Monday, March 31, 2014

Entrepreneurs Beat Regulators

Michael Lewis has written a book entitled Flash Boys which exposes the shady world of "Dark Pools" which capitalize on inefficiencies in market trading down to the level of milliseconds -- where a stock can experience about 500 quote changes and about 150 trades in the time it takes a single pixel on a high-end TV to change color, or one beat of a tsetse fly's wings. Large stock trading institutions could be ripping off smaller traders to the tune of $160 million a day,  Lewis says in an adaptation of his book in the New York Times Magazine.

If you think government regulators can compete with high-speed Wall St. sharks, fuggitaboutit. International Business Times reports,
the regulators don’t seem prepared to handle or to even understand the nature of the risk – “it’s over their heads,” says one former bank executive. “They have no idea what is really happening.”
Once a bureaucrat gets sharp enough to figure out what's going on, the regulator knows there's more money to be made in the market than in civil service.

Lewis tells the amazing story of how a geeky entrepreneur with an ethical sense of fairness (Brad Katsuyama) figures out how the big boys are trading, and actually creates his own stock exchange, which now competes with the majors, saving smaller traders billions of dollars. 

The Free Market regulates itself better than the government does.

Don't ask me for stock tips. I'm willing to admit I don't know what I'm talking about. The problem is, government regulators and politicians are not.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Jeffrey Tucker: DO's and DON'Ts for Talking Liberty

Our lives are great when we make them so, not because a bureaucrat has somehow intervened to improve our lot. The myth that government is somehow supporting or sustaining civilization is an embedded part of our civic culture, but it is a myth easily refuted by daily experience. Monitoring what we do day-to-day, we discover that it is actually private enterprise that we depend on for all the comforts and excitements of life.
This is an inspiring realization. The notion that government is necessary is a very negative commentary on the capacity of people to manage their own affairs. Once you see the anarchy all around us, you realize that humanity is bursting with creativity, energy, the desire to get along, the impulse to fix problems, and the passion to value others and be valued ourselves. Government has only one power in the end, and that is the power to stall and thwart this constructive process with force. If by doing so it prohibits peaceful behavior, it normally diminishes the quality of life for all of us.

Jeffrey Tucker: Do's and Don'ts for Talking Liberty, p.19


Thursday, December 05, 2013

Chuck Slay

My Brother-in-law Chuck Slay has died. I'll update this post with a eulogy. Please pray for my sister Amy.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Robert W. Welch, Jr. (1899-1985)

Robert Henry Winborne Welch Jr. was born on this day, December 1, 1899.

He was home-schooled until he enrolled in high school at the age of ten and was admitted to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill at the age of twelve.

Welch made a fortune in the candy business, making caramel lollipops, renamed Sugar Daddies, and he developed other well-known candies such as Sugar Babies, Junior Mints, and Pom Poms. Welch retired a wealthy man in 1956.

Welch's credo was, "Less government, more responsibility, and --with God's help -- a better world." Will Grigg has said this about Welch [my hyperlinks]:

Unlike the reflexively bellicose people who call themselves Conservatives today, Mr. Welch was never a militarist; in one commencement address he gave in the mid-1950s he pointed out that there was no reason why the American people and the people of the USSR would consider themselves enemies if it weren't for the behavior of the governments presuming to rule them. In matters of social policy, Welch opposed abortion, euthanasia, and infanticide, like most conservatives, but also opposed the death penalty (as do I) and condemned torture. He was not preoccupied by the supposed threat of immigration, and didn't believe in enlisting the government in crusades to purify people's moral behavior through the righteous application of coercion. In a remarkable speech he gave in 1979 -- when most conservatives were worried about the Soviets -- Welch predicted that the U.S. would become universally hated for the government's practice of "imperialism by the dollar, as a substitute for the sword."

If Robert Welch were around today, the Fox-aligned Right would consider him a liberal.

Welch founded the John Birch Society in 1958. In a speech he gave at the founding of the JBS, Grigg says "Welch described pious Muslims as allies in the struggle against the lawless state."

