Some Links

by Don Boudreaux on June 23, 2011

in Books, Economics, Environment, Hayek, History, Immigration, Man of System, Wal-Mart, Weblogs

Bryan Caplan has been most appropriately and eloquently singing the praises of Jose Antonio Vargas, an undocumented immigrant to America.  (And I love Bryan’s apt term “meritocracy without borders.”)  (I add also that Bryan and I are both undocumented immigrants; neither Bryan nor I personally received prior official approval from the government of the state of Virginia to move here – me from Louisiana via New York, Bryan from California via New Jersey.)

George Selgin ponders the advantages and disadvantages of formal (here meaning, mathematical) modeling in economics.  Here’s a key paragraph:

The point is that both mathematical economics and the verbal kind have their place; neither is intrinsically better than the other; and each can serve as a useful test of the other. A formal model can reveal deficiencies or omissions in a verbal argument; but a few well-chosen words are just as capable of exposing an absurd argument or false assumption lurking in some seemingly innocent equation. The claim that “it takes a model to beat a model” would be just plain goofy were it not so effectively employed by mathematical economists anxious to insulate their work from criticisms by persons who know less math—but perhaps more economics—than they do.

Division of Labour‘s Art Carden reviews Nelson Lichtenstein’s book on Wal-Mart.

Lots of excellent stuff in the Summer 2011 issue of PERC Reports.

Papering over what Arnold Kling might call patterns of unsustainable specialization and trade is not good policy – a truth that Robert Lenzner reminds us that Hayek pointed out.  (HT Matt Cheney)

My Canadian friend Gerry Nicholls has a great new website: FreedomForum.

Here’s Independent Institute President David Theroux on Nicholas Kristof’s infatuation with organizing society much as the military is organized.

My GMU colleague (over in the School of Public Policy) Jack High reflects on the role that the rise of big business in late 19th- and early 20th-century America played in the development of economic theory.

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vikingvista June 23, 2011 at 2:19 pm

Today’s high 91 degF, 43% humidity, 97% chance of DG storm.

DG Lesvic June 23, 2011 at 4:20 pm

I’ll try not to disappoint you.

John Dewey June 23, 2011 at 2:30 pm

I’m pretty certain that my wife’s ancestors were among the first illegal immigrants in Texas. If you follow the link, you enjoy the added bonus of viewing my ugly mug.

MWG June 23, 2011 at 2:47 pm


I enjoyed the read.

No comment on whether or not you’re attractive, but I will say that you don’t look at all as I had imagined. Of course, people would probably be shocked to know I’m a 12 yr old girl of Chinese descent.

Dan H June 23, 2011 at 2:43 pm

Reading that Nicholas Kristof column gave me chills, if for no other reason that hardcore Statists are now out in the open. They don’t even hide behind the label of “progressive” any more. That man is pure unadulterated evil.

DG Lesvic June 23, 2011 at 4:06 pm

I don’t have to read Prof. Selgin’s assertion in favor of mathmatical economics to know that he doesn’t back it up with any examples. But I’ll read it anyway, and, if I’m wrong, promise never to “heckle” him any more.

Now, how’s that, George?

DG Lesvic June 23, 2011 at 4:12 pm

OK, I read it, and, surprise!, no examples.

Prediction. There won’t be any.

I have been making this same prediction for years now in my disputes with the “mathematical economists,” and it hasn’t proven false yet.

This will be no exception. Talk of mathematics in economics just a lot of hot air!

Don Boudreaux June 23, 2011 at 4:13 pm

Your comment suggests that you did NOT read George’s essay.

DG Lesvic June 23, 2011 at 4:19 pm

I most certainly did read it, and saw no example of mathematical economics in it, a lot of talk about it, but no actual mathematical economics.

And you didn’t see any either, because it wasn’t there.

tdp June 23, 2011 at 4:39 pm

Our immigration system is completely ass-over-elbows. We need to put skilled workers at the front of the waiting list, expand the number of people we let in, and fix the huge lag time in approval of paperwork.

On an unrelated note, who else wishes there was an Amendment limiting the number of words in a Congressional Bill?

Go Galt June 23, 2011 at 6:39 pm

What is wrong with “libertarians”?

