises (1981 [1957], 25).
  • 18. See Richard von Mises (1981 [1957], 15). Regarding his positivist ideas Richard von Mises was much influenced by E. Mach whom he greatly admired. See Richard von Mises (ibid., 225) where he writes: “The point of view represented in this book corresponds essentially to Mach’s ideas.” See in this connection also Richard von Mises (1951, passim).
  • 19. See Richard von Mises (1981 [1957], 85). The practical difficulty arises from the fact that a collective is defined for an infinite sequence. A collective is an idealization. Strictly speaking, no relative-frequency probability statement says anything about any finite event, group of events or series. In other words, any calculated frequency is perfectly consistent with any probability attribution from zero to one. Combined with the injunction that there is no such thing as a probability of a “singular” event, it would appear that any definitive empirical attribution of numerical probabilities is a chimera. A statement about the limit of a sequence of trials hypothetically continued to infinity contains by itself absolutely no information about any initial segment of that sequence. Any initial segment of a collective—and we are, of course, only ever capable of observing initial segments—can be replaced with any arbitrary sequence of the same length without affecting any of the limits in the collective. Richard von Mises acknowledges that “[i]t might thus appear that our theory could never be tested experimentally.” (ibid. 84) His probabilistic solution to this problem is a pragmatic one. The empirical validity of the theory does not depend on a logical solution, but is determined by a practical decision. This decision should be based on previous experience of successful applications of probability theory, where practical studies have shown that frequency limits are approached comparatively rapidly. Moreover the idealization of the collective is comparable with other wellknown idealizations in science, such as the determination of a specific weight (perfect measurement being impossible), the existence of a point in Euclidean space, or the concept of velocity.
    The velocity of an accelerating object at a moment in time is the ratio of the change in distance to the change in time, ds/dt. Supposing the motion is not uniform, as in the case of a freely falling body whose velocity increases as it falls, to obtain the velocity we calculate the “instantaneous rate of change” of the distance with respect to the time by taking the limit as follows:
    i.e., v = lim ds/dt.
    dt ⇒ 0
    It is impossible to verify that this limit exists. It does not follow, however, that the concept of velocity is nonoperational. This criticism would duplicate the criticism of probability as the limit of a sequence, but it would not be considered a serious objection, because the definition of velocity as a limit has proven itself to be applicable to many different instances of motion, in just the same way the frequency theory has been successfully applied to many instances. The relation of theory to observation in the latter case is essentially the same as in all other physical sciences. It is reminded here that Ludwig von Mises’s definition of class probability, which is discussed further, is finitist in the sense that it dispenses entirely with any reference to the concept of a limit. In that limited sense it can be considered that Ludwig von Mises’s definition of class probability constitutes an improvement upon the definition of a collective offered by Richard von Mises.
  • 20. See Richard von Mises (1981 [1957], 25). As indicated already, the fulfillment of the second condition, insensitivity to place selection, is also described by Richard von Mises as the Principle of the Impossibility of a (successful) Gambling System. (ibid.)
  • 21. The derivation of a new collective from the initial ones consists in the application of one or several of the four fundamental operations of selection, mixing, partition and combination. See Richard von Mises (1981 [1957], Second Lecture; 1964, 15–35).
    As regards the frequentist solution to the problem of inference given by Richard von Mises, it consists of a combination of the frequency concept of a collective with Bayes’s theorem, a result known as the ‘Second Law of Large Numbers’. (ibid. 125) Bayes’s formula shows a relationship between prior and posterior probability functions. If knowledge of the prior distribution does exist, there is no conceptual problem with the application of Bayes’s theorem. Often the prior probability function will not be known, however, and it is then an important part of probability theory to know what influence the prior probability function has in the calculation of the posterior distribution. In general the following will hold: no substantial inference can be drawn from a small number of observations if nothing is known a priori, that is, preliminary to the experiments, about the object of experimentation. If the prior distribution is not known, and the number of observations, say rolls of a die, is small, then the posterior distribution will not allow to draw any conclusions accurately. On the other hand, a large number of observations limits the importance of knowing the prior distribution. As long as the number of experiments is small, the influence of the initial distribution predominates; however, as the number of experiments increases, this influence decreases more and more.
    Often the prior distribution will not be known. The actor will then have to guess at a distribution, sample the population, and then revise his guess according to Bayes’s formula. This means that actions of an individual will also be guided by the accuracy of his or her guess.
  • 22. As he wrote: “Our probability theory has nothing to do with questions such as: ‘Is there a probability of Germany being at some time in the future involved in a war with Liberia?’” See Richard von Mises (1981 [1957], 9).
  • 23. Richard von Mises (1981 [1957], 18).
  • 24. Richard von Mises thus advocated a monist view of probability, that is, he asserts that there is only one concept of probability that is of scientific importance, in contradistinction to his brother Ludwig von Mises who espoused a dualist view of probability.
