Issue CCCIX

January 4, 2012

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Culture
Set Culture Free
Joel Poindexter

January 4, 2012

Recently Salon featured an interview with author Robert Levine, entitled "Does culture really want to be free?" Levine has written a new book, Free Ride, on the subject of intellectual property (IP). His subtitle is How Digital Parasites Are Destroying the Culture Business and How the Culture Business Can Fight Back, the thesis of which is predicated on a misunderstanding of property rights and a poor grasp of economics. In this essay Joel Poindexter will begin with a brief outline of property rights, explain how IP fails to meet the requirements of tangible property, and refute some of Levine's other fallacies.


There Is No Great Stagnation: Coffee Edition
Steven Horwitz

January 4, 2012

In a previous column Steven Horwitz took on Tyler Cowen’s argument that the last few decades have been a period of “stagnation,” devoid of major wealth-enhancing innovations, by exploring how easy it was for Professor Horwitz to order a part for his gas grill compared to a decade or two earlier, thanks to gains in technology and trade that have massively reduced transactions costs.  One point Dr. Horwitz made is that much of the conventional economic data overlook the gains to well-being that come from his being able to find and order that part in a few minutes and have it delivered to his door in a few days. This week Dr. Horwitz wants to return to that theme but with a different example that provides a another window on what we mean by innovation and how hard it can be to measure improvements in well-being.

Economics

MF Global's Fractional Reserves
Douglas French

January 4, 2012

Jon Corzine told the House Agriculture Committee, "I simply do not know where the money is, or why the accounts have not been reconciled to date." The public is outraged that the former CEO of bankrupt global financial-derivatives broker and prime dealer in US Treasury securities MF Global doesn't know where the missing $1.2 billion in client funds went. As a stand-alone entity, MF Global was born in 2007 when it was spun off from UK hedge-fund giant, Man Group. MF booked revenues of $4 billion that year from interest earned by using its customers' funds, an operation that sounds like fractionized banking: short-term embezzlement used to make profits. Douglas French discusses how fractional-reserve banking is similar to the practices that brought MF Global down.

Gloom, Doom, and Optimism
Mike Scully

January 4, 2012

Mike Scully brings up an interesting irony that I have been noticing for a while: many of the most bearish economic forecasters describe themselves as optimists in their day-to-day lives. Mr. Scully considers myself extremely optimistic, but his views on the economy are dire at best. Mr. Scully writes that the fact that optimists like him are so pessimistic about the economy should cause you to take notice and ask if maybe there is something to all this gloom and doom after all.

A Return to Gold?
John L. Chapman and John A. Allison

January 4, 2012

This summer marked the 40th anniversary of President Richard M. Nixon’s decision to sever the U.S. dollar’s official link to gold. On August 15, 1971, Nixon took to the airwaves in a national address from the Oval Office to declare that the U.S. Treasury would no longer honor foreigners’ demands to redeem dollars for gold. Because the United States was then the last country in the world with a currency defined by gold, it represented a complete and historic decoupling of the globe’s currencies—literally the money of the entire world—from the yellow metal. John Chapman and John Allison write that the story behind Nixon’s catastrophic mistake, and the lessons it contains for today, suggest a framework for monetary policy and reforms that will induce strong and sustainable economic growth in the future.

Politics
Debt Burden Threatens American Families
Ron Paul

January 4, 2012

Everyone in DC acknowledges that the debt is unsustainable, yet few are willing to take serious steps toward addressing it.  Politicians in Washington cannot face the fact that the blank checks must stop.  Many think we can ignore the mounting debts and deficits and eventually the economy will magically turn around and grow its way out of the mess.  Rep. Ron Paul writes that if you really understand why the economy is foundering, you understand the burden cannot all be put on the backs of the American people while politicians stick their heads in the sand.

How Not to Go Crazy in 2012
Alan Caruba

January 4, 2012

Alan Caruba writes that election years tend to create a level of frenzy concerning the selection of the nominees and the outcome. The media feed this in order to keep readers reading and viewers viewing. The history of American elections has always been one of vituperation between the parties, so there is nothing new about this. Indeed, since so much depends on it, the political free-for-all is a healthy exercise. Mr. Caruba presents his perspective on what to expect politically in 2012. 

Videos
Life is Always Preferable to Death - Even in Emergencies - Video
G. Stolyarov II
January 4, 2012

Mr. Stolyarov holds that the continued life of an innocent individual is always more desirable than that individual's death. Here, he applies this understanding even to emergency situations, akin to the World Trade Center attacks, where the victims do not have a high probability of survival. It is still better to hold out for hope and try one's best to escape from the perilous situation, than it would be to sacrifice oneself in the hopes of avoiding a "worse" death.

Reference:
- "The Ethics of Emergencies" by Ayn Rand

Life Extension, Crime, and Criminal Justice - Video
G. Stolyarov II
January 4, 2012

What would be the effects of indefinite human life extension on crime and the criminal-justice system? Mr. Stolyarov offers some possibilities.

Religion and Indefinite Life Extension - Video
G. Stolyarov II
January 4, 2012

Mr. Stolyarov discusses the future of religious worldviews in a society where human longevity increases indefinitely and death is no longer perceived as inevitable. Mr. Stolyarov argues that religions evolve, too, and - to survive - they will need to adapt to the reality of far longer human lifespans.

 "Despots and democratic majorities are drunk with power. They must reluctantly admit that they are subject to the laws of nature. But they reject the very notion of economic law . . . economic history is a long record of government policies that failed because they were designed with a bold disregard for the laws of economics." 
~ Ludwig von Mises