They can be so right about limited government, private property, and economic freedom — and so dreadfully wrong about the civilizational prerequisites for these wonderful philosophical ideas. Among these prerequisites are an intelligent, peaceful, educated, and hardworking population. Traits that are in short supply (albeit not entirely absent) among non-white and non-asian peoples.

Yet libertarians constantly proclaim how we need to throw our doors wide open to relentless Third World immigration. That’s the reality of the contemporary immigration situation. Our nation is not being flooded by millions of Europeans, Australians, Japanese, etc. Rather, we have being populated by Mexicans, Caribbeans, Africans, and Muslims. Do any of you libertarians have the intellectual and moral courage to oppose this kind of immigration? Or do you think it is “racist” to raise the issue at all?

The world you (and I) believe in so fervently does not exist in any Third World country. Nowhere on earth. When America becomes majority-minority (see the recent US Census Bureau report), the world you advocate for — already severely constricted by the welfare-regulatory state — no longer will even be possible.

What do libertarians and liberal statists have in common? An unthinking and unyielding commitment to racial and ethnic multiculturalism, which spells the death of their own way of life.

vikingvista June 23, 2011 at 6:46 pm

Wow. How clueless.

MWG June 24, 2011 at 2:15 am

I’ll let you handle this one. I don’t have the patience tonight.

Dan H June 24, 2011 at 3:18 pm

Amazing how someone with the alias of “Go Galt” would violate one of Ayn Rand’s most basic teachings: Never collectivize people. Never put people into groups. The individual should never be punsihed for the sins of their “group”.

You are a mental midget who gives conservatives and libertarians a bad name.

No matter what the Cowboy Congressman say, the vast (VAST!) majority of illegal immigrants (illegal because the law is screwed up) do not take a dime from taxpayers. A Hispanic family lives across the hall from me in my apartment complex. They don’t take a dime from the government.

My fiance is an immigrant. She came over to this country with no job and no place to live and only $75 in her pocket. She has made it now, and she never took a dime from the government either. She won’t even go to a free clinic. She purchased in individual health insurance policy after finding out her work wouldn’t provide health insurance.

Collectivizing people, whether it’s collectivizing their property and production or collectivizing their sins, is the greatest evil.

Curious June 23, 2011 at 5:17 pm

Is there a relation between the argument presented in the last link and the full-cost pricing controversy?

George Selgin June 23, 2011 at 6:13 pm

For someone who pretends to know some economics, DG Lesvic is awfully fond of corner solutions: optimal amount of money growth = 0; optimal amount of mathematics in economics = 0.

Of course, corner solutions aren’t always wrong. I have my own favorite, concerning the optimal amount of of blog commentary from certain self-styled Austrian economists!

DG Lesvic June 23, 2011 at 6:14 pm

Apparently George still wants to be heckled.

indianajim June 23, 2011 at 7:27 pm

The optimal amount of mathematics is often not zero; to discuss some issues with some audiences or individuals the optimal amount is certainly zero. But the Gordon hypothesis, which you have heard me lecture about and provided evidence on, is a thing that you should never forget: As the mathematical complexity of a theory about economic behavior rises, the likelihood of that theory leading to any operational propositions falls. See the summer issue of Social Science History for my recent (co-authored) article on trends in usage of complex mathematics in economics and its operational yield; the article is entitled: “Lotta Lemmata: A Sour Harvest.”

DG Lesvic June 23, 2011 at 7:58 pm

Mathematics serves only one purpose in economics.

As a barrier to entry, and license to practise economics.

indianajim June 23, 2011 at 9:50 pm

Literacy, mathematical or linguistic, are both barriers; intellectual capability, sight, hearing ability are barriers. Barriers abound not just to economics but to any competitive activity in this world of scarcity.

Don Boudreaux June 23, 2011 at 10:06 pm


vikingvista June 23, 2011 at 10:15 pm

Outstanding retort.

DG Lesvic June 24, 2011 at 1:09 am

You people must be desperate for retorts.

Nihilism is not a retort but a dodge.

The question is, how to overcome the barriers to economics, through reasoning or mathematics, thinking or counting.

You can count to the end of the Federal deficit, and you won’t know any more about economics than when you started.

