Friday, December 30, 2005

The Choice by Russel Roberts

Just finished another book. This one was assigned reading for a course I am taking next term, Marcoeconomics. The Choice: A Fable of Free Trade nd Protectionism, by Russel Roberts, was a quick read, probably more so for mebecause of my familiarity with the concepts and terms it expounded. In the story English Economist David Ricardo returns to 1960's America a la the angel Clarence in It's A Wonderful Life. He comes down to prevent a minor political speech that may turn America into a protectionist nation. The surrounding economics, especially the Theory of Competitve Advantage, which Roberts renames the Roundabout Way to Wealth, are explored using the socratic method as Ricardo and the invented protagonist, Ed Johnson, a television manufacturer, discuss consequences of vairous government trade actions.
Ricardo convinces Johnson that free trade benefits all in the long run, and puts some opaque economic theories into slightly less opaque vernacular. There are no graphs and very little math in this book, to the relief of anyone who has ever taken an introductory economics course, and more so to those who have not taken one.
The chapter titles provide a simple reference to important concepts: The Challenge of Foreign Competition, The Case For Protection, Fair Trade Versus Free Trade, etc. More than anything else this book puts economics into a narrative which facilitates progression into more subtle concepts from a central problem, should governments impose quotas or tarrifs on international producers to protect domestic industries and jobs? This book can serve as an excellent teaching tool for students who are new to economics, or who may only take one or two economics courses over the course of their education. It definitely will turn many away from the dangers of protectionist policy in particular. Some of the passages become tedious and lengthy, some of the examples are distracting, and many the casual reader will become bored once the gimmic of Robert's narrative wears off. The book should be read quickly, in three to six sittings, to get the most out of it.
As a student of economics I would have preferred a more orderly and specifically labeled list of Q and A, or at least more sub-chapter headings to use as reference, but I think the book achieves its goal, and at just 116 pages, quite succinctly.
JN

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Hayek's Road to Serfdom notes

I just finished reading The Road to Serfdom by F. A. Hayek. I think I will need to read it again someday. I get the general idea, and took extensive notes. It definately inspired some thought. These are some of the things I wrote in the margins:

Do we want freedom from men or from responsibility? This seems to be the question of every teenager. Do I want free from Dad? Then i must face responsibility and provide for myself. Do I want to be free from responsibility? Then I must go back home and live by Dad's rules. No wonder dictators paint themselves as fathers. Trouble is, too many peoples are content to remain children rather than mature into free men.

"The systematic study of the forms of legal institutions which will amke the competitive system work efficiently has been sadly neglected." This is something I want to look into more, through studying the development of common law. There are a couple of books on my shelf that I hope will increase my understandin: The Enterprise of Law, and To Servae and Protect, both by Bruce Benson. The Common Law, by Holmes, and Justice Scalia's book about the common law.

Fanatics dislike prices because they see prices as an obstacle to achieving their specialty.

Hayek utilizes a teleological view of history which I find unnecessary and cumbersome.

Rule of Law killed privilege. Equality before the law must be achieved by the law, not by legislation.

Independance of the judiciary is essential.

Hayek doesn't consider the church to be a social force, hence he resorts to some cases of government welfare for those who are in need.

Social security raises the cost of private insurance, leaving more people with less.

Mindsets are important. Pagan mentalities seek to always appease gods to achieve security. Monotheists give up this mindset for a new one, desirous of liberty for all.

Safety is privilege. People are often more protective of privileges than rights.

Hayek gets it wrong in much of chapter 10 because he does not recognize the true source of liberty - Christ. He has values, not virtues.

Hayek considers certain things to be inevitable. Nothing is inevitable but that Christ will return.

Pagans always hate monotheists. Monotheists allow pluralism.

There is no human dignity under collectivism.

How many free market thinkers out there get into the economics of things, but fail to recognize the connection to law? How many more fail to recognize the further connection to ethics?

Dictatorships are focused on the whims of one person. "The person of this leader" is unknowable and fickle. Jesus, on the other hand, has an unchageable character.

Taxing a monopoly doesn't fix it, it installs it.

