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  • Author: Richard M. Salsman
  • Publication Date: 04-2015
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: Thomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century makes an important contribution to the economic history of industrialization since the early 18th century. His collection of data on the distribution of income and wealth around the globe, drawn mainly from tax records, surveys, and national reports, is rigorous and comprehensive; no one before has collected such credible material in this important sub-field of economics. Piketty is also to be credited for presenting the data in scores of easy-to-interpret graphs and for making it available online for those wishing to verify the presentation and/or investigate alternative empirical patterns.
  • Topic: Economics
  • Author: Richard M. Salsman
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: Free Market Economics: An Introduction for the General Reader, by Steven Kates. Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar Publishing, 2011. 352 pp. $50 (paperback). Not since 1924 has there been a comprehensive yet readable book on economics aimed at the ordinary but intelligent citizen that defends and incorporates the field's foundational principle, Say's Law (named after Jean-Baptiste Say, 1767–1832) and its main corollaries: the primacy of production, the entrepreneur as prime mover, and prices as the commercial language that coordinates economies and their subsectors. Now we have such a book: Free Market Economics: An Introduction for the General Reader by Australian business economist Steven Kates. His prior books examined the prevalence of Say's Law among top economists during the pro-capitalist 19th century and its abandonment by most economists in the anti-capitalist 20th century. The handful of texts on economic principles since the 1920s that recognize the superiority of a free economy have been too technical, narrowly devoted to refuting economic fallacies, or tainted by dubious philosophy. This book avoids such flaws. Kates accomplishes what was last achieved by Oxford professor Henry Clay (1883–1945) in Economics: An Introduction for the General Reader (1924). Better still, Kates's book offers a modern, more sophisticated, more pro-capitalist treatment than did Clay's book, and it provides the ideas people need to grasp and refute the disastrous dogmas and policies of Keynesianism. At the core of this book is Say's Law, the principle that supply constitutes demand, that one cannot demand (or purchase) anything in any market without first producing an economic value for offer (or, in a monetary economy, without first earning spendable income by producing value). This principle recognizes that markets are made by the producers and that the most economically important producer of all is the entrepreneur, who specializes in soliciting and coordinating the other main factors of production: land (including raw materials), labor, capital, and financing. Say's Law condenses the truth that material prosperity is attained not by consuming (using up) wealth, but by saving, investing, and producing wealth. Unlike most textbooks today, Kates's says economics should explain wealth creation, or “net added value,” not how we ration “scarce resources.” Keynesianism, Kates explains, explicitly rejects Say's Law and asserts that a free market is prone to “failures” and crises, to excessive production, deficient consumption, and depressions; it further insists that government deficit spending, money printing, and near-zero interest rates can fix said market failures. Keynesian policies assume, contra Say's Law, that there can be an aggregate, economy-wide excess of abundance, or deficiency of aggregate demand. Say's Law holds that aggregate supply and aggregate demand are the same thing viewed from different perspectives and thus cannot be unequal; recessions entail reduced production and typically (but not always) are caused by government policies that are antithetical to production and profits. In contrast to Keynesianism, Say's Law, properly understood, tells economists (and citizens) to reject the contradictory claim that a contracting economy reflects an overexpanding economy, that somehow poverty is caused by prosperity, and it recommends the rejection or removal of any policies that impede or depress the incentive or capacity of entrepreneurs to create wealth or employ other factors of production. According to Kates, Say's Law “is the essence of market-based economics”; and “without the clarity that [it] brings, economic theory has lost its moorings and the irreplaceable value of leaving things to the market in directing economic activity cannot be understood” (p. 6). Yet, the classical, Say-based theory of the business cycle and public policy “has the ability to penetrate the darkness left by Keynesian theory in understanding the causes of recessions and the steps that are needed to bring recovery about” (p. 7). . . .
  • Topic: Economics, Government, Law
  • Political Geography: Australia
  • Author: Craig Biddle
  • Publication Date: 08-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: Welcome to the Fall 2014 issue of The Objective Standard.
  • Topic: Economics, Education
  • Author: Ari Armstrong
  • Publication Date: 03-2013
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: If you want to learn the theories and history of economists who champion government controls of the economy-and of economists who criticize such intervention-Randy T. Simmons's Beyond Politics: The Roots of Government Failure is a fantastic resource.
  • Topic: Economics, Government, Politics
  • Author: Craig Biddle
  • Publication Date: 03-2013
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: Welcome to the Spring 2013 issue of The Objective Standard.
  • Topic: Economics, Government, Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Michael Dahlen (reviewer)
  • Publication Date: 10-2013
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: From 2006 to 2007, Peter Schiff, CEO of Euro Pacific Capital, was one of few people warning that the U.S. economy was fundamentally unsound and that real estate was grossly overpriced. In his first book, Crash Proof: How to Profit From the Coming Economic Collapse (2007), he predicted that the economy, the housing market, and the stock market would fall apart. He also voiced these predictions on several cable news shows, yet few people heeded his warnings. Some hosts and other guests even mocked and ridiculed him. But Schiff was right. In his recent book, The Real Crash: America's Coming Bankruptcy-How to Save Yourself and Your Country, Schiff says that the worst is yet to come and that the 2008-2009 economic crisis was merely a "tremor before the earthquake." Schiff argues that the main culprit of our economic instability is America's central bank: the Federal Reserve. Through its control of the money supply and the effect this has on interest rates, the Fed artificially inflates the prices of various asset classes, creating so-called "bubbles," and when those prices inevitably collapse, the Fed then inflates the prices of other asset classes. "Throughout the 1990s," Schiff observes, "we had the stock bubble and the dot-com bubble. The Fed replaced that with the housing bubble and the credit bubble. Now, the Fed and the administration are replacing those bubbles with the government bubble" (p. 20). By "government bubble," Schiff is referring to the U.S. dollar and Treasury bonds. When asset prices collapse and recessions ensue, Schiff notes, the Fed-via bailouts and low interest rates-props up insolvent banks and other companies (while also helping to finance government debt). It has taken these actions allegedly to minimize the short-term pain of recessions, but in doing so, the Fed has prevented the economy from correcting itself, making it increasingly unsound. "If you keep replacing one bubble with another, you eventually run out of suds. The government bubble is the final bubble" (p. 23). If the Fed keeps interest rates artificially low and if the government keeps running massive budget deficits, the day will come, Schiff argues, "when the rest of the world stops trusting America's currency and our credit. Then we'll get the real crash" (p. 1). In his introduction to the book, Schiff explains that he is taking a different approach here than he took in his previous books: "[T]his time I have decided that rather than simply predicting doom, I would lay out a comprehensive set of solutions. That's why I wrote this book" (p. 2). After diagnosing our economic problems, Schiff explains how we can fix them. . . .
