Monday, December 31, 2007

Speakers 2007

January – Ben Rast, President of The Bastiat Society

Topic: “The Future of The Bastiat Society in 2007 and Beyond”

Ben Rast is the founder and senior partner of The Rast Group, a team focusing on financial planning and asset allocation in the Columbia office of Morgan Stanley. His team works with a limited number of individuals and institutions to develop appropriate investment and financial planning strategies.
He holds the title of Senior Vice President – Wealth Advisor, and is a Certified Financial PlannerTM professional. He is also an Estate Planning Consultant, through the American College in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. He completed executive education programs at the Stern School of Business, NYU. He ranks in the top seven percent of all Morgan Stanley financial advisors nationwide, and is a recognized leader in the firm.
Mr. Rast was formerly a weekly guest on NBC affiliate WIS-TV, the leading television news organization in the state. He hosted his own radio program for over thirteen years, and was a regular commentator on South Carolina Public Radio.
He has published numerous articles in local and national periodicals, including work for Barron’s. He is a member and past president of the SC Chapter of the Financial Planning Association. Mr. Rast frequently speaks to professional, civic, and fraternal groups on the topics of business, economics, investments and financial planning.
He has been an adjunct faculty member at Columbia College, has taught courses for the Department of Continuing Education at the University of South Carolina, and has served as an adjunct professor in the USC School of Business. Mr. Rast also has participated in continuing education for the South Carolina BAR.
Mr. Rast is a member of the Partnership Board of the SC Honors College, the Partnership Board of the Department of Political Science at the University of South Carolina, and a member of the Board of Directors for the Palmetto Opera. He is a member of the Columbia Economics Club. He is Chairman of the SC Club for Growth.

February -Robert Poole, Director of Transportation Studies, Reason Foundation

Topic: “Commercializing Highways: A New Paradigm for 21st Century Roadways”

Robert Poole founded the Reason Foundation in 1978, and served as its president and CEO from then until the end of 2000. He was a member of the Bush-Cheney transition team in 2000. Over the years, he has advised the Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Clinton, and George W. Bush administrations on privatization and transportation policy.
Poole is credited as the first person to use the term “privatization” to refer to the contracting-out of public services and is the author of the first-ever book on privatization, Cutting Back City Hall, published by Universe Books in 1980. He is also editor of the books Instead of Regulation: Alternatives to Federal Regulatory Agencies (Lexington Books, 1981), Defending a Free Society (Lexington Books, 1984), and Unnatural Monopolies (Lexington Books, 1985). He also co-edited the book Free Minds & Free Markets: 25 Years of Reason (Pacific Research Institute, 1993).
Poole has written hundreds of articles, papers, and policy studies on privatization and transportation issues. His popular writings have appeared in national newspapers, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Forbes, and numerous other publications. He has also been a guest on network television programs such as Good Morning America, NBC’s Nightly News, ABC’s World News Tonight, and the CBS Evening News. Poole writes a monthly column on transportation issues for Public Works Financing.
Poole earned his B.S. and M.S. in mechanical engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and did graduate work in operations research at New York University.

March - Dr. Yaron Brook, President of the Ayn Rand Institute

Topic: “The Moral Foundations of Capitalism”

