Blogroll

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Introducing the Madsen Moment

Adam Smith Institute - Tue, 13/02/2018 - 13:56

One of the core activities of the Institute is to engage and inform. We love to entertain while we explain the world as it is and so we have an exciting new project to let you know about. 

We've started recording the Madsen Moment – a weekly video (out every Tuesday) starring President of the Adam Smith Institute, Dr Madsen Pirie. These bitesize explanations are purpose made to be shared via social media and our first three are out now and you can catch up on these on YouTube via the links below:

1) Contingency & why you should have a healthy scepticism over economic forecasts

2) Why Corbyn should look to Deng Xiaoping, and not Mao Zedong, to understand Chinese economic growth

3) The Laffer Curve

We hope you enjoy them, subscribe to the channel and share them! 

Categories: Current Affairs

Apocalypse Now?

Peter Leithart - Tue, 13/02/2018 - 12:00
All around us, pundits have turned prophetic; analysts have become purveyors of apocalypse. Trump the beast is on the throne, and the world is falling apart. Rusty Reno thinks that reports of the world’s end are greatly exaggerated: “We observe a growing divide between reality and rhetoric. Stock markets rise; the interlocking global economic system […]
Categories: People I don't know

Consumer Sovereignty Is a Problem For Government "Stimulus" Plans

Mises Institute - Tue, 13/02/2018 - 12:00
By: Justin Murray
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It’s a new year and that means we are in for another year of the same rehashed political partisanship disguised as sound economic analysis. The latest rehash is that the US economy is still experiencing the worst post-recession recovery in the nation’s history (a story that’s rehashed year after year) and, as usual, the old saws are dusted off and trucked out as explanations. The usual explanations come in the form of the “savings glut” and the “demand deficit” and the answer is usually increasing spending somewhere and that somewhere is entirely dependent on the policy pronouncement’s partisan leanings. In other words, it’s the job of the government to rush to the rescue, stimulate the economy and make up for the lack of aggregate demand, or the Keynesian policy pronouncement that government should go into debt to make up for the lack of consumption by the consumers on the market.

Of course, if any of this actually worked, the US would be on a rather stable path already since, despite the arguments, government spending and debt has soared significantly in the wake of the 2007 financial crash. To put it into context, the increase in annual US Federal (not to mention State level) government spending since the end of the recession is roughly equal to the entire annual output of Canada and is greater than the economic output of all but nine nations. And that’s just the spending increase. The total spending puts US government entities, if calculated as its own country, #4 on the GDP list, a DoD budget increase away from surpassing Japan.

Given this immense level of spending, how come the recovery is still considered to be relatively poor? The problem is that the entire philosophy of government stimulus; be it interest rate manipulations or direct subsidy and spending, runs into a harsh truth. And that harsh truth is what Mises referred to as consumer sovereignty.

As Mises noted:

The real bosses [under capitalism] are the consumers. They, by their buying and by their abstention from buying, decide who should own the capital and run the plants. They determine what should be produced and in what quantity and quality. Their attitudes result either in profit or in loss for the enterpriser. They make poor men rich and rich men poor. They are no easy bosses. They are full of whims and fancies, changeable and unpredictable. They do not care a whit for past merit. As soon as something is offered to them that they like better or is cheaper, they desert their old purveyors.

In other words, the notions of demand deficit or savings glut are entirely fictitious and it is not the government’s job to try and fix this.

What does this mean? For a demand deficit to be a real issue, it would imply that the consumer, or the demand end of the supply-demand mechanic, is obligated to purchase what is supplied. This is exactly the opposite of what the relationship is. While it is true that, per the common misinterpretation of Say’s Law, it is difficult for demand to manifest without the supply first being brought to market, this by no means implies that the demand is now under any obligation to purchase that supply. If this were true, the road to riches is as simple as hanging up a sign in a store front and presenting whatever junk you find lying around in the window.

What is seen as a savings glut or demand deficit is no more than the sovereign consumer saying, “I have no interest in what is available on the marketplace right now.” That disinterest can either be in what is being offered or at the price which it is offered.

The onus, then, is on the producer, or the supply, to alter or adjust to meet the demand. This is where the entrepreneurial process is so important as the demand frequently does not know what it wants until someone takes a risk and offers up a product or service to the marketplace. It’s not the fault of the buyer that the corner store went out of business but the fault of the operator of that corner store for not offering what the consumer wanted or not organizing his capital in a way that allowed him to deliver that offering to the consumer at a reasonable price. It is up to him to reorganize, either the offering or how it is offered, or go out of business and liquidate that capital to someone else who may have a better insight on the desires of the market.

Where the prolonged recession recovery comes is not because of this mythical insufficient demand but by the very policies the government is engaging in to fight this mythical problem. By boiling down economic activity from innumerable granular transactions between a near infinitely varied mixes of interests into simple aggregates, the government creates the misconception that it can fix things by boosting the “gross” in “gross domestic product.” The only way it can do so is by boosting the consumption of pre-existing goods and services. The very same goods and services the sovereign consumer has rejected.

Doing this overrides the desire of the consumer and forcibly directs their resources to purchase those very same goods and services they previously did not want and, by the basis of the taxation system, don’t even receive even the modicum of benefit they may otherwise have obtained if they were forcibly marched into the store to buy a product. Since the government can’t tell the difference between a pet rock and an iPhone, it will just assume the product or services it purchases or subsidizes are part of this demand deficit and not the market losing interest in what is being offered with attempts to bail out failing entities leading to future supply gluts, is again manifesting in automobiles when the market was not permitted to liquidate to match the new demand requirements.

Government then expects the market to just magically start working again and the demand just start buying again without ever concerning itself about the what and for how much and uses the reinvigoration of old marketplace product sales as a benchmark to cease intervention; which is a situation that will never manifest. Even fully subsidized to the point of “free” won’t necessarily manifest demand, as the Soviets have long proven with multiple supply gluts under their planned economy.