  • Topic: Economics, Government
  • Political Geography: America
  • Author: Richard Salsman
  • Publication Date: 03-2012
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: Despite its many errors, contemporary academic economics has improved considerably in recent decades, especially after the Keynesian detour of interventionism from the 1930s to the 1970s. There is a lagged influence between academic economics and public policy, but increasingly since the 1970s academic economists have recognized that free markets work, that “market failure” reflects poorly defined and ill-protected property rights, and that boom-bust cycles and sapped prosperity are consequences of bad public policies.
  • Topic: Economics
  • Political Geography: Israel
  • Author: Craig Biddle
  • Publication Date: 06-2012
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: Because of its seemingly prophetic nature with respect to current events, Ayn Rand's 1957 novel Atlas Shrugged is receiving more attention today and selling at greater volume today than it did when it was first published fifty-five years ago. That's a good thing, because the ideas set forth in Atlas are crucial to personal happiness, social harmony, and political freedom.
  • Topic: Economics
  • Political Geography: America
  • Author: Ari Armstrong
  • Publication Date: 12-2012
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: Stop letting the enemies of capitalism claim the moral high ground. There is nothing noble about altruism, nothing inspiring about the initiation of force, nothing moral about Big Government, nothing compassionate about sacrificing the individual to the collective. Don't be afraid to dismiss those ideas as vicious, unjust attacks on the pursuit of happiness, and self-confidently assert that there is no value higher than the individual's pursuit of his own well-being.
  • Topic: Economics, Government
  • Political Geography: America
  • Publication Date: 12-2012
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: I was disappointed by Richard Salsman's review of Northrup Buechner's Objective Economics [TOS, Spring 2012]. It was not so much a review as it was a putdown of Dr. Buechner and his knowledge of economics, its history, and accepted laws. (By the way, there is no law of supply and demand as such in economics.) The list of things Dr. Buechner is criticized for doing, or not doing, seemed to go on endlessly.
  • Topic: Economics
  • Author: Michael A. LaFerrara
  • Publication Date: 03-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: More and more Americans are coming to recognize the superiority of private schools over government-run or “public” schools. Accordingly, many Americans are looking for ways to transform our government-laden education system into a thriving free market. As the laws of economics dictate, and as the better economists have demonstrated, under a free market the quality of education would soar, the range of options would expand, competition would abound, and prices would plummet. The question is: How do we get there from here? Andrew Bernstein offered one possibility in “The Educational Bonanza in Privatizing Government Schools” (TOS, Winter 2010-11): Sell government schools to the highest bidders, who would take them over following a transitional period to “enable government-dependent families to adjust to the free market.” This approach has the virtues of simplicity and speed, but also the complication of requiring widespread recognition of the propriety of a fully private educational system—a recognition that may not exist in America for quite some time.
  • Topic: Economics, Education, Government
  • Political Geography: America
  • Author: Craig Biddle
  • Publication Date: 03-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: Craig Biddle: Thank you for joining me today, Harmon. I'm very excited about the Atlas Shrugged movie, and I know that TOS readers want to hear all about it. Harmon Kaslow: It's my pleasure. CB: How and when did you get involved in making this movie? HK: I got involved in April 2010 after being contacted by John Aglialoro, my coproducer. At that point, a movie had to be made quickly or John would lose the rights to it. So he contacted me to see if I might be able to help him put together a lower-budget version in short order. CB: As coproducers, what have been John's and your respective roles in the movie? HK: John's role was to keep the movie faithful to the book. Mine was to get the movie into production before June 15. John has probably read Atlas more than a dozen times, and during the process of writing the screenplay and getting the film into production, he was constantly rereading chapters, mulling over the elements of the story, and working to ensure that the production remained true to Rand's ideas. My job was to work with John to make the movie happen, to get all the pieces together so that we could say “action” and make certain the film was completed. CB: Atlas Shrugged is a 54-year-old story. Why do you think it matters today? HK: For starters, many events from the story parallel real-life events today. For instance, whereas in the story the government passes business-thwarting laws such as the “Anti-Dog-Eat-Dog Rule” and the “Equalization of Opportunity Bill,” in real life today the government is passing laws such as the “Emergency Economic Stabilization Act” and the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.” But more fundamentally, the story matters because it dramatizes timeless philosophic truths about human nature, the role of reason in human life, the morality of rational self-interest versus predation or “greed,” the role of the government and of the citizen, and man's need of political and economic freedom. These truths will always matter. . . .
  • Topic: Economics, Government
  • Author: Richard M Salsman
  • Publication Date: 03-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: Economics is widely regarded today as dry, lifeless, boring. But given what economics properly studies, this should not be the case. Economics studies the production and exchange of material values in a division of labor society. We live in a material world; we produce material values in order to live and prosper; and we exchange these values for those produced by others in order to live even better lives. In other words, economics studies one of the major means by which people live and achieve happiness. Why, then, do so many people regard this science as boring? And what could remedy the situation? The answers may be gleaned by comparing two books, each of which has sold millions of copies over the past five decades: Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged (1957) and Paul Samuelson's Economics (1948). The first is a story about the role of reason in man's life and about what happens to an economy when the men of the mind go on strike. The second is the quintessential economics text of the 20th and 21st centuries, and is generally assigned reading for beginning students in the field.1 Although Atlas is a work of fiction, and although Rand was not an economist, her novel is replete with economic truths. Conversely, although Economics is a work of nonfiction, and although Samuelson was a Nobel-winning economist, his book is full of economic falsehoods. And whereas the truths in Atlas are dramatized with passion and excitement, the falsehoods in Economics are conveyed by way of lifeless, boring prose.2 Lest one assume that the reason Atlas is more exciting than Economics is merely a matter of the different mediums, one being fiction and the other nonfiction, observe that Rand's nonfiction—and much other nonfiction—is hands-down more exciting than many works of fiction (ever read The Catcher in the Rye?). Nor is people's boredom with economics due to Samuelson's book per se. But his text and those influenced by it, which represent the modern approach to the subject, have largely contributed to the way economics is taught and viewed today. To see the difference between the modern approach to economics and that dramatized in Atlas, let us consider the essence of each with respect to six key areas: the source of wealth, the role of the businessman, the nature of profit, the essence of competition, the result of production, and the purpose of money. The Source of Wealth Samuelson and company contend that wealth results essentially from labor applied to raw materials (or “natural resources”)—and by “labor” they mean physical or manual labor, not mental labor. The general idea is that the