I read blogs, as well as write one. The 'blogroll' on this site reproduces some posts from some of the people I enjoy reading.
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“Stewardship is a basic Christian duty, which is why so many people want to pretend they are doing it. It is much easier to put a green decal on your car, or widen your phylacteries some other way, than it is to actually conserve something for real” (Confessions of a Food Catholic, p. 165).
Neil Peart, the extraordinary drummer for the band Rush, has produced another terrific travel journal titled Far and Wide: Bring that Horizon to Me! Peart is already a photojournalist of some acclaim, having written several tour diaries over the years full of his musings and pictures from life on the road with one of the most successful rock acts of our time.
Many libertarians born into Generation X, your author included, are undying Rush fans. The distinctly Canadian trio’s mix of driving prog-rock sounds good loud, but manages to stake out a sound that is not heavy metal or derivative of their major influences like The Who and Led Zeppelin. Rush set themselves apart as the thinking man’s cerebral rock band in an era of 80s Spinal Tap arena acts, making it almost cool to be a Rush geek (on an early tour supporting KISS, the debauchery-seeking Gene Simmons famously burst into their hotel room to find the group ... reading).
Their thematic albums never courted easy radio appeal, and those themes — especially in the band’s early work — advanced individualist, anti-egalitarian, and anti-collectivist messages in songs like Anthem, 2112, The Trees, and especially Freewill.
Those themes came courtesy of Peart, who wrote the band’s lyrics and contributed heavily to arrangements. He is considered one of the all-time greats among drummers, both technically and stylistically, in stark contrast to time-keeping drummers who stay in the background. Known as a onetime fan of Ayn Rand (hence Anthem), Peart’s rationalist and freethinker views were on full display in the band’s early catalog. They even thanked Ayn Rand in the liner notes to the album 2112 — only to be called “junior fascists” by some in the press.
But Rand was a passing interest for Peart, and the years mellowed him to the point where in a 2012 Rolling Stone interview he termed himself something Ms. Rand would never abide: a “bleeding heart libertarian.”
Now I call myself a bleeding heart libertarian. Because I do believe in the principles of Libertarianism as an ideal — because I’m an idealist. Paul Theroux’s definition of a cynic is a disappointed idealist. So as you go through past your twenties, your idealism is going to be disappointed many many times. And so, I’ve brought my view and also — I’ve just realized this — Libertarianism as I understood it was very good and pure and we’re all going to be successful and generous to the less fortunate and it was, to me, not dark or cynical. But then I soon saw, of course, the way that it gets twisted by the flaws of humanity. And that’s when I evolve now into ... a bleeding heart Libertarian. That’ll do.
Just a few years later, however, Peart followed up this interview with a bizarre statement that then-presidential aspirant Rand Paul — a big Rush fan — “hates women and brown people,” a slander for which Peart has never apologized. Nor did the band stand idly by when Senator Paul played Rush songs at campaign events, although their lawyer insisted the cease and desist letter was about protecting copyrights, not Paul’s politics.
Regardless of Peart’s erstwhile libertarian outlook, Far and Wide is a great read and unique example of the tour diary genre. The book chronicles the final farewell Rush tour of 2015, named “R40” to symbolize the band’s four decades of touring and success with the same three-piece lineup. The tour itself is a marvel of logistics and scheduling, deploying a small army of drivers, pilots, managers, chefs, riggers, lighting techs, sound engineers, and gophers. The whole spectacle requires moving thousands of pounds of gear every day, always a city or two ahead of the band. The entire process, honed over decades with plenty of trial and error, could be a case study in entrepreneurial discovery and risk. The costs involved are staggering, and every nickel must be accounted for. Fortunately for Rush, their relatively well-heeled and aging fans create plenty of demand for tickets, especially given the band’s insistence that farewell really means farewell.
The tour takes place over three grueling months, featuring 35 concerts and covering 17,000 miles of North American turf. The culmination is the band’s final bittersweet concert at the Forum in Los Angeles, a venue they know intimately from 25 appearances over the years.
The twist is that Peart traveled those miles by motorcycle, not by private plane or luxury coach.
Known as an inveterate traveler who loves adventures, Peart started out carrying a bicycle on the tour bus in the 1980s — hoping to get closer to the ground and actually explore the cities otherwise whizzing by. Upon arrival in Salt Lake City or Atlanta or Calgary he would jump on his bike and see the town, quite anonymously, until sound check time back at the arena in late afternoon. Queuing fans never imagined the identity of the helmeted cyclist riding around behind the venue.
This eventually led to an interest in motorcycle touring, given some mishaps trying to ride his bicycle between tour stops. After a terrible 10 months in the 1990s where Peart lost both his teenage daughter and wife, he took to motorcycling as therapy and covered 55,000 miles across the Americas. At some point the thought struck him: why don’t I ride a motorcycle on tour, between stops?
That’s what makes Far and Wide so interesting, especially if you like rock music, road trips, and BMW motorcycles. And not just any BMW motorcycle but the R1200GS, an expensive behemoth considered the king of “adventure” bikes. And Peart takes adventure to the limit, often subjecting himself and his riding buddy to back roads that don’t even show up on GPS devices. They studiously avoid interstates, placing them squarely at the mercy of diners, fast food chains, dollar stores, and Best Western hotels (or worse).
But Peart loves it, and doesn’t miss flying a bit — even with the comfort private aviation affords his band mates. On the road for tens of thousands of miles with no automobile cage surrounding him, Peart digs into the heart of America and often likes what he finds. Frequently hot, dusty, rain-soaked, tired, and looking for a pit stop, he gets admirably up close and personal with the Deplorables — from mechanics to waitresses to weather-beaten hitchhikers at truck stops. Peart clearly loves America, for all its faults, and in fact moved from Toronto to Los Angeles before becoming a naturalized US citizen.
Interestingly, in this sense Peart is the opposite of bleeding heart “liberals” when it comes to average Americans in flyover country: he likes them very much, has frequent contact with them, and often admires them, in person. In the abstract, though, they worry him and seem beyond redemption in some cases. This is a repeating though minor annoyance throughout the book: there is an element of world-weariness in many of Peart’s observations, one that betrays his sense that things could be so much better if only the rubes would drop certain outmoded ways of thinking.
A telling anecdote involves the breakdown of his riding buddy’s motorcycle. A friendly Mormon couple in a restaurant offer the buddy a ride while Peart heads on alone, and even maneuver their pickup truck against a hill so the damaged bike can be loaded rather than left awaiting a tow. While he finds the couple “cool and intelligent” during the long ride to Los Angeles, the buddy makes sure “not to reveal my agnosticism, for fear of tension, or me being cast out of the vehicle.” He’s joking, somewhat, but his notion that the couple would care at all if he was a Catholic, Jew, or atheist comes across as smug and insular. Mormons actually know non-Mormons.
Religion and religiosity are particular bugaboos for Peart, and his insistence on peppering the book with personal thoughts on the irrationality of faith gets tedious fast. Chapter 10 finds him scanning a map of upstate New York for fun back roads when he notices the tiny city of Palmyra, birthplace to Latter Day Saints founder Joseph Smith. This leads to a lengthy passage about how Mormonism in particular perplexes him, although all religions are silly and suspect:
But not to pick on the Mormons — they’re just one example of magical thinking, and far from the most extreme. Every superstition has its magic clothes — Jewish beanies, scarves, and sidelocks; priests, bishops, and popes in their fancy dresses and hats; and even the austere Buddhists in their Saffron robes.
After a few more more cliched jabs at Mormon business acumen, “magic underwear,” fundamentalist literalism regarding the Book of Genesis and the story of Noah’s Ark, he gets to the root of his opposition to what he sees as mystical religious nonsense:
It doesn’t take a cynic — maybe only a skeptic — to believe that future generations will view us as we do Ancient Egyptians or Aztecs. Fascinating, maybe, but laughably primitive. And probably a little — “horrible.” The one telling question to address to any religion seems obvious to me: How do they treat women?
His coup de grace with respect to silly religious people finishes with a flourish in dismissing Christ, Moses, Abraham, Joseph Smith, and L. Ron Hubbard in one fell swoop:
All of them were undeniably visionaries, as I would define it, and apparently believed their own visions. Fair enough — but the miracle is that others believed them. The rest of us, or at least the rationalists, answer with Christopher Hitchens: “What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.” Or stand behind astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson: “The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.”
Rolling out Hitchens and deGrasse Tyson as reliable atheist authorities might scratch a self-righteous itch for Peart, who also brings up the “Westboro Baptist Church” (groan) as a symbol of what enlightened thinkers are up against. But there is a superficial feel to his bias, suggesting a man who doesn’t fully grasp that dismissing faith is mostly a luxury for rich westerners in recent centuries. One gets the perception that he has not studied any religion thoroughly, and that for all his intellectualism he has little patience for religious people who place human reason in some greater context.
There are other nits, though minor, that suggest Peart is more bleeding heart than libertarian. For starters, the book is sponsored by taxpayer funds through the Canadian Council for the Arts and the Canadian government’s Canada Book Fund. This is no crime, one supposes, as Peart undoubtedly has paid millions in taxes to his home country. But he is not some unknown starving artist — surely someone with his wealth, fame, and business contacts can manage to publish a book entirely privately?
It is also no crime for a libertarian, especially an avid motorcyclist, to enjoy US National Parks. Peart is thrilled when gifted with an annual pass, and proud to display it when touring through Glacier National Park. But his complaints about peak season traffic and slow-moving RVs don’t yield any interesting follow up thoughts about market pricing or private conservation. And his disgust with fracking in Texas demonstrates no hint of libertarian impulse, given his lament that the industry “has been allowed to grow completely unchecked.” Is his land or capital involved? Does he have proof of external harm? And whom exactly would he charge, and trust, with “checking” the fracking industry? His admits “no one has been able to prove that fracking is bad, but it sure doesn’t sound like a good idea.” This sounds more like dogma than freethinking.
He also can’t get through the book without bringing up Walmart, with which he has a love-hate relationship. His personal bus, transporting Peart, his riding buddy, a driver, and a trailer for motorcycles, often spends the night parked in Walmart parking lots. The lots are safe, well-lit, close to interstates, and make early morning shopping fast and convenient. Yet Peart offers the most flaccid and unoriginal criticisms: Walmart represents ugly suburban blight, it killed Mom and Pop businesses, it promotes crass low-rent consumerism... These kinds of trite opinions again lend the perception that Peart has not thought about some things too deeply.
Nits aside, this is a worthy book for Rush fans and anyone who simply loves engaging road stories. Peart provides plenty of insight into the band, its history and rough patches, and his own growth within it. These insights reveal a man who is refreshingly humble and the furthest thing from a rock star stereotype. The reader comes away appreciating the intelligent, thoughtful, and completely unpretentious legend behind the drums.
Ultimately, Far and Wide can give us only an incomplete look into the experiences and worldview of Mr. Peart. But his conception of human liberty we glimpse in the book is more of the heart than mind, leaving us wondering whether he would scoff at the “mere economics” of Mises or Rothbard. It also leaves us wondering if he applies the same freethinking rationalism and demands for empirical proof to bleeding heart government policies.
