Sometimes when I talk to friends about the possibilities of entrepreneurship to promote technology and growth, they look at me a little funny. I don’t intend to come off sounding like I place a degree of faith in science fiction-esque gizmos to solve the real world problems of today. What I do tend to emphasize is what Lachmann referred to as radical uncertainty. In other words we have no idea what types of products and services may lie right around the proximate corner or far off into the distant future. Unfortunately for us, the same truth holds for the state. I’m currently re-reading Hayek’s Constitution of Liberty for class and came across this paragraph on page 216:
The problem assumes the greatest importance when we consider that we are probably only at the threshold of an age in which the technological possibilities of mind control are likely to grow rapidly and what may appear at first as innocuous or beneficial powers over the personality of the individual will be at the disposal of government. The greatest threats to human freedom probably still lie in the future. The day may not be far off when authority, by adding appropriate drugs to our water supply or by some other similar device, will be able to elate or depress, stimulate or paralyze the minds of whole populations for its own purposes. If bills of rights are to remain in any way meaningful, it must be recognized early that their intention was certainly to protect the individual against all vital infringements of his liberty and that therefore they must be presumed to contain a general clause protecting against government’s interference those immunities which individuals in fact have enjoyed in the past.
Eerie isn’t it…
First things first, I am proud to announce that I have received confirmation that I have passed my Microeconomics prelim. That’s two for two, and no looking back.
On to other topics, Gordon Tullock and I went butted heads on the issue of collective action in thsi morning’s class on Public Choice. The original queston which professor Tullock posed to me was in reference to aiding the currnet New Orleans catastrophe. He asked whether I thought “we should go in and help them out.” By “we” he meant action resulting from national policy. I answered no, and tried my best to explain how, though I find it noble and commendable for people to spend their own time, effort, and money in helping the poor, the hurt, and the sick, I did not see it as an appropriate avenue of collective action forced by state intervention. In fact few to no scenariosare in my view. Tullock took qualm with this and persisted in presenting anarcho-capitalist sollutions as not sollutions at all and essentially deemed my stance as a do-nothing attitude.
The remainder of this post I intend to address this accusation for I don’t think it is a reasonable attack against laissez faire societal structure. The point I think most worth making is the nature of social problems under a polycentric societal structure. Under polycentric governance people possess a greater cpaacity to provide for themselves and the necessities of their environments. Either we accept that markets provide the needs of society better than states do, or they don’t. I take the former position over the latter. Pete Boettke recently posted, “The bottom line — markets if allowed to operate are amazingly quick at adapting to the changes in the underlying conditions and satisfying the demands of consumers.” I fail to see why the logistical dynamics of the Mississippi should be any different. Yes, it’s a big river but there are far more complex systems in a market economy that don’t require state control to dictate ownerhsip and control priveledges.
Action under the auspices of freedom takes place on the margin. I don’t think such catastrophic events would be as catastrohpic in the first place under a polycentric governance. So to take issue against Anarcho-capitalism as saying that it is incapable of handling state created problems seems silly to me. But then again according to Tullock I must be a crack-pot. I ddin’t take such accusations personally as I’ve been told they’re really signs of endearment.
It is now official, I have passed (fully rather than marginally) my macroeconomics preliminary exam. This is a huge weight lifted from my shoulders as it appears the upcoming class has their work cut out for them with Cowen’s intense grading policies. I still have a few weeks before I’m supposed to hear about microeconomics but I’ll be sure to post as soon as I hear a final word.
Pete Boettke recaps his grad school days and points out the potential of technology to more easily bring insight from the present (soon to be the past) into the future (soon to be the present). His write up includes a much appreciated pitch for The MISEScreants.
In preparation for my Constitutional Economics class taught by Peter Beottke, I’ve been reading Adam Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments. It’s a great read thus far and I’m finding Smith’s thoughts very online with both radical subjectivism and my own personal moral position. Many of you who know me may be shocked, as I like to profess that I do not subscribe to any system of morals. But as I said before, Smith seems to be presenting a case for moral subjectivism (or maybe this is just my reading of it). Either way, I would say this phraseology (radical subjective morality) is more descriptive of my own personal position that no moral absolutes exist. Moral reality is nothing more than different people struggling to do their best on this hectic roller coaster we all call life.
On a seperate note, I found the following excerpt most relevant to my general prison research agenda, especially when held against thinkers like Foucault who presents all punishment as political tools to wield authority, and excerpts from Tabarrok’s book which points out that social programs like education and community building are more effective at detering crime than prison when it comes down to governments getting the most bang for their buck in the allocation process.
Taken from Theory of Moral Sentiments by Adam Smith, p35.
A prison is certainly more useful to the public than a palace; and the person who founds the one is generally directed by a much juster spirit of patriotism, than he who founds the other. But the immediate effects of a prison, the confinement of the wretches shut up in it, are disagreeable; and the imagination either does not take time to trace out the remote ones, or sees them at too great a distance to be much affected by them. A prison, therefore, will always be a disageeable object; and the fitter it is for the purpose for which it was intended, it will be the more so.
September has finally arrived and it marks the official launch of The MISEScreants podcast project. The first episode is being podcast today and each week on Fridays we will be sending out fresh new episodes. So if you’re not set up for the Mises podcast feed, you better get on the ball (click here for instructions).
Feel free to send us comments and suggestions on the existing episodes or requests for future episodes, but most of all enjoy. A subforum has been set up on the Austrian Forum for discussion and comments as each episode airs.
I want to say a few words in regards to the recent pandemonium happening in my old romping ground; the big easy. There’s obviously been a lot of news coverage simply informing the masses of the horrendous situation. These images are fueling a theoretical debate as is typical of most disaster situations. It seems that every time something catastrophic happens, the planners and the economists come out of the woodwork to offer completely opposing sides of a relatively straight forward situation. Is the catastrophe going to help or hurt the economy? Should we allow price gouging of necessary emergency materials? These are important questions and have been paid due attention, but I don’t want to talk about either one. What I do want to draw attention to is the notion of spontaneous order and the implications which can be inferred out of such an event as the current New Orleans crisis.
Continue reading “New Orleans chaos and order.” »