Friday, November 29, 2013

Death Panel Results

My mother's "Death Panel" met recently, and I received the results this morning.

Medicare will no longer be paying for her feeding tube pump, the daily disposable feeding tube bags, and the space-age formula that's been keeping my mom alive since her home was destroyed by a tornado.

No, I don't know why Medicare has been paying for this for all these months, and why they've decided in their infinite wisdom and compassion to now terminate their coverage. Trying to make rational sense of government decrees is often futile. It would be too easy for me to make all kinds of conspiratorial speculations. My sister is going to drive up to the Big City on Monday and see what's up.

The cost of the little plastic bags that hold the formula is something like $500 a month. The liquid food is also a bit more expensive than a Happy Meal at McD's, though I can't say for sure, as it's been a long time since I've eaten out. I'm grateful that you've been paying for all this through your taxes. Caring for her is my 24/7 job, and I'm working in my spare time to create an income-generating enterprise that will pay the bills by working at home.

If you would like to make a generous, year-end, tax-deductible donation to the non-profit, tax-exempt educational organization that might pay me enough to cover these costs, it would be most appreciated. Currently, generous donations to Vine & Fig Tree are paying the rent for storage of Vine & Fig Tree's library and office equipment, and my mother lives in a spare room. Yesterday was only the most recent of a long series of days of thanksgiving for the generosity of many.

If you have questions or suggestions, feel free to leave a comment below. I'll update this post when I learn something new.

Thank you very much.

Vine & Fig Tree Home Page

Thursday, October 03, 2013

George Washington and Theocracy in 1789

On this day in 1789, President George Washington violated the yet-undreamed of "separation of church and state" by leading the nation in a day of national prayer and thanksgiving for the new Constitution.

The modern myth of "separation of church and state" really means a separation of God and government. Not a single person alive in 1789 imagined that the new federal Constitution created a "secular" government, that is, a government that believed it could ignore God with impunity, rather than a government "Under God."

Read about George Washington's promotion of the True Religion here:

Government-Sponsored Prayer and Thanksgiving to the True God

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Mises' 132nd Birthday

Once again, as George Reisman reminds us, September 29, 2013 is the 132nd Birthday of Ludwig von Mises. I always enjoy reading Reisman’s tribute to Mises on the occasion of his 100th birthday.

Reisman says "Mises is important because his teachings are necessary to the preservation of material civilization," which depends upon the division of labor.

Reisman points out how the division of labor operates under the "invisible hand" of Divine Providence (though Reisman doesn't use those terms). Under the division of labor, every single person has a distinct, specialized role to play in the economy. One man programs a computer, another man sweeps the floor at night, goes to school during the day, and hopes someday to invent an even faster computer. Every member of the body has a function, and everyone plans out his own life, adjusting his plans in harmony with the plans of others.
Economic planning, von Mises showed, requires the cooperation of all who participate in the economic system. It can exist only under capitalism, where, every day, businessmen plan on the basis of calculations of profit and loss; workers, on the basis of wages; and consumers, on the basis of the prices of consumers’ goods
Socialism makes economic calculation, economic coordination, and economic planning impossible, and therefore results in chaos.
The failure of socialism, he showed, results from the fact that it represents not economic planning, but the destruction of economic planning, which exists only under capitalism and the price system.
"The Government" creates chaos, shortages, poverty, and mass death. More on anarchic decentralized planning.
Mises demonstrated that competition under capitalism is of an entirely different character than competition in the animal kingdom. It is not a competition for scarce, nature-given means of subsistence, but a competition in the positive creation of new and additional wealth, from which all gain.
In a capitalist society, von Mises showed, privately owned means of production serve the market. The physical beneficiaries of the factories and mills are all who buy their products. And, together with the incentive of profit and loss and the freedom of competition that it implies, the existence of private ownership ensures an ever-growing supply of products for all.
The opposite of the "division of labor" is isolationism, "survivalism" and bare subsistence.
The existence and successful functioning of the division of labor, however, vitally depends on the institutions of a capitalist society—that is, on limited government and economic freedom, private ownership of land and all other property, exchange and money, saving and investment, economic inequality and economic competition, and the profit motive—institutions everywhere under attack for several generations
Mises is correct, but doesn't go far enough. These "institutions" in turn depend on religion and morality, a subject Mises avoided. Each of these institutions depends on a shared moral condemnation of theft, the initiation of force, and each of "the seven deadly sins," such as envy, as well as the social endorsement of virtues like "the Protestant Work Ethic." A great leap forward in human progress will be made when we restore a general understanding of the Biblical position that currency debasement is an act of violence against the poor.