By trying to fight this illusionary problem, government has essentially ensured that the problem will persist near indefinitely and require even greater luck and chance to find those products and services the market desires. Those taxes, subsidies, and competition for debt in the credit markets does little more than ensure the entrepreneurs who have the ideas are now cut off from the necessary capital and labor required since it is tied up in subsidized and artificially supported entities. Even if an entrepreneur can find a way to obtain the capital and personnel required to start-up his new business, those sovereign consumers are being taxed to support industries they no longer desire and lack the resources necessary to complete the transaction.

If government was really concerned with a sustained, strong, economic recovery, it would first begin by ceasing support of non-performing entities. While it would be painful, given the length of time non-valuable companies have been allowed to persist or even propagate, those lost jobs and closed businesses will now have a clear path to be reallocated to more valuable uses. The government can do this by cutting spending and eliminating the immense regulatory burden placed on the economy as a whole.

The economy can’t recover when the government is interfering with the ability of suppliers to reorganize, reallocate, and reinvest. Because the demand side of the equation will not suddenly decide it will start buying the products and services it has already rejected. If a brutal totalitarian society like the former Soviet Union couldn’t force people to consume products in the exact quantities and mix it dictated, the United States can’t, either and won’t see any serious economic recovery or sustained growth until it ceases with the expectation that consumers will fall in line with expectations. You can lead consumers to the store, but you can’t make them buy.



Categories: Current Affairs

Notes Toward a Pauline Theology of Music

Peter Leithart - Tue, 13/02/2018 - 11:00
One Corinthians 13-14 includes a cluster of musical metaphors. Paul compares the tongue-speaking of the loveless as a “noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” (13:1), and insists that tongues need interpretation by noting that you can’t know the tune without distinct tones (14:6-8). A few notes on what Paul’s analogies might contribute to a theology […]
Categories: People I don't know

Action Alert: Please pray for Christian ex-magistrate Richard Page

Christian Concern - Tue, 13/02/2018 - 10:02
Please pray for ex-magistrate Richard Page as he faces the Croydon Employment Tribunal following his removal for expressing his belief that children do best with a mother and a father.

This morning, Tuesday 13th February, Croydon Employment Tribunal will hear the case of Richard Page - a Christian who was removed from being a magistrate after he expressed his belief that children do best with a mother and a father.

The case is scheduled to last for five days.

Please pray for a fair, just outcome for Richard.

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Pastors: 4 ways to celebrate women in your church

The Good Book Company - Tue, 13/02/2018 - 09:38

We recently conducted a survey which invited Christian women to share their opinions, thoughts and feelings on the place and experience of women in church and family life, in conjunction with the release of Kathleen Nielson’s new book, Women and God.

As part of the survey we asked the question, “give an example of something that is said or done at church that makes you feel valued or honoured as a woman”. The insights were very revealing—and in this article, we share a few of them with you.

If you’re a church leader and are already doing these things, take this as an encouragement. Your efforts are noticed and appreciated! And we hope there is something here to help every leader to learn to shepherd the women in their flock a little better.

1. Teach the Bible

“My church has done a bible handling course for women which has shown me that I too can be well equipped to teach the Bible and disciple young women.”

“[I’m part of] a church that encourages women and provides opportunities for them to grow in Bible literacy.”

There is a hunger among women for knowledge of Scripture that goes beyond Ruth, Esther and Proverbs 31. Encourage the women in your church to be handling the Bible for themselves and meeting with their God in its pages. But first you might need to train them in how to do this—in fact, that’s exactly what Paul tells Titus to do for the older women in his church, so that they can instruct the younger women (Titus 2 v 3). This might mean providing groups in which they can read and interrogate scripture collectively and for themselves.

2. Listen

“Pastors who look women in the eye, listen to them, and learn from them.”

“When a minister speaks to me as an individual not just as my husband's wife.”

“My pastor is not afraid of me. He looks me in the eye when he talks to me, he asks me how I am and treats me like a fellow human being.”

“My pastor frequently meets with me and other women to ask our opinion and wisdom on various things. He occasionally sends me his sermon a few days before Sunday to read through and asks for feedback on it.”

The sad implication of the first three responses is that this isn’t always common practice. Women are humans, not a different species—you can have a normal conversation with them!

The simplest way to make women feel valued is to get to know them: ask what’s going on in their lives; their struggles and joys; what they read, watch and listen to. Actively seek out their ideas and wisdom on areas of church life—they will have plenty of it!

3. Have women in visible positions of responsibility

“Having an equal share of men and women taking roles such as leading sung worship and reading the Bible.”

“Helping in an area of the church that is not gender specific or stereotypical. I am 60, a woman and I serve on the tech team.”

The visible presence of women serving alongside men is so important for the next generation of both women and men.

Every eldership has to come to its own position on how the Bible’s teaching plays out in church life today, and which particular “up front” roles are to be reserved for qualified men. But what’s important is that these are communicated as thoughtful and prayerful decisions, and not just assumptions (“Women never do that because women have never done that”).

Be intentional about getting women to use their gifts in all the areas that are appropriate, and avoid making assumption about what women will or will not want to do. Encourage women as they use their gifts—tell them and others that you appreciate and value their service.

4. Recognise injustice

“A church that is not afraid to name injustices against women.”

“My church teaches men to not abuse their power. It protects women in oppressive marriages.”

The sad reality is that every church leader needs to be ready to deal with abuse—sooner or later, it will rear its ugly head. So familiarise yourself with the warning signs, and train yourself up on the appropriate way to respond (this new book from Helen Thorne is a great place to start). Be prepared to listen to victims when they find the courage to speak out. Do whatever is in your power to get them the help they need.

Tomorrow we will share with you some of the things said and done in Church life that women might find unhelpful and frustrating.

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View all the infographic survey results here. Kathleen Nielson’s book Women and God peels back the layers of what scripture says about women and reveals the beautiful truth of God’s goodness to them.