The only way to learn anything about is through reasoning, and, first overcoming the obstacles to it, especially the nihilism and obscurantism that I’ve seen so much of today.

Remember my prediction that we wouldn’t see any examples of mathematical economics.

Was I right or was I right?

Let’s have you rapier-like retort to that.

vikingvista June 24, 2011 at 1:36 am

Yeah. Mathematics equals counting, and is void of reasoning. You would do so much better if you simply refrained from ever talking about mathematics again.

DG Lesvic June 24, 2011 at 3:00 am


What is mathematics other than an abridged form of counting?

And, where oh where is that one example of mathematics in economics that I have been asking for?

Your silence on that is deafening.

Stop already! My ears can’t stand it.

vikingvista June 24, 2011 at 4:16 am

Oh, I see. Mathematics isn’t even as much as counting. It’s an abridged form of counting.

DG, you don’t know what mathematics is. Your incessant anti-mathematics anti-graphs anti-any-kind-of-symbolic-communication-other-than-printed-English diatribes only reveal an incurably crippled capacity to think about abstractions. Please stop talking about mathematics. You are making people cringe.

DG Lesvic June 24, 2011 at 10:23 am


You’re an honest man, aren’t you.

OK, so give me an honest answer.

I predicted that there would be no example, not from Selgin, not from Boudreaux, not from the whole state of Indiana.

Was I right or was I right?

DG Lesvic June 24, 2011 at 10:29 am

And let’s not forget the other question:

what is mathematics other than an abridged form of counting?

I don’t need you to tell me how ignorant I am. I have a wife for that. I need you to answer my questions.

indianajim June 24, 2011 at 11:36 am

Alfred Marshall put it this way: “It is obvious that there is no room in economics for long trains of deductive reasoning; no economist, not even Ricardo, attempted them. It may indeed appear at first sight that the contrary is suggested by the frequent use of mathematical formulae in economic studies. But on investigation it will be found that this suggestion is illusory, except perhaps when a pure mathematician uses economic hypotheses for the purpose of mathematical diversions; for then his concern is to show the potentialities of mathematical methods on the supposition that material appropriate to their use had been supplied by economic study. He takes no technical responsibility for the material, and is often unaware how inadequate the material is to bear the strains of his powerful machinery. But a training in mathematics is helpful by giving command over a marvelously terse and exact language for expressing clearly some general relations and some short processes of economic reasoning; which can indeed be expressed in ordinary language, but not with equal sharpness of outline. And, what is of far greater importance, experience in handling physical problems by mathematical methods gives a grasp, that cannot be obtained equally well in any other way, of the mutual interaction of economic changes.” (Marshall 1920, 644, emphasis added)

vikingvista June 24, 2011 at 12:10 pm


That is a truly great quote from 1920. Thanks. More evidence that forgetting the last 80 years of economics would constitute an advancement.

DG Lesvic June 24, 2011 at 12:14 pm

Ind Jim,

So, Marshall wrote:

“mathematics is helpful…for expressing…economic reasoning which can indeed be expressed in ordinary language, but not with equal sharpness of outline.”

Surely Marshall gave us an example of that.

And he furthermore wrote,

“…handling physical problems by mathematical methods gives a grasp, that cannot be obtained equally well in any other way.”

And he surely have gave us an example of that.

Won’t you share them with us?

I’m still waiting for you to tell me what mathematics is other than an abridged form of counting, and, of course, still waiting for an example of mathematical economics.

Just one little example.

I did predict that none would be forthcoming, didn’t I.

And I am still right, aren’t I?

When are you going to make a liar of me?

All the derision and references to hoary authority are no substitute for facing the challenge I issued right at the start. You still haven’t faced it. And I still predict that you never will. And you know how I know that? Because I know that you can’t, that there’s nothing to mathematical economics, that it’s a fraud.

And, by the way, Vike, your response just above makes me wonder which side you’re on, now.

DG Lesvic June 24, 2011 at 3:05 pm


Don’t feel too bad. I’ve been having this same debate for years, and the result has always been the same.

I ask for an example, and get everything but.

So you’re no worse than all the rest.

So just go on milking those GMU sacred cows, math, Pub Choice, and Experimental Fun and Games, and the rest of us will take care of the economics.

yet another Dave June 24, 2011 at 5:19 pm

What is mathematics other than an abridged form of counting?

