States Visited

Friday, May 29, 2009

One of the Best?

The dog woke me up early this morning and I ended up (as usual) sitting at the computer reading. I happened upon the blog of Judge Richard Posner where he discusses and adds to his new book A Failure of Capitalism. Judge Posner sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and is a lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School and is regarded as one of the best legal minds in the country.

In the second paragraph of the first blog post I read

I came across this gem -

"...capitalism and government cannot be separated. You cannot (here I part company with "anarcho-capitalists," such as David Friedman) have capitalism without a government, specifically a central bank with discretionary authority over the money supply and a regulatory regime for financial intermediation (banking in a broad sense)."

I would argue that not only has he "parted company" with the anarcho-capitalists but he's also parted company with logic, common sense, and any knowledge of history. My God. This is the man named as one of the best legal thinkers in the country? No wonder we are in this mess...

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Not-so-Easy Listening

A few weeks ago an acquaintance of mine, upon reading something I posted on Facebook, made the comment that perhaps it was time to start listening to Rush. I quickly let him know that listening to Rush was an enormous waste of time if one wants to start to really understand what is going on in Washington. I offered to put together a solid list of podcasts that would be of much greater value. Well, it took longer than I expected, but here is the very incomplete, but certainly listen-worthy list:

The easiest thing to do, if you use iTunes, is to subscribe (its free) to The Lew Rockwell Show and to Mises Institute Media (also free) and download their entire catalogues.

Start with the Lew Rockwell show. They are shorter (usually about 15 minutes) and generally less technical. All of the podcasts are of interest, but I would start with the following:

Episodes 1, 2, 3, 8, 11, 14, 16, 17, 19, 27, 28, 36, 37, 38, 40, 41, 43, 44, 48, 49, 57, 58, 63, 72, 75, 76, 82, 98, 99, 104, 110, 117

Then move on to the Mises Institute. Some of these are full-blown lectures by professors, economists, and the like. Mises doesn't index its podcasts in episodes so they can be a bit cumbersome to find. Well, at least I haven't been able to come up with an easy method. I'm a long-time podcast subscriber so I have them all rated. Here are the ones I would listen to first:

What Must Be Done
A Plea for the Real Union
Philosophical Foundation of Keynesians
Keynesians and Neo-Keynesians
Modern Myths of Keynesian Economics
The Origin and Nature of Money
The Origin and Nature of Banking
The Future of the Dollar
The Rise of Social Democracy
Democracy: The God that Failed
Free Markets: An Interview with Walter Block
The Truly Unintended Effects of the Fed
John C. Calhoun on Free Trade
Cycles, Business and Otherwise, in the Austrian World View
Meltdown: An Interview with Tom Woods
Why the Meltdown Should Have Surprised No One
Endangered Specie: Monetary Debasement in the U.S.
I, Pencil
80 Years Later: Parallels Between 1929 and 2009
A Recipe for the Next Great Depression
Why You've Never Heard of the Great Depression of 1920
Free Markets: An Interview with Joseph T. Salerno
'Which is to Be Master?' - The Indefensibility of Political Represenation
Not Yours to Give

If you want some supplemental reading, I would highly recommend the following as a great place to start. They aren't too long and are written for the average person and aren't full of economics jargon.

Economics in One Lesson - $12.00
by Henry Hazlitt

What Has Government Done to Our Money? - Free
by Professor Murray N. Rothbard

Meltdown - $21.00
by Dr. Thomas E. Woods

Economic Calculation in the Socialist Commonwealth
by Professor Ludwig von Mises

The Anatomy of the State - Free
by Professor Murray N. Rothbard

This is absolutely the equivalent to at least a full year's worth of college level study in Economics and Political Science, for about $35.

I will offer some advice. First, it is almost certain that you are going to hear and read things in the above that are in absolute disagreement with everything you have been taught your entire life and that are constantly ridiculed by the talking heads in the media. Some of it will likely make you uncomfortable and you will be tempted to dismiss it. Don't. I first came across most of this about ten years ago, read a bit, and tossed it aside. Clinton's second term was coming to an end, Bush and the Conservatives were going to be in control and do it right. Man, was I wrong. I wasted the better part of ten years chasing a fantasy. You may never come to agree with or accept everything you hear and read but it will make you see the world differently going forward.

