Thursday, December 31, 2009

Government Motors - A Day in Headlines

GM Replacing Top Lobbyist With Two Former AT&T Executives

GM Recalls Corvette Models to Fix Roof Panel

GM Recalls Equinox, Terrain Models

US Treasury Gives $3.8 Billion More To GMAC

Merit Pay Returning to GM
The Detroit News

"I don't know anything about cars."
- Ed Whitacre, GM's Government Appointed Chairman

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Robbed for Their Own Benefit

"Ever since the advent of representative government placed the ultimate power to direct the administration of public affairs in the hands of the people, the primary instrument by which the few have managed to plunder the many has been the sophistry that persuades the victims that they are being robbed for their own benefit. The public has been despoiled of a great part of its wealth and has been induced to give up more and more of its freedom of choice because it is unable to detect the error in the delusive sophisms by which protectionist demagogues, national socialists, and proponents of government planning exploit its gullibility and its ignorance of economics."

From "Preface to the English Language Edition" by Arthur Goddard, in Economic Sophisms by Bastiat.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Vain and Empty Hope

"Conservatives have often placed their central hopes in big businessmen. This view of big business was most starkly expressed in Ayn Rand’s dictum that “Big Business is America’s most persecuted minority.” Persecuted? With a few honorable exceptions, big business jostles one another eagerly to line up at the public trough. Does Lockheed, or General Dynamics, or AT&T, or Nelson Rockefeller feel persecuted?

Big business support for the Corporate Welfare-Warfare State is so blatant and so far-ranging, on all levels from the local to the federal, that even many conservatives have had to acknowledge it, at least to some extent. How then explain such fervent support from “America’s most persecuted minority?” The only way out for conservatives is to assume (a) that these businessmen are dumb, and don’t understand their own economic interests, and/or (b) that they have been brainwashed by leftliberal intellectuals, who have poisoned their souls with guilt and misguided altruism. Neither of these explanations will wash, however, as only a glance at AT&T or Lockheed will amply sho w. Big businessmen tend to be admirers of statism, to be “corporate liberals,” not because their souls have been poisoned by intellectuals, but because a good thing has thereby been coming their way. Ever since the acceleration of statism at the turn of the twentieth century, big businessmen have been using the great powers of State contracts, subsidies and cartelization to carve out privileges for themselves at the expense of the rest of the society. It is not too farfetched to assume that Nelson Rockefe ller is guided far more by self- interest than he is by woolly- headed altruism. It is generally admitted even by liberals, for example, that the vast network of government regulatory agencies is being used to cartelize each industry on behalf of the large firms and at the expense of the public. But to salvage their New Deal world-view, liberals have to console themselves with the thought that these agencies and similar “reforms,” enacted during the Progressive, Wilson, or Rooseveltian periods, were launched in good faith, with the “public weal” grandly in view. The idea and genesis of the agencies and other liberal reforms were therefore “good”; it was only in practice that the agencies somehow slipped into sin and into subservience to private, corporate interests. But what Kolko, Weinstein, Domhoff and other revisionist historians have shown, clearly and thoroughly, is that this is a piece of liberal mythology. In reality, all of these reforms, on the national and local levels alike, were conceived, written, and lobbied for by these very privileged groups themselves. The work of these historians reveals conclusively that there was no Golden Age of Reform before sin crept in; sin was there from the beginning, from the moment of conception. The liberal reforms of the Progressive-New Deal-Welfare State were designed to create what they did in fact create: a world of centralized statism, of “partnership” between government and industry, a world which subsists in granting subsidies and monopoly privileges to bus iness and other favored groups.

Expecting the Rockefellers or the legion of other favored big businessmen to convert to a libertarian or even a laissez-faire view is a vain and empty hope. But this is not to say that all big businessmen, or businessmen in general, must be written off. Contrary to the Marxists, not all businessmen, or even big businessmen, constitute a homogeneous economic class with identical class interests. On the contrary, when the CAB confers monopoly privileges on a few large airlines, or when the FCC confers a monopoly on AT&T, there are numerous other firms and businessmen, small and large, who are injured and excluded from the privileges. The conferring of a monopoly of communications on AT&T by the FCC, for example, for a long while kept the now rapidly growing data communications industry stagnating in infancy; it was only an FCC decision to allow competition that enabled the industry to grow by leaps and bounds. Privilege implies exclusion, so there will always be a host of businesses and businessmen, large and small, who will have a solid economic interest in ending State control over their industry. There are therefore a host of businessmen, especially those remote from the privileged “Eastern Establishment,” who are potentially receptive to free market and libertarian ideas."