Categories: Christian Resources

Just when does Venezuela need to build a wall?

Adam Smith Institute - Tue, 13/02/2018 - 07:01

An interesting little point is that the Berlin Wall has now ceased to exist for longer than it did exist. But we shouldn't forget it nor its lesson. One that Venezuela is going to have to think about:

Venezuela’s neighbours are tightening their borders, alarmed by the exodus of hundreds of thousands of desperate refugees fleeing hunger, hyperinflation and a spiralling political crisis.

Brazil and Colombia are sending extra troops to patrol frontier regions where Venezuelans have arrived in record numbers over recent months.

Colombia, which officially took in more than half a million Venezuelans over the last six months of 2017, also plans to make it harder to cross the frontier or stay illegally in Colombia. Brazil said it will shift refugees from regions near the border where social services are badly strained.

The economic crisis and food shortages which have driven so many from their homes show no signs of easing.

The International Monetary Fund forecasts hyperinflation in Venezuela will hit 13,000% this year, so most salaries are now worth the equivalent of just a few British pounds a month.

So, when do they start to build a wall restricting the number who can flee from the joys and pleasures of socialism?

Note well how such walls and barriers are built - the machine guns face inwards, to stop the people leaving, not outward to prevent invasion.

So, enough with the snide jeering already and to the important point. This is showing that greatest of democratic freedoms, the ability to vote with one's feet. The very thing which hte global imposition of any system denies for in a truly global system of governance there is no where to go to flee from it. Or as we might put it, competition among systems and structures of governance improves matters just as much as similar competition between supermarkets, car suppliers or phone companies improves our experience of those things. 

Categories: Current Affairs

Marhaba Beirut! Cloudflare’s 121st location - مرحبا بيروت! موقع “كلاودفلار” ال ١٢١

CloudFlare - Tue, 13/02/2018 - 07:00
Marhaba Beirut! Cloudflare’s 121st location - مرحبا بيروت! موقع “كلاودفلار” ال ١٢١

Lebanon is a historic country, home to two cities among the oldest in the world. There’s a vast mix of influences from the East and West. It’s also the smallest country in continental Asia.

لبنان بلد تاريخي، موطن مدينتين من بين أقدم المدن في العالم. هناك مزيج كبير من التأثيرات من الشرق والغرب. كما أنه أصغر .بلد في آسيا القارية

Marhaba Beirut! Cloudflare’s 121st location - مرحبا بيروت! موقع “كلاودفلار” ال ١٢١
CC-BY-SA Gregor Rom

Lebanon’s connection to the Internet

Lebanon is a little different to most other countries when it comes to the internet, with all connectivity to the outside world flowing via a single network, Ogero. Traffic to Lebanon was previously served from our existing deployments in Marseille and Paris, due to where Ogero connects to the rest of the internet. By deploying locally in Beirut, round-trip latency is cut by around 50 milliseconds. This might seem like almost nothing, but it adds up when you factor in a DNS lookup and 3-way handshake required to open a TCP connection. Internet penetration in Lebanon according to different sources is around 75%, which is quite high. However, the speed available to end users is low, typically in single digit megabits per second.

The Ministry of Telecommunications has an ambitious plan to improve the connectivity available in Lebanon by 2020, a big part of this involves deploying fiber optic cabling to homes and businesses throughout the country. This will inevitably help to boost the level of traffic we see today coming from Lebanon. Comparing Lebanon to Denmark where the population is only a few thousand lower there is 7x more traffic served to Denmark than to Lebanon.

اتصال لبنان بالإنترنت لبنان يختلف قليلا عن معظم البلدان الأخرى عندما يتعلق الأمر بالإنترنت، فكل اتصال إلى العالم الخارجي يتدفق عبر شبكة واحدة، أوجيرو. كانت حركة مرور الانترنت إلى لبنان في السابق من عمليات النشر الحالية لدينا في مرسيليا وباريس، ويرجع ذلك إلى حيث تتصل أوجيرو ببقية الإنترنت. من خلال النشر محليا في بيروت، أصبح وقت الإستجابة ذهابا وإيابا أقل من 50 ميلي ثانية واحدة.

قد يبدو هذا لا شيء تقريبا، لكنه يصبح ذو معنى عندما تحسب بحث نظام أسماء النطاقات (DNS) ومصافحة ثلاثية الطرق المطلوبة لفتح بروتوكول التحكم بالإرسال .(TCP) ويبلغ انتشار الإنترنت في لبنان وفقا لمصادر مختلفة حوالي ٧٥%، وهو رقم مرتفع جدا. ومع ذلك، فإن السرعة المتاحة للمستخدمين منخفضة، وعادة تكون رقم مفرد من الميغابتس في الثانية الواحدة.

قامت وزارة الاتصالات بعرض خطة طموحة لتحسين الاتصال المتوفر في لبنان بحلول عام ٢٠٢٠، جزء كبير من هذا ينطوي على نشر كابلات الألياف البصرية للمنازل والشركات في جميع أنحاء البلد. وهذا سيساعد حتما على تعزيز مستوى حركة المرور التي نراها اليوم قادمة من لبنان.

Beirut IX

The Internet exchange in Beirut is no exception, with fibre access not possible in Lebanon, ISPs reach the IX by microwave. To give the best access from all around Beirut it is situated at the top of a hill. With most Internet exchanges, line of sight isn’t a concern as fibre is available. Our deployment connected to Beirut IX brings over 7 million websites closers to ISPs connected, making the Internet faster and safer for users in Lebanon.

(Beirut IX) تبادل الإنترنت في بيروت إن تبادل الإنترنت في بيروت ليس استثناء، إذ لا يوجد صلة للالياف الضوئية في لبنان، فإن مزودي خدمة الإنترنت يصلون إلى نقطة تبادل الإنترنت (IX) عن طريق موجات الميكرويف. لإعطاء أفضل وصول من جميع أنحاء بيروت أنها تقع في أعلى تلة. مع معظم تبادلات الإنترنت، خط الأفق ليس مصدر قلق بما أن صلة الألياف متاحة.