  • 25. For recent testimony of this fact, see e.g., Khrennikov (1999). This author argues that certain problems in the foundations of quantum mechanics—such as the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen paradox—are connected with the foundations of probability theory and thus have a purely mathematical origin. In particular, the pathological (or nonclassical) behaviour of “quantum probabilities”—in particular Bell’s inequality—is a consequence of the formal use of Kolmogorov’s probability model. This author uses the ensemble and frequency interpretations as the two fundamental interpretations of probability and arrives at surprising results. Bell’s inequality cannot be used as an argument for non-locality or nonreality. Historically, and although it has been argued that the philosophical background of subjective probability strongly resembles that underlying quantum mechanics (see Galavotti 1995), it is frequentism that became the “received view” of probability and seems to have been tacitly assumed also by the upholders of the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics (although the attribution of probabilities to the single case was generally admitted). In this context attention has often been drawn to Heisenberg’s viewpoint according to which “(t)he probability function combines objective and subjective elements. It contains statements about possibilities or better tendencies (“potential” in Aristotelian philosophy), and these statements are completely objective, they do not depend on any observer; and it contains statements about our knowledge of the system, which of course are subjective in so far as they may be different for different observers. In ideal cases the subjective element in the probability function may be practically negligible as compared with the objective one. The physicists then speak of a ‘pure case.’” See Heisenberg (1958 [1990], 41), and also the discussion in Galavotti (1995).
  • 26. See Keynes (2004 [1921], 111). Keynes mostly takes the empiricist line that knowledge acquired by direct acquaintance constitutes true and certain knowledge. Knowledge by argument, in contrast, proceeds through direct knowledge of relations of the form ‘e implies h’ or ‘e partially implies h.’
  • 27. Richard von Mises (1981 [1957], 94).
  • 28. See Keynes (2004 [1921], 3–4). It is widely held that Keynes yielded to Ramsey’s (1988) critical arguments and that he abandoned the idea that rational beliefs are founded on logical relations of partial implication and accepted instead that they are closer to our perceptions and our memories than to formal logic. As Runde (1994) points out, Keynes’s theory of comparative probability emerges unscathed. On the one hand Ramsey’s theory embodies strong implicit presuppositions of its own and is in certain respects a considerably more idealistic construction than Keynes’s. On the other hand, Keynes’s emphasis is on incompleteness and on the fact that numerically definite probabilities can only be determined in situations which approximate games of chance.
  • 29. See also Gillies (1973, 14–15).
  • 30. As Keynes writes: “It is assumed, first, that a knowledge of what has occurred at some of the trials would not affect the probability of what may occur at any of the others; and it is assumed, secondly, that these probabilities are all equal à priori. It is assumed, that is to say, that the probability of the event’s occurrence at the nth trial is equal à priori to its probability at the nth trial, and, further, that it is unaffected by a knowledge of what may actually have occurred at the nth trial.” (2004 [1921], 344).
    As Karl Popper points out, the theory of independence or irrelevance is equivalent to the law of the excluded gambling system. See Popper (1983, 299).
  • 31. Keynes (2004 [1921], 336).
  • 32. Keynes (2004 [1921], 384–85) Significantly, Keynes also wrote in connection with the application of Bernoulli’s formula: “In cases where the use of this formula is valid, important inferences can be drawn; and it will be shown that, when the conditions for objective chance are approximately satisfied, it is probable that the conditions for the application of Bernoulli’s formula will be approximately satisfied also.” (ibid. 290).
  • 33. See Ludwig von Mises (1969 [1957], 84-5). See also (1978 [1962], 56) where Mises wrote: “There is no such thing as statistical laws.” According to this view, statistics is rather a sub-discipline, or an auxiliary discipline, of historiography.
  • 34. Ludwig von Mises (1969 [1957], 87–88).
  • 35. Ludwig von Mises (1969 [1957], 88).
  • 36. Ludwig von Mises (1969 [1957], 88).
  • 37. Ludwig von Mises (1998, 22). In The Ultimate Foundation of Economic Science Ludwig von Mises also wrote: “There is always in science some ultimate given. For contemporary physics the behavior of the atoms appears as such an ultimate given. The physicists are today at a loss to reduce certain atomic processes to their causes. One does not detract from the marvelous achievements of physics by establishing the fact that this state of affairs is what is commonly called ignorance.” (1978 [1962], 23).
  • 38. In particular quantum theory is irreducibly probabilistic. Unlike classical probabilities, quantum probabilities do not reflect our ignorance of the intricate details of some underlying physical reality. In particular Einstein disliked the element of chance implied by quantum theory. In a letter to Max Born, dated 4 December 1926, he wrote: “Quantum mechanics is very impressive. But an inner voice tells me that it is not yet the real thing. The theory produces a good deal but hardly brings us closer to the secret of the Old One. I am at all events convinced that He does not play dice.” Quoted in Baggott (2004, 34). Reference can in this context also be made to the confrontation between Einstein and Bohr over the interpretation of quantum theory, and to subsequent debates along similar lines, and which have often been portrayed in the past as a direct conflict between realism and positivism. For a good survey and discussion of these issues see also Baggott (2004). The issue for Einstein indeed seems to have been realism rather than determinism. Ludwig von Mises is apparently on the realist side. For a sophisticated analysis of Einstein’s views in this respect, see also Fine (1986); Einstein’s remark about the dice-playing God (“…ob der liebe Gott würfelt”) is also related in Bohr (1949, 218); see also Fine (1986, 29).
  • 39. Einstein, Albert, letter to Sommerfeld, Arnold, dated 9 November 1927. Quoted in Fine, A. (1986, 29).
  • 40. Ludwig von Mises (1998, 107).
  • 41. Popper (1983, 295).
  • 42. See Hughes (1992, 218). The possible exceptions occur when a system is in a mixed state. Under the ignorance interpretation of a given mixture, a subjective probability is assigned to each of the pure states represented in it, and each of these in turn assigns objective probabilities to events. Not all mixtures can be given the ignorance interpretation, however. For a discussion of pure and mixed states, see also van Fraassen (1991, ch. 7). The interpretation of quantum states is a matter of much debate. For in-depth discussions of these and related matters, see in particular also Willem M. de Muynck (2002 passim).