Short answer: a lot – only a tiny fraction of mathematics could be described thusly. Viking is right – you should stop talking about mathematics because you obviously don’t have even the most basic understanding of it. I don’t have time to do your research for you. Why don’t you start here:

DG Lesvic June 24, 2011 at 5:52 pm

Yet another Dave is yet another advocate of mathematical economics who cannot come up with even one example of it.

I read through most of the link he offered, and still couldn’t find anything in its description of mathematics other than counting. I may have missed something. Any time he or anyone else wants to tell me what it is, I’ll be glad to learn.

But in the meantime it doesn’t really do any good to make claims you’re not prepared to back up.

That’s just more hot air, and doesn’t impress me.

yet another Dave June 24, 2011 at 7:06 pm

Poor little DG, your reading comprehension seems to be suffering badly. I said absolutely nothing about mathematical economics, nor have I made any claims to back up. I merely pointed out the obvious: you understand nothing about mathematics. That doesn’t stop you from expounding ad nauseum on the subject, but it should.

…still couldn’t find anything in its description of mathematics other than counting. I may have missed something.

Clearly you missed something (unless you just didn’t read it).

I’ll be glad to learn.

I’ve yet to see any evidence to support this – you seem to be stuck in transmit mode with an endless tape loop for a message.

DG Lesvic June 24, 2011 at 7:43 pm

Yet another Doofus,

When you’re ready to back up your statements, with anything more than hot air, I’ll be interested in them.

In the meantime, thanx for nothing.

indianajim June 24, 2011 at 9:57 pm

DG, I’ve got lots of examples where the use of mathematics made an economic argument easier for me to understand. If you mean by mathematics, addition and subtraction, try looking at Coase’s paper on Social Cost. If you mean by mathematics geometry, take a look at Alchain and Allen’s text book explanation of exchange, transactions costs, and middlemen; great stuff that! Another great paper made clearer by use of geometry is by Richard McKenzie on the minimum wage. Another great paper made clearer by geometry is by Harry Markowitz correcting the Friedman Savage Utility theory geometry. If you mean by mathematics calculus, take a look at Walter Oi’s paper on Labor as a Quasi-fixed factor. Marshall was right in my view in his claim that the terse language of mathematics (in many and varied forms) lends precision to economize on people’s time (and ink) in grasping an economic hypothesis. The list of examples is so long in my mind that I consider it laughable that you think there is no case where mathematics ever made any economic argument clearer and more persuavive to anyone. Seriously, you must be joking. :)

DG Lesvic June 24, 2011 at 11:53 pm

Indiana James

From The Artificial Profession of Economics at

Since mathematics is simply an abridged form of counting, mathematical in place of logical economics is simply counting in place of thinking. But there is nothing to count, for the passing data of economics is irrelevant to its eternal truths. There is nothing to calculate, for there are constant relations between cause and effect, but not between their magnitudes. A rise of 10% in the price of potatoes followed by a fall of 8% in the demand is a unique historical event, not a constant numerical relation, a datum of history, not a law of economics.

There is no mathematics because there are no equations in economics. If you and I exchange my A for your B, it is only because I value your B more than my A and you value my A more than your B. If we both valued A and B equally, there would be no exchange, for nothing could be gained by it.

“As there exist constant relations between…mechanical elements…it becomes possible to use equations for the solution of…technological problems…No such constant relations exist, however, between economic elements. The equations” of “mathematical economics” are “useless…mental gymnastics.” Mises

The mathematical economists can never give us any examples of constant relations between magnitudes and calculation with actual numbers. They give us xs and ys, but they are no substitute for actual numbers, for you can calculate by means of the numbers but not the symbols. There are ordinal numbers, first, second, third, but they are no substitute for cardinal numbers, one, two, three, for you can calculate by means of the cardinal but not the ordinal numbers.

They may illustrate a point with cardinal numbers, but that is not the same as proving it with them. The illustrations are merely incidental to the proof, and economics is defined by what is essential, not incidental to it, distinguishing, not common, by its logic itself, not their illustrations.

