Monthly Archives: January 2016

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A Libertarian Defense of Tenure – Article by Aeon Skoble and Steven Horwitz

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Categories: Economics, Education, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance HatAeon Skoble and Steven Horwitz
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Tenure protects the right to be unpopular

Libertarians are understandably frustrated with the state of higher education today. Libertarian ideas often do not get covered, or are covered unfairly. Faculty are overwhelmingly left-of-center, and government subsidies have driven up costs, leading to higher student debt.

These are legitimate concerns of course. However, the solution to these problem is not to abolish the institution of tenure. Tenure is not anti-liberty, and it provides important protections for those who are libertarians (and conservatives) in academia. In addition, it has some efficiency properties that explain why it has survived and might well do so even in a world where the state had no role in higher ed.

There are many potential objections to tenure. For some, the idea that a tenured professor cannot be fired strikes them as a rejection of the free market. Others believe that tenure is a way of protecting leftist faculty, even if their ideas are wrong-headed, and students don’t wish to hear them. In that way, tenure is a kind of monopoly protection for bad ideas. Finally, people across the political spectrum believe that tenure creates so-called “deadwood” faculty who, once they are tenured, no longer have to care about their teaching or research.

First, let’s dispatch a common misconception: it is not true that tenured professors cannot be fired.  Tenured professors can be fired for a variety of reasons.  What tenure does is limit what counts as a valid reason for dismissal in order to protect academic freedom. A tenured professor can be fired if caught plagiarizing, or found guilty of sexual or other forms of harassment, or convicted of violent crime. But if she can be fired for writing an article that the dean disapproves of, she cannot perform her job. And that is where tenure comes in.

Understanding why tenure is a desirable institution requires us to remember the purpose of a university. Universities are, ideally, institutional arrangements that enable scholars to engage in the activities of seeking the truth and then sharing the fruits of our scholarship with students, other scholars, and perhaps the general public.

Essential to that project is that scholars are free to seek the truth as we see it, without interference by others who have different goals. Of course, scholars must play by some very simple rules of the game: do not lie or cheat; do not distort your data or the arguments of your sources; be transparent about conflicts of interest; do not engage in personal attacks or the use of force, among others.

If this sounds familiar, that’s because the search for truth is a discovery process analogous to the market. Just as entrepreneurs in a market require the freedom to discover value where their best judgment takes them, subject to rules against force and fraud, so do scholars in a university require the freedom to discover truth where our best judgment takes us.

Tenure protects scholars like us from interference with our attempts to discover truth. Scholars cannot engage in truth-seeking if we’re facing retaliation from people who don’t like where our research leads. A university cannot be a university without robust protection of the open exchange of ideas and the freedom of each scholar to research in his or her field without intimidation.

By ruling out the possibility of firing a professor simply for the content of her beliefs, tenure ensures that the university will be what Michael Polanyi called “a republic of science,” in which truth-seeking is the highest standard.

Skeptics might argue that even if tenure were abolished, faculty still wouldn’t leave their current jobs because they would find it difficult to get hired elsewhere. But that’s not the point. The point is that we cannot do our jobs without a credible guarantee of academic freedom, and tenure is one way to secure that.

Tenure protects academic freedom in three distinct ways. First, when we engage in research and publishing, we can’t be worried that some administrator, trustee, politician, or even a student activist will find our work offensive and retaliate against us. This will have a chilling effect on our ability to seek the truth, which is our job as college professors. There are numerous examples of libertarian and conservative faculty facing just these sorts of threats, and tenure is the primary reason those threats are empty.

Second, when we construct and teach our curricula, we can’t worry that any of the usual suspects will take offense, or try to substitute their judgment for ours. Finally, when participating in institutional decision making about academic matters, we can’t be afraid to call shenanigans on various administrator-driven fads (of which there are many) that would undermine our ability to engage in research and teaching.

Although we are open to alternative institutional processes if they could be shown to adequately protect academic freedom, abolishing tenure in their absence is a dicey proposition. Absent tenure, it is libertarians and conservatives who would be the first to be persecuted, censored, or silenced.

Politically correct ideas don’t need the protection of tenure because they are popular; tenure protects ideas that are not. Abolishing it would give still more power to the activists and administrators who seek to create an ideologically uniform academy.

Given those concerns, how big is the downside to tenure? If the complaint is that some faculty’s research productivity declines after tenure, then an easy fix is to have continued productivity tied to merit raises.  Nothing about the institution of tenure precludes post-tenure reviews and merit pay. And even if some faculty slack off as publishers, so what? As long as they’re good teachers, mentors, and colleagues, it’s not necessary that all college faculty be active publishers their whole careers.

Tenure offers a beneficial set of incentives for many universities. Faculty want the protections we have outlined above, and universities want to encourage faculty to develop university-specific human capital to better serve their educational vision and the type of students they attract. Faculty don’t necessarily want to make those specific investments if the opportunity cost may be enhancing their publication record so as to make them more attractive in the job market.

Tenure is a commitment by the institution to maintain a faculty member’s employment in return for abiding by some basic rules and demonstrating during the tenure process that they have acquired that institution-specific human capital. The faculty member gets enhanced, but not total, job security, and the institution gets someone committed to its particular needs. In this way, tenure is like marriage: we bind ourselves to an arrangement with high exit costs in order to incentivize ourselves to commit to the relationship. Just as marriage is compatible with a free society, so is tenure.