  • 43. See Richard von Mises (1981 [1957], 223). As Richard von Mises writes: “The assumption that a statistical theory in macrophysics is compatible with a deterministic theory in microphysics is contrary to the conception of probability expressed in these lectures. Modern quantum mechanics or wave mechanics appears to be a purely statistical theory; its fundamental equations state relations between probability distributions.” (ibid. 223) The incompatibility with the views expressed by his brother Ludwig von Mises in this respect cannot be clearer. Therefore we do not share the view of an author who explains the absence of any reference in Ludwig von Mises’s Human Action to Richard von Mises’s frequency interpretation with reference to a supposed “estrangement” between the two brothers. See Hoppe (2006, 13). Clearly the two brothers disagreed on philosophical grounds.
  • 44. See e.g., Ludwig von Mises (1978 [1962], 115). Turning back to quantum mechanics, it may be noted that the American-born physicist David Bohm has formulated in the 1950s an alternative interpretation of quantum mechanics that is fully deterministic (although non-local). The very idea of probability enters into this theory as some kind of an epistemic idea, just as it enters into classical statistical mechanics. Despite all the advantages of Bohm’s theory, an almost universal refusal even to consider it, and an almost universal allegiance to the standard formulation of quantum mechanics has persisted in physics throughout most of the past fifty years. For a summary introduction to Bohm’s approach, see David Z Albert (1994).
  • 45. Ludwig von Mises (1998, 107).
  • 46. Accordingly probability sometimes involves a reference to the notion of relative frequency, but relative frequency is not the general defining characteristic of the scientific concept of probability according to Ludwig von Mises.
  • 47. See Jaynes (2003, passim).
  • 48. Keynes (1921 [2004], 104).
  • 49. See Jaynes (2003, 328–29). In particular, this author’s views contrast sharply with those of Popper. With respect to the situation in physics, Popper, who argues for the compatibility of indeterminism with realism and objectivism, has gone so far as to blame the determinist interpretation of classical physics, or rather, what he characterizes as some unconscious determinist prejudice with respect to classical physics, for the subjective theory of probability and its consequence, the invasion of mysticism, irrationalism etc., into physics. See Popper (1982, passim).
  • 50. See Richard von Mises (1981 [1957], 9).
  • 51. Keynes (2004 [1921], 37).
  • 52. Ludwig von Mises (1998, 107).
  • 53. Ludwig von Mises (1998, 110).
  • 54. Ludwig von Mises (1998, 110).
  • 55. Keynes (2004 [1921], 95).
  • 56. Keynes (2004 [1921], 95).
  • 57. See Ludwig von Mises (1998, 114). Ludwig von Mises’s view regarding this matter is thus distinct from the view of Bayesians such as Howson and Urbach who argue that choices of personal fair betting quotients can provide a basis for making numerical assessments of uncertainty. See Howson and Urbach (2006, 51 ff.).
  • 58. In the Treatise Keynes illustrates this point with the famous example of the “beauty contest.” (2004 [1921], 25 ff.)
    Keynes explains how one of the candidates of the contest sued the organizers of the Daily Express for not having had a reasonable opportunity to compete. Readers of the newspaper determined one part of the nomination. The final decision depended on an expert, who had to sample the top fifty of the ladies chosen by the readers. The candidate complained in front of the Court of Justice, that she had not obtained an opportunity to make an appointment with this expert. Keynes argues that the chance of winning the contest could have been measured numerically, if only the response of the readers (who sent in their appraisals and thus provided an unambiguous ranking of the candidates) had mattered. The subjective taste of the single expert could not be evaluated in a similar way. Hence, a rational basis for evaluating the chances of the unfortunate lady was lacking. Keynes concludes:
    Whether or not such a thing is theoretically conceivable, no exercise of the practical judgment is possible, by which a numerical value can actually be given to the probability of every argument. So far from our being able to measure them, it is not even clear that we are always able to place them in an order of magnitude. Nor has any theoretical rule for their evaluation ever been suggested. (ibid. 27–28)
  • 59. See Keynes (2004 [1921], 29). In similar vein, Hoppe (2006), analyzing the meaning of Ludwig von Mises’s concept of case probability, points out that the method of Verstehen can be characterized as a method of place selection, or a method of individualization.
  • 60. It is not the case that according to Ludwig von Mises’s dualist (twoconcept) view with respect to probability, the different concepts of probability are conceived of as different interpretations of the same mathematical calculus, or as applications of the same mathematical calculus to different sets of phenomena, as is the case according to certain other dualist views of probability. The distinction between class probability and case probability is ultimately based upon the different kind of cognitive accessibility of human actors in contrast to noncommunicative entities. See Hoppe (2006).
  • 61. Ludwig von Mises’s view with respect to the meaning of probability may thus seem to occupy a truly unique place in the philosophy of probability. Another economist who adopted a nuanced viewpoint in this connection is John Hicks. This author wrote: “I have myself come to the view that the frequency theory, though it is thoroughly at home in many of the natural sciences, is not wide enough for economics.” (1979, 105) Hicks is contrasting two interpretations of probability—the frequency and the logical. The framework used here is wider since we distinguish objective theories of probability from epistemological theories.
  • 62. See Gillies (2000, 200 ff.).
  • 63. Those contemporary Austrian economists who acknowledge the usefulness of modern data analysis methods for the conduct of applied research in economics can be confident that the now more and more widespread practice of interpreting probabilities as merely epistemological is in general agreement with Ludwig von Mises’s approach to probability. Moreover, it is neither clear nor obvious why a recognition of the usefulness of modern data analysis methods would have to amount to a denial of the essential importance of the method of understanding or Verstehen.
Categories: Current Affairs

