Friday, February 15, 2013

3 or 4 year terms?

Sinclair Davidson spotted the interesting debate in the The New Zealand Initiative's weekly email update on whether or not to lengthen the three-year parliamentary term to four year.

Oliver Hartwich wants the term lengthened:

Elections are about choosing people we trust and task with decision-making on problems we may not even know at the time of the election. If you are uncomfortable with that then you have not understood the concept of parliamentary democracy.
    The more substantive problem with three-year terms is that it leaves little time for parliamentary work. With new MPs and positions reshuffled, it takes the best part of a year for a new parliament to start functioning. Parliament also typically descends into a pre-election campaign well before the likely end of its term.
    Currently this leaves just about one year for good, substantial governance. Increasing electoral terms to four years would double this quieter mid-term period when parliament can properly fulfill its role as the legislature. It would allow more time for good law-making, and it could well result in a better quality of policy. It might even encourage governments to undertake necessary reforms, even if their positive results do not materialise immediately.

Luke Malpass disagrees:

The arguments for four- (or five-) year fixed parliamentary term can be summed up as stability, predictability and giving government time to implement its agenda. By having a longer fixed term, government governs better.
    This is all well but ignores the basic principle that liberal democracies are founded upon: fear of tyranny. This fear is institutionalised through checks and balances to limit power of government.

“I’m inclined to agree with Luke,” says Sinclair. Me too.  “Luke’s point about tyranny is decisive. The only way to keep the bastards honest is to throw them out of office. That means shorter not longer electoral periods.”

Precisely.

Oliver reckons the “substantive problem with three-year terms is that it leaves little time for parliamentary work.” But this is not a bug, it’s a feature!  It’s the parliamentary work they’re doing that is making our lives worse.

“Increasing electoral terms to four years would double this quieter mid-term period when parliament can properly fulfil its role as the legislature,” says a deluded Oliver Hartwich.  Because these bastards are not in there legislating to make our lives better, or freer, or more prosperous, and they haven’t been for a very long time indeed--and if Oliver or anyone truly thinks they are then they’re either blind or stupid.

As Mark Twain used to say, neither life, liberty nor property is safe while parliament is in session. If a three-year term means parliament is in session for fewer hours—and in those fewer hours less work is being done—then I’m all for shortening parliamentary terms, not making them longer.

Indeed, if a three-year term really only leaves one year when parliament fulfils its role as the legislature, then I’m all for making the parliamentary term only two years. Then the bastards wouldn’t have time to do anything at all substantial.

And how bad could that be?

Where Is the Inflation?

Food prices are rocketing, but this is nothing to worry about burble those who read CPI statistics.   This is not inflation, they say, because food prices often do rise in January/the increase last month reflected more expensive grocery food after drops in prices in recent months/fruit and vegetables showed seasonal increases (pick one).

So, with all the money printing going on around the world, where is the inflation?  Read on…

Where Is the Inflation?
Guest post by Mark Thornton

Critics of the Austrian School of economics have been throwing barbs at Austrians like Robert Murphy because there is very little inflation in the U.S. economy. Of course, these critics are speaking about the mainstream concept of the price level as measured by the Consumer Price Index (i.e., CPI).

Let us ignore the problems with the concept of the price level and all the technical problems with CPI. Let us further ignore the fact that this has little to do with the Austrian business cycle theory (ABCT), as the critics would like to suggest. The basic notion that more money, i.e., inflation, causes higher prices, i.e., price inflation, is not a uniquely Austrian view. It is a very old and commonly held view by professional economists and is presented in nearly every textbook that I have examined.

This common view is often labeled the quantity theory of money. Only economists with a Mercantilist or Keynesian ideology even challenge this view. However, only Austrians can explain the current dilemma: why hasn’t the massive money printing by the central banks of the world resulted in higher prices.

Austrian economists like Ludwig von Mises, Benjamin Anderson, and F.A. Hayek saw that commodity prices were stable in the 1920s, but that other prices in the structure of production indicated problems related to the monetary policy of the Federal Reserve. Mises, in particular, warned that Fisher’s “stable dollar” policy, employed at the Fed, was going to result in severe ramifications. Absent the Fed’s easy money policies of the Roaring Twenties, prices would have fallen throughout that decade.

So let’s look at the prices that most economists ignore and see what we find. There are some obvious prices to look at like oil. Mainstream economists really do not like looking at oil prices, they want them taken out of CPI along with food prices, Ben Bernanke says that oil prices have nothing to do with monetary policy and that oil prices are governed by other factors.

As an Austrian economist, I would speculate that in a free market economy, with no central bank, that the price of oil would be stable. I would further speculate, that in the actual economy with a central bank, that the price of oil would be unstable, and that oil prices would reflect monetary policy in a manner informed by ABCT.

That is, artificially low interest rates generated by the Fed would encourage entrepreneurs to start new investment projects. This in turn would stimulate the demand for oil (where supply is relatively inelastic) leading to higher oil prices. As these entrepreneurs would have to pay higher prices for oil, gasoline, and energy (and many other inputs) and as their customers cut back on demand for the entrepreneurs’ goods (in order to pay higher gasoline prices), some of their new investment projects turn from profitable to unprofitable. Therefore, you should see oil prices rise in a boom and fall during the bust. That is pretty much how things work as shown below.

As you can see, the price of oil was very stable when we were on the pseudo Gold Standard. The data also shows dramatic instability during the fiat paper dollar standard (post-1971). Furthermore, in general, the price of oil moves roughly as Austrians would suggest, although monetary policy is not the sole determinant of oil prices, and obviously there is no stable numerical relationship between the two variables.

Another commodity that is noteworthy for its high price is gold. The price of gold also rises in the boom, and falls during the bust. However, since the last recession officially ended in 2009, the price of gold has actually doubled. The Fed’s zero interest rate policy has made the opportunity cost of gold extraordinarily low. The Fed’s massive monetary pumping has created an enormous upside in the price of gold. No surprise here.

Actually, commodity prices increased across the board. The Producer Price Index for commodities shows a similar pattern to oil and gold. The PPI-Commodities was more stable during the pseudo Gold Standard with more volatility during the post-1971 fiat paper standard. The index tends to spike before a recession and then recede during and after the recession. However, the PPI-Commodity Index has returned to all-time record levels.

High prices seem to be the norm. The US stock and bond markets are at, or near, all-time highs. Agricultural land in the US is at all time highs. The Contemporary Art market in New York is booming with record sales and high prices. The real estate markets in Manhattan and Washington, DC, are both at all-time highs as the Austrians would predict. That is, after all, where the money is being created, and the place where much of it is injected into the economy.

This doesn’t even consider what prices would be like if the Fed and world central banks had not acted as they did. Housing prices would be lower, commodity prices would be lower, CPI and PPI would be running negative. Low-income families would have seen a surge in their standard of living. Savers would get a decent return on their savings.

Of course, the stock market and the bond market would also see significantly lower prices. Bank stocks would collapse and the bad banks would close. Finance, hedge funds, and investment banks would have collapsed. Manhattan real estate would be in the tank. The market for fund managers, hedge fund operators, and bankers would evaporate.

In other words, what the Fed chose to do ended up making the rich, richer and the poor, poorer. If they had not embarked on the most extreme and unorthodox monetary policy in memory, the poor would have experienced a relative rise in their standard of living and the rich would have experienced a collective decrease in their standard of living.