There are many problems with contemporary higher education, but tenure isn’t one of them. Ending tenure would exacerbate many of those issues while also creating new ones. And in an institutional setting where the opponents of liberty hold most of the cards, getting rid of one of the most important institutions that protects dissent and the ability to seek the truth will only silence the friends of liberty.

Aeon J. Skoble is Professor of Philosophy at Bridgewater State University.

Steven Horwitz is the Charles A. Dana Professor of Economics at St. Lawrence University and the author of Hayek’s Modern Family: Classical Liberalism and the Evolution of Social Institutions. He is a member of the FEE Faculty Network.

This article was published by The Foundation for Economic Education and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which requires that credit be given to the author.

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Mises on Protectionism and Immigration – Article by Matt McCaffrey

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Categories: Economics, History, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance HatMatt McCaffrey
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The economic causes and consequences of immigration are among the most important issues facing the world today. Both pro- and anti-immigration advocates are digging in their heels, and both sides look increasingly unlikely to relent. Despite the bleak outlook, however, there is still hope for a peaceful and charitable discussion of the economics of immigration.

With that in mind, I want to consider Mises’s thoughts on the topic. For Mises, emigration and immigration are motivated by a simple economic fact: the conditions of production are not the same in all places. Natural and human conditions change constantly, and as a result, the productivity of land, labor, and capital do so as well. Therefore in order to take advantage of changing conditions and produce in the most productive ways possible, people must constantly migrate to those places where their contributions are most valuable (1919, pp. 84–85).

The desire to move from low-productivity to high-productivity regions is for Mises the fundamental explanation for the migration of peoples, and limits overpopulation (1919, p. 85). We can say a country is relatively overpopulated when the same amount of capital and labor is less productive there than in another nation. Reducing overpopulation means reducing this “disproportion” by allowing for the mobility of persons and goods (1919, p. 86). In Mises’s view, mobility was an achievement of liberalism:

The principles of freedom, which have gradually been gaining ground everywhere since the eighteenth century, gave people freedom of movement. … Now, however — as a result of a historical process of the past — the earth is divided up among nations. Each nation possesses definite territories that are inhabited exclusively or predominantly by its own members. Only a part of these territories has just that population which … it would also have under complete freedom of movement, so that neither an inflow or an outflow of people would take place. The remaining territories are settled in such a way that under complete freedom of movement they would have either to give up or to gain population. Migrations thus bring members of some nations into the territories of other nations. That gives rise to particularly characteristic conflicts between peoples. (1919, pp. 86–87)

Mises has two types of conflict in mind: economic and social. Economic conflict occurs because domestic workers resent that fact that immigration bids down their wages:

[I]n territories of immigration, immigration depresses the wage rate. That is a necessary side effect of migration of workers and not, say, as Social Democratic doctrine wants to have believed, an accidental consequence of the fact that the emigrants stem from territories of low culture and low wages. (1919, p. 87)

Social conflict can also arise. Mises emphasized, however, that in most cases immigrants are obliged to give up their national identity and adapt themselves to the culture of their new home. Only in relatively extreme cases, such as European imperialism, was it historically possible for immigrants to replace original inhabitants and their cultures (1919, p. 89). In fact, according to Mises, strong cultures need not resort to government in order to protect themselves:

A nation that believes in itself and its future, a nation that means to stress the sure feeling that its members are bound to one another not merely by accident of birth but also by the common possession of a culture that is valuable above all to each of them, would necessarily be able to remain unperturbed when it saw individual persons shift to other nations. A people conscious of its own worth would refrain from forcibly detaining those who wanted to move away and from forcibly incorporating into the national community those who were not joining it of their own free will. To let the attractive force of its own culture prove itself in free competition with other peoples — that alone is worthy of a proud nation, that alone would be true national and cultural policy. The means of power and of political rule were in no way necessary for that. (1919, pp. 103–04)

However, for Mises, cultural considerations are mainly an aside. In general, he saw conflicts over immigration as being driven mostly by protectionism rather than insurmountable differences in human beings or cultures (1935). In particular, domestic unions support government policies to restrict immigration and thus keep low-wage competition out of the labor market:

Public opinion has been led astray by the smoke-screen laid down by Marxist ideology which would have people believe that the union-organized “proletariat of all lands” have the same interests and that only entrepreneurs and capitalists are nationalistic. The hard fact of the matter — namely that the unions in all those countries which have more favorable conditions of production, relatively fewer workers and thus higher wages, seek to prevent an influx of workers from less favored lands—has been passed over in silence. (1935)

As Per Bylund notes, this is precisely what is happening in Sweden, where unions prevent the integration of immigrants so as to keep wages high. Protectionism at home also breeds protectionism abroad, as foreign nations try to cope with lower productivity through their own regulations designed to counter “unfair” competition on the world market. As economic conditions worsen in those countries where migration is prevented by the state, conflict becomes inevitable:

[People in these countries] will certainly still have just as much cause to complain as before — not over the unequal distribution of raw materials, but over the erection of migration barriers around the lands with more favorable conditions of production. And it may be that one day they will reach the conclusion that only weapons can change this unsatisfactory situation. Thus, we may face a great coalition of the lands of would-be emigrants standing in opposition to the lands that erect barricades to shut out would-be immigrants. … Without the reestablishment of freedom of migration throughout the world, there can be no lasting peace. (1935)

In this way, protectionist policies inevitably lead to conflict and the destruction of human life and welfare. In fact, Mises even hints that government policies aiming to control the movement and employment of individuals suffer from the same problems socialist central planning does (1919, p. 85). At the same time, entrepreneurship and the division of labor are the foundations of a rational social order, and neither is possible without free labor markets.