Mises was a materialist. He accurately described how society materially prospers under freedom from the initiation of force. He did not -- and could not -- explain why, if John Maynard Keynes was right, and "in the long run we're all dead," there is any reason (or moral argument) against seizing power and becoming a socialist or fascist central planner, profiting in the short run, while destroying civilization in the long run.

Capitalism, or the Free Market, is what George Washington, in one of the most famous addresses in American history, called "national morality":
Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness—these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked, "where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice?" And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.
Thanks to Lew Rockwell and the Mises Institute (and Ron Paul), Misesean (or "Austrian") economics are experiencing something of a resurgence. But without a Christian foundation, this resurgence (wrong word, actually, since there never was a "surgence" to "re-" about) will be short-lived.

Most Christians today are ignorant of Keynes and his philosophy of "in the long run we're all dead." But Christians are even more ignorant of the battle of Clapham vs. Bloomsbury. William Wilberforce was a member of the Clapham Circle, seeking to abolish slavery and reform culture along Biblical lines. Keynes was a member of the Bloomsbury circle. Although the homosexual Keynes shared the Bloomsbury vision that economist Joseph Schumpeter delicately referred to as a "childless vision," it was not without a future orientation. Keynes recalled the Bloomsbury days:
It was exciting, exhilarating, the beginning of a renaissance, the opening of a new heaven on a new earth, we were the forerunners of a new dispensation, we were not afraid of anything.
This is a religion which is a mirror-image of the Christian religion. The lines were vividly drawn by Aldous Huxley, grandson of "Darwin's Bulldog," Thomas H. Huxley:
I had motives for not wanting the world to have a meaning; consequently assumed that it had none, and was able without any difficulty to find satisfying reasons for this assumption. The philosopher who finds no meaning in the world is not concerned exclusively with a problem in pure metaphysics, he is also concerned to prove that there is no valid reason why he personally should not do as he wants to do, or why his friends should not seize political power and govern in the way that they find most advantageous to themselves. . . . For myself, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation, sexual and political."
It is a great irony that Keynes and his ilk have a passionate long-term religious vision, while Mises and his secular followers have no lasting foundation for a humane society. In the long run, secular Miseseans are dead.

Human society and material prosperity are intensely dependent on Christian morality. And the adoption of Christian morality depends upon the regeneration of the human heart. If you pray for capitalism, pray for revival.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Tell Elaine Huguenin that Leni Riefenstahl Has a Cold.

You are a Jewish cinematographer.

You hear a knock at the door.

Don't worry. It's not the Gestapo. It's the Justices of the New Mexico Supreme Court.

They report that Leni Riefenstahl has a cold, and has called in sick.

Since you're a gifted filmmaker, Our Dear Leader has requested that you complete the film project that Ms. Riefenstahl began, a documentary called Triumph of the Will.

You will be praised for your work. The film will be recognized around the world as one of the greatest documentaries ever made.

In case you're not up on historic films, Triumph of the Will  is a 1935 film made by Leni Riefenstahl. It chronicles the 1934 Nazi Party Congress in Nuremberg, which was attended by more than 700,000 Nazi supporters. The primary purpose of the film is to make Hitler and Nazism look good. No, great.

The Independent wrote in 2003: "Triumph of the Will seduced many wise men and women, persuaded them to admire rather than to despise, and undoubtedly won the Nazis friends and allies all over the world."

As an observant Jew, you respectfully and courteously decline to work on the film.

I'm sorry, but that just won't do.

That kind of selfishness violates New Mexico's "anti-discrimination" law.