economic value of a good or service reflects the physical labor that went into making it. This is known as the “labor theory of value,” and it was originally advanced by classical economists including Adam Smith, David Ricardo, and Karl Marx.3 This theory is widely accepted today, especially by the Left. In the late 19th century, however, some free-market economists, trying to counter the growing Marxist charge that labor was being robbed by greedy capitalists, amended the theory to say that “consumer desires” also determine value, jointly with labor. This approach—dubbed “neoclassical economics”—is now largely accepted and is the prevalent view in today's textbooks. Ayn Rand, in contrast, holds that the mind—human thinking and the resulting intelligence—is the primary source of wealth. The mind, she says, directs not only physical labor but also the organization of production; “natural resources” are merely potential wealth, not actual wealth; and consumer desires are not causes of wealth but results of it. Each great producer in Atlas—Hank Rearden, Dagny Taggart, Francisco D'Anconia, Ellis Wyatt, Ken Danagger, Midas Mulligan, or John Galt—is dedicated first and foremost to using his mind. Each thinks, plans long-range, and produces goods or services thereby. Atlas dramatizes this principle in many ways, but perhaps most vividly through the work of Rearden. In one scene he is in his steel mill looking on as the first heat of the first order of his revolutionary new metal is poured. He reflects back on the ten long years of thought and effort it took him to get to this point. He had purchased a bankrupt mill even as experts dismissed the venture and industry as hopeless. Rearden has breathed life back into both. Rand writes that “his was a lifetime lived on the axiom that the constant, clearest most ruthless function of his rational faculty was his foremost duty” (p. 122). Here is an indication of the production process in his mill: “Two hundred tons of metal which was to be harder than steel, running liquid at a temperature of four thousand degrees, had the power to annihilate every wall of the structure and every one of the men who worked by the stream. But every inch of its course, every pound of its pressure and the content of every molecule within it, were controlled and made by a conscious intention that had worked upon it for ten years” (p. 34). Rand shows that Rearden's mind is the source of this wealth, and that labor and materials had stood idle until his mind showed up for work. Others in Atlas voice the textbook view of the entrepreneur. Rearden's wife dismisses his achievements: “Intellectual pursuits are not learned in the marketplace,” she scowls; “it's easier to pour a ton of steel than it is to make friends” (p. 138). A hobo in a diner accosts Dagny Taggart with a similar attitude: “Man is just a low-grade animal, without intellect,” he growls; “[his] only talent is an ignoble cunning for satisfying the needs of his body. No intelligence is required for that. . . . [W]itness our great industries—the only accomplishments of our alleged civilization—built by vulgar materialists with the aims, the interests and the moral sense of hogs” (p. 168). Perhaps an economist might recognize the nature of Rearden's achievement? As the metal is poured a train passes by the mills, and inside, a professor of economics asks a companion, “Of what importance is an individual in the titanic collective achievements of our industrial age?” (p. 33). The “importance” is happening just outside his window, but he doesn't see it, conceptually speaking. Nor do others. “The passengers paid no attention; one more heat of steel being poured was not an event they had been taught to notice” (p. 33). Professors such as this one had taught them not to notice. Such scenes illustrate how intelligence creates wealth, how business success entails a long-range process of thought and planning carried out by a focused individual—and how little this is understood. Yet Dagny understands—as is evident in the scene where she takes her first run on the John Galt Line, traveling on a track and over a bridge made of that as-yet untried Rearden Metal, at unprecedented speeds. . . .
  • Topic: Economics
  • Author: Craig Biddle
  • Publication Date: 03-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: It's here. Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged finally has come to the silver screen, and in this special, Atlas-themed issue of TOS—which begins our sixth year of publication—we have details on the movie and a whole lot more. As you may have noticed, we have lost our tombstone-like academic look and gained a full-color graphic cover to match the verve you have come to expect from the journal. The artwork on the present cover depicts a scene in the movie from the first run of the John Galt Line. A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Harmon Kaslow, coproducer (with John Aglialoro) of Atlas Shrugged: Part I, to discuss the film, how it came together, choice of screenwriter and director, casting, score, and distribution. Dovetailing with this interview are Chris Wolski's concise history of the efforts to adapt Atlas for the screen and his review of the film (he attended a prescreening in February).
  • Topic: Economics, History
  • Publication Date: 06-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: No abstract is available.
  • Topic: Economics, Education
  • Political Geography: New York
  • Author: John David Lewis
  • Publication Date: 09-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: Examines the essence of this approach and what it's delivered so far.
  • Topic: Economics
  • Political Geography: America
  • Author: Richard M. Salsman
  • Publication Date: 09-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: As an economic historian sympathetic to free markets, McCloskey knows well that for centuries intellectuals have disdained the moneymaking orientation and commercial ethic of capitalism—and to her credit, she disdains this disdain. Capitalism deserves respect, she argues, for it “has not corrupted our souls” but instead “has improved them” (p. 23). McCloskey seeks to defend capitalism, not mainly by recounting what she acknowledges is its indisputable productive prowess, but by patiently explicating what she considers to be the “bourgeois virtues.” Yet her goal is polemical: to refute leftists who today persist in despising capitalism. She is concerned that her critics will find her case defensive, and justifiably, because McCloskey herself accepts certain anticapitalist premises, even summarizing the theme of her book as “an apology for our bourgeois lives” (p. 56). Yet, why would a political-economic system require an “apology” unless it was presumed guilty? Instead, why would it not be positively and resolutely heralded as a moral ideal? Despite McCloskey's view of the bourgeois life as virtuous, she insists that certain of its crucial motivating elements are decidedly un-Christian, hence suspect. Her hodgepodge of virtues makes for her less-than-emphatic case. McCloskey begins her book by recognizing how both Kantian and utilitarian ethics have been unfriendly (if not hostile) to laissez-faire capitalism, the former by requiring man to subordinate his personal pursuit of happiness to self-sacrificial duty, the latter by condoning hedonism while dismissing man's individual rights. For capitalism to survive and flourish, she contends, the ethics of commercialism must be defended. McCloskey attempts this by drawing on the “virtue ethics” arguments developed in academic philosophic circles since the late-1950s, which seek modernized versions of a more secular Greco-Roman ethics. While much can be said for McCloskey's use of “virtue ethics,” her approach does not ground morality in human nature. McCloskey divides an otherwise rambling and wide-ranging discourse of what she calls the seven main virtues into three main sections (pp. 91–302): the “Christian and Feminine Virtues” (faith, hope, and love), the “Pagan and Masculine Virtues” (courage and temperance), and the “Androgynous Virtues” (prudence and justice). The Christian and feminine virtues she also calls “theological” (p. 152) and pertinent to “the transcendent” and “sacred” (p. 304), while the pagan virtues are said to relate to “the self” and the “profane” (p. 304). Despite lengthy and digressive discussions of these seven virtues, McCloskey does not make clear why they are central to a moral case for capitalism, or why some are derivable from one gender versus another. . . .
