America has about 4% of the world’s population, yet houses 25% of the world’s incarcerated. What’s going on here? Chris Campbell digs deep into the industry to figure out the truth. While many blame the private prison industry, the real culprit, says Chris, begins right outside your door. Read on…
“While I heartily subscribe to your premise of pursuing one’s dream,” one reader, Donald J., wrote, “there are alternate perspectives worth considering.”[We’re listening… go on.]“Some wiseguy once said that life is what happens to you while you’re waiting for something better to come along. Milton put it a little more poetically in one of his […]
Want to get rich? Don’t listen to financial “gurus,” says Chris Campbell. In today’s Laissez Faire Today, Chris shares a Zen proverb and shows how understanding it is the only real way to get rich (and live a rich life). Read on…
Ben Franklin once said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” In today’s Laissez Faire Today, you’ll learn about one FREE website that has the potential to not only keep your family safe – but also open your eyes to what’s happening in your own neighborhood. Chris Campbell has all the details. Read on…
All over the world, power is dying. The dictators and tyrants of the world are no longer able to wield it like they once used to. And they’re losing it to the “little guy.” Chris Campbell shows you how to be the king of your castle by taking advantage of this fact. Today, you’ll learn how to grab “power gaps” in the market and channel them into your product idea or project. Read on…
The fireflies along the tidal rivers of Malaysia show "feats of synchrony that occur spontaneously, almost as if nature has an eerie yearning for order." Chris Campbell tells you where else this might occur in the world. Also, new technology may revolutionize the agriculture industry and what we think of as a farm.
Jeff Davis is running for Governor in Hawaii and has an interesting campaign strategy. Also, what motivates hackers is revealed and the findings might surprise you. Finally, Ferguson is discussed in a new light. Chris Campbell has more...
When the government pumps trillions of dollars into the economy, they’re not actually printing the money. It enters as digital entries in banks across the country. It’s made the system fast, responsive, and, unfortunately, vulnerable. Now our money is no longer something we hold in our hands, but something that exists on a very susceptible network.
The so-called recovery is only built on debt and printed cash declares our own Byron King. In the long term, the only option for the government to continue financing it's operations is to print too many dollars. Money printing has it's limits, however. It's Byron's opinion that at some point, perhaps very soon, the government will have to turn to more desperate measures. Namely, capital controls. In the following featured essay, Byron outlines 4 probably ways the government will take your cash and one play you can buy through your broker to prepare today. Read on...
Americans expatriate because they want to get out of the country. Corporations expatriate for similar reasons. Clem Chambers explains...
In a 2009 article, the Huffington Post went into considerable detail about the number of people with PhD degrees in economics employed by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. This is the government’s branch of the Federal Reserve. It is not one of the 12 regional Federal Reserve banks, all of which […]
The U.S. dollar is the dominant global reserve currency. All markets, including stocks, bonds, commodities, and foreign exchange are affected by the value of the dollar.The value of the dollar, in effect, its “price” is determined by interest rates. When the Federal Reserve manipulates interest rates, it is manipulating, and therefore distorting, every market in […]
The game of speculation is the most uniformly fascinating game in the world. But it is not a game for the stupid, the mentally lazy, the person of inferior emotional balance or the get-rich-quick adventurer. They will die poor.– Jesse Livermore, How to Trade in StocksThe trouble with capitalism’s guardians is that they have no […]
John Foust, a Democrat running for the 10th congressional seat in Northern Virginia, is — like Gov. Terry McAuliffe and other state Democrats — gung-ho to expand Medicaid. His wife’s position is, shall we say, a bit more nuanced.Foust has slammed his opponent, Republican Del. Barbara Comstock, for her opposition to expansion. He has spoken […]
The midterm election season is upon us, and it’s a tossup whether the Republicans will win the Senate, or if President Obama, seemingly oblivious as conflict flares up around the world, will, through his continuous campaigning, keep Harry Reid in his majority leader seat.The only thing we know for sure is that sociopaths will be […]
Alexander Hamilton was America’s first Secretary of Treasury under President George Washington. When he first entered office in 1789, America was an agricultural nation of just 4 million still broke from its financially costly victory over the British Empire in the Revolutionary War.The states had accumulated relatively massive debts to finance that war, which mostly […]
A great technology solves a problem that we didn’t know we had. It makes us aware of deprivations we didn’t know existed until we discover the new thing. Once discovered, we can’t go back.People in the 1950s, for example, never missed the smart phone. They were pleased to have a phone at all. But today, […]