There are other major reasons why consumer prices have not risen in tandem with the money supply in the dramatic fashion of oil, gold, stocks and bonds. It would seem that the inflationary and Keynesian policies followed by the US, Europe, China, and Japan have resulted in an economic and financial environment where bankers are afraid to lend, entrepreneurs are afraid to invest, and where everyone is afraid of the currencies with which they are forced to endure.

In other words, the reason why price inflation predictions failed to materialize is that Keynesian policy prescriptions like bailouts, stimulus packages, and massive monetary inflation have failed to work and have indeed helped wreck the economy.

* * * * *

]Mark Thornton is a senior resident fellow at the Ludwig von Mises Institute in Auburn, Alabama, and is the book review editor for the Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics. He is the author of The Economics of Prohibition, coauthor of Tariffs, Blockades, and Inflation: The Economics of the Civil War, and the editor of The Quotable Mises, The Bastiat Collection, and An Essay on Economic Theory.
This article first appeared at the Mises Daily.

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I’m so hungry, I could eat a horse!

First, the news:

“British supermarkets have pulled tens of thousands of frozen beefburgers from their shelves after tests revealed that products from Irish supply company Silvercrest contained horse and pig DNA. Tesco was first to remove the products yesterday.” - TELEGRAPH.CO.UK

A spokesman for one supermarket chain said they are not entirely sure how they are going to get over this hurdle.

And in related news:

A woman has been taken into hospital after eating horse meat burgers from Tesco. Her condition is said to be stable.

Tesco has also been forced to deny presence of zebra in burgers, as shoppers confuse barcodes for serving suggestions.

And Tesco are now testing all their vegetarian burgers for traces of unicorn.

Meanwhile, family counsellors are pointing out Tesco Quarter Pounders may be the affordable way to buy your daughter the pony that she's always wanted!

Anecdotes abound:

A waitress in Tesco asked if I wanted anything on my Burger. So I had a £5 bet each way !

Had some burgers from Tesco for my tea last night.... I still have a bit between my teeth

Anyone want a burger from Tesco? yay or neigh?

"I've just checked the Tesco burgers in my freezer...THIS TIME, AND THEY'RE OFF"

A cow walks into a bar. Barman says 'why the long face?' Cow says 'Illegal ingredients, coming over here stealing our jobs!'

I hear the smaller version of those Tesco burgers make great horse d'oeuvres.

These Tesco burger jokes are going on a bit. Talk about flogging a dead.. NO! NO NO NO!

Said to the Mrs, these Tesco burgers given me terrible trots.

But some remain philosophical:

To beef or not to beef. That is equestrian.

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Thursday, February 14, 2013

SUMMER SNIPPETS: ‘The Authorized Biography of Robert A. Heinlein’ (Vol. 1, Learning Curve, 1907-1948)

More snippets clipped from my summer reading, this time from William Patterson’s 2010 biography of the SF master.

Heinlein’s hard-core un-common sense, dosed out mostly as entertainment, had given the parentless generations of the mid-twentieth century something of what previous generations had gotten, in quiet moments, one-one-one with their fathers and their tribe’s wise men: their portion, all they could take, of life wisdom.  They counted Heinlein their “intellectual father,” as an earlier generation regarded Mark Twain…  They had needed, sometimes desperately, to hear what he had to say—not slogans, but tools:
        ‘What are the facts? Again and again and again—what are the facts?  Shun wishful thinking, ignore
    divine revelation, forget ‘what the stars foretell,’ avoid opinion, care not what the neighbours think, never
    mind, the un-guessable ‘verdict of history’—what are the facts, and to how many decimal places?  You
    pilot always into an unknown future; facts are your single clue.’

“[The film from Heinlein’s screenplay] Destination Moon was released in 1950 and caused a national sensation by visualising for the people of the world the first trip to the Moon…  Now, in 1969, he was a celebrity again, his big satire on hypocrisy Stranger in a Strange Land still picking up steam, though almost nobody seemed to understand it was not a book of answers, but a book of questions.”

“[It was July 20, 1969, and as Neil Armstrong took that small step onto the moon’s surface for first time,] Heinlein sat in a makeshift studio in Downey California … with Walter Cronkite and Arthur C. Clarke … they wanted him for commentary, when he was too excited, almost, to talk at all.  Heinlein had yearned for the moon most of his life, and had done what he could to make it happen—in aeronautical engineering in the Navy, then writing about it, making real to readers … [as he] got on with his real work of teaching people who to live in the future…
    “This is a great day,” Heinlein told Cronkite:
        ‘This is the greatest event in all the history of the human race, up
    to this time.  This is—today is New Year’s Day of the Year One.  If
    we don’t change the calendar, historians will do so. The human race—
    this is our change, our puberty rite, bar mitzvah, confirmation, from
    the change from infancy into adulthood for the human race.  And we
    are going to go on out, not only to the Moon, to the stars: we’re going
    to spread.  I don’t know that the United States is going to do it; I hope
    so.  I have—I’m an American myself; I want it to be done by us.  But
    in any case, the human race is going to do it, it’s utterly inevitable:
    we're going to spread through the entire universe.’

So successful was his writerly mission that Heinlein was increasingly sought out as a guru—a position he rejected.  At almost the same time Stranger in a Strange Land was speaking to the spiritual life of a new generation, so too The Moon is a Harsh Mistress was galvanising another movement of young people coming together.  The movement has suffered many ups and downs, but well into the twenty-first century libertarianism is still with us … stile holding out Heinlein’s vision of what an untrammelled society might look like.”

In his first naval placement, Heinlein was impressed that his hard-pressing ship’s commander on the USS Lexington Captain, later Admiral, King “always looked unhurried and unworried, but he worked very hard anticipating anything that could go wrong and paying attention to every detail—even the ones he seemed not to notice at the time… King expected performance from his subordinates—and got it: ‘I find a boss who consistently requires high performance much easier to work for than one who blows both hot and cold.  As for the third sort, who are always satisfied with poor performance—I quit!’”

As a fan of his science fiction writing, Heinlein was initially sympathetic to H.G. Wells’s brand of socialism, which muckraking journalist and 1930 Socialist Party candidate for California governor Upton Sinclair described as having been killed by Communism:
        ‘Socialism [like Wells’ which was creative is stunned, and Communism, which is the sabotage of civilisation by the disappointed, has usurped its name and inheritance … The new Marxist Socialism, therefore, with its confident dogmas, its finality and hardness, its vindictive will, developed an intensity and energy that drowned and almost silenced the broader, more tentative, and scientific [sic] initiatives of the older, the legitimate Socialism.  Communism, with its class-war obsession, ate up Socialism.’ "
    “The socialism of Sinclair and Wells was ‘progressive’—the term means social change by progressive stages of education and gradual political conversion, as opposed to the violent revolutionary change should by Marxist theory.  Progressivism fit very comfortably with the liberal orientation of the Democratic Party platform; Sinclair switched his party affiliation on September 1, 1933, changing his techniques, he said, but not his principles:  ‘I found I was not getting anywhere as a Socialist,’ he explained… , ‘ and so I decided to make progress with one of the two old parties.’ ”

In July 1935, the Seventh World Congress of the [Communist International] announced the Popular Front against fascism throughout the world, bizarrely holding up the Nazi government of Germany as ‘the highest form of capitalism.’  The success of this peculiar ‘big lie’ would crippled the ability of traditional liberals to resist the growth of totalitarian ideology.  They would have to be antifascist, anticommunist and anticapitalist all at the same time.  Liberals didn’t realise it yet, but traditional—‘classical’—liberalism began to collapse as an intellectual movement … from that moment.”

