Issue CCCVIII

December 31, 2011

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Economics
The Competitiveness Distraction
T. Norman Van Cott

December 31, 2011

Does the ongoing failure of US elementary and secondary education bode ill for US international competitiveness? What about government regulation run amok along with a host of other maladies? Business and economic commentators uniformly answer yes without ever getting specific about the meaning of competitiveness. They apparently view competitiveness and the national maladies as one and the same. Evidence about the maladies is prima facie evidence about competitiveness, at least for the commentators. To be sure, writes T. Norman Van Cott, things like failing public education sap overall US production potential. However, overall production potential does not determine competitiveness, at least as economists have defined the term for close to 200 years tracing back to David Ricardo in 1821.

Postmarket Effects of Intellectual Monopoly
Per Bylund

December 31, 2011

Why are MP3 downloads of songs sometimes more expensive than CD versions of the same songs? Per Bylund writes that Austrian economists realize that the cost of production means nothing for the price at which products are offered to consumers. It is the other way around: the value to consumers decides the possible prices at which entrepreneurs can sell products — and this in turn decides what costs can be assumed in order to produce them. So maybe consumers value MP3 downloads much higher than having the physical CD delivered (even though they can instantly rip the CD). And to producers, the cost of producing the CDs is sunk and should mean little to nothing to their pricing strategies. What does matter, however, is the cost of storage, which is pretty much nothing for downloadable music. Yet, Mr. Bylund notes that there are also political effects involved, as a result of intellectual-property laws.

The Social Function of Profit-and-Loss Accounting
Robert P. Murphy

December 31, 2011

Many naïve observers of the market economy dismiss concern with the "bottom line" as a purely arbitrary social convention. To these critics, it seems senseless that a factory producing, say, medicine or shoes for toddlers stops at the point when the owner decides that profit has been maximized. It would certainly be physically possible to produce more bottles of aspirin or more shoes in size 3T, yet the boss doesn't allow it, because to do so would "lose money." On the other hand, many apparently superfluous gadgets and unnecessary luxury items are produced every day in a market economy, because they are profitable. Observers who are outraged by this system may adopt the slogan: "Production for people, not profit!"
Dr. Robert Murphy responds that such critics do not appreciate the indispensable service that the profit-and-loss test provides to members of a market economy.

Literature
Emersonian Individualism
Allen Mendenhall

December 31, 2011

Ralph Waldo Emerson is politically elusive. He's so elusive that thinkers from various schools and with various agendas have appropriated his ideas to validate some activity or another. Harold Bloom once wrote, "In the United States, we continue to have Emersonians of the Left (the post-Pragmatist Richard Rorty) and of the Right (a swarm of libertarian Republicans, who exalt President Bush the Second)." Allen Mendenhall writes that we'll have to excuse Bloom's ignorance of political movements and signifiers — libertarians who exalt President Bush, really? — and focus instead on Bloom's point that Emerson's influence is evident in a wide array of contemporary thinkers and causes. Mr. Mendenhall explores the individualistic themes of Emerson's essay, "Self-Reliance".

Music
Baroque Composition for Piano and Organ, Op. 69
G. Stolyarov II

December 31, 2011

A composition by Mr. Stolyarov, employing the harmonies and extensive ornamentation reminiscent of the Baroque era, in a "theme and variations" structure. The present version is played in the Finale 2011 software using the Steinway Grand Piano and Church Organ instruments.

Politics
The NDAA Repeals More Rights
Ron Paul

December 31, 2011

The PATRIOT Act, as bad as its violation of the 4th Amendment is, was just one step down the slippery slope. The recently passed National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) continues that slip toward tyranny and in fact accelerates it significantly. The main section of concern, Section 1021 of the NDAA Conference Report, does to the 5th Amendment what the PATRIOT Act does to the 4th.

Thou Shalt Not Question UN "Experts"
Kelvin Kemm

December 31, 2011

Nuclear physicist Dr. Kelvin Kemm offers this article, describing his adventures in Durban. His column offers some fascinating, funny, and disturbing reflections on what went on at climate conference COP-17 … and what those events say about the people, “science,” process, and agenda of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It is a sobering assessment, indeed.

Imaginary Benefits, Extensive Harm
Craig Rucker

December 31, 2011

The Environmental Protection Agency clams its “final proposed” Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT) rules will eliminate toxic pollution from electrical generating units, bring up to $140 billion in annual health benefits, and prevent thousands of premature deaths yearly – all for “only” $11 billion a year in compliance costs. This may be true in the virtual reality of EPA computer models, linear extrapolations, cherry-picked health studies and statistics, government press releases and agency-generated public comments. However, writes Craig Rucker, in the real world inhabited by families, employers and other energy users, the new rules will bring few benefits, but will impose extensive costs that the agency chose to minimize or ignore in its analysis.


The Exodus from Mexico Begins
Fred Reed

December 31, 2011

When Fred Reed arrived in Mexico going on ten years ago, it was a mildly sleepy upper-Third World country, whatever that means—corrupt but not dangerous, not rich but hardly poor, barely middle-class overall and climbing, the mañana thing seldom noticeable, and women pouring into the professions. Mr. Reed parodied the American conception of Mexico as perilous hell-hole because it wasn't. Not even close. Then in 2006 Felipe Calderón became president, and declared war on the drug cartels. Certainly Washington has done everything in its power to encourage it. Now Mexico has become so dangerous that many American expatriates are leaving.


Videos
The Bogus Scandal of the Ron Paul Newsletters - Video
G. Stolyarov II
December 31, 2011

As Ron Paul maintains his frontrunner status in the wake of the Iowa caucuses, the establishment is afraid. Hence, it has dredged up completely old news: a few racist comments in newsletters 22 years ago -- which Ron Paul has been disavowing for 15 years. This mudslinging shows just how much the political and media establishments fear Ron Paul's dramatic alternative to the status quo. This scandal, manufactured by the ideological hack James Kirchick, also reveals the disproportionate amount of scrunity leveled at Ron Paul, considering that all the other Republican candidates have far more glaring skeletons in their closets.

 "Freedom and liberty always mean freedom from police interference." 
~ Ludwig von Mises