Sunday, December 31, 2006

Of Aristocracy and Markets

My wife and I watched Emma together the other night. We have seen Pride and Prejudice several times already, but this was the first time she had seen this of Jane Austin's classics. I then headed over to Librivox to download the audiobook (for free!).
In one of the early chapters Emma and her "project" Harriet are discussing a farmer whom has shown interest in Harriet. Emma's disdain for this farmer's activity in the market - his seeking after profits- etc. is telling. As an aristocrat she sees all activity in the market as "dirty" and "low."
Why this distaste for the market?
Emma later acknowledges that the farmer may do well in the market, and even become wealthy, despite his illiteracy.
So, it isn't the wealth.
Rather, it is the source of that wealth.
The aristocracy inherit their wealth. They have land. Who granted them these lands? The king. Hence, nobility enjoys the derrivatives of a government grant of monopoly on land. The nobility are privileged, and quite frequently without merit.
People are always more protective of their privileges than their rights. When the privileged observe others enjoying some of the same things formerly available only to themselves due to their privileged status they become indignant. The market provides just such an opportunity to those of lower classes. Hence, the disdain for the market and those that profit from it.
Today's nobility are those who enjoy status and wealth outside of the market. These include those who have received monopoly privilege in one way or another. The rest of this class are those intellectuals whose learning is of limited practicality on the market, especially those in the social sciences and humanities. These intellectuals seek out positions within the government bureaucracy. They seek access to the privy (private) rooms of the king - hence privilege. They know that they have what they have unfairly. But they do not want it taken away from them.

These also have a static view of the world. Because their lives are consumed with aquiring the very limited access to the king, they constantly concerned about appearances, and favor, and position. All of their competing is done outside of the marketplace. It is all political competition. There is only a limited amount of time in a king's day, and there is a limited amount of wealth. Thus the two most important measures of wealth to these individuals are static and unchanging. They see the marketplace's creation of wealth as a threat to their wealth. They do not understand that the market creates new wealth which does not threaten old wealth in any way. The market tries to provide for more with less. Landed aristocracy has the result of providing fewer people with more. These two institutions are diametrically opposed, both in the historical context and in the modern context.
This helps to explain why government officials want to control and restrict the market.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

On divisiveness in politics

Duane Shank has a nice little piece over at God's Politics blog, where I have re-entered the fray.

His comments are in italics, my responses follow.

"voters appeared to send a message that they were fed up with divisiveness in Washington"

Here is where the voters are mistaken. Divisiveness in Washington is the best thing we could hope for. The less politicians agree about things, the safer we all are. Our checks and balances were set up to work best when politicians disagree with each other.

"The political world in Washington has become so bitter that simple friendships between Members of Congress of different parties are almost non-existent. President Ford belonged to an earlier era where there could be vigorous disagreements, but still strong friendships across the aisle."

If politicians across the aisle from each other are having such a hard time being civil with one another it is because they are arguing about things they shouldn't even be dabbling in. If they were focused on preserving the citizen's rights and enforcing contracts there wouldn't be much to disagree about.
When government is used to redistribute wealth, to play favorites by protecting some industries and not others, to create monoply power for some, to create privileges without merit, then people start to get ugly at one another.
People are always more protective of privileges than they are of rights.

The great assumption that Sojourner's makes, and the same mistake has been made by the Religious Right, is that government can be a vehicle for good, for social justice beyond the protection of rights and enforcement of contracts. This simply can not happen. The incentives facing government decision makers and the feedback mechanisms holding them accountable only work for a limited set of functions. Charity lies wholly outside of this set, it belongs to the Church and the Church alone.

Friday, December 29, 2006

The Other Essay

I am not currently engaged in any large research projects. Next semester I am enrolled in classes which will require a great deal of research. Perhaps the most challenging project I completed recently was a paper on the Putney debates among the Levellers during the English Civil War.
I enrolled in British History to 1688 my first semester back in school because I wanted to learn more about the development of the common law and the institutions which came to support classical liberalism. I was satisfied with the course, and intrigued by the story of the Levellers. I sought out more of their story.
What I discovered piqued my interest even more. History, as we are told now in the 21st century, is written by the winners. Different periods of history are revisited and reanalyzed frequently, depending upon who is winning in academia at the time. Both libertarians and Marxists had revisited the Putney debates in their time, yet in their zeal to promulgate a teleological narrative consistent with their respective philosophies the eventual victors each made the mistake of letting earlier historians do their investigation for them. Thus the debate among historians centered on a single document, Agreement of the People, which was important for being among the first attempts at a written, unalterable constitution.
What these narratives neglected was the other central document concerning the Putney debates, Case of the Army Truly Stated. In three of my six sources the Case of the Army Truly Stated was not even cited, while the Agreement of the People was cited every time. The Agreement is available through several internet sources, such as: http://www.strecorsoc.org/docs/agreement.html. The Case is not available online and the only copy I was able to procure was hidden in an unlit isle on a shelf in the basement of Duke University’s Perkins Library on microfilm.
My curiosity drove me to this document. What was it? Why was it difficult to find? The transcripts of the Putney debates made reference to this document, so why did the historians ignore it? I felt like I had discovered a lost piece of evidence, deliberately buried, because it did not fit with popular theories. It complicated those zealous teleological attempts at proselization.
This also complicated my research, because I had no precedent to follow, or to disagree with, concerning this document. My explication would be new, fresh, and juvenile. I am not a trained historian, and such an important work required time resources I did not have available. My work would prove incomplete, confusing, and somewhat uninformed.
The bulk of the paper which I presented was my interpretation of the Case of the Army Truly Stated and a contrast / comparison to Agreement of the People. This work was largely original, though I gave credit to Richard Maybury, author of The Uncle Eric Series, a set of books that teach classical liberalism to young adults, for the models I employed in making my argument.
I thoroughly enjoyed interacting with these original sources. Today’s university experience is fraught with musty texts which teach down to under qualified or lazy students satisfied to swallow and regurgitate what is given to them. I was appalled to discover that I might never read Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations even as an Economics graduate student. Shall we merely take what is given to us without question? How are we to arouse the creative, curious, and productive spirit within students to inspire the creation of new wealth of knowledge?
I spent a great amount of time with my instructor, Professor Chad Ludington, discussing my paper, both before and after its presentation. I felt, and he agreed, that within it there lay the potential for a paper worthy of scholarly publication. I have a new section in my library dedicated to materials which may be useful in completing this work someday, while I am most concentrated on developing proficiency in using economic models for the time being.
It is an important work for the resurgence of classical liberalism. The Levellers’ story arises in Murray Rothbard’s For a New Liberty, and Dr. Anna Ebeling’s lectures at the Foundation for Economic Education. I hope that someday I can revisit this story and complete my work on it, or at least hand it off to someone who can truly do it justice.

Scholarship Application Essay, aka My Vision

I left university in 1997 to take a position working with at-risk children at Agape Corner Boarding School in Durham, NC. I became a 7th grade math teacher and house staff, responsible for cooking and other chores, and sharing a room with the students. I remained at Agape Corner for the next seven years teaching several subjects at multiple levels including math, literature, grammar, history, bible, Spanish, ethics, high school biology, and economics. I also was given administrative responsibilities including co-principal and acting principal positions. I was responsible for evaluating and recommending curriculum, student discipline, facilities management, and recreational development.
I was first asked to teach economics in 2003, and was provided with a textbook. I had no background in the subject and began reading the book in preparation for my classes. I was enchanted. The models provided by economics shed new light on all that I had previously studied and taught. I was particularly amazed at the relationship economics has to ethics and law, and the insights gained into history. When teaching history through the lenses of law and economics, “following the money” and the power instead of the battles, my students showed renewed interest. I became enthusiastic about the subject, and enjoyed sharing my excitement with my classes.
I realized that we were learning concepts which were extremely practical and powerful which I had not learned in my primary education, though I attended an excellent college prep school and had two years of university. I wondered how many others had never learned the principles economics and common law had to offer and began to develop a vision for teaching practical economics in a new way, reaching new populations. I needed more formal education to achieve my goals.
I applied and was re-admitted to NCSU in the fall of 2005. Sometime during that year I learned of the Accelerated Masters Program, and decided to pursue it. I intend to demonstrate initiative and competence by excelling in this program in order to improve my chances at gaining admittance to a top rated school for a Ph.D. in law, ethics, or economics. I plan to take the highest level courses for which I am qualified and to consistently challenge myself. Beyond the core curriculum I have interests in the theory and philosophy of economics as well as the history of economic thought.
The catallactic methodology of Austrian Economics meshes well with the pacifistic renunciation of force embodied by the Christian Ethics of Dietrich von Bonhoeffer, John Howard Yoder, and more recently Stanley Hauerwas, whom I sat under informally for a semester at Duke University. The unique nature of American institutions owes largely to the development of common law and constitutionally limited government in England. I believe a systematic approach for those adhering to the peculiar Christian ethic as described by the above theologians, informed by Austrian Economics (which has struggled, and will ultimately fail in my opinion, to identify an ethical imperative for its foundation), and the institutions of common law which have their foundation in the Anglo Judeo-Christian heritage, most particularly the book of Judges, is possible.
My long term vision is to have access to teach at any mainstream university and to write extensively in academic forums on the relationships among these various disciplines. I would also like to develop a workshop or seminar to share the useful principles of this system with the many people who have never had any formal education on these models. Finally, I would like to engage the population at large through journalism, books, and other media outlets.
My dedication to this pursuit is demonstrated by the courses I have opted to take since returning to school, and my recognition on the Dean’s list all three of these semesters. I strive for excellence, and to make the educational experience as fruitful for those around me as for myself.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Jesus Loves Me...