  • Topic: Economics
  • Author: Ari Armstrong, Diana Hsieh
  • Publication Date: 12-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: Surveys the expanding efforts to outlaw abortion in America, examines the facts that give rise to a woman's right to abortion, and shows why the assault on this right is an assault on all our rights
  • Topic: Economics, Government
  • Political Geography: America
  • Author: Michael |A. LaFerrara
  • Publication Date: 12-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: New York: Crown Forum, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc. 247 pp. $24.99 (hardcover). Reviewed by Michael A. LaFerrara While working on the 2004 Bush-Cheney reelection campaign team, Fox News contributor Margaret Hoover came to a stark realization: On gay rights, reproductive freedom, immigration, and environmentalism, the Republican party “was falling seriously out of step with a rising generation of Americans . . . the 'millennials'” (pp. ix, x). “[B]orn roughly between the years 1980 and 1999 [and] 50 million strong,” this rising new voter block, says Hoover, has “yet to solidly commit to a political party” and thus could hold the key to the GOP's electoral future (p. xi). Hoover looks back for comparison to 1980, when Ronald Reagan fused a coalition of diverse conservative “tribes” around a central theme: anticommunism (p. 25). If the millennials, who “demonstrate decidedly conservative tendencies” (p. xii), could be united with today's conservatives under “a new kind of fusionism” (p. 41), the Republican party would be on its way to majority status, she holds. Hoover sees differences among conservatives and divides the “organized modern conservative coalition in America” (p. 28) into three main categories: economic libertarians and fiscal conservatives led by three “leading lights” who “were . . . not populists [nor] self-described conservatives,” but “thinkers”—Friedrich von Hayek, Milton Friedman, and Ayn Rand. social conservatives, traditionalists, and the “Religious Right” led early on by Russell Kirk, Richard Weaver, and Robert Novak, and later by Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, James Dobson, and Phyllis Schlafly. anticommunists and paleocons led by Whittaker Chambers, John Chamberlain, James Burnham, and Pat Buchanan. According to Hoover, these three factions have formed the core of the movement that began with the publication of the National Review in November 1955 (p. 28) and have since been joined by neocons (p. 35), Rush Limbaugh's “Dittoheads,” Sarah Palin's “Mama Grizzlies,” the Tea Party uprising (pp. 36–37), and the “Crunchy Cons” and “enviro-cons” (p. 37). Hoover's hope is to find common ground between these conservatives and the millennials. . . .
  • Topic: Economics
  • Political Geography: America
  • Author: Loribeth Kowalski
  • Publication Date: 12-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: Cato Institute, 2010. 376 pp. $25.95 (hardcover). Reviewed by Loribeth Kowalski Parents in America typically tell their children that they can be anything they want to be when they grow up, and children tend to believe it and explore the countless possibilities. I recall my own childhood aspirations: imagining myself as an archaeologist, wearing a khaki hat and digging in the desert sun; as a veterinarian, talking to the animals like Dr. Doolittle; as a writer, alone at my desk, fingers poised over a typewriter keyboard. Recently I found an old note in a drawer. It said, “When I grow up, I want to be a doctor. I want to save people. When I grow up, I WILL be a doctor.” Underneath my signature I had written “age 10.” Unfortunately, in today's America, a child cannot be whatever he wants to be. Leave aside for the time being the difficulties involved in entering a profession such as medicine. Consider the more man-on-the-street jobs through which millions of Americans seek to earn a living, support their families, and better themselves. Suppose a person wants to drive a taxi in New York City. To do so, he will first have to come up with a million dollars to buy a “medallion.” If he wants to create and sell flower arrangements, and lives in Louisiana, he'll have to pass a “highly subjective, State-mandated licensing exam.” If he wants to sell tacos or the like from a “food truck,” and lives in Chicago, he had better keep his business away from competing restaurants, or else face a ticket and fine. And a child doesn't have to wait until he's an adult to directly experience such limitations on his freedom. Last summer, authorities in various states shut down children's lemonade stands because they didn't have vending permits or meet other local regulations. In today's America, it is increasingly difficult to enter various professions, near impossible to enter some, and, whatever one's profession, it is likely saddled with regulations that severely limit the ways in which one can produce and trade. Timothy Sandefur explores and explains these developments in The Right to Earn a Living: Economic Freedom and the Law. Sandefur addresses this subject in the most comprehensive manner I've seen, surveying the history of economic liberty from 17th-century England through the Progressive era in America and up to the present day. He shows how the freedom to earn a living has been eroded in multiple ways throughout the legal system, from unreasonable rules, to licensing schemes, to limitations on advertising, to restrictions on contracts. In The Right to Earn a Living, we see how these and other factors combine to create a system in which it is more and more difficult to support oneself and one's family in the manner one chooses.
  • Topic: Development, Economics
  • Political Geography: New York, America
  • Author: Richard M. Salsman
  • Publication Date: 12-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: New York: W. W. Norton Company, 2011. 382 pp. $28.95 (hardcover). Reviewed by Richard M. Salsman The financial-economic crash of 2008–9, dubbed the “Great Recession” by pundits who have insisted its severity was second only to that of the Great Depression (1930s), has been blamed on “greed,” tax-rate cuts (2003), the GOP, and looser regulations in the prior decade—that is, to what passes today for full, laissez-faire capitalism (the same culprit fingered in the 1930s). The crash has also renewed interest in Keynesian economics, which holds that free markets are prone to failures, breakdowns, and recessions due to excessive production (supply) and can be cured of slumps only by state intervention to boost demand and dictate investment. And the crash has led to the worldwide adoption of two pet policies of John Maynard Keynes (1883–1946): massive deficit spending and inflation to “stimulate” stagnant economies. In fact, economies continue to languish not in spite of Keynesian policies but because of them. One key factor precipitating the recent revival of Keynes was the awarding of a Nobel prize to Keynesian Paul Krugman in fall 2008, during the worst weeks of the crisis, when the $700 billion bank bailout (TARP) was debated and enacted. A half dozen new books since 2008 also have helped revive Keynesian notions; one is subtitled “return of the master,” another eagerly reports that the crash has “restored Keynes, the capitalist revolutionary, to prominence.” As in the 1930s, when Keynes first exerted strong influence on policy, he is depicted today as capitalism's savior, favoring a mixed economy to quell popular angst of recessions and prevent more authoritarian alternatives (fascism, communism). Like most intellectuals today, British journalist Nicholas Wapshott (formerly senior editor at the London Times and New York Sun) falsely attributes the recent financial crisis to overly free markets; he also admires Keynes, his demand-side theories, and his interventionist policies. Yet unlike typical hagiography on Keynes, Wapshott adopts an ideas-oriented approach to Keynes's revival in his book, Keynes Hayek: The Clash That Defined Modern Economics. Like most interpreters, Wapshott believes that Keynesianism somehow “saves” capitalism from itself and from ultimate political tyranny, although he does not deny (or bother to hide) the many cases where Keynes expresses an unvarnished hatred for individualism and free markets. He acknowledges (and welcomes) the return of Keynesian policies, but he worries they may have been hastily implemented and thus ineffectual, given that multi-trillion-dollar stimulus schemes in the three years since 2008 have not boosted growth or jobs. Wapshott rightly recounts how Keynesianism was discredited during the 1970s “stagflation” (which it could not explain) and successfully challenged by “efficient market” theorists and classically oriented supply-siders (“Reaganomics”). But he exaggerates the reach of pro-capitalist ideas and policies in recent decades, and pins blame for the recent crash on what is still free about markets, not on the state interventions that necessarily render otherwise efficient markets dysfunctional and destructive. Yet Wapshott's main goal in Keynes Hayek is to have us understand Keynes's recent revival in the context of a long-running battle or “clash” between the ideas and policies of Keynes and those of Austrian economist Friedrich Hayek (1899–1992), who is portrayed as the champion of free markets and skeptic toward state intervention. Wapshott mostly succeeds in achieving his goal, but in the end he draws the wrong conclusion—namely, that the Keynesian revival is warranted—because he believes, not merely with Keynes, but, we see, also with Hayek, that markets fail when left free. In fact, free markets do not fail, but widespread belief that they do has helped revive Keynes. . . .