The tendency to desire central control is fueled by a desire for freedom from responsibility: in a word, a desire for licence. Responsibility is a wholly monotheistic concept. Paganism seeks the appeasement of various gods. Monotheism demands conformity to a higher moral standard which matches the character of that one god.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Books

I'm reading a couple of books right now. I'm listening to 1776 by David McCollough on Audio book on my way to and from work every day. That's pretty cool. I had read John Adams, by the same author, and enjoyed it, but the length of his books led me to try listening instead. Of course, it is still the unabbridged version.
I'm also reading The Road to Serfdom by F.A. Hayek, the Austrian economist. It's a hard read, or at least the part I'm in right now is, but I am determined to finish it before school starts back up, and to start something new: The Wealth of Nations, by Adam Smith. Iwonder how many Economics majors have never read this book? How many Economics PROFESSORS have never read this book! I'm all into original sources, though.
Oh, I'm also reading The Cost of Discipleship by Bonhoeffer. It's great. When I finish that I want to read Performing the Faith, by Stanley Hauerwas, which is about Bonhoeffer.
I recently listened to A Look At Life From A Deer Stand, a book about fatherhood by Steve Chapman. A quaint book, with good reminders and encouragements about our role as fathers. That book was a gift from my dad.
My wife and I are reading the first book of the Mitford series aloud to each other at night. Much more rewarding than TV!
Also, we are listening to the Robert Kiosaki books about money together. I'm still on Rich Dad Poor Dad, and I think she's on to The Casflow Quadrant.
I'm also perusing a book by Dennis Raney on money.
I try to check Cafe Hayek every few days or so, and once a month I catch up on Walter Williams and Thomas Sowell's columns. If I could afford it I would subscribe to Richard Mayburry's Early Warning Report newsletter, but it runs a nice $200 per year, for 12 newsletters, 12 pages long each. There's a lot of good financial hints in there, though, and some people are getting rich because of that little newsletter. You can find a sample of it at www.chaostan.com
I'm also studying a lot of math right now. I tutor students in Precalculus and discrete math, so I'm having to refresh myself on concepts like trigonometry, which I haven't studied in 15 years or so.
There's so much I want to read. I hope that next year I don't have to work, so that I have more time to read and study.
That's all for now!
JN

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Alive

I added a post to cafehayek.com in a discussion about immigration yesterday. My first semster back at school was hard, yet quite rewarding. I have registered for 15 hours next semester, quite a load, but I think the course work will be a little bit easier, and quite within my abilities.
I hope to write more regularly and to give the only other person reding this something to respond to at some point.
Thanks for checking in with me.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Blame Again

Here's another attempt at my Blame God stance, as submitted to world magazine in response to a colunmn by John Piper, a worthwhile read, at http://www.worldmag.com/johnpiper/

In response to John Piper's September 17th column, I propose a slightly different angle. Whereas Piper is careful to show how inappropriate it is for humans to attempt to hold God accountable, there is yet a more dangerous form of blame occurring in relation to Hurricane Katrina, blaming of government.

Attribution for the scope of the disaster is repeatedly and emphatically cast upon a federal system that did not cause it and was never intended to be a response team to any kind of disaster save international invasion. What has happened in the minds of Americans is that we so much do not believe in God, and we so much have pledged our allegiance to our government, that we no longer blame God for what He alone could have done - or prevented.

Popular concepts of God do not permit us to think that God is in control of natural mechanisms. I brought up the point that few Americans were blaming God rather than government in a newspaper writing class at North Carolina State University where I attend and the consensus response was, "You think God caused Katrina?!?" I am certain that Piper would agree that a recovery of a sense of God's sovereignty is in order.

I expect such a reaction from unbelievers, but the church ought to know better. I am concerned that many in the church will fall into the same mantra of demanding that the government do something, rather than giving God credit for His awesome might, and recognizing their responsibility to that something. After all, what good does it do Him to be God if He can't act like it every now and then, and what good does it do us if we let the world be better salt and light than we are?

Friday, September 09, 2005

Blame God

Whom is to blame for the disaster after Katrina? I think it is ironic, and wrong, that so many are blaming the government rather than blaming God. It is as if people don't believe in God SO MUCH that they don't even cry out to Him when something goes wrong! Who do they cry out to? Their new god, government. Few would recognize government as their god, but that's how they treat it. Who is responsible to feed, clothe, water, house, educate, protect, and clean up after us? The government. Anathema! God is responsible or He is not soverign! We try so hard to make God a loving God that we rob Him of His divinity. What good does it do Him to be God if He can't act like it every now and then!?!
I have also noticed many, and many Christians among them, asking what the government is going to do about... you fill in the blank. Wrong! The question is: what is the church going to do about it? When we ask the government to do our job we cease to be salt and light.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Friends

Okay, if you are reading this blog, more than likely it is because you are one of my friends, and I gave you the address to this website on a little blue sticky note, or sent it to you in an e-mail.
I want you to read my blog. More importantly, I need your help with my blog. I need for you to read the stuff I post here and comment on it. I'd really like it if you would argue with me. Or at least point out weaknesses in my arguements. I want this to be a learning exercise, especially for me, but also for you, hopefully.
I think my posts are a little long, so I'll try to be less wordy in the future. Thanks y'all!
Nathan (JN)

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Something New

Part of the idea behind this blog was for me to practice my writing. I've been neglecting that.