From For a New Liberty by Murray Rothbard

Copyright © 1973, 1978 by Murray N. Rothbard, and 2002 this online edition by The Ludwig von Mises Institute. Used with permission.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Passed, but Unpopular

Best headline of the day:

"Health Care Bill That Is Hated by Liberals, Conservatives, Libertarians, Socialists, Christians, Feminists, the Media and the American People Passes Senate"

Reason, Hit and Run.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Anniversary of Bastiat's Death



representative of the people to Parliament,
Correspondant of the Institute of France,
born in Bayonne in 1801,
died in Rome on 24th December 1850.

Parliament will miss such an enlightened and conscientious representative,
political economny, such an eminent exponent
of its purest doctrines and of the harmony of its laws.
His family will only find consolation for such a painful separation
in the memory of his Christian death

in pace

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Reliving the Crash of '29

Mises Daily: Monday, December 21, 2009
by Murray N. Rothbard

[First published in
Inquiry, November 12, 1979]

A half-century ago, America — and then the world — was rocked by a mighty stock-market crash that soon turned into the steepest and longest-lasting depression of all time.

It was not only the sharpness and depth of the depression that stunned the world and changed the face of modern history: it was the length, the chronic economic morass persisting throughout the 1930s, that caused intellectuals and the general public to despair of the market economy and the capitalist system.

Previous depressions, no matter how sharp, generally lasted no more than a year or two. But now, for over a decade, poverty, unemployment, and hopelessness led millions to seek some new economic system that would cure the depression and avoid a repetition of it.

Political solutions and panaceas differed. For some it was Marxian socialism — for others, one or another form of fascism. In the United States the accepted solution was a Keynesian mixed-economy or welfare–warfare state. Harvard was the focus of Keynesian economics in the United States, and Seymour Harris, a prominent Keynesian teaching there, titled one of his many books Saving American Capitalism. That title encapsulated the spirit of the New Deal reformers of the '30s and '40s. By the massive use of state power and government spending, capitalism was going to be saved from the challenges of communism and fascism.

Read the Entire Article Here

Monday, December 21, 2009

Better Business Defense

If they want to improve the reputation of business, business people have to change the way they talk about it. So says The Economist.

A column entitled "The Silence of Mammon" says business can no longer rely on blaming "a few bad apples." Nor can it rescue its reputation by doing public good deeds -- that looks like appeasement -- and it can't win converts by boasting that business creates wealth. For those who don't place wealth high up on the scale of virtues, the argument rings hollow.

A better defense of business would focus on three things:

First, business is a remarkable exercise in co-operation.

Second, business is a creative act.

Third, business promotes pluralism.

Read the column here.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Keynes Debate....continues....

Lord Robert Skidelsky and Professor Russ Roberts debate the legacy of government intervention and share their views on why markets fail.

Watch the entire conversation here

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Copenhagen Cover

Copenhagen is a cover for "uglier agendas," says Jonha Goldberg in the National Review:

"Bolivian president Evo Morales was interviewed by Al Jazeera television while in Copenhagen. “The principal obstacle to combating climate change is capitalism,” he explained. “Until we put an end to capitalism, it will continue to be a big obstacle for life and humanity.”

Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe proclaimed in a speech: “When these capitalist gods of carbon burp and belch their dangerous emissions, it’s we, the lesser mortals of the developing sphere, who gasp and sink and eventually die.”

Right. That is, unless Mugabe kills them first.

The big name in the anti-capitalism club was, of course, Hugo Chávez, the Venezuelan national-socialist strongman. In a typical stem-winder, he belched: “Capitalism is a destructive model that is eradicating life, that threatens to put a definitive end to the human species.”

I don’t know how to say “chutzpah” in Spanish, but you’ve got to hand it to the leader of the world’s No. 5 supplier of oil for bemoaning the system that keeps his regime afloat by buying his product."

Friday, December 18, 2009

2010 - 2011 Koch Associate Program

The Koch Associate Program is a challenging job opportunity for professionals who are passionate about free-market ideas and want to become more effective at advancing liberty throughout their careers. During the year-long program, each Associate works in a full-time, paid position with a market-oriented think tank, policy institute, or grassroots organization; while also receiving valuable management training in a seminar setting one day out of each week at the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation. For more information, visit

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Fruits of Public Service

"...there is a robust job market in Washington for former Democratic congressmen with good political skills. Members of Congress make $174,000 a year; heads of trade associations make upward of $741,000 and don't have to return to home districts on weekends."

Michael Barone,

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

If We Can Put a Man on the Moon...

From, a look at a new book that asks the question "If we can put a man on the moon, then why does government screw up everything else?"