The song we all grew up with:
Jesus loves me this I know,
For the Bible tells me so...


But, that's not how I know Jesus loves me. I know He loves me because the Holy Spirit confirms it in my Spirit. Just reading it in the Bible doesn't confirm it to me.
I suppose its semanitcal. Or epistomological. There's two sorts of knowing. There's the knowing in your mind, and there's the knowing in your spirit. I can know in my mind that Jesus loves me by reading the Bible. I can know I am loved by a friend if they tell me so. But I don't feel loved just by their telling me. Feeling loved requires so much more. It requires time and experience. Love must be proven. It this sense I know I am loved because I am not forsaken, I am accepted, I receive gifts, and comfort from. The only way I can know that Jesus loves me in this sense is if I open my spirit to Him, to allow myself to be loved by Him. To be romanced by Him.
So, yes, I know that Jesus loves me, and I'm glad the Bible confirms it, but I really know it because I have fellowship with Him in the Spirit.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Auberon Herbert - Libertas in Excelsius

Chorus:
Each man shall be free, whoever he be,
And none shall say to him nay!
There is only one rule for the wise and the fool -
To follow his own heart's way.
For the heart of the free, whoever he be,
May be stirred to a better thing;
But the heart of the slave lies chill in its grave,
And knows not the coming of spring.

Auberon Herbert, brought to my attention by Murray Rothbard in Man, Economy, and State, was the founder of voluntaryism. He has been called an anarcho-capitalist, but he refused the title himself, due to the connotations the term carried at his time.

To follow one's own heart is to have the free will given to us by God. To be restrained from exercising this will is slavery. As believers we do not wish that any should be forced unto slavery. Yet, we know that their hearts are wicked, and for them to follow their own will is for them to end in misery. What is our role, then? Shall we force them unto Christ? Anathema! They must choose to follow Him of their own will, once they have heard His call. How should we devise public policy? To maximize the opportunity to exercise free will within the limits of allowing all others to exercise free will. In other words, do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Statism constructs an artificial conscience, a social conscience. But this is paganism, and slavery. Under such a system each person is bound to do what is best for everyone else and not for himself. The individual is sacrificed, and the mass takes on a new identity. This is what was happening at Babel. The masses were unified in opposition to the liberty God wanted them to live under.

Do not be aggregated!

Then forward your heart set, each lad and his lass,
Till to humble and great it is known
That each man shall rule, be he wise man or fool,
His own self, his one self, alone!


Tuesday, December 19, 2006

What to do about Iraq

I propose bringing home all of our troops from every foreign post immediately and disbanding all federal branches of the armed forces, relinquishing arms to the individual state and local militias.

I don't believe US involvement in foreign affairs is productive. Never, not once, have the citizens of this country gotten out of a foreign conflic what they have been forced to put into it.

This is the only self-consistent solution derived from an ethical imperitive. All other "solutions" are derived from political agendas.

"But, what about the suffering people in other countries? Shouldn't we stand up for them?"

Yes, Christians should. Wicked rulers should be resisted. Force may be used. But only the least possible amount of force necessary to halt the aggressor. After that, force is relinquished. Only Christians are capable of this ethic. Everyone else would demand revenge.

Revenge only gives birth to the next war. WWI gave birth to WWII.

"But, our society isn't governed by Christians!"
True, but Christians should only support public policy up to the point that it agrees with their ethic, and after that oppose it.
We ought not to impose our ethic on others, but we also ought not to compromise ourselves.

"But, such a solution will leave us vulnerable to attack."
The entire strength of the armed forces, and with the the most admantly patriotic, most skilled at arms, citizens will be back on American soil. To attack would be foolish.
To plead for security over liberty is not consistent with the ethic Jesus taught.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Christian Bashing

It is okay to bash Christ. That's what the world does to Jesus, it bashes Him. Jesus tells us to expect to be bashed for identifying ourselves with him. For following Him. There's no reason unbelievers shouldn't bash us. They don't have the Holy Spirit, so how can they be good? How can we ask them to be good when they don't have the Holy Spirit, and we know that even we can't be good without Him?
We should not be surprised, offended, or shocked when the world bashes Christians or Christ.
We should be more surprised when they do not bash us of Him.
We should not expect secular institutions such as television stations, stores, corporations, or government to act morally when they do not have the Holy Spirit.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Cell Phone Blues

"I want out of my contract now!"
Now, there's a way: Resellular.

The Church

We can see that the only read way to have a lasting impact on our world is through the Church. By being the Church - practicing the peculiar ethic Christ demonstrated for us, and enables us unto - we achieve much more than by competing for the opportunity to manipulate the political mechanism. Christians have all sorts of ideas on issues, but when we approach Christ, we find that there is but one ethic, one model to emulate.
We can take different positions on what the government should do, because the government is outside the church. It is not a part of Christ's ethic. It is not our means to achieving His commands. The Church is. When He commands us to love our neighbor, He does not say to do this by paying our taxes and politicking for wealth redistribution to the poor. No, He commands us to personally care for our neighbor. There is no room for an "I gave at the office - I paid my taxes" attitude amongst those who are spiritually renewed. Neither is there room for believers to demand charity of unbelievers. How can they love if they have not accepted the love of Christ? They are spiritually dead. Any "good works" they perform are out of guilt or alternative motivation. It is not for them to love their neighbor, and it is not for us to command them to. It is our responsibility, only.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Imitating and knowing Christ

There is a clear difference between knowing about Jesus, and actually knowing Him. If it is our ethic to immitate Him, it is essential that we also know Him. It is difficult for me to immitate George W. Bush. I could repeat a few of his phrases, dress like him, and do my hair like him. I could possibly study his policy decisions in the past, and make statements about what he would say given different sets of circumstances. But in none of these things am I immitating him. To imitate someone is to pick up their habits. Habits, by definition, are actions done without thinking. I have internalized a great many of my father's habits. Some vices, and several virtues. In the case of paternitiy we say that the progeny has "come by" such habits "honestly." I want to spend enough time with Jesus that I pick up His habits.

Many books are written about ethical dilemmas. Often the end is to derive a set of rules, with defined conditions and "correct" responses to said conditions. Confucianism may be the most elaborate collection of such an ethic. But this method is patently pagan. Who gets the glory from such an ethic? Only the one who can keep all the rules. But, who can even know all the rules? It is exceedingly difficult. Government positions in China were rewarded to those students who could best demonstrate mastery in knowing and keeping these rules.
As Christians, we are released from a plethora of precepts. We have but one law, to imitate Christ. He receives the glory, both from our successes and our failures at imitating Him. We no longer have to keep a list of rules ready in our minds to avoid mistakes. Instead, we learn by imitation how to behave. By developing habits, we don't think about what we are doing. We don't consider each circumstance seperately. We act out of our renewed mind.
This also is economising. We like specialization of labor because there are gains to be realized in making an activity mechanical. Even stuffing envelopes becomes faster and more efficient the more one does it. The same is true for behaving virtuously, when we can respond immediately out of habit to a situation we respond more quickly, and with less moral scruple than if the instance had to be considered individually.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

My Industrial Organization Term Paper, read it if you dare

Northern Securities Company vs. United States

In 1903 the Supreme Court ruled in a 4 to 5 decision that the Northern Securities Company (NSC) had violated the Sherman Act of 1890. This came as something of a surprise to the key personalities of the NSC because it violated good law, good economic theory, good trade, and good common sense. But perhaps they should have known better. Railroads in America had always been highly politicized, with one exception. The Great Northern Railroad (GN) of James J. Hill, the only transcontinental railroad to be built without federal subsidies, without wooing hordes of bureaucrats, was also the only transcontinental railroad never to declare bankruptcy. And it was this railroad that President Theodore Roosevelt pressured the U.S. Department of Justice to prosecute for antitrust violation.

