There’s a lot I could say. I think this post is so delayed because whenever I think about writing I wonder where in the world I’ll start. I guess the logical place to start is where I am right now. And I’m actually in the lovely town of Auburn Alabama, enjoying the Austrian Economics Research Conference at the Mises Institute. Yes, I know you’re jealous. It is amazing. Seriously. I think we sometimes get really distracted by our circumstances in life. We get caught up in where we’re at and forget where we want to be. Sometimes we need to be grounded and reminded, “ah, yes, this is what I love and this is my passion in life.” Because, honestly, how many people are true to their passion? Sadly, not many. It is far to easy to live forever trying to get along, doing all the little mundane things, and never considering how that might fit into our dreams. So I don’t think it is unusual to need this “regrounding” in a world which is about fitting in and achieving mere mediocrity. Getting back to AERC, it is reminding me of what I am passionate about, and although I haven’t the slightest idea how or when I’ll end up realizing my dreams, this is what I love and I can’t forget it. There’s just nothing like the intellectual stimulation of the Mises Institute. And the best part of AERC is that it is all about the work that needs to be done yet. It is like, “oh, here is the complete and exhaustive exposition of the Austrian School of Economics.” Far from it, nearly every lecturer says at some point, “and there is much more research to be done on this subject.” Which inspires me because that means this is an alive thing. We’re not talking about a static body of knowledge. This is an area that is constantly expanding in knowledge, interpretation, and application. So as a young student, this inspires me to consider what advancements will be made in my own lifetime, and hopefully I will make my own contributions someday.
I ended up coming to AERC 2013 on my own for the first time. Which meant getting a bus to O’Hare, flying to Atlanta, and then getting a shuttle to Auburn. It was a really long ordeal since my plane was delayed by about 3 hours. I distinctly remember the first time I ever flew on my own. It was actually a year ago, for ASC 2012. I was terrified. For weeks ahead I imagined every single thing that could possibly go wrong, and of course each potential problem seemed like such a catastrophe. It was incredibly nerve-wracking, to say the least. By the time I arrived home safely I decided it was actually almost enjoyable, although it took me some time to recover from the terror I had inflicted on myself, haha. But this year was completely different. My initial reaction to the thought of doing the entire trip solo was, “wow, this is going to be such a fun experience!” I even resisted printing out maps of the airports and plotting my way ahead of time. I made sure I had the necessary info with me (boarding pass, shuttle reservations, etc…) but refused to worry about anything until I actually crossed that bridge. And instead of panicking when I was told my flight was delayed, I was just like, “oh, ok, let me call the shuttle company and move my reservation.” And I got to walk around O’Hare about 5 times in my extra time, haha. It was actually fantastic. I used to hate changes, being incredibly OCD or paranoid or whatever, and on Tuesday I changed my hotel arrangements, and then my flight was delayed, so two major changes in my plans, and yet oddly enough, I wasn’t bothered by any of it. The entire trip is just a grand adventure, no matter what happens. So definitely a good experience. And I get to do it all again on Sunday!
On a more serious note, I think the most thought-provoking theme I’ve encountered at AERC so far is the question of, “why did the Industrial Revolution happen when it did?” After realizing how civilization didn’t really progress all that much for thousands of years, and then suddenly in the past 200 years there’s been a dramatic transformation of culture, one has to ask, “why?” We understand the technological advances that became the Industrial Revolution, but the deeper question is, “why did those things happen at that time?” Or more precisely, “why didn’t the Industrial Revolution happen sooner? Why did it take thousands of years of little progress, relatively speaking, to get to that point?” Several speakers at AERC have offered their thoughts on this, and it has made me extremely interested in the subject. I don’t think it is an issue of pure historical speculation, I think this is relevant to modern times. How so? Well, if we understand what caused the Industrial Revolution, we would also discover how that progress could be reversed, and knowing this would allow us to hopefully prevent such a tragedy. We should all be interested in ensuring that society doesn’t regress but continue improving.
I will probably be blogging about this again in the future, among other subjects that I’ve thought about since being here, so you’ll hear about it again, I’m sure.
