September 18-21, 2011

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Why Are Gold Prices So High?
Robert P. Murphy

September 20, 2011

Ever since Ben Bernanke began flooding the banking system with trillions of new dollars in the fall of 2008, economists and other pundits have disagreed on whether the US is in store for a grinding deflation or an accelerating inflation. Part of the disagreement stems from some people using the terms to refer to prices, whereas others refer to changes in the total quantity of money and credit.
  However, even if we restrict ourselves to movements in the prices that average households face in the marketplace, there is still widespread disagreement. Although the overlap isn't perfect, typically the Keynesians warn that with high unemployment, the US runs the risk of a Japanese "lost decade" of flat consumer prices and stagnant economic growth. Many Austrians, in contrast, warn of a different decade: namely the United States during the 1970s, when Americans suffered high unemployment and price inflation. Dr. Robert Muprhy writes that logic and evidence favor the Austrian position.

The Gnome Thought Experiment
Robert P. Murphy

September 21, 2011

Dr. Robert Murphy recently debated Karl Smith, a New Keynesian professor at UNC, on the possible merits of government spending (video here). Smith brought up what I consider to be the strongest argument against the Austrian position, namely that during a recession there appear to be "idle resources." According to the Keynesian view, if government spending could mobilize those resources (including unemployed workers), then it carries little opportunity cost from a society-wide perspective. Dr. Murphy's answer to Karl (starting at the 44:00 mark) involved the Austrians' sophisticated view of the economy's capital structure (and gnomes). A cruder Keynesian model, which involves aggregates such as K and L, can't grasp the Austrian diagnosis of the typical boom-bust cycle, and consequently yields disastrous policy advice — such as massive deficit spending to prop up "aggregate demand."

Indie Authors Shaking the Pillars of Publishing
Reagen Dandridge Desilets

September 21, 2011

Over the last few years, the publishing world has begun to change drastically. As with the music industry in recent times, people no longer need large firms to get published. With the rise of the ebook and print-on-demand services, a writer can now circumvent the traditional system and release their work directly to the public themselves. This kind of success was unheard of until just a few years ago. With all the available resources online for helping authors self-publish, as well as the ability to engage in social networking, these new authors are able to compete with the large publishing firms unlike ever before. Reagen Dandridge Desilets describes and analyzes this remarkable development.


The Inventor of the Digital Age
Jeffrey A. Tucker

September 20, 2011

Michael S. Hart (March 8, 1947 — September 6, 2011) got it. He understood. He saw what others missed. And he was nearly alone at the time. Jeffrey Tucker discusses the contributions of this pioneer of free online content, the founder of Project Gutenberg.

Taking a Look at Edward Bellamy's Looking Backward
Edward W. Younkins

September 20, 2011

Edward Bellamy’s popular novel, Looking Backward: 2000-1887, is frequently cited as one of the most influential books in America between the 1880s and the 1930s. This novel of social reform was published in 1888, a time when Americans were frightened by working-class violence and disgusted by the conspicuous consumption of the privileged minority. Bitter strikes occurred as labor unions were just beginning to appear and large trusts dominated the nation’s economy. The author thus employs projections of the year 2000 to put 1887 society under scrutiny. Bellamy presents Americans with portraits of a desirable future and of their present day. He defined his perfect society as the antithesis of his current society. Looking Backward embodies his suspicion of free markets and his admiration for centralized planning and deliberate design. Dr. Edward Younkins presents his analysis of Bellamy's book and its shortcomings from economic and philosophical perspectives. 

Similarities Between Ron Paul's Presidential Campaign and Richard Cobden's Anti-Corn Law League: A Response to Nick Ford
G. Stolyarov II

September 18, 2011

In his video challenging Stefan Molyneux’s critique of Ron Paul, Mr. Stolyarov referred to a historical example of political action bringing about considerably greater liberty: the Anti-Corn Law League – led by Richard Cobden and John Bright – which managed in 1846 to achieve the repeal of the British import barriers on grain. Mr. Stolyarov used this historical achievement to counter those critics of Ron Paul who suggest that political action in general is never an effective way of liberating the individual. Nick Ford of The Anarchist Township recently published a rebuttal to Mr. Stolyarov's argument, and Mr. Stolyarov aims here to offer replies and provide further arguments to demonstrate my earlier point: the effectiveness of the Anti-Corn Law League shows that political action at least could have a chance in increasing available liberty – though, of course, this kind of success is never guaranteed.