[From The Rise and Fall of Society]
It is not incumbent on a diagnostician to prescribe a remedy, and it would be quackery for him to do so when he has misgivings as to its curative value. It may be that the struggle between Society and the State is inevitable; it may be in the nature of things for the struggle to continue until mutual destruction clears the ground for the emergence of a new Society, to which a new political establishment attaches itself to effect a new doom.
Perhaps the malignancy is inherent in man. It would be silly to suggest that four-footed males, driven by the reproductive urge, ought to know better than engage in deathly battles over possession of females, and it is possible that the historical struggle between the social organization and the political organization is likewise meant to be.
Support for this conclusion is found in the ground we have covered.
Beginning with man — where else can we begin? — we find him impelled by an inner urge to improve his circumstances and widen his horizon; a self-generating capacity for wanting drives him from one gratification to another. Each gratification represents an expenditure of labor, which, because it produces a feeling of weariness, he finds distasteful. His inclination is to bypass labor as much as possible, but without sacrificing his betterment.
He brings to bear on this natural modus operandi a peculiarly human gift: the faculty of reason. (It is this faculty that suggests a possible solution of the Society-State conflict, which we will discuss later.) His reason tells him that the business of multiplying satisfactions is best pursued by cooperation with his fellow man.
Thus arises Society and its techniques: specialization and exchange, capital accumulations, competition. Society is a labor-saving device, instinctively invented; it is not a contractual arrangement any more than the family is, but like the family it germinates in the composition of man.
The marketplace method yields more for less labor than individual self-sufficiency does, yet the price it always demands is labor. There is no getting away from that. Still, it is a price paid with reluctance, and out of this inner conflict between cost and desires comes the drama of organized man.
The impossibility of getting something for nothing, the summum bonum, does not banish hope or intimidate the imagination, and in his effort to realize the dream, man frequently turns to predation: the transference of possession and enjoyment of satisfactions from producer to nonproducer. Since men work only to satisfy their desires, this transference induces a feeling of hurt, and in response to that feeling the producer sets up a protective mechanism.
Under primitive conditions, he relies on his own powers of resistance to robbery, his personal strength plus such weapons as he has at his disposal. That is his Government. Since this protective occupation interferes with his primary business of producing satisfactions, and is frequently ineffective, he is quite willing to turn it over to a specialist when the size and opulence of Society call for such a service. Government provides the specialized social service of safeguarding the marketplace.
The distinctive feature of this service is that it enjoys a monopoly of coercion. That is the necessary condition for the conduct of the business; any division of authority would defeat the purpose for which Government is set up.
Yet, the fact remains that Government is a human organization, consisting of men who are exactly like the men they serve. That is, they too seek to satisfy their desires with the minimum of exertion, and they too are insatiable in their appetites. In addition to the run-of-the-mill desires that possess all men, Government personnel acquire one peculiar to their occupation: the adulation showered on them because they alone exercise coercion. They are people apart.
The honorifics that stem from the exercise of power arouse a passion for power, particularly with men whose capacities would go quite unnoticed in the marketplace, and the temptation is strong to expand the area of power; the negative function of protection is too confining for men of ambition. The tendency then in the world of officialdom is to assume a capacity for positive functions, to invade the marketplace, to undertake to regulate, control, manage, and manipulate its techniques.
In point of fact, it does nothing of the kind, since the techniques are self-operating, and all that political power can accomplish by its interventions is to control human behavior; it effects compliance by the threat of physical punishment. That, indeed, is the be-all and end-all of political power. Yet, such is the makeup of the human that he looks up to, and sometimes worships, the fellow human who dominates his will, and it is this acquired sense of superiority that is the principal profit of officialdom.
The transition from negative Government to positive State is marked by the use of political power for predatory purposes. In its pursuit of power, officialdom takes into consideration the ineluctable something-for-nothing passion, and proceeds to win the support of segments of Society bent on feathering their nests without picking feathers.
It is a quid pro quo arrangement, by which the power of compulsion is sublet to favored individuals or groups in return for their acquiescence to the acquisition of power. The State sells privilege, which is nothing but an economic advantage gained by some at the expense of others.
In olden times, the privileged group were a land-owning class, who furnished military support for political power, or a mercantilist group, who contributed to the imperial coffers out of their politically generated monopoly profits; with the advent of popular suffrage, making political preferment dependent on wider favor, the business of bribery had to be extended, and so came the subsidization of farmers, tenants, the aged, users of electric power, and so on. Their vested interest in the State makes them amenable to its purposes.
It is this partnership in predation that characterizes the State. Without the support of privileged groups the State would collapse. Without the State the privileged groups would disappear. The contract is rooted in the law of parsimony.
The instrument that puts the State into a bargaining position with its favorites is taxation. In the beginning, when the simple community sets up Government, it is admitted that its operatives cannot be productive and therefore have to be supported by the marketplace. Services must be paid for.
But the manner of paying for Government service poses a problem: taxes are compulsory charges, not voluntary payments, and their collection has to be entrusted to the very people who live by them; the compulsory power entrusted to them is used in the collection of their own wages.
That this function should be pursued with vigor is understandable. Yet, where political power is under the constant surveillance of Society, the urgency to increase taxes for the purpose of enlarging political power can be held in leash. But this restraint loses potency as Society grows in size and in complexity of interests; the preoccupation of its members with productive enterprise dims their interest in public affairs, which tend to become the private concern of officials.
Centralization of political power, which is merely its release from the restraint of social sanctions, ensues, and tax levies grow apace. The political establishment — the court of Louis XIV or the equally nonproductive bureaucracy of the modern "welfare" state — thus acquires self-sufficiency; it has the wherewithal to meet its enforcement payroll and to invest in power-accumulating enterprises.
There is always good and sufficient reason for more and more taxes. Solomon's temple, the roads of Rome, the rearing of "infant industries," military preparedness, the regulation of morals, the improvement of the "general welfare" — all call for drafts on the marketplace, and the end product of each draft is an increase in the power of the State.
Some of the appropriations seep through to some members of Society, thus satisfying the something-for-nothing urge, at least temporarily, and so stimulate a disposition to tolerate the institution and to obliterate understanding of its predatory character. Until the State reaches its ultimate objective, absolutism, its answer to tax-grumbling is that the "other fellow" pays all the levies and that seems to satisfy.
Pushing on fast through the biography of political institutions, the practice of buying the support of privileged and subsidized groups sloughs off when the State becomes self-sufficient; that is, when the marketplace is completely under its domination. The State then becomes the only privileged class. Custom and necessity reduce Society to a condition of subservience to the bureaucracy and the police, the components of the State.
This condition is currently known as totalitarianism, but it is in fact nothing but conquest, the conquest of Society by the State. So that, whether or not the State originated in conquest, as some historians hold, the end result of unchecked political institutions is the same: Society is enslaved.
The end is not yet. The stature of the State grows by predation, the stature of Society shrinks in proportion. For an explanation for this antithesis we return to the composition of man. We find that he works only to satisfy his desires, of which he has a plenitude, and that his output of effort is in proportion to his intake of satisfactions.
If his investment of labor yields no profit, or if experience tells him none can be expected, his interest in laboring flags. That is, production declines by the amount of expropriation he must endure; if expropriation is severe enough and evasion becomes impossible, so that he learns to accept it as a way of life and forgets what it actually is, his output tends to the minimum of mere existence.
But, since the State thrives on what it expropriates, the general decline in production that it induces by its avarice foretells its own doom. Its source of income dries up. Thus, in pulling Society down it pulls itself down. Its ultimate collapse is usually occasioned by a disastrous war, but preceding that event is a history of increasing and discouraging levies on the marketplace, causing a decline in the aspirations, hopes, and self-esteem of its victims.
When we speak of the disappearance of a civilization we do not mean that a people has been extinguished. Every holocaust leaves survivors. What is implied by the fall of a civilization is the disappearance from memory of an accumulation of knowledge and of values that once obtained among a people.
The prevailing arts and sciences, the religion and manners, the ways of living and of making a living have been forgotten. They have been obliterated not by a pile of dust but by a general lack of interest in marginal satisfactions, in the things men strive to achieve when the struggle for existence is won. One can manage to get along without knives and forks when the getting of food is trouble enough, and the first business of raiment is to provide warmth, not adornment.
Contrariwise, as the primary necessaries accumulate, the human begins to dream of new worlds to conquer, including the world of the mind — culture, ideas, values. The accumulating conquests become the indicia of a civilization. The loss of a civilization is the reverse of that process of cultural accumulation. It is the giving up, as a matter of necessity, of those satisfactions that are not essential to existence. It is a process of forgetting through force of circumstance; it is abstinence imposed by environment.
Sometimes nature will for a while impose abstinence, but the record shows that man is quite capable of overcoming such obstacles to his ambitions. The obstacle he does not seem able to overcome is his inclination to predation, which gives rise to the institution of the State; it is this institution that ultimately induces a climate of uselessness, of lack of interest in striving, and thus destroys the civilization it feeds upon. Or so the record shows: every civilization that declined or was lost carried an all-powerful State on its back.
Collapse of a State means a weakening of the instruments of coercion by means of which property in the fruits of one's labors was transferred to nonproducing rulership or its supporting accomplices. Thereafter, maybe for centuries, freedom prevails, men learn to dream and hope again, and the realization of each dream through effort encourages further fantasy and generates more effort; thus wealth multiplies, knowledge accumulates, manners take shape, and the nonmaterial values attain importance in man's hierarchy. A new civilization is born.
Although something of the lost civilization is recaptured by accident, what is dug up has to be relearned; the new civilization does not grow out of its predecessor, but emerges from the efforts of the living. At any rate, history tells us, a civilization no more than gets started when a political institution attaches itself to it, feeds on it, and in the end devours it. And the roundelay starts all over again.
There it is again! That smooth, subtle, and seamless transition conflating cryptocurrencies, like bitcoin, with the blockchain technology. There are thousands of blog posts and news articles about bitcoin and cryptocurrencies, but the great majority fail to clearly distinguish between the technology and the digital currency that is created and transmitted by it. In a “Bitcoin Primer” published by Coinlab, “The term Bitcoin refers to both the digital unit of stored value and the peer-to-peer network of computers transmitting and validating transactions of these units.”
In another bitcoin primer, we read “Bitcoin is a decentralized peer-to-peer payments network and a virtual currency that essentially operates as online cash.”
To some degree, it is understandable. The original bitcoin white paper by Satoshi Nakamoto described a digital currency produced on a unique-to-bitcoin blockchain platform. They were as inseparable as Siamese twins and many bitcoin enthusiasts share exactly that view of the world.
Conflation creates confusion, however, particularly when discussing valuation. Allowing bitcoin to ride the coattails of the blockchain technology is misleading at best. A typical example of conflation comes from trying to compare the valuation of bitcoin to the franchise value of Mastercard and VISA. “Quite simply, Bitcoins have value because a growing group of people believe that the underlying Bitcoin technology has value.”