The other thing about AERC is being able to talk to like-minded people. Nothing compares to being surrounded by people who are discussing monetary theory, the business cycle, ethics, philosophy, and pretty much everything else. It is a place to talk to people who are interested in intellectual pursuits, and although everyone comes from diverse backgrounds and have their own unique interests, we are able to share our enjoyment of these subjects. We don’t agree on everything, but we all are here because we like learning and discussing new ideas. To me, that is what really matters.
Well, that’s about it all for now. I may get time for another post this weekend, but if not, I doubt I’ll get a chance to write for the next couple weeks. I have a feeling life will be really crazy once I get home. But I’ll be back…eventually : )
Here is my most recent essay for the World War I course I’m taking from Mises Academy.
Liberalism and Mobilization During World War I
Based on the readings, how did the broad social and military mobilization for the war contradict the liberal civilization that Europe had developed by the last third of the 19th century?
In this essay we will first briefly define what liberalism means, and then explore the influence of liberalism during the late 19th century in Germany, France, Britain, Austro-Hungary, and Russia. After understanding the scope of liberalism, we will look at the consequences of mobilization and how this undermined liberalism.
Liberalism, as explained by history Ralph Raico, is “the term used to designate the ideology advocating private property, an unhampered market economy, the rule of law, constitutional guarantees of freedom of religion and of the press, and international peace based on free trade.”
The Republican National Convention has been nothing short of a complete overthrow of any pretensions of justice, as Dana Milbank of the Washington Post explains. “The Romney campaign had taken pains to stifle the Paul rebellion, by denying him a speaking role, expediting the roll call, changing party rules and even unseating Paul delegates from Maine.”
I haven’t even bothered to follow the events because it sickens me to think of the utter lack of principles, the blatant disregard for integrity, and the deep animosity against the libertarian movement. And regardless of the Republican Party, the presidential and vice-presidential candidates have no merits of their own. Why?
This article from LRC details Romney’s background on various issues. Let me quote, ”The Massachusetts state budget was $22.7 billion a year when he took office in January of 2003. When he left office four years later, it was over $25.7 billion – plus another $2.2 billion in spending that the legislature took “off budget.” But let’s not forget about the healthcare plan either, “But soon after he was elected, Romney started the drumbeat for socialized medicine. Three years later, he signed RomneyCare into law.”
Mitt Romney was recently asked if he thought “it would be appropriate for the American president on the president’s say-so alone to order the death of an American citizen suspected of terrorism.” His response? “Absolutely.”
My facebook friends have heard this before and they’ll hear it again. To me, it is morally unacceptable to support a candidate who believes he has the right to take the life of someone who is suspected of terrorism. Why? 1) No single individual ought to be able to make this choice. Human life is too important. By electing this man, Americans will be giving him the power of life and death over them. Do you want that? I certainly don’t. 2) We’re talking about someone “suspected” of a crime. What happened to “innocent until proven guilty”? I guess I don’t need to ask what happened, I know. This principle of liberty and human rights was abandoned when Lincoln suspended habeas corpus back in the Civil War and imprisoned thousands of people, without a trial. But I digress. 3) What is “terrorism”? This is like “hate crimes.” It can mean anything to anyone. It could be be a thought crime. Hello, 1984. Terrorism is such a broad term that it could be used against an anti-war activist, a homeschooler protesting new education regulations, a family wanting to be self-sufficient by growing their own (organic) food, a concerned citizen wanting to return to the values of the Founding Fathers, this could be used against anyone. So you think Romney, and all future presidents, should be able to have someone killed because they are suspected of terrorism?
This is enough for me to know with 100% certainty I will never be able to support Mitt Romney in any way, shape, or form. I don’t care if he is “pro-market” or a smart business-owner. I don’t care if he thinks he can reduce federal spending, save the economy, or do any number of other good things. Human life means so much more than the condition of our economy. The right to life, liberty, and property, and the right to due process of law before those rights are encroached upon, matters so much more than numbers or graphs or charts.
But then there’s Paul Ryan, the darling of the conservatives. Doesn’t he redeem the campaign? Yep, the guy who voted for TARP, the stimulus bill, and all the following bailouts. Who voted to make the Patriot Act permanent. Who voted for No Child Left Behind. And the list goes on. The guy who has a budget plan that will balance the budget in 2040. Nice. What a drastic measure. Must be a pretty tough budget plan.