“[In 1936] Robert  and [his wife] Leslyn started hosting informal breakfasts Sunday mid-mornings for [electioneering Democrat] workers in their district, to provide a neutral ground where all the  [party’s] different factions could come face-to-face…  Leslyn Heinlein recorded some thoughts about this process:
        ‘…one of the most useful functions Bob and I performed in
    our political activities was that of getting people together who were in basic agreement and didn’t know it.  It
    is amazing how quickly methods of accomplishing a desired end can be worked out, once two people who
    have been busy hating each other’s guts get the idea they want to accomplish the same end and have
    been fighting over how.’ ”

Pragmatically, Robert and Leslyn knew that the Democratic Party was rotten with communists… [and] were very much in the way insofar as the success of the Democratic Party was concerned… For his efforts, he got on the Communist Party’s ‘better dead’ list…  The dislike was mutual.  Individual communist may not be villains, but Heinlein had then then common liberal’s abhorrence of communism as an active force in the world:
       ‘Let me go on record that I regard communism as expressed by the U.S.S.R and its friends here and
    elsewhere as a grisly horror, a tyranny maintained by force and terror, utterly subversive of human
    liberty, freedom of thought, and dignity.  I regard it as Red fascism, distinguishable from black and
    brown fascism by differences of no importance to me nor to its victims.’ ”

In April 1939, “flat broke following a disastrous political campaign … and with a heavily-mortgaged house” Heinlein submitted his first short story “Life-Line” to Astounding Science Fiction and was rewarded with a cheque for $75, then a fairly princely sum. “ ‘How long has this racket been going on?” he demanded rhetorically. “And why didn’t someone tell me about it sooner?’ ”

“Germany … rejected  Great Britain's ultimatum to return to its borders after the invasion of Poland, and the suddenly revealed Hitler-Stalin pact had American communists spluttering.  England declared war on Germany, and the French were mobilising.  On September 3, 1939, Heinlein composed a memorandum/prediction for his own files: ‘A note from Robert A. Heinlein of this date to R.A.H. of some later date, just to keep the record straight’:
        ‘Great Britain has just declared war on Germany.  France joins them.
        ‘Germany has not attacked Britain nor France… I do not justify Germany’s attack, but let’s keep the
    record straight.  Britain is not entering this war to save democracy (Poland is a dictatorship), nor because of
    the "holiness" of her treaty obligations (remember both Ethiopia and Czechoslovakia—a democracy,
    incidentally—and Spain).
        ‘So far as I can see, Britain is entering this war because Germany is getting stronger than she likes.  She
    has decided to fight Germany because she thinks she can lick her now, and isn’t sure she can later-let’s not
    be sanctimonious about it.
        ‘This war isn’t being fought for Thomas Mann, nor Albert Einstein, nor for other persecuted Jews.  Nor is
    it being fought for "democracy."  It’s being fought to preserve the worst and most unjust features of the
    Versailles Treaty.  Let's get that straight.  And stop Hitlerism makes as much sense as Hang the Kaiser.
        ‘Hitler is a symptom of Versailles—we caused him.  The insanity he typifies we caused.
        ‘This is where we came in—want to sit through another show?’

    “He added a handwritten postscript:
        ‘I’ll bet two bits that from here on anyone who is not pro-British will be called un-American.’

“Toward the end of 1940, … Heinlein [was persuaded to] take up photography as a hobby. ‘I am completely nuts on the subject of cameras,’ he told [a friend]. ‘This produces a vicious cycle: I have to write stories to support my camera, darkroom, buy gear etc., but I really haven't got time to write stories because photography is a full time occupation.’  Nude photography was what he spent most of his free time and spare cash on.  Heinlein never had any difficulty getting women to pose for him—which astonished his friends and acquaintances.  To him, it was simply a numbers game:  ‘If you approach a woman right, one out of two will post nude for you…  Leslyns’s chaperonage is the main reason I can get anyone to pose for me I want for the purpose.’  The Heinleins also belonged for several years to a camera co-op that hired live models at group rates.  In 1941, the co-op brought him the perfect model, Sunrise Lee.  ‘She could not fall into an ungrateful pose,’ [he said].  A nude study hung in his house for the rest of his life.”

“With the money [from writing] coming in … making a studio for himself [went to] the top of his list…  He didn’t bother getting a permit for the work, but sneaked materials in under cover of night, and even cut the windows and outside door at night so that the neighbours could not catch on and complain. When the structure was completed, he posted a sign … on the outside door, to discourage random visitors and door-to-door salesmen:
                                                               ‘ENDOSTROPHIC THERAPY ROOM.  KEEP OUT!
                                                                                           DO NOT KNOCK!!!
                                                                      Use upper door—it works quite well’

“The ‘upper door’ was the main house … where Leslyn had posted her own sign:
                                                               ‘Anyone knocking on this door before eleven a.m.
                                                                                   will be buried free of charge.
’”

“There is a certain type of personality … unfortunately common in science-fiction fandom, for which adoration [of SF writers] is a red flag.  A dozen or so of these boys … followed him around [at conventions] and made a ‘steady and malicious effort’ to whittle him down to size.  This irritation loomed large in his mind.  ‘They were so rude that I did not enjoy [the guest-of-honour experience].’  He wondered for years why the more socially adept fans didn’t rein them in.”

“I haven’t anything which could properly be termed a religion [he wrote to a friend when asked about the subject].  My thoughts on religious subjects are matters of intellectual rather than emotional conviction.  The nearest thing to a religious feeling I have, and, I believe, strong enough to justify calling it religious feeling, has to do with the United States of America.  It is not a reasoned evaluation but an overpowering emotion.  The land itself as well as the people, its culture in the broadest most vulgar sense, its history and its customs … I have no God.  The only think which inspires in me a feeling of something much bigger and more important than myself … is this country of ours.  I know it is not logical—I presume that a mature man’s attachments should be for a set of principles rather than for a particular group or a certain stretch of soil.  But I don’t feel that way … every rolling word of the Constitution, and the bright sharp brave phrases of the Bill of Rights—they get me where I live.  Our own music, whether it’s Yankee Doodle, or the Missouri Waltz, or our own bugle calls—it gets me.”

Caleb Catlum's America: The enlivening wonders of his adventures, voyages, discoveries, loves, hoaxes, bombast and rigmaroles in all parts of America, ... zone, and a thousand tricks of lovemaking“Not even overwork to the point of exhaustion put a serious crimp in Heinlein’s omnivorous reading… Robert particularly enjoyed C.S. Lewis’s Screwtape Letters [written] from the perspective of a senior demon giving infernal advice to his nephew, a tyro imp, on how best to corrupt human souls.  The conceit ticked Heinlein's fancy.
    “Vincent McHugh, whose 1936 Caleb Catlum’s America Heinlein was still using as a touchstone by which to measure the compatibility of potential friends (along with Charles G. Finney’s The Circus of Dr Lao and an odd little  French graphic novel Private Memoirs of a Profiteer by Marcel Arnac) published his fourth book, I Am Thinking of My Darling—a response to H.G. Wells’s In the Days of the Comet....
    “But Philip Wylie’s Generation of Vipers so exactly said things Heinlein believed desperately needed I to be said that Heinlein’s enthusiasm ran away with him and he gushed for an hour about the book to e very uninterested fan … who came to visit one day in 1943.”