Railroad History
Building a railroad in the second half of the 19th century was a highly profitable venture. The government loaned railroads the money to build, and gave them the land to build on, plus the surrounding territory, for free. Builders were also free to contract out supply functions to other firms which they also owned and to overcharge the railroad, thereby insulating personal profits from the required repayment of the loans. They could build anywhere they wanted, and thanks to an artificial incentive structure, building in the mountains was more profitable than on flat land. Since railroads were paid for the number of miles laid, there were incentives to build winding, indirect roads.
Winding, indirect, mountainous routes define the romantic relationship many Americans have with railroads. History frequently romanticizes those aspects of our past which were mistakes. The wasteful behavior of those who were building the railroads for immediate gain resulted in grossly inefficient lines defined by high fixed costs. One such railroad was the Northern Pacific (NP) which, though running closely parallel to GN, and serving many of the same locations, was 115 miles longer from St. Paul to Seattle.
Hill’s GN was built in a completely different manner than these others. Hill bought the bankrupt St. Paul and Pacific Railroad with the long term goal of opening trade to the Orient. He did not seek out government favors, but looked to satisfy the needs of his customers. He built slowly, deliberately, exploring various possibilities “to get the shortest route on the best grade with the least curvature .” He developed a region, helping settlers get started, before moving on. He built many spurs on to his railroads, serving otherwise out of reach locations, and encouraged the use of new agricultural methods in these areas to make them more productive. Other lines were prohibited from building spurs by their charters until later. Hill’s success earned him the title of “Empire Builder” and the respect of those who dealt with him. He discovered the key to free entrepreneurship: you only get ahead by helping someone else to get ahead, too.
Hill’s closest competitor, NP went bankrupt, like all the other railroads. Not only were federal subsidies used to build these railroads, but the public was forced to bail them out, too. Collusion among railroads was not illegal before the Sherman Act. Multiple lines serving the same market frequently established agreements regarding prices. Pooling encouraged efficiency improvements such as development of spurs and standardization of gauges and other equipment. However, collusive high rates often attracted new firms into the market, as we would expect. Many of these firms built new lines anticipating a buyout by the incumbents.
The balance between collusion and competition was volatile to say the least. Rates were unpredictable and often more expensive between locations that were closer together, but not served by competing lines. The literature suggests that “what the majority of the electorate wanted in 1887 was simply stability of the railroad collusions.” Railroad customers became frustrated with the volatility in rates and pushed congress for regulation of the industry including fixed, although higher, rates. This seems unlikely. I’m more inclined to believe that the industry incumbents pushed for regulation to help protect their investments. It also seems that railroads continued to court lawmakers who helped protect their interests at the expense of paying customers. At any rate, in 1887 the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) was formed, making collusion the law, adding policing costs to the public subsidization of the industry, and establishing the first of many independent federal agencies.

The Sherman Act
The Sherman Act was passed in 1890. It made illegal, “every contract in the form of trust of otherwise, or conspiracy, in restraint of trade or commerce,” and monopolization, “or attempt to monopolize.” The Sherman Act has been found to lack a common law foundation. Robert Bork states that,
Congress intended the courts to implement… only that value we would today call consumer welfare… The policy the courts were intended to apply is the maximization of wealth or consumer want satisfaction. This requires the courts to distinguish between agreements or activities that increase wealth through efficiency and those that decrease it through restriction of output.

Richard Posner agrees,
The framers of the Sherman Act appear to have been concerned mainly with the price and output consequences of monopolies and cartels, whereas the common law… had a miscellany of objectives mostly unrelated and sometimes antipathetic.

This foundation becomes relevant when we examine Justice Holmes’ dissent later.
Hilton contends that the, “writers (of the Sherman Act) were uniformly hostile to the idea of generating competition among the railroads.” So when NP went bankrupt and Hill moved to consolidate it with the GN, and to complete the route by also buying the Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy (CBQ) line in 1901, he and his partners, J. P. Morgan and Edward H. Harriman, believed they were acting within the confines of the law. Harriman had attempted to keep the CBQ from Hill, and already owned the Union Pacific (UP), but was convinced by Morgan to work together by forming NSC. Harriman shared Hill’s vision for efficient railroads, making improvements to the UP line, and increased efficiencies helped both the UP and GN to cut rates.
Hill’s vision was farther reaching than most could understand. He saw himself as competing not against other railroads between Superior and Seattle, but against water shipping enterprises running from Chicago through the Suez Canal to the Orient, where he wanted to introduce American grain and other products. Thus the acquisition of the CBQ was essential to completing the route and establishing efficient carriage overland from Chicago to Seattle, and then by his own steamboat line to Japan and Hong Kong, which once completed opened up broad new markets to a wide variety of American produced goods.

Northern Securities vs. U.S.
Teddy Roosevelt may be another example of a romanticized mistake. As a charismatic leader he strengthened central control of government and encouraged imperial expansion of U.S. power. He also surprised American industry by taking on the role of “Trust Buster” to gain public approval. Thus NSC found itself under prosecution by the U.S. Department of Justice for violation of the Sherman Act. Roosevelt so desired a defeat of Morgan and Hill that he chose Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. as his nomination to the Supreme Court just before the proceedings. Holmes’ later defection was a disappointment to the President.

The Defense:
NSC argued that their behavior did not fit the description of cartelization or monopolization as described by the Sherman Act. They believed that the Sherman Act was meant to be a codification of earlier common law. It defined monopoly according to the common law tradition, meaning a government franchise with barriers to entry. Attempts to monopolize were applications to the government for enfranchisement. Ironically, this is what Hill had been fighting against in the other railroads. The common law never found mergers to be in restraint of trade because they were not contracts, but transfers of ownership. The intention of the law-makers was relevant to the application of that law. If the law were to find NCS guilty it would declare itself too vague and without clarification, no mergers could ever happen again.
Railroads enjoyed a special protection under the law, and thus were exempt from prosecution under the Sherman Act. Since none of the other railroad combinations have been prosecuted, this combination would also be legal. If the NSC combination was illegal then so were all the combinations under jurisdiction of the ICC, retroactively. (When this failed, it nearly had the effect of destroying the ICC, would that it had!)
Economically speaking, intentions and market power of firms were irrelevant. A combination might destroy competitions without restraining trade. NCS argued that the combination was an aid to commerce and not a restraint. Granting the federal government power to regulate interstate commerce in all situations where commerce might occur would return the economy to a mercantilist state, and rob States of the sovereignty. That contracts were implicitly restraints on trade does not necessitate that they were injurious to public welfare.
NCS also questioned the procedure of the prosecution, saying the Sherman Act did not apply to transportation, only to transported goods. If the parties involved were both already involved in an industry, the Sherman Act would not apply to them. (This seems to mean that the Sherman Act was designed to prevent vertical integration rather than horizontal.) Congress did not have the power to grant monopoly privileges, though it did have the power to regulate commerce. Commerce meant intercourse, which Congress might only regulate, and only on commerce directly, not incidentally. State law did not apply to interstate commerce, though it did apply to intrastate commerce. Supreme Court precedent only judged on acts which restrained commerce directly, not indirectly.

The Prosecution:
The government’s argument stated that the Sherman Act was not a codification of the common law, but a new measure of monopoly defined as suppression of competition. Actual possession of monopoly power and method of combination don’t matter, if the combination would tend to bring about such power, and the very existence of the power to restrain trade constitutes a restraint. Monopoly could mean ownership of a controlling portion of stock.
The words “in restraint of trade or commerce”, were not confined to unreasonable acts, but extended to any and all direct restraints of trade or commerce, even if reasonable or only partial. Any combination that avoided the effects of competition might be prohibited. Railroads were not exempt from the Sherman Act.
The Sherman Act was not primarily a criminal statute, so both restitution and punishment might be sought. Congress might limit contracts in order to protect competition. An agreement or contract in the technical sense was not at all essential. Commerce also included transportation, or the means to commerce. The goal was to keep the channels of commerce open and free from restraint. The federal government could and should police industry for antitrust behavior. Government acquiescence of previous combinations did not justify this one.

The Court:
Justice Harlan delivered the majority opinion. They decided that if NSC were allowed to proceed all railroads might eventually be consolidated and the public be placed at the mercy of the holding corporation. The evidence showed a violation of the act of Congress, in so far as it declared illegal every combination or conspiracy in restraint of commerce among the several states and with foreign nations, and forbade attempts to monopolize such commerce or any part of it. This combination was, within the meaning of the act, a 'trust;' but if not, it was a combination in restraint of interstate and international commerce; and that was enough to bring it under the condemnation of the act. The mere existence of such a combination, and the power acquired by the holding company as its trustee, constituted a menace to, and a restraint upon, that freedom of commerce which Congress intended to recognize and protect, and which the public was entitled to have protected. If such combination be not destroyed, all the advantages that would naturally come to the public under the operation of the general laws of competition, as between the Great Northern and Northern Pacific Railway Companies, would be lost, and the entire commerce of the immense territory in the northern part of the United States between the Great Lakes and the Pacific at Puget sound will be at the mercy of a single holding corporation. The court was not impressed by the scheming method of a trust. The Sherman Act was not limited by a test of reasonableness.

Justice Holmes wrote a scathing dissenting opinion recognizing the amount of politicking that had led up to this case. He wrote, “Great cases, like hard cases, make bad law… because (public) interest appeals to the feelings and distorts the judgment.” Yet even his opinion may have been bent by a dogmatic dedication to the common law. He looked for precise definitions of words instead of applying economic principles, and he accepted the defense’s definition of monopoly. He concluded that the majority opinion went too far in making any combination liable under the Sherman Act and importantly resisted the atomization which occured under the perfect competition model.