You remind the New Mexico Supremes of the "freedom of religion" in our increasingly-irrelevant Constitution, and how that cannot be consistent with forcing a Jew to work on a Nazi propaganda film.

But the New Mexico Supreme Court unanimously disagrees. John Stonestreet comments:
       And still even more troubling was the concurring opinion of justice Richard Bosson. He acknowledged that, under New Mexico law, [believers] are “compelled . . . to compromise the very religious beliefs that inspire their lives.” He admitted that this compulsion will “leave a tangible mark on  [believers] and others of similar views.”
       Nevertheless, this compromise is, according to Bosson, “the price of citizenship.” While  [believers] are free to believe whatever they want, outside of their home they “have to channel their conduct, not their beliefs, so as to leave space for other Americans who believe something different.”
       Bosson called this compromise “part of the glue that holds us together as a nation, the tolerance that lubricates the varied moving parts of us as a people.”
In other words, the Nazis are not required to compromise their desires to show tolerance for the Jews, it is believers who must compromise.

And "religious freedom" in the United States means as much as it does in North Korea, Saudi Arabia, or the "former" Soviet Union: you can believe anything you want, as long it stays in the space between your ears, and Big Brother doesn't know about it.

The U.S. is becoming a joke. Christians must never trade their heavenly citizenship for U.S. citizenship.

"Our citizenship is in heaven" (Philippians 3:20)

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Missouri vs. A Free Market Internet

Update, 8/20/2013
Campaign for Liberty opposes the bill favored by
The bill is supported by big businesses and pro-tax forces.
Maybe Amazon is exploiting Associates like me to lobby for a bill that will help Amazon crush competition.

I need to do more research on this issue.
I wonder if Governor Nixon's office will educate me.

 Dear Governor Nixon,

My home was destroyed by the Branson tornado last year. I was taking care of my mother at the time, and she was airlifted to a Springfield hospital and returned to me on a feeding tube. I am now her full-time caregiver.

I can't get a job outside the home, so I depend on the internet to bring in money.

I just received a letter from one of my internet income sources that they have terminated my income due to the unconstitutional Missouri state tax collection legislation passed by the state legislature and signed by you on July 5, 2013, with an effective date of August 28, 2013.

I wish Missouri politicians would recognize that any legitimate social goal that needs to be achieved will be achieved more efficiently and more personally by Missouri businesses, churches, and voluntary associations operating in a Free Market than by any socialist program coming out of Jefferson City. You should be cutting government spending instead of taking more money from people who are already struggling to make ends meet. And you shouldn't use government coercion to protect your special interests from competition.


From: " Associates Program"
Date: August 14, 2013, 7:18:05 PM CDT
Subject: Amazon Associates: Important Account Notification

Greetings from the Amazon Associates Program.

We are writing from the Amazon Associates Program to notify you that your Associates account will be closed and your Amazon Services LLC Associates Program Operating Agreement will be terminated effective August 27, 2013. This is a direct result of the unconstitutional Missouri state tax collection legislation passed by the state legislature and signed by Governor Nixon on July 5, 2013, with an effective date of August 28, 2013. As a result, we will no longer pay any advertising fees for customers referred to an Amazon Site after August 27 nor will we accept new applications for the Associates Program from Missouri residents.

Please be assured that all qualifying advertising fees earned prior to August 28, 2013 will be processed and paid in full in accordance with your regular advertising fee schedule. Based on your account closure date of August 27, 2013, any final payments will be paid by October 31, 2013.

While we oppose this unconstitutional state legislation, we strongly support the federal Marketplace Fairness Act now pending before Congress. Congressional legislation is the only way to create a simplified, constitutional framework to resolve interstate sales tax issues and it would allow us to re-open our Associates program to Missouri residents.

We thank you for being part of the Amazon Associates Program, and look forward to re-opening our program when Congress passes the Marketplace Fairness Act.


The Amazon Associates Team

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The U.S. is Bankrupt

Detroit has acknowledged its bankruptcy.

Washington D.C. has not.

"Official" acknowledgement does not change reality.