Dr. Brook is a prominent advocate for Objectivism, a pro-business philosophy originated by novelist Ayn Rand. As president of the Ayn Rand Institute, an educational organization based in California, he appears frequently on national TV and radio to discuss financial and economic issues from the Objectivist viewpoint. He is a regular guest on CNBC’s “On the Money” for his expertise on a wide range of questions and events related to the business world. Many of his recent interviews have dealt with business-related individual rights issues, such as property and patent rights violations in antitrust regulations and free speech rights violations in Internet censorship cases.
A popular speaker at corporations, universities and community groups, Dr. Brook is known for his pro-capitalist ideas and his passionate speaking style. His talk “Why Conservatives are Anti-Business,” challenges the common notion that conservatives are allies of business and capitalism. He has also developed a series of multi-day seminars on business ethics which he delivers to corporations in the United States and abroad.
As a writer, Dr. Brook has been published in several newspapers and business journals. His most recent editorial on CEO pay appeared in USA Today. His academic publications include articles in The Journal of Investing and The Journal of Corporate Finance.
Dr. Brook is also an expert on foreign policy in the Middle East and recently co-authored an article called “‘Just War Theory’ vs. American Self-Defense,” which appeared in the inaugural issue of The Objective Standard, a new journal on the culture and politics.
Before joining the Ayn Rand Institute, Dr. Brook lived in Israel. He served in the Israeli military intelligence and received his B.Sc. degree in Civil Engineering from Technion—Israel Institute of Technology. In 1987 he moved to the United States and attended the University of Texas at Austin, where he earned his MBA and Ph.D. in Finance. For seven years he was a finance professor at the Leavey School of Business at Santa Clara University in Santa Clara, California, where he designed an award-winning MBA and undergraduate class on “Ethics and Finance.” He later co-founded a conferencing business, Lyceum International, and in 1998 he co-founded a financial advisory firm, BH Equity Research, for which he is presently managing director and chairman.

April - Jane Shaw, executive vice-president of the J.W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, a Raleigh-based nonprofit organization dedicated to improving higher education in North Carolina and the nation.

Topic: “Putting Higher Standards Back into Higher Education.”

May - John Blundell, Director General of the Institute of Economic Affairs, London. The IEA is the UK’s original free-market think-tank, founded in 1955. The IEA’s goal is to explain free-market ideas to the public, including politicians, students, journalists, businessmen, academics and anyone i nterested in public policy. The mission of the Institute of Economic Affairs is to improve understanding of the fundamental institutions of a free society by analyzing and expounding the role of markets in solving economic and social problems.
Topic: “Achieving Change: What We Can Learn From Margaret Thatcher.”

June - Dr. Ed Hudgins

Edward Hudgins is the executive director of The Atlas Society and publisher of that organization’s magazine, The New Individual.Topic: Why Americans Are Confused About Freedom and What We Can Do About It

July

“Jeremiah, Milton Friedman, and Liberty”

ABOUT BOB CHITESTER

Bob Chitester is President and CEO of the Palmer R. Chitester Fund, Chitester Creative Associates, Inc. and The Idea Channel®; and is managing partner of Free to Choose Enterprise. These companies produce television programs and program elements, create and operate web sites, create print and CD-ROM materials, and distribute curriculum materials to high schools and colleges.

In 1977, Mr. Chitester convinced Milton Friedman to undertake a project which became, Free to Choose, an award winning PBS TV series and an international best selling book based on the series. Over 25 years later the series and book are still in wide use and have been notably influential. Mart Laar, first Prime Minister of a free Estonia and recent winner of the Friedman Prize, used Free to Choose as a guide in setting policies that gave Estonia a thriving economy.

August

“Putting Sound Economics into Politics”

About Chad Walldorf

Chad’s first government experience came when he took a year off from college to serve in President Reagan’s Office of Political Affairs. After the 1988 election cycle, Chad left the White House to return to the University of Virginia. Shortly after graduating, he and two high school friends moved to Mount Pleasant to create the first Sticky Fingers restaurant.

Their original concept has grown to over 1000 employees in their sixteen restaurants, catering, mail order, and wholesale businesses. Chad and his partners have been named Ernst and Young “Entrepreneurs of the Year” for the Carolinas as well as the Lowcountry’s “Most Philanthropic Company.”

In 2003 Chad took a two-year sabbatical from his business to serve as a Deputy Chief of Staff to Governor Mark Sanford.

September

The Bastiat Society was excited to host the South Carolina Premiere of Mine Your Own Business, by Phelim McAleer and Ann McElhinne, as our monthly Bastiat Meeting for September.

The film was shown at the American Theatre, 446 King Street in Charleston.