If you tax vaping, people smoke more cigarettes

Adam Smith Institute - Mon, 03/02/2020 - 17:17

Unsurprisingly, a new NBER working paper has found that e-cigarette taxes result in more people smoking cigarettes. The authors examined vaping taxes enacted in eight U.S. states and two large counties, concluding that e-cigarettes and traditional cigarettes are substitutes. 

This result is hardly surprising— in the UK, 94% of our 3.6 million vapers are former or current smokers. More than half have quit smoking completely. A large body of evidence shows that vaping is at least 95% safer than smoking. Randomised control trials have demonstrated that they are a highly effective quit method. The idea that we should make vaping more expensive through a targeted tax hike is absurd.

Despite this, America continues to wallow in its hysterical moral panic about e-cigarettes. A House Bill championed by Democrats is proposing a tax of $50.33 per 1,810 milligrams of nicotine (raising the price of a Juul pod by $1.72), which the NBER paper’s authors estimate would increase traditional cigarette purchases by 29,182 packs per 100,000 adults. This is extremely unlikely to improve public health.

And it’s not just the idea of taxing safer substitutes for cigarettes itself that’s nonsensical. Many states levy e-cigarette taxes on the amount of e-liquid in a particular product rather than on a per-unit basis. Just as cultivation taxes on the weight of cannabis encourage more potent strains, taxing the volume of e-liquid biases the market towards higher nicotine concentrations than would otherwise have been the case. Regulated high nicotine liquids are just as safe and may be useful for heavier smokers who need an extra kick to make the switch, but we shouldn’t distort consumer preferences like this.

Thankfully the majority of the public health establishment in the United Kingdom isn’t likely to go the same way as America, although there are still alarmist voices. The last time we had rumours of an e-cigarette tax, it received the reception it deserved. This NBER working paper is yet another reminder that crackdowns on vaping aren’t just illiberal—they drive people back to traditional cigarettes.

Categories: Current Affairs

"Disabled" Cop Fleeces Taxpayers While Working Full-Time for FBI

Mises Institute - Mon, 03/02/2020 - 17:00

Soaring public pension costs are driving a wave of tax hikes across California, but many officials are reluctant to admit that fact. Instead, voters are told that higher taxes are needed to fund services like parks and public safety, or other items that enjoy similarly positive poll-tested support.

The latest example of this ruse can be found in Oakland.

In March, voters will be asked to approve a property tax hike with the ostensible goal of raising an extra $20 million annually for the city’s parks department.

A closer look at the city budget, however, makes clear that exploding pension costs are the real reason the city needs more money.

Retirement pension costs have more than tripled over the past ten years and currently consume nearly one out of every five dollars in general fund spending. Annual costs are projected to hit an all-time high of $235 million in 2024—a $77 million increase from last year, which will more than erase the amount raised by the proposed tax hike.

Most of this expenditure provides no benefit whatsoever to taxpayers or city workers and is spent instead on the benefits of those already retired—which explains why officials prefer not to mention rising pension costs when justifying the need for higher taxes.

Taxpayers aren’t just being misled about the role that pensions are playing in the push for higher taxes, however; they are also being kept in the dark about how the system works, particularly when it comes to so-called disability pensions for police officers.

In 2014, the San Jose Mercury News found that Oakland was awarding police disability pensions at a rate far higher than neighboring cities. Astonishingly, more than half of all retired Oakland police officers are receiving industrial disability pensions.

In addition to being tax-free, these benefits are especially lucrative—and thus especially costly to taxpayers—because they are payable immediately at any age.

Take, for example, Aaron McFarlane, who worked as an Oakland police officer for four years before retiring under disability at age 31 in 2004. McFarlane has already collected nearly $800,000 in pension pay and is projected to receive almost $4 million in total lifetime payouts.

Officers who are disabled in the line of duty deserve compensation, but Mr. McFarlane is not disabled, at least not according to the FBI’s hiring standards.

The Boston Globe in 2014 identified McFarlane as the FBI special agent who shot and killed an associate of the Boston marathon bomber. As part of the application process, McFarlane even passed an FBI physical exam which established that he was in "excellent physical condition with no disabilities" that would impede his ability to work in law enforcement, according to a CBS San Francisco report.

This media scrutiny prompted Oakland officials to investigate what appeared to be an obvious violation of state law, but the issue faded from public view in the three years that it took for the city to reach a conclusion.

The city would ultimately affirm the continued lifetime payment of a disability pension to McFarlane after an anonymous doctor declared that he remained "substantially incapacitated from performing the work of a police officer."

This is certainly good news for McFarlane, who will continue to supplement his FBI salary with a nearly $60,000 annual disability pension, paid for in part by Oakland taxpayers.

Most taxpayers, however, would be surprised to learn that they are required to fund disability pensions for those in "excellent physical condition" working a similar job elsewhere—given that state law suggests the opposite.

It is unknown how many other cases like this are out there and how much they are costing taxpayers. Answering those questions would first require identifying all those who are drawing tax-funded disability pensions.

Unfortunately, the state retirement system refuses to disclose that information, which is why Transparent California has filed a public records lawsuit against the agency.

The California Public Records Act declares that all citizens have "a fundamental and necessary right" to know what the government is doing with their money.