إن نشرنا المتصل بتبادل الإنترنت (IX) في بيروت يجلب أكثر من ٧ ملايين موقع على شبكة الإنترنت، مما يجعل الإنترنت أسرع وأكثر أمانا للمستخدمين في لبنان.

Thank you to Layal Jebran for the translation.

Categories: Technology

And Occasionally Insufficient Gratitude

Blog & Mablog - Tue, 13/02/2018 - 02:00

“Since secularism took over from the bad old religious bigots who used to kill scores and scores of people, we have since that time had a long millennium of sunshine and glittery rainbows, in which only scores of millions of people have been slaughtered. We celebrate this deliverance of ours and bow our heads in gratitude” (Empires of Dirt, p. 164).

The post And Occasionally Insufficient Gratitude appeared first on Blog & Mablog.

Categories: People I don't know

Bye Bye Blackbird

CloudFlare - Tue, 13/02/2018 - 01:16
Bye Bye Blackbird

Bye Bye Blackbird
Courtesty of PublicDomainPictures.net

As we have talked about repeatedly in this blog, we at Cloudflare are not fans of the behavior of patent trolls. They prey upon innovative companies using overly-broad patents in an attempt to bleed settlements out of their targets. When we were first sued by a patent troll called Blackbird Technologies last spring, we decided that we weren’t going along with their game by agreeing to a modest settlement in lieu of going through the considerable effort and expense of litigation. We decided to fight.

We’re happy to report that earlier today, the United States District Court for the Northern District of California dismissed the case that Blackbird brought against Cloudflare. In a two-page order (copied below) Judge Vince Chhabria noted that “[a]bstract ideas are not patentable” and then held that Blackbird’s attempted assertion of the patent “attempts to monopolize the abstract idea of monitoring a preexisting data stream between a server” and is invalid as a matter of law. That means that Blackbird loses no matter what the facts of the case would have been.

The court’s ruling comes in response to a preliminary motion filed by Cloudflare under Section 101 of the U.S. Patent Act. That section defines what sort of things can be patented. Such motions are generally referred to as “Alice” motions because the U.S. Supreme Court held in a 2014 case (Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank Int’l) that a two-part test could be used to determine patent eligibility based on whether something is more than merely an abstract idea or at least creates an inventive use for an abstract principle. The Alice test helps to determine whether something is patentable subject matter or an unpatentable fundamental concept. Judge Chhabria found that Blackbird’s ‘355 patent was too abstract to be patentable subject matter.

Before the court ever even considered Cloudflare’s actions, it found that the supposed innovation reflected in Blackbird’s patent was too abstract to have been protectable in the first place. This means that the case against Cloudflare could not continue, but further, that the patent is completely invalid and Blackbird cannot use it to sue ANYONE in the future.

All of this only confirms the position we’ve taken from the beginning with regard to the way that Blackbird and other patent trolls operate. Blackbird acquired an absurdly broad patent from an inventor that had apparently never attempted to turn that patent into a business that made products, hired people, or paid taxes. And Blackbird used that patent to harass at least three companies that are in the business of making products and contributing to the economy.

Blackbird still has a right to appeal the court’s order, and we’ll be ready to respond in case they do. We will also report back soon to review our related efforts under Project Jengo.

Bye Bye Blackbird

Bye Bye Blackbird

Bye Bye Blackbird

Categories: Technology

Our Interests and Their Interests

Mises Institute - Mon, 12/02/2018 - 20:00
By: Murray N. Rothbard
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In the 20th century, the advocates of free-market economics almost invariably pin the blame for government intervention solely on erroneous ideas — that is, on incorrect ideas about which policies will advance the public weal. To most of these writers, any such concept as "ruling class" sounds impossibly Marxist. In short, what they are really saying is that there are no irreconcilable conflicts of class or group interest in human history, that everyone's interests are always compatible, and that therefore any political clashes can only stem from misapprehensions of this common interest.

In "The Clash of Group Interests," Ludwig von Mises, the outstanding champion of the free market in this century, avoids the naïve trap embraced by so many of his colleagues. Instead, Mises sets forth a highly sophisticated and libertarian theory of classes and of class conflict by distinguishing sharply between the free market and government intervention.

It is true that on the free market there are no clashes of class or group interest; all participants benefit from the market and therefore all their interests are in harmony.

But the matter changes drastically, Mises points out, when we move to the intervention of government. For that very intervention necessarily creates conflict between those classes of people who are benefited or privileged by the State and those who are burdened by it. These conflicting classes created by State intervention Mises calls castes. As Mises states,

Thus there prevails a solidarity of interests among all caste members and a conflict of interests among the various castes. Each privileged caste aims at the attainment of new privileges and at the preservation of old ones. Each underprivileged caste aims at the abolition of its disqualifications. Within a caste society there is an irreconcilable antagonism between the interests of the various castes.

In this profound analysis Mises harkens back to the original libertarian theory of class analysis, originated by Charles Comte and Charles Dunoyer, leaders of French laissez-faire liberalism in the early 19th century.

"We have to abandon the cozy view that all of us, we and our privileged rulers alike, are in a continuing harmony of interest."
But Mises has a grave problem; as a utilitarian, indeed as someone who equates utilitarianism with economics and with the free market, he has to be able to convince everyone, even those whom he concedes are the ruling castes, that they would be better off in a free market and a free society, and that they too should agitate for this end. He attempts to do this by setting up a dichotomy between "short-run" and "long-run" interests, the latter being termed "the rightly understood" interests. Even the short-run beneficiaries of statism, Mises asserts, will lose in the long run. As Mises puts it,

In the short run an individual or a group may profit from violating the interests of other groups or individuals. But in the long run, in indulging in such actions, they damage their own selfish interests no less than those of the people they have injured. The sacrifice that a man or a group makes in renouncing some short-run gains, lest they endanger the peaceful operation of the apparatus of social cooperation, is merely temporary. It amounts to an abandonment of a small immediate profit for the sake of incomparably greater advantages in the long run.

