Ideas Matter

I’ve recently taken up reading The Austrian Economists, and I must say that I’ve been most pleased.  Peter Boettke in particular has a demonstrated knack for perceiving and communicating useful insights.  Following up on that, I would point anyone that stumbles across this, here, as I was so directed by Dr. Boettke.  There is a war of ideas going on here in America that encompasses the one in Iraq and will have far reaching consequences for all of us.  Consider this one more attempt to strengenthen the current volley from the advocates of reason.



With Friends Like These…

I usually really enjoy reading Megan McArdle’s blog.  I find her to be one of the most consistently interesting and entertaining writers out there.  I also appreciate her customary libertarian perspective, which is why in recent days I’ve been very disappointed by the manner in which she has endorsed the bevy of government schemes being hurled out of Washington in the hopes of averting a recession.

It’s really not so much that she thinks the government needs to intervene to save the market.  I surely disagree with her, but reasonable have been known to do so from time to time.  What troubles me most is the intensity of her rhetoric, see here and here.  It’s not often that you’ll find me celebrating the wisdom of FDR, but do think he had some sage advice to offer when he counseled the nation that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”  He may have overstated the case when he called it the “only thing,” it turned out the Nazis were a pretty dangerous threat after all, but given the calamaties we’ve already precipitated by acting too hastily over the last decade, taking a step back to assess the distance across the gorge one more time before we leap hardly seems like the worst thing we could be doing right now.

I can only hope that in time things will be resolved sensibly and with only modest pain and that Megan can offer a brief apology for her moment of hysteria before returning to more fascinating topics.


The Bailout is an Affront to Liberty

Like most people, I have been intensely interested in the developments surrounding the proposal put forward by Treasury Secretary Paulson to spend up to $700 billion of taxpayer money in an effort to prop up elements of the financial industry.  I find the situation very disturbing, so much so that I wish I just ignore it and focus on something else like success of my alma mater’s football team (Mizzou-rah!).  Unfortunately, the stakes are so high and have such terrifying implications that looking the other way, no matter how powerless we may feel, seems almost morally wrong.  Allowing the biggest government intervention in the American economy since the Great Depression to pass without raising a protest would leave me feeling both cowardly and impotent.  I may have to deal with the realization that most of the contours of my life are shaped by forces beyond my control, but acceptance does not necessitate resignation.  To all those in government who would impose their will upon the innocent citizens of the United States, I say “Stop!  You may have the power, but you have neither the right to dispose of our resources according to your whim, nor the competence to improve upon the allocation we would choose ourselves.”

Others have dealt with the economic impracticality of the schemes currently being considered better than I can.  In particular, I would recommend Arnold Kling for illuminating the confusion and foolishness upon which the government’s plans are founded.  For my own part, the most troubling part of this whole debacle has been the blatant disregard for the rule of law demonstrated by the executive branch and condoned by the legislature.  Are there even words strong enough to properly condemn the audacity, arrogance, and autocratic intentions on display in the actual text of the Paulson plan?

“Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency. The Secretary is authorized to take such actions as the Secretary deems necessary to carry out the authorities in this act without regard to any other provision of law regarding public contracts”

I do not begrude Bill Gates or Warren Buffet one cent of the $50 billion they have earned, and if they were so productive as to grow their wealth by an order of magnitude I would be far more impressed than concerned; but no one should be put in charge of $700 billion dollars without even the specter of oversight.  No one should dare even request such authority, yet such a request has been made and seems all but certain to be granted.

This does not bode well for the prospects of liberty in America.  I asked Lily this morning if she thought our children would someday live in a world with more or less freedom than the one we have known.  She seemed hopeful that they might, and given the amazing technological advances that we have witnessed over the past few decades, I agree with her that there is still room for such hope.  Yet I feel the horizons have grown more obscure and the air thicker for all of us still “yearning to breathe free.”  We are presently confronted with a deep valley that we can see clearly separating us from our course of future prosperity, but the government of the United States has offered to plunge us into an oppressive fog that they assure us holds a shortcut they can lead us through if only we fasten ourselves securely to the lead of their inspired intuitions.  I for one will have to be dragged into this miasma kicking and screaming.