“Heinlein had come to despise his [wartime] job [at the Naval Aeronautics Lab]—the waste, the inefficiency, the absolute rigidity of the bureaucratic read tape that tied everything up in knots and made it nearly impossible to get anything useful done…
       ‘I found here my conception of the navy had been incorrect or at least incomplete … and I began to be
    ashamed of being a naval officer (yes, ashamed).  Presently the heroic exploits of the fleet compensated in
    part and gradually I began to understand the mechanism which produced, automatically, [the place he and
    his co-workers had dubbed] Snafu Manor.  It does not produce bastards, but it gives them scope…”

“ ‘It was Ian Hay, I believe, who first discovered that any military administration is divided into three departments: the Fairy Godmother Department, the Practical Joke Department, and the Surprise Party Department.  By preparing for Come-What-May I may circumvent and discourage the latter two and be turned over to the benevolence of the first.  But I am not optimistic; the resourcefulness of the two larger departments can hardly be measured.’ – Letter to a friend, 1944.”

Early in July 1945 the imperial Japanese government had approached the Soviet government to open diplomatic discussions for a negotiated peace.  By this time however, it was clear that what the Japanese wanted was a ‘breather’ to rebuild their shattered war machine, and that was not acceptable: there would be no prospect for peace so long as the military was in control of the Japanese government…  Early in the morning of August 6, 1945, the specially modified bomber Enola Gay  approached the industrial city of Hiroshima … and dropped its payload, the U-235 bomb code-named Little Boy… Heinlein had known about a secret War Department project involving uranium and did his best to keep talk about the subject in his presence to a minimum, preferably none at all.  Now, atomics were a reality—and the future rushed in.
    “Even while he struggled to grasp the enormity, his mind flashed ahead to the meaning of the event. ‘That’s the end,’ he said flatly.  The end of the war, almost certainly—but also, Goodbye To All That, the end of the whole world as it was before August 6, 1945…
        ‘Combine the atomic bomb with the V2 and I believe it is evident o any sober-minded technical man that
    the events of 6 Aug, et seq., should cause us carefully to re-examine all plans, proposals, and projects
    which obtained before that time …  In the broad sense we are out of business, just as thoroughly out off
    business as were wooden fighting ships after the battle of the
Monitor and Merrimac… It is a simple fact that
    (1) we cannot afford a war ever again, (2) the atomic bomb cannot be abolished, nor can it be indefinitely
    kept from other peoples.  We must ride the lightning and ride it well.  I conceive the atomic bomb as being
    the force behind the police power for a planetary peace … such a force there must be if we are not be
    ourselves destroyed.’ ”

The Naval Air Materials Center, the research wing of the Naval Aircraft Factory, should organise ‘a major project’ with all the usual apparatus of its wartime R & D projects, to develop a man-carrying rocket out of V2 technology.  The first step could be an unmanned ‘messenger rocket’ to the Mon, guided by the new radar target-seeking technology…
        ‘It must be noted that it is really much easier to build a successful Moon rocket than to build a proper war rocket [he wrote in a memo that went up the Naval and diplomatic channels].  Nevertheless either problem can be sued to solve the other—the choice between the two is a choice in diplomacy and politics.’
    “The public, he said, is now ready for such a project, and Robert Goddard had suggested a good test in his 1920 technical paper: the Moon rocket could carry a fifty-pound payload of carbon black.  An explosion just before touchdown could disperse it far enough for eth mark to be seen on Earth, even by quite low-powered amateur telescopes…. ‘The unique prestige which would accrue to the United States of America, to the U.S. Navy, and to NAMC in particular cannot be expressed.’ ”

Heinlein set out his understanding of the current situation in a letter [to a friend]:
        ‘As I see it, we finally finished off the war by plunging the globe and ourselves in particular into the
    greatest crisis, the most acute danger, in all history.  I am not deploring it.  I know that the discovery of
    atomic power was inevitable and I know that you can’t turn the clock back, no turn sausage back into hog.  It
    is here.  We’ve got to face it and deal with it.  I am overwhelmingly thankful that we got it first and that it
    was brought out into the open by the war.  Now we have a fighting chance to save civilisation as we know it
    and the very globe we stand on. If the Axis had gotten it we would have had no chance.  It might have been
    a thousand years before freedom and human dignity would ever again have been known.
        ‘But I am bitterly afraid of the way we may handle it.  There are two crazy approaches … The first says
    "We’ve got it … From now on they got to do what we tell them too" … The second crazy viewpoint regards
    the atomic bomb as just another weapon, powerful but bound to be subjected in time to an effective
    counter weapon…  There is a third reaction, one of deploring the whole thing [and] of passing
    resolutions expressing regret that we ever used so barbarous a weapon…
        ‘You might call these three types of dunderheads the bloody minded, the common or garden
    unimaginative stupid, and the custard head.  God deliver us from all of them
.’ ”

imageMagician [and Heinlein friend] Jack Parsons rented out rooms in the large house in Pasadena he had inherited, seeking odd and eccentric characters of all kinds.  This suited L. Ron Hubbard’s needs [who had just finished lodging at Heinlein’s house], and he moved in.  Parsons had assumed leadership of the Los Angeles chapter of Aleister Crowley’s Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO), and he gave weekly presentations of the ‘Gnostic Mass’ in the attic of the house.
    “The Gnostic Mass was a theatrical piece rather than a true religious rite, suitable for introducing newcomers to the basic concepts of Crowley’s religion of Thelema…  Parsons found Hubbard [who was later to create the religion of Scientology]  ‘the most Thelemic person I have ever met.’  Hubbard immediately became comfortable in Parsons’s eccentric ménage—and soon started an affair with Parson’s live-in lover and magickal assistant, Sara ‘Betty’ Northrup…  It appears Parsons had little objection to make when Hubbard took over Betty’s affections; Betty’s affections were habitually strewn around pretty indiscriminately, and not just as a matter of adolescent friendliness… Instead, Parsons immediately threw himself into a magickal project to call down an elemental to take her place.”

In January 1946, [Heinlein] wrote another of his atomics articles, ‘America’s Maginot Line’—this time pointing out how inadequate conventional weapons were to address the strategic demands of atomic weaponry… Offense had so far outrun defence that trying to rely on conventional weaponry was virtually an invitation to a pre-emptive strike with atomic weapons.
        ‘I believe that present plans for national ‘defence’ are not only useless and a waste of money but tend to lull
    the public into thinking that ‘older and wiser’ heads have the situation under control…
        ‘The most expensive thing in the world is a second-best military establishment.’

“[As he began writing his novels for boys] he kept in mind his conversations with [film-maker] Fritz Lang, since the same considerations would apply to any films… Above all, he did not want [them] to be what H.G. Wells had once called the ‘artificial and meretricious fricloity forced upon the young.’ 
        ‘Before starting [Rocket Ship Galileo] I established what has continued to be my rule for writing for
    youngsters; Never write down to them.  Do not simplify the vocabulary nor the intellectual concepts... The
    story should have lots of action and adventure … [and] plot use of difficult intellectual or scientific concepts:
    the kids enjoy getting their teeth into such—much more than their parents…
        “I have been writing the Horatio Lager books for this generation, always with the same strongly
    moral purpose that runs through every line of the Alger books… "Honesty is the best policy"—"Hard work
    is rewarded"—"There is no easy road to success”—"Courage above all"—"Studying hard pays off, in happiness
    as well as money"—"Stand on your own feet"—"Don’t every be bullied"—"Take your medicine”—“The
    world always has a place for a man who works, but none for a loafer."  These are the things the Alger books
    said to me, in the idiom suited to my generation … and I have constantly tried to say them to a
    younger generation which I believe has been shamefully neglected by many of the elders responsible for
    its moral training.