Bitcoin as “coin” does not equate to VISA as transmittal medium. Blockchain is the proper comparison. I think that might be what Warren Buffet and Jamie Dimon are getting at when they call bitcoin a fraud. They certainly are not referring to blockchain technology, which they know has potential to improve their businesses in many ways. They just aren’t falling for the conflation. In fairness, some people do try to clearly distinguish between cryptocurrency and blockchain. My point is that in most cases we should strictly confine the discussion to one or the other or at least clearly try to avoid the conflation.
Now, if we’re discussing how bitcoin has the potential to replace the US$ as a medium of exchange, we should focus on bitcoin “the thing,” not the blockchain technology as the means to transmit and certify ownership of “the thing.” Does bitcoin “the thing” possess qualities like “stable standard of value” that make it eligible to be called money? After all, that same blockchain technology can be used to document and transfer ownership rights to any potential money, including gold and silver, which are other types of “things.” I have not heard any convincing arguments as to why these digital tokens can compete with physical gold and silver as a stable standard of economic value.
I am as enthusiastic as anyone about the promise of the blockchain technologies. They may securely document and transfer ownership rights to anything, such as homes, boats, stocks, bonds, artwork, or gold and silver. Blockchain technology may well be transformative and we are only in the early days. Then the cryptocurrency (bitcoin) comes along and says, “No, wait, transfer me on the blockchain! I’m worth something because someone used scarce computing power and energy to solve a math problem and there’s a limited number of these solutions, so scarcity = value, right?”
The distributed ledger does not have an individual owner, but there certainly are owners of bitcoin. What I am trying to highlight is how the conflation is so embedded that it is like water to a fish —we don’t even notice it. Bitcoin is not like computing or running water. It is a series of unique digital signatures that use blockchain computing to transfer ownership of these unique digital signatures from one owner to another. Each unique bitcoin is very much a product, with a price that is highly volatile in US$ terms. (The primary marketing image associated with bitcoin is a gold coin with a large “B” stamped on it.) You don’t actually need the blockchain to transfer ownership of your bitcoins. You can physically hand over a data stick with the unique codes that are stored on it. This is the first rule of bitcoin ownership: “don’t let anyone else steal your data stick, because it is your physical ownership of bitcoin, the thing.” Does anyone remember Mt. Gox? It was only the first of many physical storage problems which continue unabated.
Storage and safekeeping of physical or digital “things” will always be an issue, whether it is gold or bitcoin.
Entrepreneurs are working hard to use blockchain technology to safely and efficiently transfer ownership of silver and gold. See for example www.quintric.com (disclosure: I have no current or intended ownership interest in Quintric). Whether bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies are better suited than gold as the ultimate store of value, i.e., as sound money, has nothing to do with the technological platform they reside on or are transferred on. The sooner we stop conflating “technology” with “coin,” the sooner we will have a better understanding of what is and is not sound money.
Radical Markets: Uprooting Capitalism and Democracy for a Just Society
Eric A. Posner and E. Glen Weyl
Princeton University Press, 2018
xii + 337 pages
Radical Markets has at least one virtue. The book contains many unusual proposals, and I propose to concentrate on one of the strangest of these. Eric Posner, a legal scholar, and Glen Weyl, a principal researcher at Microsoft, call for speculative boldness, and they have given us that; but sound argument is another matter.
The authors agree with prevailing leftist dogma on one matter, but differ with it on another. They accept the conventional wisdom that inequality in the world economy is extreme. “Together, the trends of rising inequality and stagnating growth mean that typical citizens in wealthy countries are no longer living much better than their parents did. ... These trends pose the same problem for the neoliberal economic consensus that stagflation posed for the Keynesian consensus before it. We were promised economic dynamism in exchange for inequality. We got the inequality, but dynamism is actually declining.”
Posner and Weyl do not discuss skeptics about the rise of inequality, such as Thomas Sowell and the authors of Anti-Piketty. Let us leave that point, vital as it is, to one side. They also fail to address this question: why is inequality bad? Like almost all egalitarians, they just assume that it is and proceed from there. Though they continually call for fresh thinking, they never question this prevailing shibboleth of our age.
They differ with the left, though, in their view of markets. For Posner and Weyl, the market deserves praise: “Our premise is that markets are, and for the medium term will remain, the best way of arranging a society.”
Posner and Weyl support markets and favor equality. The free market does make the poor, along with everyone else, better off; but this does not for our demanding authors suffice. The market allows too much inequality.
What then is to be done? The authors have detected a crucial flaw in markets as they are now constituted. Markets are not perfectly competitive, “meaning that there are a small number of homogeneous commodities, and no individual holds or buys a large fraction of them.” Because of this, most buyers and sellers have “bargaining power.” This wastes time and resources. “Each party works hard to ascertain what the other would be willing to pay or accept and jockeys for the best price possible. Such strategic behavior often causes trades to fail. Even when they succeed, huge amounts of time and effort have been wasted in the process. These problems are magnified in complex business transactions.” In other words: bargaining power withholds vast amounts of resources from the market.
Just as the authors never pose the question, why is inequality bad, they never provide an argument that all resources should at all times be available for sale. Why is it bad to withhold resources in the hope of better terms later? We are never told.
The best the authors manage is this: “How can we measure ‘the greatest happiness for the greatest number’? How is it possible to compare the happiness of one individual to that of another? Many economists have argued that this task is impractical. They suggest that all we can hope for is ensure that no one’s happiness can be increased without decreasing anyone else’s, a condition called Pareto efficiency, and that the total happiness is distributed fairly.”
Now the cat is out of the bag. If an increase in the monetary value of resources is taken as roughly equal to an increase in utility, then bringing withheld resources into the market generates efficiency gains. It is Pareto superior, as neoclassical economists phrase it.
This merely pushes back our question: why should Pareto efficiency be the criterion by which economic
policies are assessed? Murray Rothbard has trenchantly remarked: “there are several layers of grave fallacy involved in the very concept of efficiency as applied to social institutions or policies: (1) the problem is not only in specifying ends but also in deciding whose ends are to be pursued; (2) individual ends are bound to conflict, and therefore any additive concept of social efficiency is meaningless; and (3) even each individual’s actions cannot be assumed to be ‘efficient’; indeed, they undoubtedly will not be. Hence, efficiency is an erroneous concept even when applied to each individual’s actions directed toward his ends; it is a fortiori a meaningless concept when it includes more than one individual, let alone an entire society.”
How do Posner and Weyl propose to curtail bargaining power? Their solution is a “common ownership self-assessed tax (COST) on wealth.” In this proposal, everyone would set a price for each of his assets, and that assessment would be the basis for taxes. If you object that people would set this assessment absurdly low to avoid taxation, here the ingenuity of the scheme emerges. Once someone makes his self-assessment, anyone could purchase the asset at that price. In this way, efficiency goes up, because the purchaser would not buy the asset unless he thought he could generate a greater return than he paid for it. Wealth, our proxy for efficiency, rises, and bargaining power has been curtailed.
To this there is an obvious objection, and the authors have a response to it. The objection is that an investor would not buy an asset he wanted to develop over a number of years if he thought someone else could purchase it from him by paying his assessment price. They answer by lowering the tax rate; people who had to surrender less of their gain to the state would invest more. That is indeed so, but would this not defeat the purpose of the efficiency plan? With lower taxes, people would, in order to deter buyers, raise their self-assessment prices for assets they wanted to keep. You would no longer find it so easy to snatch someone’s assets out from under him. Posner and Weyl respond: “When the tax is reduced incrementally to improve investment efficiency, the loss in allocative efficiency is less than the gain in investment efficiency.” “A fully implemented COST,” they suggest, “could increase social wealth by trillions of dollars every year.” Further, the vast revenue generated by taxes on the added wealth could be used to reduce inequality.
The authors admit a drawback to their plan. What if you have assets that you do not wish to sell at any price? Is the only way to avert the chance someone will purchase your asset to set a price on it that will subject you to crushing taxation? They suggest averting this through exemptions; but they have a more fundamental response: “The COST could also make us think about property in a different and healthier way. A COST taxes objects, not personal relationships. Wouldn’t it be better if people invested less of their emotional energy in objects and more in their personal relationships? ... Fetishistic attachment to a privately owned automobile — an extremely expensive durable asset ... is, thankfully, becoming a thing of the past. Increasing economic evidence suggests that excessive attachment to homes is inhibiting employment and dynamism in the US economy, a problem a COST would greatly reduce.”
Here the difference between the position of Mises and Rothbard and the “radicalism” of Posner and Weyl emerges with complete clarity. Mises and Rothbard accept people as they are: from that starting point, they argue that the free market permits mutually beneficial trades. Posner and Weyl are “Progressives” who want to remold people in their own image.
When I read the authors’ account of COST, I wondered: if the authors are so concerned to increase social wealth, why allow individuals to choose their occupations? What if you could generate more revenue in a different occupation from the one you prefer? Suppose that a writer could earn vastly more money as a stockbroker. Should he be free to deprive society of all the taxable wealth he would earn in the higher paying job?
Sure enough, the authors head in this direction, though they draw back from its implications. “Consider a very radical extension of the COST: to human capital ... imagine that individuals were to self-assess a value of their time, pay a tax on this self-assessed value, and stand ready to work for any employer willing to pay this wage ... in principle, A COST on human capital would be immensely valuable.”
Unfortunately, society is not yet ready for this proposal. “A COST on human capital might be perceived as a kind of slavery — incorrectly in our view, at least if the COST were properly designed. Still, we can see the problem.” For now, the proposal is premature.
Whatever the defects of their ideas, though, do not Posner and Weyl deserve credit on one score? They do, after all, say that markets “are ... the best way of arranging a society.” Alert readers will have noticed, though, a qualification in the passage where they say this, quoted earlier in this review: “and for the medium term will remain.”
What do they mean by this? They pay generous tribute to Mises’s socialist calculation argument, but unfortunately they misunderstand it: “The brilliant economist Ludwig von Mises argued that the fundamental problem facing socialism was not incentives or knowledge in the abstract but communication and computation.” Mises’s socialist critics argued that there was “no difficulty in principle with solving a (very large) system of equations relating the supply and demand of various goods, resources, and services.”
Mises was right. “Yet the later development of the theory of computational and communications complexity vindicated Mises’s insights. What computational scientists later realized is that even if managing the economy were ‘merely’ a problem of solving a large system of equations, finding such solutions is far from the easy task that socialist economists believed.” New developments in parallel and distributed processing, though, may enable these problems to be solved, and the market as we know it may be superseded. Mises is thus a pioneer in computer science. One can only quote, on Mises’s behalf, Eliot’s lines in “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”: “That is not what I meant at all;/ That is not it, at all.
- Advisory ID: SA-CORE-2018-005
- Project: Drupal core
- Version: 8.x
- CVE: CVE-2018-14773
- Date: 2018-August-01
The Drupal project uses the Symfony library. The Symfony library has released a security update that impacts Drupal. Refer to the Symfony security advisory for the issue.