Second, as tempting as it may be to jump into some of the other books, go through the above first. It might seem strange that I'm recommending so much at an institute named after Professor Mises but only one of his books. Most of his work was written for professional economists and professors not the average reader. You might also notice that I haven't recommended anything by Professor F. A. Hayek, a student of Prof. Mises and Nobel Laureate. It is for the same reason.

Finally, and this is related to my second recommendation above, you will see and hear frequent references to Human Action, Prof. Mises magnum opus. It is a monster of a book at close to 900 pages and it is an intellectual Everest. I am a fairly intelligent, moderately well-read, college educated professional that spent two years studying economics, passed the CPA exam and received my Certified Financial Planner designation - and that book has been sitting on my shelf along with a 380 page chapter-by-chapter study guide, untouched, for six months, and, I am dying to read it. But, I know that I'm not ready. I am spending the entire spring and summer reading four other treatises, three by Nobel winners and the other Prof. Mises first masterpiece written 37 years earlier, in preparation for tackling Human Action late this fall and into the winter.

I know I'm hammering on this but I am all too familiar with being tempted to skip the "fluff" and jump directly into the heart of the matter.

Saturday, May 23, 2009


After a lazy Saturday morning of reading and relaxing we turned on the television for something to watch during lunch. Band of Brothers was on History Channel. I watched the entire series when it was first shown on HBO and have seen it multiple times since. In fact, I bought the box set about six months ago and watched the entire series in a matter of days.

All my life I have had a certain respect for the men and women that serve in the military. I can remember spending many days and nights playing war and sitting in the floor at my grandparents looking up the various military ranks in a set of impossibly old encyclopedias. My father was drafted into the Army and served in Vietnam, but rarely discussed it unless asked and never spent any time discussing his duty or the military in glowing terms. As far as I can tell, it was just something he was asked to do and did. Yet, I have always held a certain respect for the military.

As I grew older and began to gain a deeper understanding of what is asked of those that serve my appreciation grew. As someone who has spent his entire life in the comfort and safety of the United States and never served in the armed forces, I can only glimpse a small piece of the psychological toll that combat takes on both those that serve and those that live through it.

I am fully aware and acknowledge the fact that freedom is not free. It is fought for and earned, never given. Millions have died and millions more have served so that I can live in peace and comfort. It is with all respect that I tip my hat to those who have served and protected, some because they volunteered, some because they had no choice. I will always remember what others have done so that I might not be asked to do the same.

As the years have passed, however, I have come to question so much of what I once held so dear. It is not the soldier I question but those who send him to fight and their motives for doing so. Americans are taught from birth to respect and revere our men and women in service, and history has taught us that this respect is justified and deserved. The soldiers are taught to follow orders and the power of duty, honor and country. They do what is asked, generally without fail and without question - and they get it done. Always. The combination of the two has produced the finest, most powerful military in the history of the world.

But, there is a problem.

The men and women of the armed forces are living and functioning under a gigantic lie. Everyday they train and put themselves in danger believing in their hearts that they do it so that those of us back home can sleep in peace with the knowledge that the greatest fighting force in the world is doing its job protecting our freedoms. Yet, every day we lose more and more of those freedoms they are fighting to protect.

As far back as we can find, people in power have understood that having an enemy to fight is one of the most effective ways to maintain that power. If the people are frightened they will surrender their rights for protection and security in return - even the threat of attack or invasion is usually enough. The mafia has spent decades perfecting the art of the protection racket. What we have seen here, especially since the fall of the Soviet Union, is a fairly dramatic increase in the use of our military around the world and, culminating in the days following September 11, 2001, a dramatic increase in U.S. nationalism that should (and probably does) scare the bejesus out of the rest of the world. History makes it pretty clear that when a well-armed country is that certain in its righteousness and loves itself that much, war is coming.

I do not believe that 9/11 was an inside job, nor do I believe there is some grand conspiracy or shadow government pulling the strings, but I am convinced that it has become the policy of our government to never let a crisis go to waste (in fact, Rahm Emanuel stated this explicitly) in its efforts to grow itself and the media is only happy to play along because sensationalism drives ratings. For decades we had the specter of Communism and the evil Soviet Union for the government to use as justification for any action it took, however, the Soviet Union actually functioned as a control mechanism for U.S. global interference because, for most of its existence, it had the military power to act as a deterrent. We risked a full-scale, potentially nuclear, assault from an enemy capable of reaching our shores if we were too aggressive in our overseas manuevers.