Monday, December 14, 2009

Shut Up and Go Away

Witness a new era of respect for civil disobedience, via Big Government:

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Top 20 Debtor Nations

Source: CNBC

Gross External National Debt and % of GDP

20. United States – $13.454 trillion or 94.3% of GDP

19. Hungary - $207.92 billion or 105.7% of GDP

18. Australia - $800.2 billion or 111.3% of GDP

17. Italy - $ 1.823 trillion or 126.7% of GDP

16. Greece - $343 billion or 161.1% of GDP

15. Spain - $1.403 trillion or 171.7% of GDP

14. Germany - $2.918 trillion or 178.5% of GDP

13. Finland - $193.5 billion or 188.5% of GDP

12. Sweden - $344.3 billion or 194.3% of GDP

11. Norway - $275.4 billion or 199% of GDP

10. Hong Kong - $306.6 billion or 205.8% of GDP

9. Portugal - $236.5 billion or 214.4% of GDP

8. France - $2.128 trillion or 236% of GDP

7. Austria - $329.5 billion or 252.6% of GDP

6. Denmark - $203.6 billion or 298.3% of GDP

5. Belgium - $389 billion or 320.2% of GDP

4. Netherlands - $672 billion or 365% of GDP

3. United Kingdom - $2.226 trillion or 408.3% of GDP

2. Switzerland - $316.7 billion or 422.7% of GDP

1. Ireland -$188.4 billion or 1,267% of GDP

See the depressing slideshow here

Saturday, December 12, 2009

God Bless You, Mister Scrooge

I've always felt a certain sympathy for Ebenezer Scrooge.

As villains go, he really isn't that bad. He doesn't steal, he doesn't murder, and he doesn't ask the government or anyone else to do either one for him.

In fact, there are qualities in his unreformed character that are downright heroic. He might be a little rough in his people skills, but remember this was a long time before How to Win Friends and Influence People.

Scrooge is all Wharton and no Stanford. That doesn't make a guy bad, just completely misunderstood by people who don't like numbers.

Frankly, Scrooge deserves better treatment than being scared into giving his money away.

At last he gets it. God Bless You, Mister Scrooge!: A pro-Capitalist Christmas Carol, is a play that asks important and long overdue questions:

Why is Scrooge so successful if he’s such a villain?

If Bob Cratchit is so abused, why doesn’t he get a different job?

Just what is Scrooge supposed to do about Tiny Tim’s crutch?

The New York Times says of the play:

"Janet Hopf actually elevates the old miser in her interesting “God Bless You, Mister Scrooge!,” in which the fellow who in Dickens is so easily manipulated by those ghosts is given a backbone. He debates economics with the apparitions, offers capitalism’s arguments against encouraging people to rely on handouts, and apologizes for nothing.

“My wealth is a measure not of what I take from the world but what I give to it,” he says. Jan-Peter Pedross is quite good as Scrooge, and Marley’s ghost (Marc Geller) is creepy as can be, making the already chilly La Tea Theater at the Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural Center on the Lower East Side even more so."

A few other comments:

"If I could see it, I'm sure I'd love it." Ayn R.

"No taxpayers were harmed in the making of this show."

December 4-20, Wednesday-Saturday, 8pm, Sundays at 3pm.

La Tea Theater
Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center
107 Suffolk Street, Second Floor
New York

Tickets $10 in advance, available at
$15 at the door

Friday, December 11, 2009

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The New Lexicon

Skeptic (skep-tic): noun

1. a person of superior intelligence, analytical gifts, moral insight, critical judgement, political importance, scientific training, and great physical beauty who doubts the truth of religion, UFOs, and paranormal events. Synonyms: genius, Einstein, sage, scholar, thinker, guardian, protector, hero.

2. a stupid, selfish, and immoral neanderthal driving around in an SUV who stubbornly ignores the wisdom of his betters when it comes to the self-evident truth of anthropomorphic climate change. Synonyms: denier, disbeliever, doubter, kook, criminal, murderer, Republican.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Shifting and Filling

You may not have heard of Thomas Kuhn, but you have certainly heard the terms he made famous.

The Harvard-educated PhD in physics was the first to use the now ubiquitous terms "paradigm" and "paradigm shift" to describe the way science really works. Kuhn argued that science does not work the way most scientists say it does. Instead of open-minded scientists accumulating objective conclusions from an unbiased analysis of the evidence, Kuhn saw science as a particular kind of culture, one where scientists evaluate evidence through a reigning paradigm. Kuhn called this "normal science."

