Some Non-Covid Links

by Don Boudreaux on April 11, 2022

in Books, Economics, Education, Financial Markets, History, Immigration, Prices, Seen and Unseen, The Profit Motive

GMU Econ alum Alexander William Salter likes Matthew Hennessey’s new book, The Visible Hand. A slice:

Chapter one dispels the fog of obscurantism that surrounds economics. Hennessey is surely correct that economists make economics too complicated. At its core, it’s all about tradeoffs. “You can’t have everything you want. That’s the heart of economics.” Understanding tradeoffs is crucial to appreciating Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” metaphor. Under capitalism, man’s struggle against scarcity results in a magnificent economic bounty: “The poorest American in 2022 is hundreds of times wealthier in real terms than the wealthiest Americans in 1776. He has greater access to essentials, like good food and quality housing, and enjoys a life expectancy that is essentially double what it was at the founding of the country.” Hennessey explains foundational economic concepts while opening readers’ minds to the Great Enrichment. Not bad for the opening chapter!

The second chapter is a crash course in trade theory. Exchange is central to economics, as Hennessey recognizes. “Voluntary and mutually beneficial exchange” is how markets “satisfy people’s needs and allocate resources fairly, efficiently, and without coercion.” Readers also learn about the universality of economizing behavior. Our decisions “are often motivated by economic concerns–not by money necessarily, but by an intuitive understanding that resources are scarce, trade-offs are necessary, and choices matter.” Just so.

Pierre Lemieux celebrates markets and market-set prices and wages.

James Pethokoukis applauds America’s venture-capital industry.

Phil Magness and Amelia Janaskie – writing at EJW – set the record straight about Ludwig von Mises and immigration. Here’s the abstract:

The purpose of peer review is to examine the integrity of research, verifying its quality and reliability. This article discusses a failure in basic peer-review mechanisms at the journal Contemporary European History (CEH). In early 2020, the first of the present authors discovered evidence of quotation editing and misrepresentation of original sources in an article about the economist Ludwig von Mises by historian Quinn Slobodian. After the editors of refused multiple attempts to seek corrections, it came to light that similar problems had been flagged during the referee process for Slobodian’s article. Like the correction request after publication, the referee report was ignored by the journal’s editors. This article chronicles the discovery of the misrepresentations, as well as unsuccessful attempts to obtain a correction to the edited quotations from and its publisher Cambridge University Press.

And here’s Bryan Caplan on Magness & Janaskie on Mises and immigration.

Grace Hall decries the virulent spread in medical schools of lethal-to-the-mind-and-soul wokism. (HT George Leef)

Katherine Mangu-Ward ponders cancellation of Putin and of Russians. A slice:

The World Taekwondo organization’s decision to withdraw the honorary 9th dan black belt it conferred on Putin in 2013, for instance, is extremely defensible, narrowly targeted, and frankly hilarious. Less clearly worth it is the accompanying edict not to “organise or recognise Taekwondo events in Russia and Belarus.”

On the other end of the spectrum are the clearly indefensible actions of the vandals who shattered windows and tore down a flag outside of Russia House, a restaurant across the street from Reason‘s D.C. office that isn’t even owned by Russians. But surely if the same restaurant declared all proceeds would be going to support the Russian war effort, it would be laudable for a hungry customer to walk 15 minutes to the Ukrainian-owned D Light Cafe instead?

In both of these examples, the stakes are relatively low, which makes the moral math easier. But in many other cases the stakes are very high indeed, even as the gray area is vast and murky.

The Wall Street Journal‘s Barton Swaim talks with, and writes about, playwright David Mamet. Three slices:

An informed observer of present-day America might reasonably conclude that our own decade—at least among the educated and advantaged classes—is far more imbued with the spirit of conformism than the ’50s were. Corporate managers and military leaders parrot nostrums about diversity, inclusion and sustainability that few of them believe. Museums and orchestras studiously avoid programming that might offend ideologues. Reporters and producers in the mainstream press seize on stories—or ignore them—solely because that’s what everybody else in the press is doing. Large majorities in wealthy cities dutifully comply with public-health restrictions they know to be largely ineffective, mainly because refusing to do so would invite the ire of friends and neighbors complying with those restrictions for the same reason.

…..

Not that he expects anybody among our institutional leaders to admit they were wrong, on Covid or crime or anything else. He mentions Stacy Schiff’s “Witches,” a 2015 history of the Salem trials. “The delusion ran for about 18 months,” Mr. Mamet says, summarizing the book, “and after that, since they couldn’t explain it, they just forgot it. It never happened.” The phenomenon by which authorities and experts make a hash of things and then move on as if nothing happened is one attentive readers will recognize. Mr. Mamet offers some encouragement. “The thing about history,” he says, “is not that people change. People don’t change. But people die. So a new generation comes up and says, ‘Yeah, I get it, that’s stupid, I’m not gonna do that.’”

…..

Mr. Mamet announced a turn to the political right in a 2008 essay for the Village Voice, “Why I Am No Longer a ‘Brain-Dead Liberal,’” but he was a black sheep long before then. His 1992 play “Oleanna,” for instance, features a male academic whose life and career are ruined by a calculating female student’s spurious accusation of sexual harassment.

Was there a moment when he decided to break ranks altogether? “I met a guy at my synagogue here maybe 20 years ago,” he says. “He was talking about Milton Friedman and [Friedrich] Hayek and Thomas Sowell. It didn’t make any sense to me, but I was impressed by his attitude. He wasn’t strident or arrogant. It was that guy’s attitude that impressed me.”

The man lent Mr. Mamet some books by these authors. “I said to him, ‘Good, I’ll read them. But,’ I said, ‘when my friends come over, I’ll have to hide them.’ He said: ‘I don’t.’ And that changed my life. What was I saying? Did I really think I had to hide books from my friends? How sick was I? It was a Road to Damascus moment.”

Add a Comment    Share Share    Print    Email

Previous post:

Next post: