Thursday, August 23, 2012

(non)News Flash!

A headline from the Washington Post:

“A majority of Americans would rather see higher taxes on the wealthy before cuts are made to public services such as food safety and border security, according to a survey released Monday by a major federal employee union.”

This is news?

Written another way, “A majority of Americans, most of whom pay little or any federal income tax, would rather see higher taxes on people other than themselves before cuts are made to public services such as food safety and border security, according to a survey released Monday by a major employer of those Americans who would directly benefit (in the form of more jobs) from higher taxes on people other than themselves.

Written even more simply, “Group A would rather see taxes raised on group B enabling group C to provide services to group A using group B’s money.”

Sometimes news isn’t news.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

From Seoul, South Korea

Greetings from Seoul, South Korea!  I’ve been in country now for about one month, and have fully (finally!) acclimated to the time difference.  Adjusting to 13 hours ahead was very difficult for some reason.  Unfortunately, I will have to visit the states from time to time, and I dread it for that reason.  Ugh.  Nevertheless, we are enjoying and adjusting to our new home.   

Seoul is a sprawling mega city. Counting all the adjoining neighborhoods, the population of Seoul is somewhere north of 20+ million. It’s an endless plain of high rises, apartments, office buildings, shops and stores. If there are 20 million Seoulites, then there are 21 million Korean restaurants. I’ve never seen so many (Korean) eateries situated in such a densely populated area. Although I’m not 100% certain, it appears restaurants and eateries don’t require American style licenses or permits to operate. I’ll talk more about that, and the Korean mentality on “personal safety and responsibility” later. Needless to say, one shouldn’t go hungry living in Seoul – provided you like Korean!

We have transitioned from the hotel to our apartment, which is situated near the financial district of Seoul. Our stay at the hotel, by the way, was a magnificent experience.  We stayed at the JW Marriott near the Han River.  The service extended to us was unlike anything we’ve ever experienced anywhere.  We were truly sad to leave.  But all good things must come to an end.

As I mentioned, our apartment sits in downtown Seoul very near the financial district.  We live on the 26th floor and enjoy an awesome view of Seoul Tower (on Mt. Namsam) and the downtown area. We are high enough that the city sounds are very muted, but low enough to still make out street level businesses. This is my first high rise living, and the views from up here make the city seem quiet and sleepy. Nothing could be further from reality.  Seoul never sleeps, or so it seems.

I plan to blog about my experiences here and places we visit during trips abroad.  My first such blog will cover driving in Seoul.  Navigating the streets of Seoul is shear madness, but out of the chaos emerges order.

So, welcome to the Land of the Morning Calm!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

In Defense of Mr. Libertarian

No, not Milton Friedman. Murray Rothbard! There is an anti-Rothbard cult which I simply don't understand. There's also, of course, a pro-Rothbard cult. Both are wrong, although the pro-Rothbard cult is much less wrong than the anti-Rothbard cult. I just think there is danger is 'cults of personality.' I never met Murray Rothbard. Would that I had! But he died in my freshman year of university, and I'm Canadian where the spirit of liberty is much less developed. So I didn't even hear of Rothbard until 2005/2006 when I heard Peter Schiff talking about real estate bubbles and I started digging into Austrian economics thereafter.

I read Man, Economy and State and found it to be a very good economics textbook. It is Austrian because of the methods employed (verbal logical as opposed to symbolic) but not because of the conclusions. Most conclusions are not that different from neoclassical economics. What is different is the deep attention paid to production. No school outside of the Austrian school takes the structure of production & capital as seriously. It's an important defining characteristic.

Moving on, I've read a few other books by Rothbard. The man is a virtuoso of the English language, which makes his incredible volume of writing all the more impressive. Plus - typewriter! No word processors in the '60s. It will take me longer to read his contributions than it took him to write them.

His "For a New Liberty" is an excellent vision of what a libertarian society would look like and how it would operate. He tackles all the hardest issues, like private policing and courts. You can argue with the points he makes, but he has some very good arguments.

"History of Money and Banking in the United States: The Colonial Era to World War II" is an excellent history book. Not filled with simplistic aggregates of money and so forth, this is a nitty-gritty tale of the people and events involved in shaping the current monstrosity that is the U.S. bank system. You could make a mini-series out of this book. Ever wonder why the Wall Street guys love the Fed? This book contains the answer.

Currently, I'm reading "Classical Economics: An Austrian Perspective on the History of Economic Thought" which is post-Adam Smith to early 20th century. Some excellent work here too, as Rothbard gets deeply into the economic controversies that motivated all the writers he reviews. This helps the reader understand the contributions of each economist and how they advanced the science. Reading this type of book also shows how many old arguments keep coming up. I think all students of economics (formal and informal) should know their history, and this book and its predecessor "Economic Thought Before Adam Smith" are excellent places to start. And stop if you haven't much time.

Finally, I was motivated to write this post by the excellent Tom Woods, who illustrates Murray Rothbard's character and contributions in this moving presentation: