Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Business, Lies and E-mail

New research finds that business students lie more often in e-mail than when communicating using pen and paper. Christie Nicholson reports at Scientific American's podcast, 60-Second Psych.

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Call of the Entrepreneur

The Fox Business Channel is featuring The Call of the Entrepreneur at the following times:
Saturday, September 27 5:00 - 6:00 PM EST / 2:00 - 3:00 PM PST
Sunday, September 28 12:00 - 1:00 AM EST / 9:00 - 10:00 PM PST

To find your local station visit the FOX channel finder.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

October 2008 Meeting

Wayne Crews of the Competitive Enterprise Institute will provide insight on the federal regulatory state at our next monthly meeting on Wednesday, October 1. His presentation will be based on his recent publication, Ten Thousand Commandments.

The Competitive Enterprise Institute is a non-profit public policy organization that acts as a leading voice on regulatory issues ranging from free market approaches to environmental policy to antitrust and technology to risk regulation.

Please feel free to invite a friend or two for an evening of hors d'oeuvres and stimulating dialogue.

Kindly R.S.V.P to megan.rock@imagingarts.com

About our speaker...
Wayne Crews is Vice President for policy and director of technology studies at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute. His work includes regulatory reform, antitrust and competition policy, safety and environmental issues, and various information age concerns such as privacy, online security, broadband policy, and intellectual property. He is the author of the yearly report, Ten Thousand Commandments: An Annual Snapshot of the Federal Regulatory State, and he co-authored the recent reports This Liberal Congress Went to Market? a Bipartisan Policy Agenda for the 110th Congress and Communications without Commissions: A National Plan for Reforming Telecom Regulation.

Wayne is co-editor of the books Who Rules the Net: Internet Governance and Jurisdiction (2003) and Copy Fights: The Future of Intellectual Property In the Information Age (2002). He is co-author of What's Yours Is Mine: Open Access and the Rise of Infrastructure Socialism (2003), and a contributing author to others. Wayne has published in outlets such as the Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, Forbes, Communications Lawyer, and the International Herald Tribune. He has made various TV appearances on Fox, CNN, ABC, CNBC, the Lehrer News Hour and others, and his regulatory reform ideas have been featured prominently in such publications as the Washington Post, Forbes and Investor's Business Daily. He is frequently invited to speak, and has testified before congressional committees on various issues.

Earlier Wayne was a legislative aide in the United States Senate to Sen. Phil Gramm, covering regulatory and welfare reform issues. He was an Economist and Policy Analyst at Citizens for a Sound Economy Foundation, and has worked as an Economist at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and as a Research Assistant at the Center for the Study of Public Choice at George Mason University. He holds an M.B.A. from William and Mary and a B.S. from Lander College in Greenwood, South Carolina. He was a candidate for state senate as a libertarian while at Lander. He is a father of four.

The Dirty Dozen

Here is an interview with Chip Mellor of the Institute for Justice, discussing his new book The Dirty Dozen: How Twelve Supreme Court Cases Radically Expanded Government and Eroded Freedom.

The Institute for Justice uses the court system to fight for private property and individual liberty.

Chip Mellor on economic freedom

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

"Just Business" Named One of the Bastiat Society's "Best Books for Business"

The Bastiat Society has named Elaine Sternberg's book Just Business: Business Ethics in Action as one of its "Best Books for Business."

Just Business is a rare and valuable work in the world of business ethics research and advice, a book of practical insights based on a deep study of philosophy. It reassures us that a business committed to maximizing the wealth of its owners can, in fact, be ethical. As Sternberg says, "Contrary to popular belief, it is not necessary either to emasculate or to adulterate business for business to be moral."

Sternberg offers closely held businesses and publicly traded corporations a simple and effective set of rules for dealing with ethical questions about corporate governance, personnel, and finance.

Elaine Sternberg has been an international investment banker, an academic philosopher, and head of a successful business. She earned her Ph.D. in philosophy at the London School of Economics, where she was a Lecturer and a Fulbright Fellow.

Monday, September 22, 2008

"I Am Changing My Name to Chrysler"

With all the news about government bailouts, I'm reminded of the government loan guarantees to save Chrysler in 1980. If memory serves me correctly, the government took either stock or options on stock as collateral, and ended up making money on the deal. 

Songwriter Tom Paxton and singer Arlo Guthrie captured taxpayer consternation with the Chrysler loans with the song, "I Am Changing My Name to Chrysler."

"I Am  Changing My Name to Chrysler"
by Tom Paxton

Oh the price of gold is rising out of sight
And the dollar is in sorry shape tonight
What the dollar used to get us
Now won't buy a head of lettuce
No the economic forecast isn't right
But amidst the clouds I spot a shining ray

I can even glimpse a new and better way
And I've devised a plan of action
Worked it down to the last fraction
And I'm going into action here today

I am changing my name to Chrysler
I am going down to Washington D.C.
I will tell some power broker
What they did for Iacocca
Will be perfectly acceptable to me
I am changing my name to Chrysler
I am headed for that great receiving line
So when they hand a million grand out
I'll be standing with my hand out
Yes sir I'll get mine

When my creditors are screaming for their dough
I'll be proud to tell them all where they can all go
They won't have to scream and holler
They'll be paid to the last dollar
Where the endless streams of money seem to flow
I'll be glad to tell them what they can do
It's a matter of a simple form or two
It's not just remuneration it's a liberal education
Ain't you kind of glad that I'm in debt to you


Since the first amphibians crawled out of the slime
We've been struggling in an unrelenting climb
We were hardly up and walking before money started talking
And it's sad that failure is an awful crime
Well it's been that way for a millennium or two
But now it seems that there's a different point of view
If you're a corporate titanic and your failure is gigantic
Down to Congress there's a safety net for you


©1980 Accabonac Music (ASCAP)

Sunday, September 21, 2008

How We Get What We Want

In this video, students ask New Yorkers to talk about free trade. Out of the mouth of babes...

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Eternal Enemy of Politicians

"Unfettered private exchange cannot be limited -- as the Chinese  government thinks it can -- to things. Material items are indivisible from the knowledge of how to make them and the ideas upon which that knowledge is based. All the more so, now, in an "information age." Free markets lead to thinking, that eternal enemy of politicians."

P. J. O'Rourke, On the Wealth of Nations

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Economic Sophisms

"In the middle of the 19th century, Frederic Bastiat, the French popularizer of classical economics, titled one of his most famous books Economic Sophisms. 'Sophism' is Bastiat's synoym for 'systematic error,' and he assings sophisms broad consequences: They 'are especially harmful, because they mislead public opinion in a field in which public opinion is authoritative -- is, indeed, law.' Bastiat attacks dozens of popular protectionist sophisms, for example, but does not bother to criticize any popular free trade sophisms. The reason is not that bad arguments for free trade do not exist, but that -- unlike bad arguments for protection -- virtually none are popular!"

Bryan Caplan, The Myth of the Rational Voter

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Obstructing Social Responsibilty

"Social responsibility is exercised when individuals express their own values in their own acts, acting separately or in concert; it is not exercised when they force their views on others. A socially responsible individual objects to low wages by refusing to work for them. If he feels strongly about the evils of low wages, he can attempt to dissuade other workers from accepting them, and he can boycott products and producers who benefit from them. He can even try to persuade the owners of businesses to transform their firms into social welfare organisations. But if he acts to prevent other workers from accepting, or businesses from offering, wage levels that are acceptable to them both, he is obstructing social responsibility, not exercising it. Individuals have no more right to force other adults to adopt their moral priorities than they have to dictate their religious beliefs."

Elaine Sternberg, Just Business: Business Ethics in Action 

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Not a Curse

"It is through exchange that difference becomes a blessing, not a curse."

Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi of Great Britain
Nominated for "Sentence of the Year" at Marginal Revolution.

Friday, September 12, 2008

"A Lucid and Superb Writer"

"Bastiat was indeed a lucid and superb writer, whose brilliant and witty essays and fables to this day are remarkable and devastating demolitions of protectionism and of all forms of government subsidy and control. He was a truly scintillating advocate of an untrammeled free market."

Murray N. Rothbard, Classical Economics: An Austrian Perspective on the History of Economic Thought, quoted in The Bastiat Collection, Vol. 1.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

"Let's Not Make that Mistake Again"

Ideas, both good and bad, are transmitted throughout a society by four important vectors.

First, there are the intellectuals, the truly original thinkers who first formulate the ideas. Second, there are those who control public policy where they use political power to implement the ideas. Third, there are the wealth creators, the business people who pay for the ideas. Finally, there are the leaders in popular culture, primarily in news, entertainment, and religion, who are the primary disseminators of ideas. 

With that in mind, consider this brilliant and funny video from the vector of popular culture. It is a clip from the television series South Park, a show that regularly takes a strong -- if irreverent -- individualist point of view.

The video illustrates the paradox of a consumer market success. Everyone hates Wal Mart  (called "Wall Mart" in the video) because everyone else shops there.

Assume you could do away with "Wall Mart" by convincing everyone not to shop there. What would be the result? The answer: the same mistake.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Political Extremes

Contrary to conventional wisdom, common political ground does not necessarily make it possible to forge a consensus. Instead, common ground may actually make every small difference between groups even more valuable as a tool for snatching donors and voters away from rivals. Indeed, the primary purpose of political parties is to create a group identity by exaggerating every difference between rival groups, and to obscure larger similarities sitting in plain view.

The reason political extremes fight one another so viciously is because they have so much in common. It is the job of the demagogue to convince you that it truly matters whether the chicken that laid the eggs you eat was white or black.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Money and Brains

Wealth is one way of measuring human accomplishment. It certainly is not the only measure nor does it measure all meaningful accomplishment, but what it lacks in breadth and quality it makes up for in ease of use.

What part of human nature is responsible for the creation of wealth? Is it intelligence? Determination? The willingness to risk failure and humiliation? The need for independence and control? Greed?

The question is an important one, both for individuals trying to take care of themselves and their families, and for societies trying to overcome mankind's natural state of poverty. The various answers determine various paths of action.

One study concludes that perseverance and determination are more important inputs for achievement than intelligence. Wasted genius is proverbial. Thomas Edison was right: "Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration."

Another article confirms what we all know: you don't have to be smart to be wealthy. "If you're an individual with relatively low intelligence, you shouldn't really believe that you're handicapped in achieving wealth," the author concludes. "Similarly, if you're intelligent, you shouldn't think you have an advantage in living the rich life."

Well, if being wealthy does not necessarily mean that you are smart, and not having money does not necessarily mean that you are stupid, at least we know with scientific certainty that money can buy happiness.

That is an accomplishment worth paying for.

Monday, September 8, 2008

What Voters Want

We all know that politicians make ridiculous promises. Could it be they only make the promises voters desperately want to hear? Are politicians merely delivering the product demanded by the marketplace? That is the view expressed in this passage from Robert Penn Warren's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel All the King's Men.

Warren modeled his story of the rise and fall of a character named Willie Stark on the real life of the populist Louisiana politician Huey Long (pictured at right). 

In the following passage, an idealistic and inexperienced Willie Stark is running for governor. Stark asks a jaded newspaper reporter, Jack Burden, how he thinks the campaign is going. Until this moment, Willie has been trying to reach the voters with facts, figures, ratios, and indexes, earnestly laying out the details of his plan to improve government. He is about to learn the brutal truth of politics.

If political promises are products manufactured to meet a persistant demand, they are nevertheless very unusual products: part necessity, part entertainment, part religious fervor, with the awesome power to either protect the life and property of every individual or to violently dispose of both.

"How you think it's going, Jack?"

It was one of those embarrassing questions like "Do you think my wife is virtuous?" or "Did you know I am a Jew?" which are embarrassing, not because of anything you might say for an answer, the truth or a lie, but because the fellow asked the question at all. But I said to him, "Fine, I reckon it's going fine."

"You think so, for a fact?" he asked. 

"Sure," I said.

He chewed that for about a minute and then swallowed it. Then he said, "They didn't seem to be paying attention much tonight. Not while I was trying to explain about my tax program."

"Maybe you try to tell 'em too much. It breaks down their brain cells."

"Looks like they'd want to hear about taxes, though," he said. 

"You tell 'em too much. Just tell 'em you're gonna soak the fat boys, and forget the rest of the tax stuff."

"What we need is a balanced tax program. Right now the ratio between income tax and total income for the state gives an index that --"

"Yeah, I said, "I heard the speech. But they don't give a damn about that. Hell, make 'em cry, make 'em laugh, make 'em think you're their weak erring pal, or make 'em think you're God-Almighty. Or make 'em mad. Even mad at you. Just stir 'em up, it doesn't matter how or why, and they'll love you and come back for more. Pinch 'em in the soft place. They aren't alive, most of 'em, and haven't been alive in twenty years. Hell, their wives have lost their teeth and their shape, and likker won't set on their stomachs, and they don't believe in God, so it's up to you to give 'em something to stir 'em up and make 'em feel alive again. Just for half an hour. That's what they come for. Tell 'em anything. But for Sweet Jesus' sake don't try to improve their minds."