Conclusion
This case preceded an era of centralization of government power and regulation over the lives of its citizens. The court’s decision makes antitrust regulation arbitrary due to its broad reading, and resulted in large firms holding back innovation for fear of prosecution. It also set the precedent for an attack on John D. Rockefeller and Standard Oil just a few years later. When the law is vague and subject to an unpredictable power, entrepreneurs become more risk adverse. The ICC was “left in the unenviable situation of being established to facilitate something which had become unambiguously illegal.”
Application of the perfect competition model to legal measures of competition and monopoly power were in the vanguard. Posner demonstrates that even if the model were accepted it would be difficult to demonstrate whether a merger would create monopoly power unless the various possible average cost factors were known. It is quite possible that a merger could result in expansion of supply and lower prices even if the resultant firm were to act monopolistically. The fallacies of this economic methodology in a dynamic marketplace and in relation to entrepreneurship are scarcely recognized or accepted today. Political power prefers to take a static view of the world, reserving the only opportunity for change to its own fancy.
The subsidization of railroads in America had created a monopolistic situation with limited entry to the market. The result was bankruptcy due to inefficiencies in these railroads. The solution offered was to enforce collusion, making the railroads more monopolistic by virtue of control by a single entity, the ICC. When yet another subsidized railroad failed, the NP, the only free railroad in the country, the GN, stepped in to improve efficiency and lower rates. For this, NSC was accused of breaching antitrust laws. Interestingly, Morgan and Roosevelt were later able to enter into a now-famous “gentleman’s agreement” whereby GN and NP were able to act together. It seems that political control over the factors of production was the goal all along.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Zion

I used to be a Zionist. I also used to be a conservative. My theology required that there be a rapture, and that the Jews have a homeland in Palestine before the rapture. I believed a lot of these things, and it was odd to me that other Christians did not.

But then I discovered liberty. The kind of liberty that set me free from homage to the government. Conservatives believe in the government. They believe in power. When I gave up government, I realized I also had to give up the government of Israel. I believe that the Jews are God's chosen people and He still wants to acomplish some things through them, but not necessarily through the state of Israel.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Me


Current best picture of me. Put that marker away.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Advice for Young Men

From Vox Day and Dr. Helen:

As I see it, the objectives for any young man these days should be as follows:

1. Make absolutely 100% certain that at least until you are in your early/mid thirties, you don't get married, don't get any woman pregnant and if whatever legal jurisdiction you are in has or gets palimony laws, you don't get involved in any 'relationship' with a woman whereby she can lay claim to your assets or future income.

2. Get your career on track

3. Live abroad for a while - if you don't do it in your twenties, you probably won't do it until you retire, if at all.

4. While you're living abroad, get a foreign passport and bank account. Choose a country that is not overly compliant with your current jurisdiction and if possible make sure the bank account is non-interest bearing so you don't have to declare it on your tax forms. Never transfer money to or from that account.

5. Never go near a woman who is a feminist, a divorcee, claims she has been abused or is otherwise weird or has a victim mentality.

6. Unless you are religious or want children, don't even consider marriage. Seriously, there are tremendous potential costs and comparatively few potential benefits for men in marriages without those two elements, given that so few women now view marriage as a prerequisite to a full and intimate relationship. And given the current child support laws, even the motivation of wanting children is unreliable. If you're only popping the question because she's pressuring you, well, all I can say is enjoy your slide into Gamma Male Hell.

Good advice.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Of Christmas and Peace

The name of Christ will remain in the public square as long as it is profitable. My children are in the next room watching the Charlie Brown Christmas special. Why is there a Charlie Brown Christmas Special? Because it sells. If we were to be honest, we would make overt efforts to prevent the commercialization of His name. Instead we slap it on T-shirts, wristbands, bumper stickers, and ipods dowloaded with Brittany Spears and Justin Timberlake. What is vanity?
Jesus was and is the Prince of Peace. He brought peace between God and man. He never implied that he would bring peace between nations. He did nothing to prevent war between Jews and Romans. He could have pulled the ultimate Jimmy Carter then and there, but He didn't. He came to free us from allegiance to all other entites but Himself. Servitude to a central government is pagan worship. Practicing the methodologies of political mechanism is witchcraft. We are free from these to imitate Christ instead, and in so doing to fulfill the greatest commandments: Love God and love our neighbor. We can work to prevent war, that is a noble pursuit. But let us be wholly consistent in our reasoning. If we believe the war in Iraq is unjustified, is it for political reasons, or religious ones? If political, then our reasoning is arbitrary and practices favoritism. If religious, then we have to confess that involvement in WWII and WWI, to say nothing of the Spanish American War and the other 150+ military actions the Government of the United States has imposed on its citizens were also unjustified.

One last question: Was Christ's birth all that low? Were Mary and Joseph poor? They could afford a trip to Bethlehem. They had enough money to have to pay taxes. They attempted to get a room at the inn, implying they could also pay for it. They later received valuable gifts from the magi, including gold. They then took a two-year trip to Egypt. They had children other than Jesus, none of whom starved to death. Why is it important to our doctrine to insist that Jesus was poor?

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Bounty

I recommend going to every Library Book Sale you can make it to.

Today's bounty:
Free to Choose: Rose and Milton Friedman
The Fountainhead- Ayn Rand
The Tempting Of America- Robert Bork
Principles of Economics- Carl Menger*** wow!
A Choice Of Days- HL Mencken
a Jan Karon novel
Essentials of Economics- Faustino Balive (a FEE book)
Self Reliance and Other Essays- Emerson
a Walt Whitman anthology
The Virtue of Selfishness - Ayn Rand

All for 8 bucks!

I'm going back tomorrow for $5 a box day.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

A Christian Libertarian's Political Platform

Jim Wallis was giving his platform on Voting God's Politics before the midterm elections. I offered an alternative:

The religious right has made manipulation of the political mechanism a priority. The fault does not lie with their particular set of policies, but with the decision to employ coercion in achieving their ends.
The proper response is not to provide an alternative set of policies that likewise require the use of force, but to work towards the abolishment of force altogether.
As Christians we can reform social welfare programs by assuming full responsiblity for caring for the least of these. Unless one's behavior is in response to the call of Christ there is no virtue in it. Forcing unbelievers to give of their wealth to help others through taxation is devoid of virtue. Only Christians can give meaningfully and freely to others because we alone recognize that all we have has been given to us.
As Christians we can change the face of healthcare by supporting chuch hospitals and clinics, and by seeking only restitution and not punitive damages in the case of malpractice.
As Christians we can provide fair wages and safe workplaces to our employees, while providing them with opportunities to "own their own labor" in order to escape poverty mentalities.
As Christians we should recognize that a large centralized government in Iraq will be oppressive of minorities. Iraq is actually at least three seperate nations forced into one so as to be manageable to European Imperealists. We ought to oppose all centralization of government power as paganism and work for liberty for all, not democracy. Allow those portions of Iraq that desire independance to secceed. Recognize that terrorists have a reason to be angry after we allied ourselves with the European Imperialists since the Barbary Wars. Oppose the presence of a standing army in America and bring all our boys home to be productive in enterprise. Establish defensive militias at the local level with no federal oversight.
As Christians we should recognize that marriage is a religious institution and has no relevance in the public sphere. Allow individuals to make contracts amongst themselves and limit state influence to the enforcement of contracts.
As Christians we read the commands to be fruitful, to take dominion over the earth, and to respect boundaries. Property rights are the cornerstone of liberty and good environmental policy. Abolish public lands and make individuals responsible for encroachments onto other people's property.

Renounce the use of force. Take the responsibility upon ourselves.

Capital Punishment

My letter to the editor in today's Technician:
Capital pubishment misses target
Jeff Gaither's satire of lethal injection makes a legitimate point, but focuses on a symptom instead of the problem.
Capital punishment by the state assumes that the debt a criminal owes is to society or the government rather than to the victims. When such a criminal is executed no retribution, save psychological, is made to the victims. The loss has not been repaid, and now a second loss, the life of the criminal, has been incurred.
For example: Mary's husband John has been murdered by Bob. The state has tried and convicted Bob and he is set for execution. Mary is now poor and destitute without John's income. Yet she continues to pay taxes, her share of which may be wholly absorbed by the cost of incarcerating Bob until his execution, which will also be costly. How has Mary been helped?
How has justice been served? She may feel a good deal safer, but she is much the worse off.
How much better if Bob were compelled to make retribution to Mary. Mary and Bob's taxes would be put to better use than his incarceration. Mary will have recovered some portion of her lost income. Bob will have recovered a portion of his dignity and the whole of his life. There is a risk to such a proposal, that Bob may run off and murder somone else. We must then ask ourselves which we value more highly: security or liberty? To answer security is to give in to fear which enslaves us. Liberty, in contrast, leads to personal responsibility which encourages productivity and peaceful resolutions to conflict. We ought to be willing to take the risks of liberty.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Memed