[To be continued]

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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Atlas in South America

Turns out that Atlas Shrugged, Objectivism and Ayn Rand—and Austrian economics—are growing in popularity in South America, including reports from Cuba of a tractor and cart used for transportation between two villages wit he words “John Galt” emblazoned on its sides.

And in Guatemala the Universidad Francisco Marroquin (UFM) has a Ludwig von Mises library, a Centro del Capitalismo, a Centro Henry Hazlitt, and has made Atlas Shrugged required reading for all students—with the events in the novel integrated with the economics courses—and The Fountainhead assigned reading for all architecture students. Our mission,” says the University, “is to teach and disseminate the ethical, legal and economic aspects of a society of free and responsible individuals.

If only other universities could say the same.

Here’s the  sculpture by Walter Peter Brenner adorning the business school:  photographed in 2007 at its unveiling to commemorate the golden anniversary of Atlas Shrugged’s publication, the fourteen-foot square bronze relief is called “Atlas Libertas,” and described as “a tribute to the spirit of enterprise and creative power of the individual.”

[Hat tip Greg D. and the  HB List]

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Solar energy is clean energy?

You like solar energy because it’s “clean energy”?

But are you sure about that?

Despite the daydreams by the likes of Russel Norman, solar energy still struggles to be economic. It’s not sustainable. This industry that’s never made a profit wouldn’t survive without being subsidised by industries that do.

And it’s filthy:

Nowhere is the waste issue more evident than in California, where landmark regulations approved in the 1970s require industrial plants like solar panel makers to report the amount of hazardous materials they produce, and where they send it. California leads the consumer solar market in the U.S. — which doubled overall both in 2010 and 2011.
    The Associated Press compiled a list of 41 solar makers in the state, which included the top companies based on market data, and startups. In response to an AP records request, the California Department of Toxic Substances Control provided data that showed 17 of them reported waste, while the remaining did not…
    The state records show the 17 companies [who did report] had 44 manufacturing facilities in California, producing 46.5 million pounds of sludge and contaminated water from 2007 through the first half of 2011. Roughly 97 per cent of it was taken to hazardous waste facilities throughout the state, but more than 1.4 million pounds were transported to nine other states: Arkansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, Rhode Island, Nevada, Washington, Utah, New Mexico and Arizona…
Solyndra, the now-defunct solar company that received $535 million in [“stimulus” money], reported producing about 12.5 million pounds of hazardous waste, much of it carcinogenic cadmium-contaminated water, which was sent to waste facilities from 2007 through mid-2011…

Nice.

“Having this stuff go to … hazardous waste sites, that’s what you want to have happen,” said Adam Browning, executive director of the Vote Solar Initiative, a solar advocacy group. [But this is less likely] as manufacturing moves from the U.S. and Europe to less regulated places such as China and Malaysia.
    The Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, a watchdog group created in 1982 in response to severe environmental problems associated with the valley’s electronics industry, is now trying to keep the solar industry from making similar mistakes through a voluntary waste reporting “scorecard.” So far, only 14 of 114 companies contacted have replied. Those 14 were larger firms that comprised 51-per cent of the solar market share.
    “We find the overall industry response rate to our request for environmental information to be pretty dismal for an industry that is considered ’green,”’ the group’s executive director, Sheila Davis, said in an email.

So it’s not profitable, and it’s not really green.

So why exactly did you like it?

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: What’s at stake

“Future generations will wonder in bemused amazement that the early 21st century’s developed world went into hysterical panic over a globally averaged temperature increase of a few tenths of a degree, and, on the basis of gross exaggerations of highly uncertain computer projections combined into implausible chains of inference, proceeded to contemplate a roll-back of the industrial age.” 
            - Professor Richard Lindzen

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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Wishing for a “living wage”

Unions are calling for a “living wage” for everyone of at least $19 per hour, enforced by government on every employer. People “need” this they say, therefore they should have it.

This idiocy is not primarily economic—although economist Matt Nolan does give it a thorough spanking, pointing out that “by imposing a ‘price floor’ you are ensuring there are a group of people who can’t get jobs and will get hurt—but unions don’t care because they don’t represent the unemployed.”

See, it is idiotic. But the idiocy is not primarily economic; the idiocy is primarily philosophic. You see, these people are utterly blind to causality. They see no connection at all between how much a person can produce and how much they are able to consume: as if wishing for a loaf of bread were enough on its own to bring that bread on your plate. They se no causal chain connecting what is produced and what is consumed: as if the two were separate things going on with no reference to each other. They see no causal link at all between between production and consumption: as if need itself is sufficient to set the wheels of production in motion.

Yet not an ocean of tears nor a plane-load of hand-wringing former Hobbit actors can bring into existence the bread you will need tomorrow—not unless those hand-wringers are able to put those hands into productive ends.

Taken seriously, the call for this “living wage” is nothing but a whim—that is, “a desire experienced by a person who does not know and does not care to discover its cause.”

The thing these people need to learn is that wishing doesn’t make it so. Reality just isn’t made that way.

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“Let them come”

New Zealanders and Australians like to think they are charitable folk. They like to think they are caring, sharing and good hearted towards others. They sit warm and self-satisfied in that thought, right up until the point that those “others” come to our places by boat—and right at that point these good-hearted folk are happy to have these other folk, these other human beings escaping desperate situations, held up at the point of a gun and thrown into detention centres that are little more than concentration camps.

So much for the virtue of benevolence.

It seems benevolence ends where the welfare state begins.

The Welfare State forces every person to be responsible for every other person, whether they like it or not. And like it or not, those who pick up the cheque for New Zealand's welfare state resent that forced imposition.

The Welfare State dehumanises people—forcing us to view another human being as either a wallet or a mouth—upsetting those with the wallets at the prospect of many more mouths being fed at their expense.

The existence of the Welfare State means that instead of seeing every other human being as a potential gain to ourselves, which is what they are, instead we see them as just another mouth to feed and a family to house.

This is criminally wrong.

This is the way the Welfare State is. It is a State in which every human being is set against every other human being.

What we should abhor is not the existence of “boat people”—people in a desperate situation yearning to breathe free, whom we dehumanise by that disgraceful epithet—but the existence of this “forced charity.”

It is all force, and no charity.

There is a better way to deal with immigrants and refugees than with guns, camps and a death sentence.

As author Robert Heinlein suggested, successful immigrants demonstrate just by their choice and gumption in choosing a new life that they are worthy of respect. So why can’t we?

Why not simply let people look after them voluntarily?

This shouldn’t be difficult. Every time an issue like this comes to light, many charitable New Zealanders and Australians raise their voices in support of the embattled minority; so why not take these calls literally?

Instead of announcing that New Zealand is about to buy into Australian inhumanity, Prime Ministers Key and Gillard could instead have announced that between them they will accept whoever arrives on our shores, but only as long as a sufficient number of charitable Australians and New Zealanders can be found to take full responsibility for them until they are on their feet. People who will offer their own voluntary welfare and 'naturalisation services' to help these people start their new life.

Who could possibly, or reasonably, object to that?

Finding a sufficient number should not be a problem. Even the numbers gleefully posted every week by xenophobes like new-Australian Andrew Bolt  only measure in their hundreds--a “flood” of several-hundred souls at most trying to “pour” into a country of 20-million people and a thousand-million empty acres.

And given the initiative refugees will have already shown in getting down here, I would expect that getting on their feet will not take them very long.

This solution demonstrates the stark contrast between generosity and enforced charity, and the simple benevolence at the heart of the libertarian philosophy.

Compulsory 'charity' is a misnomer - it dehumanises both taxpayer and recipient. But when charity is voluntary, people are set free to be benevolent again.