The same vulnerability also exists in the Zend Feed and Diactoros libraries included in Drupal core; however, Drupal core does not use the vulnerable functionality. If your site or module uses Zend Feed or Diactoros directly, read the Zend Framework security advisory and update or patch as needed.
The Drupal Security Team would like to to thank the Symfony and Zend Security teams for their collaboration on this issue.Versions affected
8.x versions before 8.5.6.Solution
Upgrade to Drupal 8.5.6.
Versions of Drupal 8 prior to 8.5.x are end-of-life and do not receive security coverage.Contact and More Information
The Drupal security team can be reached at security at drupal.org or via the contact form at https://www.drupal.org/contact.
Follow the Drupal Security Team on Twitter at https://twitter.com/drupalsecurityDrupal version: Drupal 8.x
Much has been said in recent years about teaching the Old Testament from a distinctly Christian perspective — seeing Jesus and the Gospel in all of Scripture. But in this video, John Piper raises an important concern about turning this perspective into a type of simplistic interpretative formula. He says,
… the danger in making a beeline to the cross too quickly and too methodically and regularly is, number one, it’ll start to sound artificial. It’ll start to sound monotonous. It’ll start to be fanciful, because you’ll come up with really clever ways of doing things that aren’t really there and it’ll keep you from seeing important things that are there.
I believe Pastor John’s concern needs thoughtful consideration. I fully share his appreciation for the renewal of Gospel-focused preaching and teaching in the church. As a Sunday school teacher and parent, I experienced firsthand the gospel-less, deadly moralism that characterized so much of children’s Bible curriculum. But with this wonderful renewed focus on Christ and the Gospel, comes a new pitfall we need to avoid when teaching children.
Piper’s example of Elisha and Naaman serves as an excellent example. We need to give our children and students the proper Bible study tools so that they can dig deep into the text — mining it for its treasures. This takes time. It takes step-by-step training. But by doing so, we are giving our children a priceless gift; a gift that will serve them for a lifetime and will provide a wonderfully rich foundation for making them wise for salvation through faith in Christ.
At Truth78, we structure our lessons to foster these essential Bible study tools. We slowly and carefully lead children to discover the meaning of the text — asking questions, looking at context, drawing conclusions, etc. Once we’ve done that, we then point the students toward Christian application. In a lesson on Elisha and Naaman we might ask: What does this story tell us about God’s character? What do we learn about man’s heart? How does the text apply to your own heart and life? Do you ever have a proud spirit? What does this look like? Is this pleasing to God? Why not? Has God provided us with an even greater blessing than physical healing? What is it? What does God call us to do in order to receive salvation through Jesus? etc.
This approach is more time-consuming in the classroom. And it requires teachers and parents to take the long view: We’re introducing children to the God of the Bible — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We’re helping build a solid Gospel foundation beneath them. We’re helping them learn to mine the immeasurable riches of the Word of God for a lifetime. We’re doing this because we want them to be able to “rightly handle the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).
We may not be making a beeline to Jesus and the cross in every lesson, but we are diligently training children as we acquaint them “with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:15-17).
As we teach the whole Bible, we pray the children in our classrooms and in our family rooms will be made wise for salvation so that they may, like Timothy, be faithful to continue in faith.
To learn more about our approach to teaching the whole Bible, please see these resource:
The Great Story and the Single Verse by John Piper
Video Transcript (lightly edited)
You asked whether every lesson needs to be a Jesus lesson. Like if you’re in the Old Testament with Elisha, does it always have to go to the cross? That was the gist of the question. And it’s the same with preaching. I just wrote a book on preaching and I’m concerned about this. The Gospel Coalition is evidence of a renewal of gospel focus in the church and a lot of pastors think you’ve got to get to the gospel even if you’re preaching on tithing or something. I would say the danger in making a beeline to the cross too quickly and too methodically and regularly is, number one, it’ll start to sound artificial. It’ll start to sound monotonous. It’ll start to be fanciful, because you’ll come up with really clever ways of doing things that aren’t really there and it’ll keep you from seeing important things that are there.
Let me give me give a quick illustration right off my front burners. I’m reading through the Bible, and this morning I’m reading in 2nd Kings 4 and 5, the story of Elisha and the leper Naaman, and Gehazi. Here’s the gist of the story. This little servant girl says, “You should go to Israel and get the Prophet Elisha to heal you from your leprosy, Naaman.” And he goes to his king [of Syria], and the king writes a letter to the king [of Israel], and sends Naaman, and the king [of Israel] says, “I’m not God that I can heal this leprosy” – which gives you a clue what the story is about – and Elisha hears that, and he goes to the king and says, “I’ll show him there’s a God in Israel.”
Now that’s the point of the story: “I’ll show him there’s a God in Israel. Tell him to come to me.” He goes to him; Elisha won’t even go out the door. He sends a messenger out to tell this big shot from Syria, “Go wash in the Jordan, see you later.” This guy’s ticked and he will not go. Now I think we ought to teach kids “pride keeps you from getting blessings.” I think that’s in the text and intentional, because his sidekicks argue, “Look, he’s asking you just a little simple thing. Would you just humble yourself and do it?” And when he comes up out of the water, it says his skin is like the skin of a child. This is about childlikeness receiving blessings from God.
So that’s lesson one that you might miss if you say, “He got washed in the Jordan from leprosy; Jesus will wash you from a worse disease,” end of lesson. Not a good way to end the lesson and miss all the points.
Here’s the second point: As soon as he sees he’s clean, Elijah says, “I’m not taking any money for this. We don’t sell good news here.” Now you’re going to talk about gospel preachers on television with these kids, ok? “We don’t sell we don’t sell the gospel. I’m not taking anything from you — you go back and worship the true God.” Gehazi, the servant of Elisha, says, “that’s crazy,” and he runs after him and says, “My master said he did, by the way, want some clothing and some of your silver.” And he says, “Oh sure, give it to him.” And when he goes back, Elisha says to him, “Did you think this was a time for getting silver and clothing?” And Gehazi had leprosy for the rest of his life.
Greed. Greed and pride. The story is about greed and pride. And if we run to the cross from the dipping in the river, before we see the point of the story, and tell these kids, “You’ve got to be childlike, you’ve got to be humble, if you’re gonna know God, you’ve got to not love money, and if you know preachers who preach for money, they’re not real preachers.” You’ve got to say that. Now when you’re done you can say – I mean the three songs you sang at the beginning of Sunday school might have been all about Jesus. That may be all you need. We’re about Jesus every weekend in this room. Nothing comes to you but with Jesus – if you say, “How do you become humble? How do you become free from greed?” Then you dig into sanctification, and the cross, and the blood, and the power of the Holy Spirit, and the glory of the Father.
So my caution with that movement, in preaching on Sunday morning, and in teaching kids is – there’s a real good impulse behind it because we’re not mere Jews and we’re not mere Muslims, therefore we shouldn’t read our Old Testaments and interpret them in a way that a Muslim and a Jew would be happy with our interpretation. Which means we’ve got to be Christian. And so you do get there. But how you get there – please, don’t miss the awesomeness of Deuteronomy or 2nd Kings.
The Union defeat at Bull Run changed the perspective on the war for everybody in the North. The confidence in a decisive war that would be won with a single battle was shattered. Northern presses spread fabricated stories of rebel barbarity, and Union politicians look for people to blame. In the South, there were no celebrations for the costly victory. The aftermath of Bull Run produced the first signs of the harsh reality of the bloody war that was only beginning.
Chris Calton recounts the controversial history of the Civil War. This is the 16th episode in the third season of Historical Controversies. You may support this podcast financially at Mises.org/SupportHC.
JEFF DEIST: You are German, but not from a big city in Germany.
GUIDO HÜLSMANN: That’s correct, a small town.
JD: Did your small-town upbringing influence your career and outlook?
GH: I think so. The town where I went to high school in those years had the highest communist voter percentage in all of Western Germany. And this presence made itself felt also in the school, not necessarily among the teachers, although there was at least one communist, but especially among the student body. We always had very engaged discussions, sometimes heated discussions about policy issues. I still remember that I actually gave my first public talk at the age of 15, in the context of the rearmament debate. All communists were against it and since the communists were against it, it must have been the default position for any other human beings. So, they didn’t find any older people to stand up to them, and I was ignorant enough and had enough personality to do this. So, I did it at the age of 15 and that was my first experience.
JD: You didn’t go through a leftwing phase as a young man?
GH: Not very much. I was flirting with some leftwing ideas when I was at the university.
JD: You decided to go to Technical University in Berlin, and studied engineering rather than economics.
GH: After school, I spent one year in the military for mandatory service, so I had a lot of time to give it some thought. There were two options for me at the time. Either I could become an airline pilot or do something with the economy. As far as the economy is concerned, either it would have been business law or engineering with complementary economic instruction. I knew that I was interested in this because I took a class in economics while in the military. In the evening, there were various activities, and one of the things you could do is take classes. And I took a class on macroeconomics. It was Keynesian style macroeconomics, not as technical as what was taught at the university, but it gave me some introduction and I found this very interesting.
JD: Then you pursued a business degree, at Toulouse in France?
GH: Yes, that’s because we had an exchange program between the Technical University and the Toulouse Business School. They offered a major in business-related research, which was designed for all those kids whose parents had sent them to the business school and who were unhappy there and were really aiming to do more intellectual sort of work. The professor who was running this program, was an economist and he accepted me as his student and it allowed me to actually spend most of my time in the second semester of that year on economic research.
JD: After business school you returned to Germany for a PhD in Berlin. Living in France turned you into an aspiring Austro-libertarian?
GH: Or so it seems. I had joined the Austrians in France, out of all places. My research director in France realized that I was interested in liberal ideas and alternative ideas. So, he had me read Hayek and a book by Rothbard that had just been published in France. This is how I got in touch with the Austrian ideas. I was not immediately won over, but I found this very interesting. What did convert me really was Ludwig von Mises’s Theory of Money and Credit. It was not a religious experience, but it very strongly impressed me and convinced me that this was an approach that was much more realistic, powerful, and pertinent than anything else I had seen in economics and prompted me to take this as a starting point for my own works. That was when I returned to Berlin, at the beginning of my doctoral studies.
JD: And you returned to France in your professional career. Today you’re at the University of Angers and run the economics program there for both masters and doctoral students. Many of your students know you by reputation and seek out an opportunity to study with you, much like Rothbard at UNLV.
GH: It’s a great privilege for me to have students who do not just want to get a doctorate with anybody, but who want to study with me, so I can pick those students. Moreover, of the students that I had as undergraduates in Angers, I think there was only a single one who stayed and became my doctoral student and this is a young man who came from Austria to study with me in France. The [undergraduate] students that we have, usually they do not have really a strong interest in economics and if they have an interest in economics, they usually have great emotional difficulties with Austrian economics, not so much on methodological grounds, but because the political conclusions are very libertarian and this is very irritating to most young people in France.
So, as a consequence, the people who are doing a doctorate with me, they come from all kinds of places, only one quarter are French students. Most others come from abroad.