Ok, so maybe they are both losers, but at least it isn’t Obama. But some brilliant person has put together a list of 100 ways that Romney and Obama are essentially the same. End of discussion.
But even if he is like Obama, maybe he’s less like Obama than Obama. Huh? I guess what I’m try to say is that if voting for Obama will be evil, then maybe somehow voting for Romney would be voting for less evil. Because we don’t have another choice. Because we live in an imperfect world and must make choices we don’t necessarily like. Because the only way to promote integrity is to compromise. Because to stand for truth we must fall for a lie.
Really? Can you truly agree with that? I know I can’t. Maybe the way to make a difference is to escape the mold. To declare that we won’t accept these false choices. To call the state what it is: a scam. To refuse to choose who will steal our money and our freedoms for the next 4 years.
People will say, “oh, if you don’t vote you can’t complain.” Why not? I didn’t vote because I never believed the lies, I didn’t vote because I never thought these scoundrels would keep their promises, I didn’t vote because I will not support slavery, I didn’t vote because I refused to compromise. So why can’t I complain? And only voters can supposedly complain? Why? Because they believed the lies? Because they decided to be pragmatic rather than principled? Because they were fooled? Voters can complain about evil because they voted for the lesser of two evils, when others refused to support evil at all?
I don’t really have a ton of time for blogging (have you noticed?) but there was this interesting example I wanted to share with you.
I was introduced to the idea of the Law of Diminishing Returns in a lecture by Peter Klein several years ago. At first it didn’t make sense, but after I realized it was true only when a factor of production is limited, I understood it. Basically the law is that if one of your factors is “stuck” and can’t be increased, there comes a point when no matter how many other factors you increase, your output will decrease. For example, if a bakery has only 2 ovens, no matter how many bakers the owner hires, there is a point when their output starts going down and the owner loses money because there are too many bakers. If you have 20 bakers and only 2 ovens, obviously some of those bakers will be standing around twiddling their thumbs because the ovens are in use.
So at work we use this software to enter, track, and ship jobs. It is supposed to do much more, but at this point that’s essentially all it does. It is installed on this ancient computer and is an ancient version of the software. It is so ancient that we can’t upgrade to the newest version in one step, so we need a consultant to come in and help us do it. Anyways…the new version is on all our network computers and the old version is on one isolated computer because the two systems can’t coexist on the same system. Our whole business is basically dependent on that one computer. Only one person can use that one computer at one time. Right now I feel like one of those excess bakers because our full-time office person has to use the computer all day for entering jobs and so forth, but there’s a lot of information I need from the computer too and a lot that I could do to improve it and make it better, but I don’t have time. Thankfully there are a ton of things I can do besides using that computer, but if I couldn’t do anything else, I’d be a loss to the business right now since I can’t use the computer. I’m excited because next week we’re moving to the new version which will be available on all the computers in the shop so I can do my stuff and someone else can enter jobs and someone else can be shipping parts and we can all work on the same software at the same time. By increasing this factor that has been limited for so long, we’ll be increasing our output.
Yes, a little geeky, but nevertheless very interesting. :)
So far I haven’t done a very good job of accomplishing many things since returning from Mises U. Last week I worked 36 hours and this week was probably not too much less than that. And it is really work. Which means I’m pretty tired when I get home and just don’t have the mental energy to study. That’s frustrating because there’s so much I want to do but it just isn’t happening. I need to develop a new schedule that will hopefully help me get things done.
I’m really excited though because starting next week I’m going to be teaching at Classical Conversations, a sort of homeschool co-op that meets once a week. I’ll be teaching economics once a month and I’m really happy about that. At first I was a little disappointed that nothing had worked out for me to teach a complete class, but I think this is going to be much better. Considering how much else I’m doing, I don’t think I would have time to prepare a lesson each week.
