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623 weeks ago @ Armed and Dangerous - Irrational Expectations · 0 replies · +1 points

John, do you find it purely coincidental that this has happened lock step with the increasing involvement of central governments in Universities, through funding, and consequential control? Do you also agree that there is some proportionality between the size of a school's endowment (and consequently, financial independence from government) and their dedication to academic excellence?

Are these things independent, or related?

On an entirely unrelated topic, does it make you want to retch in disgust that Universities, supposedly the bastions of free thought, and independent inquiry, are currently the most vicious enforcers of speech codes and thought police?

(BTW, the above applies to American Universities, I don't know much about Universities outside the USA.)

623 weeks ago @ Armed and Dangerous - Irrational Expectations · 0 replies · +2 points

Just briefly, I never said governments are always corrupt. I said they had different incentives. That is an entirely different thing. Large corporations are also sometimes corrupt, but, absent the twisting caused by government interference (and a few other things) they are incentivized to make their customers happy.

Why is that different from governments? Because if you think a Big Mac doesn't taste so good, you can always get a Whopper. If you think Gordon Brown is going to take half your marginal income, or if you morally object to sending troops to Iraq, it isn't so easy to change government. (This is true for several reasons, two of which are the cartelization of national governments to eliminate choices in the name of "tax fairness", and the hugely high transaction costs involved.)

623 weeks ago @ Armed and Dangerous - Irrational Expectations · 1 reply · +1 points

>If someone beats me up and takes all my stuff, that's an expression of their freedom

John, freedom in the context of libertarianism has a pretty specific meaning. It does not mean "Free to do whatever the heck you want", it means "free from being forced to do what someone else wants." I agree that there are some areas where "force" can be a little difficult to define, but for the most part the difference between force and non-force is pretty bifurcated.

>We temper our freedoms with ideas of fairness, decent behaviour

Yes we should, but not at the point of a gun, or under thread of jail time. That is to say, society has other mechanisms to make that happen outside of the realm of government and force. The idea that we should enforce fairness by threat of violence and physical punishment seems a bizarre and ironic contradiction to me.

> Is it decent or fair to pay someone $2 an hour when you could
> afford to pay ten,

Is it decent for someone to demand more that $2 an hour for work that is only worth $2 an hour? Or would you prefer that person be unemployed?

> Is it fair to form a union to force the employer to pay $10? Free-marketeers
> say no, but why not? Isn't the union part of the market? Didn't they form
> voluntarily to pursue their legitimate interests?

I don't agree. I am a free marketer and I am not opposed to unions at all. I think if people voluntarily enter into a compact for collective bargaining then that is a legitimate and perhaps smart thing to do. I think if workers compact together as a union to offer quality guarantees that is also a good thing to do. ("Only use union plumbers, they are bonded and certified to do a good job".)

Where I have a problem with unions is when they start to use force to cram unionization down other people's throats. For example, closed shops, obligations to pay union dues, violence against "scabs", damage to employer's property, trying to pass laws to make the use of non-union labor illegal, and on and on. (And to respond to your obvious follow up question -- yes I object when big business does the same.)

>And the gun thing, oh, the gun thing...yes, it's a freedom, but why so much emphasis on that one?

Because the right to defend yourself and family against the violence of others, and the right to have the means to do so, is the very essence of freedom.

As always, I have written too much, suffice it to say there are well known answers to your other questions, that I won't pursue here any further.

Thanks for your response.

623 weeks ago @ Armed and Dangerous - Irrational Expectations · 0 replies · +1 points

In the market the question is not *truth* but preference. Truth is for science and philosophy. The purpose of a free market is to produce goods and services in the degree and of the type that is preferred by the people of a nation. So your point is correct, but irrelevant.

623 weeks ago @ Armed and Dangerous - Irrational Expectations · 0 replies · +1 points

>>Television was designed to bring works of culture like Shakespeare to the masses.

Actually, no. Television was designed to make John Logie Baird and RCA lots of money.

623 weeks ago @ Armed and Dangerous - Irrational Expectations · 4 replies · +1 points

As I said in a separate post, I think you make some arguments that deserve answering.

I think the first point to make is this. There are two independent threads of argument for free market, one is utilitarian (free markets produce the best results), one is ethical (it is wrong to interfere with the voluntary exchange between two individuals.) I think both are very strong arguments. In this comment I will comment only on utilitarian arguments, but I think the ethical argument is far more important.

Your first point is that sometimes "the market" doesn't come up with the optimal solution. You make this argument with reference to the fact that game theory indicates that individuals making the best individual choices, relative to each other, does not necessarily lead to the optimal solution over all (which is a ham fisted statement of Nash's theory, and Braess and Downs Thomson which are both essentially special cases of Nash.)

Of course the first reaction would be, so what? Economics is the study of choices between real alternatives. To say that government management of an industry is better than market "management" does not only require that the market be proven sub-optimal, but that government's can manage that industry closer to the optimum. Consider this: when the government manages an industry, it is managed to be optimum for the benefit of the political class performing the management (unless you can demonstrate that politicians, unlike most everyone else, are in it for the benefit of mankind.) It is far from obvious that that would lead to a better outcome.