JD: Let’s talk about Mises the man. You’re probably best known for having written the definitive biography of him. Tell us how the project came about, and your recollections of struggling with it as an academic economist thrust into the role of biographer.
GH: It came into being because Lew Rockwell asked me if I would be interested in writing a Mises biography. That was in January 1997. Lew and I had met in Auburn, Alabama, at the Mises University in 1995. He had seen some of my writings that I had published or presented in English. He was convinced that I had sufficient knowledge of Austrian economics and he knew that I, of course, was a German native speaker and also I was speaking French. So, all of this was very helpful to engage in this kind of work.
Now, why did he seek to commission a Mises biography? Well, because thanks to the collapse of the Soviet empire, the secret archive in which the Mises documents, the prewar Mises documents were hosted, had become known and were available. The news had spread to the US and Richard Ebeling had traveled to Moscow to look at these papers, the first Austrian economist who had his hand on this material, and Lew thought it would be worthwhile to have me also do this kind of research and write a Mises biography.
JD: Mises was not a man who liked to talk about himself. And his own memoirs were unsatisfactory in this sense, the sense of getting to know who he was.
GH: Absolutely not.
JD: Did that come through to you as his biographer? Was it like pulling teeth?
GH: Yes. I was fortunate that this prewar material existed. I’m sure if Mises had had a hand on this — if he could have determined what survives into the mix and not — most of the stuff that is interesting that sheds light on Mises as a person, would have been destroyed. I’m absolutely certain about this because you wouldn’t find similar writings in his postwar material. He was very discreet about these social relations. And having that sort of material, it’s not much, but certainly, his correspondence with his mother, his correspondence with Margit, whom he later married, then some exchanges with other people that shed a little light on Mises the person would probably have vanished if he had a choice in this.
JD: How long did it take you to complete the project?
GH: From start to finish, about 10 years, a little more than 10 years — from January 1997 to September of 2007.
JD: Obviously the Mises Institute promotes the work of our namesake. So we were not an impartial publishing house, and you were not an impartial biographer — although certainly honest and thorough in your assessment of him. Did you have to defend the book against reviewers claiming it was hagiographic?
GH: There were many reviews of the book I think, almost 40 reviews, but only one of them accused me of being a hack, a sycophant who distorted reality in the light or to the benefit of a certain ideology. What is true, of course, is that your own conceptions, methodological conceptions, political conceptions, they color the kind of questions that you ask, they color the selection of material that you present, this is unavoidable. But the scholarship, of course, goes beyond this because the point of scholarship is to assess facts always, all the known facts, and to do justice to the material as far as we can. There are constraints, of course, because your knowledge that allows you to interpret and to assess any material is limited. So, given this, I would say it was an honest effort at scholarship and it was appreciated by most people. I wanted to provide a service, by presenting this material, this quite massive amount of material, I mean there’s more to be seen and more to be investigated about Mises and some people have already started doing this. And there is a service in bringing all of this together and presenting it in a coherent way, relating the scholarship of Mises’s writings to the context of his times and his other activities. And that’s what I’ve tried to do, however imperfect, but it has been done.
JD: His memoirs are fairly pessimistic, having seen the Habsburg Empire collapse and the rise of both communism and Nazism. He also wasn’t treated well by academia, either in Europe or upon his arrival in the US. Fast forward to 2018, and I wonder if he would think the intellectual atmosphere for his work and for Austrian economics generally is much more favorable than during his lifetime?
GH: Absolutely. It’s thanks to his courageous stance, which has inspired many others as well, but there are few economists of his standing who have resisted in the way that he did and his own courageous stance has inspired many other economists and intellectuals who were not necessarily Austrians, and who didn’t become Austrians. Think, for example, of somebody like Milton Friedman. Milton Friedman received a Nobel Prize in economics for some of his technical research, which none of his many admirers outside of economics know. He’s best known to the large public for his popular works, Capitalism and Freedom and so on. Now, these works are very strongly inspired by the Austrians. Of course, he had a different methodological take. But his vision of the operation of the market is inconceivable, is incomprehensible, I would say, if you don’t have the knowledge of Austrian economics as a background. And that’s one of the reasons why today I think people have difficulties understanding and appreciating Friedman if they don’t know the Austrians because he appears as somebody who just professes libertarian value judgments. He was quite clever in the way he presented his arguments, but you don’t see the overall edifice on which it stands.
JD: Do you think Mises’s reputation and work benefitted indirectly from Friedrich Hayek winning the Nobel Prize in ‘74, although Mises died a year earlier?
GH: Well, I don’t think that this raised much interest in Mises. As you know, very often there is the implicit hypothesis in assessing anybody who is the pupil of anybody else, if the pupil gets a great prize, they’ll say well, the pupil is actually greater than the master, so probably everything that the master has produced is in one way or another in the work of the pupil. Now, that’s certainly not the case with Mises and Hayek and I explained this in my book. I have also stressed that the foundations on which these two men were reasoning was somewhat different, not in all respects, but in multiple respects different. So, you still can gain a lot of insight by studying Mises separately from Hayek. Hayek was never as accomplished an economist as Mises. He turned away from economics relatively early on and focused more on questions of general social philosophy and the transformation of society and of politics and so on, which was a subject that Mises did not touch upon very much. There is if you wish some sort of division of labor as far as economic analysis is concerned. It’s clear that Mises was two or three levels higher than Hayek and the same thing was true for Murray Rothbard. Rothbard was not quite as good an economist as Mises I would say, but certainly much, much better than Hayek. So, you could not dispense with Mises and Rothbard just by reading Hayek.
JD: Do you think Mises is the most formidable and influential economist who never received a Nobel?
GH: It’s a difficult question.
JD: Political, in a sense.
GH: There is a very strong political dimension to this. One funny fact that I always emphasize when it comes to the Nobel Prize is that no economist has received the Nobel Prize after having expressed himself very strongly against central banks. Hayek opposed central banks vigorously after 1974 with choice in currency and the denationalization of money. So, this alone would have probably made life for Mises very difficult, but then also you have to consider that the Nobel Prize in economics was created in 1969. Mises died in 1973. So, realistically, there was just a five year window in which he could have gotten the prize. He was clearly one of the outstanding economists of his time. The committee in the first few years awarded the prize to privileged people who have made technical contributions and also to the application of mathematical methods in economic analysis, which from an Austrian point of view were, by and large, superfluous and sterile, so that they don’t really help us to increase our knowledge, but this was the hope at the time.
Allow me this additional comment, even if he had obtained the Nobel Prize, would this have helped his reputation? Would it have helped Austrian economics? Marginally, yes, but Mises stands very much on his own legs, so Mises doesn’t need a prize to attract readers to his works. He has produced works of such outstanding quality and of perennial value, that he doesn’t need a Nobel Prize. How many people today are reading Paul Samuelson [who won the prize in 1970]? Even his textbook is now in an edition that has been so much transformed that it’s completely dissimilar to the initial version published in 1948. Mises, on the other hand, is still read, and actually with the exception of Friedman and one or two others, there are no Nobel Prize winners in economics who are still read today.
JD: His first full length work is Theory of Money and Credit. This was quite a book for someone so young, just over 30.
GH: Yes, he was 31.
JD: He applies the concept of marginal utility to money, and thus improves upon Menger. It’s a bold book, and prescient. Do you think it’s his biggest achievement, in some sense?
GH: Oh yes, definitely. It’s a book of astonishing quality. Joseph Schumpeter at the time was even younger when he produced something similar. Schumpeter’s book was brilliant in its exposition of complex material, but I would say it was a typical Schumpeter. It was very brilliant and it was clear that this person had comprehensive knowledge of the literature that he was addressing. But, essentially, it’s wrong. Schumpeter’s Theory of Economic Evolution is wrong in the main assertions. It’s like John Maynard Keynes’s work. It’s intriguing, there’s also new vocabulary and so on, but essentially wrong. As Henry Hazlitt has said once in his discussion of Keynes’s general theory, there’s nothing in this book that is both new and correct. So, there are some new things that are there but they are not correct and there are correct things that are not new. What Mises did was something else. He produced a book that did not just contain new and solid insights on specific questions, such as the nature and origin of business cycles. He produced a great synthesis. Or, to use a metaphor, he did not just add a new top floor to Menger’s edifice. Adding an additional layer would have been a nice contribution, but an ordinary one. Any talented pupil can stand on the shoulders of his teacher and then add a little something on top and these additions then completely depend on the solidity of the grounds on which you build. But, Mises did something else. He not only built on Menger, he integrated his new insights with the entire literature on monetary economics and the debates on monetary policy in the nineteenth century. He used Menger’s edifice as a framework, and then he solidified its foundations and proceeded to build an entire basilica on top of it. It was an enormous achievement.
JD: When we go back and read it now, about 106 years in hindsight, there are still passages that are absolutely relevant.
GH: Oh yes, definitely. A classic piece of literature, a classic text, it is a masterful exposition of a subject. This is the first criteria and the second one is, it’s still relevant for us today. And definitely that holds for all of Mises’s texts. The reason why it’s still relevant for us today is not of his own making, it’s especially because the mainstream in economics has so thoroughly decided to neglect it, to not read Mises, to not absorb him, so the major economists of the twentieth century have not done what he had done at the beginning of the twentieth century. Economists have become increasingly moronic, increasingly ignorant, not only of classical economics and all the literature of the nineteenth century, but also of the great contributions that were made by Mises and several others in the 1920s and 30s.
JD: So let’s jump to the interwar period, he writes and releases Nation, State, and Economy; Liberalism; Bureaucracy; and Socialism during this prolific period in his life. All of these remain foundational, and beyond pure economics.
GH: I agree.
JD: Let’s talk about Liberalism first. He says that we can distill the entire liberal program down to one word: “property.” “Neoliberalism” was still a new concept at the time. What do you think Mises would think about what “liberalism” has become, both conceptually and politically?
GH: Well, he saw it coming. He saw it coming in the postwar years and all the different strands of neoliberalism were already present. The difference between neo-liberalism and classical liberalism can be defined exactly around this one word that you mentioned — “property.” In classical liberalism, private property is the starting point. And in neoliberalism, it’s something that is a technical option for the arrangement of social affairs in ways that are most conducive to whatever, some other variable, justice or efficiency or whatever you might call it. Mises saw this, how this played out in the aftermath of World War II and he saw where this reasoning eventually leads: to more interventionism. You cannot even define liberty in a social context without reference to private property. And the same thing holds true for economic reasoning. Neoliberalism has abandoned this starting point. It focused on other criteria in the light of which you are trying to justify property. It’s an abortive attempt.
JD: Fast forward to his biggest book, Human Action. It is really a culmination of a lifetime of work. It’s a synthesis of his entire body of thought and work. Should we give more weight to Human Action than his earlier writings because he evolved and synthesized things into a full treatise?