No paradigm lasts forever. Errors accumulate, and the accumulation of anomalies causes the paradigm to breakdown. This leads to philosophical and methodological arguments, often nasty ones. This is what Kuhn called "extra-ordinary science." From this kind of science emerges a new paradigm. The paradigm shifts.

Kuhn's view of science is especially important today. We are told that the science is settled on many issues, most notably the issue of climate change. But what if Kuhn was right? What if the only thing settled is the paradigm through which scientists view the evidence? Then the most responsible thing a scientist could do is not to cover up the anomalies in the data, but to look for an entirely new paradigm revealed by the anomalies. In Kuhn's words, stop thinking in terms of normal science, and think extra-ordinarily.

In the same way that commercial revolutions do not come from meekly accepting the words of those who are already commercially successful, scientific revolutions do not come from meekly accepting the words of those who are scientifically successful.

The commercial entrepreneur has much in common with his scientific cousin. Both see what other people don't. Both destabilize settled worlds. Both create work for those who exploit and extend the useful life of new ideas. In the business world, we call those people managers. In the world of science, perhaps we should distinguish between entrepreneurial and managerial scientists. One shifts the paradigm, the other just fills it in.

As the advocates of anthropomorphic climate change regularly remind us, the drama of the climate debate recalls the great scientific revolutions of the past. However, the respective roles of hero and villain are not quite as clearly defined as they would like. Just who is the new Galileo, and who is playing the part of the Catholic Church?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Propagandistic Lockstep

George Will on climate change...

"...never in peacetime history has the government-media-academic complex been in such sustained propagandistic lockstep about any subject."

Read the whole thing here.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Pretense of Knowledge


The ultimate constraint that we all face is knowledge — what we know and don't know. The knowledge problem is pervasive and by no means trivial as hinted at by just a few examples. You've purchased a house. Was it the best deal you could have gotten? Was there some other house you could have purchased that 10 years later would not have needed extensive repairs or was in a community with more likeable neighbors and a better environment for your children? What about the person you married? Was there another person who would have made for a more pleasing spouse? Though these are important questions, the most intelligent answer you can give to all of them is: "I don't know."

Since you don't know the answers, who do you think, here on Earth, is likely to know and whom would you like to make these decisions for you — Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, George Bush, a czar appointed by Obama or a committee of Washington bureaucrats? I bet that if these people were to forcibly make housing or marital decisions for us, most would deem it tyranny.

You say, "Williams, Congress is not making such monumental decisions that affect my life." Try this. You are a 22-year-old healthy person. Instead of spending $3,000 or $4,000 a year for health insurance, you'd prefer investing that money in equipment to start a landscaping business. Which is the best use of that $3,000 or $4,000 a year — purchasing health insurance or starting up a landscaping business — and who should decide that question: Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, George Bush, aczar appointed by Obama or a committee of Washington bureaucrats? How can they possibly know what's the best use of your earnings, particularly in light of the fact that they have no idea of who you are?

Read the entire article here.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Federal Debt: A Real Hockey Stick Chart

Via Hit and Run, this chart comes from Reason columnist and Mercatus Center economist Veronique de Rugy, writing in The American.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Hypothetical Machiavellian Advice

From Bryan Caplan at Econlog:

"Suppose a politician wanted to cynically take advantage of voter irrationality to gain their support for costly measures to fight global warming. What would his most effective strategies be?

One of my answers: Loudly announce that industry, not consumers, will pay the price."

Friday, December 4, 2009

Field of Dreams

The government stimulus field of dreams: if you build it, they will come...and they will stop going anywhere else.

Onvia Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer Eric Gillespie told the Washington Times, "We've seen businesses go from viewing the government as the last client standing, and now we are hearing government spending is a key part of their business strategies. There is almost a philosophical shift in the industry where more and more businesses, large, medium and small as a result of the stimulus and their realizing there is a large, untapped revenue stream where they haven't been focused before."

Onvia is a Seattle-based company that monitors the government's contracting activity.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Hide the Decline

What does an ambitious climatologist do when the data doesn't cooperate with his thesis of anthropogenic global warming?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

They Dare Call It Science

Intimidation. Blacklisting. Fudging the numbers. Destroying the evidence. Ignoring the law.

And they dare call it science.

Patrick J. Michaels of George Mason University and a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute discusses the climate data breach on WIBC's The Garrison Show (Indianapolis, IN).

Listen here.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Quotable Bastiat

Il ne pouvait donc s'introduire dans la Société un plus grand changement et un plus grand malheur que celui-là: la Loi convertie en instrument de spoliation.

"It is impossible to introduce into society a greater change and a greater evil than this: the conversion of the law into an instrument of plunder.

La Loi/The Law