“Move over Michael Moore. You have competition in the art of political film making…but instead of advancing the cause of smug liberal hypocrisy, he’s [McAleer] debunking it.” – Wall Street Journal Online

www.mineyourownbusiness.org

October

Dane Starbuck, author of the official biography of James and Pierre Goodrich.

ABOUT DANE STARBUCK

James Goodrich (father) and Pierre Goodrich (son) built a successful business dynasty in Indiana during the first half of the 20th century. Pierre then used the family fortune to build a legacy of education and philanthropy, including the unique accomplishment of establishing the Liberty Fund, Inc. of Indianapolis, a non-profit educational foundation that promotes the study of a society of free and responsible individuals.

Every year, Liberty Fund sponsors hundreds of conferences around the world for professionals and academics. It also publishes an extensive list of classic texts on social theory.

Dane Starbuck is an attorney in private practice and member of the Board of Directors of Liberty Fund, Inc. His quest for knowledge has taken him from Huntington College (B.A. in English, magna cum laude) to Indiana University (M.A. in English Literature) to the University of Melbourne in Australia (M.A. in English Literature and Language with Honors) to Oxford University in England (B.A. and M.A. in Jurisprudence) to Georgetown University Law Center (J.D.).


November

The Separation of School and State: The Case for Abolishing America’s Government Schools

Brad Thompson from the Clemson Institute for the Study of Capitalism.

Why do so many Americans support a compulsory system of government-run education? What role should the State play in educating America’s children? Are government schools compatible with a free society? Is it possible to have a free market in education?

C. Bradley Thompson will examine the destructive effects of “public” education in America. He will critique the principal assumptions behind government schooling, and he will call for fully private system of education.

Thompson will present a principled argument for a free market in education that begins with the rights and responsibilities of parents to provide for the education of their own children.

ABOUT BRAD THOMPSON

C. Bradley Thompson is the BB&T Research Professor at Clemson University and the Executive Director of the Clemson Institute for the Study of Capitalism. He has also been a visiting fellow at Princeton and Harvard universities and at the University of London.
Professor Thompson is the author of the prize-winning book John Adams and the Spirit of Liberty. He has also edited The Revolutionary Writings of John Adams, Antislavery Political Writings, 1833-1860: A Reader and was an associate editor of the four-volume Encyclopedia of the Enlightenment. His current book project is on “The Ideological Origins of American Constitutionalism.”

Dr. Thompson is also an occasional writer for The Times Literary Supplement of London. He has lectured around the country on education reform and the American Revolution, and his op-ed essays have appeared in scores of newspapers around the country and abroad. Dr. Thompson’s lectures on the political thought of John Adams have twice appeared on C-SPAN television.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

What Won't Work

Over at EconLog, Arnold Kling offers a short explanation of why a single-payer health care system won't work...

On health care, I am certain that a single-payer system will not produce enough efficiency to solve the financial problems of health care. After all, Medicare is more fiscally unsound than our private health care system. As an aside, while I was in St. Louis we had dinner with a retired doctor. She told of an incident where, as a patient, she went to see a dermatologist about a rash. The dermatologist looked at her and told she was fine. This proved to be correct. However, he billed Medicare for $700 for surgery. She called Medicare to report the fraud, and, after she finally got through after considerable time in voice-mail hell, the person told her that, "No, everything is fine. Our records show that you had the surgery."

Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Barrier Between Capitalism and Democracy

Robert Reich, in a letter to the New York Review of Books, defends his new book, Supercapitalism, and posits his solution to the cacophony of business lobbyists that he says overwhelms the democratic process, and makes it impossible to hear "citizen values" in Washington.

He says the solution "...lies in erecting a more effective barrier between the economy and politics, between capitalism and democracy. That way, we as consumers can enjoy the benefits of the former, as informed by the citizen values we express in the latter.

The question left hanging in the air is who tore down the barriers between capitalism and democracy in the first place? In some cases, it was businessmen who successfully used the government to crush their competition and loot their customers. In other cases, it was ambitious politicians who used government to indiscriminately loot the wealthy. Either way, the barrier between capitalism and democracy never had a chance...so long as democracy possessed the power to make one group rich and another group poor.

Perhaps the best way to keep business out of government and government out of business is to limit the power of government, period. A healthy concern about the size of government may be the most important "citizen value" of all.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Power and Greed

Democratic Presidential hopeful John Edwards says corporate power and corporate greed threaten everything Americans hold dear.

Here is my comment, posted on The Nation's blog:

How can progressives insist that human nature is irredeemably corrupt when it works for a corporation, and then put all their faith in the belief that human nature becomes positively angelic when it collects a government paycheck -- so much so that it can be trusted with nearly unlimited power over the labor, property, and lives of others?

Corporate power and corporate greed are nothing compared to the nightmares of government power and government greed.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Millions and Millions Served

From George Will, a rarely heard and desperately needed cheer for one of the icons of American business: McDonald's.

McDonald's exemplifies the role of small businesses in Americans' upward mobility. The company is largely a confederation of small businesses: 85 percent of its U.S. restaurants -- average annual sales, $2.2 million -- are owned by franchisees. McDonald's has made more millionaires, and especially black and Hispanic millionaires, than any other economic entity ever, anywhere.

What Will doesn't mention is the hard work that goes into running a successful restaurant. It begins with the headaches that go with managing squadrons of mostly young people. Small business owners all say the same thing: finding, getting and keeping good employees is their biggest challenge.

What happens without good employees? Imagine getting the same call, every day at 4:30 am, explaining why yet another employee cannot make it to work. Now you have to scramble to fill holes in your staffing.

Imagine investing everything you have in a venture where you rely exclusively on the good will of customers who spend less than five or six dollars apiece, and who expect their orders filled in a few minutes and without error, sometimes for twenty four hours a day. Imagine being in a business where, just to pay your taxes, you must successfully conclude hundreds of transactions each hour. The hours are long, the work is hard, and profits accumulate very slowly. McDonald's didn't make those millionaires. They made themselves.

The story of McDonald's and its franchisees is yet another example of the truth in the statement that a profitable business, honestly run, is one of mankind's greatest and least appreciated achievements.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Evolution and Economics

From Scientific American, a nice summary of economics as a complex, adaptive process, with a hat-tip to Bastiat and von Mises.

Evolution and economics are not just analogous to each other, but they are actually two forms of a larger phenomenon called complex adaptive systems, in which individual elements, parts or agents interact, then process information and adapt their behavior to changing conditions. Immune systems, ecosystems, language, the law and the Internet are all examples of complex adaptive systems.


In biological evolution, nature selects from the variation produced by random genetic mutations and the mixing of parental genes. Out of that process of cumulative selection emerges complexity and diversity. In economic evolution, our material economy proceeds through the production and selection of numerous permutations of countless products.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Radical Chic

From Reuters, via Reason...

From Reuters, the tale of a stammering representative of the bolibourgeoise who treated reporters to a stinging denunciation of capitalism...while wearing a $180 Louis Vuitton tie and $500 Gucci shoes:

A video of a Gucci- and Louis Vuitton-clad politician attacking capitalism then struggling to explain how his luxurious clothes square with his socialist beliefs has become an instant YouTube hit in Venezuela.

Venezuelan Interior Minister Pedro Carreno was momentarily at a loss for words when a journalist interrupted his speech and asked if it was not contradictory to criticize capitalism while wearing Gucci shoes and a tie made by Parisian luxury goods maker Louis Vuitton.

"I don't, uh ... I ... of course," stammered Carreno on Tuesday before regaining his composure. "It's not contradictory because I would like Venezuela to produce all this so I could buy stuff produced here instead of 95 percent of what we consume being imported." The video clip had been viewed more than 15,000 times on Thursday, a day after it was posted on the YouTube Web site.

Friday, December 21, 2007

America's Best Companies

One of the things that is most exciting and challenging about business is how quickly things change. Consider the 2008 version of Forbes magazine's list of America's Best Big Companies. Of the 400 companies on the list in 2007, 165 did not make it to the list in 2008. Sic transit gloria mundi.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Cheap Socks

Not very long ago, darning socks was a valuable personal skill.