  • Topic: Economics
  • Author: Ari Armstrong
  • Publication Date: 12-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers, 2012. 180 pp. $34.95 (hardcover). Reviewed by Ari Armstrong How often does an author defend the right of citizens to own guns and the right of homosexuals to marry—in the same book chapter? In his new book Capitalist Solutions, Andrew Bernstein applies the principle of individual rights not only to “social” issues such as gun rights and gay marriage but also to economic matters such as health care and education and to the threat of Islamic totalitarianism. Bernstein augments his philosophical discussions with a wide range of facts from history, economics, and science. The release of Capitalist Solutions could not have been timed more perfectly: It coincides with the rise of the “Occupy Wall Street” movement that focuses on “corporate greed” and the alleged evils of income inequality. Whereas many “Occupiers” call for more government involvement in various areas of the economy—including welfare support and subsidies for mortgages and student loans—Bernstein argues forcefully that government interference in the market caused today's economic problems and that capitalism is the solution. The introductory essay reviews Ayn Rand's basic philosophical theories, with an emphasis on her ethics of egoism and her politics of individual rights. Bernstein harkens back to this philosophical foundation throughout his book, applying it to the issues of the day. . . .
  • Topic: Economics, Education, Health
  • Political Geography: America
  • Author: Craig Biddle
  • Publication Date: 12-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: Merry Christmas, readers! And welcome to the Winter 2011 issue of The Objective Standard. I'd like to begin by congratulating Antonio Puglielli, the winner of the second annual TOS essay contest. Mr. Puglielli's entry, “'Dog Benefits Dog': The Harmony of Rational Men's Interests,” won him $2,000 and publication of his essay in TOS (see p. 67). Second place went to Caleb Nelson (winning $700) and third place to Deborah B. Sloan (winning $300). Congratulations to Mr. Nelson and Ms. Sloan, as well! As Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich vie for the GOP presidential nomination, and as Republicans marshal efforts to secure as many Senate seats as possible, advocates of liberty need to keep an eye on the one principle that unifies our political goals and grounds them in moral fact. In “The American Right, the Purpose of Government, and the Future of Liberty,” I identify that principle and discuss its application to issues of the day, including “entitlement” spending, corporate bailouts, and the Islamist threat. If you wonder which side of the abortion debate has the facts straight—or why the issue should matter to anyone other than pregnant women—you will find answers in “The Assault on Abortion Rights Undermines All Our Liberties,” by Diana Hsieh and Ari Armstrong. And if you already know the answers, I think you'll agree that this is the article to circulate on this matter. You may think that Steve Jobs was an impatient man, and you may know of evidence to support that idea, but in Daniel Wahl's “The Patience of Jobs,” you'll discover that Jobs, once again, breaks the mold. He was not patient, yet he was. How can that be? (Hint: The answer has nothing to do with Buddhism.) Get ready to fall in love with Linda Mann's still lifes and her manner of discussing them. Why do they grab your attention? Why do they hold it? Why are they so fascinating and rich and beautiful? I press Ms. Mann for answers, and she delivers. The interview is accompanied by color images of the paintings discussed. What's so great about the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.? Sanctum sanctorum—it's the holy of holies—says Lee Sandstead, and he has facts and photos to prove it. Chris Wolski reviews the movie The Help, directed by Tate Taylor. And the books reviewed in this issue are: Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson (reviewed by Daniel Wahl); This is Herman Cain! My Journey to the White House, by Herman Cain (reviewed by Gideon Reich); American Individualism—How a New Generation of Conservatives Can Save the Republican Party, by Margaret Hoover (reviewed by Michael A. LaFerrara); Disabling America: The Unintended Consequences of the Government's Protection of the Handicapped, by Greg Perry (reviewed by Joshua Lipana); The Right to Earn a Living: Economic Freedom and the Law, by Timothy Sandefur (reviewed by Loribeth Kowalski); Keynes Hayek: The Clash That Defined Modern Economics, by Nicholas Wapshott (reviewed by Richard M. Salsman); Capitalist Solutions: A Philosophy of American Moral Dilemmas, by Andrew Bernstein (reviewed by Ari Armstrong); Toyota Under Fire: Lessons for Turning Crisis into Opportunity, by Jeffrey K. Liker and Timothy N. Ogden (reviewed by Daniel Wahl); Dare to Stand Alone: The Story of Charles Bradlaugh, Atheist and Republican, by Bryan Niblett (reviewed by Roderick Fitts). This issue of TOS completes our sixth year of moving minds with the ideas on which a culture of reason and freedom depend. Our seventh year will be, as every year is, bigger and better than the last, and we thank you for your continued business and support. We couldn't do what we do without you. Have a joyful Christmas, a happy New Year, and a prosperous 2012. —Craig Biddle
  • Topic: Economics, Government
  • Political Geography: New York, America, Washington
  • Author: Ari Armstrong
  • Publication Date: 04-2010
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: With Congress debating far-reaching bills to expand federal control of health care, politicians and pundits blaming the economic downturn on allegedly free markets, President Obama fulfilling his promise to "spread the wealth around," and dozens of czars overseeing wide swaths of American life, it seems that capitalism is in retreat. A rousing defense of capitalism, therefore, could not have come at a better time, and that is what Andrew Bernstein provides in his new book, Capitalism Unbound. Bernstein ably defends the achievements of the Industrial Revolution, presents the moral foundation for capitalism, skewers socialism, and indicates in some respects how several disasters-including the recent housing bust-were caused by government meddling in the economy. Capitalism Unbound is an updated and highly condensed version of Bernstein's 2005 book, The Capitalist Manifesto: The Historic, Economic and Philosophic Case for Laissez-Faire. With the new book, Bernstein promises "the essential points-presented in a simple, easy to read format" (p. ix). He begins his sixteen-page Prologue, "The Primordial Struggle for Individual Liberty," by mentioning that capitalism rests on the "moral code . . . of an individual's inalienable right to his own life" (p. 1). After recounting the American Revolution as a key example of the furthering of individual rights, Bernstein applies the principle of rights to issues such as contracts, property, and employment. He then defines some key terms, including capitalism ("the system of individual rights, including property rights, in which all property is privately owned"), freedom (protection "against the initiation of force by either private citizens or the government"), and statism ("the subordination of the individual to the state [and] the repudiation of inalienable individual rights") (pp. 10-11). The prologue concludes with a discussion of some of history's most horrifying instances of statism, including tribal dictatorships, Soviet communism, National Socialism, and Islamic theocracy. The rest of the book is divided into three parts, about the historical, moral, and economic superiority of capitalism, respectively. In Part One, "The Historic Superiority of Capitalism," Bernstein first summarizes the impoverished conditions of preindustrial Europe. He then explains how, inspired by Enlightenment thinkers, innovators of 18th-century England and 19th-century America achieved profound advances in technology and economic production, created goods and services that radically improved the living conditions of the common person, and often amassed fortunes in the process. These productive giants include steam engineer James Watt, steel titan Andrew Carnegie, and oil pioneer John D. Rockefeller, who by the height of his dominance had driven oil prices from fifty-eight cents to eight cents per gallon (p. 52). Bernstein reviews many of the economic advances of the Industrial Revolution, such as the enormous expansion of cotton cloth-spun English cotton increased twenty-four-fold between 1765 and 1784 alone-enabling "hundreds of millions of people worldwide . . . to dress . . . comfortably, cleanly, and hygienically" (pp. 34-35, emphasis removed). . . .
