Advocates of Reason: 16 January 2012

Man has only one tool to fight error: reason.

— Ludwig von Mises

1.  Ethan Bronner, “Israelis Facing a Seismic Rift Over Role of Women.”  The clash between secular Israel and the Orthodox Jewish community.  To me, this represents your typical clash of preferences in a world where the government attempts to cater between one or the other.  Also, Godwin’s Law is ever relevant.

2.  Elizabeth Dickinson, “Fighting the Last War.”  Why Mexico cannot replicate Colombia’s success.  No “strategy” would need repeating if drugs were legalized in the countries with the biggest sources of consumption (i.e. the United States).  Black markets brew conflict, as producers create and pay armies of thugs to protect themselves from the state and each other.

3.  Carl Close, “New Book Examines the History and Folly of Bank Bailouts.”  Close gives a short review of the Independent Institute’s new book by Vern McKinley, Financing Failure.  McKinley’s book is a history of bailouts.  I think people with a Rothbardesque interest in how the state protects itself and its friends will find value in this book.  I, by the way, am not trying to use the word “Rothbardeseque” derogatorily — some people just have a certain penchant for these types of history books.  I think, though, that the book will appeal to a wider audience, but with less intensity.

4.  “Peter Boettke on Austrian Economics.”  Boettke talks about his perceived shortcomings of the Neoclassical-Keynesian Synthesis, and non-Austrian schools in general, and five books he suggests for people going into Austrian economics.  The books are:  Mises’ Human Action, Hayek’s Individualism and Economic Order, his own (ed.) Calculation and Coordination, Peter Leeson’s  The Invisible Hook, and Christopher Coyne’s After War.  Those are not the five books I would suggest, but I guess Boettke is trying to give wide coverage to the contribution of Austrians to different aspects of sociology.

5.  Brad DeLong, “Discussion Questions for… Free to Choose.”  This should be questions of Free to Choose should go through and answer.  I think, though, that non-libertarians will have to get an idea of the different approaches to freedom: namely, Raws v. Nozick v. libertarian consequentialism (utilitarianism, Misesian or otherwise).  An understanding of the differences in approaches is necessary to answer, for example, a question like this one: why is wealth redistribution a method of maximizing freedom to someone like DeLong, but not to someone like Milton Friedman?  That is why DeLong considers it odd that Friedman’s conception of freedom is not the same as Franklin D. Roosevelt’s (who, by the way, represents the anti-thesis of freedom to many libertarians).

6.  Jordan Weissmann, “5% of Americans Made Up 50% of U.S. Health Care Spending.”  This is not about the “5% versus the 95%”, though, because it looks like it is the 5% which is the worst off.  For example, as Weissmann writes, “Those chronically ill patients skewed white and old and were twice as likely to be on public health care as the general population.”  The article leads us to a powerful conclusion (alluded to by the author).  The challenge is not about providing everyone with affordable healthcare, because healthcare is already affordable for most.  The challenge is providing it to the 5% who require most of the industry’s services.  I still prefer the market route, but this fact makes the socialized route a whole lot cheaper.

7.  Related to the above, from the Sounday Review of the New York Times: Hendrik Hartog, “Bargaining for a Child’s Love.”  The article deals with how older people (65+) would find care in an age where there was no government provision of the necessary health services.  In many instances, old folk would bargain with their children, effectively paying them to take care of them.  As a market fundamentalist, I would say that today in age taking care of yourself at an older age should be cheaper — lower healthcare costs and higher incomes (and more savings).  As someone who is in touch with reality, we know that the first is absolutely untrue (healthcare costs have increased) and the latter is not necessarily true.  Bad reading of how the economy works?  Or, interventionism?

8.  Andrew W. Lo, “Reading About the Financial Crisis.”  Lo reviews twenty-one books on the recent financial crisis, from both sides of the spectrum.  He also derives a number of conclusions with regards to what facts readers should accept and which ones they should not.  I have not yet really had a chance to read them all.

  • Silvano

    Out of topic: Did you read “Capitalism” (Reisman) and if so what do you hink about it?

    • Jonathan Finegold Catalán

      I read Capitalism up to when Reisman goes over his theory of interest. I am waiting to finish Keynes’ The General Theory before I go back to Reisman, so I compare different interest rate theories.