The Welfare State is a killer for benevolence, for the human spirit, for open immigration, and a literal killer for immigrants and refugees braving dangerous waters and the integrity of unscrupulous people-smugglers.

I say set these people free through the generosity of benevolent New Zealanders—while taking a good hard look at what the Welfare State does to people.

I say that the simple libertarian philosophy be adopted with all immigrants, including refugees: that until the Welfare State we endure is permanently dismantled we simply allow all peaceful people to pass freely just as long as they make no claim at all on our enforced charity.

I say Let Them Come.

The principle of individual rights demands it.

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Monday, February 11, 2013

QUOTE OF THE DAY: On drugs and match-fixing

Couple recent revelations about drugs and match-fixing in everything from cycling to soccer and from boxing to all the pointy ball codes, with the modern proliferation of so many giggle games and meaningless sporting contests promoted simply in order to get bums on seats regardless of the bums interest in the contest—with all that in mind, this comment from today’s Footy Almanac seems to hit the mark:

“The more meaningless the game is, the more open it will be to the match-fixers.  Something that applies across all codes.”
        Sal Ciardulli, “A big couple of days in sport,” THE FOOTY ALMANAC

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SUMMER SNIPPETS: ‘Frederic Bastiat: A Man Alone’

Frederic Bastiat: A Man AloneFrederic Bastiat was the nineteenth century’s great economic populariser of free trade, and probably the most entertaining debunker ever of economic baloney. Here are a few snippets from my summer reading of his biography by George Charles Roche: A Man Alone.

As Bastiat’s fame spread and his arguments favouring free trade appeared in various newspapers and pamphlets throughout France, he immediately became the target for numerous public attacks…  Every half-truth and non-truth imaginable was trotted out by opponents of free trade….
    “Bastiat kept his temper and published refutations of the entire protectionist position, demolishing his opposition with simple language and easily-understood examples. Throughout, Bastiat reflected a sense of humour that illuminated the foibles of his age and which made the hard facts and tight logical analysis of his position far more popular and palatable than the usual grim preaching by reformers  Fredric Bastiat was perhaps the first of the ‘happy libertarians,’ a special breed who are at once a delight to their friends and a thorn in the side of their enemies.”

Bastiat returned to his central themes again and again: the myth of “overproduction”; emphasis up on the interests of the consumer (reminding his readers that we are all consumers); and special emphasis upon the idea that a fundamental harmony pervaded the free market place… Building on Adam Smith [and J.B. Say], Bastiat stressed that fee exchange permitted a division of labour, 
        ‘…which makes it possible for each man, instead of struggling on his own
    behalf to overcome all the obstacles that stand in his way, to struggle
    against only
one, not solely on his own account, but for the
    benefit of his fellow men, who in turn perform the same service for him.’
“Thus, specialisation leads to increased production of those items most desired by consumers, at a price which the consumers themselves are willing to pay.  In free exchange, then, a natural harmony exists between production and consumption, between specialists and consumers of the speciality, provided only that … voluntary choice and free choice prevail.
     “As Bastiat wrote:
        ‘For a man, when he gets up in the morning, to be able to put on a suit of clothes, a piece of land has had to
    be enclosed, fertilized, drained, cultivated, planted with a certain kind of vegetation; flocks of sheep have had
    to feed on it; they have had to give their wool; this wool has had to be spun, woven, dyed, and converted
    into cloth; this cloth has had to be cut, sewn, and fashioned into a garment. And this series of operations
    implies a host of others; for it presupposes the use of farming implements, of sheepfolds, of factories, of coal,
    of machines, of carriages, etc.
        ‘If society were not a very real association, anyone who wanted a suit of clothes would be reduced to
    working in isolation, that is, to performing himself the innumerable operations in this series, from the first
    blow of the pickaxe that initiates it right down to the last thrust of the needle that terminates it.
        ‘But thanks to that readiness to associate which is the distinctive characteristic of our species, these
    operations have been distributed among a multitude of workers, and they keep subdividing themselves more
    and more for the common good to the point where, as consumption increases, a single specialized operation
    can support a new industry. Then comes the distribution of the proceeds, according to the portion of value
    each one has contributed to the total work. If this is not association, I should like to know what is…
         ‘Do not this division of labor and these arrangements, decided upon in full liberty, serve the common good?
    Do we, then, need a socialist, under the pretext of planning, to come and despotically destroy our
    voluntary arrangements, put an end to the division of labor, substitute isolated efforts for co-operative
    efforts, and reverse the progress of civilization?’”

imageThe 1840s in France had spawned a host of enemies for the Bourgeois Monarchy…  Though [the Second Republic]  was finally established under Lamartine, he and his fellow members in the government never recovered from the enormous surprise involved when they found themselves in charge of the French state… 
    “Lamartine had already been a major political figure and a member of the Chamber of Deputies before the February Revolution.  He and Bastiat had ben in correspondence for some three years before the Revolution…  In fact, Lamartine had written to Bastiat shortly before the outbreak of revolution, ‘If ever the storm carries me to Power, you will help me carry out our ideas.’  Bastiat was apparently offered a high position in the new regime, but preferred to retain his freedom of criticism.
    “And criticise he did.  When Lamartine began to make speeches referring to the necessity for fraternity as enforced by government in various social welfare measures, Bastiat immediately rose to the occasion:
        ‘I happened to discuss this question with the eminent gentleman whom the Revolution lifted to such great heights.  I said to him, "Only justice can be demanded from the law, which acts by means of coercion." 
    ‘He thought that people can, in addition, expect fraternity from the law. Last August he wrote me: "If ever, in a time of crisis, I find myself placed at the helm, your idea will be half of my creed."And I reply to him here: "The second half of your creed will stifle the first, for you cannot legislate fraternity without legislating injustice"…
    ‘When, under the pretext of fraternity, the legal code imposes mutual sacrifices on the citizens, human nature is not thereby abrogated. Everyone will then direct his efforts toward contributing little to, and taking much from, the common fund of sacrifices. Now, is it the most unfortunate who gain in this struggle? Certainly not, but rather the most influential and calculating.’
   
“Such frankness was not calculated to make Bastiat a favourite of the new regime.”

Lamartine proposed a national exposition, to be financed by government funds.  He had pointed out how the expenditure of of those government funds would be a tremendous boost to employment, painting a moving picture of all the painted, masons, decorateros, costumers, architects, and all other workmen who would thus find their position improved and who would then be able to provide necessities for themselves and fro their children.  Lamartine concluded his speech to the Assembly amidst cheers and approval, insisting, ‘It is to them that you give these 60,000 francs.’
    “To the Assembly’s cries of ‘Very good!’, Bastiat replied, ‘Very bad!’:
        ‘Yes, it is, at least in part, to the workers in the theatres that the sixty thousand francs in question will go. 
    A few scraps might well get lost on the way.  If one scrutinised the matter closely, one might even discover
    that most of the pie will find its way elsewhere.  The workers will be fortunate if there are a few crumbs left
    for them!  But I should like to assume that the entire subsidy will go to the painters, decorators,
    costumers, hairdressers, etc.
That is what is seen.
        ‘But where does it come from?  This is the other side of the coin, just as important to examine as its face. What
    is the source of those sixty thousand francs?  And where
would they have gone if a legislative vote had not
    first directed them to the Rue de Rivoli and from there to the Rue de Grenelle [i.e., from the tax department to
    the theatrical suppliers in the Left Bank.] 
That is what is not seen.
        ‘Surely, no one will dare maintain that the legislative vote has caused this sum to hatch out from the ballot
    box; that it is a pure addition to the national wealth; that, without this miraculous vote, these sixty
    thousand francs would have remained invisible and impalpable. It must be admitted that all that the
    majority can do is to decide that they will be taken from somewhere to be sent somewhere else, and that
    they will have one destination only by being deflected from another.
        ‘This being the case, it is clear that the taxpayer who will have been taxed one franc will no longer have
    this franc at his disposal. It is clear that he will be deprived of a satisfaction to the tune of one franc, and that
    the worker, whoever he is, who would have procured this satisfaction for him, will be deprived of wages in
    the same amount.
        ‘Let us not, then, yield to the childish illusion of believing that the vote of May 16
adds anything whatever
    to national well-being and employment. It reallocates possessions, it reallocates wages, and that is all…
        ‘When it is a question of taxes, gentlemen, prove their usefulness by reasons with some foundation, but not
    with that lamentable assertion: "Public spending keeps the working class alive." It makes the mistake of
    covering up a fact that it is essential to know: namely, that
public spending is always a substitute for
    private spending, and that consequently it may well support one worker in place of another but adds nothing
    to the lot of the working class taken as a whole. Your argument is fashionable, but it is quite absurd, for
    the reasoning is not correct.’