The main threat facing society then is illiberal ideology, and the only solution to this “principle of violence” is to develop a consistent liberal philosophy to serve as the basis for a peaceful society (1951, p. 49).

Mises believed that any society that rejected the values of liberalism was doomed. In an age of nationalism, protectionism, and war, it’s easy to see what he meant.

Matt McCaffrey is assistant professor of enterprise at the University of Manchester.

This article was published on Mises.org and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution United States License, which requires that credit be given to the author.

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The Fed Passes the Buck: Blame Oil and China – Article by C. Jay Engel

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Categories: Economics, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance HatC. Jay Engel
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There are a handful of themes out there on recent market action that are either totally wrong or otherwise highly misleading. For instance, regarding the recent calamity in the capital markets, one especially apparent dichotomy has presented itself as offering two choices as to what, exactly, is causing the painful turbulence.

There are some who, in a complete echo of the news headlines, are quick to point the finger at both oil and China. And yet there are others who point the finger at the Fed for “raising rates too early.” Along with the second is the observation that “inflation is totally MIA” and therefore it was ludicrous that the Fed felt the need to “raise interest rates.” Both of these tend to express anguish over the “strong dollar.”

Both of these miss the entire point, and the cause of the current trouble. For one thing, it is ridiculous to blame oil for the falling markets when the falling oil is the very thing that needs to be explained. It is wholly unsatisfactory to explain something by describing it. It works well for headlines, and for shifting the blame away from where it really belongs, but one must learn to look deeper. One cannot expect to impress anyone by explaining that the plane is crashing to the ground because it is no longer flying. What is the cause of oil’s magnificent plummet toward the bottom? That is the true question.

Moreover, the problem with the “China thesis” is that it doesn’t explain anything either. It merely observes a correlation in the markets and therefore makes it highly convenient to put the blame on “the other guys.” Let me not be misunderstood here: the Chinese and US economies are certainly influenced by each other, especially in our age of fluctuating fiat currencies. But ultimately, both China and the US — indeed the entire world — are being dragged down by past actions of their respective central banks and more specifically the illusion of prosperity via monetary and credit expansion.

Which leads to the second theme: putting the blame on the Fed for “raising rates” too early. That is, there are a good many who argue that if the Fed had never announced in December that it was going to seek minuscule increases in the Federal Funds rate, none of the recent market drops would have happened. They will say things like “inflation was never a threat, so the Fed was irresponsible to raise rates.”

Money-Supply Inflation vs. Price “Inflation”
This is confused. First, it must be constantly emphasized that the meaning of inflation, contrary to the mainstream’s application of it, is more appropriately defined an increase in the money supply, not “rising prices.” The reason why the Fed and proponents of central banking prefer the “rising prices” definition is because it obscures the chief source of our present economic condition. It rips the blame away from the Fed and toward all kinds of other “market forces” and therefore encourages the central bank to swoop in to the rescue rather than be the object of severe suspicion. Indeed, as Mises observed (page 420 of Human Action):

What many people today call inflation or deflation is no longer the great increase or decrease in the supply of money, but its inexorable consequences, the general tendency toward a rise or a fall in commodity prices and wage rates. This innovation is by no means harmless. It plays an important role in fomenting the popular tendencies toward inflationism.

First of all there is no longer any term available to signify what inflation used to signify. It is impossible to fight a policy which you cannot name. …

The second mischief is that those engaged in futile and hopeless attempts to fight the inevitable consequences of inflation — the rise in prices — are disguising their endeavors as a fight against inflation. While merely fighting symptoms, they pretend to fight the root causes of the evil. Because they do not comprehend the causal relation between the increase in the quantity of money on the one hand and the rise in prices on the other, they practicalIy make things worse.

Rising prices can be a result of inflation, but it is not itself inflation. So then, inflation was actually very high in the last decade due to the Fed’s QE and other monetary policy schemes. Second, it should never be ignored that “rising prices” can easily be found in the capital markets themselves. It doesn’t take an investment guru to observe the staggering levels to which the various market indexes have reached. Digging only a little bit farther into the surface reveals the absurd prices for the so-called highest valued stock such as Facebook, Amazon, Apple, and so on.

Where All That Money Went
More importantly, however, is the fact that much of the newly created money has not even come close to creating “widespread [consumer price] inflation” due to the actual structure of the current, post-crises banking regime. In fact, Jeffrey Snider, among others, have argued that it is literally impossible for “price inflation” to take place as a direct result of QE due to the way that money currently enters the system as reserves. “Price inflation” would need to come from the actions of individual banks themselves who are at present cautious about their consumer lending practices. Therefore the Fed is not creating “price inflation,” but something far worse: capital misallocation.

The point here is simply that those who want the interest rates to be continually suppressed so that economic activity will be encouraged, don’t even realize that this is literally the cause of bubble creations, not productive economic activity.

It used to be, under the pre-crises fractional-reserve model, that there would be loads of malinvestment as a result of banks creating new loans (new economic activity would take place, and then collapse back down). But now, money is created, not by commercial banks, but mostly by the Fed itself. Which means that, in the phraseology of David Stockman, the new money is simply sloshing around the canyons of Wall Street and pushing up equity and bond prices, rather than reaching the “real economy.”