GH: Yes, I think so. It’s certainly a combination of a life-time of reflecting on all these questions. Moreover, for Mises himself, economics is the science of relationships, so it’s the science of how all different aspects of human life, all different markets, all different activities, all different spheres in which we are making choices, which we act, and how they relate to one another. So, for this reason alone, Human Action is unavoidable. It’s the embodiment of Mises’s thought and I would also say on virtually all questions of detail, we find his most mature thinking on these pages. You can argue on one or two occasions, it’s not of course, perfection, like no human work can be perfect, but you can raise the question, is it better than how he had put it in previous works? Then you can argue on one or two things.
JD: You don’t find a lot of gross contradictions in his work over the years.
GH: No. I mean, usually what you find is that in previous works, he had lacked the necessary nuance or he had given in too much to the opposing argument and so he would set the record straight in Human Action, for example, as far as money is concerned. But then, for example, there are other questions, but these pertain more to discussions of policy issues such as immigration where you might say, well maybe he had a different point of view in previous writings which was more adequate. But, clearly, as I said, in virtually all cases, we find in Human Action, the most mature, the most nuanced statement of his own ideas.
JD: Especially Part I of Human Action, which is more philosophical. What strikes me about reading the book, and his earlier work, is the fearless approach to philosophy, sociology, and ethics, fields beyond economics. Today the trendy word is intersectionality, where academic disciplines come together, but he certainly felt capable of addressing the bigger picture beyond his academic confines. Today academics are criticized if they wander too far from their chosen specialty.
GH: Yes, that’s right, it is especially strong in economics. But, the truth is that the way young economists are trained today, they are turned into morons because all that they learn is to mimic the natural sciences. They learn how to apply econometric methods to datasets, and of course in order to do this you don’t really need any training in economics. You can come from any natural science. You can come from engineering, you can come from mathematics, you can come from physics, it doesn’t matter, as long as you know a little bit about mathematics and applied mathematics. You take one or two years of classes in econometrics, you’re there. Anybody can do this. You don’t need any knowledge of economic literature, you don’t need any knowledge of economic history, you don’t need any acquaintance with praxeological analysis, the logical analysis of human action, which we find in classical economics and in Austrian economics.
You don’t need any of this because all that you do is to look at data and to apply methods that people from all other walks of scientific life would and could apply if they had no idea what economics was all about. This is the work of a moron. Unsurprisingly, these people typically have great difficulties engaging in interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary work with scholars from the social sciences, and also with philosophers and jurists.
JD: Let’s discuss his cultural outlook. Certainly he viewed himself as a cosmopolitan, someone without a parochial perspective. He certainly was an anti-nationalist and a democrat, especially in the context of national socialism and what was happening in his beloved Vienna. But he also eschewed universalism, and advocated for self-determination and secession as safety valves for democratic overreach and state tyranny. And he did not necessarily accept the left-cultural elements of society often associated with cosmopolitanism.
GH: You can get the impression that Mises had a left liberal orientation, if you start from the context of his time, which was in general, much more conservative, much more Christian than the world that we live in today. And of course, relative to that world, in many respects, you could say, he was a progressive. He pushed progressive policy items and for example, in his promotion of women doing research, he was one of I think the first research directors of a female doctoral student in economics at the University of Vienna and, all of this of course, we would associate today with progressive policy. But of course, we need to keep in mind that Mises himself, when he discussed feminism, said feminism is a force of progress to the extent that it’s part of the general classical liberal movement, which tries to give greater precision to the definition of property rights. But as soon as it steps beyond this, it becomes a force of destruction, it joins socialism, a generally destructive movement. So, this is what we cannot sway from for Mises, both the starting point and the conclusion, is always the validity of property rights. If property rights are respected, they lead to social outcomes that are greatly at odds with what present day self-styled progressives or left liberals or whatever you want to call them, would like to see, at least that is my impression.
JD: You mentioned earlier Mises’s era of “high theory,” and sometimes he is attacked as being too stubbornly laissez-faire, too intransigent and philosophical for his own good. But he spent 25 years in the Vienna Chamber of Commerce, involved in the minute day-to-day workings of Austrian fiscal, monetary tax, and regulatory policy. He didn’t live in an ivory tower at all.
GH: Exactly. His ideas were not just a kooky conception of somebody who is out of touch with bricks and mortar. He is today very famous as the theoretician of economic science as an a priori science, but that doesn’t mean that he came to learn economics through a series of syllogisms. He learned from the analysis of economic policies, in the brewery, in agriculture, in clothing production and so on. All these fields where Austrian entrepreneurs were very active and very successful in those years and where their endeavors were hampered by government interventions. As Mises relates in his memoirs, at the beginning, he was convinced that interventionism was based on sound reasoning But then he had second thoughts. He said, “how does this square with what I observe in practice” and he was led to question the logic of the basic reasoning behind the interventions. And then he came to realize that in fact the exact opposite was true. It’s not because of government interventionism that the living standard of workers in Austria had increased, it was the exact opposite. It was capital accumulation and the activities of entrepreneurs that created more wealth in the country and thereby increased the living standards of the population. And what the government always did was just to redistribute existing wealth while creating disincentives for the creation of further wealth, so it was actually impoverishing by nature. It was certainly surprising for him at the beginning, but Mises was the sort of fellow who, once he understood something, he would cling to it and he would not give up. If you wanted him to give up, you really had to demonstrate to him where he was wrong. But nobody could demonstrate to him where he went wrong with his reasoning. And he would not give in just because it’s unfashionable, it’s unpalatable, because that doesn’t show that he’s wrong.
JD: Let me ask you about the Austrian school itself. There were deep divisions within the original Austrians. Some people claim that so-called “American Austrians,” who also have deep divisions, represent a bastardization of the old true Viennese school.
GH: Well, there’s no doubt that the American Austrians were essentially a Misesian school. Then, especially after Hayek received the Nobel Prize, the Hayekian blend of Austrian economics gained in importance, but during the 1950s and 1960s and even the 1970s, when Austrian economics spread in the US, it was essentially a Misesian movement and it’s true that this is what sets it apart from Austrian economics as it was known in the nineteenth century and then in the early twentieth century. So that is correct, but that of course, doesn’t mean that this Misesian economics is not a pure outgrowth of Austrian economics. It was certainly not the only direction Austrian economics could take. For example, the works of [Friedrich von] Wieser took it into a very different direction. But undoubtedly it is a representative, a very faithful elaboration of the original Mengerian ideas. Of course, it’s not perfect and not complete, and there probably is some truth in all branches of Austrian economics. But then again, we have to state as a matter of fact that no other branch of Austrian economics has produced works of the quality that we find in the Misesian branch, works such as Human Action and Man, Economy, and State. No other branch.
JD: Let’s talk a bit more about you. You’re probably best known for your work in monetary economics, focused on money and banking. Is this because you’re an Austrian, you naturally gravitated toward money as opposed to other areas of specialization?
GH: Well, it is what attracted me at the time to Austrian economics and is certainly one of the areas in which Austrians are most different from all other branches of economics. It’s still an area where Austrians need to be heard today, where they need to stress these things that we have inherited from Menger and from Mises on money. So, it’s very important, but also difficult, especially for young academics. If you want to become a professor, then working in monetary economics is an uphill battle because you are so much outside of the mainstream that you cannot get published in any of the mainstream journals.
JD: Whereas someone like Peter Klein focuses on entrepreneurship, where Austrian views are perhaps less radical than they are when it comes to central banking, for example.
GH: Correct. But of course, we still need to have people who are thinking and writing on these issues and also developing Austrian economics and money and banking, even though it’s difficult to make a career in that respect. But then also, I consider myself to be a generalist, so I’ve dabbled into various other fields of economic analysis, which, of course, are always related and it’s easier to do this from an Austrian point of view because you see how these different things are related. I’ve written on the methodology of economic analysis, like equilibrium analysis and counterfactual laws, I’ve written on interest theory, on business cycle theory, on capital theory, on financial markets, on uncertainty theory and interest rates, on secession, on Catholic social doctrine, and various other topics.
JD: Your book The Ethics of Money Production is really fantastic from my perspective. I enjoyed it very much and think it’s very lay friendly. Why is it dedicated to the late professor Hans Sennholz?
GH: Hans Sennholz was an important Austrian monetary economist who kept up the flame after Mises. At the time, when I published the German edition in 2007, Sennholz was still alive. So, I wanted to dedicate the book to a living economist. I dedicated my doctoral dissertation to two dead persons and did not want to turn this into a tradition. And then Hans Sennholz best represented the kind of monetary economics which I considered to be foundational for my own analysis. He actually died soon thereafter.
JD: Well, he died having read it! One of the points that you make is that money has civilizational and cultural elements. Its provision and regulation is not simply a matter for technocratic bankers. Central banks affect every part of life, with enormous ramifications for society. How do we do a better job of making this point to average people?
GH: I think this point can most easily be made with people of a certain age. It’s very difficult to have this discussion with younger people. It’s not something that they’ve lived through themselves, but if you talk to people who are 50, 60, and older, they have seen the cultural decay and they conceive it to be problematic. There are very few people who are 70 years old who would say, all in all, American society has taken just a great turn in the past 30 years, very few. Most people are unhappy and they would just say, well, that’s just how things are. And some would say that the decay comes from capitalism, there’s too much freedom, so we need to rein people in and we need to pursue a more conservative policy agenda. This is where we can, as Austrian economists, provide genuine service by explaining that the decay is actually a fruit of interventionism and most notably of monetary interventions. It’s crucially important to see that interventionism is not only destructive in material terms, but also the driving force of cultural destruction. Mises himself perfectly understood this and he said so in the concluding pages of Socialism where he stated, as a matter of course, that socialism has turned out to be a force of cultural destruction on a massive scale. But unfortunately, he didn’t go into detail. And so, this is where we can still provide a service today.
JD: You have a chapter in your book called “The Cultural and Spiritual Legacy of Fiat Inflation.” I love this chapter because you demonstrate how an express policy of inflation makes government grow at home and abroad, by financing welfarism and foreign wars. But you go farther at the end of the chapter, and suggest inflation makes us worse people on an individual level. I sense there’s another book you could write on this idea alone.
GH: Actually one of my doctoral students is working on this topic. Let’s see how well he does! One big problem with monetary intervention is that it “de-responsibilizes” us, destroys the virtues in us. It destroys morals from within. The whole point of morals is to lead a successful life. This is something that’s often not sufficiently appreciated because you associate morals with a whole item list of constraints that you put on what people would like to.
GH: Self-sacrifice for the mere sake of sacrifice, rather than in the pursuit of a higher end. But this is not the traditional conception of the virtues, as we find it most notably in the Christian canon of cardinal and theological virtues. These are attitudes, mental dispositions that make for success in life, that make us more successful, not only on our personal way to heaven, but also in our social relations. Now, monetary interventionism destroys this because what is virtuous holds true under the premise that you have clearly defined and protected private property rights, that you have something like responsibility, that if you make a wrong choice, there will be negative feedback because it ultimately falls back on you, you’re responsible for the wrong things that you do. You mess up your social relations, you mess up a friendship, you betray your relatives and your wife and so it will ultimately fall back on you. But, in our society, we do all kinds of things and have the government intervene in various ways, to prevent the cost being too high on people who behave recklessly, both in their social relations and as far as their own individual behavior is concerned. Think of drug consumption or sports that are excessively risky, or of divorce. We are socializing many of the risks associated with such behavior, and this of course cannot fail to destroy virtue from within, and at the end of the process, everybody asks themselves, well, first of all, why should I behave virtuously?