They tell us that there is a non-numerical as well as numerical mathematics, which is to deprive it of its meaning, and admit that you don’t have any. The fact that the formulas are literary or symbolic rather than numerical doesn’t mean that there is a non-numerical mathematics. For there are still no applications of the formulas and actual mathematical operations without actual numbers.

Finally they’ll tell you that mathematics is a better means of communication than English, and, with a perfectly straight face, in English rather than mathematics.

The foreign language of mathematics is simply a means to the trade unionization of economics, a barrier to entry, and license to practice economics.

That is the dirty little secret of the profession.

“It is a long time…since there were economists willing to say the following…

In 1932, Dr. Broadus Mitchell, a professor of political economy at Johns Hopkins University said in his, ‘Preface to Economics’…1932…p. 96:

‘I hate graphs, anyhow. They are the only pictures economics books have in them, and they are mighty poor substitutes for comic strips. And the letters and symbols with which they are generally encumbered get me all mixed up. You see things like this: ‘Drawing a straight line from the point K on the vertical axis OY, to the point of intersection P, and dropping a line from P to the horizontal axis OX, we clearly perceive that the quantity demanded, etc., etc.’. .
I clearly perceive nothing except that the author has failed to realize that I have something better to do than to look up his old big letters and little letters and big italics and little italics. As though this were not enough, he often uses not only the ‘line DD’, but ‘the line D’D',’ and ‘D”D”.’ The last is beyond human endurance.’

Not only did people like Samuelson and, still, Lucas consider mathematics to be the only appropriate language of economics. During the time when Samuelson was a student, the tone was being set by others. In a lecture delivered in Japan in 1931, Joseph Schumpeter argued for not only the logical superiority of mathematical forms of reasoning in economics, but that economics would have become a real science when the ordinary, informed and interested reader could no longer understand what the economist was saying.
‘The severance from every day forms of thought is perfect (with the full mathematization of economics), and the general reader is made to realize that the thing is beyond his reach,’ Schumpeter said.” Richard Ebeling

Burying economics within mathematics is just a part of the overall assault upon traditional convention and authority, upon language, logic, law, morality, schools, churches, and even the family, upon anything standing between the self-appointed masters of our new educational and social order and those they would dominate.

The problem isn’t just mathematics, but the whole verbal fortress of academic economics. The student blames himself for not penetrating it. Surely the professor knows his stuff, and all the other students seem to get it. But my money is on the child who cannot see the emperor’s beautiful new clothes. If he couldn’t follow a chain of reasoning, I’d wager that some of the links were missing, if he was confused, because the teacher was confused, if he couldn’t understand what he was reading, because it lacked the simplicity and clarity of real understanding, and the best thinking and writing in economics.

Whatever its branches, the root of the problem is mathematics. But even the schools most steeped in it cannot start out with it. It is the last refuge of an artificial authority, running and hiding from logic, and, the prestige of its adepts, a demonstration once more that the best way to become an “expert” is by saying something with absolutely no meaning.

“What they are doing is vain playing with mathematical symbols, a pastime not suited to convey any knowledge.”


“…how do you mathematically model…
entrepreneurship?” Ebeling

How could you calculate the intangibles of human action?

“The…marketplace is permeated by uncertainty, and…there is no way that uncertainty can be compressed into determinate mathematical models.” Rothbard

“Ortega y Gasset wrote a famous essay on the expulsion of man from art; today we might well add a study on the expulsion of man from economics…the economic process is treated as an objective and mechanical movement…predicted by…mathematical and statistical methods. The economy takes on the appearance of a giant pumping engine, and…the science…a sort of engineering science. Equations proliferate, while the theory of prices falls into oblivion…When one tries to read an economic journal nowadays…one wonders whether one has not…picked up a journal of chemistry or hydraulics.” Wilhelm Röpke

Economics is fundamentally the same as in the days of Smith and Ricardo, and mathematization not a maturing but a blurring of it.

Beware academic empire building and boondoggling, the “new methods and frontiers,” the looser definitions and thinking, the dilution, digression, and refuges from real challenges, the opiates of the economists, the fads and fancies that “divert the mind from the study of the real problems.” Mises

Beware the pretexts for getting rid of a critic, the left-handed monkey-wrenches you’re supposed to go chasing after, the worthless books you’re supposed to read.