The Decline in Civil Liberties
David R. Henderson

September 20, 2011

On a flight from Chicago to Washington, D.C., in 1981, David Henderson sat beside a U.S. foreign-service officer who had just finished a stint in Moscow. He told Mr. Henderson that although he had enjoyed the job, he needed to get his family back to America because he wanted his children to grow up understanding what it was like to live in a free country. His children were only aged five and seven. “In what ways would your children have even known they were not living in a free society?” Mr. Henderson asked. The foreign-service officer answered: “They noticed that when we traveled, we, and those around us, had to show an ID to a government official. You couldn’t travel freely.” Although the foreign-service officer probably doesn’t remember that conversation, Mr. Henderson wonders if he remembers the thoughts that caused him to return to the United States. The reason Mr. Henderson wonders is that Americans are no longer free to travel by commercial air without showing a government official a government-issued ID. So the freedom that he sought in the United States no longer exists. In an important way, the United States has become Sovietized.

Solyndra: The Federal Government as Venture Capitalist
Ron Paul

September 20, 2011

In January 2009, the administration claimed that if Congress passed a rush stimulus bill, the United States would be saved from economic catastrophe that was threatening to send unemployment figures above 8 percent.  Government stimulus was the answer, and if we cared about our country, we would set aside our reservations and do what needed to be done to pass the bill.  Congress passed the bill.  Unemployment continued to go up and has been well over 8 percent ever since.  (In fact, economist John Williams of ShadowStats finds unemployment to be closer to 23 percent using traditional methodology.)  Yet some are claiming the first stimulus worked and all we need to bring back prosperity is more government stimulus.
Stimulus might appear to work for some people for a short time. It worked for a short time for Solyndra. But, writes Rep. Ron Paul,  the recent bankruptcy of Solyndra shows that the federal government is a terrible venture capitalist.

The Importance of Knowing the Other Side
Steven Horwitz

September 21, 2011

Steven Horwitz has written before about the problem classical liberals often face when our critics, particularly Progressives, attempt to monopolize the moral high ground. For example, when we argue for the elimination of minimum-wage laws, we are accused of not caring about the working poor and perhaps even of being racists because such laws are presumed to disproportionately help persons of color. We should always be aware of this rhetorical move and challenge it immediately. However, writes Dr. Horwitz,  this awareness should be accompanied by good will and genuine understanding toward our intellectual opponents.

ALS Cause and Protein-Folding Prediction: Thoughts on Two Impressive Scientific Discoveries
G. Stolyarov II

September 20, 2011

Mr. Stolyarov briefly discusses two recent groundbreaking scientific findings and the philosophical implications and promises of these discoveries.

(1) The cause of ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gehrig's disease) was discovered by Dr. Teepu Siddique, a neuroscientist with Northwestern's Feinberg School of Medicine, and researchers Han-Xiang Deng and Wenjie Chen.
* "Cause of ALS is found, Northwestern team says" - William Mullen, Chicago Tribune - August 22, 2011 

(2) Using the computer game Foldit, the protein structure of a retroviral protease of the Mason-Pfizer monkey virus has been discovered. The Mason-Pfizer virus is an AIDS-like disease in monkeys.
* "Public Solves Protein Structure" - Jef Akst, The Scientist - September 18, 2011
* "Online gamers crack AIDS enzyme puzzle" - AFP - September 19, 2011

Other references:
* Rosetta@home website
* Foldit website
* "Running from Death #10: Refuting Clendinen, Brooks, and Lawler on Death" - by G. Stolyarov II 
* "The Good Short Life" by Dudley Clendinen -
(Let us hope that Mr. Clendinen and others like him will rethink their plans regarding how to approach their ALS.)

 "I am just absolutely convinced that the best formula for giving us peace and preserving the American way of life is freedom, limited government, and minding our own business overseas." 
~ Ron Paul