The Bubble Only Prolongs the Problem
Thus, contrary to those blaming the Fed for causing stocks to fall by “raising rates” (which Joe Salerno reflects on here) we want to stress the fact that, in raising rates, the most that the Fed could do is unravel previously made mistakes. In other words, there is nothing praiseworthy in the first place about artificially propped up stock market levels. We have no interest in lauding the longevity of the bubble, because the bubble is the enemy of the healthy economy. The collapsing equity markets reveal where bubbles were formed and that our alleged prosperity is an illusion. And this is precisely what former Dallas Fed Chairman Richard Fisher stated in a conversation on CNBC last week when he confessed: “We frontloaded a tremendous market rally to create a wealth effect.”

And thus, the money expansion must inevitably cycle back down. Fisher himself admits: “… and an uncomfortable digestive period is likely now.” What was inflated up to the top, must deflate down to the floor. That is the only way for an economy to recover: bad credit needs to be liquidated. Unfortunately, it is painful indeed.

That is the true cause of the recent calamity. The dollar is “strengthening” by virtue of our credit system cracking at the seams. In other words, the so-called “strong dollar,” is merely one side of the pendulum swing of a volatile collapsing banking system. It shouldn’t be assumed that the dollar is becoming more sound; it is not. But if we might ever again have a sound currency, we first have to face the music.

And thus oil too, after years of being elevated up toward the heavens via the Fed’s monetary shenanigans, is experiencing its own inevitable bust. The illusion is being exposed.

Unfortunately, the Fed is a wild card, so we stay tuned to whether it will let the markets recover, or continue the perpetual cycle of money creation. My own advice for the Fed is neither to “raise rates” nor to lower them. But rather, to let go and let the market correct itself. For we have a lot of correction ahead of us.

C. Jay Engel is an investment advisor at The Sullivan Group, an independent, Austrian-School oriented, wealth management firm in northern California. He is especially interested in wealth preservation in lieu of our era of rogue Central Banking. He is an avid reader of the Austro-libertarian literature and a dedicated proponent of private property and sound money. Feel free to email C. Jay, visit his blog, and follow him on Twitter.

This article was published on Mises.org and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution United States License, which requires that credit be given to the author.

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Congress is Writing the President a Blank Check for War – Article by Ron Paul

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Categories: Politics, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance HatRon Paul
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While the Washington snowstorm dominated news coverage this week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was operating behind the scenes to rush through the Senate what may be the most massive transfer of power from the Legislative to the Executive branch in our history. The senior Senator from Kentucky is scheming, along with Sen. Lindsey Graham, to bypass normal Senate procedure to fast-track legislation to grant the president the authority to wage unlimited war for as long as he or his successors may wish.

The legislation makes the unconstitutional Iraq War authorization of 2002 look like a walk in the park. It will allow this president and future presidents to wage war against ISIS without restrictions on time, geographic scope, or the use of ground troops. It is a completely open-ended authorization for the president to use the military as he wishes for as long as he (or she) wishes. Even President Obama has expressed concern over how willing Congress is to hand him unlimited power to wage war.

President Obama has already far surpassed even his predecessor, George W. Bush, in taking the country to war without even the fig leaf of an authorization. In 2011 the president invaded Libya, overthrew its government, and oversaw the assassination of its leader, without even bothering to ask for Congressional approval. Instead of impeachment, which he deserved for the disastrous Libya invasion, Congress said nothing. House Republicans only managed to bring the subject up when they thought they might gain political points exploiting the killing of US Ambassador Chris Stevens in Benghazi.

It is becoming more clear that Washington plans to expand its war in the Middle East. Last week the media reported that the US military had taken over an air base in eastern Syria, and Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said that the US would send in the 101st Airborne Division to retake Mosul in Iraq and to attack ISIS headquarters in Raqqa, Syria. Then on Saturday, Vice President Joe Biden said that if the upcoming peace talks in Geneva are not successful, the US is prepared for a massive military intervention in Syria. Such an action would likely place the US military face to face with the Russian military, whose assistance was requested by the Syrian government. In contrast, we must remember that the US military is operating in Syria in violation of international law.

The prospects of such an escalation are not all that far-fetched. At the insistence of Saudi Arabia and with US backing, the representatives of the Syrian opposition at the Geneva peace talks will include members of the Army of Islam, which has fought with al-Qaeda in Syria. Does anyone expect these kinds of people to compromise? Isn’t al-Qaeda supposed to be our enemy?

The purpose of the Legislative branch of our government is to restrict the Executive branch’s power. The Founders understood that an all-powerful king who could wage war at will was the greatest threat to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That is why they created a people’s branch, the Congress, to prevent the emergence of an all-powerful autocrat to drag the country to endless war. Sadly, Congress is surrendering its power to declare war.

Let’s be clear: If Senate Majority Leader McConnell succeeds in passing this open-ended war authorization, the US Constitution will be all but a dead letter.

Ron Paul, MD, is a former three-time Republican candidate for U. S. President and Congressman from Texas.

This article is reprinted with permission from the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

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Panel Discussion on Hereditary Religion – Nevada Transhumanist Party

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Categories: Culture, Education, Philosophy, Politics, Transhumanism, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Nevada Transhumanist Party invited notable panelists to participate in a 2.5-hour conversation via Google Hangouts on Air, in order to discuss free thought and the prospects for children to be allowed the freedom to choose how (or whether) they will approach religion, instead of being compelled to follow the religious beliefs of their parents or the surrounding society.

This independent panel discussion was moderated by Mr. Stolyarov and occurred on Saturday, January 23, 2016, at 11 a.m. Pacific Time.

