catallaxy files

catallaxy in technical exile

Around the blogs Mon 11th

with 11 comments

Michael Warby’s collations of economics links and film,  media and art  links.

Among the former, evidence that economists are cheapskates. And Investments by Somali pirates are suspected of causing a property boom Kenya. Someone tell them about Neutral Bay!

Skeptic Lawyer on Avatar.

As long as you remember that Tropes Are Not Bad (see above), then there are some take home messages in this film that don’t fit anywhere on the conventional political spectrum, along with a good bunch that do (see above once again). The best of these came up courtesy a review published by the Von Mises Institute, which I’ve excerpted below. I don’t agree with all of it, but it shows — when someone does wheel out one of the great Joseph Campbell heroic tropes — that the rest of us can project almost anything onto what we see.

Redneck glimpses  (courtesy of  Tim Blair). Shades of “Wake in Fright”,  goes on a bit long but.

Nicholas Gruen at Troppo on the problem of  training economists to be technicians and also to connect in a helpful way with policy issues, especially related to welfare. How to avoid the retreat to the conservatism (and unworldliness) of the Pareto principle.

Introducing Troy Camplin at Interdisciplinary World. On spontaneous orders and other good stuff.

More lampooning of  Paul Samuelson and the commentators who thought that the Soviet economy was rapidly catching up with the US. Strange that libereral/libertarian/conservatives don’t make more fuss about economics text books. How are the current Australian school texts shaping up? The CIS survey circa 1990 revealed that they were pretty bad for the most part, full of praise for Keynes especially. So how surprising is it that we have Keynesian medicine administered to us?

Samuel Brittain has another look at liberalism in the age of panic about the future of free markets.

I would myself favour an informal concept put forward by John Maynard Keynes in an essay he wrote in the 1920s, which distinguished between the agenda and non-agenda of government. This could not be fixed for all eternity but would vary over time. Keynes devised the idea to separate himself from those 19th-century Liberals who saw little useful role for the state. But it could equally be applied in reverse to cordon off areas where the government has no business interfering with citizens. It is the refusal to recognise any such limits that is the real crime of New Labour and why some of us will find it hard to support it again.

To conclude, here are three examples that starkly expose anti-liberal ways of thinking.

Some people advocate compulsory national service, not necessarily military, as a way of improving the character of young people. The late James Tobin – he of the Tobin tax – favoured the US draft as an egalitarian ideal and even suggested setting soldiers’ pay well below what they could earn elsewhere so as to rule out a volunteer army. Whatever his other qualities, he was an arch anti-liberal.

Consider, too, the rigid exchange restrictions that have at times been imposed on foreign travel to conserve official holdings of foreign currency. When these were imposed by Harold Wilson’s UK Labour government for three years there was hardly a word of protest from Labour’s supposedly enlightened intellectual camp followers.

A final example is the smoking ban in public places – and I speak as lifelong non-smoker. So long as there are designated areas to ensure non-smokers are protected from smoke pollution, what is the harm in providing a room where people can smoke at their own risk? Why is this worse than making smokers stand outside in the cold?

However difficult it is to define a liberal, it is not hard to spot anti-liberals.

The year of hope (courtesy of Tom de Lorenzo). Dave Barry’s year in review.

It was a year of Hope — at first in the sense of “I feel hopeful!” and later in the sense of “I hope this year ends soon!”

It was also a year of Change, especially in Washington, where the tired old hacks of yesteryear finally yielded the reins of power to a group of fresh, young, idealistic, new-idea outsiders such as Nancy Pelosi. As a result Washington, rejecting “business as usual,” finally stopped trying to solve every problem by throwing billions of taxpayer dollars at it and instead started trying to solve every problem by throwing trillions of taxpayer dollars at it.



Written by Rafe

January 10, 2010 at 11:38 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

11 Responses

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  1. Some people advocate compulsory national service, not necessarily military, as a way of improving the character of young people.
    That has got to be one of the all-time great socialist myths. And look, conscription is occasionally necessary (and in some historical circumstances, necessary on an ongoing basis); in that case, it’s a necessary evil. Yes, it might a scattering of benefits here and there, helping people make friends, etc, just in the way that natural disasters bring out the best in people. You see heroism, kindness, and people figuring out what is important to them. In the same way, some people latch onto the small good things that a big bad policy like this would enable, such as ‘character building’ (which may in fact occur in some people in this situation). But the fact that there are moments of goodness that we can celebrate doesn’t make the whole thing good, any more than earthquakes or tsunamis are good.

    daddy dave

    January 11, 2010 at 9:41 am

  2. James Tobin advocated compulsory national service?? I didn’t know that. What a moral dwarf.

    Sinclair Davidson

    January 11, 2010 at 10:44 am

  3. The compulsory national service fetish pops up repeatedly in Australian history. It was mostly driven by a (probable) minority of returned servicemen who were grouchy with young people for various (commonplace throughout history) reasons. It’s particularly laughable when the stay-at-home Nashos – who’ve been given medals for some strange reason – start banging on about the character-defining wonders of jumping puddles and being yelled at on the monkey bars of Puckapunyal. They should stoke their prejudices with their non-existent combat experience – in the rear with the gear.


    January 11, 2010 at 12:10 pm

  4. daddy dave: I wouldn’t have thought it was a socialist myth per se though.

    steve from brisbane

    January 11, 2010 at 12:19 pm

  5. Steve:

    It probably isn’t just a socialist myth however the socialists often play on variations of conscription with a modern twist.

    Obama wanted to make national service of some sort a condition of college scholarships until it was laughed off stage and hasn’t shown up recently.

    Picking up trash in lieu of receiving the dole for being unemployed as a result of regulated labor markets was a Hawke/keating initiative.

    That’s not to say the big government right aren’t into this crap as well at times. However in all the years of the Howard government I can’t recall these sort of statist issues being raised. Can you?


    January 11, 2010 at 12:44 pm

  6. Steve, the myth of character improvement isn’t socialist, but compulsory service is compatible with socialism. As one leftist explained it to me, since in a voluntary army old rich men send young poor men to fight (to protect the old rich men and their interests), conscription would ensure that everyone contributes equally to national security regardless of wealth or influence.

    He had no response to the numerous examples of soft-duty bribes and favours in times of conscription.


    January 11, 2010 at 12:45 pm

  7. no, I guess not. I probably shouldn’t have labeled it socialist as such. However it smacks of ham-fisted government intervention to make society better which tends to be more of a left-wing thing. But I’m sure you won’t find many socialists in Australia, or people of any stripe for that matter, who want conscription, either of the military or the social-good (such as Peace Corps) type.

    daddy dave

    January 11, 2010 at 1:04 pm

  8. Dads:

    Obama was advocating a variation of that as a condition for college assistance until it was laughed off the political stage.

    The do-goodism form of conscription has been around with the left for ages. They just don’t like the guns version.


    January 11, 2010 at 1:09 pm

  9. yep, it was Nixon who adolished the draft in the US under the influence of Milton Friedman.

    In Australia the only idiot to recently propose conscription seems to have been the former Young Liberals President Noel mcCoy


    January 11, 2010 at 1:11 pm

  10. I always laugh at the idea of a Green Corps, or some such, as if the actions of a bunch of well intentioned youngsters in planting seeds and picking up rubbish was going to make a serious contribution to the (very real) environmental problems we face.

    steve from brisbane

    January 11, 2010 at 1:17 pm

  11. “It was mostly driven by a (probable) minority of returned servicemen who were grouchy with young people”

    Quite. You kids get off my lawn!


    January 11, 2010 at 5:21 pm

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