1. What is your occupation? Student (NCSU Economics)

2. What color are your socks right now? Grey fuzzy slippers.

3. What are you listening to right now? My wife and her friend talking about the Sopranos and Survivor.

4. What was the last thing that you ate? Potato Chips

5. Can you drive a stick shift? Yup.

6. If you were a crayon, what color would you be? Blue, boring.

7. Last person you spoke to on the phone? Telemarketer.

8. Do you like the person(s) who sent this to you? Yeah!

9. How old are you today? 30

10. Favorite drink? Good beer.

11. What is your favorite sport to watch? College basketball (Go Duke!)

12. Have you ever dyed your hair? No, but I have shaved it all off.

13. Pets? We’re babysitting a guinea pig this weekend…

14. Favorite food? Vinegar, I like things with vinegar in them.

15. What was the last movie you watched and did you like it? Hole In the Head, Frank Sinatra.

16. Favorite month? April. The fish really start biting.

17. What do you do to vent anger? Drive.

18. What was your favorite toy as a child? My bike.

19. What is your favorite, fall or spring? Spring

20. Hugs or kisses? Kisses.

21. Cherries or Blueberries? Blueberries.

22. Do you want your friends to email you back? Any communication is great.

25. Living arrangements? 3 BR Apartment.

26. When was the last time you cried? It’s been a while.

26. What is on the floor of your closet? Old journals and unseasonal clothes.

28. What did you do last night? Homework, then Lost.

29. Favorite smells? Cookies, Coffee, Rosemary.

30. What inspires you? Music, books.

31. Plain, cheese or spicy hamburgers? Green chile.

32. Favorite dog breed? Lab

33. Number of keys on your key ring? 8, which is about 20 less than a year ago.

34. How many years at your current job? Student for the last year.

35. Favorite day of the week? Saturday, we’re all at home, and we sleep in, and take naps.

36. What states have you lived in? New Jersey, Georgia, North Carolina, Louisiana, New Mexico, Colorado

37. Favorite holiday? Easter.

38. Ever driven a Motorcycle or heavy machinery? I had a bike in Colorado, and I’ve driven some pretty big trucks.

I tag thebrokenwindow and persona

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Capital

How much are you worth? How wealthy are you?
I've decided upon a new measure of wealth. Wealth is how far you can see into the future, your "time horizon".
If you are working at a dead end job and barely making ends meet, if you have no plan for the future other than to do more of the same, you are poor. No matter how much you earn at your job, you are poor.
If you apply yourself every day, even if you earn little, but you aquire skills and develop talents. If you are collecting tools. If you have a vision for the future and are building towards it, though you may be in debt, you are working toward wealth.

Murray Rothbard tells a story about a man stranded on an island where the only food for him to eat is berries. He must eat 200 berries a day to keep from being hungry, and it takes him 10 hours a day to collect this many berries.
He then imagines a tool, a sort of stick, that would help him to collect berries by shaking the bushes in such a way that in 10 hours he might collect 500 berries.
Unfortunately it will take him 10 hours to put this stick together. When is he to do this? He may give up some of his leisure time, but if he gives up some of his labor time he will have fewer berries to eat and he will go hungry.

Rothbard doesn't consider the following scenario, but it best parallels my current situation:
What if this man could somehow "borrow" the resources to develop his stick. Let's say he borrows the equivalent of 10 hours (the time required to make the stick) production at the stick-producing rate: 500 berries, plus 10% simple interest.

Without the loan, he would spent 1 hour every day for ten days building a stick, and only eat 180 berries each of these 10 days, followed by 500 on the 11th day and every day after.

If he takes the loan, however, he will produce 500 berries on the first day, and will give 60 of them in payment on the loan. He will do this for 10 days until 600 berries are repayed.

In the first scenario he must forego 20 * 10 = 200 berries.
In the second he must repay 600 berries. Which is better? If we focus on the losses, one might say forgoing 200 berries is better than having to repay 600. But that way of thinking fails to recognize that the gains outweigh the losses. You see without the stick the man produces only 180berries a day * 10 days = 1800 berries. But with the stick he produces 500 berries a day *10 days= 5000 berries, of which he must repay 600, with a net of 4600 berries. That's 3800 berries more than if he had not borrowed to get the stick.

The use of capital, saved-up resources, creates new wealth rather than redistributing it.

Right now I have very little money, and a good deal of debt. But I have been buying capital with that debt. I have expanded my time horizon farther into the future. I have taken a risk, for there are many uncertainties. But I am enabled to step out and take that risk by the vision which God gave me. He showed me what He wants to do with me, and I have believed Him. For God can see all the way into the future and beyond it. As I grow in imitation of Him by having faith in Him and believing what He says to me I too can see farther into the future with Him. By conforming into His image I am learning to create wealth from the creator. I am not afraid of the debt I am in, because the capital I have invested in will appreciate at a rate greater than the interest I must repay.

Veteran's Day

May Dad is a U.S. Marine. He trained near the end of the Vietnam era, and recieved a medical discharge after serving for almost three years. He gave his knees for his country, and I am proud of him.
It's taken me a while to reconcile my libertarian-leaning opinions with his sacrifice. I feel like I've learned a few things that have changed the way I think.
The country is not the government. Dad served his country, not some politicians in Washington D.C. He was not thinking of Gerald Ford or Jimmy Carter when he volunteered for the Marine Corp. Nary a soldier was thinking of how much they loved Roosevelt or Truman as they pounded the beaches of Imo Jima. They did it out of love for their country, love for their moms and dads and sisters and brothers. Aunts and Uncles, cousins, grandparents, friends, co-workers, girlfriends, wives, sons and daughters. For their comrades and for freedom, for the American way of life, which was still relatively free in the 1940's.
Veterans fought for the right reasons. Politicians fought for power. Or maybe they just believed in power, the way George Bush does. They believe political power can be used to do good. I'm not convinced.
How were our soldiers to know that Roosevelt was provoking both the Germans and the Japaneese by supplying England and China with weapons? How were they to know that WWII was effectively over at the battle of Stalingrad, before the bombing of Pearl Harbor? They watched "Why We Fight" at the movie theaters and were told all kinds of propagandistic exaggerations of the story.
They bought into the same nationalistic story that the Germans were teaching their children.
They were lied to.
So, I'm grateful for all of the soldiers who sacrificed for their ideals and their true loves. I'm grieved at the clouded distiction between law and government, between State and Country, between security and liberty.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

More on the Economics of Catan

Turns out that there's an economic reason for the tiles in Catan to be hexoganal. It's based on Central Plane Theory, the idea that cities in an open plane tend to be seperated by distances that form a pattern. At first circles were used to desribe these distances, but since circles can't fill up a plane, hexagons came to be used instead. More here.
I discovered this literature through Newmark's Door,.
He referenced a paper critiquing The World is Flat, Thomas Friedman's popular book, which I absorbed via audio book earlier this year.
For more about Catan, see here.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Music

I'm going to visit an old friend this weekend, and he just tagged me, asking me what music I am listening to now. Which is interesting, because I had just been thinking about making a mix CD to listen to on the way up and leave with him.
I don't listen to too much music these days, because my car doesn't have a CD player. I usually just listen to music on the radio, or sports or talk radio or talk radio or NPR.

But, if I had a CD player, or otherwise ipod ready device, this is what I might choose to listen to:

1. Grace Cover of U2 on In the Name of Love fundraiser album
2. Mockingbird Derek Webb
3. Enough To Love The Choir (always)
4. Now That The Day Is Over The Innocence Mission (also, always)
5. Mezzo, or Ache Beautiful Mike Roe

honorable mentions:
Jack Johnson's Curious George album (I have children)
Johnny Cash
Norah Jones
The Prayer Chain
other old Alternative Christian rock.

Lots of audio books (right now: Freakonomics)

JN

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Henry IV pt.1

I am currently reading Henry IV part 1 for my English Lit course. Dr. Hester today pointed out how each of the characters in the play utilizes pagan means to their ends, except the hero, Prince Hal. Hal later becomes Henry V, the epitome of the Christian Renaissance king.
Questions:
1) Is there such a thing as a Christian King?
2) Is it possible to have monarchy outside Paganism?
3) What would legitimize monarchy outside of primogeniture or direct revelation?
4) What influence did the Anglican church have on English Common Law?

Actually, the importance of revelation has also been a recurring theme in this class. I'm going to have to read Niehbur at some point.

I'm currently reading The Politics of Jesus by John Howard Yoder. Am I becomming a Menonite? Or perhaps an Episcopalian?
I have belonged to several churches already: Conservative Baptist, Evangelical Free, non-denominational (read: Calvary Chapel-ite), and Evangelical Presbyterian. I did a brief stint with the International Church of Christ (until they asked to see my W-2), and with the Moravians (they wanted me to be their youth group leader).

Recently I discovered I was a Weslyean. I knew a guy who was trying to start a Weslyean church in downtown Durham. I could have told him he was barking up the wrong tree when he showed up. It lasted 5 years or so before they moved to a more likely locale.

I'm Charismatic, too. Messianic but Amillenial.

Perhaps I ought to find something new to denominate my beliefs. Mysterical perhaps? Pathetical is more like it. Emergent...? Well... they've got the right spirit it seems, but perhaps too much of it.