Beware the old Internet Runaround: “Just follow the links, the Yellow Brick Road of the Internet, and you will see the light.” That is a fool’s mission, for a light not worth casting is hardly worth chasing after. It is not your obligation to follow someone else’s links, but his to make you want to do so. And when, without so much as a glimmer of his promised light, he tells you where to go, tell him, and let him fume at your obstinacy, but not get rid of you so easily.


You say that you have lots of examples, but you still won’t give us one. All you do is tell us to get lost.

If you want to pick out your best example, and present it to us here, I will read it.

But I’m not going to go away just because you tell me to.

Do you think we can’t see your elephant walking across white sheets with muddy feet?

Who do you think you’re fooling.

DG Lesvic June 25, 2011 at 8:13 am


Of course you can furnishes references to examples, places where I might find your left handed monkey wrench if I were dumb enough to go looking for it. But that wasn’t the challenge. I didn’t challenge you to present references. I challenged you to present an example. Just one. And you still haven’t done that. Of course you could provide references. I didn’t say you couldn’t, and would certainly have said that you could and likely would. I said you couldn’t provide an example. And one not worth the bother presenting here is not worth the bother of chasing after.

Here’s a question just for you, Route 66.

When I predicted that no one would furnish an example, here, not on the Moon, was I right or was I right?

Be an Indiana Pacer, not an LA Dodger.

Answer the question.


indianajim June 25, 2011 at 8:34 am

DG, See links I posted on a new threads below; my group posting of several links seems to have been rejected by the systems at the Cafe.

jorod June 23, 2011 at 8:57 pm

When the rest of the world starts paying taxes to the U.S., we can start talking about unrestricted immigration.

As for hard working people, socialism and the welfare state are killers. People from outside the US who immigrated here were usually hard working. However, our welfare system has cured them of that.

dsylexic June 24, 2011 at 1:29 am

what the heck,do you think is the dollar standard/reserve currency? if not a tax on all countries by the usa?

MWG June 24, 2011 at 2:08 am

“When the rest of the world starts paying taxes to the U.S., we can start talking about unrestricted immigration.”

The same goes for goods and services, right?

vikingvista June 24, 2011 at 4:22 am

So you would endorse violently preventing me from inviting my friends from other lands to join me in my home, unless they were made to suffer the same victimization as you? The Stockholm Syndrome is strong in you. You have joined your victimizers, and insist upon the victimization of others.

Lionel from France June 24, 2011 at 10:31 am

George Selgin is right but “The claim that “it doesn’t take a model to beat a model” would be just plain goofy were it not so effectively employed by verbal economists anxious to insulate their work from criticisms by persons who know more math—but perhaps less economics—than they do.”

George Selgin June 24, 2011 at 5:38 pm

Lionel, I’m sure that you mean to be clever. But for the life of me I can’t figure out what you are about. I certainly never claimed that “it takes a verbal argument to beat a verbal argument”! I regard all such nostrums as equally vapid and obnoxious.

In any case the statement with doesn’t obviously cannot have any insulating value, for verbal economists or otherwise.

Perhaps if you write it in an equation you will see what I mean.

DG Lesvic June 24, 2011 at 7:52 pm

Prof. Selgin,

You wrote,

“Perhaps if you write it in an equation you will see what I mean.”

Please if you do so I will see what you mean about mathematical economics.

The proof, as they say, is in the pudding. I keep hearing about this wonderful pudding, but haven’t yet been offered even a taste of it.

I hunger for the learning you have to offer.

DG Lesvic June 24, 2011 at 7:53 pm


I wrote Please if you do so

I meant Perhaps if you do so

indianajim June 25, 2011 at 8:27 am


Links to McKenzie analysis of Min wg:

part 1:
part 2:

indianajim June 25, 2011 at 8:29 am
indianajim June 25, 2011 at 8:31 am
indianajim June 25, 2011 at 8:56 am


OK, so, I’ve now not only provided reference, but now have spoon fed you a number of links. I think it is not too much to ask you to click on the link. But given you insistence upon being spoon fed, I want you to know that I absolutely WILL NOT deliver paper copies at your door step on a silver platter. :)

DG Lesvic June 25, 2011 at 12:01 pm


Here, again, from The Artificial Profession

“Beware the old Internet Runaround: “Just follow the links, the Yellow Brick Road of the Internet, and you will see the light.” That is a fool’s mission, for a light not worth casting is hardly worth chasing after. It is not your obligation to follow someone else’s links, but his to make you want to do so. And when, without so much as a glimmer of his promised light, he tells you where to go, tell him, and let him fume at your obstinacy, but not get rid of you so easily.”