As he wrote in a troubled moment, ‘… the worst thing that can happen to a good cause is not to be skilfully attacked, but to be ineptly defended.’”

Bastiat was tireless in striking down error wherever it appeared.  He defended the classical economic position as set forth by Thomas Malthus, pointing out that the English economist had far more in mind than the constantly quoted passage in which he had discussed the arithmetic and geometrical qualities of the food supply and the population.  Bastiat understood that Malthus was entirely mistaken about the ultimate prospects for starvation of eth human race, and yet had great merit as a proponent of classical economic principles. Once Bastiat publicly challenged Pierre Leroux, a French philosopher and editor of Le Globe after Leroux had written a chapter against Malthus.  Bastiat … realised as he pursued the point that Leroux did not actually know the work of Malthus.  Never one to do things by half, Bastiat asked, ‘You have refuted Malthus, but have you by any chance read him through from one end to the other?’
    “ ‘I have not read him at all,’ Leroux replied.  ‘His whole system is set forth on one page and can be summed up in his famous arithmetical and geometrical rations.  That’s enough for me.’
    “ ‘Apparently,’ Bastiat said, ‘you care nothing for the public, for Malthus, for the truth, for conscience, for yourself.’”
    “That night, Bastiat wrote:
        ‘This is the way an opinion gains acceptance …  Fifty ignoramuses repeat in chorus some absurd libel that
    has been thought up by an even bigger ignoramus; and, if only it happens to coincide to some slight degree
    with prevailing attitudes and passions, it becomes a self-evident truth.’”

Time was running out for the Second French Republic, and for Frederic Bastiat [who though he had contracted tuberculosis, continued to work feverishly].  Bastiat well knew that the end was in sight, not only for his mortal efforts, but for the sick republic which staggered on toward its rendezvous with the man on horseback: Louis Napoleon.
    “Even as the committee met to draw up the constitution for the Second French Republic, the Republic was expiring.  The Committee for the Constitution itself gave evidence of eth sad state of affairs in France.  Personally acquainted with the members of the committee whose duty it was to draft a new constitution for France, Alexis de Tocqeuville regarded some of them as ‘chimerical visionaries.’  One committee member, Victor Considerant, Tocqueville found especially discouraging: ‘ … he would have deserved to be sent to a lunatic asylum had he been sincere—but I fear he deserved more than that.’  Tocqueville described the other committee members  as being totally unaware of any lasting principles or purposes, totally bewildered at the prospect of deciding the course of action for France:
        ‘All this bore very little resemblance to the men, so certain of their objects and so well acquainted with
the measures necessary to attain them, who sixty years before successfully drew up the American Constitution.’
   
“When it was drawn up, the constitution [for the French Second Republic] proved almost unbelievably complex, guaranteeing a deadlock between President and Assembly, and almost insuring a dictator would step forward to break the impasse.  The would-be dictator was ready at hand.  [Bonaparte’s’ nephew] Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte [known subsequently by the uncomplimentary sobriquet “Napoleon the Little”] had twice attempted inept coups and each tome dismissed with little more than a pat on the head... [Now however] in the balloting for the first President under the new Constitution, so many of the French leaders threw their support to Louis Napoleon, sure that here was a man the politicians could control.  How mistaken they were…
    “In Tocqueville’s phrase, ‘…the world is a strange theatre.  There are moments in it when the worst plays are those which succeed best.  If Louis Napoleon had been a wise man, or a man of genius, he could never have become President of the Republic.’  In perspective, it becomes clear the French were unable to achieve either lasting stability or a free society because they could not cope with their deeply inbred tradition of centralisation…
    “[Within a year Napoleon the Little had dissolved the Legislative Assembly, thrown all opposition members into prison, and proclaimed himself first President-for-Life, then Emperor.] Few Frenchmen were astute enough to recognise what had happened to them.”

Even in the final laps of his race with death, Bastiat found tome to analyse the French political scene and accurately predicted the end of Republican government in France. During June of 1850 he retried to [his home at] Mugron for a few days where he write the most famous and compelling of his books, The Law.  In this work, and in the other pamphlets, letters and essays he write during the last few months of his life, Bastiat described why no society could hope to endure under any political regime that denied freedom to its citizens:
        ‘No society can exist if respect for the law does not to some extent prevail;
    but the surest way to have the laws respected is to make them respectable.
    When law and morality are in contradiction, the citizen finds himself in the
    cruel dilemma of either losing his moral sense or of losing respect for the law,
    two evils of which one is as great as the other, and between which it is
    difficult to choose…
        ‘Unfortunately, the law is by no means confined to its proper role. It is not
   only in indifferent and debatable matters that it has exceeded its legitimate
   function. It has done worse; it has acted in a way contrary to its own end; it
   has destroyed its own object: it has been employed in abolishing the justice which
    it was supposed to maintain, in effacing that limit between rights which it was its mission to respect; it has
    put the collective force at the service of those who desire to exploit, without risk and without scruple, the
    person, liberty, or property of others; it has converted plunder into a right, in order to protect it, and
    legitimate defence into a crime, in order to punish it.’

    “Bastiat analysed the interventionist society point by point, and found it wanting in justice on every hand:
        ‘Alas! I find here so many nascent abuses, so
    many exceptions, so many direct or indirect
    deviations, appearing on the horizon of the new
    social order, that I do not know where to
    begin.

        ‘We have, first of all, licenses of all kinds. No one
    can become a barrister, a physician, a teacher, a
    broker, a dealer in government bonds, a solicitor,
    an attorney, a pharmacist, a printer, a butcher, or
    a baker without encountering legal restrictions.
    Each one of these represents a service that is
    forbidden by law, and hence those to whom
    authorization is granted raise their prices to such a point that the
    mere possession of the license, without the service, often has great value….