Each participant offered a unique, unfettered perspective on the subjects discussed. Panelists were asked to opine on the subject of how cultivating free thought and independent decision-making from a young age can result in children growing up to be more interested in advancing science and technology and solving the great problems of the human condition.

See the Constitution and Bylaws of the Nevada Transhumanist Party here. Of particular relevance are Sections XXIII and XXVI of the Nevada Transhumanist Party Platform:

Section XXIII: The Nevada Transhumanist Party supports the rights of children to exercise liberty in proportion to their rational faculties and capacity for autonomous judgment. In particular, the Nevada Transhumanist Party strongly opposes all forms of bullying, child abuse, and censorship of intellectual self-development by children and teenagers.

Section XXVI: The Nevada Transhumanist Party welcomes both religious and non-religious individuals who support life extension and emerging technologies. The Nevada Transhumanist Party recognizes that some religious individuals and interpretations may be receptive to technological progress and, if so, are valuable allies to the transhumanist movement. On the other hand, the Nevada Transhumanist Party is also opposed to any interpretation of a religious doctrine that results in the rejection of reason, censorship, violation of individual rights, suppression of technological advancement, and attempts to impose religious belief by force and/or by legal compulsion.

Panelists

Adam Alonzi is a writer, biotechnologist, documentary maker, futurist, inventor, programmer, and author of the novels “A Plank in Reason” and “Praying for Death: Mocking the Apocalypse”. He is an analyst for the Millennium Project, the Head Media Director for BioViva Sciences, and Editor-in-Chief of Radical Science News. Listen to his podcasts here. Read his blog here.

Troy Boyle is a comic-book artist, writer, and former president of The National Atheist Party (now the Secular Party of America), which he co-founded in March 2011. Troy has worked for Image Comics, Desperado Publishing, Caliber Press, and Boneyard Press. Some of Troy’s comic-book art is included in “Mysterious Visions Anthology”, “Ppfszt!”, “Tribute”, and “The Return of Happy the Clown”. He also provided artwork for David Gerrold’s comic “A Doctor For the Enterprise”. See his Wikipedia page here.

Roen Horn is a philosopher and lecturer on the importance of trying to live forever. He founded the Eternal Life Fan Club in 2012 to encourage fans of eternal life to start being more strategic with regard to this goal. To this end, one major focus of the club has been on life-extension techniques, everything from lengthening telomeres to avoiding risky behaviors. Currently, Roen’s work may be seen in the many memes, quotes, essays, and video blogs that he has created for those who are exploring their own thoughts on this, or who want to share and promote the same things. Like many other fans of eternal life, Roen is in love with life, and is very inspired by the world around him and wants to impart in others the same desire to discover all this world has to offer. Roen also runs the Facebook page “Gods are unproven hypothetical conjecture“.

B.J. Murphy is the Editor and Social Media Manager of Serious Wonder. He is a futurist, philosopher, activist, author and poet. B.J. is an Advisory Board Member for the NGO nonprofit Lifeboat Foundation and an Affiliate Scholar for the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies (IEET). He’s done work as a Tech Adviser for both TV and short films and is currently an Ambassador for artificial intelligence tech. company Humai.

B.J. is a co-author of The Future of Business: Critical Insights Into a Rapidly Changing World From 60 Future Thinkers, his chapter being “The Future Business of Body Shops,” which explores how 3D printing, cybernetics, and biohacking will fundamentally change not only the business industry of the future, but subsequently the human biological substrate itself.

Demian Zivkovic is the president of the Institute of Exponential Sciences (Facebook / Meetup) – an international technopositive think tank / education institute comprised of a group of transhumanism-oriented scientists, professionals, students, journalists, and entrepreneurs interested in the interdisciplinary approach to advancing exponential technologies and promoting techno-positive thought. He is also an entrepreneur and student of artificial intelligence and innovation sciences and management at the University of Utrecht.

Demian and the IES have been involved in several endeavors, such as organizing lectures on exponential sciences, interviewing experts such as Aubrey de Grey, joining several of Mr. Stolyarov’s futurism panels, and spreading Death is Wrong – Mr. Stolyarov’s illustrated children’s book on indefinite life extension – in The Netherlands.

Demian Zivkovic is a strong proponent of healthy life extension and cognitive augmentation. His interests include hyperreality, morphological freedom advocacy, postgenderism, and hypermodernism. He is currently working on his ambition of raising enough capital to make a real difference in life extension and transhumanist thought.

Panel-on-Hereditary-Religion-NTP

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Why Trump and Sanders See Losers Everywhere – Article by Steven Horwitz

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Categories: Economics, Politics, Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance HatSteven Horwitz
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Competition and the Zero-Sum Fallacy

Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, many political actors, too many intellectuals, and much of the general public share a false and destructive belief about the nature of exchange: that economic activity is something akin to a battle or a full-fledged war in which the goal is for one group to “defeat” another. We see this mentality across the political spectrum.

Zero-Sum Losers

Think of the ways Trump and others on the political right talk about international trade. The basic framework is to see other countries as enemies in competition with us. The goal of trade policy is somehow to “beat” them, because if they are “winning” by selling us a lot of stuff, we must be losing. The result is mistaken policies such as Trump’s proposed 45 percent tariff on Chinese imports.

We see the same us-and-them thinking on the left, where progressives perceive a persistent battle between capital and labor, each trying to defeat the other. For leftists, capital is always the winner and labor is always the loser — unless the government intervenes. The appropriate policy response, from this perspective, is either to limit capital’s gains or, if you’re a bit more radical, to help labor vanquish capital once and for all. One of the related beliefs on the left is that the wealth of capital comes at the expense of labor. That is, capital’s gains come from labor’s losses.