I’m also so excited about Ron Paul and how well he did in Iowa, considering all who were against him. I was just talking to a friend tonight who was saying, “well, how is your man, Ron Paul, doing in his campaign?” So I started talking about the straw poll. My friend admitted that he hasn’t heard much from Ron Paul, most people commenting on him say, “he makes some good points and then he’ll throw something really radical and off-the-wall in there and that’s going to ruin his chance of winning.” And I just replied with, “well, Ron Paul is radical because he tells the truth 100% of the time and his voting record and consistent life is more than any other candidate can claim.” My friend said, “I respect your opinions and I know you’ve researched this, so I’m going to find out some more about Ron Paul.” That was a fun conversation :)
All for now…I really wish I had more time for blogging and hope to revive this poor, neglected website eventually. :)
I apologize for my lack of presence here for several weeks. The first couple weeks of July I was busy working to make up for leaving for 3 weeks. Then of course I had to pack and prepare for my trip. Then I was on the road for a couple days. After arriving in Georgia I had several promotional events to attend for my book, Path of Grass. Then I found myself in the middle of a huge Southern family reunion for several days…then we made a mad dash for Auburn and spent 42+ hours sitting in class for the next week. Got back to Georgia last night…so doesn’t it seem understandable that I haven’t had time to blog?
Now we’re leaving tomorrow to spend a few days in Kentucky with the family…then it is back to work for me. So, I plan to have a more complete report of Mises U for you later this week. Suffice to say, it was absolutely incredible. Far better than last year. It was better mostly because I had been studying online with some of the students before Mises U so when I got there, I actually knew a lot of people and that made it more fun. Tom Woods gave an incredible speech Thursday night. I’m going to do a post with links to my favorite speeches from the week.
Mises U has inspired me to 1) keep studying and 2) keep sharing. I hope this fall I will have some opportunities to teach and lecture on what I’ve learned. Some of the students are going to start reading Man, Economy, and State together and I plan to participate in that. Reading MES will be really good for getting the big picture of how everything fits together. I’m also really interested in capital, the structure of production and the business cycle. I know the Austrian Business Cycle Theory, but I want to find out how exactly it is worked out in the real economy. I also hope to do more writing and maybe start posting more regular articles on my website.
Bottom line: More stuff later.
I really enjoy my job, for several reasons. One reason is that my company is the perfect real-life example of many concepts I learned in economics. I have to get my boss credit, he is sometimes a very quotable person and says things just like I’ve heard in my econ books…except he really is an entrepreneur who is dealing with very real customers (believe me…I have to talk to them every day…).
First example illustrates consumer sovereignty. He said, “A lot of people think that business-owners run their company. That’s not true. The customer runs the business. The customers decide what happens under this roof, not me.” If only Marx had talked to a real, live capitalist, he would have discovered that consumers aren’t being exploited… and if you must have some exploiting going on, it is probably the consumers exploiting the producers. At my workplace we make capital goods. Lots of little metal parts for all sorts of things, from airplanes to Caterpillars. So our customers aren’t even the consumers; they just take our parts, add some more, and send it on to another capital goods company. But can you imagine the pressure of the customers in a consumer goods business?
Second example illustrates what Jeffrey Tucker mentioned a couple months ago in an article. He said something like, “businesses are future-oriented. They don’t care what happened yesterday. They may be having a really bad today. But they’re always looking towards to tomorrow.” I’ve observed that in my workplace, and I certainly think like that as well sometimes. But yesterday my boss and I were talking and he said, “If I think about today, it makes me want to jump in my grave. But if I think about the future, I get all excited.” Isn’t that great? Jeffrey Tucker was so spot-on with what he said, that’s exactly how businesses go.
On a related topic, there’s been some discussion on the Mises blog about how fastidious Austrians should be. Should we condemn McDonalds because of the gov’t food subsidies it receives? The list goes on, for the leviathan has tainted every aspect of our lives. Some go the negative way and reject anything in the market which has anything to do with government. Jeffrey Tucker, and others, have argued that we should enjoy and appreciate the aspects of the market which are more free. Sure, we can complain about food subsidies. But let’s also marvel (as Jeffrey Tucker has done) at the efficiency of McDonalds at satisfying the consumer demand for cheap, convenient food. In the same way, I know that eventually the parts my company makes will be used by the government in the ambiguous ”defense” of this country. I don’t like to say I work in the defense industry because 1) I don’t really and 2) the sort of defense our government engages in isn’t the kind of defense I’m proud of. Instead I like to say I work in the areospace industry which is more accurate and something I’m happy about. So although down the line our parts are used for immoral actions, I can marvel at the market tendencies all around me.
Israel brought up some good questions related to my first post, so I thought I’d address those here.
The first thing, “aren’t there Youtube videos that summarize these required readings and can’t we get Greek history from movies like Troy?”