Nowhere is that right more important than in cases like this one, where what the government says it is doing differs significantly, to put it mildly, from what it is actually doing.

Rising pension costs are behind Oakland’s alleged budget crunch and the accompanying push for higher taxes. Voters deserve complete and accurate information about those costs, including how much it costs to fund disability pensions for able-bodied employees who are simultaneously collecting full pay and benefits for performing the same job elsewhere.

Reprinted with permission of the author.

Categories: Current Affairs

Lyn Ulbricht on the Absurd Trial and Sentencing in the Silk Road Case

Mises Institute - Mon, 03/02/2020 - 15:00

Lyn Ulbricht is the mother of Ross Ulbricht, the founder of the Silk Road website. Contrary to the government’s assertions, Lyn argues that her son was hardly a criminal kingpin menacing society. Even taking the laws on the book at face value, Ross’ trial was a sham, and the government’s behavior was shocking.

For more information, see BobMurphyShow.com. The Bob Murphy Show is also available on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify, and via RSS.

Categories: Current Affairs

How Keynesian Ideas Weaken Economic Fundamentals

Mises Institute - Mon, 03/02/2020 - 12:00

Whenever there are signs that the economy is likely to fall into an economic slump most experts advise that the central bank and the government should embark on loose monetary and fiscal policies to counter the possible economic recession. In this sense, most experts are following the ideas of the English economist John Maynard Keynes.

Briefly, John Maynard Keynes held that one could not have complete trust in a market economy, which is inherently unstable. If left free, the market economy could lead to self-destruction. Hence, there is the need for governments and central banks to manage the economy.

Successful management in the Keynesian framework is achieved by influencing overall spending in an economy. It is spending that generates income. Spending by one individual becomes income for another individual according to Keynes. Hence, the more that is spent the better thing are going to be. What drives the economy, then, is spending.

In the Keynesian framework the largest part of spending is consumer outlays. Thus consumer outlays are regarded as the motor of the economy—consumption sets in motion real economic growth.

But one must make a distinction between productive and nonproductive consumption. Although productive consumption is an agent of economic growth, nonproductive consumption leads to economic impoverishment.

Productive Consumption

For instance, a baker exchanges his ten saved loaves of bread for ten potatoes. The potatoes are now sustaining the baker while he is engaged in the baking of bread. Likewise, the bread sustains the potato farmer while he is engaged in the production of potatoes. Here the respective production of the baker and the potato farmer enables them to secure goods for consumption.

What makes the consumption productive here is the fact that both the baker and the potato farmer consume in order to be able to produce consumer goods. The consumption of both the baker and the potato farmer sustains their lives and well-being, which is the only reason for production.

The introduction of money does not change what has been said so far: the baker can exchange his ten loaves of bread for ten dollars. He then uses money to secure ten potatoes. Likewise, the potato farmer can now exchange his ten dollars for ten loaves of bread. While playing the role of the medium of exchange, money has contributed absolutely nothing to the production of bread and potatoes.

Nonproductive Consumption

We have seen that in order to secure potatoes the baker had to exchange bread for money and then employ this money to secure potatoes. Something was exchanged for money, which in turn was exchanged for something else—something is exchanged for something with the help of money.

Trouble erupts when money is created out of “thin air.” Such money gives rise to consumption that is not backed by any production. It leads to an exchange of nothing for something.

For instance, a counterfeiter has printed twenty dollars. Since this money was not secured through the production of some useful goods, the counterfeiter has obtained the twenty dollars by exchanging nothing for it.

The counterfeiter uses the newly generated money to buy ten loaves of bread. What we have here is the diversion of real wealth—ten loaves of bread—from the potato farmer towards the counterfeiter. The diversion takes place via the counterfeiter paying a higher price for bread—he pays two dollars per loaf (previously the price stood at one dollar per loaf). Also, note that since the counterfeiter did not produce anything useful he is engaged in nonproductive consumption.

The potato farmer is now denied the bread that he must have to sustain him while he is producing potatoes. Obviously, this will impair the production of potatoes. As a result, less of potatoes will become available, which in turn will undermine the consumption of the baker. This, in turn, will impair his ability to produce.

We can thus see that while productive consumption sustains wealth generators and promotes the expansion of real wealth—nonproductive consumption only leads to economic impoverishment. Money printed by the central bank and money created through fractional reserve banking produce exactly the same damaging effect as the counterfeiter's money.

The expansion of money sets the platform for nonproductive consumption — an agent of economic destruction.

In the Keynesian framework, during a recession, when consumers tend to lower their outlays, it is the duty of the government to step in and boost its expenditure. For instance, the government could employ various unemployed individuals to dig holes in the ground.

The followers of the Keynesian model hold that the money that the government is going to pay the workers is likely to boost their consumption, which will in turn lift the overall income in the economy. It does not really matter whether the holes in the ground contribute to individuals' well-being. What matters is that people are being paid and then using the money to boost their consumption.

But the government does not earn money as such—it is not a wealth generator. So how, then, does it pay various individuals whom it has employed in various non–wealth generating projects?

It secures the money either through taxation, borrowing, or by asking the central bank to print money. This amounts to the diversion of wealth from wealth generators to government activities. (This generates the same outcome that money printing does—it sets in motion nonproductive consumption.) According to Mises in Human Action,

there is need to emphasize the truism that the government can spend or invest only what it takes away from its citizens and that its additional spending and investment curtails the citizens’ spending and investment to the full extent of its quantity.

From this, we can conclude that since government is not a wealth generator, it cannot grow the economy.