Both arguments share the underlying belief that the winners’ gains must come at the losers’ expense. Economic activity, and specifically wealth creation, is at best seen as what economists would call a “zero-sum game.”

In zero-sum games, the winners’ gains do, in fact, come at the losers’ expense. Think of a poker game where each person buys $100 worth of chips. If there are five players, there is $500 to be apportioned out. If the game ends with me having $250, then the remaining $250 will be split among the other four players. My gain of $150 comes from others’ losses. Playing the game creates winners and losers because it simply reallocates fixed wealth around the group.

Positive-Sum Winners

Market economies, however, are not zero-sum games. Consider the profits of entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs or Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg or any of thousands of lesser-known inventors who have become fabulously wealthy by providing us with products and services that we value. Their gains are not our losses. To the contrary: markets are what we call positive-sum games. Entrepreneurs make huge profits, but they can only do so by providing us with products and services we value more than what we give up to obtain them.

Every time you get something yummy from a food truck, for example, you demonstrate the mutual benefit of trade: the truck owner gets your money and you get something delicious to eat. You both gave up something you valued less than the thing you acquired. Trade is made of win.

So when people complain that the United States is “losing to China,” presumably because we have a trade deficit with them, they are falling for the zero-sum fallacy. A trade deficit simply means that we are buying more of their goods and services than they are of ours. This doesn’t mean “they” are winning. First, there’s no “they.” The winners are individual Chinese sellers and the people they employ on one side, and individual US consumers on the other. Portraying trade as a contest between countries is deceptive: trade is always among specific individuals and groups.

Second, both sides are winning. Chinese sellers get US dollars and US consumers get products they like at low prices, which frees up income to buy other goods and services, creating jobs in other sectors of the US economy. Those US dollars, it is worth noting, make their way back to the US as Chinese firms invest in US assets, funding everything from private-sector construction to a small part of our government debt. The dollars we spend on Chinese goods do not just disappear; they come back as investments in US capital goods.

It would be more accurate to see what’s happening here as Chinese sellers arriving at the US border with boatloads of cheap goods for us to buy. Under what logic are we made worse off by the “gift” of lower priced goods?

Misunderstanding “Competition”

I suspect that much of the zero-sum thinking we see with trade is based on a misplaced application of the idea of “competition.” Competition in the market does share a number of features with the sorts of competition that people are more familiar with: sports, games, and war.

All are what F.A. Hayek called “discovery procedures.” We play games as a way to discover which individual or team is best. There’s no way to know who the best hockey team is without the discovery process of the Stanley Cup playoffs. We can’t know the answer just by looking at statistics, as every major upset in sports history demonstrates. In markets, we discover who is producing the best product at the best price by letting sellers and buyers compete. One might say the same about war.

Despite these similarities, however, there’s a critical difference: athletic competition and war are zero-sum and negative-sum games, respectively. In sports, one team wins and the other loses, or there’s a tie. Both of those outcomes are zero-sum. War destroys human and physical capital, and even when one country “wins,” everyone is worse off, making it negative-sum.

Market competition, by contrast, is positive-sum. When sellers compete with other sellers to keep prices low, it’s true that some sellers will win and others will lose, but in that process, all of the buyers win, too, not to mention the other people who will receive more income because the buyers who are paying less for the original product can now buy their products. Wealth is not redistributed, as in a poker game, and there is not an offsetting loser for each winner, as in sports. Instead, additional wealth is created. That makes it a positive-sum game.

Seeing the Bigger Picture

CEOs are used to seeing this process from the narrow perspective of their firms, which often do lose in competition with other firms, leading them to believe the same principles apply between countries, or for the economy as a whole. This may explain why Donald Trump thinks he can “defeat” China in the same way he might outcompete another firm. It also explains why Sanders can believe that we are in a competition to preserve jobs. By focusing on the growth in manufacturing jobs in China, Sanders sees trade as “stealing” US jobs rather than being part of the larger competitive process responsible for the overall growth in US jobs and wealth.

Yes, markets share much with other forms of competition, but the key difference is the one that matters. Markets are positive-sum games, and they are not about one country, one group, or one class defeating another. Competition and trade are the way we produce cooperation and mutual benefit. Failing to understand this important difference easily opens the door to demagogues on both the right and the left.

Steven Horwitz is the Charles A. Dana Professor of Economics at St. Lawrence University and the author of Hayek’s Modern Family: Classical Liberalism and the Evolution of Social Institutions. He is a member of the FEE Faculty Network.

This article was published by The Foundation for Economic Education and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which requires that credit be given to the author.

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When Peace Breaks Out With Iran… – Article by Ron Paul

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Categories: Politics, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance HatRon Paul
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This has been the most dramatic week in US/Iranian relations since 1979.

Last weekend ten US Navy personnel were caught in Iranian waters, as the Pentagon kept changing its story on how they got there. It could have been a disaster for President Obama’s big gamble on diplomacy over conflict with Iran. But after several rounds of telephone diplomacy between Secretary of State John Kerry and his Iranian counterpart Javad Zarif, the Iranian leadership – which we are told by the neocons is too irrational to even talk to – did a most rational thing: weighing the costs and benefits they decided it made more sense not to belabor the question of what an armed US Naval vessel was doing just miles from an Iranian military base. Instead of escalating, the Iranian government fed the sailors and sent them back to their base in Bahrain.

