Archive for April, 2012
Dave Killion — April 30, 2012
Having recently removed our heads from the intellectual vice that is “Contemporary Political Philosophy“, the Victoria Libertarian Book Club is very excited to start our next selection. On Thursday we are meeting to discuss the first part of Nassim Taleb’s “The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable” -
“A black swan is an event, positive or negative, that is deemed improbable yet causes massive consequences. In this groundbreaking and prophetic book, Taleb shows in a playful way that Black Swan events explain almost everything about our world, and yet we—especially the experts—are blind to them.”
I think I speak for the whole club when I say that we welcome a ‘playful’ book. As always, I encourage you to get a copy and follow along. Your comments will be warmly welcomed either here on the blog, or on our Facebook page. If you’d like to take part but lack either the time or inclination to take on a book, you can always visit the Econtalk archives to listen to two podcast interviews. The first is from 2007, when the book first came out, and the second is from 2010, after the release of the second edition. Join the fun!
Antony Zegers — April 29, 2012
Over the last month, I have been doing a bit of research and data collection, in my spare time, for Robert Wenzel of Economic Policy Journal. The work was to help him prepare for a speech that he gave at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York last Wednesday. Robert Wenzel is a good Austrian economist, and he really tore into the failure of Fed policies with no holds barred. It’s amazing the speech even happened, Bob’s account of the circumstances can be found here.
The boldness of the speech has created quite a sensation at places like LewRockwell.com and Zero Hedge, and Robert will be publishing it in booklet form. Check out the full speech here.
Dave Killion — April 29, 2012
Further to yesterday’s post, let’s consider Jody Paterson’s evaluation of private charity and mutual aid in Honduras -
“The theory behind a Big Society – popular with the B.C. and Canadian governments as well – is that when governments withdraw social supports, communities step up to close the gap. Volunteerism increases. Citizens draw closer to their neighbours as each takes more responsibility for helping the other. Everybody lives happily ever after, and pays fewer taxes to boot.
So let’s consider the example of Honduras, then. It’s a Big Society if ever there was one, seeing as government does almost nothing and communities really are on their own. An outsider might presume a deeply ingrained culture of neighbourly support in a country like this.
But what the absence of social supports has actually created is a culture of survival. People are so used to living with the fear that the bottom could drop out of their lives at any moment - because it so often does – that all their energies go to taking care of their own. From what I’ve seen, Honduran families watch out for their family members in all kinds of ways, but anything outside of the family is somebody else’s problem.”
Because Jody thinks Honduras has a free market, she thinks that what she sees is the Big Society you get with a free market. But being wrong about the former means she is wrong about the latter. A Big Society isn’t simply one in which the needs of the less-well-off are attended to privately, it is one in which the actions of free people also serve to increase wealth and ceaselessly reduce the number of people who are impoverished. The Big Society you get with a free market is one in which the vast majority are well off, and have sufficient resources to aid those who are genuinely in need. And since it is a manifestation of voluntary co-operation between consenting people, it is most certainly morally superior to steal-from-the-rich redistributionism.
Dave Killion — April 28, 2012
A metaphor for the manner and degree to which the Honduran government intervenes in the national economy.
Writer Jody Paterson, formerly of Victoria, recently packed up her life and moved to Honduras, where she is doing volunteer work for Cuso International. She continues to blog, and a recent post contains enough errors that it will take a few posts to address them all. Let’s begin at the beginning -
“We were commiserating over breakfast yesterday with the owner of the little hotel in Tegucigalpa where we stay when on Cuso International business. He described Honduras as a capitalist country without the balance of a social structure, which struck me as a near-perfect description of the place.
Honduras is the real-life embodiment of the kind of governance that conservative political forces in Canada, the U.S. and Great Britain think they want for their own countries. It has a free-market economy with very little government interference, a political structure built around the needs of business and the upper-class, and a distinct absence of social supports.”
This particular hotel owner appears to be a poor source of high-quality economic analysis. According to the 2012 edition of the “Index of Economic Freedom“, Honduras is ranked 98th in the world. In case you are wondering, this is not good. Not only is the Honduran economy labeled Mostly Unfree, but it is also below both the world AND regional averages for economic freedom -
“… completing licensing requirements remains costly. Labor regulations are burdensome and outmoded. A large part of the labor force relies on the informal sector for employment. The government continues to regulate the prices of key products and services.”
Expensive licensing requirements, burdensome labour regulation, and price controls are hallmarks of economic policies designed to manipulate economies so as to maintain or increase state power by favouring special interests. Although it is all too common for critics of free enterprise and limited government to blame troubles on those institutions, we can see quite clearly that that is not the situation in this case. Hondurans may have many things, but of free markets and limited governments they have none.