The great problem here is: why should people always consult their long-run, as contrasted to their short-run, interests? Why is the long run the "right understanding"? Ludwig von Mises, more than any economist of his day, has brought to the discipline the realization of the great and abiding importance of time preference in human action: the preference of achieving a given satisfaction now rather than later. In short, everyone prefers the shorter to the longer run, some to different degrees than others.

How can Mises, as a utilitarian, say that a lower time preference for the present is "better" than a higher? In brief, some moral doctrine beyond utilitarianism is necessary to assert that people should consult their long-run over their short-run interests. This consideration becomes even more important when we consider those cases where government intervention confers great, not "small," gains on the privileged, and where retribution does not arrive for a very long time, so that the "temporary" in the above quote is a long time indeed.

Mises, in "The Clash of Group Interests," tries to dismiss war between nations and nationalisms as senseless, at least in the long run. But he does not come to grips with the problem of national boundaries; since the essence of the nation-State is that it has a monopoly of force over a given territorial area, there is ineluctably a conflict of interest between States and their rulers over the size of their territories, the size of the areas over which their dominion is exercised.

While in the free market, each man's gain is another man's gain, one State's gain in territory is necessarily another State's loss, and so the conflicts of interest over boundaries are irreconcilable — even though they are less important the fewer the government interventions in society.

Mises's notable theory of classes has been curiously neglected by most of his followers. By bringing it back into prominence, we have to abandon the cozy view that all of us, we and our privileged rulers alike, are in a continuing harmony of interest. By amending Mises's theory to account for time preference and other problems in his "rightly understood" analysis, we conclude with the still less cozy view that the interests of the State-privileged and of the rest of society are at loggerheads — and further, that only moral principles beyond utilitarianism can ultimately settle the dispute between them.

This article is excerpted from Murray Rothbard's 1978 preface to Ludwig von Mises's The Clash of Group Interests and Other Essays.

Categories: Current Affairs

Could a fraying team be patched together?

Ministry Nuts and Bolts - Mon, 12/02/2018 - 18:25
Each person in that nightmare was a Christian, serving and sacrificing.  But somehow, that shared commitment did not become a shared commitment to each other.
Categories: Friends

End Space-Station Funding Right Now

Mises Institute - Mon, 12/02/2018 - 17:00
By: Laurence M. Vance
spacestation.PNG

Donald Trump’s possible decision to end NASA’s funding of the International Space Station by 2025 brings up that age-old question of the proper role of government, although it is certainly not he who is bringing it up.

The International Space Station (ISS) program is a joint operation between NASA and the space agencies of Russia, Japan, Canada, and eleven countries of Europe. According to NASA’s “Reference Guide to the International Space Station.”

NASA and the space agencies of Russia, Japan, Europe and Canada have hosted investigators from 83 nations to conduct over 1700 investigations in the long-term micro-gravity environment on-board the ISS. Many investigators have published their findings and others are incorporating findings into follow-on investigations on the ground and onboard. Their research in the areas of earth and space science, biology, human physiology, physical sciences, and technology demonstration will bring yet to be discovered benefits to humankind and prepare us for our journey beyond low Earth orbit.

The first of many components of the ISS was launched into orbit in November 1998. Assembly was completed in July 2011. The station has been continuously occupied by a maximum of six astronauts from various countries since November 2000.

The ISS is the largest man-made object to ever orbit the Earth. In NASA’s reference guide, it is described thus:

The ISS has a mass of 410,501 kg (905,000 lbs) and a pressurized volume of approximately 916 m3 (32,333 ft3). The ISS can generate up to 80 kilowatts of electrical power per orbit from solar arrays which cover an approximate area of 2,997 m2 (32,264 ft2). The ISS structure measures 95 m (311 ft) from the P6 to S6 trusses and 59 m (193 ft) from PMA2 to the Progress docked on the aft of the Russian Service Module. The ISS orbital altitude can range from 278-460 km (150-248 nautical miles) and is in an orbital inclination of 51.6 degrees. The ISS currently houses 6 crew members.

The ISS is so large it can be seen from Earth with the naked eye. It maintains an orbit between 205 and 270 miles above the Earth, and completes 15.5 orbits per day.

Of course, all of this comes at a price — an enormous price to U.S. taxpayers.

The ISS is the most expensive object ever built. According to a recent audit by NASA’s Office of Inspector General, “Through fiscal year (FY) 2017, NASA has spent approximately $87 billion for ISS development, operations, research, and associated Space Shuttle flights. For FY 2018, NASA’s total projected ISS budget is $3.4 billion, including roughly $318 million for research efforts.” The program’s total cost is estimated to be about $150 billion, with each day spent on-board by an ISS crewmember costing about $7.5 million.

Although Donald Trump’s fiscal year 2018 budget request is not due to be released until February 12, according to a draft budget proposal leaked by the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and reviewed by The Verge, “The Trump administration is preparing to end support for the International Space Station program by 2025.” A NASA spokesman would say only that “NASA and the International Space Station partnership is committed to full scientific and technical research on the orbiting laboratory, as it is the foundation on which we will extend human presence deeper into space,” and would not comment “on any leaked or pre-decisional documents prior to the release of the President’s FY19 budget.” Back in 2014, the Obama administration extended funding of the ISS “until at least 2024.” Many players in the commercial space industry want NASA to extend funding through 2028, the year that many consider to be the end of the ISS’s operational lifetime.

If Donald Trump decides that he wants to end NASA’s funding of the ISS, it won’t be because he opposes government space exploration or government funding of scientific research in space. He simply has other ambitions, such as wanting NASA “to send astronauts back to the Moon, as a pit stop to eventually send people to Mars.”

But why wait until 2025 to end funding of the ISS? Why not end funding now?

That a government space program has or has not resulted in valuable discoveries and inventions; created jobs; or benefited science, medicine, and engineering is not the issue. And besides, there is no real way to measure or quantify what the space program has done for society. There is a big difference between government jobs and private-sector jobs. Government funding of space exploration, research, and experiments crowds out private efforts. And the actual costs of a space program may exceed its supposed benefits.

RELATED: "Government Spending on "Innovation": The True Cost Is Higher Than You Think" by Peter Klein

Although a government space program may be popular with the majority of Americans and have wide bipartisan support in Congress, it is still neither authorized by the Constitution nor a proper function of government.

In an ideal society in which the federal government is strictly limited by the Constitution, the only possible legitimate functions of government are defense, judicial, and policing activities: keeping the peace; prosecuting, punishing, and exacting restitution from those who initiate violence against, commit fraud against, or otherwise violate the personal or property rights of others; providing a forum for dispute resolution; and constraining those who would attempt to interfere with people’s peaceful actions.

If an exception can be made for government funding of a space program because it has “benefits,” then no reasonable, logical, or rational argument can be made against government funding of anything.

Not only should government funding of the ISS be ended now, government funding and operating of the space program should also be ended now.

All space stations, bases on the Moon, missions to Mars, space exploration, space tourism, space experiments, space research, rocket launches, and space colonization should be carried out and funded by private organizations and institutions without government management, cooperation, partnerships, or funding of any kind. Americans who want astronauts to explore strange new worlds, seek out new life and new civilizations, and boldly go where no man has gone before should be the ones paying for it.

Originally published by the Future of Freedom Foundation. 



Categories: Current Affairs

Women & God: Your Thoughts and Views

The Good Book Company - Mon, 12/02/2018 - 15:19

The results are in

To coincide with the release of Women & God: Hard Questions, Beautiful Truth by Kathleen Nielson, we surveyed 1,500 women anonymously on how they feel about their role in church and family life, and their reaction to some of the Bible's teaching on equality, diversity, leadership and gender roles.

Go to www.thegoodbook.com/women-survey to see the results.

Categories: Christian Resources

The World Is Never Mundane

Blog & Mablog - Mon, 12/02/2018 - 14:53

So what am I going to be going on about in this post? There are two things, in sum. The first is a reminder for you to make sure you check out which location for the showing of The Riot and the Dance on March 19 is going to be nearest you. All you have to do is go to the website here, type in your zip code, and the nearest theaters pop right up. There are hundreds of locations for this movie nationwide, so if one of them is not actually near you then that means you are not really trying hard enough. And if one of these theaters is not near you, then you probably need to move.

What is the second point? I want to conduct a brief examination of the bones of this film. This movie is a celebration of creation, which is to say, it is a disciplined exercise of imaginative realism. With the development of high definitions cameras that are within the reach of independent film makers, it is becoming really difficult for Darwinists to maintain the charade that nineteenth century ignorance once was able to maintain. The more we learn, the more we can see, the more a Kuhnian paradigm shift tidal wave accelerates toward the beach, gathering both force and height, and it is guaranteed to take out the boardwalk of infidelity, the front row of beach houses once inhabited by Galton, Spencer, Huxley, and Darwin, not to mention all the shaved ice stands of materialist atheism. And when the tsunami has receded, the only thing left on the beach will be the detritus of overwrought and overdone metaphors, some of them mine.

Back to imaginative realism.

“Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them” (Psalm 111:2, ESV).

So what is meant by the phrase imaginative realism? What do I mean by this? First, if you take one of the cameras now available to us, and take the trouble to watch a hummingbird flying in slow motion, you start to realize something. The realism is there because the hummingbird is right there, and slowing the motion down makes you come to grips with the fact that this bird is downright . . . well, unlikely. This is nothing but God showing off.

I contrast the phrase imaginative realism with its Darwinian counterpart in scientism, which should be called something like duddy realism. Picture a drawing by an untalented descendant of Audubon, one who has had his soul sucked dry in the course of his internship, during which he had to draw nothing but dried beetles pinned to cards. He gets the number of legs right, and they generally go in the right directions. That’s about all.

We—in the grip of our confusions—think that imagination means something like coming untethered from the world as it actually is, and floating off into the cloudy realm of daydreaming. People who are imaginative, we think, are the people who are tired of dealing with the world as it actually is. But biblically speaking, the imaginative are those who actually see the world as it really is. An imaginative man is one who recognizes that God is an imaginative God. The imaginative person is not the one whose mind wanders off the point. He is the one who doesn’t wander off the point. He sees what is there, and he refuses to look away until he is truly seen it.

I said a moment ago that God was showing off with the hummingbird. But if you let the camera wander to another object in your front yard—to a centipede on a leaf, or to a roly-poly bug doing its thing, or to a caterpillar looking for the right place in your yard to turn into a butterfly—it slowly begins to dawn on you that God is showing off absolutely everywhere.

And for those who are spiritually-minded, and think that it is unseemly to describe God as “showing off,” I would urge us all not to be too high minded, as though it were a sign of pride or something. God is already God. His prodigality in this is simply showing us what kind of an overflowing God He is.

“But ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee; And the fowls of the air, and they shall tell thee: Or speak to the earth, and it shall teach thee: And the fishes of the sea shall declare unto thee. Who knoweth not in all these That the hand of the Lord hath wrought this? In whose hand is the soul of every living thing, And the breath of all mankind.” (Job 12:7–10).

And what will the beasts teach us? Among other things, they will teach us that God is frequently extravagant, outlandish, lavish, irrepressible, ridiculous, absurd, bizarre, and preposterous. In a word, God shows off. I submit for your consideration . . . the peacock’s tail, those neon green lizards, the bowerbirds with their goon show approach to mating, whales singing like distant bassoons, the feather star swimming, and bighorn rams fighting in a high meadow.

