Posts Tagged ‘Ludwig von Mises’

There Is a Free Lunch at The Mises Diner

February 3, 2010

One of the most common dictums thrown at one in America when one is growing from pupdom to wolfdom is “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” You hear this not only from cynical socialists, who feel that no Capitalist would ever give away anything for free unless he expected a higher return by the action, but also from hardboiled business types, who think that if a deal sounds too good, there’s always a catch in it, and who think that all other businessmen think exactly as they do.

But this duo of sceptics would be contradicted not by any swindling capitalist or even greater swindling socialist, but by the most pro-Capitalist, pro-free-market outfit in America: the Mises Institute; for what the Institute has done is not only made available copies of many of the classics of the Libertarian-Austrian School of Economics philosophical-economic outlook for free, but now, in the last few weeks, added a whole new raft of recordings to be inspected with a circumspect ear (to mix metaphors). These latest jewels of scholarship include two series of lectures delivered by Professor Murray N. Rothbard at the NY Polytechnic Institute in 1986, an excellent reading of A. J. Nock’s “Our Enemy, the State” by Jock Coats of Oxford, essays of Herbie Spencer, as well as readings by Jeff Riggenbach, who is also an excellent reader with a rich, resonant voice. (Herbie Spencer, known as Herbert to his friends, was a late 19th century British Libertarian-leaning essayist, who, according to Rothbard, became more statist as he aged. You can see this in the upper half of his face, which became like a human being later in life, while the lower half retained its wolf-like hirsuteness.) And the cherry is a brief, crisp recording of a short lecture Mises gave during an interlude in the US Steel corporation’s program in 1962, in which he explains why the free-market is so different from the old monarchies and church-dominated societies. (The reason is, if you’re curious to know, because instead of expropriating wealth by looting or taxation, which the king or church-priesthood had done is olden times, the free-market requires that a man serve his fellow men in some useful capacity by expending energy, and he will only be able to garner a living if he can fulfill some useful need. Therefore, his wealth is dependent on the consumer, not on legalized looting, and each consumer must, in turn, find something to turn his hand to so that he may procure the wherewithal to secure those commodities he needs for survival, or wants as fripperies. Thus the consumers, and not the kings, priesthood, or even the businessmen, are the real kings in a true free-market economy.Like Rothbard, Mises could make pellucid murky economic problems with a comparatively short, understandable explanation.)

The two Rothbard series of lectures feature one on a history of America from 1870 through King Roosevelt II from an Austrian School economic perspective, and several on the basics of economics like Value, and the Determination of Prices. These constitute the brown rice and beans (bread and butter for you junkfooders) of economic understanding, which can then be applied to the gallimaufry of American political history. Rothbard’s technique of historical analysis, which always asks “Qui bono?”, who benefits from a specific piece of legislation?, is one that logically explains not only the vast giveaways of the public’s wealth that were doled out to corporations during the 19th and 20th centuries, but the current massive giveaways by Obama, Geithner, Pelosi, Reid, Schumer, Frank, and that whole gang of “experts”, well paid at the public university’s feeding troughs, who said that the sky would fall if we didn’t bail out the megabanks, AIG, and Detroit. The same lies, the same “sky is falling” arguments, and it’s a hundred and forty years later. The same liers; the same gullible public quickly gulled, like the flocks at the seashore, with a few crumbs of bread that will be piled on the backs of the unborn. Socialists don’t give a damn about the unborn slaves that will have to slog for years to pay off the debt that they are building up right now so that those corporations they say are too big to fail can continue to give their enormous bonuses. They are the sadistic torturers of the unborn.

But the new items on the menu should not blind one to the solid, staple fare that Mises has in the pantry of its archives. There, for example, is Rothbard’s “For a New Liberty”, perhaps the first book any would-be neophyte Libertarian should read, perused aloud in excellent rendition by Jeff Riggenbach. No need to strain the eyes now, you can listen to it while taking the (subsidized) public transport, or while waiting to have your genitalia examined by a lusty Brunehilde at the airport. Thank goodness we Americans still have a “Right to Privacy”, eh what?

