Sun, 29 Apr 2007

Hot Fuzz as a Libertarian movie

I just saw Hot Fuzz (I'd link to their website, but it requires Flash 9). It seems like a rather libertarian movie to me. First is the emphasis on the intrinsic value of the individual, and explicit rejection of "For the Common Good". Second is the respect for the exemplary individual and denigration of the idea of "the curve buster" -- the person who does so well that they make everybody else look bad. Third is the reluctance to rely on violence to get one's way. Fourth is the respect for the Rule of Law.

Posted [01:34] [Filed in: ] [permalink] [Google for the title] libertarian [digg this]

Thu, 26 Apr 2007

Is Robert Samuelson an economist?

Boy, after reading Samuelson's April 30 Newsweek column, I have to question his right to the name "economist". First, he pursues the common wisdom that inflation is caused by higher prices. It isn't. Inflation is everywhere and always caused by an increase in the supply of money. Money is just a thing that people are always willing to trade for because people are always willing to accept it. There's a supply and demand for money, and, yes, a price of money.

But here's the thing you need to remember: the only reason there is sustained inflation is because the government is always creating more money. It does so because it gets to spend the money first. It's a tax that nobody notices, if they even understand it. So Samuelson's discussion of oil prices, food prices, and core CPI is pretty much a waste of time, space, and print.

Second, he talks about recession. It's clear to any real economist that the Fed causes these recessions through its manipulation of the supply of money. When it inflates the money more than people expect, they think they have more cash, so they go spending. Business owners see a higher supply of money, and they think that they should invest. Unfortunately, both of them are wrong, and they need to adjust their spending downwards when the Fed reduces the rate of inflation.

I'm talking about the rate of inflation, because people get used to a certain rate of inflation. If you want to get the higher employment effects of inflation, you need to continue to raise the rate of inflation. Not just inflate, but inflate more and more. That's what von Mises called the crack-up boom". Eventuall the transaction cost due to the rate of increase exceeds the value of most transactions, so the economy stops in its tracks and falls over, dead.

Third, he worries about the U.S. trade deficit. "Trade deficit" is a misnomer (and although he's talking about terminology problems in this article, he doesn't catch this one.) There is no such thing as a trade deficit. All free trade is balanced; deficit is not possible. The term "trade deficit" really means that we're selling people things inside the US more than we're selling things to be delivered to people. As such, it's not much cause for worry.

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Mon, 23 Apr 2007

NYC Rent Control

There's an AP article out today which I quote below:

Survey Reveals Holes in City's Real Estate Market

NEW YORK, NY (1010 WINS) -- Even in a city where a closet-sized apartment can fetch a mint in rent, where so-so condos sell for over $1 million, and where real estate speculators salivate over the very air, there is property that lays fallow.

An informal survey released Saturday revealed there are at least 505 undeveloped lots in Manhattan, and another 1,723 that appear to be vacant, Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer said.

``These results show that, contrary to popular belief, there are thousands of properties lying vacant in this borough,'' Stringer said. ``Now the task is to find out why and to do everything we can to make them productive properties.''

Stringer said there is enough space on these lots to create nearly 24,000 housing units that could help meet the city's future population growth.

According to the survey, 50 percent of the vacant properties are privately owned. More than 71 percent were found north of 96th Street, a traditional dividing line between the poorer neighborhoods of Upper Manhattan, and the ultra-wealthy Upper East and Upper West sides.

At least $104.8 million in property taxes is lost annually the survey found, Stringer said.

The article doesn't attempt any explanation at why so much property is going unused. A moment's economic analysis, however, will tell you that it can only be caused by rent control. No sane property owner will bother to build a building if he cannot make a profit. The specter of rent control looms over every potential landlord in NYC, whether their property is afflicted or not. As long as people in NYC think rent control is a good thing, any building might be subjected to rent control, even if some are currently exempted. See Walter Block for more information.

This is yet another example of how price floors and price ceilings cause surplusses and shortages respectively. When the government fixes prices, you get the same bad effects as when any other monopoly fixes prices. I don't understand why people see private monopolies as good, and public monopolies as bad. I suppose their theory is that they control their government, but, really, when was the last time you wrote to your legislator asking him to do something, and he actually did what you asked? Usually I get a letter back explaining how my legislator will be doing the exact opposite.

Posted [01:29] [Filed in: ] [permalink] [Google for the title] economics [digg this]

Fri, 20 Apr 2007

Gun Control

I'd like to point out that the VT Massacre is a failure of gun control. If anybody attempts to misuse the Massacre to call for more gun control, they should first explain why the gun control already in place didn't work. Then they should watch Penn and Teller's Gun Control is Bullshit.

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Wed, 11 Apr 2007

Marx's Grave

I spit on Marx's grave today. I had a 10 hour layover in Heathrow on the way back from Mumbai. Walked around Hampstead Heath, and wound up in Highgate Cemetary (East). Interestingly, his grave is immediately opposite Herbert Spencer's grave. That's nearly as amusing as it would have been to bury Marx next to Adam Smith. Maybe they put Spencer across from Marx to keep a wary eye on him?

http://blog.russnelson.com/images/kif_4596.jpg(Herbert Spencer's grave)[400,400]

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Sat, 07 Apr 2007

Disappointed by Google

I've finally been disappointed by Google. I tried a search for "morse ... -- ..." and all I got was a page on morse code, rather than the decoded morse code.

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Wed, 04 Apr 2007

Environmentalists

Someone quipped, on one of the blogs that I read:

We have more to fear from environmentalists than the environment
Preach it, brother!

Posted [10:35] [Filed in: ] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]