I'm a generic brand Christian, like cheap misspelled catsup, I've got everything you want, at half the price.
JN

Narnia is about Christ

Newly discovered letter from C.S. Lewis confirms. Special thanks to Molehill Mtn. for this link.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

For the sanity

I have taken upon a new habbit, if I can keep it. For my sanity I have decided to read a chapter of G.K. Chesterton every day. Lately I have been reading What's Wrong With The World, easily accessed through project Guttenburg. His arguments against futurists apply to all forms of statism. Today's quote:
There is one metaphor of which the moderns are very fond; they are always saying, "You can't put the clock back." The simple and obvious answer is "You can." A clock, being a piece of human construction, can be restored by the human finger to any figure or hour. In the same way society, being a piece of human construction, can be reconstructed upon any plan that has ever existed.
JN
You have two cows
thx to the Door

Murder justified?

Does it matter whether a victim of murder was a criminal or not?

The answer to this question must be prefaced by asking whether there exists a legitimate justice system or not.

If the law is legitimate and untainted by arbitrary favoritism, then execution is a possible sentence. In this case it is the law which executes the criminal, and the law stands above all individuals. Sometimes the sentence for a crime might be outlawry, in which case the law ceases to protect the individual's rights from encroachment by others, and such an individual may be "hunted down" and killed by an avenger, or else make an escape to a place of refuge.

I am concerned how this arguement synthesizes with "negative rights" arguements, so go ahead and shoot it down.

If there does not exist a legitimate seat of justice because either there are no courts (indifferent third parties) or because the courts are corrupted (by arbitrary laws or personal favoritism) then all is awash and chaotic. There is no justice. If I kill a murderer in order to avenge a lost loved one I stand in the face of whatever arbitrary justice exists. I may or may not be held accountable.

If there exists no legitimate seat of justice, there exists no legitimate authority to execute. (There should be no death penalty untill there is significant legal reform.)

Is assassination legitimate? Any powerholder will say no, because usually it is powerholders that are the target. The US treads a dangers path by pursuing the assassination of terrorists. If they think that they are safe from retaliation with this method of warfare they are ignorant and ought to look up the legend of Alamut

Assassination is a legitimate method of defensive warfare, and quite possibly the most humane. The question then arises, is this a defensive war?

Finally, as a Christian, killing is justified only in defense of "the least of these" and only when every lesser use of force has been expired. We believe that justice will be served on Judgement Day, and that our omniscient God is the only qualified arbitrator of this justice. Finally, we are not concerned for our own lives because we will be resurrected and we are not concerned for those we leave behind because God is a God of providence.
JN

Sunday, June 11, 2006

El Pinto

I was shopping at Kroger's grocery store in my neigborhood in Cary, North Carolina, when I was a familiar name: El Pinto, on the shelf. I worked there, with several of my friends, while in high school. Run out to your local grocery for some of the best salsa and green chile sauce on the market.
JN

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

I'm a Weslean?

I'm a Weslean, I don't even know how to spell it!

You scored as Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan.



You are an evangelical in the Wesleyan tradition. You believe that God's grace enables you to choose to believe in him, even though you yourself are totally depraved. The gift of the Holy Spirit gives you assurance of your salvation, and he also enables you to live the life of obedience to which God has called us. You are influenced heavly by John Wesley and the Methodists.

Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan

79%

Neo orthodox

64%

Emergent/Postmodern

64%

Classical Liberal

54%

Roman Catholic

54%

Fundamentalist

50%

Charismatic/Pentecostal

50%

Reformed Evangelical

46%

Modern Liberal

29%
What's your theological worldview?

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Mocking Jesus

Sometimes Christians get upset when they see Jesus being mocked, a la Muhammed cartoons, etc. That's not the best response.

We as Christians shouldn't be surprised or offended when we hear these sorts of things though. We should be grieved for the people who say them, because they obviously don't know Jesus. Grief is a much better response than offense. It keeps us from becoming angry and defensive with other people and helps us to focus on loving them the way Jesus loved them.
Jesus was peculiar, and people hated him for suggesting that the existing power structures of his day were illegitimate, and that he would replace them with one that lifted up the dignity of all men, instead of just the priviledged few. We need to focus on lifting up the dignity of all men, too, even those who say things we disagree with.
JN

Sunday, May 28, 2006

The Debate

The discussion was lively and circular, indeed around a round table. What could I say? The wasp in the tie was there, quoting, "relationship not religion, etc., scripture was insipired by God..." the usual. The hippies were trying to see if we couldn't all get along. When I taught that the different religions were adopted by powerseekers to placate their masses, heads nodded in agreement. When I said that the three goals of all powerholders were to keep the power they have, to use it on someone, and to get more power, the heads continued to nod. When I said that cooperation was the way to do it they agreed. When I said cooperation requires competition, I started to lose them. When I said a free market with voluntary decision making fosters such cooperation they sneered Capitalism, and I backtracked, realizing that that would have to be part of another discussion.
JN

Back to Basics

I was in Asheville tonight with my wife celebrating our anniversary, when we met a bunch of Jesus-hippies and other interesting Ashevillians. It was a typical religious debate, with several god-is-alls and buddists and whatever. I met a great woman there who contested the idea that Socrates was executed, tangent to whether Jesus was executed. While it seems semantical, she said that they were not executed, rather they chose to die for what they believed in... and that was critical to their messages. She called it Axial or something like that, and refered to a time period when we read about different philosophers and religions shifting from fatalism to individual responsibility. We shared a few other ideas, including my rudimentary thoughts about world war 2 before we had to leave. It was a fun night out though, and demonstrative of people's way of thinking.
JN

Monday, May 15, 2006

What's Wrong With the World?

It is not the responsibility of foreign nations to ears suffering. But neither is it the responsiblity of domestic governments, read "Not Yours To Give" by Davy Crockett.
Whose responsiblity is it to care about the suffering?
I believe it was Bertrand Russell who wrote an essay asking "What's Wrong With the World?" to which G.K. Chesterton replied, "In response to your essay 'WWWTW', I am. Yours truely, GKC"
It is my responsiblitiy and yours. Any situation in which we perceive there to be an injustice is none of our business until we volunteer to "homestead" that injustice in order to make it right.
What baffles me is how many people assume that the government will do all the homesteading for them, but then complain that they don't have any property rights. This frustrates me particularly with professing Christians who maintain a statist worldview when it comes to public policy. Throw in the whole "Palestinians are evil because the Jews are God's chosen ones, Isaac - Ishmael thing and boys howdy have you got a mess.
From the first article:
"Western and Arab donors (individuals, not governments) should realise that the Palestinian people are suffering hardships (due to oppressive government) and the international community which believes in liberty, justice and human rights (and large centralized governments) should not be prepared to accept such a situation," he said, quoted by AFP news agency.

"We have formulated propositions so that aid can reach the Palestinian people ...(The new money will go to the poor, so we can spend our own money on maintaining our hold on power) to allow us to confront the needs of everyday life".

The US officials said on Tuesday that some $4m of special medical aid would be delivered to NGO clinics as early as Wednesday. (Because we believe in big government, too.)

The remaining $6m will be delivered through Unicef to those with urgent needs.
(Because some of the people in the agencies giving money to unicef hope to get a job with them when they leave office.)

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Show this at your school!

Excellent video.
http://www.free-market.net/resources/introduction.swf
Go see it!

Profits overstated

Reading Hazlitt's "Economics In One Lesson" today. Realized that corporations always have incentives to overstate their profits rather than understate. If they really were greedy, they'd try to hide thier profits, but the more imediate incentive is to please their shareholders, so they overstate profits regularly. The Enron scandal wasn't about greedt corporations, it was about insecure little men trying to keep stockholders happy, while fleecing them at the same time.
JN

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Two events

I got on Neil Bortz show Monday, after sitting on hold for 70 minutes. (Cell phone, peak minutes.) He had two points: Who sent the mexicans an engraved invitation to come to America, and We should build a fence along the whole border. I had two retorts: The invitation IS engraved on the Statue of Liberty, and Who do you think will build the fence along the border?

In other news: I saw a bald eagle Monday flying over Lake Crabtree in Morrisville. Beautiful. Somebody better warn him that those fish aren't safe to eat though...
JN

School's Out... Almost, And not for long.

Finals are this week and one next week. Then I'm off for a while for a little R&R with Mrs. and then back to class on May 23. Ugh.

I write an awful lot on my friend Chris' blog, some of which I copy over to here. He's at http://thebrokenwindow.blogspot.com
Some very interesting and I must say fruitful discussions there.
JN

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Student said...

Nathan,

Why buy it from you when I can steal it? The choice will be based on the realtive costs and benefits.

And you are right there are a lot of things that "could" happen that might change the choice calculus (like you trying to steal the car back), but you are missing the point. The point is that surely we can both imagine coditions where stealing the car will maximize wealth. Pointing out that there are oher times when it will not is beside the point and already conceded.