I’m sure there are Youtube videos that explain some of what these works cover, but probably not systematically. The youtube might be on “Socialism vs. Capitalism” and might cover some of the points that Mises makes in his books, but I doubt that there are Youtube videos made as summaries of these works. I have an idea on this, however, and will let you know as I think it through a bit more.
This also fits into the whole “the medium is the message” debate. I tend to side with people like Postman and tend to think that it is good to actually read things. My mental skills have degenerated to the point that I find it extremely hard to listen/watch anything on my computer for a long period of time (more than 10 or 15 minutes) without being distracted by browsing Facebook, Mises.org, etc…so I like having the discipline of having to read a book because if I’m on Facebook instead, I can’t say “well, I’m studying too…” which I can argue if I’m listening to something. So I just prefer reading.
Then Israel asked if it would be good to do any writing along with the reading. Yes, I didn’t mention in the previous post that I do take notes on whatever read. I’m infamous for being a speed-reader, in a negative way, in that I read so fast I don’t get anything from the book. So it has been a struggle to slow down, but if I’m taking notes, I am forced to actually “digest” what I’m reading. However…some books are so good, I want to write down every sentence in my notes, which means it takes me forever to finish reading it because I’m essentially copying the text into my notes…lol…
If I’m writing on paper and not typing, this is how I take notes. I use my own version of the Cornell system of note-taking. I’m not sure how the original was meant to be, maybe what I do is close to that, but I’m not sure. I divide my page into two columns, the right one being slightly wider than the left one. This right column is where I write all the details, quotes, numbers, data, etc…and on the right side I write the summary of what point I’m trying to remember. For instance, on the left side I might write, “WWII didn’t end Great Depression” and on the right side I would put “GDP rose more dramatically after the war ended than when it began” (don’t quote me on that one…I don’t think it is correct b/c gov’t spending is included in GDP, so that would have decreased, but real measures of prosperity would have increased after WWII) and any numbers or references like, “Murray Rothbard’s The Great Depression.” Why do I do it that way? I keep notes because I like to look at them again if I’m studying that subject again. Having a summary on the left side makes it easy for me to skim through pages of notes and find exactly what I need without actually having to read every single line. I also use the far left margin found on most lined paper to put page numbers. If pages 20 through 25 are on “WWII didn’t end the Great Depression” I would write that down on the far left. I also found that with traditional notes, if I wrote line after line after line of notes, there was no room to insert additional comments afterwards. With this two-column approach, the summary on the left takes up much less space than the details on the right, so if necessary, I can come back and write on the left and just connect it to the details with an arrow. And speaking of arrows…I use them a lot. I use arrows to show what sentences are connected and how each step is ordered. Sometimes I go a little overboard with my arrows, but hey, it isn’t the worst thing I could do.
So generally, when taking notes on a book, I try identify ahead of time what I’m trying to get out of my reading. And most of the time my goal is to have a summary of the book for my own future reference. So I have in mind that I need to document where in any given book an important idea is discussed. My notes narrow it down to a specific book like “The Great Depression” but by putting a page number or chapter down, I don’t have to read the book all over again to find that section. I also like condensing any examples or illustrations in the book down to a sentence or less, just enough to trigger my memory because examples are very helpful in remembering a concept. I will also sometimes try to come up with my own example to further embed the information in my mind.
Last question, “what are the questions on the quiz like?” I don’t want to give everything away, but I’ll say what I remember. Some of the questions are historical, like “what was the first book Mises wrote?” Some were kind of tricky cause and effect things, “if A happened in area B, what would be the effect on the entire economy?” or something like that, and they weren’t straightforward “If the gov’t prints more money, what happens to the economy?” All of the questions are multiple-choice, but among some of the choices there are very fine nuances and they aren’t like, “If the gov’t prints money what happens? A) economy prospers B) economy experiences inflation” so you have to read everything really carefully. And some of the questions are just general economic theory definitions, “what is ________?” and so forth. What I didn’t know (thanks to my homeschool education…probably the only drawback to being self-taught) is that especially with multiple choice tests, you can ask the professor about the questions if you don’t know what it means. My friend did that after I finished my test, so I know that at least last year it was allowed, and that would have been really nice for me, because some of the questions were rather unclear.