Today, outside of the company of eccentrics who enjoy things like dressing up in period costumes and pretending for a mercifully short time that they don't live in the 21st century, finding someone who actually knows how to darn a sock is a challenge.

Why? Because socks used to be too expensive to throw away. Now, socks are so inexpensive, we would rather buy a new pair than spend time mending an old one.

Lost a sock in the wash? Don't despair. They're so cheap, you can buy another pair without regret. Only the curious, not the needy, spend time looking for a sock match at Lonely Socks.

What brought the human race to the point where socks with holes are disposable items, not precious clothing in constant need of repair? It wasn't the might of armies or the wealth of kings. It wasn't the will of history. It wasn't charity. It wasn't grand theories self-sacrifice and service to humanity.

One thing and one thing only made socks cheap enough to lose and throw away: self-interested business, trying to make a profit in the manufacture, distribution and retail of something as simple as a pair of socks.

One of mankind's greatest and least appreciated achievements is a profitable business, honestly run.

Monday, December 17, 2007

"The Lives of Others"

At the beginning of the Oscar-winning movie "The Lives of Others," East German Stasi agent Gerd Wiesler is teaching a class on interrogating the enemies of socialism. To illustrate his point, Wiesler uses a tape of his interrogation of a suspect known only as Prisoner 227.

"You think we imprison people on a whim?" Wiesler asks. "If you think our humanistic system capable of such a thing, that alone would justify your arrest." With chilling efficiency, Wiesler breaks down Prisoner 227. He dismisses the class with the warning, "Your subjects are the enemies of socialism. Never forget that."

What happens next makes this a "must-see" movie for anyone seriously interested in the issue of individual liberty. The trailer below sets the mood.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Fascinating Uncertainty

“Although our intellect always longs for clarity and certainty, our nature often finds uncertainty fascinating.”

Carl von Clausewitz, On War
(1780 - 1831)

Saturday, December 15, 2007

International Business

We often hear that business must be more international -- or, to use a politically correct term, diverse -- or, to use another politically correct term, multicultural.

Whatever term you prefer, I offer the uniquely [insert preferred term here] world atlas, Our Dumb World, found at the humor-infested news site The Onion.

Warning: this atlas is designed to offend everyone.

This week's featured country:

"Iran: A Possible Threat to the Free World, Maybe"
"National Hazards: None. Just don't touch that button."

Friday, December 14, 2007

Disturbing Inventions

Business, at its best, is inventive. Sometimes we don't like inventive. It annoys us. It disturbs our social order, at least until we figure out where and when to use it. Take spam, for instance.

From the pages of the best magazine in the world, The Economist, here is the fascinating story of the invention of spam, and its social consequences. Hint: blame the dentists.

ON A May evening in 1864, several British politicians were disturbed by a knock at the door and the delivery of a telegram—a most unusual occurrence at such a late hour. Had war broken out? Had the queen been taken ill? They ripped open the envelopes and were surprised to find a message relating not to some national calamity, but to dentistry. Messrs Gabriel, of 27 Harley Street, advised that their dental practice would be open from 10am to 5pm until October. Infuriated, some of the recipients of this unsolicited message wrote to the
Times. “I have never had any dealings with Messrs Gabriel,” thundered one of them, “and beg to know by what right do they disturb me by a telegram which is simply the medium of advertisement?” The Times helpfully reprinted the offending telegram, providing its senders with further free publicity.

This was, notes Matthew Sweet, a historian, the first example of what is known today as “spam”. It shows that new communications technologies have been prompting questions about etiquette ever since the advent of the telegraph in the 19th century. The pattern is always the same: a new technology emerges on the scene, and nobody can be quite sure how it will be employed, or the appropriate etiquette for its use. So users have to make up the rules as they go along.