Anyway, there is plenty of “free lunch” for us Capitalists to stuff our brains with until bursting at the Mises Diner. Fortunately, unlike the fare at many other Brain Diners, there are no brain-clogging cholesterols of lies, no mind-hardening triglycerides of Leftist propaganda, no simplistic schemes like the money crank’s idea of printing up money and handing it out as a solution to shortages, or the Georgeist’s taxing land only. There is only economic truth, amazing in its simplicity after baffling economist theoreticians for over 2000 years, explained in the Woody Allenesque, quickfire, pace of Professor Rothbard, and always sprinkled with lots of humourous quips which usually are pretty good.

So don’t let the cynics give you any of their guff. At the Mises Diner, there is such a thing as a free lunch.

Hooooooooooooooooooooooooooowwwwwwww! — Silverwolf

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Bashing Obama: Silverwolf Lets Up to Look at the Man

April 30, 2009

It will come as no surprise to those who have read recent posts on this blog, that Silverwolf has taken the gravest exception to many of our new President’s policies, and has been highly critical of him in many areas, from economics to foreign affairs. But he thinks he should give his view of the President as a person apart from his actions as a political figure.

Basically, Silverwolf thinks the President is a nice guy, with a winning manner, but without any deeply thought out or deeply held convictions or principles. A compromiser and pragmatist at heart, loath, as was War Criminal Lyndon Johnson, to ever move against a majority. The many immoral actions the President has taken, in the sense of anti-Jeffersonian violations of the Bill of Rights, illustrate that the President lacks this deep commitment to Principle, and his economic program shows the frequent lack of economic understanding one can encounter even in the brightest lawyers. Quick-wittedness in the law does not necessarily mesh with quick-wittedness in business, or in seeing the tangential necessities of economic freedom and personal liberty. What is so exhilarating about the 17th and 18th century French “laissez-faire” economists, thinkers like Turgot and Cantillon,  is their commitment to personal liberty, and their seeing the connexion betwixt that liberty and economic freedom. To laissez-faire, to “let to do” is not only the best thing for the individual, but also for the society at large. And government regulations on businesses of which the government bureaucrats know nothing, but the entrepreneurs know a great deal, only act as a tax which ends up costing the consumer in higher prices, impoverishing society as a whole, to benefit both some special interest group, and the bureaucrats who enact and enforce these regulations, in the form of their salaries and benefit “packages”. Rothbard taught us to always ask, Qui bono? when it comes to government regulation of an industry. Who benefits?

 All these things are beyond the comprehension of our new President, whose choice of Geithner as Treasury Secretary shows that he is completely brainwashed in the Keynesian, government-must-always-intervene, mentality. It is in this sense that the President, quick-witted though he be, has never flashed on the moral implications of Liberty, as they were protected and promoted by the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights, with the philosophical ideas that inspired these being propounded in the Declaration of Independence and the Preamble.

It is this personal charm, and the President’s public speaking prowess, combined with this complete lack of deep political and economic Principle, that are so dangerous in this President. With his vast majority in the Senate, the President can “fast-track”, i.e. ram through, any legislation, unConstitutional or not, through a complaisant Congress.

However, the President, and his equally unprincipled fellow Party members in the Legislative Branch, will soon see that their Keynesian mish-mash will presently turn the American economy to mush, and they will then try to get out of it by both raising taxes on the entrepreneurs, while inflating to rid themselves of the real value of the debt they have been running up for the last 76 years. As they kill the incentive to work with higher income taxes, their tax revenue base will shrink, while the inflation and higher taxes will drive more and more to seek the shelter and “security” of a government handout. This will, in turn, greatly increase the tax demands on government, while simultaneously shrinking the tax base. And both these processes will accelerate constantly at an ever-increasing velocity, until, in a very few years, the system grinds to a halt, and they issue a new currency, and will talk of a “fresh start”, meanwhile having completely destroyed the value of the money for anyone who saved the old currency, or didn’t spend it down to the last unit before it became worthless.

Karl Marx and the sadistic fox-hunter, Friedrich Engels, used to quack about how Capitalism would eventually collapse of its own accord, no matter what anyone did. But they had it completely turned around, for while Capitalism can pretty much go on indefinitely producing wealth, and new forms of wealth as technology advances, it is Socialism, as exemplified in Keynesian meddling in the private economy, that is doomed to fail from the moment it gets a foothold in government. This is one of the great insights of von Mises and Hayek. And it is this lesson that we are now witnessing in America and around the world — the great failure of Keynesian, Socialist, big government.

