Sunday, 3 July 2011

Opinion Changes

"... maybe Austrian school ideas are starting to spread in such a way that even those ignorant of its details are starting to feign appreciation... If so, then this all strikes me as being reminiscent of that time in late 1950s when across Western Europe and parts of North America it suddenly became fashionable for’ leaders’, ‘intellectuals’ and ‘opinion formers’ to ‘know’ and be able to comment on Socialism and Marxism."
That's Tim Evans, formerly of the IEA and now chief executive officer of the Cobden Centre, interpreting the improbable nodding of heads at a recent gathering of central European political big-wigs in Croatia. Compare with Justin Ptak's noticing of a comment ("U.S. $ will soon be worthless if the Fed keeps printing money!") by Lindsay Lohan, who is apparently some sort of all-round actress/singer/etc celebrity tart in the States.

Meanwhile, if the popularization of Austrian economics really is beginning to go mainstream, then it can't be harmed by the news that even Alan Greenspan himself is now publicly critizing the debt monetization policies of Ben Bernanke. The irony of course is that Bernanke was merely continuing the low interest rate policy of Greenspan - albeit on a greater order of magnitude.

One possible advantage that Austrian arguments have in terms of popular appeal is that they can explain the (ongoing) financial and economic crisis in simple, non-mathematical terms reducible to a pop-sentence. The same cannot be said for Benanke's basically Keynesian arguments. Against that though, it must be remembered that Austrian explanations have a counterbalancing weakness in terms of popular appeal which is that they require the repudiation of the now long embedded anti-semitic myths popularized by the Left.


  1. I think what happened is reality. I'd actually say they were mugged by reality.

    Keynesianism is just a hop, jump and skip away from Socialism. Well, we've all seen how that works out when people stop having kids and govts get way over their head in debt by splurging cash and "saving" businesses. When a young person's dream is to get a govt job, you know without a doubt your country is Fubar. The Kelo decision was a bfd and shocked a lot of people.

    Another thing is people can learn about it now. No one talked about the different economic thoughts outside of capitalism and socialism. Now we have the internet and information is for the moment free to be spread.

    Lindsay Lohan has issues, but when someone of her nature comes out against QE, then a lot of people who wouldn't think anything about it take notice. Much like monkey hierarchies with cocaine.

  2. "Well, we've all seen how that works out when people stop having kids and govts get way over their head in debt by splurging cash and "saving" businesses."

    Except for... just about everyone on the Left! They've all get their heads buried: poke them with a stick and they just mutter something about the "Jooos".

    "When a young person's dream is to get a govt job, you know without a doubt your country is Fubar."

    The company I work for went through a lot of admin staff turnover in its first couple of years. I remember one secretary who asked to pose in a photo with me because she was leaving - when I asked her why, she said she was going to take a government job because... higher salary, good benefits and unimpeachable job security. Apparently she was acting on the advice of her father and it was a good thing for him he wasn't there at the time because he would have lost some serious face with me around: I'd have run him out the building like he was a thief.

    "The Kelo decision was a bfd and shocked a lot of people."

    Kelo was 2005, which was when I first came to Taiwan. By that time I already knew enough from online debating forums and libertarian blogs not to be surprised. It merely confirmed for me the political supremacy in the U.S. of cannibalist principles of economic organization over capitalist principles. When it happened in Taiwan in Miaoli back in 2009, I wasn't surprised either but I was surprised then at Turton's blase reaction. Since then, nothing has surprised me about Turton.

    "Now we have the internet and information is for the moment free to be spread."

    Yes. Still, I'm thankful to the IEA and the Mises people for putting a lot of old texts up online for free. I finally read Mises' "Theory Of Money & Credit" back in 2008 after reading about it in economics debates for a fairly long time before that. I used to spend my lunch times sitting in a Starbucks in Kaohsiung reading and annotating the thing. That was possible because I was able to just take a USB into a printing shop, hand them some petty cash and come back to pick it up in an hour. I did the same thing with a bunch of Hayek texts and Mises' "Human Action". Right now though, I'm reading something on the history of Chinese literature in the 20th century - which is a fair sized book I picked up for a pittance in a closing down sale on George IV bridge in Edinburgh. It's been sitting on my bookpile for the past six years.

  3. I always start out with "IT"S THE JOOOOSSSS!" whenever having a serious conversation with a leftie, cuts out one of their common to-end-all arguments methods.

    Have you ever seen the number of people who apply for each govt job? It's amazing. The teacher test has a pass rate of <1%. Schools are actually using a lot more part timers now. I imagine it's for cost reasons.

    Kelo caused a lot of red states to pass laws banning the same thing from happening in their states by clarifying what eminent domain laws could be used for. In Missouri, they just used the blight trick to destroy middle class neighborhoods. Govt official says area is blighted, people must sell out cheap, new mall goes up, rinse and repeat. Blue states are/were still trying to figure out what the big deal was/is.

    I still need to read Mises and Hayek. It's basically a time thing now.

    20th century Chinese literature? I think outside of "Officialdom Unmasked" and "The Execution of Mayor Yin". I'd rather stick a nail in my eye from what I have read. It just comes across as so much palpable angst that it gets grating for me.

  4. Oh I'm not reading the literature itself! I'm reading about it - its importance was that it was one of the major conduits for radical political ideas from the last days of the Qing dynasty onwards. Someone like Liang Qichao (梁啟超) for instance seems to have been instrumental in "preparing the ground" for acceptance of Sun Yat-sen's idea of a nationalist revolution. The book is a bit too sprawling in range though for my purposes - I can see I need to get some good biographies of some of the key political figures to get the most out of it.

    On Mises: "The Theory Of Money & Credit" was written with the most scholarly tone since it was written and published in Vienna in 1912. The fourth part added in the second edition (published after WW2) is markedly desperate in tone. This more polemical tone continues in "Human Action" (1949) for understandable reasons - but it's still a great book. Of the two, I prefer "The Theory Of Money & Credit" as it is more narrowly focused and sustained my interest longer. It was in this book that Mises did all the intellectual work for the Austrian theory of the trade cycle. I think it was also the first time that the term "fiduciary media" was employed to refer collectively to the various forms of money substitutes.

    My favourite Hayek text is his "Denationalization Of Money". Where Mises was arguing for a return to a gold standard in the supplementary fourth part to the second edition of his "The Theory Of Money & Credit", Hayek was arguing for a repeal of legal tender laws and the establishment of competition in the issuance of commodity based currencies. It's brilliant - though with the advent of something like Bitcoin, somewhat out of date.


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