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Great books are the repository of knowledge and experience. Liberty Fund seeks to preserve the wisdom and learning of the ages and to strengthen our understanding and appreciation of individual liberty and responsibility.
For over four decades, Liberty Fund has made available some of the finest books in history, politics, philosophy, law, education, and economics—books of enduring value that have helped to shape ideas and events in man’s quest for liberty, order, and justice.
The Virtues of Capitalism lays the foundation of his views and theories of capitalism and its alternatives. The first part, Corrigible Capitalism; Incorrigible Socialism, was first published in 1980. It explains why, Seldon believes, “private enterprise is imperfect but redeemable,” but the “state economy promises the earth, and ends in coercion to conceal its incurable failure.”
These resources are designed to further Liberty Fund’s educational activities. They include classic works in the tradition of limited government, as well as lively current discussions of how classical-liberal principles apply in today’s world.
Edmund Burke held that some social institutions and social goods should always remain beyond the reach of supply and demand.
Editor’s Note: As you know, we’re big fans of book lists, like the ones we always read at Five Books. Last month, we’ve posted two of our own so far (here and here), and you can certainly expect more!
A ridiculously biased list, in no particular order.
There is no faster way to shut down the brain of literature geeks than to ask for their “favorite book.” It’s only slightly less dangerous to ask for a short list of favorites. Acknowledging that fact, and knowing that the mere making of a list means that at the moment of publication I will remember the many many works I didn’t include, here is a ridiculously biased list, in no particular order, of my five favorite novels with economic themes.
A recent article points to partisanship as the explanation for several decisions by the Roberts Court, but is unpersuasive and indeed unfair.
Entrepreneur and Anesthesiologist Keith Smith of the Surgery Center of Oklahoma talks with host Russ Roberts about what it’s like to run a surgery center that posts prices on the internet and that does not take insurance. Along the way, he discusses the distortions in the market for health care and how a real market […]
Of the order in which Societies are by nature recommended to our Beneficence
What makes sovereign debt sustainable, and for how long can this situation continue?
Frackers to Pump Less Oil and Gas To Push Up Prices
This is the headline on the print version of a Wall Street Journal news story in the November 12 edition. Fortunately, in the electronic version, it is now a more-accurate “Frackers Prepare to Pull Back, Exacerbating a Slowdown in U.S. Oil Growth.”
Why the problem with the first headline? Because it says that frackers’ motivation in pumping less oil and gas is to push up prices. But for that to be their motivation, they would have to have a lot of market power as a group and be able to collude. The first condition could hold; there’s no way the second condition does. There are too many players for any collusive agreement to hold up. The agreement would fall prey to the prisoners’ dilemma: each individual member would have an incentive to “cheat” on any agreement to cut production.
To their credit, the news writers, Rebecca Elliott and Christopher M. Matthews, don’t make that mistake in the article. Instead they explain the lower fracking by the standard economist’s explanation: moving down a supply curve in response to a lower price. They write:
Among them [shale producers that are cutting back] is Pittsburgh-based EQT, the country’s largest natural-gas producer, which plans to spend roughly 400 million less next year and said last week its production could decline slightly. Chief Executive Toby Rice said spending could fall an additional 30% after 2020, citing lower gas prices.
The Best of the OLL No. 29: Norman Barry, “Hayek’s Theory of Spontaneous Order II: Legal Orders” (1982) (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2013).
The earth’s natural resources are finite, which means that if we use them continuously, we will eventually exhaust them. This basic observation is undeniable. But another way of looking at the issue is far more relevant to assessing people’s well-being. Our exhaustible and unreproducible natural resources, if measured in terms of their prospective contribution to human welfare, can actually increase year after year, perhaps never coming anywhere near exhaustion. How can this be? The answer lies in the fact that the effective stocks of natural resources are continually expanded by the same technological developments that have fueled the extraordinary growth in living standards since the Industrial Revolution.