And this is the lesson that President Obama — a nice guy at heart— can never grasp or even comprehend. There is a difference between quick-wittedness and intelligence, cleverness and profundity. A difference of which the President is not even conscious.

Hooooooooooooooooooooooooowwwwwwwwww! — Silverwolf

Capitalism or Liberty?

February 8, 2009

Capitalism or Liberty? No, Silverwolf is not positing them as opposites. He is asking, rather, whether, when we speak in favor of Capitalism, we are speaking in favor of a mere economic system, or something much greater and more profound: Human Liberty? Silverwolf would put it to you that we speak of the latter, of Liberty, when we use the word Capitalism, and Liberty implies a lot more than just using precious metals for trade, and having a body of economic laws to prosecute fraud and other property crimes (including physical assault). Liberty implies a certain moral quality, the moral quality of Freedom, which is indicated by a person using their capital to further their value hierarchy.

Now it is very common to use the term “revolutionary” to describe the Marxian view of economics. Marxists, Socialists, and Communists supposedly want a “revolution”, but that revolution is always put in purely economic terms. Any “revolution” within the skin, or the person’s psyche, is completely ignored, and it is always presumed that this will naturally flow once the “worker” is “liberated” from the evil “expropriator”, the employer.  Never a mention that perhaps the employer was himself once a poor worker who, through dint of hard work and frugality over decades, managed to accrue the capital to buy the machinery and be able to hire personnel and give them a living wage, while the personnel never had to save a nickel, or invest a week of life to suddenly have a chance to gain a sustaining income. Never a mention that the worker may be a greedy individual by nature, while the employer may be an extraordinarily generous and altruistic person. These facts are always overlooked by the Communist.

But to return to the main point, the Socialists are commonly held to be the “revolutionaries”, while Capitalists, in general, are held to want to maintain the status quo. Cries of “anarchy” and “all property to the people” naturally strike fear into the hearts of bankers and savers alike. And so, Capitalists are usually held to be “conservatives”.

But now along comes Ron Paul and his “Revolution”, the doctrine of a radical free-market Capitalism that sweeps aside every vestige of the many Keynesian “safeguards” that have come to burthen the American capitalist system. But, in  point of fact, these “safeguards” have kept America from becoming a truly revolutionary capitalist society, a condition that applied before and after the Civil War in large swathes of America, but at a time when Capitalism was still hampered by the technological primitiveness of mankind. Capitalism needed both the radical free-market, and the transistor and the computer chip, to finally be able to offer Mankind a life of limitless Freedom and Liberty when compared to any other comparable period in human history. So, in one sense, the American continent has never really had Capitalism in what Silverwolf considers the most profound and depthful meaning of that word. The Federal Reserve Act had imposed Socialism on America long before the computer liberated the wildest possibilities of Capitalism (though it’s mechanical effect is having a mechanically-atrophying effect on the human psyche).

Now the Keynesian gauntlet has once again been slapped broadside against the face of the radical, free-market Capitalists like Ron Paul, and all who understand his economic profundity, and the Collectivists are riding high the  feeble wave of their election by probably less than 25% of all living Americans. That is one of the tragedies of Democracy, when there is either no Constitution, as in most of the world, or where the Constitution is ignored, as here in America. Democracy will vote the country into bankruptcy, as the havenots, dependent on the Socialist state for their sustenance, outvote the haves who provide the taxes that pay for the sustenance. As socialism grows, more and more havenots crowd onto the welfare roles, and as societies producers become less and less, and the incentive to produce becomes less and less, less and less is produced and prices rise, causing more and more to crowd onto the welfare roles, but with added urgency. Suddenly, to be on the welfare roles is paramount for social survival, while to be a productive producer is to be punished, so the result is inevitable. This was one of the great insights of von Mises and Hayek:  Socialism must eventually self-destruct, even though it start from a tiny seed, and take fourscore years to grow into an economy-wrecking noxious weed.

But the question remains, If Communism is merely an economic revolution, what is a Capitalist revolution if not a similar economic revolution, but in a completely opposite polar direction? And what are the differences between these two so-called revolutions?