Fifty years after the 1929 crash, a group of money managers and investment thinkers put together a collection of essays looking back at that experience. The result was a distillation of some pretty fine investment wisdom. Timely, I think, to review now.One of the contributors was Arthur Zeikel, then with Merrill Lynch. The title of […]
Although the mainstream media have turned its attention away from the wreckage of Obamacare, don’t think for a second that all is well.As the politicos in D.C. focus their attention on the midterm elections in November, now is a great time to study, prepare, and seek out the most affordable, accessible, and highest quality options […]
Turn on the tube and economic ignorance seems to be everywhere. There is constant shilling for more government. Business is demonized. Man is said to be trashing the environment. “Workers and women are oppressed” is the constant mantra.And members of the clueless media nod their heads in unison.Only John Stossel has provided the fresh air […]
In early July 1944, delegates from 44 countries gathered at the Mount Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire. A three-week summit took place, at which a new system was agreed to regulate the international monetary and financial order after the Second World War.The U.S. was already the world’s commercial powerhouse, having eclipsed the British […]
In the minds of many people around the world, including in the United States, the term “capitalism” carries the idea of unfairness, exploitation, undeserved privilege and power, and immoral profit making. What is often difficult to get people to understand is that this misplaced conception of “capitalism” has nothing to do with real free markets […]
Some people are saying it is just what the doctor ordered. Others are saying that the cure is worse than the disease.The Affordable Care Act? Reengagement in Iraq? Tea Party bullying in the GOP?Not this time. Just as protracted in the corridors of Congress and the White House is the debate over the proposed reform […]
In 2012, money mandarins running the European Union chose stagnation over restructuring. Here’s a consequence of that choice: expectations for a self-sustaining economic recovery keep getting crushed.Two years ago, European Central Bank (ECB) chief Mario Draghi promised to do “whatever it takes” to hold the eurozone together. He bluffed nervous investors into believing in a […]
People jacked up about income inequality can find a new hobby. The 1% are victims of a doomsday machine, and the countdown is ticking. Machine, thy name is “family.”This came to mind as I was reading a preview of Columbia Professor Andrew Ang’s forthcoming, must-read book on Asset Management. Ang is that oxymoron, an exciting […]
It might sound like the latest new product from Apple, but IPAB is actually the newest major legal challenge to Obamacare.Recently, a three-judge panel in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco heard arguments about the Independent Payment Advisory Board, or IPAB, a 15-member panel created by the Affordable Care Act and empowered […]
Americans have come to believe that the IRS and the income tax are inevitable parts of our lives. After all, most everyone alive today has lived his entire life under federal income taxation.It wasn’t always that way. For some 125 years, the American people lived without having any tax imposed upon their income.The obvious question […]
“Economics puts parameters on people’s utopias.”
Yes. That’s exactly it. That’s why the politicians hate economics. That’s why the media are so… selective in which economists they call on to talk about policy.
That’s why the economics departments in colleges are put down by the sociologists, philosophers, literature professors and just about everyone else who has romantic longings for a coerced utopia.
“The teachings of the principles of economics should inform as much on what not to do, perhaps even more than providing a guide to public action.”
That’s it again. Don’t control prices. Don’t socialize medicine. Don’t raise taxes. Don’t inflate the money supply. Don’t put up trade barriers. Don’t go to war. Economists just keep bursting people’s bubbles. And it’s because economists say these things that the ruling class wants them to shut up about.
It’s been going on for hundreds of years. Every generation for the past 500 years has seen the battle wage between those who want to use the power of the state to contort and distort the world to fit some daydream on one hand and the economists who have seen the futility in this manipulation and warn against it on the other.
The man who wrote those above words is Peter Boettke, economics professor at George Mason University. He is one of the nation’s leading producers of economists, having directed several dozen dissertations over 20 years and having spread his students to colleges and universities around the country and the world.
His new book, which ought to be read by every college student who secretly suspects that economics is not as dreary as they say, is Living Economics, just published by the Independent Institute. It’s a big book, but a luxurious read from Page 1 to 450.
The phrase “living economics” means two things: 1) economics is part of life whether we recognize it or not, and 2) economics is a living discipline, rooted in universal principles but always changing in nuance and application.
Professor Boettke’s purpose is to provide a guided tour through the profession as it is now and how he would like to see it changed. He does this by first explaining what got him interested in the science.