        ‘Next comes the attempt to set an artificial price, to receive a supplementary value, by levying tariffs,
    for the most part on necessities: wheat, meat, cloth, iron, tools, etc. This is … a forcible violation of the
    most sacred of all property rights, that to the fruits of one's labour and productive capacities….
        ‘Next comes taxation. It has become a much sought-after means of livelihood. We know that the number
    of government jobs has been increasing steadily, and that the number of applicants is increasing still
    more rapidly than the number of jobs. Now, does any one of these applicants ever ask himself whether he
    will render to the public services equivalent to those which he expects to receive? Is this scourge about to
    come to an end? How can we believe it, when we see that public opinion itself wants to have everything done
    by that fictitious being, the state, which signifies a collection of salaried bureaucrats? After
    having judged all men without exception as capable of governing the country, we declare them incapable
    of governing themselves. Very soon there will be two or three of these bureaucrats around every
    Frenchman, one to prevent him from working too much, another to give him an education, a third to furnish
    him credit, a fourth to interfere with his business transactions, etc., etc. Where will we be led by the illusion
    that impels us to believe that the state is a person who has an inexhaustible fortune independent of ours? …
        ‘I believe we are entering on a path in which plunder, under very gentle, very subtle, very ingenious
    forms, embellished with the beautiful names of solidarity and fraternity, is going to assume proportions
    the extent of which the imagination hardly dares to measure. Here is how it will be done: Under the name
    of the state the citizens taken collectively are considered as a real being, having its own life, its own
    wealth, independently of the lives and the wealth of the citizens themselves; and then each addresses
    this fictitious being, some to obtain from it education, others employment, others credit, others food,
    etc., etc. Now the state can give nothing to the citizens that it has not first taken from them. The only effects
    of its intermediation are … a great dispersion of forces … for everyone will try to turn over as little as
    possible to the public treasury and to take as much as possible out of it. In other words, the public treasury
    will be pillaged. And do we not see something similar happening today? What class does not solicit the favours
    of the state? It would seem as if the principle of life resided in it. Aside from the innumerable horde of its
    own agents, agriculture, manufacturing, commerce, the arts, the theatre, the colonies, and the shipping
    industry expect everything from it. They want it to clear and irrigate land, to colonize, to teach, and
    even to amuse. Each begs a bounty, a subsidy, an incentive, and especially the gratuitous gift of
    certain services, such as education and credit. And why not ask the state for the gratuitous gift of all
    services? Why not require the state to provide all the citizens with food, drink, clothing, and shelter
    free of charge?’
    “And what is the result of thus viewing the law and the state in such a perverted light? Bastiat warned that the price was high, and that the perversion in political terms would finally be a perversion of all social institutions as well, finally destroying society itself:
        ‘The law is no longer the refuge of the oppressed, but the
    arm of the oppressor! The law is no longer a
    shield, but a sword! The law no longer holds a balance in its
    august hands, but false weights and false keys!
    And you want society to be well ordered!
        ‘Your principle has placed these words above the
    entrance of the legislative chamber: "Whosoever
    acquires any influence here can obtain his share of legal
    plunder."
        ‘And what has been the result? All classes have flung
    themselves upon the doors of the chamber, crying:
    "A share of the plunder for me, for me!" …
        ‘And are you not appalled by the immense, radical, and deplorable innovation which will be introduced
    into the world on the day when the law itself is authorized to commit the very crime that it is its function
    to punish—on the day when it is turned, in theory and in practice, against liberty and property?
        ‘You deplore the symptoms that modern society exhibits; you shudder at the disorder that prevails
    in institutions and ideas. But is it not your principle that has perverted everything, both ideas and institutions?’
    “Thus Bastiat perceived the cycle.  Undue government intervention in the lives of men inevitably produces legalised injustice, which leads to a lack of respect for the law, indeed for all authority and institutions.  An immoral social order breeds immoral citizens.  Soon the social fabric itself disintegrates…  He warned that political power was the cause of France’s social decline and could never provide solutions to the problem…
        ‘…there is only one remedy: time. People have to learn, through hard experience, the enormous
    disadvantage there is in plundering one another….
        ‘And this goes on until the people learn to recognize and defend their true interests. Thus, we always reach
    the same conclusion: The only remedy is in the progressive enlightenment of public opinion.’”

When a man has spent his first forty-five years in solitude and quiet preparation, only a crisis which he regards as vitally important will cause him to leave that self-imposed isolation.  For Frederic Bastiat, that crisis was the rampant socialism that so savagely attacked his native France.  And the crisis was sufficiently pressing upon Bastiat that, once he had entered the fray, he drove himself unmercifully to devote all his energies to the task at hand.  His last major work was to be Economic Harmonies, a sustained intellectual effort that literally consumed his life… One great idea filled his mind:
        ‘Men’s interests, rightly understood, are harmonious with one another,
        ‘Men's interests, rightly understood, are harmonious with one another, and the inner light that reveals them
    to men shines with an ever more vivid brilliance. Hence, their individual and collective efforts, their
   experience, their gropings, even their disappointments, their competition—in a word, their freedom—make
    men gravitate toward that unity which is the expression of the laws of their nature and the consummation of
    the common good.’

It was also during these last months that Bastiat write the famous pamphlet “What is Seen and What is Not Seen.” Tragically, Bastiat has lost the entire manuscript during a period when he was relocating his household.  After a careful but unsuccessful search, he decided that the pamphlet was of such importance that it deserved being done again.  This second manuscript did not suit him, and he threw it into the fire.  So he wrote “What is Seen and What is Not Seen” for yet a third time, and this is the form in which we know this classic.”

“[Writing about the future of France] he pointed out that the entire population of France, particularly the poor, had been led to believe that government could somehow satisfy all their needs and desires.  A great “war on poverty” had been promised the French people.  Bastiat warned that the government could not possibly alleviate poverty, since it was government intervention that had caused the hardships:
        ‘Take from some to give to others! I know that this is the way things have been going for a long time.
    But, before contriving, in our effort to banish poverty, various means of putting this outlandish principle
    into effect, ought we not rather to ask ourselves whether poverty is not due to the very fact that this principle
    has already been put into effect in one way or another? Before seeking the remedy in the further disturbance
    of the natural law of society, ought we not first to make sure that these disturbances are not themselves the
    very cause of the social ills that we wish to cure?’
    “Bastiat recognised that a great political revolution had taken place that had given power into the hands of ‘the people.’  He warned that the precedent had already been too well established by the upper classes [represented by the ‘right’ of the Assembly] of feathering their own nest at the expense of others.  Such ideas were sure to spread to the lower classes [[represented by those on the Assembly’s left], producing the ugly spectacle of a society in which everyone was attempting to live at the expense of everyone else.  Soon all classes demand special privileges.  In the absurd rhetoric of the socialist demagogue, such a system is presumably fraternal and egalitarian, with total justice for all concerned:
        ‘And is not this the point that we have now reached? [he wrote.] What is the cry going up everywhere, from
    all ranks and classes? All for one! When we say the word one, we think of ourselves, and what we demand is
    to receive an unearned share in the fruits of the labour of all. In other words, we are creating an organized
    system of plunder. Unquestionably, simple out-and-out plunder is so clearly unjust as to be repugnant to us;
    but, thanks to the motto, all for one, we can allay our qualms of conscience. We impose on others the duty
    of working for us. Then, we arrogate to ourselves the right to enjoy the fruits of other men's labour. We call
    upon the state, the law, to enforce our so-called duty, to protect our so-called right, and we end in the
    fantastic situation of robbing one another in the name of brotherhood. We live at other men's expense, and
    then call ourselves heroically self-sacrificing for so doing. Oh, the unaccountable folly of the human mind! Oh,
    the deviousness of greed! It is not enough that each of us tries to increase our share at the expense of others; it
    is not enough that we want to profit from labour that we have not performed. We even convince ourselves that
    in the process we are sublime examples of self-sacrifice… We have become so blind that we do not see that the
    sacrifices that cause us to weep with admiration as we contemplate ourselves are not made by us at all, but are
    exacted by us of others.’”

Bastiat Collection Pocket Edition

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