Detroit Today, Washington Tomorrow - Prof. Laurence Kotlikoff @ PBS NewsHour

The United States is Bankrupt because Americans believe they are "entitled" to other people's wealth.

h/t Gary North

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The 2nd Amendment vs. Family Values

I'm surprised (not really) that many who espouse "family values" also champion the Second Amendment.

I'm already on record repudiating the Second Amendment.

I Repudiate the Second Amendment.

But consider this real-world scenario.

Given Obama's record of job destruction (over 90% of jobs created in his administration are part-time; unemployment statistics are vastly understated), imagine your neighbor -- desperate for a job to feed his family -- answers a public announcement in the classifieds of government jobs opening up. He applies and gets a job going door-to-door confiscating guns.

Charlton Heston famously quipped that if they came for his gun, they'd have to pry it from his cold dead fingers.

Of course, no defender of the Second Amendment expects to have cold dead fingers. He intends to make sure the jackbooted government thug coming for guns is the one who has the cold dead fingers.

That sounds macho enough, but the "jackbooted government thug" is your next-door neighbor.

And your claim boils down to this:

"It is more important that I retain possession of a firearm than it is for the kid next door to have a father."

Obviously, once the kid next door loses his father, you will have your gun pried from your cold dead fingers by a vastly superior armed federalized SWAT team that was backing up your next door neighbor.

The time for armed revolution against the tyranny in Washington D.C. has long passed. It's too late for that now.

Friday, August 02, 2013

Carl Menger, Postmillennialism, and Judgment

At the opening of the Mises University, Tom Woods mentioned [video - audio] the description by Mises of Carl Menger's sadness over the decline of liberalism and the rise of statism in Europe. Here's what Mises said:

Around Christmas, 1903, I read Menger's Grundsätze der Volkswirtschaftslehre (Principles of Economics) for the first time. It was the reading of this book that made an "economist" of me.

Personally I met Carl Menger only many years later, He was then already more than seventy years old, hard of hearing, and plagued by an eye disorder. But his mind was young and vigorous. Again and again I have myself why this man did not make better use of the last decades of his life. The fact that he still could do brilliant work if he wanted to do so was shown by his essay, "Geld" ("Money"), which he contributed to the Handwõrterbuch der Staatswissenschaften (Encyclopedia of State Sciences).

I believe that I know what discouraged Menger and what silenced him so early. His sharp mind had recognized the destiny of Austria, of Europe, and of the world. He saw the greatest and most advanced of all civilizations [nineteenth and twentieth century Western Europe] rushing to the abyss of destruction. He foresaw all the horrors which we are experiencing today [1940, World War II]. He knew the consequences of the world's turning away from true Liberalism [not the contrary Leftist so-called liberalism in the United States] and Capitalism. Nonetheless, he did what he could to stem the tide. His book, Untersuchungen über die Methode der Socialwissenschaften und der Politischen Economie insbesondere (Problems of Economics and Sociology, translated by Francis J. Nock and edited by Louis Schneider) was meant as a polemic essay against all those pernicious intellectual currents that were poisoning the world from the universities of Great Prussia. The knowledge that his fight was without expectation of success, however, sapped his strength. He had transmitted this pessimism to his young student and friend, Archduke Rudolf, successor to the Austro-Hungarian throne. The Archduke committed suicide because he despaired about the future of his empire and the fate of European civilization, not because of a woman. He took a young girl along in death who, too, wished to die; but he did not commit suicide on her account.

My grandfather [on my mother's side] had a brother who died several years before I was born. The brother, Dr. Joachim Landau had been a liberal deputy in the Austrian Parliament and a close friend of his party colleague, deputy Dr. Max Menger, a brother of Carl Menger. One day Joachim Landau told my grandfather about a conversation he had had with Carl Menger.