But because we have sinned and grown old, because we have drifted away into spiritual lassitude, we find the world boring. The real problem is that we are boring. We have an odd name for one of the gaudiest locations we could have been privileged to inhabit. We call this place mundane, after the Latin word for world which is mundus. And if there is one thing the world is not, it is mundane.

If I might, let me take an example from another arena in our culture wars, another place where God is being kind to us through technology. When Nancy and I were first starting our family, ultrasounds were a new thing. Not only were they a new thing, but it was sometimes hard to tell why they were a thing at all. I remember one ultrasound picture we got of one of the kids that looked to me like it was a smudged xerox copy of a bad black and white Polaroid snap of a distant galaxy. The resolution stood in need of improvement is all I am saying. But now ultrasounds can show you if the kid has his grandfather’s dimples, and this technological advance is one of the reasons why pro-lifers have the momentum they do. It is hard to stick with the party line that an unborn child is just a “cluster of cells” when you can see his grandfather’s dimples.

The debate over creation is the same kind of issue. This film has some glorious footage, and so when you are looking at one outré masterpiece after another from the God who shows off, and you are watching this in a nature documentary without someone in a BBC voice telling you some Darwinian “just so” story about how the elephant got his trunk, the effect is a profound one. The effect is religious. The effect is a celebration of creation.

The camera enables you to look straight at some of the some of the most magnificent feats of aesthetic and functional engineering ever done. And it was not done—sorry to break it to you—through millions and millions of years of trial and error, all trial, mostly error, with here and there a few lucky and fecund lottery winners. This fighter jet did not happen because of an explosion in a junk yard. You say that explosions do not provide the requisite time for such an evolutionary advance? Okay. This fighter jet did not happen because of a slow moving glacier inching through a junk yard.

Come on, people. You all have several hundred phenomena in your back yard that are more complicated than said fighter jet. Your left thumb is more complicated than that. And if you have trouble finding these extravaganzas of divine imagination, I would recommend starting with The Riot and the Dance. Actually, go to the movie after meditating on your left thumb. These things are everywhere around you. The movie starts with ordinary animals, and moves on to some exotic ones, and the effect is to help you to see that there are no ordinary animals.

They are all exotic. As the song puts it, He has the whole world in His hands, and none of it is mundane.

The post The World Is Never Mundane appeared first on Blog & Mablog.

Categories: People I don't know

Review: The Captured Economy

Adam Smith Institute - Mon, 12/02/2018 - 14:29

The Captured Economy: How the powerful enrich themselves, slow down growth, and increase inequality by Brink Lindsey and Steven M. Teles

There is a tendency on the right to confuse a defence of the status quo with a defence of free market capitalism. Left-wing concerns about a rising share of the national income flowing to the top 1% are typically dismissed. “Equality of opportunity not equality of outcome” is the canned response. The problem is that today’s distribution of wealth is not the sole result of a fair market process, rather regulations restricting competition and construction have redistributed wealth upwards.

In The Captured Economy Brink Lindsey and Steven Teles, scholars at the Niskanen Center, show how the American political system has enabled rent-seeking elites to stifle competition through regulation and subsidy. The traditional trade-off between greater equality and slower growth has broken down. Regressive regulations not only enrich the politically connected, they also contribute to wage stagnation and eliminate economic opportunities for the marginalised.

Often regressive regulations have seemingly reasonable justifications. Intellectual property incentivises creative endeavours. Occupational licensing protects consumers from quacks. Subsidies for mortgage interest promote home ownership. Green belts stop urban sprawl. But in each case, regressive regulations have been expanded in size and scope by politicians ill-equipped to resist the pleading of special interests.

There is no better example of upward redistribution than planning. Lindsey and Teles document how restrictive zoning laws have raised house prices by preventing the construction of new homes where they’re most desirable. As low-income workers spend more of their pay packets on rent, well-off homeowners benefit from ever rising house prices. Thomas Piketty found fame highlighting a dramatic increase in wealth inequality yet rather than being a natural result of market forces, Northwestern University’s Matthew Rognlie found that the rise was driven almost entirely by housing.

Not only do high housing costs eat into wages, they also create barriers to mobility. In today’s information economy workers are most productive when they’re packed together in big cities. The average worker in London can expect to earn £250 a week more than a worker in the North-East. In the past such regional inequalities would lead workers to ‘get on their bike’, but rents are so high that workers in London only end up marginally better off. Zoning locks workers out from where they are most productive: economists Enrico Moretti and Chang-Tai Hsieh reckon this effect reduced aggregate GDP by 13.5% in the US. The situation is almost certainly worse in the UK, where planning restrictions are even stricter.

The Captured Economy is not a laundry list of policy recommendations. In most cases the necessary reforms are clear. The problem is that rent-seeking elites will fight them and that unless you rent-proof politics, they will win. There is a mismatch of incentives. Take occupational licensing: you need a licence to work as a florist in Alabama. Florists earn more when they are insulated from competition, but consumers pay the price and would-be florists are stuck in worse jobs. Alabama’s florists have a massive incentive to campaign for stricter restrictions, but consumers will only gain marginally from cheaper flower arrangements. As a result, such laws remain unreformed.

Rent seeking will need to be tackled from multiple angles. We will need to end the kludgeocracy that prefers off-balance sheet regulatory solutions to transparent cash payments (see Help to Buy). We should move decision-making to more favourable terrain – city mayors have less of an incentive than local planning committees to reject new development.

Lindsey and Teles’ hope for a liberaltarian movement uniting free-marketeers and social democrats seems unlikely in the UK where Corbyn’s Labour rules out the hope of any pro-market consensus. But The Captured Economy is necessary reading for the Conservatives. Recent attempts at Tory renewal implicitly concede Corbyn is right that free market capitalism isn’t working, proposing toned down versions of Corbynism. To counter Corbyn’s anti-capitalism, the Tories need to tackle the regulations that redistribute upwards. It won’t be easy, but it is necessary.