If you want a more "complete" example, imagine Old McDonald has a car on the back of his farm where he never goes. It is in perfect condition, but he never uses it. Eventually he forgets it's there. The car isn't worth all that much to him. A thief comes along and sees the car. We know, because we are Gods, that the car is worth more to the theif than to the farmer. The thief, knowing that McDonald forgot about the car and knowing the chances of being caught by the local cops are slim, decides to steal the car. The car has now become more valuable by this "transaction". McDonald goes to his grave not knownin the car was stolen (or existed) and no precedent is set because of the extreme rarity of such a situation. Everyone lives happily ever after as a result of force.

I am almost positive there is an example of this in Posner's Economic Analysis of the Law if you go check it out.

As to your point about creation. Say what? First, in my example we can see where stealing can actually create "wealth" (in very very rare cicumstances). Second, what does wealth creation have to do with people starving to death?

I trade my comb for my sister's record. Wealth is created by a result of the transaction because both objects become "more valuable". Who is left with a fuller belly????

And I can't say I buy your explaination for why we should value life. You keep pushing the problem a step back.

If life is valuable because it has the image of the creator with in it(???), why should we value the image of th creator????

Some advice: Invoking a "creator" as a solution usually raises more problems than it solves.

6:53 AM


Juris Naturalist said...

What I mean by wealth creation is that every voluntary transaction results in net gains. These net gains are what have moved humanity from self-sufficient subsistence economies to dynamic economies where everyone operates according to their comparative advantage and productivity increases.
If I can find a way to increase my earnings by $10 a day, then I can afford to feed another kid, so I might adopt one, or send some portion of that to a mission that feeds kids.
I lose some people here who rarely give to charity, and do not consider it in their thoughts.
But even without it, specialization and trade allows more for everyone, and people no longer go hungry.
Henry Grady Weaver in The Mainspring of Human Progress asks (paraphrased) "How is it that for six thousand years the norm of humanity was to live a short brutish life filled with disease and hunger, but then in one place on earth people suddenly have enough to eat, keep clean and healthy?"

Why should we value the image of the creator? Mutual attraction is a powerful force. How often has a young man fallen in love after a young woman demonstrated her interest? What if she had not? He might not have noticed her. Part of the reason he falls in love with her, is because she showed interest in him.
Why do I value the image of the Creator? Because He saw it fit to show an interest in me, and created me in His image, and I know His love.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

why is force justified

"But WHY is force only justified in responce to unjustified force? And why is force justified then? Why isn't ALL coercion bad, period?"

Let's get a little deeper here, shall we?
We dislike force because it is destructive. There is nothing creative about it. We all like the concept of creation of wealth - the gains from trade. Force is intrinsically destructive and NEVER results in gains from trade. There is always a deadweight loss somewhere where force has been utilized.

Now, we might say that creativity is intrisically moral, while destruction is intrinsically immoral. Equilibrium would perhaps be amoral. To which I would reply that the opportunity cost of static environments is the creativity that could have been there, and thus amorality is immorality.

Coming full circle: Force is justifiable in response to unjustified force because it causes the destruction to stop. Destruction of a destructive activity is good. It's not two wrongs make a right, though. The destructive must be destroyed by creativity. The victim may encroach upon the rights of a perpetrator only to the precise same level that he has been encroached upon, and that only until the perpetrator steps back, at which point the victim must step back also.

Let's try another tact: Encroachment is an unwritten contract giving both parties permission to encroach upon the other to an equal degree. If I step into your bubble one step, you may step into mine one step.
Why shouldn't we all be immediately upon one another then? Because the opportunity cost of being so close is too high. If I hit you and you hit me we have both suffered harm, and each of us hitting one another again has a diminishing marginal return, both in the satisfaction of hitting the other person, and in the wound suffered from the blow. The incentive to stop fighting quickly arises.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

What I wrote on Chris' blog...

How do we know what rights we have? Hmmm.
How do we know how many planets there are? By scientific investigation. Various theories were attempted at explaining the universe and currently we have a model that includes probably 10 planets in an heliocentric solar system.
What rights do we have? We can know by scientific investigation. The courtroom is our labratory, and judges are the scientists in a common law system. Such an arrangement existed in England off and on for several hundred years. The development of good law coincided with the development of good science. Now both are failing.
Common law got far enough to determine that life, liberty, and property are three of our inherited rights. It answered a lot of questions. But the system was destroyed before it could answer others.
So, whether Murray Rothbard is God or not, we know that we do have certain rights as a law of nature.
JN

N & O editorial

I e-mailed this letter to the editor to the N&O today in response to an editorial in Tuesday's paper.

How shall we measure the economic benefit of 395,000 illegal aliens on the North Carolina economy? (Our Open Door, p.8A 2/28/06) Certainly not by tallying up public revenues and expenses related to this demographic! Such a method merely demonstrates that the legislature knows how to milk many cows, even those that are not their own. The overall economic benefit is unknown.
We must not assume that our immigrants are laborers only, but also consider the entrepreneurial spirit each generation of immigrants has adopted once experiencing liberty for the first time, and acknowledge that many of them are also employers. New jobs have been created and the North Carolina economy is stronger for it.
As for the strain on public funds that the immigrant population generates, the problem is with the law not the individuals. Straighten out welfare policies that create incentives not to work for all and you will still see millions of people wanting to come to America. It is our liberty and the creation of new wealth that immigrants are after. They don't want a piece of our pie, they want to help make the pie bigger.
JN

The Law - Rewritten

The Law – by Frederic Bastiat (paraphrased)

The law has been changed into something it was not meant to be! The power of the government has become more likely to encroach on liberties as well! The law has become a way of making greedy men rich! The law was meant to protect us from encroachment and fraud, but now it causes these things to happen!

Life Is a Gift From God

God gave us a gift that has every other gift inside of it. This gift is life: our bodies, our minds, and our souls.
But we need things to keep us alive. God has given to us the job of keeping ourselves alive, working on making our lives better, and perfecting it. So God gave us things that we could do – like work, and things to work with – like dirt and seeds, and He also allows us to enjoy what we make. This is the way life should be.
Living, working, and enjoying what we make – in other words, individuality, liberty, property – this is man. And even though some tricky politicians try to hide the fact, these three gifts from God came before any law made by a man, and are better than any law invented by any man.
Life, liberty, and property did not come to be because men wrote laws. Actually, it was because life, liberty, and property already existed that men wanted to make laws in the first place.

What Is Law?

Why do we have laws then? We have laws to protect ourselves.
God gave us the right to protect our bodies, our liberty, and our property. These are the three things we need to live, but we need all three because each of them depends on the other two. You see, no one can do what you were made to do better than you can, so your work, your liberty, is a part of you. And your property is what you get for working.
Since we all have the right to protect our body, our liberty, and our property, even if we have to use force to do so; then any group of men has the right to get together and hire someone to protect them. The group has the right to hire a protector because each of them has a right to protect themselves on their own. The man that they hire to protect them was hired only to protect them. If no one is allowed to encroach on anyone else, then the hired man doesn’t have a right to encroach either.
If the hired man were allowed to encroach, it would ruin the reason he was hired. We have been given force by God in order to protect our rights. No one can say that we have been given force in order to encroach on others. In the same way, the hired protector was not hired to encroach on others, but to protect all of the men who hired him. If it is not right for one man to encroach, it is not right for a man hired by many men to encroach either.
Since this is true, we can know that the law exists so that people can together protect their natural rights of life, liberty, and property. The law is the hired man, it takes the place of each man’s right to protect himself. The only thing that law should be allowed to do is what each man on his own is allowed to do: protect life, liberty, and property; to protect these rights, and to cause justice to be with us.

A Good and Lasting Government

If a whole nation of good men hired a good government to protect them in this way, then that nation would be peaceful. Such a nation would have the most simple, easy to accept, economical (not wasteful), small, free, just, and long lasting government possible – no matter what kind of government it was.
In such a nation everyone would know that he alone was in charge of his life: both for enjoying it, and for taking care of it. Nobody would ever have a problem with the government if he was allowed to live, work, and enjoy what he worked for. If someone in such a nation did well and got rich, no one could say it was because of the government. And no one could blame the government for being poor, or not doing well, either. We would only know that the government existed because we were safe and protected.
If the government only did what it what it was supposed to do then people would live normal lives of progress. People need food more than books, so they would try to get food first, and having gotten enough to eat, then they might try to learn to read. We wouldn’t see people moving away from places where there are good jobs, or moving to places where there are not good jobs. We would not see all the money over here, all the jobs over there, and all people in another place; no, everything would balance out.
But if a government starts trying to help people do their jobs, or live, or get property they haven’t worked for, then the balance is ruined, and things don’t run the way they should. As a matter of fact, such a government will have more to do than it can handle. If you have more to do than you can handle one of two things happens: Either you do some things well and other things not at all, or You do everything, but none of it very well at all.

The Law Used for What It Was Never Meant To Do

The law will not keep itself from encroaching. When it has gone beyond what it was meant to be, it has not been in just some small or unimportant way. The law has gone so far as to do exactly the opposite of what it was meant to do. It has been used to destroy the justice it was supposed to protect by limiting and destroying people’s rights. The law has given the right to use force to bad men who want to use the body, liberty, and property of others. It has made stealing into a right for the government, so it is allowed to steal. It has made self defense into a crime, so that those who would try to protect themselves from the government while it is trying to steal from them would be punished.
How did this happen? What are the results?
Two things caused this to happen: stupid greed, and fake kindness.