Then on Saturday, the Iranians released four Iranian-Americans from prison, including Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian. On the US side, seven Iranians held in US prisons, including six who were dual citizens, were granted clemency. The seven were in prison for seeking to trade with Iran in violation of the decades-old US economic sanctions.

This mutual release came just hours before the United Nations certified that Iran had met its obligations under the nuclear treaty signed last summer and that, accordingly, US and international sanctions would be lifted against the country.

How did the “irrational” Iranians celebrate being allowed back into the international community? They immediately announced a massive purchase of more than 100 passenger planes from the European Airbus company, and that they would also purchase spare parts from Seattle-based Boeing. Additionally, US oil executives have been in Tehran negotiating trade deals to be finalized as soon as it is legal to do so. The jobs created by this peaceful trade will be beneficial to all parties concerned. The only jobs that should be lost are those of the Washington advocates of re-introducing sanctions on Iran.

Events this week have dealt a harsh blow to Washington’s neocons, who for decades have been warning against any engagement with Iran. These true isolationists were determined that only regime change and a puppet government in Tehran could produce peaceful relations between the US and Iran. Instead, engagement has worked to the benefit of the US and Iran.

Even though they are proven wrong, however, we should not expect the neocons to apologize or even pause to reflect on their failed ideology. Instead, they will continue to call for new sanctions on any pretext. They even found a way to complain about the release of the US sailors – they should have never been confronted in the first place even if they were in Iranian waters. And they even found a way to complain about the return of the four Iranian-Americans to their families and loved ones – the US should have never negotiated with the Iranians to coordinate the release of prisoners, they grumbled. It was a show of weakness to negotiate! Tell that to the families on both sides who can now enjoy the company of their loved ones once again!

I have often said that the neocons’ greatest fear is for peace to break out. Their well-paid jobs are dependent on conflict, sanctions, and pre-emptive war. They grow wealthy on conflict, which only drains our economy. Let’s hope that this new opening with Iran will allow many other productive Americans to grow wealthy through trade and business ties. Let’s hope many new productive jobs will be created on both sides. Peace is prosperous!

Ron Paul, MD, is a former three-time Republican candidate for U. S. President and Congressman from Texas.

This article is reprinted with permission from the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

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Now If Someone Could Just Invent Actual Reality Goggles – Article by Bradley Doucet

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Categories: Philosophy, Politics, Tags: , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance HatBradley Doucet
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It seems like virtual reality goggles are the hottest tech gadget at the moment. I mean, they’ve been around for a while, but I guess they’re really coming into their own. But allow me to put on my grumpy-old-man hat for a second and say that what the world could really use in 2016 and beyond are some actual reality goggles. You know, so that wearers could see reality as it actually is, instead of as they imagine or wish it to be.

The value of such a tool would be incalculable. Of course, if you were wearing a pair and looking at another pair, then you would instantly know the true value of this invention, measured in dollars, or ounces of gold if you prefer, or even (leaving out the middleman altogether) in utils of happiness. But for now, I think we can safely assume that it would be worth a lot.

For instance, say you were reading an opinion piece arguing that the minimum wage should be bumped up to $15 an hour. A little display in the upper right corner of your actual reality goggles might pop up, with a tiny graph illustrating how, as long as they are allowed to fluctuate freely, prices are determined by supply and demand. Raise the price of labour artificially with a legislated price floor, though, and the amount supplied will become greater than the amount demanded. In other words, while some workers will benefit from higher wages, others will become unemployed. This illustration might be followed by suggestions of better ways to help the less fortunate.

Or say you were watching a certain Nobel Peace Prize winner condemn the politics of fear in his State of the Union address. Your goggles might remind you that politicians of all stripes use fear to manipulate you, whether it’s fear of immigrants or fear of markets, fear of recreational drugs or fear of guns (unless held by police, soldiers, or politicians’ bodyguards). They might give you a quick lesson on how realistic different fears are, how statistically likely or unlikely they are to come true, and whether you might be exaggerating the dangers posed by immigrants, markets, drugs, or guns, while underplaying their potential benefits.

Or again, imagine that you’re wearing these goggles while seeing an ad for a really big lottery. Your goggles might point out to you that your chances of winning are infinitesimal, that you’re more likely to get hit by a bus or a lightning bolt, and that a $10-million jackpot and a $1.6-billion jackpot would be almost identically life-changing. And if they caught you nodding your head when you saw that Internet meme proposing that $1.6 billion was enough to wipe out poverty in a nation of 300 million, it would administer a mild electrical shock to your temples and send you back to primary school.

Of course, the real question is whether anyone would want to buy such a useful gadget. Do we want to see the world as it really is, or are we content to misperceive it? Are we happier believing that we are already wise and well-intentioned, or do we want to learn what kinds of actions would actually be of benefit to ourselves, our loved ones, and the wider world? As I don’t have a pair of actual reality goggles on hand to tell me the answer, your guess is as good as mine.

Bradley Doucet is a writer living in Montreal. He has studied philosophy and economics, and is currently completing a novel on the pursuit of happiness. He also is QL’s English Editor.

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The Good Old Days of Poverty and Filth – Article by Sarah Skwire

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Categories: Economics, History, Tags: , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance HatSarah Skwire
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A Cultural Historian Decries Profit and Progress

Standing in a luxury hotel, cultural historian Luc Sante daydreams about the good old days of homeless alcoholics lighting trash fires in the streets of Manhattan’s Skid Row.