Consider in particular Downs Thomson. Here it is in summary: "If you increase road capacity, you incentivize people to get off public transport, and use the road. It is possible that the increased number of people on the road would overwhelm the benefits of the new road, and cause increased road congestion, not decreased."

This is a great argument to make in an ivory tower. However, it fails to recognize that in a market the goal is not to build more roads, it is to satisfy more customers (and consequently, make more money.) So, people who have a very strong incentive to make their capital investment in roads profitable, manage their business to take into account these effects. (Or they go out of business, and a capitalist raider feeds on their carcass, and does it right the second time.)

Of course, you will say, it has been demonstrated in practice. But, it hasn't. Roads aren't owned by private companies. Rail systems aren't owned by private companies. So it has been demonstrated in a system where governments are in control without the normal competitive and profit motives that optimize in the market. If anything, that is a demonstration of the ineffectiveness of governments, not their effectiveness.

You have other points worth addressing, but I will stop at this point, since this is too long, and more will not lead to more profitable debate. However, in summary, consider this: no-one familiar with economics would suggest that the market produces the optimum system in a theoretical sense. The goal is not to produce the theoretical optimum, it is to produce the practical maximum. There are good reasons both from considering the incentive network involved and from the practical examination of history, to suggest that free markets are far closer to producing that than managed, or semi managed economies.

623 weeks ago @ Armed and Dangerous - Irrational Expectations · 0 replies · +1 points

Yes, you are correct, and that is the pretext for constantly printing more money. (Theoretically, the central banks including the Federal Reserve are politically independent institutions who are tasked specifically with managing the national money supply in such a way to keep inflation low, supposedly by printing approximately the right amount of money.)

Unfortunately, there is no easy way to measure "real GDP growth", partly because GDP is more a vague concept than a crisply defined entity. And that is why the statement was made that it is hard to separate the two. (BTW, there are other factors that affecting inflation, including the license to print money granted to banks called "Fractional reserve banking.")

Deflation is considered bad, because it causes a delay in spending (if you can buy it cheaper tomorrow, why buy it today?) However, I have never found that argument all that compelling. Deflation has its down sides, but it also has its upsides. (For example, it encourages saving.) The drastic deflationary processes in desktop PCs over the past 30 years can hardly be considered bad.

623 weeks ago @ Armed and Dangerous - Irrational Expectations · 8 replies · +1 points

>conflation of libertarian politics with free-market economics.

This is not a conflation at all, free markets are a subcategory of libertarianism. Libertarianism is the belief that people should be left the hell alone. Free markets are a spontaneous organization of people making mutual agreements between themselves on the matter of trade of goods and services.

Whenever some external entity decides that the mutual agreement between you and I is "inefficient", "against the public good", or some other justification, and uses some mechanism of force to prevent it, then you have the precise antithesis of libertarianism.

Your argument is no different than asking why you darned Americans are always conflating gun rights and libertarianism, or free speech and libertarianism. They are "conflated" because they are subcategories of libertarianism, not random beliefs glued together unnaturally.

Of course, you can argue this out by redefining libertarianism to mean something else entirely. Go nuts. Redefining words is a common tactic on Internet debate.

If you don't agree that markets are best when free, make that case. If you don't like Momma packing heat, say on. If you want to hush Rush, bring out your arguments. You have already made some point worth addressing. However, don't pretend such arguments are libertarian in nature, libertarianism implies and requires free markets, just as it does free speech and gun rights.

623 weeks ago @ Armed and Dangerous - Irrational Expectations · 0 replies · +1 points

Syskill, I think I did not get my point across very effectively. The government interference I was referring to was after the problems not before. There are many market interferences that was somewhat responsible for the problems we are seeing, however, the worst and most damaging interference is the attempts to fix it. The market has a very effective tool for fixing badly run companies. It is called "death." It also has a very effective tool for minimizing the effects of such a death, it is called "feeding on the carcass." Economists like to call it "creative destruction", but I like my terminology better.

The idea of "too big to fail" is perhaps the most cancerous and dangerous idea invented by the political system in fifty years. It is patently a lie designed to allow the nationalization of large swaths of the American economy, and bury it under the mantle of compassion.

623 weeks ago @ Armed and Dangerous - Irrational Expectations · 2 replies · +1 points

>Otherwise. Why, it's almost obvious what is the purpose of human life:
> happiness, eudaimonia, a meaningful, good life

This statement is illustrative of my concern with your argument, and also takes us back to the core of this topic. You make the above statement despite the fact that many people don't hold the same view. You offer no evidence, other than your opinion, that it is true. If it is so obvious, why isn't it more prevalent? For example, I think if you took a survey, more than 50% of people asked would say that "seeking your own happiness as your purpose" would be considered selfish. (I would not be amongst them, btw.)

However, this comes back to the point of the subject, and my original point. The market has a powerful truth detection mechanism to get people to declare what their true wants are, rather than their imagined articulated wants are. It is, consequently, a much more powerful tool that democracy for guiding a nation. I know of very few cases when this market has been less able to produce the desires of a society than elites in a smoke filled room have.