After the fall of Communism the U.S. appetite for global hegemony exploded but it needed a new enemy to justify its expansion - and Muslim extremists gave us one, but it wasn't enough. The problem is that the American people, if left to their own devices, aren't likely to support such actions without justification. So, our government finds every conceivable reason to justify its expansion and if one isn't forthcoming, it will create one. We are under an almost constant barrage of crises, both real and imagined - global warming, avian/bird flu, Hurricane Katrina, North Korea, Iraq, Muslim terrorists, Venezuela, Mexican drug lords and open borders, tsunamis, Iran, swine flu, financial collapse, nuclear Pakistan, global climate change, African pirates, etc. Almost all of which require action by an arm of the U.S. military and all of which directly or indirectly encroach upon the freedom of U.S. citizens either through changes in the laws or the trillions in U.S. dollars spent in dealing with the crisis. Without ever meaning to do so, the men and women who thought they were signing up to secure our freedom have been tricked into serving our government's ability to exert its influence around the world and to protect it when it engages in activities that would land any other nation under international sanctions.

Do not misunderstand, some of these threats are very real and do pose a potential threat to the people of this country, but we have been hammered by so much propaganda that it is becoming impossible to separate the real from the imagined and all of it is being used to justify the taking of our rights and freedoms.

I realize this is a lot to swallow all at once and that it is so hard to see our government in this light. For so long we have believed the propaganda - we are different, this is the greatest country on earth, things aren't like that here. But, they are, and it will become completely obvious as our economic and financial crisis continues to unwind. We are borrowing trillions of dollars from around the world and printing even more. We are never going to repay what we have borrowed. We may return the same amount of dollars but it will be an almost worthless currency carrying just a fraction of the value of what we stole from the rest of the world. We have become a government of liars and thieves that uses the military to protect itself, for it is only the threat of our military that will keep the rest of the world at bay once they realize what we've done.

All my life I have operated with the knowledge that, if called to do so, I would put on the uniform and serve my country because this is the greatest country in the world and it is worth fighting for. Now...I'm not so sure. As the decades have rolled by it is increasingly clear that our government uses the military to protect itself and its interests and not the interests of the people. Please don't misunderstand, I will fight to the last to protect our freedoms, but why would I ever fight to protect this government - a government that is becoming everything I despise and would never tolerate from another person? As I sit here this morning it is our government that has become the greatest threat to my freedom, more so than any other force in the world. Why should I fight to protect an organization that seems hell-bent on taking everything I have and hold dear?

Friday, May 8, 2009

A Different Perspective

A few days ago I posted a link to the testimony offered by the White House economic advisers. I will now offer a different perspective.

Friday, May 1, 2009

They Don't Have a Clue?

During the first few minutes of lunch today I took the time to read the testimony of Dr. Christina D. Romer, Chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisors, before the Joint Economic Committee. The title of her talk is The Economic Crisis: Causes, Policies, and Outlook. It can be found here -

Under the heading Causes of the Crises she tells us exactly what, in her opinion, led us to where we are today:

1. "In thinking about the causes, one needs to begin with the extreme fall in house and stock prices over the last eighteen months."

2. "...a decline in wealth as large as the one we have experienced has led to a large decline in the aggregate demand for goods and services."

3. "Another factor to consider is the uncertainty created by the gyrations in asset prices."

4. "...the drying up of credit."

5. "Fear, uncertainty, and a desire to contract lending spread to other markets."

6. "The reduction of credit had two devastating consequences. One was a further lowering of consumption and business investment... The other consequence of credit rationing is a reduction in efficiency."

7. "Finally, falling income in the United States means we are buying less from abroad."

With all due respect to Dr. Romer and the other members of the committee, when the Chair of the committee that is advising the President doesn't know the difference between the causes of the problem and the symptoms of the problem how could they possibly provide sound advice in part two of the testimony, Policies for Recovery. She has offered a laughably inadequate explanation of the causes of our current crisis that would receive a failing grade in a first year economics class at the local community college.

Dr. Romer received her PhD in economics from M.I.T. so it would be difficult to chalk this embarassment up to ignorance, which implies that it was deliberate. Why? Her testimony was not designed to address the stated goals and provide economic guidance because it was not a statement on economics. It was, rather, a political statement - a statement designed and written to protect the prime movers in this depression - the government itself - and to provide support for a political agenda that coincides with a school of economic thought that insists that the solution to every problem, even those caused by the government, is more government.