  • Topic: Economics
  • Political Geography: America, Europe
  • Author: Daniel Wahl
  • Publication Date: 09-2010
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: Very few economists predicted an economic catastrophe in 2007. Even following the crash, many continued to claim that our present economic course was fine. As for today? “Three years into the mess, economists now offer remedies that strike most people as frankly ridiculous. We are told that we must go deeper into debt to fix our debt crisis, and that we must spend in order [to] prosper” (pp. xi–xii). The source of such seeming obliviousness, according to Peter and Andrew Schiff, is the early-20th-century economist John Maynard Keynes. According to the Schiffs, Keynes taught that governments could smooth market volatility, increase employment, boost growth, and raise living standards simply by going into more debt and printing more money. Although they grant that Keynes was smart, the Schiffs say he developed some very stupid economic ideas—ideas that are false, dangerous, and causing the collapse of America's economy. The Schiffs set out to counter these harmful ideas in How an Economy Grows and Why It Crashes. The book is an extended allegory of U.S. economic history, with supplementary discussions and illustrations. It begins with three men living on a tropical island, each subsisting on one fish per day, which he catches with his bare hands. One of the men, Able, devises a better way to catch fish: a net. Thus equipped, he hopes to catch more fish, and faster, leaving himself spare time to make new clothes. . . .
  • Topic: Economics, Government
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Craig Biddle
  • Publication Date: 10-2010
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: Welcome to the Fall 2010 issue of TOS—and a special welcome to our new Canadian readers who, with this issue, are discovering the Standard via newsstands in Canada's largest bookstore chain, Chapters/Indigo. We are excited to add our northern neighbors to the list of countries we infiltrate with principled discussion of the moral and philosophical foundations of freedom.
  • Topic: Economics, Islam
  • Political Geography: America, Canada
  • Publication Date: 10-2010
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: I recently spoke with Professor John Allison about his efforts and successes in creating pro-capitalist programs in American universities. Professor Allison was the CEO of BB for twenty years, during which time the company's assets grew from $4.5 billion to $152 billion. He now teaches at Wake Forest University. —Craig Biddle Craig Biddle: Hello, John, and thank you for joining me. John Allison: It is a pleasure to be with you. Photo courtesy Wake Forest University CB: Let me begin with a couple of questions about your work at Wake Forest. I understand that you joined the faculty in March 2009 as a Distinguished Professor of Practice—a fitting title given your decades of applying philosophy to business. What has your work at the university entailed so far? And how have your ideas been received? JA: I've primarily been involved in teaching leadership both to students and to some of the administrators in the university. I taught a course on leadership last fall, and I've been participating in various courses taught by other professors on finance, mergers and acquisitions, and organizational development. But my focus is on leadership. My ideas have been well received. The students take great interest in talking to someone who has been in the real world and been successful in business. I think they appreciate that perspective. CB: Through the BB Charitable Foundation, you've established programs for the study of capitalism at a number of American universities. How many of these programs are there now? What unifies them? And what generally do they entail? JA: BB has sponsored sixty-five programs to date, and they're all focused on the moral foundations of capitalism. While many people recognize that capitalism produces a higher standard of living, most people also believe that capitalism is either amoral or immoral. Our academic question is: How can an immoral system produce a better outcome? We believe that capitalism is moral and that this is why it is so successful. We think it is critically important that we not only win the battle over economic efficiency, but that we engage in and win the debate over ethics as well.
  • Topic: Economics
  • Political Geography: America
  • Author: Daniel Wahl
  • Publication Date: 10-2010
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: Very few economists predicted an economic catastrophe in 2007. Even following the crash, many continued to claim that our present economic course was fine. As for today? “Three years into the mess, economists now offer remedies that strike most people as frankly ridiculous. We are told that we must go deeper into debt to fix our debt crisis, and that we must spend in order [to] prosper” (pp. xi–xii). The source of such seeming obliviousness, according to Peter and Andrew Schiff, is the early-20th-century economist John Maynard Keynes. According to the Schiffs, Keynes taught that governments could smooth market volatility, increase employment, boost growth, and raise living standards simply by going into more debt and printing more money. Although they grant that Keynes was smart, the Schiffs say he developed some very stupid economic ideas—ideas that are false, dangerous, and causing the collapse of America's economy. The Schiffs set out to counter these harmful ideas in How an Economy Grows and Why It Crashes. The book is an extended allegory of U.S. economic history, with supplementary discussions and illustrations. It begins with three men living on a tropical island, each subsisting on one fish per day, which he catches with his bare hands. One of the men, Able, devises a better way to catch fish: a net. Thus equipped, he hopes to catch more fish, and faster, leaving himself spare time to make new clothes.
  • Topic: Economics
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Chak Kakani
  • Publication Date: 12-2010
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: Over the past few years, the Indian government spent $8.5 billion to host the Commonwealth Games (CWG), a multisport event akin to the Olympics, which were held in New Delhi from October 3 through 14, 2010.1 The official purpose of the CWG was to generate “national prestige” for India.2 But the Games did no such thing. In fact, the CWG were a national disgrace. The games showcased a contradiction embraced by Indians that threatens to destroy the economic and political progress they have achieved over the past two decades.