Contrary to popular belief, then, the more government spends, the worse it is for the health of the economy and thus for economic growth.

It has not occurred to all the Keynesian sympathizers that it is the fiscal and monetary policies of the past several decades that have given rise to nonproductive consumption. The outcome of all this is the vast amount of bubble activities.

What is required is not more Keynesian policies, but rather to allow wealth producers to move fast and start generating real wealth. This, of course, means that what is required is plenty of productive consumption. More government spending and the massive pumping of money by central banks only strengthens nonproductive consumption.

Categories: Current Affairs

Finally, the European Union admits that the EU is a cost

Adam Smith Institute - Mon, 03/02/2020 - 07:01

Everything has costs and benefits, everything. To refuse to admit that is to refuse the basic insights of economics. Thus there are costs to being inside the European Union, costs to being in alignment with it. True, there will also be benefits, it’s the balance of the two that matters.

This is not some weird ultra position, this is what the EU itself is telling us:

The EU is making clear its bottom lines. It insists that the UK must accept alignment with its rules on workers’ rights, the environment and state aid, as the price for a deal (fearing that otherwise the UK will steal a competitive advantage).

It is only possible to gain, let alone steal, a competitive advantage if costs must be carried by one side and not the other. Thus this insistence, the very negotiating position of the EU, is that the rules on workers’ rights, the environment, state aid, are a cost that has to be carried by those who obey them.

The benefit here is the ability to export UK produced goods and services into the EU without facing tariffs and or quotas. This is the position they’ve laid out, this is not us making the statement, this is the EU itself.

The question to be answered is therefore whether those costs are worth that benefit?

One answer is that the real costs of such tariffs are carried by the consumers who pay them - the EU citizenry denied that tariff and quota free access to those things that the UK produces which they would like to have. Our position therefore becomes clear - those costs aren’t upon us so we should be free traders, pure and simple. We gain the benefits of not being constricted by the regulatory costs.

Even if we wish to, wrongly, insist that the exports are a benefit to us the costs of the regulations seem to be higher than the benefits of the exports. Otherwise why such worry that we might decide to jettison the regulations?

The correct negotiating stance therefore becomes clear. We wish to be free of the costs, those regulations. We’ll take as much of the benefits as we can, those exports. But it’s the being free of the constraints that is important.

Categories: Current Affairs

Province of Burundi launches university exchange

Anglican Ink - Mon, 03/02/2020 - 03:50

Christian Universities and Church related universities in Burundi have organised a forum of exchange in Bujumbura to explore the opportunities of building partnership with other Universities to train students with required and appropriate skills that address job market issues in a Christian perspective.

Daystar University one of the most prestigious Universities in Africa based in Kenya, has organised a work visit in Burundi to discuss how it can collaborate with Churches and Christian Universities in Burundi.

Church leaders and University Chancellors as well as the delegation from Daystar University appreciated this first step of dialogue between academic institutions that serve communities and societies.

Eraste Bigirimana the Bishop of Anglican Diocese of Bujumbura has been appointed to lead the commission in charge of further steps towards effective partnership and collaboration.

The post Province of Burundi launches university exchange appeared first on Anglican Ink © 2020.

Church of Uganda Retired Bishops hold special Thanksgiving Service for Archbishop Ntagali

Anglican Ink - Mon, 03/02/2020 - 03:45

The Retired Bishops of Church of Uganda and their wives today held a thanksgiving service for Archbishop Stanley Ntagali and Mama Beatrice Ntagali and used the same occasion to bid him farewell.

Speaking during the Service at Uganda Martyrs Museum Namugongo, Rt Rev Dr Dunstan Bukenya, the Secretary of the Archbishop’s Advisory Committee & Representative of Retired Bishops in the House of Bishops) commended the Archbishop for standing by retired Bishops and recommending the establishment of the Archbishop’s Advisory Committee for Retired Bishops.

According to Bishop Bukenya, this Committee was established to provide Pastoral care for the Retired Bishops and provide input of Faith and Order to the House of Bishops through their representatives.

He noted that the Committee is Chaired by Rt Rev Zebedde Masereka with Rt Rev Onono Omweng, Rt Rev Eria Paul Luzinda Kizito, Rt Rev Charles Odurkami as members and him as the Secretary.

He applauded the Archbishop and Mama Beatrice Ntagali for their contribution towards the growth of Church of Uganda.

“Your Grace, retired Bishops would like to thank you for the inauguration of the Archbishop Janani Luwum Church House, the Inauguration of the Vision 2016-2025 Strategic Master Plan for Church Growth, three years focusing on the care for the children, the Inauguration of Evangelical Fellowship in the Anglican Church of Uganda Chapter (EFAC-U) to which I am the Contact Person and your Pastoral Touch and love for Retired Bishops and their Wives.” Bishop Bukenya noted.

He recommended that a pension scheme for bishops and clergy be established at every Diocese, a pension department equally be established by Policy have Retired Bishops and Clergy active in Mission of the Church and establishment of projects that meet the needs of clergy and other Church Workers.

According to the records presented by Bishop Bukenya, Church of Uganda currently has 50 Retired Bishops, 24 Widows of the Bishops who passed on and with 52 Bishops (including Archbishops) who passed on since the time of the Rt Rev James Hannington the Second Bishop of Eastern Equatorial Africa including Uganda.

Bishop Emeritus Jackson Matovu, the Chairman of the Namugongo Martyrs Museum Development Committee who led today’s Service hailed Archbishop Ntagali for supporting the development of the Museum and narrated the achievements and future projects at the Museum.