According to my grandfather, as told to me around 1910, Carl Menger had made the following remarks: "The policies as conducted by the European powers will lead to a horrible war that will end with gruesome revolutions, with the destruction of European culture and the destruction of the prosperity of all nations. In preparation for these inevitable events investments only in gold hoards, and perhaps obligations of the two Scandinavian countries can be recommended." In fact, Menger had his savings invested in Swedish obligations. Whoever foresees so clearly before the age of forty the disaster and the destruction of everything he deems of value, cannot escape pessimism and psychic depression. What kind of a life would King Priam have had, the old rhetors were accustomed to ask, if at the age of twenty he already would have foreseen the fall of ancient Troy! Carl Menger had barely half of his life behind him when he foresaw the inevitability of the fall of his Troy.

The same pessimism overshadowed other sharp-sighted Austrians. Being Austrian afforded the sad privilege of having a better opportunity to recognize fate and destiny. Grillparzer's melancholy and peevishness arose from this source. The feeling of facing powerlessly the coming evil drove the most able and noble of all Austrian patriots, Adolf Fischhof, into loneliness.

For obvious reasons I frequently discussed Knapp's Statliche Theorie des Geldes (State Theory of Money) with Menger. His answer was, "It is the logical development of Prussian police science. What are we to think of a nation whose elite, after two hundred years of economics, admire such nonsense, which is not even new, as highest revelation? What can we still expect of such a nation?"

Of course, one can have hope in the long-term Christian Reconstruction of the world and still have reason to believe in the short-term judgment of statism in a particular nation or culture. Mises seems to have avoided Menger's "psychic depression," sustained perhaps by a sense of duty, an obligation to share knowledge and provide answers, even if the answers are rejected by a majority (1 Peter 3:15). Theonomy trumps eschatology.

In fact, the judgment of statism in history, while tragic in a human sense, is a vindication of God's Word, and thus a cause of hope and rejoicing. The Theocratically-meek shall inherit the earth, often after the fall of pride-blinded Troy.

Menger was a humanist.

Friday, June 28, 2013

A Man Worth Knowing

I enjoyed re-reading an article by John Adams' biographer David McCullough entitled "A Man Worth Knowing." Good 4th of July reading.

McCullough also covers the life of Adams' wife, Abigail. He notes,
Something I always like to emphasize is that there never was a simpler past. We hear often, "Oh, that was a simpler time," but it's always wrong. In one plaintive letter, [Abigail] writes: "Posterity who are to reap the blessings will scarcely be able to conceive the hardships and sufferings of their ancestors." And we don't. We don't know what they went through—epidemics of smallpox or dysentery, which could take the lives of hundreds of people just in the little town of Quincy, Massachusetts. It was by no means a simpler time. They had to worry about things that we don't even think about any more, and suffer discomforts and inconveniences of a kind that we never even imagine. We have little idea of how tough they were. 
After recounting a day in the life of Abigail Adams, McCullough concludes:
Her day didn't end until 9 or 10 at night when the children would go upstairs to their bedrooms, where it could be so cold that the water in the bowls that they used to wash their faces was iced over. And then she would sit down at the kitchen table with a single candle and write some of the greatest letters ever written by any American.
Abigail's letters put the majority of American bloggers to shame.

A couple of clarifications:

Without taking anything away from McCullough's definition of "happiness," one should add the connection with "blessedness."

Second, McCullough buys into the "myth of the revolutionary minority" -- the idea that only a minority of Americans supported the Revolution against Britain. Not true. As John Adams recalled,

“The revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people and in the union of the colonies, both of which were accomplished before hostilities began.” 

Today a majority of Americans do in fact repudiate the ideals of the American Founding. A majority believe that the government is God, because the government brings us salvation. Adams would see this new American Civil Religion as the central danger we face today. Not taxes. Not representation -- Congress represents all too well the entitlement mentality of a majority of Americans. The central issue is religion. Or as Adams would call it, "idolatry."

And Adams is partly to blame. The Supreme Court of the United States declared decades ago that it is "unconstitutional" for your local public school teachers to teach students that the Declaration of Independence is really true. It can be taught as historical myth or irrelevant artifact, but not as Truth.

Tragically, much of this can be laid at the feet of Adams, insofar as he appointed John Marshall to the Supreme Court. McCullough naively recounts this appointment as one of Adams' "accomplishments."