JD: A lot of economists would say I don’t want to talk about virtue and values. I’m not a priest, I want to talk about inverted yield curves. Mises really thought economics was about real life, and reasonably intelligent people ought to think about it.
GH: Well, certainly Mises himself did not refrain from commenting on this. And I’m not taking up the position of a philosopher and saying, look, these are the virtues. The work has been done, I don’t need to do this. What I do with economic analysis is to show how government interventionism reinforces this particular conception of what values and virtues are all about, and diminishes another; and how it sometimes inverses the traditional conceptions and sometimes destroys them.
New updated Alt-Python37 package is now available for download from our updates-testing repository.
- ALTPYTH-165: build alt-python37 package. Please find the complete release notes here.
- ALTPYTH-165: build alt-python37-wheel package as part of alt-python37 distribution.
- ALTPYTH-165: build alt-python37-setuptools package as part of alt-python37 distribution.
- ALTPYTH-165: build alt-python37-pip package as part of alt-python37 distribution.
Install command:yum groupinstall alt-python --enablerepo=cloudlinux-updates-testing
A new updated LVE-Stats 2 package is now available for download from our updates-testing repository.
- LVES-894: use internal sentry server;
- LVES-888: reduced amount of cpapi call in cloudlinux-statistics and cloudlinux-top.
Fixed an issue when commands cloudlinux-statistics and cloudlinux-top on DirectAdmin were executed dozens of minutes.
To update run:yum update lve-stats --enablerepo=cloudlinux-updates-testing
In her latest contribution—Why Can’t We Be Friends?—Aimee Byrd has raised the question why Christian men and women have such trouble and difficulty being friends. Why are we in such a pother about it? She knows that it will be a controversial book (Loc. 155), but undertook the risk anyway.
In the first chapter she raises a number of quite reasonable high-level questions, most of them revolving around who we actually are, and what our behavior says about who we think we are. She says some good things about our familial relationship in Christ, for example.
“But Scripture tells us over and over again that Christian men and women are more than friends—we are brothers and sisters in Christ” (Loc. 191).
“We have lost the beauty of brotherhood and sisterhood—distinction between the sexes that doesn’t reduce them to sex alone” (Loc. 196).
So when she keeps the theological discussion at 30,000 feet, I think she flies very smoothly. What I think needs work are the landings. At some point you have to come down. You have to decide what to do. You have to take the lunch with that sales rep lady or you don’t, and you have to factor in things like all the other relationships in your life.A Generous Offer
But Byrd confronts the dilemma head on, at any rate.
“When we think of the power of temptation and the ramifications of sexual sin, it seems natural to ask whether men and women can be friends” (Loc. 168).
It is natural, but she has concerns. As a foil, she cites the Billy Crystal rule on the subject, from When Harry Met Sally. The “sex part” always gets in the way. Necessarily, he says. Nothing to be done about it.
So with all that said, since these things clearly need to be worked through, I want to take Aimee up on a very generous offer.
“And I want to do it in a reasonable tone so that those on both sides of the issue can come together and engage with me” (Loc. 206).
Deal. I am very much on the other side of this issue, but I think it can be discussed. It needs to be discussed, and the discussion needs to be both charitable and unvarnished. If there is one aspect of American life that is currently not in order, including within the church, it is life between the sexes.A Chapter in Tension With Itself
What I would like to show is that in the first part of her first chapter Aimee asked a lot of questions about identity in Christ that cast shade on the Pence Rule—as though men who follow the Pence Rule are reductionists who can only think about women as possible sex partners. So that would be bad. But then in the latter half of the chapter she gives an almost exquisite demonstration of exactly why every God-fearing man in the nation should run, not walk, to the adoption of some variation of the Pence Rule—in order to be protected from assumptions made by Aimee Byrd herself.
So this is how I would set the problem up.
“What I can’t find in Scripture is any warning about avoiding friendship between the sexes in order to avoid sin. Instead the Bible says, ‘Let love be without hypocrisy. Detest evil; cling to what is good’ (Rom. 12:9 CSB). We are to cling to what is good, not throw it out because sin is possible. Directly following that command is a call to meaningful relationships with our siblings in Christ: ‘Love one another deeply as brothers and sisters’” (Rom. 12:10 CSB). (Loc. 230)
The subtitle of this book is “Avoidance is not Purity.” This is quite true, as far as it goes. Avoidance is not the same thing as purity, but it certainly can be an essential component in a dedicated pursuit of purity. Flour is not biscuits either. For example, Paul gives Timothy some advice that has more than a trace of avoidance in it. “Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Tim. 2:22).
Let me interrupt the flow of sweet reason here for a moment with a separate observation. There are any number of good reasons for following the Pence Rule. It should not be assumed that all men are lust monkeys, scarcely able to control themselves if ever in the presence of feminine micro-aggressions—with micro-aggression being defined as a woman being around when nobody else is. That is not the case, and there are plenty of reasons. Some of those other reasons could include, but not be limited to, charity toward an unreasonably jealous spouse, charity toward a reasonably jealous spouse, protection of the other person from temptation, protection of the other person’s reputation, not giving your enemies extra ammo to use on you, steering clear of unrelated women generally as a way of steering clear of the ones you know you cannot trust, building in a buffer in case you are misreading your own motives, not wanting to be seen in public with a person who wears sweaters like that, and also, not to put too fine a point on it, sweaters like that. And no, it would not be wise to let the world know which reason it is. None of their business, and I certainly would be willing to have lunch with my mom, my wife, my sister, or my daughters.
So that should give us a little bit of a taste of the difference of opinion we have about this.
“I’ve read my share of articles about whether a man and a woman can text, share a car ride, or eat a business lunch together in a public place” (Loc. 311).
And so, okay, yours truly made an appearance in this first chapter also.
“I’ve seen high-profile pastors write and share disturbing tweets such as this one: ‘I could see giving a woman a ride. To the hospital. If the bone was sticking out’” (Loc. 313)
And that’s another reason. Men and women frequently do not share the same sense of humor at all, and that leads to great misunderstandings.
Aimee complains that “some of the very men who preach biblical manhood and chivalry do nothing when it will actually cost them something—and that cost is usually ‘appearances’” (Loc. 320). And this is what sets up the clash that comes in the second half of the chapter. Yes, appearances are a big deal, but we are not talking about the loose tongue of Widow Gooch on the edge of the village.
The second half of this chapter moved into the Harvey Weinstein debacle, and the #MeToo movement, followed by the #ChurchToo movement. And I want you to note how Aimee Byrd talks about these reactions to male predations, how she deals with these reports en masse.
“It was devastating to read story after story from these suffering women. It was also empowering for women to feel like they had a voice—and that their voice mattered” (Loc. 333).
“As if the violation to their bodies weren’t dehumanizing enough, woman after woman shared horrifying reactions from church leaders who did not believe them, shamed them, or told them they needed to repent for provoking the act” (Loc. 336).
“The silence of their supposed friends and the voices of those leaders who let them down told women that they weren’t valued as sisters in Christ, that they weren’t created with inherent dignity, and that their contributions weren’t welcome” (Loc. 338).
And this is why, on Aimee Byrd’s own terms, men and women can’t be friends.Perhaps Too Many Eggs in the Pudding
Let’s make it personal. Suppose I had been persuaded by Aimee Byrd’s argument a few years before all that #MeToo business. I had unbent a bit from my closely-wound puritanical uptightness. I had learned that brothers and sisters are lofty offices in Christ. I had scrapped that old rule of mine about not having lunch meetings with the sisters one-on-one. I had started giving rides willy-nilly, with nary a bone sticking out anywhere. I started driving women not related to me by blood or marriage around town in a new red convertible, and with the wind blowing in our hair.
Okay, I am putting a few extra eggs in the pudding, but you get the idea. In short, I lightened up.
Now here’s the bite. If this new found liberty was exercised before the #MeToo thing blew, and then when it did blow I found that the red convertible sister was online #MeTooing with the best of them, it would be vain for me to protest that we were discussing her forthcoming commentary on Leviticus the entire time.
Yeah, right, said the entire country. But here is the real kick. Go back north in this post, and read those three quotations of Aimee’s again. Given what she says there, I have every reason to expect that if I were lied about as part of a #MenAreGuilty movement, Aimee Byrd would simply believe it. I am not jumping to conclusions here—she says she does. She says she believes it, andJoseph in an Egyptian Prison
I have been a pastor for decades, and I know that a bunch of those stories were true, down to the ground. Men can be pigs, and more than that, lots of men can be pigs. But I also know that women can lie, and that women can misunderstand what just happened. That is a reality also.
But because we live in hyper-partisan times, you are supposed to pick a side. Are you rooting for the males or the females? Do you explain away the behavior of all the males, or the behavior of all the females? But maybe it should be neither. Perhaps we should be interested in the pursuit of justice, and we should rely on the principles the Scriptures give to us for our pursuit of justice. Perhaps we should make sure that every instance of true harassment is verified and then sharply punished (Ecc. 8:11). Maybe we should acknowledge that humanity is a mess, and not just the men, and try to avoid forming a sense of solidarity with men as such, or with women as such.
So in the spirit of not exhibiting the wrong kind of bias, let me just say that out of all the #MeToo accusations, fully x% of them were true. But this means, necessarily, that y% of them were not. Now unfortunately, whatever percentage it is, Joseph in Egypt has to be included among that y%. Last year, when I stood up for Joseph, and for men like him, Aimee Byrd responded to that by saying that such a defense for falsely accused men was “vile.” In response to that accusation, I wrote another piece, which you can find here. Do you see why we really need to have this discussion?
Joseph was in prison for at least two years, maybe much longer. This means that if he was thrown in prison when I first wrote that, he is still there.“Brothers and Sisters” are a Two-Way Street
Aimee Byrd talks about the friendships that her husband has at work, and describes how the women at work are safe with him. Right. Granted. But the fact that Potiphar’s wife was safe from Joseph does not mean that Joseph was safe from Potiphar’s wife. Aimee Byrd knows her husband, and she believes in him. But when that woman is passed over for a promotion, and the friendship turns sour (which has been known to happen), and the woman retaliates with an ungrounded complaint, and takes to Twitter with her allegations, what then?
Take all the situations represented in the #MeToo movement—the ones where the men were guilty, the ones where the women were guilty, and the ones where everybody was confused. Fast forward five years—where the victimized women are still in counseling, and the victimized men are still in prison. How many of those situations would have been prevented with the Pence Rule? Virtually all of them. When the men were guilty, their victims wish they had been protected by something like the Pence Rule, and when the men were innocent, then they wish they had adopted something like the Pence Rule.
And given the emphasis placed on the flood of allegations in the second half of this chapter, we can’t say that the situation is not serious enough to warrant such a rule. We can’t call it an over-reaction, because at the very least we are talking about millions of offenses and/or allegations.