“As you may remember Your Grace, it was you and a few blessed ones, including His Grace Cyprian Kizito Lwanga and the Late Archbishop Dr. Livingston Mpalanyi Nkoyoyo together with the Bishop of Namirembe Rt Rev Wilberforce Kityo Luwalira, Who did the ground breaking of this site in 2014.” Bishop Emeritus Jackson Matovu noted.

The Museum Development Committee joined the Retired Bishops to give thanks to the Lord for the Ministry of The Most Rev Stanley Ntagali as the 8th Archbishop of Church of Uganda.

Bishop Matovu noted that plans are underway to embrace the most critical requirements such as building the Amphitheatre including the Community Church, The Museum Tower, Hotel, Children’s Park and Leisure Park with in their five years Strategic Plan.

In his response, Archbishop Ntagali thanked retired Bishops for offering him guidance and being good team members.

“When I was Enthroned as the 8th Archbishop of Church of Uganda, I called upon you to join me to build a team and you became wonderful team mates. I am very grateful to God that I was your team leader.” Archbishop Ntagali said.

He noted that he will be retiring from full time Office work which he has done for over the last 43 years but won’t stop preaching the Gospel.

“I am retiring a very happy man. Mama Beatrice and I are going to have enough time with our Grand Children. We have been going home as visitors.
I am retiring from full time Office work but not from preaching the Gospel. I will stop Preaching the Gospel when God calls me home.” He noted amid cheers from the Retired Bishops.

“I want to remain a humble servant of God, continue living an exemplary life for me to finish my race successfully to enable me get the Crown of life that the Lord promised me.” Archbishop Ntagali added.

He advised the Retired Bishops and other congregants not to always worry about the challenges on life but rather give them up to the Lord.

“In my Ministry, I have faced several challenges but every challenge that comes to me, I offer it to the Lord and he turns it into an opportunity. I don’t revenge. I normally choose to forgive and pray for my enemies that the Lord may show them the light of salvation.” He said.

He thanked NamugongoMuseum Development Committee for the great work they have done to turn the Site into a befitting State of Art Museum.

“I was honoured to host His Holiness Pope Francis in this Museum when he visited Uganda. This was a blessing to us. Many other people that have visited this Museum always express utmost gratitude for the great work done here. We return the glory and honour to God.” He added.

The Retired Bishops welcomed Archbishop Stanley Ntagali and Mama Beatrice Ntagali to the fellowship of “Retired Generals of Church of Uganda.”

The post Church of Uganda Retired Bishops hold special Thanksgiving Service for Archbishop Ntagali appeared first on Anglican Ink © 2020.

St Paul to the English bishops: Shun worldly babble

Anglican Ink - Mon, 03/02/2020 - 03:21

In the previous post, I described the recent Pastoral Statement on Marriage of the Church of England House of Bishops of the Church of England as the sound of one hand clapping.

What then, I thought, would two hands clapping sound like? This in turn led me back to the Apostle Paul.

Most people would agree that Paul’s encomium to marriage in Ephesians, chapter 5, is one of the most exalted statements of the Bible:

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. (verses 22-33)

Not surprisingly, the Prayer Book service includes Paul’s language, defining holy matrimony as “an honourable estate, instituted of God in the time of man’s innocency, signifying unto us the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and his Church.” Give the bishops credit for applauding this classic teaching of Bible and Prayer Book (§§7-8).

Paul’s teaching on marriage in Ephesians 5 follows on from a prior section on discipleship in the church, which begins: “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (verse 1). Who is Paul’s audience? Clearly it is the “beloved children” who have been saved by faith, who had previously been dead in trespasses, following the course of this world and the passions of the flesh, the desires of the body and the mind, and who were by nature children of wrath (Ephesians 2:1-3,8). These converts have seen the light and are walking in it. They are the church that is making known to the rulers of this age the manifold wisdom of God (3:10).

For a Christian to “walk in love,” Paul continues, entails necessary consequences: “But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints” (Ephesians 5:3). Throughout the New Testament Epistles, avoidance of “sexual immorality” (porneia) is paired with shunning idolatry as distinguishing marks of the Christian “saint.” “Flee fornication” and “flee idolatry” go hand in hand (1 Corinthians 6:18; 10:14).

In his recent book From Shame to Sin: The Christian Transformation of Sexual Morality in Late Antiquity, Kyle Harper demonstrates how Christianity – and Paul in particular – turned the pagan world upside-down with its vision of sexual purity and impurity (porneia):

The chill severity of Christian sexuality was born not out of a pathological hatred of the body, nor out of a broad public anxiety about the material world. It emerged in an existentially serious culture, propelled to startling conclusions by the remorseless logic of a new moral cosmology. (page 86)

I suppose it should not be surprising that the neo-pagans of late modernity are trying to turn back the clock to the glory days of the Roman Empire.

Paul is adamant that these sins not even be named among the saints: “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret” (verses 11-12). Paul is no prude. No one in the ancient world could be ignorant of the “unfruitful works of darkness,” as many of them were public and licit. No, Paul’s concern is for the reputation of the church. How is the church to be a light to the outside world if its members spend the night walking in darkness? When Paul speaks of “exposing” the shameful deeds of contemporary society, he does not mean standing on a street corner and crying, “Repent, you fornicators.” Rather, he sees the corporate life of the Christian community, as “imitators of God,” winning people over to the new way of Christ’s love. “Submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ” (verse 21) captures the Spirit of the early church manifesting its light to the pagan world, and a prime arena for showing forth this reverence is marriage and the family.

