Issue CCCIV

November 10, 2011

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Argumentation
Munk Debates Challenge Us to Think Critically
Bradley Doucet

November 10, 2011

It is natural to want to be right; it takes effort to find out if we are. And how can we find out? As John Stuart Mill, one of the great English philosophers, put it, “He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that.” Only by engaging with intelligent people who hold divergent views can we acquaint ourselves with the various sides of an issue and arrive at an informed opinion. The Munk Debates, by bringing together world-class thinkers who hold divergent views on the issues of the day and pitting them against one another in an intellectual arena, provide us with some of the raw material we need in order to arrive at an informed opinion. Bradley Doucet discusses this interesting and important debate forum.

Economics

Understanding the Price of Money
Robert P. Murphy

November 10, 2011

In a money economy, the money commodity is on one side of every transaction, and hence reduces the number of relevant prices. The direct exchange ratio between any two commodities can easily be computed from their respective money prices. The "price" or purchasing power of money is the array of goods and services for which a unit of money can be exchanged. This brief essay by Dr. Robert Murphy explains how the purchasing power of money arises.

Econ Nobel: Here We Go Again
Robert P. Murphy

November 10, 2011

This year's Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics goes to two Americans, Thomas Sargent (NYU) and Christopher Sims (Princeton). Officially the award is for "their empirical research on cause and effect in the macroeconomy."
There is no doubt that these two guys are really sharp, and free-market economists can find a lot to like in much of the work of Sargent in particular. Yet to update what Dr. Robert Murphy said of last year's recipients — who studied labor markets — it's a bit odd for the economics profession right now to be celebrating two scientists for their work in helping policymakers steer the macroeconomy. It would be a bit like awarding Jonas Salk a Nobel Prize in the midst of history's second-worst polio epidemic.

The Folly of Forecasting
Douglas French

November 10, 2011

President Obama's mostly forgotten jobs package would reportedly create 1.9 million new jobs, a one-percentage-point drop in the unemployment rate, and goose GDP by two percentage points. That was the prediction of Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody's Analytics. You see, he has a model. He did a simulation, and presto — 1.9 million jobs! Zandi practices what one of Douglas French's undergraduate economics professors told our class: "Predict often. That way, when you occasionally get lucky, you can take credit for it."
But the Moody's man is on a cold streak. Zandi has predicted the bottom of the housing market every year since 2006. And QE after QE was supposed to right the good ship USS Economy. Mr. French writes that the mathematical games economists play are just so much flapdoodle being dished out to an eager audience of those craving to know the future.

Ethics
Aristotle, Rand, Rasmussen, and Beyond
Kaitlyn Pytlak and Natalie Mogan

November 10, 2011

Aristotle, one of the most prominent and well-known philosophers of all time, once commented on the significance of life: “Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.” Throughout history, philosophers, economists, novelists, and many others have devoted their lives to the study and contemplation of human existence. In this essay by Kaitlyn Pytlak and Natalie Mogan, the worldviews of contemporary philosophers such as Douglas Rasmussen and Tibor Machan are compared with the philosophies of older thinkers such as Aristotle and Ayn Rand. Although they do not all hold the same beliefs in their entirety, this paper attempts to exemplify not only their similarity, but their compatibility. Through their extensive examinations of societies, people, rights, governments, and politics, these noted men and women are able to successfully establish the ultimate significance of human life and flourishing in a free society.

Literary Analysis
The Rise of Silas Lapham: A Story of Self-Identity, Self-Respect, and Morality
Edward W. Younkins

November 10, 2011

William Dean Howells’s The Rise of Silas Lapham (1885) was the first important realistic novel to focus on an American businessman. The author intended his highly regarded novel to provide moral education to the readers. Early in the novel Howells presents an essential business-related moral dilemma that has repercussions throughout the entire story. The main story depicts a man’s moral rise while his prosperity is declining. Dr. Edward Younkins presents his analysis of this engaging novel.

Politics
Taking Executive Orders Too Far
Ron Paul

November 10, 2011

These are frustrating times for the President.  Having been swept into office with a seemingly strong mandate, he enjoyed a Congress controlled by members of his own party for the first two years of his term.  However, midterm elections brought gridlock and a close division of power between the two parties.  With a crucial re-election campaign coming up, there is desperation in the president’s desire to "do something" in spite of his severely weakened mandate. 
Getting something done is proving to be a monumental task.  This may be news to the supposed constitutional scholar who is now our president, but if the political process seems inconvenient to the implementation of his agenda, that is not a flaw in the system.  Rep. Ron Paul writes that the system was designed that way.

Decriminalize the Average Man
Wendy McElroy

November 10, 2011

If you reside in America and it is dinnertime, you have almost certainly broken the law. In his book Three Felonies a Day, civil-liberties lawyer Harvey Silverglate estimates that the average person unknowingly breaks at least three federal criminal laws every day. This toll does not count an avalanche of other laws — for example misdemeanors or civil violations such as disobeying a civil contempt order — all of which confront average people at every turn. Wendy McElroy discusses these travesties.

Videos
The Perils of Cultural Homogeneity - Video
G. Stolyarov II

November 10, 2011

In this video version of his essay, "The Perils of Cultural Homogeneity", Mr. Stolyarov outlines the extreme dangers of enforced cultural homogeneity –   and there is no other kind of cultural homogeneity possible. In doing so, he hopes to provide a defense of genuine cultural diversity, a concept he hopes to rehabilitate from its current misuse by the political Left.

Praise for Justin Bieber's Comments on the Commercial Felony Streaming Act - Video
G. Stolyarov II

November 10, 2011
Justin Bieber's remarks on S. 978, the Commercial Felony Streaming Act proposed by Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar are right on target, according to Mr. Stolyarov. Indeed, Bieber's view, that singing and streaming other people's songs  the activity that brought Bieber himself to fame  is innocuous and should be permitted, is a breath of fresh air among popular singers and musicians. Mr. Stolyarov thinks that Bieber should go further and oppose the erroneous and damaging notion of "intellectual property" altogether.

References:
- Audio clip of Justin Bieber's comments - "Justin Bieber: Amy Klobuchar Needs To Be 'Locked Up!' (AUDIO)" by David Taintor -
- "Bill S. 978" - Wikipedia 
- "Justin Bieber" - Wikipedia 
- "Bieber enters the copyright wars" by Jesse Brown 
- "Against Intellectual Property" by N. Stephan Kinsella 
- "The Emergence of Musical Copyright in Europe from 1709 to 1850" by F. M. Scherer 

 "Monetary calculation and cost accounting constitute the most important intellectual tool of the capitalist entrepreneur, and it was no one less than Goethe who pronounced the system of double-entry bookkeeping one of the finest inventions of the human mind." 
~ Ludwig von Mises