Update on Austrian Masters Program at Loyola

I posted versions of the following response to the news report at The Maroon and Stephan Kinsellas blog post at mises.org.

Thank you for the kind write up.

I will say that I remain very optimistic about the expansion of our programs here at Loyola – both undergraduate and graduate. As far as this initial denial is concerned, it is not entirely surprising nor completely discouraging.

 

Trust me when I say that this process is extremely complicated and resource intensive. As such, it has been a learning experience for all of those involved. What we have learned thus far is that for the proposal that we had put together to have been approved last Spring, it would have required many dispersed stars to align so to speak – and very quickly at that. These stars included but were not necessarily limited to, significant fund raising, endowment accrual, faculty searches and hires, curriculum designs and implementations, as well as processes involving University and college accreditation.

 

As the proposal was submitted we admittedly did not have complete or certain answers to all of these questions. In fact, by undergoing the procedures we have experienced, we have only now learned the many tasks and necessary components to moving towards our goal. In turn, I think that this initial denial may become a blessing in disguise.

 

The development of a masters program in Austrian economics remains a formal component of our college of business’s strategic plan. What we hope to do in the upcoming years is close a significant portion of the uncertainty window that was tied to this earlier proposal. In other words, we are currently investigating grant and fund raising opportunities in order to expand our faculty base and undergraduate student programs.

 

With additional funded faculty added to our staff we hope to offer our undergraduate students more diverse electives, interactive student research opportunities and extra-curricular learning processes such as seminars, conferences and reading groups. If we succeed in these short term goals of departmental expansion, then we will have a more informed vision as to how viable designing, staffing, funding and implementing a masters program will be in the future. Ideally so to would a committee responsible for approving such a proposal also have that clearer vision.

 

I periodically receive follow up emails from our online survey designed to garner the demand side interest for such a masters program. I ask that those interested in staying up to date on our program and program expansions in the future fill out the survey here:

http://www.business.loyno.edu/master-economics

 

I plan to draft a sort of informational memo to all survey respondents sometime within the next week or so to keep them abreast of the above information as well as to gain a vision of potential fund raising sources to support our department in these crucial processes moving forward.

 

To make a long story short we are moving forward and in many ways we are moving forward more tangibly and quickly than we would have been able to had our initial proposal been approved as it had been drafted.

 

Again, I thank you for the kind write up and your general support of our efforts to spread the ideas of Austrian economics, free markets, peace and liberty.

 

Sincerely,

Dan D’Amico

We don’t need aliens, we need Michael.

Paul Krugman recently argued, if the world were duped of an imminent alien threat, then many of the problems of our economy could be resolved. In a way I guess he’s right. If significant focused production were aimed at avoiding exogenous costs, those efforts could lead to technological innovations with significant spill-overs. Spending, employment, GDP… the macro guys would be content to call it a day.

Given that the benefits of Krugman’s plan would be tied to actually avoiding an alien invasion, which wouldn’t have actually happened, we shouldn’t consider it when balancing costs to benefits. Therefore only left are the benefits from the coincidence that intergalactic weaponry can be productively used in consumer industries.

Ahem, Austrians think the capital structure is heterogeneous in infinitely varied and complicated ways as a consequence of subjective tastes and preferences. Making the likelihood of conveniently multi-specific capital innovations from military to consumer value ever more difficult in an ever non-physiological economy.

And this all presumes that those innovations are continually efficient and don’t impose unsustainable costs.

It’s not that I don’t think nuclear technologies have done more good than harm, I’m not intimately familiar with the numbers, but I would be morally and philosophically comfortable to say that they have. What I am far less comfortable with is thinking about how likely nuclear innovation would have still taken place without military subsidy and under what time line? Because at that point, you realize that all those lives were lost as a trade off just against that difference in time.

I also wonder what our society’s relationship to nuclear energy would be like without the military legacy of the twentieth century polluting its bloodline.

Or maybe, Krugman just wants to fight some really inexpensive aliens, could be.

But it certainly doesn’t seem likely that we would make level headed decisions concerning vital and scarce resources in the immediate presence of global annihilation. Seriously, watch some sci-fi.

Krugman’s strategy reveals more about his own creativity or lack there of, than it does anything profound about macroeconomics. The power in such proposals is in the exogenous shock, not in the mechanism for multiplying economic production. Technically the multiplier should operate regardless to the source of the shock. The only power in warfare for the economy has been its convenient ability to lower the transaction costs associated with collective action.

I propose an alternative to Krugman’s war. I call it the Michael Jackson effect. It is composed of a similar exogenous shock, way lower social costs and a super higher likelihood of awesomeness. Instead of waking up tomorrow and working hard to fend off aliens, we should wake up and fervently commit ourselves to Michael Jackson fandom. Music, film, performances, fashion, food, etc… the entire world could be remade in the image, likeness and influence of the King of Pop.