“Over there, next to the flophouse hotel,” Sante reminisced to the Guardian, “is where Nan Goldin lived and worked. Forty years ago there were still lots of vacant lofts here that had been burlesque and vaudeville theatres during the era when storefronts were saloons. There were bars solely inhabited by bums, their heads down on the counter. At night they’d be lined up outside the missions and Salvation Army hostels — veterans from World War Two, from the Korean War, from the Vietnam War. At night, trash fires would be lit in oil drums.”

The French have an elegant phrase for what Sante is doing. They call it nostalgie de la boue, “longing for the mud,” which means a romantic yearning for a primitive or degraded behavior or condition.

The phrase, which was coined by a French dramatist in 1855, has been around for a while and usefully describes the very real way in which the wealthier and healthier inhabitants of modernity look back at the past through a misty, romantic haze.

While it annoys historians when we put a soft-focus filter on history, it doesn’t generally do a lot of damage. We don’t need every medieval romance novel to remind us that the heroine’s breath didn’t smell like cool mint Listerine. It’s probably for the best that the historical re-enactors at Colonial Williamsburg don’t actually use authentic colonial medical remedies for their health problems, and visiting tourists are certainly grateful for modern plumbing and street sanitation. Even the BBC’s determinedly authentic 1900 House had a phone and modern fire protection in case of emergencies.

Any lover of history will occasionally find him or herself dreaming about attending a performance in the pit at Shakespeare’s Globe, or roughing it in the saloons and shacks of a gold rush town. Some of us may even have recently spent an entranced hour or two playing with the Victoria and Albert Museum’s “Design-a-Wig” website. But a good student of history will acknowledge that the Globe was undoubtedly loud, smelly, crowded, and occasionally even dangerous for playgoers. And the rugged romance of the gold rush town is offset by the knowledge that you were probably far more likely to die of gangrene or cholera than you were to strike it even moderately rich. And those glorious 18th-century wigs? Heavy, hot, smelly, and prone to harboring bugs.

But a real case of nostalgie de la boue goes further than the soft-focus filter that ignores the unpleasantness of the past. Rather than ignoring the historical “mud,” nostalgie de la boue actively longs for that kind of unpleasantness and insists that without it, life is less authentic, less meaningful, and altogether worse.

And that is where Luc Sante seems to be. While he is quite correct to note that the ribaldry of Paris has long been a desirable antidote to the humorless Puritanism of American cities, Sante goes entirely off the rails when he insists that his praise for the “materially poor but … imaginatively free and creatively rich” inhabitants of Paris is not a romantic vision.

According to Sante, people ask him, “How can you be promoting the life of the poor in the 19th century when so many of them didn’t eat every day?”

Sante concedes, “Well yeah, it’s bad, but is it really any worse than the situation today when everybody’s fed but you have an incredible percentage of New Yorkers who live in the shelter system – including people who have regular jobs?”

The horrors of the shelter system aside, there’s a great deal to be said for a world where more and more people are fed better every year, and my guess is that a great number of the imaginatively free Parisians that Sante dreams of would have enjoyed the occasional extra baguette. It is possible to value historical creativity and intellectual independence without also having to praise historical dietary deficits. (And it is worth noting, should Sante happen to read this, that the feeding of all those extra people is not due entirely, or even primarily, to “the shelter system.” It’s the market economy and all that goes with it that is making the world better fed every year.)

Sante continues his nostalgia for the mud when he argues, “In the Paris I write about, people ran businesses to make a living, not to make a profit. Cafes, bars: they’re no longer public institutions or part of a community. There’s no possibility for eccentric self-determination amongst the shopkeepers.”

The distinction Sante draws between “making a living” and “making a profit” is not particularly clear to me. It suggests, perhaps, an unstated assumption that there is such a thing as an agreed-upon “correct” amount of profit for a business or businessperson to make — beyond which all profit becomes filthy lucre. Possibly he is making an equally indefensible assumption that businesspeople in the past weren’t interested in being as successful as they could be and that it is only our postmodern cynicism that has unleashed the drive for profit.

Maybe Sante means to say that unlike today’s businesses, the businesses of years ago “made a living” by helping to create a community among their customers rather than just “making a profit” by selling stuff. I think that thousands of today’s small business owners and their Facebook pages, Etsy stores, and farmer’s market stands would beg to differ with his assessment of their importance to their communities.

There’s not necessarily always a problem with nostalgie de la boue. It’s how we got Peaky Blinders, the renewed interest in home canning, restaurants that serve bone marrow, and the great revival of folk music spurred by O Brother Where Art Thou?, after all.

Sante, though, has so much mud in his eyes that he is blind to the tangible and important progress that has been made in human wealth and welfare. His mucky nostalgia leads him to claim that our increasing wealth — which has given us more health, more discretionary income, more food, and more free time — is a danger more pernicious than terrorism. “Money, for me, may not immediately kill people in the way terrorism does, but it does certainly change the fabric of daily life in much deeper and more insidious ways.”

That is a statement of such offensive ignorance that it could only be made by a man standing high above the former Skid Row, looking down through glass, with room service and maid service only a phone call away. I wonder if the men and women in the photographs that Sante treasures would have said the same?

Sarah Skwire is the poetry editor of the Freeman and a senior fellow at Liberty Fund, Inc. She is a poet and author of the writing textbook Writing with a Thesis. She is a member of the FEE Faculty Network.

This article was published by The Foundation for Economic Education and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which requires that credit be given to the author.

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