So long as men, including Christian men, are regarded as guilty simply on the basis of an allegation alone, they are not being treated as brothers. And if they are not being treated as brothers, you cannot be surprised at the consequences for the sisters. If heads is up, then tails is down.
But take special note of what I am not saying. Brothers can sin against their office, and can grossly violate their trust—and I mean both actual brothers and brothers in Christ. Men sin, and nobody is denying it. To convict such a one with biblical principles of justice is not to despise the office of brother—rather, it is to respect and honor it.
But to convict anyone on the basis of a hashtag campaign is to undermine all comity in the family of God. And unfortunately, in the first half of her first chapter, Aimee Byrd lays out the basis for our relationships in the family of God, and in the second half she dismantles it all.
This small book was simply a lot of fun, and for various reasons. If I had read it the way you are likely to do, it would have been a lot of fun on its own terms. But I have had the background privilege of knowing all the principals involved in it.
Every year, four gents in our church community head off for a jaunt of sailing around in the Puget Sound, in the San Juan Islands neighborhood. Three of these fellows are from Christ Church and one from our sister congregation Trinity Reformed. After some years of storing up raconteur material, they told their stories to a writer in our church community, who wrote it up, with adjectives and everything, and had another friend paint the cover for the book, and there you are.
The book is easy to read, and done very well. There are spots that are laugh-out-loud funny, and other spots that make you grateful they somehow made it through, and maybe even a few places where those two combine. One of our four friends gave us a copy of the book, which Nancy sat down and read right away. I picked it up right after that, and we both enjoyed it very much.
You will enjoy it thoroughly also, but, of course, only if you buy and read it. I hope I don’t have to spell this out.
The book is titled Four Guys in a Boat, and you can find it here.
According to the Global Footprint Network, humans have already used a year’s worth of Earth’s resources in 2018. “Earth Overshoot Day” has crept up the calendar from December 29th in 1970 to August 1st in 2018.
The more we consume beyond their estimate of Earth’s ability to regenerate resources, the earlier the date: “The date of Earth Overshoot Day is calculated by comparing humanity’s total yearly consumption (Ecological Footprint) with Earth’s capacity to regenerate renewable natural resources in that year (biocapacity).”
By my calculations, their dates mean that we have consumed about 60% of Earth’s annual resource capacity in 48 years since 1970. The difference is 12 Earth-years of resources, which sounds like a gigantic debt, payable by riding a bike to work, going vegan, enforcing strict population limits, and returning to pre-industrial living conditions wherever possible. Yuck!
Commenters at various sites where the Earth Overshoot Day was published overwhelmingly blame capitalism and overpopulation as root causes of our resource overconsumption. Private businesses have no incentive to maintain resources — greed leads them to exploit the earth for profits today with no regard for tomorrow. The lack of government-provided birth control and sex education because of misogynistic politicians has allowed birth rates in some parts of the world to remain high, putting undue strain on our scarce resources.
The problem with this is that neither economic theory nor global indicators of human well-being bear this out.What economic theory says about resource use
Economic theory does not say that entrepreneurs disregard the future availability of some productive resource. Entrepreneurs are not in the business of making money today — they are interested in earning profits across time and they will use their resources accordingly.
Even if some resource is exhausted, all it means is that entrepreneurs satisfied consumer demands when consumers wanted them satisfied. It is wrong to blame the producers for resource exhaustion because they are subject to the consumers.
Consumers are also interested in the maintenance of resources, too, though. The way we balance the use of resources today and tomorrow depends on everybody’s rate of time preference, the premium we place on present consumption over future consumption.
We are more likely to save and maintain resources when we expect the future consumption to be greater or better. This is why we don’t eat all of the grapes today, but use some to make wine for future consumption. It’s also why farmers are careful to rotate crops and not overfarm their land so that it will be as productive as possible for as long as possible.
Therefore, the best policies for the maintenance of resources are private property and allowing entrepreneurs to utilize and experiment with new technologies that might decrease costs (using less resources) and increase production (making the future payoff greater). Productivity is not a drain on the Earth’s resources, but a great incentive to entrepreneurs and consumers to save and invest for the future.
Of course, one kind of policy that encourages profligacy is expansionary monetary policy. Inflationary environments lead everyone to consume more than they would have, because holding on to cash while prices are rising is a losing position. Credit expansion also causes entrepreneurs to waste productive resources by pursuing the wrong lines of production — consider the empty mansions in the wake of the Fed-fueled housing bubble that popped in 2007–2008.
Economic theory is clear, then, on what actually leads to overconsumption and malinvestment of present resources. But what about the data? Should we be afraid of overpopulation or dwindling natural resources?Every indicator of human well-being looks great
In short, no. Every conceivable indicator of human well-being shows that the world is much better off with 7.6 billion people in 2018 than we were with half that in the early 1970s. Earth’s population has doubled, but the share of the population in extreme poverty has been slashed from about 60% in 1970 to less than 10% today.
The illiteracy rate has shrunk from 44% to 14% since 1970. The number of people without access to improved water sources has halved just since 1990. The global average life expectancy has increased by over 12 years since 1973. If you are doubtful that humans are broadly and significantly better off compared to 1970, then browse ourworldindata.org, where I found all of this data, and see for yourself.
So, humans are better off, but what about the Earth? Have we prospered at the expense of our planet?Is the Earth turning into a desert planet?
Well, the Earth got 14% greener from 1986 to 2016. Aquaculture fish production is significantly outpacing wild-caught fishing, which has flatlined since the 1980s (PDF here, graph below). Cereal production has more than tripled since the 1960s, far outpacing population increases, even though land used for cereal production has stayed about the same (graph below).
Source: FAO, “The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture” 2016
In 2017, BP estimated that we had 1696.6 billion barrels of proved oil reserves. They project that it is enough for 50 years, but this estimate is based on maintaining 2017 production levels, when it is more than reasonable to expect demand to fall and production to become more efficient. Also, we can expect new technologies to make previously unproved, inaccessible oil reserves accessible. Speaking of energy, net electricity production from nuclear sources has increased 3473% from 1970 to 2013, based on data from the Earth Policy Institute.Conclusion
We are wealthier and more productive than ever and we seem to be maintaining and even expanding Earth’s capacity to meet our needs. I’m optimistic on this front.
Perhaps the only cause for alarm is that so many people are pessimistic about the world population and our natural resources despite the astounding progress we’ve made just in the last 50 years. Pessimists ask for governments to intervene, but the interventions are either unnecessary or harmful to the progress made possible by the market economy.
Book Review: The Grid: establishing leadership training in the local church by Adrian Reynolds (10ofthose July 2018)
Adrian Reynolds is the training director for the FIEC and has written a very good, short and highly readable book on how we should train Christian leaders (of all types).
The first part of the book covers the biblical case for training and sets out a very practical grid to use by churches to discuss what training is needed. Down one side of the grid you have the qualities and skills needed: Adrian chooses godliness, ministry of the word, knowledge, leadership, evangelism and coaching. Very importantly, Adrian includes the often overlooked pastoral side of word ministry. Then on the other axis he includes all the different types of leadership roles that we see in the Bible - for example pastor-teachers, evangelists, elders, deacons and so on. The grid is designed to promote discussion and arrive at a high level overview. There’s nothing magic about it of course but to my mind it seems a very practical and easy to understand place to start. Key as he stresses is for churches to discuss leadership training using the grid - “where are we, where do we want to go” and “how to we get there/bridge the gap”
Then in the second part he makes some overall comments about the lessons we can draw for today from the grid. He points out for example the over emphasis on ministry of the word compared to all the other leadership skills “we end up making that one skill into everything”. 'Word ministry' also he rightly suggests tends to be defined much too narrowly. Next he points out the confusion often seen between knowledge and word ministry. Perhaps to me the most important point is the next one: the complete lack of emphasis on training for pioneers and evangelists, both in UK and worldwide. This to me is the single biggest weakness we see today in our church. We have many fine bible teachers but only a tiny handful of evangelists. How much time do pastor-teachers (anbd other leaders) really spend on evangelism? And given that 99% of non Christians will never darken the door of our church evangelistic preaching (while good) is not the same thing at all. Finally, Adrian comments on the strange imbalance of training for elders (almost none) vs that available for pastors (a lot) and the much neglected areas of training in leadership and coaching.
There are also some very valid and helpful comments for theological colleges. Adrian stresses, surely correctly, that the local church does (or should do) everything and so has the ultimate responsibility for theological college trainees. He suggests that much of the problems arise because churches fail to own the people they send off for training. Seminaries etc are but agents of the local church: however from my experience theological colleges who want to live up to Adrian’s recommendation sometimes struggle to get their church counterparts interested in "owning" theological training.
Adrian has a wonderful overview of the UK situation from his key role at the FIEC, which plays a major role across the evangelical UK Church. His new book is excellent: it’s practical, well written, thoughtful and I hope it stimulates discussion in many local churches about how to train men and women in leadership. Pastors, please buy a copy for all your leaders (10 ofThose as always have great pricing) and get them to read it and discuss it.
Dear Mr. President:
With your July 10 announcement of $200 billion in new tariffs on Chinese goods, doubling down on tariff increases announced earlier, it is clear you seek an aggressive trade war. This is unacceptable treatment for a country with which the United States has increasingly improved relations over a period of almost five decades prior to 2018.
These trade restrictions will damage China, but also average Americans. A common tactic of war is to cut off supplies to enemies. Your tariffs will cut off supplies, or raise prices, for American consumers — effectively treating them as enemies.
Tariffs are taxes. Most of your proposed tariffs will feed though the supply chain and in time hit poorer Americans hardest. Why attack the most vulnerable in our society, who benefit enormously from inexpensive imported retail goods?
You point to “unfair trade practices” as you define them. Yet, the very essence of a free society is voluntary trade. That means that I can do business with my neighbor, or not. If my neighbor does not want to transact with me, despite the goods and services and terms I offer, then he does not have to do so. This feature of the economic environment is essential both within the United States and internationally.
American firms go to China to do business, to export goods and services from the United States, and to buy goods and services for importing into the United States. China imposes conditions you regard as unfair. No one forces Americans to do business in China or anywhere else. If a business or industry does not like China’s terms, it should seek other markets. But it should not and must not use the power of U.S. law to force China to do business as we might prefer.
The issue is not one of whether China’s conditions are or are not “fair,” but of whether the United States should use coercion — taxes on imports — against its own citizens to force a solution to its liking.
We urge you to return the U.S. tariff schedule to the one in force at the beginning of 2018.
To the Congress :
President Trump is using authority provided by Congress in trade legislation enacted over the years. Congress is responsible for the current state of affairs because you have delegated excessive authority over trade to the executive branch—authority properly residing with the legislature under the Constitution. You have within your power a simple way to end this trade war: pass legislation setting the U.S. tariff schedule at its level as of January 1, 2018. The President would no doubt veto the bill. You can override the veto.
Please accept your responsibility to stop President Trump from continuing on this destructive course. If you do not, future generations will look back and ask: why did Congress not act?