So you still haven’t given us an example, just the Old Internet Runaround.

And, as I also said before, “a light not worth casting isn’t worth chasing after.”

If it isn’t worth your bother to bring either of your examples to us, why should I think it was worth mine to go chasing after them.

Look above. I didn’t give you any links to follow. I gave you an extensive argument against mathematical economics. And you haven’t been able to attack it at a single point. And I’m supposed to assume that you know more than I, and that I should follow your lead.

I have a better idea. You follow mine.

Read Human Action by Ludwig von Mises.

And, in the meantime, why don’t you try telling me where you mathematical economists get the data for your calculations from. Mathematics implies calculation, calculation must have data, so where do you get the data from.

Can you give me an example of data in ecconomics from which we could derive a law of economics, a universal, eternal, and immutable truth of economics?


You won’t even try. You’ll just give me another bum steer, and claim victory if I don’t follow the lead of a man who hasn’t given me the slightest indication that he knows what he’s talking about.

Again, .the question in bold letters.

When I predicted that none of you phony baloneys would ever give me an actual example, not a lead to one, but the example itself, was I right or was I right?

Since you don’t have the you know what to answer the question, I’ll answer it for you.

As usual, I was right. And I must say, it’s getting monotonous.

DG Lesvic June 25, 2011 at 12:10 pm

Oh, Hell, why don’t I just save us all any further trouble.

Congratulations, Jim, you met the challenge, forced DG to back down, exposed him for the phony he is, and won a smashing and decisivie victory for advanced, terse and precise, mathematical economics.

indianajim June 25, 2011 at 2:18 pm

I feel sorry for you DG if you haven’t carefully studied the links I provided. Come on; have an open mind will ya?

McKenzie’s stuff on the minimum wage is the best analysis I’ve EVER seen for anticipating the range and magnitude of changes that can be reasonably anticipated after the imposition of, or ratcheting up of, a minimum wage.

Oi provides an insightful analysis of layoff patterns during recessions (and an empirical investigation accompanying). Oi, asked at a conference where he was presenting another of his papers “isn’t this paper like your Quasi-fixed cost paper?”; to which Oi responded, “Of course, how many great ideas to you think any economist has?” If you don’t know about Walter Oi and his works, you have missed a lot.

Markowitz’s paper on the utility of wealth is another really interesting paper. It was written by Markowitz while a graduate student under Friedman, critiquing the famous Friedman&Savage paper. It reformulates the FS paper to correct sever its limitations.

indianajim June 25, 2011 at 2:22 pm

By summarizing what you can find by opening the link that I have provided, perhaps you will become curious?? Still there is no free lunch, no silver platter, no home deliveries. :)

DG Lesvic June 25, 2011 at 10:14 pm


While presumably trying to give me reasons for reading your recommended essays, you have merely confirmed my suspicions and given me reasons for not reading them.

You wrote,

“McKenzie’s the best…for anticipating the…magnitude of changes…after the imposition of, or ratcheting up of, a minimum wage.”

When you get to P 678 of Human Action, you will learn that “In the field of human action…quantitative cognition is obtained by understanding with regard to which full agreement between men cannot be reached. Praxeology, economics and catallactics are of no use for the settlement of such dissentions concerning quantitative issues.”

You referred to “an empirical investigation.”

When you reach P 351, you will learn that “Experience of history is always experience of complex phenomena. It can never convey knowledge of the kind the experimenter abstracts from a laboratory experiment. Statistics is a method for the presentation of historical facts concerning prices and other relevant data of human action. It is not economics and cannot produce economic theorems and theories. The statistics of prices is economic history. The insight that, ceteris paribus, an increase in demand must result in an increase in prices is not derived from experience. Nobody ever was or ever will be in a apposition to observe a change in one of the market data ceteris paribus.”

And your other observations give no evidence of a mathematical economics, nor a reason for me to expect anything of the sort.