  • Topic: Economics
  • Political Geography: India, New Delhi
  • Author: Andrew Schiff
  • Publication Date: 12-2010
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: The author and investor discusses his book, the state of economy, the cause of America's financial problems, and investment possibilities under the circumstances
  • Topic: Security, Economics
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Publication Date: 06-2009
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: I recently spoke with Jonathan Hoenig, manager of the Capitalistpig Hedge Fund and regular contributor to Fox News Channel's Cashin' In, Your World with Neil Cavuto, and Red Eye with Greg Gutfeld. Mr. Hoenig is also a columnist for Smartmoney.com and contributes economic commentary to WLS 890AM in Chicago. -Craig Biddle Craig Biddle: I must ask at the outset, why did you name your firm "Capitalistpig"? Is there a story behind that? Jonathan Hoenig: Yes, there is. From weeding yards as a young boy to working at Starbucks in high school, I have always been interested in money and actively hustling for dollars. Getting an "A" in school didn't mean much to me, but earning a few hundred dollars working in a local warehouse or passing out samples of Nutella (another summer job) always provided a tremendous sense of accomplishment and pride. One of my earliest memories is going with my dad to our local bank and opening my first passbook savings account. Even then, it was a real thrill to watch the balance slowly build. As a kid, while many of my contemporaries were either bullying (or being bullied), I was busy discovering the virtue of mutually beneficial exchange. My neighbor appreciated me cleaning out her basement, and, for a few bucks, I was more than happy to do an excellent job. Ever since I can remember, capitalism wasn't something I spurned, but embraced. Knowing I wanted to pursue a career in the financial markets, after college I traded futures at the Chicago Board of Trade for a few years before opening up my firm in 2000. The name Capitalistpig Asset Management was a punchy way of communicating the philosophy by which my operation is run. We also give all new clients a copy of [Ayn Rand's] Atlas Shrugged. The name Capitalistpig also helps to attract the right type of customer. I prefer to work with like-minded individuals who support capitalism and individual rights and are happy to be part of an operation that loudly promotes these ideals. CB: What exactly is a hedge fund? How is it different from a mutual fund? And what do you and other hedge fund managers do? JH: A hedge fund is simply a pool of money funded by profit-seeking investors and managed by a professional money manager. In that sense, it is similar to a mutual fund. But unlike a mutual fund, a hedge fund is not required to register with the Securities and Exchange Commission. This doesn't mean hedge funds are unregulated; far from it. The government places stringent restrictions on how hedge funds can operate. Most notably, we're prohibited from accepting investments from "nonaccredited" individuals-meaning, those who don't have a liquid net worth of at least $1 million or haven't earned an income of at least $200,000 for two consecutive years. This, incidentally, is the source of the notoriously "exclusive" and "elitist" nature of hedge funds: They're exclusive and elitist not by choice, but by government edict. While most people assume that hedge funds trade frequently and make big bets on financial esoterica, the truth is a hedge fund is a legal structure, not an investment technique. Some trade frequently and use leverage, others buy and hold stocks for months or years at a time. So while the media routinely characterize hedge funds as "risky" or "highly leveraged," the reality is that hedge-fund strategies, just like mutual-fund strategies, run the gamut from the ultraconservative to the highly volatile. Some managers employ complex spread trades, while others simply buy and sell stocks. Just knowing someone runs a hedge fund tells you absolutely nothing about how it's run. What matters are the strategies, positions, and discipline that the manager uses to maximize the money. My fund is focused on absolute return, ideally earning a profit regardless of the condition of the stock market or larger macroeconomic environment. To accomplish this, I use strategies such as selling short, trading options, commodities, currencies, and other instruments, some of which aren't directly correlated with the stock market. My fund functions as one part of an individual's portfolio, usually no more than 25 percent, and it has been profitable eight out of nine years, earning a total return of over 345 percent. The Dow Jones has lost 28 percent over the same period. CB: Hedge funds and their managers have been loudly and repeatedly condemned for having somehow caused or exacerbated the current financial crisis. Did hedge funds lead to or worsen the crisis? If so, how? If not, what do you make of such claims? JH: Such accusations are absurd. Hedge-fund managers have neither caused nor exacerbated the financial crisis, and they couldn't have done so even if they had tried. These managers simply invest money for their clients. If they make good investments, their clients make money; if they make bad investments, their clients lose money. Moreover, hedge funds-one of the few financial industries that has not asked for and will not receive a bailout-actually helped shoulder the burden of the credit collapse. In buying and selling risky mortgages, loans, and other instruments, hedge funds substantially mitigated the crisis by adding liquidity to the marketplace and facilitating trade. Wealth creation requires investment, and the savings needed in order to make loans, finance operations, start new companies, and invest in R come from investors, such as hedge-fund managers, who are seeking to profit. Far from fueling the financial crisis, hedge-fund managers reduced its severity, and continue to do so, by allocating capital in accordance with the principles of economics, long-range thinking, the profit motive, and market demand.
  • Topic: Economics
  • Political Geography: America, Chicago
  • Author: Eric Daniels
  • Publication Date: 06-2009
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: During the Great Depression, the English economist John Maynard Keynes published The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money, in which he argued that governments could spur employment and reinvigorate an ailing economy by borrowing and spending money. The recent financial crisis has reinvigorated interest in Keynes's ideas. Articles in the Financial Times, the Christian Science Monitor, the New York Times, and Forbes have heralded the resurgence of interest in Keynesian theory. Commentators across the political spectrum, from Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz to Bruce Bartlett and Greg Mankiw, have called for a return to Keynesian economics. Congress and President Obama have enacted a gargantuan "stimulus" bill and are pursuing massive spending programs the likes of which Keynes could only have dreamed. It seems that pundits and politicians are all Keynesians now. A new book, however, argues that Keynes's theory is much more profound than most people realize. In Animal Spirits: How Human Psychology Drives the Economy, and Why It Matters for Global Capitalism, George Akerlof and Robert Shiller present what they regard as the essence of Keynesianism-Keynes's view of man as an animal saddled with inherent, irrational drives. These "animal spirits" have historically been ignored, say the authors, which is why Keynesianism has, at times, given way to other theories. Those who want Keynesian political policies to rise back to dominance and endure need to understand and embrace this neglected aspect of the theory. The authors point out that, because Keynes published his work in the middle of the Great Depression, his followers wanted governments to adopt his policy recommendations as soon as possible. To make his prescriptions more palatable, Akerlof and Shiller tell us, Keynesians of the time deemphasized the more insightful yet more abstruse "fundamental message" in Keynes's work. Although the watered-down version of Keynesianism was more politically acceptable, it was, according to the authors, less politically potent and more vulnerable to attack. Yes, the Hoover and Roosevelt administrations engaged in deficit spending, but they "lacked the confidence to pursue those policies far enough" (p. viii). The Keynesian borrowing and spending of World War II was more robust, Akerlof and Shiller say; consequently, it ended unemployment, became all the rage in the 1940s, and remained a widely respected policy for some time. But even this broader and longer-lasting support for Keynesian deficit-spending was bound to fizzle because the "more fundamental message of The General Theory was cast aside" (p. viii). . . .