It turns out that he remembers the gas lines of the 1970s and recalls being amazed to discover that they were wholly manufactured by Washington policy. It was the price control of oil combined with inflationary pressures from bad monetary policy. Contrary to what the media mavens and politicians were saying at the time, it had nothing to do with producer greed, secret price manipulation or financial speculation.
That’s what did it for him. He realized that economics is woven into every aspect of our lives. It is inescapable. When the market is allowed to work, beauty and growth results. Humanity flourishes. When markets are truncated and hobbled, people suffer.
Then he realized how little public understanding there is of economics. And he realized that he could play a role in changing this. He has. His students are now teaching other students in six different Ph.D.-granting institutions, among dozens more institutions.
Here Boettke reflects on the decision to make economics his vocation. Economics as a reality in our world will exist whether there are people around to study and explain it or not. As a discipline, it was very late in developing, mostly during the High Middle Ages. And it came about precisely to elucidate the way the world works in order to prevent kings and other big shots from using force to interfere with its mechanisms.
As Boettke puts it, “We do not need to understand economics in order to experience the benefits of freedom of exchange and production. But we may very well need to understand economics in order to sustain and maintain the institutional framework that enables us to realize the benefits that flow from freedom of exchange and production.”
What follows this beginning material is a plunge straight into the core of what economics teaches. Boettke chooses a very engaging path. He tells the story through a series of intellectual biographies of the economists he most admires. We read about his teacher Hans Sennholz, about Ludwig von Mises, F.A. Hayek and Murray Rothbard (his chapter on Rothbard is particularly celebratory). He covers James Buchanan and Gordon Tullock. Perhaps the most-interesting sections are the ones that find “Austrianness” in unusual places — in the work of Kenneth Boulding, for example.
In contrast to most books on economics, this book is very warm and humane. He goes all out to describe economics as the science of human choice in the real world. The prose matches his intellectual sense. We are spared the usual academic pomp and the absurdities of trying to cram people and their spontaneous decisions into mechanical models. He never talks down to his readers. This reader found no showing off, no strutting around, no defensiveness or bickering. The prose and line of thinking are open and generous.
It’s no surprise that the Austrian School is at the core of the narrative. This figures into his choice of biography, of course. And it informs the whole of his worldview, accounts for why he is able to write about real-world problems and explains the failure of planning in such lucid terms.
At the same time, Boettke cautions: “The main thing that makes someone an Austrian is not the willingness to identify one’s work with that label, but the substantive propositions in economics that an economist identifies with.” With this in mind, he shows that Austrian ideas are very more widespread that one might suppose.
In general, Boettke attempts to show that the profession has lost much of the arrogance that it practiced from the 1930s through the 1970s. While methodological positivism and mathematical hubris still exist in form, he attempts to show that the old ways have shifted toward a greater emphasis on institutions and human choice. He detects the rise of a certain humility in the profession, which has made way for a broader and more-eclectic approach that includes even radical libertarians like Boettke himself.
A book like this will provide anyone vast insight into what economics has to offer the world of ideas. It is an excellent overview about what is great and what is awful in the profession today. But even when he criticizes, there is no anger; instead, there is conviction that openness and frankness is the best path to finding truth. I can’t think of a better good for an economics major to have on hand when the lecture content begins to depart from reality.
As for the author himself, I can’t add to what Israel Kirzner has already said (and I’m almost certain that Kirzner has never written an endorsement this over-the-top:
Living Economics is in many ways a remarkable book. The volume luminously reflects the amazing breadth of professor Boettke’s reading, and the deep and careful thoughtfulness with which he reads. But the true distinction of this volume consists of more than the profound economic understanding and wealth of deeply perceptive doctrinal-history observations that fill its pages. Its distinction consists in the delightful circumstances that these riches arise from and express Peter Boettke’s extraordinary intellectual generosity and unmatched intellectual enthusiasm — rare qualities that have enabled him to discover nuggets of valuable theoretical insight in the work of a wide array of economists, many of whom are generally thought to be far away from the Austrian tradition, which Boettke himself splendidly represents. Boettke’s prolific pen is dipped, not in the all-too-common ink of professional one-upmanship, but in the inkwell of an earnest, utterly benevolent — and brilliant — scholar, seeking, with all his intellectual integrity, to learn and to understand.
Many others have said the same: Bruce Yandle, Richard Wagner, Steve Hanke, Randall Holcombe and dozens more. As you read through the tributes, you realize that these are more than coerced blurbs. Boettke has managed to make economists themselves re-excited about what they do. He will do the same for you, and help you appreciate the creativity, courage and sheer adventure associated with this grand craft that elucidates the workings of our world like no other.