Categories: Current Affairs

Alt-python27-cllib updated

CloudLinux - Mon, 12/02/2018 - 14:16

A new updated alt-python27-cllib package is now available for download from our production repository.

alt-python27-cllib-1.2-82.3

Release notes:

  • Fixed memory leak during StatsNotifier plugin (LVE-Stats 2 service) work on Plesk.

Changelog:

  • LVES-873: fixed memory leak on Plesk.

To install run:

yum install alt-python27-cllib

To update run:

yum update alt-python27-cllib

To downgrade:

yum downgrade alt-python27-cllib
Categories: Technology

CageFS updated

CloudLinux - Mon, 12/02/2018 - 14:02

A new updated CageFS version 6.1-12 package is now available for download from our production repository.

Changelog:

  • CAG-788: added /usr/local/bin/ea-php* to CageFS;
  • CAG-755: Plesk FPM Pools now start after system reboot.

To update run:

yum update cagefs
Categories: Technology

Yes, Tax Cuts Really Are The Reason for Your Raise

Mises Institute - Mon, 12/02/2018 - 12:00
By: Nathan Keeble
wages.PNG

Since Trump’s reduction of the corporate tax to 21%, workers across the country have been rejoicing. Companies like Wal-Mart, Apple, Bank of America, and many more have announced firm wide bonuses and minimum wage raises. To most, the tax cuts appear to be a clear success. However, some commentators, such as Dr. Veronique de Rugy at Reason, are saying not so fast.

Dr. de Rugy claims that these announcements are not in line with economic theory. For wages to be affected by tax cuts takes an extended period of time. The newly freed revenue must be accumulated and invested into new capital equipment which boosts worker productivity and, consequently, their wages. Quite simply, Dr. de Rugy suggests that the tax cuts simply have not been in place long enough to be held directly responsible for these announcements, and she even ponders if they are nothing more than PR moves.

In truth, these bonuses and raises are perfectly in line with what economic theory predicts.

How Wages Are Determined

Wages are equivalent to the expected increase in revenue an individual’s labor generates for the business, or, equivalently, the amount which is expected to be lost if his or her labor went unemployed.

For example, imagine a restaurant employs 5 cooks who are capable of serving C number of customers per hour, earning E dollars in revenue. One cook wins the lottery and retires to the Bahamas, and now the restaurant is only capable of serving C-L customers, and consequently only earns X in revenue. Clearly, entrepreneurs will only be willing to pay the difference between E and X, a number which will be called W, to employ a fifth cook. W is what economists refer to as the marginal revenue product, and, thanks to competition in the labor market, wages tend towards this number in a free market, less a discount for time preference.

To see how taxation effects wages, imagine if every time the restaurant owner goes to deposit his firm’s earnings an armed robber stole 35% of the firm’s net income. Disregarding momentarily what that thief does with his loot, whether he builds roads or funds a study of cocaine’s effects on the promiscuity of Japanese quail, the moment the robbery occurs, the restaurant is making less money than before. It immediately renders the firm less efficient, and the money to be imputed back to the factors of production, including workers, is immediately smaller.1 Put another way: the revenue the firm can keep has now gone down, meaning revenue per employee goes down. This pushes wages down, even though, in a free market, the firm would have been willing to pay employees more. 

After some time, a new, more “charitable” thief replaces the former and decides to only steal 21% of the restaurant’s net income. Part of the cost of the crime has been reduced, and this will have the same effect as a reduction in any other cost. While wages won’t return to their levels before the robberies began, they will rise, because the worker’s labor has become more productive the moment the reduction in theft occurs. Moreover, the firms expectations of revenue will rise, potentially leading to higher wages. 

If one replaces the word theft with tax, and the restaurant with corporate America, one can see clearly that the rise in wages is clearly in line with standard economic analysis. While it is true that a reduction in corporate taxes will enable greater investment in capital goods, this phenomena is separate from the one that is primarily at work presently. Reducing the burden of government on the private sector has both immediate and long run benefits for workers and capitalists alike, and Trump’s tax reform is evidence of this.

Tax Cuts are Good, But We Need Spending Cuts Too

More action is needed for the benefits of this reform to stick. So long as there is deficit spending enabled by money printing at a central bank, government spending must also be reduced to lessen the effects of the inflation tax.

Returning to our example, imagine the thief does not desire to reduce his expenditures below his current levels despite stealing less. Indeed, our thief has developed the ability to perfectly counterfeit his local economy’s currency, deceiving everyone who receives it. The tangible effects will be similar to his blatant theft. The price of goods will rise in such away as to nullify nominal increases in wages, but not before real tangible wealth has been transferred to the thief and the first receivers of the new money respectively.

Alternatively, perhaps if the thief fears the community catching on to his counterfeiting scheme, he could seek to borrow the money from the community’s financiers. The financiers would be happy to oblige, because he can clearly demonstrate that he has a large and incomparably reliable source of income. In this case, the thief would be able to maintain his current expenditure levels, but at the expense of growth within the economy. Sooner or later, the thief’s debt must come due, and to meet it without a drop in his expenditures, his only recourse will be to either steal a greater amount of money from the restaurant or turn on his printing press.

The lesson is clear. If Congress and the Trump administration wish to see the welfare of the American people rise in a permanent fashion, they should follow their tax cuts with cuts in spending.



  • 1. A situation is conceivable in which the demand for the restaurant’s food is such that it’s customers are willing to pay enough to cover the costs of the robbery, but this scenario would only mean that demand for other goods must fall accordingly, with the corresponding fall in factor values.

Categories: Current Affairs

The Purpose of Proverbs

Peter Leithart - Mon, 12/02/2018 - 11:00
INTRODUCTION This passage is part of the opening preamble and prologue of Proverbs (Waltke’s terms). It divides neatly into two sections: The first, verses 1-7, describe the purpose of the Proverbs as a whole, and function as an introduction to the entire book; verses 8-19 are an opening “lecture” from a father to his son. […]
Categories: People I don't know

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