Worth reading

My latest issue of Forbes has three editorials that I recommend reading:

1. A column that I cannot yet find on Forbes.com entitled, Economic Growth is Easy. Here’s a snippet:

John Stuart Mill long ago observed that we trade “products for products,” so if the desire is for increased consumption, we must stimulate the supply side of the economy. Specifically, we must remove the tax, regulatory, trade and monetary barriers to productivity. For individuals to consume, they must first produce.

Most people don’t understand that, which is one reason we keep electing fools. Consumption does not drive wealth. Investing to take a chance of realizing benefits do.

2. Another from British historian, Paul Johnson, Men Blinded by Their Brains. In it he writes how intellectuals seem to have an affinity for the powerful and evil. In the print version, this appears immediately after the subtitle, Moral Blind Spot:

Of course, intellectuals, whom I define as those who think ideas are more important than people, are notoriously bad at seeing the ordinary world and coming to moral decisions about it.

This article struck me because I’ve known such men. They could reason their way into very bad things and reason their way out of feeling any remorse or accountability for their actions.

3. Steve Forbes’ lead-off editorial, Gold and the Wicked Magicians, is top-notch and important. From his piece:

Linking the value of money to gold removes a huge source of Big Government’s power. No longer can government confiscate wealth by stealth by devaluing your money. Economists hate the gold standard because they think they’re being deprived of one of their magic wands to shape the economy.

Big Government looks after its own interests. Left to its own devices it will relentlessly expand, crushing the private sector. That’s what’s happening in Europe today. Despite all the talk of austerity, the public sector has hardly been touched, while businesses and individuals have been hit with more and more taxes.

Despite thousands of years of experience to the contrary, central bankers and countless policymakers and economists believe that money manipulation can stimulate and wisely guide an economy.

It’s a destructive delusion. The world today would be an immensely richer place were it not for these hubristic notions that a handful of people can keep an economy rolling smoothly with minimal unemployment.

I was the 301st person to watch this on Youtube

Here’s the second round of the Keynes vs. Hayek.  Enjoy.  I donated $50 to this project.

And here’s Round 1 in case you missed it.

Thanks to Russ Roberts and John Papola for their excellent efforts, great lyrics and high production value!  There’s a lot of depth to both videos in the lyrics, in the folks who are mentioned and the folks who pop up in the video.  These are excellent learning tools.

“It isn’t working”

Is the stimulus working?  The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board doesn’t think so.  Read today’s editorial, It isn’t working.  Here are a couple of key paragraphs (emphasis mine):

So far the Obama team has thrown the entire Keyensian playbook at the economy. We have paid people to buy cars, purchase homes, pay off their mortgages, weatherize their homes and put solar paneling on their roofs. And of course there was the original stimulus package of $862 billion, though some of that remains unspent. None of it has put America back to work.

The policy lesson is that you can’t have a jobs recovery without private confidence and investment. The Obama crowd bet that you could force-feed private investment with government spending and politically directed credit, but the result has been to traumatize business instead. Why would a small business owner hire anyone new if he knows that taxes are going up, health-care costs are sure to rise, and the cost of each new employee is uncertain? Nor can you inspire business confidence if you demonize bankers and business.

Take a look at the bold sentence.

Those who believe Keynesian economics (named after economist John Maynard Keynes who thought government could keep the Continue reading

It Took This Long?

Greg Mankiw, a well-respected Harvard economics professor wonders if all of the smart economists working for Obama have explained to him that price controls are a bad idea.

I’m certainly no Harvard econ professor, but did it really take Mankiw this long to question Obama’s economics team?

They lost me a year ago with the word “multiplier”.

If they believe their multipliers on the economic impact that results from government spending (i.e. $1 of government spending results in more than $1 of economic activity), that are derived from multiple regressions on imperfectly aggregated and lagging historical economic data from times that might be different than these times and future times, then I think they’re crazy.

True measure: If their models were really that good at predicting the future, they should have been able to prove it by using their models to grow wealthy.

I’m not sure it can be said any better than F.A. Hayek’s character in the Keynes vs. Hayek rap video of such economic models:

I’ll begin in broad strokes, just like my friend Keynes
His theory conceals the mechanics of change,
That simple equation, too much aggregation
Ignores human action and motivation

And yet it continues as a justification
For bailouts and payoffs by pols with machinations
You provide them with cover to sell us a free lunch

Then all that we’re left with is debt, and a bunch