Innovation has increased the productivity of natural resources (e.g., increasing the gasoline mileage of cars). Innovation also increases the recycling of resources and reduces waste in their extraction and processing. And innovation affects the prospective output of natural resources (e.g., the coal still underneath the ground). If a scientific breakthrough in a given year increases the prospective output of the unused stocks of a resource by an amount greater than the reduction (via resources actually used up) in that year, then, in terms of human economic welfare, the stock of that resource will be larger at the end of the year than at the beginning. Of course, the remaining physical amount of the resource must continually decline,!---- but it need never be exhausted completely, and its effective quantity can rise for the indefinite future. The exhaustion of a particular resource, though not impossible, is also not inevitable.
Greg Weiner discusses the difference between the political constitution and the judicial constitution.
In The Anti-capitalistic Mentality, the respected economist Ludwig von Mises plainly explains the causes of the irrational fear and hatred many intellectuals and others feel for capitalism. In five concise chapters, he traces the causation of the misunderstandings and resultant fears that cause resistance to economic development and social change. He enumerates and rebuts the economic arguments against and the psychological and social objections to economic freedom in the form of capitalism. Written during the heyday of twentieth-century socialism, this work provides the reader with lucid and compelling insights into human reactions to capitalism.
The Theory of Moral Sentiments; or, An Essay towards an Analysis of the Principles by which Men naturally judge concerning the Conduct and Character, first of their Neighbours, and afterwards of themselves. To which is added, A Dissertation on the Origins of Languages. New Edition. With a biographical and critical Memoir of the Author, by Dugald Stewart (London: Henry G. Bohn, 1853).
The term ‘money’ has multiple meanings. In everyday speech, people might say, “Bill Gates has a lot of money”. In that case, they are using in the term interchangeably with wealth. In other cases, people might talk about how the Fed creates (base) money, or how commercial banks create (deposit) money. That’s an entirely different concept, as bank deposits are not net wealth. I have no idea whether or not Bill Gates has a lot of cash or money in bank accounts, but he certainly has a lot of wealth.
When people talk about the Federal government spending “money”, they are implicitly referring to money as a real asset, real cash balances. When they talk about the Fed creating money, they are discussing a nominal asset.
All of this is useful background to a recent FT article by Thomas Hale, discussing “magic money trees”:
In a wide-ranging attack on the economics profession published in the New York Review of Books, David Graeber, the anthropologist, paid particularly close attention to the concept of money.
Robert Frank on Inequality, podcast on EconTalk. November 15, 2010
Robert Frank of Cornell University talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about inequality. Is there a role for public policy in mitigating income inequality? Is such intervention justified or effective? The conversation delves into both the philosophical and empirical evidence behind differing answers to these questions. Ultimately, Frank argues for a steeply rising tax rate on consumption that would reduce disparities in consumption. This is a lively back-and-forth about a very timely topic.
Bruce Meyer on the Middle Class, Poverty, and Inequality, podcast on EconTalk. October 3, 2011
Bruce Meyer of the University of Chicago talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the middle class, poverty, and inequality. Many economists and pundits argue that the middle class has made little or no economic progress over the last 30 years, that poverty rates are stagnant or rising, and that inequality has increased dramatically. Meyer, drawing on his research over the last ten years, argues that these conclusions are either false or misleading. He argues that standard measures of economic progress and inequality are based on faulty inflation data or a misplaced focus on pre-tax income instead of post-tax income or consumption.
We in the West need to draw on the best anti-totalitarian wisdom, as never before.
In this month’s Liberty Matters online discussion we discuss the Leveller pamphlets and the emergent political ideas found there. In the Lead Essay, Stephen Davies of the Institute of Economic Affairs argues that were both contributions to and commentaries upon specific political moments and disputes, and also speech acts that saw the creation of a political vocabulary and argument or theory. It is this dual quality that explains both the importance of the Levellers at the time and subsequently, and the persistent interest in them. The commentators are Iain Hampsher-Monk, professor of political theory at the University of Exeter; David Wootton, Anniversary Professor of History at the University of York; Dr. Rachel Foxley, associate professor of early modern history at the University of Reading.
The Thirteen Principal Upanishads, translated from the Sanskrit with an outline of the philosophy of the Upanishads and an annotated bibliography, by Robert Ernest Hume (Oxford University Press, 1921).