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.