Paramount amongst the differences is the moral issue. Socialism and Communism believe the end justifies the means. The wealthy may be legally robbed, in order to further the aims of the Benthamites who believe in “the greatest good for the greatest number”. Obviously, such a doctrine permits  the murder, or expropriation of a small minority, by a vast majority.  It permitted the euthanasia of “mental incompetents” under Hitler, the first group attacked by the Nazis, before the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Two groups the general populace could care less about, especially at a time when eugenicists were pushing sterilization, and even euthanasia.

Liberal Capitalism, the Capitalism of the Mises-Hayek-Rothbard-Paul tradition, believes the means must be moral to justify the ends. It is actually a moral code, and in this sense, Capitalism is actually the only moral economic code, paradoxical as that may seem in a system which specifically does NOT guarantee a minimum of food, clothes and shelter. Yet, Capitalism is probably the best way for the vast majority to secure that food, clothes and shelter, and if they have a surplus over that, if they feel so moved by their moral code, they can donate that surplus to a charity they have confidence in, which can provide those life-sustaining conditions to the destitute, or directly supply the aid themselves. In other words, donations to private welfare-charities, in a low-tax, wealthy capitalist system with wide-spread prosperity, and a general philosophy of self-help and independence, would easily cover those few individuals who, through horrendous luck, or mental insufficiency, could not support themselves. Those who could be helped back to self-sufficiency, could be helped much quicker, and with far less bureaucracy than any government agency. And, since so many Americans identify with one of the major organized religions, it would be rather easy to guide these donations to places the donor could enthusiastically support. Moreover, the religious passion and integrity(hopefully) of the volunteers and workers at these self-help aid centers, and the lack of government rules and bureaucracy, would theoretically lead to much faster results. Also, in a system with very low taxation, the incentive to work is greatly increased for the “go-getters”, while “navel-contemplators”, content with a lower material standard of living in exchange for much more leisure time, would also achieve their value hierarchy under such a capitalist system. And their lowered consumption, in turn, would put less stress and strain on the resources of the society and the earth. Silverwolf wonders why Capitalists don’t hug those who live on very marginal resources, like hobos,  since they are leaving those resources for the “go-getters” at a much lower price. The welfare system, like a mafia, buys off a large number of it’s potential opponents, turning them into staunch allies. Of course it does, because someone who can be bought is obviously a capitalist, but not a very revolutionary one.

Now, what do we mean by a “Capitalist Revolution”, and a “Capitalist Revolutionary”?

Well, first off, let’s face it. Most “Capitalists” sure don’t want a Revolution. They couldn’t give a Jefferson about Liberty, or high-fallutin terms like “the Rights of Man”. Just give “em the cash, and shut up! In fact, Capitalists tend to identify very strongly with their  bank accounts. Of course, it’s natural because, ideally, this account reflects the exact marginal productivity of the Capitalist, the amount that he has produced for society over and above the amount he has consumed of the commodities of society created by others, the goods and services he commands every day with his command currency. That’s the deal that we all make when we participate in economic society, though we are 99.9% forced to make it if we want the semblance of a normal, sane life, , whether we like it or not. (There is always the very brave option of become a hobo, a “luftmensh”, the man who lives on air.)  But, since there is a very exact justice to a purely capitalist system, most people feel it is an approximately just system, and that is one reason so many Americans support the Capitalist system, or what they call Capitalism, though it really isn’t. And this fairly pure Capitalism was the system, generally, in America prior to the creation of the Federal Reserve, and excluding the Lincoln period around the Civil War. No Federal Insurance, so you had to know your banker well, and even then, you didn’t bet the ranch on one man, but spread it around for safety. Federal Deposit Insurance meant rate whores could go with the highest rate, offered by the charlatan and shyster bankers, knowing full well the Feds would guarantee it. Likewise, the FED was given the right to counterfeit US currency, which would be a very serious crime for any individual citizen, and to control interest rates, which, with a wholly fiduciary, non-metal backed currency, is the only check on inflation. To cause inflation, if that is what it wants, all the central bank need do is to force, by fiat, the government rate well below the rate of inflation. That is what is currently happening in the US and throughout the “free” (haha) world.