Enjoy the entire article here. Learn calling etiquette in Sweden and whether or not to answer your phone on a train in Japan.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Specific Brilliant Visions

What is a corporation? Why does it exist?

The answers to these questions will determine your standard of living.

Brad Edmonds, writing for the Mises Daily Article, does a nice job summarizing the positive case for corporations.

Corporations owe their existence to the fact that, for hundreds of years, mankind has enjoyed technology that allows a single wily entrepreneur to improve the standard of living of millions of people. A single idea, such as the automobile, can bring about major changes for all of us. Many such important ideas are difficult to realize without the aggregated savings of hundreds or thousands of individuals. Hence the invention of the corporation: a fictional legal entity, a set of relationships governed by contract and statute, that makes possible great accumulations of wealth that can be focused on specific brilliant visions.

Simply stated, corporations allow us to enjoy the productive genius of our fellow humans in ways that would not otherwise be possible. A shackled corporation is shackled genius.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Individual Rights and Terrorism

I posted the following comments at Reason, in response to an article on the Randian Congressman John Campbell of California. Although he's a strong proponent of limited government and lower taxes, Campbell has no problem supporting the government's request for easier surveillance.

Reason quotes him as saying, “I’m very much a privacy guy...It’s something I feel strongly about. But there’s something I feel even more strongly about: I don’t want to be blown up. I am willing to give them some limited access to my phone records because of this war on terror.”

Of course, voicing support for easier surveillance attracts the just wrath of civil libertarians. They are concerned that rights, once sacrificed, will not be restored. All too often, that has been the pattern in history.

On the other hand, which is worse, a permanent loss of privacy or the permanent loss of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of innocent lives? And one thing is absolutely certain: fewer civil liberties will be lost preventing terror than will be lost after a terrorist event.

My comments:

The only justification for war, taxation, and loss of privacy is the prevention of even greater war, taxation, and loss of privacy.

Unfortunately, events don't often present themselves in the form of a simple calculation of cost and benefit. To a large extent, we make many of our most important decisions on the basis of hope more than on the basis of sure knowledge.

Only time will tell whether the war in Iraq was a mistake or a success. It certainly will be one or the other. The final measure will not be the process. It will be the result.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Big Business (Heart) Big Government

From Reason, the disturbing comments of Congressman John Campbell (R, CA), a "pork-busting Randian":

“Of the first 50 meetings I had after I was elected,” he tells me, “47 were with businesses asking me for money. I was just stunned. Gee, I didn’t know I was just an ATM machine for taxpayer’s money.”

During the floor debate over the defense appropriations bill, Campbell honed in on a $2 million earmark for Sherwin-Williams, a paint company that is developing a “paint shield” for military vehicles. In the process, he locked horns with the fearsome chair­man of the Defense Appropriations Committee, Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.). To everyone’s surprise, Campbell cleaned the 33-year congressman’s clock.

After Murtha rambled about how the military probably wanted the paint shield earmark even though it wasn’t on its “priority list,” Campbell pounced. “Mr. Chairman,” he said, “you said you’re ‘sure’ the military [wants it]. So you’re not aware if, in fact, the military has asked for this kind of technology?”

Campbell kept his eyes trained on the Democrat. Murtha didn’t have anything to say.

“I guess the answer to that is no,” Campbell said.

Of course, the House isn’t a debat­ing club. The earmark survived any­way.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

"The Law," (Part 9 of 9)

Saturday, December 8, 2007

"The Law," (Part 8 of 9)

Friday, December 7, 2007

"The Law," (Part 7 of 9)

Thursday, December 6, 2007

"The Law," (Part 6 of 9)

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

"The Law," (Part 5 of 9)

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

"The Law," (Part 4 of 9)

Monday, December 3, 2007

"The Law," (Part 3 of 9)

Sunday, December 2, 2007

"The Law," (Part 2 of 9)

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Bastiat's, "The Law" (Part 1 of 9)

Here's a well-done online audio reading of Bastiat's, "The Law." If you'd like to read along, here's a pdf of the text from the Foundation for Economic Education.