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Chief Sources of Danger

"Business corporations in general are not defenders of free enterprise. On the contrary, they are one of the chief sources of danger....Every businessman is in favor of freedom for everybody else, but when it comes to himself that's a different question. We have to have that tariff to protect us against competition from abroad. We have to have that special provision in the tax code. We have to have that subsidy."

Milton Friedman, writing in reason 1978, quoted by Johan Norberg in "Defaming Milton Friedman," reason, October 2008.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

The Quotable Frédéric Bastiat

"Certain nations seem particularly liable to fall prey to government plunder. They are those in which men, lacking faith in their own dignity and capability, would feel themselves lost if they were not governed and administered every step of the way....I have seen countries in which the people think that agriculture can make no progress unless the government supports experimental farms; that soon there will no longer be any horses, if the government does not provide studs; that fathers will not have their children educated, or will have them taught only immorality, if the government does not decide what it is proper to learn."

Friday, September 5, 2008

Initiative for Public Choice & Market Process

(Charleston, SC) The College of Charleston has announced the formation of the Initiative for Public Choice & Market Process, made possible by a generous gift from BB&T.

The purpose of the Initiative is to advance the understanding of the economic, political and moral foundations of a free society. It supports the growth and development of teaching and research, while engaging students and the greater Charleston community.

Economics traditionally focuses on the behavior of firms and consumers and how individuals interact in market settings. Public choice builds on the groundbreaking economic and political theories of Nobel Prize winning economist James Buchanan extending the tools of economics to analyze the behavior of voters, candidates, legislators, bureaucrats, and the institutions under which they operate.

The Initiative works to to enhance these economic and political theories for students and faculty through a variety of programs:

The BB&T Free Market Process Speaker Series invites speakers to address the underlying principles and institutions of a market economy. Students, faculty, and the greater Charleston community are invited to attend.

The BB&T Free Enterprise Award is a cash prize awarded to the best investigative paper or case study by a student that examines the underpinnings of a capitalistic economy and public choice theory.

The Initiative provides funding for faculty to develop courses that provide a solid understanding of public choice and free enterprise capitalism in the context of economics, business and philosophy. The program will also accept applications from faculty members for research support in the areas of public choice and free enterprise.

For more information, contact Dr. Peter Calcagno in the Department of Economics & Finance, 843-953-4279 or by email at calcagnop@cofc.edu.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Charge Against Business

"The charge that business in general is exploitative can only be plausible if the nature of business is radically misconstrued. Coercion is not intrinsic to business, but to government; contrary to Marx, business can only be coercive if it acts against the law, or with the law's connivance. And despite confused ideological claims to the contrary, profits are no more theft than property is; business is not conducted at the expense of its non-owner stakeholders. In the long-term, owner value is unlikely to be maximized by an organisation that lies or cheats or steals, or even by one that is widely believed to do so. Business is by its nature based on contractual exchanges of value, voluntarily entered into; to be successful, business must therefore act in ways that encourage others to deal with it."

Elaine Sternberg, Just Business: Business Ethics in Action

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Name That Country!

The leaders of this country have committed themselves to protecting human rights, including:

1. The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation.

2. The right of every family to a decent home.

3. The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health.

4. The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment.

5. The right to a good education.

6. The opportunity to work.

7. That no disabled person be left without adequate mean of subsistence.

8. That no sick person be left without medical care.

9. That no child be left without schooling, food and clothing.

10. That no young person be left without the opportunity to study.

11. That no one be left without access to studies, culture and sports.

12. That no family be left without a comfortable place to live.

1-5, President Franklin D. Roosevelt's State of the Union Address, January 1944
6-11, Constitution of the Republic of Cuba

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Big Business and The Little Guy

Is big business taking all the business away from the little guy? Not if the little guy is smart, plays to win, and spends more time worrying about his customers than protesting.

Monday, September 1, 2008

"A Hatred for Those Who Are Happy"

Chandra Bhan Prasad, a former pistol-toting Maoist revolutionary who once urged his fellow untouchables to murder members of India's upper caste in the name of social justice, admits he was wrong. Now he understands that it is not violence that allows poor people to "escape hunger and humiliation."

Neither is it government welfare, nor a return to nature, nor affirmative action. It is India's economic liberalization that will "neutralize" the caste system and liberate the poor. In a word, it is capitalism. Prasad says those who oppose capitalism in India, “have a hatred for those who are happy.”