You have ignored everything I said and implored me to have an open mind.

Show me that your own has opened up and you may begin to earn my respect and confidence.

DG Lesvic June 25, 2011 at 11:46 pm


Where I wrote, apposition, I just meant position

DG Lesvic June 25, 2011 at 11:49 pm

and where I wrote type I meant typo

If I ever write anything that makes sense, you’ll know that was a typo too.

indianajim June 26, 2011 at 10:26 am

How about we use a means-ends framework. If the end is perfect predictions, no theoretical means is worth considering. So what? All theories are abstractions that “abstract” away from certain aspects of reality as a means to achieving the end of being able to better anticipate some aspects of the unfolding uncertain future. All the links to videos and articles that I posted are, as I explained in the overview of each I provided, means to such ends. Now that I have put in in exactly the language that you most prefer, are you beginning to follow me? BTW, you will begin to lose my respect and confidence if you don’t set up and stop making excuses for why you won’t consider broadening your perspectives beyond Mises and Rothbard.

indianajim June 25, 2011 at 1:39 pm

“Read Human Action by Ludwig von Mises.”

I’ve read about a third of it; it is a thoroughly good book so far. I’ve gotten away from it for about 6 months now; I’m not retired, I have a wife and family, etc. I will get back to reading Human Action; maybe I’ll do like Michelle Bachmann and read it on the beach. :)

DG Lesvic June 25, 2011 at 2:18 pm

By the way, Jim, if mathematics makes everything so much more precise, terser, and clearer, why do you need someone else to express it for you?

Anyways, hope you stick with Human Action.

That would settle every argument that I have here, including the one above with Don and Jonathon.

My only problem here is with the people who know everything but the first things about economics.

You get that from Mises and Rothbard, but, with Rothbard, especially, only with a very critical eye, for why he was right on target on so much he was also off on much else.

I don’t know of anything on which Mises misleads us, other than the fact that he wasn’t able to carry economics as far as it could go.

But, as I’ve said, if others of us have seen further than he, it was only because we had his giant shoulders to stand upon, and the rest of us are still just midgets next to him.

Dan J June 25, 2011 at 2:21 pm

Everyone stands on the shoulders of another.

DG Lesvic June 26, 2011 at 11:44 am



You’ve won the argument, and demonstrated beyond the slightest doubt the superiority of the mathematical method in economics, and the fact that people such as I oppose it only because of our inability in it.

And I hope that satisfies you.

Steve Turetzky June 27, 2011 at 9:51 pm

“What is mathematics other than an abridged form of counting?” Once I was taught that economics is essentially the study of the allocation of scarce resources to unlimited wants, it was mathematics that most easily allowed me to discuss more theory with fellow students and knowledgeable academics in a relatively common language. Was it necessary to employ mathematics? Probably not. But I’m pretty convinced (not unwaveringly so but I’ve heard naught but what I consider empty arguments against it) that it made things easier. Outside of this affinity of mine for some level of mathematics to help model the world, I believe I identify myself more with the Austrian School than any other school of economic thought. That makes me wonder whether the anti-quantitative bent of the School is really all that essential a component. Far more important to me is the emphasis on the moral and functional superiority of the market over statism.

Steve Turetzky June 27, 2011 at 10:00 pm

“Bryan and I are both undocumented immigrants; neither Bryan nor I personally received prior official approval from the government of the state of Virginia to move here – me from Louisiana via New York, Bryan from California via New Jersey.” For those of me not readily able to parse this, could you explain further? My problem here is seeing why you believe (assuming I understand you correctly, not a certain thing!) that moving from one state to another is analogous to moving from outside the US into the US — US states assert no right to control their borders over immigration by residents of other US states whereas the US does assert such a right (however wrong we may agree to be the manner in and the degree to which the US seeks to enforce that assertion).

Don Boudreaux June 27, 2011 at 10:11 pm

Political borders are (and ought to be treated as being) both economically and ethically irrelevant.

Steve Turetzky June 29, 2011 at 11:47 pm

True but I still don’t see the relevance of the argument., unless it’s that it follows without further argument that because US states don’t seek to enforce immigration limits against citizens of other US states, nations shouldn’t. Not exactly an “ah-hah!” moment for me…. :)

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