Hope that helps all y’all thinking about taking the exam…I haven’t decided yet if I will. Also hope to see you there…at Mises U 2011!! :)
The Mises Institute strongly encourages all students attending Mises U to be familiar with the Required Readings found here. Whether I go to Mises U or not (still hoping it will work out!) I will try do the readings. Last year I wrote out a schedule for getting through all the books, and I thought I would post my updated version for the students I know who wondering how to tackle it. Anyone else is welcome to read through all this too. :)
Theoretically I would start the reading in March. However…that didn’t happen this year. But my schedule starts in March anyways. These are just suggestions and are based on what I was doing last year. I’ll be changing this to fit my life this year. I just hope it helps you to come up with a definite plan so we aren’t trying frantically to read everything the day before Mises U starts, a plight I narrowly escaped last year. :)
Why: The first reading is pretty much the basics. It is good to start with this. Hoppe’s book is a nice complement to it because 1) it is a little deeper reading and 2) it really shows exactly why the Austrian school is different than all the other schools; not so much in what they teach but in how they obtain knowledge. This helped me understand why the Austrians are so much more awesome than everyone else ;)
Why: The Mises work, as I recall, builds on and complements the Hoppe reading from March. The Gordon piece is a natural progression from “What is Austrian Economics?” in March.
Why: From “What is Austrian Economics?” David Gordon focused on the history of it and now the Taylor essay/book is explaining what makes Austrian economic theory different from other schools. I found the first few pages of “Realism and Abstraction in Economics” to be totally fascinating and I absolutely loved the beginning. As a side note, there are some books that I struggle through at the beginning (like Moby Dick) but end up enjoying. Other times I start a work enjoying it, but then get lost by the end. That’s what happened last year with Long’s work, no offense at all to him. I’m hopeful that this year I might pick up a bit more of it. But it is balanced with the more purely economic Taylor book and that helps.
- “Liberty and Property” – Mises
- “Middle of the Road Policy Leads to Socialism” – Mises
- “What Has the Government Done With Our Money?” – Rothbard
- “Economic Calculation in the Socialist Commonwealth” - Mises
Why: I graduated from highschool in May of last year, and so obviously had much more time in June for reading which is why I allocated more work for the summer months. That would also be the case for any college students. The Mises works listed this month are fairly short and they are balanced by an easier (but longer) Rothbard book. As you probably noticed, all the Mises essays have to do with socialism and private ownership of property. I haven’t read the Rothbard one yet (I think they added that since last year…or maybe I read it online last year, I have the hardcopy now) and so I’m not sure how well it fits into the socialism vs. free market subject that the Mises essays address.
- “Praxeology and Understanding” – Selgin
- “Historical Setting of the Austrian School” – Mises
- “Mises and the Role of the Economist in Public Policy” – Mises
- “Austrian Theory of the Trade Cycle and Other Essays” – various
- “Against Intellectual Property” – Kinsella
Why: I can’t remember what I was thinking about these works last March…so I can only assume they were the only ones left after I had distributed the rest in other months. :) The Kinsella book has been added since last year, so I just threw it in here. I’ve already read it this year, so I don’t have to worry about it. :)
I’m posting the resources from a recent webinar as a blog post to give readers better access to the info.
Here’s a list of the resources and links mentioned in the webinar
- Chaos Theory by Bob Murphy
- Privatization of Roads and Highways by Walter Block
- The Enterprise of Law by Bruce Benson
- Walter Block Interview on Road Privatization, http://mises.org/daily/3431
- A Future of Private Roads and Highways by Walter Block, http://mises.org/daily/3416
- This video is a study on a formerly-controlled intersection in England that now has no government control. The improvement is stark.
- This podcast is an intro to anarchy/the case for anarchy – Lew Rockwell interviews Roderick Long. Highlights a stateless policing solution at about 13:00. Compares Somalian peace/prosperity under government versus under no government around 15:00.
- This article is by Stefan Molyneux and it examines stateless alternatives for dispute resolution, collective services, and how to deal with pollution
- Disproving the state – four arguments against government by Stefan Molyneux
- The stateless society and violent crime by Stefan Molyneux
- Stefan expounds on his dispute resolution organization proposal
- The Daily Bell analyzes anarchy, argues that private societies are capable of providing the essential building blocks of society