The constitution, I said in "Judge Rant 1," was a document creating a government to house common law. I don't think that there's anything magic about the Constitution. It's a good document, for what it tries to do. I've heard people talk about it as though it were Holy writ. That's just not true. Scripture is scripture, it is Revelation. The Constitution was just a human theory on the best way to restrain government.

Now, what is interesting about the Constitution is that it does seek to restrain government. Americans inherited distrust of government from England. England had several particularly bad governments, and perhaps that is why they invented Constitutional Law, viz. the Magna Carta. That document was a list of things the aristocracy didn't want the King to do anymore. It limited government. The Declaration of Independance was a list of things the King of England was doing that American colonists didn't want him to do anymore. The Constitution was written to prevent Americans from making George Washington King of America, a job that he just didn't want. Perhaps he did this out of reverance of God, perhaps out of feelings of inferiority, perhaps because he really believed in republicanism, perhaps he recognized that Kings have a bad habbit of getting assassinated by rivals, and quite frequently by their own family members. At any rate, he refused the job, and I think its a good thing he did.

The Constitution acknowledges that government is predatory. So the founders created three governments. The idea is that we the people are the sheep. The government is made up of wolves. If there must be a wolf, let him be a crippled one. Better yet, three cripple ones. And tell each of the wolves that the other two have it out for him. Keep the wolves fighting amongst themselves. Hopefully, that way, they will leave the sheep alone. It made our government terribly inefficient. That's a good thing! I like when new laws aren't passed. Death to all new laws! Death to most old laws! Not the really old ones, though.

I was selected for jury duty last year. I din't make it onto the actual jury though. There were several others in line before me, and I never got called. It was a murder case, though not one seeking capital punishment. Each potential jurer was asked if they felt they could give an impartial decision about the case and the laws relevant to the case.

I didn't want to be on that jury, but I don't think they would have kept me anyway. If they had asked me whether I could give a fair hearing to the case and the law I would have responded, "I would be glad to hear this case, but concerning the law, I would only be willing to consider those portions of the law which had their foundation in case law, common law. I would not be willing to give equal hearing to legislated law, man-made law.

The Constitution tried to make it difficult for men to make laws. Not only did laws have to be approved by a majority of state representatives, but they also had to be approved by another delegation of local community representatives. Then the enforcement (executive) portion of government had to agree to enforce the law in question. If he didn't like the law he could refuse to enforce it. Then the state and community representatives would have to get more than a majority to approve the new law. Finally the judging portion of government had to agree to prosecute and convict people based on the new law. If they felt there wasn't precedent for such actions, they could refuse to recognize the new law, and force everyone to start over again.

This is so great! Nothing is getting done! Wonderful!

But there was still one way laws could be made. Every time a new situation came up in a court, the judge presiding over that court would make known the laws relevant to the case. That's really the judge's main job, to know what the relevant laws are and to make them known. He's like a preacher and teacher of the law. (Interesting note here, Jesus never spoke badly of the scribes of his time because they knew the law, rather because they did not keep the law, and because they twisted it.) After all the relevant laws were laid out, after every decision from previous relevant cases were examined for precedents as to how this case ought to be decided, the judge would make his decision. If all existing law at the time of the trial still left the case uncertain the judge could throw the case out, proclaiming a mistrial, or he could make a NEW DECISION.

It's risky business making a new decision. The only reason people use the courts is because they are relatively stable. If a new decision is deemed to be a bad one by too many people, they will begin to lose their confidence in the courts. Judges are immediately held accountable for their decisions. Many people will just go to some other third party to hear their disputes.

But if a new decision is deemed to be wise, and in keeping with common sense, or natural law, and God's law, then this new decision becomes a precedent upon which all future law can draw insight and wisdom.

The Constitution sought to protect this ability for judges to make wise decisions. It was a good idea.

Question: Is government force, or is it justice?

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Immigrants Part 1

Illegal immigration is an issue that the church doesn’t handle very well.

Almost all Americans have ancestry that includes immigrants. Why do we want to close our borders now?

Interesting note I picked up from a friend recently, but it’s in the Declaration of Independence: One of the complaints against King George was that he wouldn’t allow emigration from England to America.

I would challenge anyone to prove to me that open immigration in principle is a bad idea. Every argument I have ever heard against such a policy is based on myth, prejudice, or assumption that the current set of laws surrounding the issue are good laws.

First, the myths.

The most prevailing myth that I have experienced is the concept that Americans will lose jobs if we allow more immigration.

This myth contains what Thomas Sowell calls “zero-sum” thought. It operates out of a belief that there is a limited amount of wealth in the economy, and that more people sharing that wealth takes away from each individual’s share. Wrong. Such a view is STATIC, it assumes that the current state of affairs is the way things will be tomorrow. (The root word for static by the way is the same root as for statist, or trust in the state, government) All wealth is created. TANSTAAFL: There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch. Even if I move into a house with an apple tree in the backyard, I have to go get the apple if I want to eat it.