The Deadly Way of Mankind

All people seek to keep themselves alive, and to make progress in life. If everyone were allowed to work freely and to keep what they worked for progress would happen without any stopping or failing.
But people also have the desire to get something for free if they can. They will even do this if it means someone else will have to pay. Look at history and you will see that there have been many wars, many times when people moved in large groups from one place to another, many times when people were hurt for the religion they believed in, many times when people were made to be slaves for others, many times people were lied to at work or in business, and many times when someone selfishly tried to get “all the candy for himself,” except sometimes the “candy” was houses or food or some other necessary thing. This way of men started because people are basically selfish, and they will always try to get what they want with as little work or pain as they can.

Property and Stealing

Man can live and get what he wants only by working long and hard. By taking the things that he has and can get and using what he knows to make something better. This is how we get property.
But man could also live and get what he wants by taking it from someone else who has worked for it. This is stealing.
Since men will always try to get what they want with as little pain as they can, and you know work involves pain, some men will then steal when stealing is easier than working. It has happened over and over again. Most of the time morality and religion can’t even stop it.
So how do we stop the stealing? We have to make stealing more painful than working. Well then, the law should use its power to stop people from stealing by making it painful to steal. All of the law should protect property and punish stealing.
But most of the time it is one group of men that makes the laws. And the laws have to have the power to use force. So these few men have control of the force.
We have seen that men will steal if it is less painful than working. This is how the law starts to be used for what it was never meant to. The law starts to enslave, hurt, and steal from the people it was meant to protect because the law makers would rather steal than work themselves. This is because the law maker has control of the force and no one can argue with him. The more force he has control of the more he will steal.

Those Who Suffer When the Law Steals

Men fight against those who try to hurt or steal from them. When the law is used as a reason for stealing, then everyone tries to use the law – sometimes peacefully, but sometimes by fighting. Everyone will want to be the one who makes the laws. Some people will try to stop the law from stealing, other people will try to get the law to steal for them.
When most of the people are trying to use the law to steal for them there will be big trouble.
That hasn’t happened yet, so right now a few people use the law to steal from many. This is what usually happens when only a few people are allowed to make the laws. Later, everyone will be allowed to make the laws. At that point men will try to make things fair by having the law steal from everyone. Instead of making wrong things wrong for everybody, they give everyone permission to do what is wrong. As soon as the people who have been stolen from get political power, they use it to punish everyone else. They do not make it illegal to steal, they are too angry. Instead, they do the same wrong things to others that were done to them, even if it does not help them make their lives any better.
It seems that everyone wants to get revenge before they will think of what is right. Some are evil, and some just don’t understand.

What Happens When Stealing is Made Law

Nothing could change things more, and for the worse, than to have the law be used for stealing. No one would be able to tell right from wrong anymore. There would be no understanding of justice or injustice in people’s hearts.
For people to get along, laws must be respected and obeyed. To make people respect the laws, only make respectable laws. When laws and morality (right and wrong) don’t agree people will either give up right and wrong or they will give up on the law. Both choices are evil, and to make such a choice would be hard.
Law should take care of justice. Most people think law and justice is the same thing. (They should be.) Most people believe that if something is lawful it must also be right. Some people get confused and think that the laws came first, and then the difference between right and wrong. So they think that to make stealing right all we have to do is make it a law. People get so confused about this that some slaves think slavery is good, just because its legal.

What Happens When Someone Tries To Tell The Truth

If someone tried to show how wrong the laws were, and tried to help the people understand things better, they would get into trouble with the law. That person would be blamed of having lots of silly ideas and of trying to cause confusion. Teachers will be forced to tell lies about science and the way money works. If a teacher is paid by the people who use the law to steal, they will have no choice but to tell their students to obey the laws (even though they are bad).
If there is a bad law that everyone knows about, the teacher must not even talk about it. Common sense tells people when a law is bad, but the teacher can’t say anything bad about it, or they will get in trouble, so they say nothing at all. Everything will be taught the way the power holders want it to be taught, and everyone will be taught to obey the laws even if they seem to be bad laws.
Also, when people believe that making laws makes something right or wrong, they will all be more interested in what laws are being made. This makes politics more interesting and everyone wants to talk about it, and be part of it.

When Everyone Wants To Be A Part; Or, Who Should Vote?

Some people say everyone should vote. Do they mean children should vote? No, of course not! What about insane people? No! What about criminals? No! Why not? Because everyone has to live by the choices of the voters, and children, insane people, and criminals don’t always make good choices. Well, who should vote then?
The truth is it shouldn’t really matter who votes. If the law were only allowed to protect life, liberty, and property, and not do anything else, then no one would be so interested in it. There would be no arguing about who gets to vote, because it wouldn’t matter who voted. The laws would be the same.

When Stealing is Made Law, Part II

Imagine if the law were used to take property from one person and give it to another, or to take the wealth of everybody and give it to just a few people. Then everyone would want to be in control of the law, so that they could get the money.
The people being stolen from would fight for a right to vote and make laws. They would start a war if they had to. Even beggars would join in, even though they didn’t have anything to begin with. They’d say, “When I buy cigarettes or beer I have to pay taxes. That money goes to people who have more money than me! And it’s the law! The law even makes food and clothes more expensive. If everyone else gets to use the law to get rich, then I want to use the law too. Now, don’t just try to pay me off, I want the right to vote, too, so that I can get more money later if I want to.” He’s got a good point!

Bad Laws Cause Fights

As long as bad laws are made everyone will want to make them, either to steal from others, or just to protect themselves. Politicians will fight all the time, and people will hate each other over politics. This happened in America in the 1850’s. No other country had better laws than America. Everybody had protection of their life, liberty, and property. That’s how America became so great and rich. But because of two issues there was a war in America, and many people died full of hatred.

Slavery and Tariffs Are Stealing

Why did America have a Civil War? Because of slavery and tariffs. Slavery takes away a person’s liberty. Tariffs are taxes paid when going from one place to another, and so they steal people’s property. Before the Civil War the southern states practiced slavery, and many people lived their whole lives never knowing freedom. Their liberty, their labor, was taken from them, and they never got to enjoy the fruits of it. Also before the Civil War, the northern states charged tariffs. Most nice and expensive things were made in the north, and if any southerner wanted to buy these things they had to pay an extra tax to the northern state. If any southerner wanted to sell anything in the north, they would have to pay a tax to sell it, and make less money off what they sold. Both of these crimes were laws that America had kept from the Old World.

Socialism

Some say that we must make war against Socialism. Others say this means to make war against stealing. But what kind of stealing? There are two kinds of stealing: legal and illegal.
I do not think illegal stealing, which includes theft, or trickery, or anything which has a legal punishment, can be called Socialism. These kinds of stealing do not try to destroy liberty. The war against this kind of stealing has existed longer than Socialism.

JN

Tuesday, February 21, 2006


From today's newspaper. Funny, I believe in creationism, and I believe Global Warming is a myth. I'm currently reading Crichton's State of Fear as recommended by FEE's Freeman, and thoroughly enjoying it. Now, about Fox news, I'm not sure. It's still statist much of the time.
JN

New Quote

It does not "require any courage to say a blasphemy. There is only one thing that requires real courage to say, and that is a truism." G. K. Chesterton
JN

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Public Choice

The bootleggers and baptists are up to their old games again. This time some other baptists are the whistle blowers.
World magazine (www.worldmag.com) is an evangelical weekly magazine, published in Asheville. They have brought to the evangelical community's awareness an interesting story.
Jack Abramoff, of the Indian Casino scandals, gave Ralph Reed, former Christian Coalition president and Religious Right poster boy, nearly a million dollars to influence pastors and their congregations into voting against a law that would legalize gambling in Texas. Abramoff's goal was to protect his clients' monopoly. Reed's motive was to prevent gambling... uh... and to get paid.
The interesting part that World brought out was that Reed asked Abramoff for more money and said that he could get Focus on the Family's James Dobson to speak out against the gambling law on his popular and influential radio show.
This caused something of a rift between World and Focus. A Focus VP got upset that Focus was implicated by World in the scandal and wrote a letter to the editor that World refused to publish, and then he read it on the air.
Focus' Dobson, and World's Editor, Marvin Olasky, have both managed to keep a cool head about the matter, both of them backing their own employees, but at the same time identifying the real source of the problem: Ralph Reed.
I hope that someday Christians will realize that legislating morality does not affect societal norms, but merely supports bootleggers. In other words, I hope that they will learn some economics. And I hope that economists will learn some ethics. And I hope that the law can be decontaminated.
Nathan
Read more about this at:(http://www.worldmag.com/articles/11489) original article in World.
and (http://www.worldmag.com/webextra/11574) World's explaination of the behind the scenes stuff between World and Focus, along with a list of checks received by Reed from Abramoff.