It is my contention that the Michael effect would be preferable to Krugman’s war because the likelihood of spillover gains surpassing costs seems far greater. A decade of MJ austerity would be good for the world. We could still do massive amounts of spending, subsidizing and regulation if people are so concerned about spending cuts amidst recession. But the only guns made will be used as props in smooth criminal renditions and rather than couching their work in the functions of war to attract subsidy, scientists would have to, however loosely, connect the relevance of their work to the overarching mission of promoting Michael-ness.

Friedman’s insights about stable expectations through constitutional credibility is another point for Michael. In other words, I’d rather try to guess who my elected official thinks is paying Michael the best tribute (so long as he was honestly operating according to that standard), than know what industry will yield revenue in the future given today’s level of regime uncertainty.

My boldest suggestion would be that a global Michael decade could lower rates of war perpetually and generally promote a society wherein people shared a common cultural legacy and experience. Jim Henson had a similar vision for Fraggle Rock – unrelated but also awesome!

This certainly sounds silly, but silly is always and everywhere better than living in the cultural aftermath of a mass hysterical bout with the extra-terrestrial apocalypse.

It’s not so much that Michael has the power to unite us as a people (even though I believe he does). Instead we should admonish, just as Krugman’s proposal would require an elaborate ruse, the Michael effect would require a systematic change in culture and subjective preference just to get off the ground.

Which is itself revealing: how significant the coordination problem for centrally planned solutions to economic recession is. It is as difficult as changing the fundamental beliefs, opinions and preferences of our entire society.

I don’t think we would be foolish enough to try to centrally plan for a world where everyone really did like Michael Jackson. Preference and culture are too personal a journey and they are the true opportunity costs to chasing Krugman’s war.

In Praise of Jersey Shore

A friend and colleague linked to this commentary on MTV after thirty years. I like the linker a lot more than the link.

According to the article byline, “Dr Kieth Ablow, is a psychiatrist and member of the Fox News Medical A-Team,” and according to his website, his “message is always the same: By harnessing your innate capacity for courage, faith, truth and compassion you will find the power to reach most any goal.”

For lack of a more sophisticated response – thumbs down, dislike, shenanigans. In paper workshops during graduate school, economic historian John Nye was fond of prodding the question, “why can’t I just say the opposite?”

Repeatedly in his tirade against the music television network, Ablow ponders,

How else can we explain the readiness of the network to pioneer the dissemination of an even more potent and potentially destructive (though very occasionally worthwhile) drug—reality television? How else can we explain that MTV hooked teens on The Real World, which wasn’t real at all, but staged and cut (like heroin) to provide high impact dramatic moments (kind of like music videos)? How else can we explain that the network moved so fluidly to suggest to young Americans that they were all celebrities, all worthy of staring in their own videos? How else can we explain Jersey Shore and My Super Sweet 16 and Teen Mom—all programs that require actors to pretend they are not acting, which is the equivalent of encouraging the rest of us to behave like we are acting.

“Potentially destructive?” Prove it? “How else can we explain?” Allow me to try. Social order and its associated culture are not creatures of elitist snobbery nor design they are instead the accumulated product of disjointed human actions but not of any singular human design.

First, I think Ablow’s model of causation is insulting to younger generations, but that is a topic for another time. More importantly I am concerned that this belief treats the cultural content of MTV as a concerted marketing effort rather than recognizing it for the meaningfully representative cultural residue that it is. In other words, if MTV were truly conspiring to make the youth self indulgent and consumerist there are probably more affordable ways to do so. Secondly, why do so many other network shows and cultural products highlight similar cultural themes? From Glee to Gaga there is a clear and consistent message in American pop culture – individuality is in. Furthemore I want to argue, that this is a good thing! – even in the form of Jersey Shore.

Virginia Postrel is on to something when she argues that women’s high heeled shoes are perhaps the greatest testament to human civilization. Never before in human history could something so un-functional be tolerated let alone embraced to the extent of our fashion trends.

And then we have The Jersey Shore – a group of unapologetic obnoxious heathens. They want nothing more from life than fun, sex and physical attractiveness. While many find their behaviors brutish or curt, I say hooray for them and hooray for our society that can afford to host such extravagant silliness – recessions and financial crisis aside.

When you go the gym you sweat. Sweat smells bad, but you cannot eliminate or plan for a change in that outcome without disrupting the beneficial process that leads to it. In fact, I would suggest that Ablow’s aesthetic intolerance is a far greater threat to society than Snookie or the Sitch’s promiscuity or low brow social commentary.

If you actually watch the show, you will see that characters are not a-moral or degenerate but they operate according to standard of social tolerance and anonymity that Dr. Ablow could perhaps benefit from. “You do you, I’ll do me.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Updated website

I recently updated my website, which means my latest CV is most recent and includes all my media and public speaking appearances. More importantly there are some publications available now for download that haven’t been posted before. In particular:

my appreciation piece on Peter Boettke,

my July 4th article from Freedom’s Pheonix and

my book chapter on hurricane Katrina and the recovery of New Orleans’ underground music communities.

Enjoy!