So what is the “Capitalist Revolutionary”? Well, perhaps the best Silverwolf ever heard it put was not by some American steeped in Jefferson and Mises, but a New Guinean “savage” in some long ago viewed documentary. This man had been part of a “pre-historic” tribe, unfortunately or fortunately, or both, brought into contact with the modern world. Somehow, through their resources, the tribe had become prosperous, and now had lots of New Guineans Kinas. The man stood in front of the camera: “In this hand, I have my money, it is a tool which I use amongst the whitemen, but in the other hand I have our land, and our ancient ways, and that is my real wealth.”  Well, Silverwolf may be coloring the words a little, but it was something like that. This man completely understood money: a tool  to do good, and nothing beyond that. A tool to serve a religious mind, not diverted from it’s preternatural contact with nature by the toys and googaws of modern life.

So we must learn from this Indian of the earth: to be a Capitalist Revolutionary means, inwardly, to never accumulate anything, to never own anything, to never identify oneself with ones property (except legally), to always be a start naked wolf, only covered by this nice, thick fur which our peanut diet (so rich in copper!) provides. Perhaps this is the meaning of that admonition by Yoshua ben-Yoseph, that if one would be perfect, one should sell all and give it to the poor. Perhaps the meaning of this admonition is that, psychologically, one should “sell all”, i.e. never own anything, psychologically speaking, “and give it to the poor” — realise that you’ll carry nothing to the grave, but a wornout carcass and ones good name, if one is fortunate enough to have earned one in life. Many are the glowing encomiums; few, those remembered as saints.

And, secondly, to be a “Capitalist Revolutionary” means to realise that one is not an actor, that that is a fiction, but that one is action itself, in the form of Human Life.  If this action is moral and authentic, then Capital has been raised to the level of the moral and authentic, or kept there if the Capital was earned morally (as mentioned before, through the accrual of the worker’s marginal surplus). In a sense, this is the Buddhist realization that the ego is a “humbug”, a fiction that doesn’t really exist, that is laughable, but one that we have to play along with in society if we are not to be declared certifiably insane. The man who answers the police officer, when asked to identify himself, is figured to be screwy if he replies, “I am God” or “I am the universe” or “I am Louis XIV”. But, if he answers, “I’m Joe Smith”, he’s considered sane. And he’ll be allowed to keep his bank account. And if he scowls, and yells at people, he may well become a banker, and be considered pre-eminently sane.

So, a “Capitalist Revolutionary” is Liberty Personified in the Human Form. He is action itself, nothing else, and that action must be highly moral. And Human Liberty also implies, morally speaking, that it never be used to destroy the Human Liberty of another, who has not violated ones property rights. In other words, it Respects the Other’s Liberty, if the Other Respects Our Liberty.

So the key is that a “Capitalist Revolutionary” keeps an awareness that he is just a fiction as far as his ego goes. Let’s put it this way, the only sense we have of our ego is always based on events in the past, stretching all the way back to our childhoods. We have been heavily conditioned by our pasts, whether it was a trauma we had as a child, like falling down stairs, or the trauma of yesterday, when the neighbor said something that hurt our feelings. And remembering that past, we think of ourselves as a “self”. This is a fairly widespread “mental disease”, and just being aware of it doesn’t automatically cause it to cease to function. It is an illusion created by the very natural response of memory, which obviously is a form of thought. Yet, it always involves the past, which is no longer a living thing. But,  being aware of memory’s ego-creating process constantly, can cause it to cease to function, as the Buddhists discovered. Some now achieve a similar feeling of lightness by looking at photos of the universe to start each day. But a Buddhist may scream as loud as a Baptist if he finds the bank has underpaid his interest by $40.00.

And, as far as a Capitalist Revolutionary’s possessions and collections go, Silverwolf would relate that wonderful story, buried somewhere in Dr. Johnson’s writings, where he visited one of the prominent actors of London’s stage. Thespian success had greatly increased this man’s income (and what percentage of actors, prior to the film age, ever achieved financial security through the practice of their art?), and on a tour of his London home, he avidly and enthusiastically showed Dr. Johnson the various collections of books, pictures, antiques, and momentos he had acquired. Finally,  exhausted after several hours of this, and bidding adieu at the door, Dr. Johnson left his interlocuter with the following thought, “My friend, I’m afraid you’re going to have a very hard time dying.”

Hoooooooooooooooooooooooooooowwwwwwwwww — Silverwolf