This comprehensive call to turn from darkness to light, to shun sexual impurity of any kind is the complementary hand to Paul’s glorious vision of marriage as imaging the union of Christ and the Church. This call was something utterly new in the pagan world and remains so today. It was the foundation of a new “rule” of life, which was passed on from the apostles to the church fathers and undergirds the sacred or sacramental status of holy matrimony.

This is the moral tradition which clergy of the church vow to uphold. For Paul, gospel proclamation and apostolic doctrine must be joined hand in hand with pastoral discipline: “Him we proclaimwarning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ (Colossians 1:28). By instructing faithful priests not to speak the truth about the exclusive demand of God throughout Scripture for men and women to remain sexually faithful in marriage and abstinent outside it (see 1998 Lambeth Resolution I.10), the bishops are binding where they should loose and loosing where they should bind.

St. Paul exhorts Timothy and through Timothy his successors: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. But shun worldly babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness” (2 Timothy 2:15-16). As I see it, by upholding with one hand the apostolic teaching on marriage and hedging it on the other hand, the bishops of the Church of England are babbling, and this babbling is dividing the flock and demoralizing its clergy at home and abroad.

The post St Paul to the English bishops: Shun worldly babble appeared first on Anglican Ink © 2020.

If it doesn't work stop doing it then

Adam Smith Institute - Sun, 02/02/2020 - 07:01

As we’ve long pointed out some recycling makes excellent sense - if you’re making a profit doing it - and much of the stuff we’re urged to do doesn’t. To add to this the method of recycling used is important too:

Car seat manufacturers urged to launch recycling schemes to stop 90% of them ending up in landfill

“Having to treat child car seats as waste is scandalous and is extremely frustrating for councils and parents."

We don’t in fact want to have recycling schemes for specific products. We most certainly don’t want specific manufacturers to be responsible for recycling specific products.

Car seat manufacturers are being urged to launch recycling schemes to stop almost all of them ending up in landfill.

The Local Government Association (LGA) has today issued a warning calling upon companies to be responsible for the waste created by their own products.

No, this isn’t the sensible way to do it at all.

The LGA, which represents councils in England and Wales, is calling on manufacturers to recycle their own child car seats,

Ludicrous. That would, for example, mean that any new manufacturer cannot launch into the UK market until they’ve built a hugely expensive recycling system. Economic argle bargle.

However Worcestershire-based car seat design firm, JMDA, has also implemented a successful project.

It collected 30 used seats and packed them into scrap cars, which were then put through a recycling firm's industrial shredder.

The seats' different elements were separated into recyclable materials: the metals were sold and reused; the plastics were converted into pellets for reuse in the moulding process, and the fabrics were incinerated to generate electricity.

However attempts to roll out this idea nationally have faced obstacles. It is understood that JMDA approached major brands and retailers for backing but the discussions have stalled due to difficulties over commercial viability.

The lack of commercial viability here means that the cost of the process is greater than the returns to the process. That is, it makes a loss, subtracts value. Or, the same statement, we must use more resources to recycle car seats than we gain by recycling car seats. Thus, if our goal is the saving of resources we must not recycle car seats.

Over and above that though is this idea that we must recycle this, then recycle that. This is not correct. We have a set of resources which are fed into the economic process. We have a set of products which come to the end of their useful lives. The products should be one large pile which is then picked over for the useful - ie, economic - resources that are then fed back into the production process.

The idea of a separate system for the recycling of car seats is as ludicrous as the idea that we have one paper recycling system for napkins and another for office memos. There are, after all, economies of scale to industrial processes.

That is, if we are to recycle then we want to have the one collection system, that one collection system then sorts into what is usable and what is not, the recycling does or does not take place. That is, exactly the opposite of this fragmented and repeated system that is being advocated. Fortunately, we have that one collection system, the one currently run by local councils. We should use it more.

Categories: Current Affairs

We’re sorry say Manchester bishops for CoE stance on human sexuality

Anglican Ink - Sat, 01/02/2020 - 23:39

As bishops in the Diocese of Manchester, we wish to make on our own behalf the apology issued by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York last night. The statement that had been published on behalf of the House of Bishops the previous week has been the cause of great harm and deep distress here in Manchester and across the wider Church. We are truly sorry. As Christians committed to penitence, we beg our sisters and brothers for their forgiveness and ask them to accompany us as we seek to rebuild the trust we have deservedly forfeited.

The College of Bishops met in London on Wednesday and Thursday this week. Chastened and humbled, we have been able to redouble our efforts to see that the Living in Love and Faith project has the integrity it needs; and that the bishops have not predetermined its outcome. Here in Manchester, we look forward to sharing with the whole Church the resources that will be published in a few months’ time. Our prayer is that we can then together discern where the Holy Spirit wishes to guide and lead us, embracing that Radical Christian Inclusion to which our Archbishops have called us.

+David Manchester, +Mark Middleton, +Mark Bolton

Statement by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York

We as Archbishops, alongside the bishops of the Church of England, apologise and take responsibility for releasing a statement last week which we acknowledge has jeopardised trust. We are very sorry and recognise the division and hurt this has caused.

At our meeting of the College of Bishops of the Church of England this week we continued our commitment to the Living in Love and Faith project which is about questions of human identity, sexuality and marriage. This process is intended to help us all to build bridges that will enable the difficult conversations that are necessary as, together, we discern the way forward for the Church of England.

The post We’re sorry say Manchester bishops for CoE stance on human sexuality appeared first on Anglican Ink © 2020.

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