  • Topic: Economics, Government
  • Political Geography: New York
  • Author: Heike Larson
  • Publication Date: 06-2009
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: Free marketeers reading the news these days cannot help but feel depressed. Media reports would lead us to believe that entrepreneurs are exploiters, that global trade hurts rather than helps people in America-in short, that capitalism has failed and that only the "change" offered us by central planners can alleviate our economic woes. In this climate, Marc Levinson's book The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger provides a welcome respite and intellectual refueling for weary capitalists. It tells a suspenseful story of achievement-replete with many twists and turns and a swashbuckling American hero-that will leave you wanting to run to the nearest container port to admire with newfound appreciation the industrial machinery that impacts almost every part of our daily lives. The Box, published on the fiftieth anniversary of the first sailing of a containership christened The Ideal-X, tells the story of how a seemingly mundane thing-a metal box with a wooden floor-managed to fundamentally change the world we live in. Until the 1960s, shipping had not changed much in decades. Handling cargo was a labor-intensive activity, and transportation costs and times-whether by land or by sea-were huge obstacles to trade, often making transcontinental, let alone global, trade economically unfeasible. In the 1950s, moving goods by ship was "a hugely complicated project," involving "millions of people who drove, dragged, or pushed cargo through city streets to or from the piers" (p. 16). Docks were cluttered with every kind of good imaginable, "steel drums of cleaning compound and beef tallow alongside 440-pound bales of cotton and animal skins"-all of which needed to be loaded and unloaded manually by gangs of longshoremen (p. 17). The process of loading and unloading a single ship during a single visit to a port often took weeks and accounted for between 60 and 75 percent of shipping costs. And, given the difficulties inherent and time involved in moving goods housed in a variety of different containers, it was imperative that factories locate close to docks for fast access to raw materials. Transportation costs and long delivery times made long-distance trade challenging and expensive-even before factoring in the heavy regulation that plagued the shipping industry. Recognizing the great expense and wasted time inherent in shipping practices of the day, two companies-both outsiders to the maritime shipping industry-developed in parallel an alternative system. Malcom McLean, an entrepreneur who grew his trucking company from a single vehicle purchased on credit during the Great Depression to one of the largest in America, bought a marginal East Coast maritime shipping line using "an unprecedented piece of financial and legal engineering" to circumvent regulations that prevented trucking companies from owning ship lines (p. 45). McLean set out to design and build a new shipping system from scratch based on a novel approach to the business: Whereas most shipping executives at the time believed that their business was operating ships, "McLean's fundamental insight, commonplace today but quite radical in the 1950s, was that the shipping industry's business was moving cargo" (p. 53, emphasis added). Within less then two years, McLean and his company, Pan-Atlantic, bootstrapped the first viable container system, in which cargo was loaded into stackable metal and wooden boxes of uniform dimensions, eliminating much of the labor required for and many of the problems inherent in loading ships with goods housed in a variety of containers. Further, "McLean understood that reducing the cost of shipping goods required not just a metal box but an entire new way of handling freight. Every part of the system-ports, ships, cranes, storage facilities, trucks, trains and the operations of the shippers themselves-would have to change. In that understanding, he was years ahead of almost everyone else in the transportation industry" (p. 53). His team of entrepreneurial, fast-moving engineers, managers, and partners designed, among many other things, the 33-foot box (only small steel containers were previously available); developed a quick-release locking system that eliminated the need to chain containers to ships or trucks; built a new trailer chassis to guide containers automatically into place; and put in place large cranes equipped with spreader bars-devices stretching the entire length of a container that enabled crane operators to attach and release hooks at the container's corner with the flick of a switch, thereby eliminating the need for longshoremen to climb up to each container corner and attach chains manually. And they accomplished all of these things while dealing with skeptical regulators who doubted the safety of containers and were pressured by truck and rail competitors to prohibit the container shipping experiment. When the first containership sailed on April 24, 1956, McLean's detailed cost tracking system showed clearly the benefits of the new system: "Loading loose cargo on a medium-sized cargo ship cost $5.83 per ton in 1956. McLean's experts pegged the cost of loading the Ideal-X at 15.8 cents per ton. With numbers like that, the container seemed to have a future" (p. 52). . . .
  • Topic: Economics
  • Political Geography: America
  • Author: Eric Daniels
  • Publication Date: 12-2009
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: Not yet a year into its term, the initially popular Obama administration has plummeted in popularity. In light of Washington's escalated meddling in the economy, many Americans are expressing deep concerns and anger about the statist direction in which this administration is steering the country. Unfortunately, however, few Americans are aware of-and the media is ignoring-one of the administration's most serious threats to our freedom: its stated intention to bolster antitrust enforcement. Since May, Christine Varney, the newly appointed assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Antitrust Division, has conducted a speaking tour promoting the Division's new mandate under Obama and affirming the president's many campaign promises to "reinvigorate antitrust enforcement." Varney and her counterpart at the Federal Trade Commission, Jon Leibowitz, are publicly threatening "possible investigations" of businesses ranging from Google to Monsanto to IBM. In response to this new climate, antitrust advocates from Senator Charles Schumer to the American Booksellers Association have called on Varney to undertake new prosecutions. And New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo recently joined the push by filing a suit against Intel.1 Americans should not only be aware of this ominous trend; they should be up in arms about it. Antitrust laws violate the rights of American businessmen and consumers, thwart economic development, and stifle our quality of life in myriad ways. To see why, we must first understand what antitrust law is. During the second half of the 19th century, as American companies grew and acquired assets around the country, they found themselves in a difficult position. Although companies could achieve economies of scale by acquiring smaller firms and unifying their efforts, state laws prevented them from doing so. Whereas some state legislatures imposed special taxes on out-of-state corporations doing business in their states, other legislatures forbade corporations in their state from holding the stock of companies based elsewhere. (Legislators established such restrictions in the hope that they would force successful companies to incorporate-and thus pay taxes-in their state.) In response to these restrictions on acquisitions, C. T. Dodd and John D. Rockefeller of Standard Oil created a new form of business using the device of a legal trust, which enabled them to hold the stock of dozens of companies and thus effectively manage vast productive assets.2 The operational and financial advantages of this novel corporate structure were immense, yet critics alleged that the newly created trusts were "odious monopolies," charging them with "making competition impossible," "raising prices," and "disregarding the interests of the American consumer."3 Critics condemned this new legal device as a "problem" and branded businessmen who employed it as "robber barons." Yet these businessmen used this legal device to create their vast fortunes by increasing competition, lowering prices, and providing American consumers with more and better products.4 The problem was not that their novel form of business had generated economic inefficiencies-it had done the opposite. Rather, the problem was a political one. Because these businesses were becoming fabulously successful and their owners enormously wealthy, egalitarian-minded and envious Americans pressured politicians to "do something," and politicians, seeking approval, got "tough" on the issue. A solution to the trust "problem" came in the form of the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890. Senator John Sherman and his colleagues claimed that trusts were "combinations that affect injuriously the industrial liberty of the citizens of these States."5 Critics of the trusts claimed that their high profits were achieved-not through the entrepreneurial, managerial, and productive genius of men such as Rockefeller, Edison, and Carnegie-but by "the few extorting the many."6 Because of the "public outcry on the trust question" and the alleged need to protect the "interests of the consumer," Sherman and his colleagues advocated the creation of a broad law that outlawed "monopolization" and "restraint of trade." That law was the Sherman Antitrust Act, and since its passage in 1890 Congress has added five other antitrust laws to the books, prohibiting dozens of supposedly "anticompetitive" business practices.7 . . . To read the rest of this article, select one of the following options: Subscriber Login | Subscribe | Renew | Purchase a PDF of this article.
  • Topic: Economics, Oil
  • Political Geography: America