Why did farmers in centuries past have so many children? Besides the lack of birth control, they WANTED more children. More children meant more help producing crops. Even young children were expected to pull their weight around the farm. (Now young children carry their weight on their middles and we wonder why.) The more people we have the more wealth we can create. Every great empire wanted more people not less. Emperors love babies; perhaps that is where the tradition of politicians “kissing babies” stems from. It is part of the human mandate “to be fruitful and multiply.” Certainly not something we should become legalistic about, but true.

It is interesting to me that the same people who believe this myth also want to protect American jobs by preventing industries from moving overseas. This concept is equally false. All consumers are hurt when government enacts protectionist policies. If it takes me 2 hours to grow an apple, but a Canadian can produce one in 1 hour, I will trade him one of my hours for the apple and still have an hour surplus to myself.

The economics of these two concepts are rather simple, only compounded by myths and fallacies. I will talk more about them in future posts.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Penses

Some thoughts:
Confessing our sins to one another is a great equalizer.
Sometimes we think we are talking to one of God's children when we are really talking to God. -John Young
Natural needs are never satisfied. Spiritual needs have already been satisfied.
Worship God. You don't have anything better to do!

Monday, August 08, 2005

2 Sam 15

I will comment on Scripture regularly on this site. I am not a fundamentalist, although I am an evangelical. Since learning about Economics and Law I have read the Scriptures quite differently. Enjoy
2 Sam. 15
Absalom returns to Jerusalem and sets himself up as a judge. He sits at the city gate and invites the people to bring their disputes to him. He recognizes the source of respected government to be in the ability to judge. Before he attempts to usurp the kingdom he tries to gain a foothold by judging in favor of certain politically influential people, viz. Ahithophel. All throughout scripture we can recognize a pattern of judges preceeding kings or other legislators. Exceptions to this rule highlight the differences in these roles.

Acknowledgements

First and foremost I must give credit to Richard Mayburry for the title of my blog. Juris Naturalist is a phrase he coined to describe his political viewpoint. JN means natural law. I will be writing a lot about natural law and its place in today's politics.

Judge Rant 1

I have been thinking about government some lately, especially the recent nomination of a new Supreme Court justice. I used to think the Founders made a mistake by including the Judiciary in the government instead of leaving it independent. After some consideration I have arrived at a new conclusion.
The founders really didn't want any government at all. They had seen the inefficient and often deadly effects of government firsthand, and wanted as little to do with them as possible. What they recognized as valuable however was law, the Common Law, the scientifically discovered truths of nature and nature's God regarding law. They valued good judges as researchers in this scientific inquiry. Indeed, the only aspect of government they held in value at all was the Judiciary!
So, in a sense, the Founders were not trying to develop a government that was held on check by the Judiciary. Rather, desiring a safe future for justice, and an expectation of better relations among men due to clearer and more efficient laws, and a hope of greater prosperity as justice is administered more regularly and efficiently, our founders built for themselves a government for to house the judiciary!
Many conservatives today are complaining about the treatment of Judge Roberts during confirmation hearings. "Poor Mr. Roberts is having to give an account of his opinion on every policy issue, and that just isn't fair! It shouldn't be the judges who are setting policy, but the legislature, so who cares what his opinions on policy are? All the man has to do is read the Constitution and make sure that all new laws are Constitutional." Hmm...
The founders really didn't want any government at all. Just a safe place, a house if you will, for the Judiciary. Legislators didn't abide by this philosophy for very long however. Presidents Washington and Adams did a pretty good job of maintaining the proper scope of government, but Mr. Jefferson was always more adept at formulating good political theory than in executing it.
Bastiat makes a good argument that only when the law has been compromised does politics become interesting. If the law is simply doing what the law should do (protecting property, liberty, life, and enforcing contracts) then there is little incentive for politicing. No one could thus gain a "political advantage" over anyone else. All politicing is created by the incentive of gaining political power, "control of the blackjack" Mr. Mayberry calls it.
And such is the case with poor Mr. Roberts. All the politicians are so concerned about Mr. Roberts because of what threat he poses to their own degree of political power. The truth is that none of them should have ant of that power in the first place. The arguments are shifted to discussions about dozens of particular policies that should not exist in the first place, but are merely tools in the hands of future tyrants being used to gain political leverage.
What really strikes me as funny is that most of these aspirants want to be president someday, and as such the most powerful man in America. Fewer of them realize that Judge Roberts is so much closer to the Most Powerful Man in America position: Chief Justice of The Supreme Court.