I recently read an article written by former Fed economist Richard Alford over at Naked Capitalism. He focused his criticism on the zero interest rate policy (ZIRP) currently deployed by the Fed under the watch of Chairman Ben Bernanke. There has been increasing noise surrounding ZIRP and more mainstream suggestions that interest rates were too low for too long between 2001 and 2006.
Alford’s article gets into quite a bit of detail, but it is worth a read if you enjoy geeky economics stuff. Mainstream macroeconomists believe that the economy can be explained and managed with mathematical formulas. In fact, the formulas are really quite simple and do not capture the dynamics of the millions of “irrational” actors therein. One favorite is the Taylor rule which suggests a target for the Fed funds rate - the key interest rate set by the central bank. Alford points to a Taylor op-ed which states that rates were too low from 2002-2005.
Bernanke has suggested that rates necessarily had to be low (and must stay low) to fend off the threat of deflation. When analyzing Bernanke’s definition of deflation, however, Alford suggests deflation was never a threat. Thus, interest rates were lower than they “should have been” for no good reason.
Oxford University Press, which published Jennifer Burns’ biography of Ayn Rand, has made available a short excerpt of the book:
“I am coming back to life,” Rand announced as the Nathaniel Branden Institute entered its second year of existence. Watching Nathan’s lectures fill, Rand began to believe she might yet make an impact on the culture. Roused from her despair, she began once more to write. In 1961 she published her first work of nonfiction, For the New Intellectual, and in 1962 launched her own monthly periodical, The Objectivist Newsletter. Over the course of the decade she reprinted articles from the newsletter and speeches she had given in two more books, The Virtue of Selfishness and Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal. Although she occasionally talked of a fourth novel, Rand had abandoned fiction for good. Instead she reinvented herself as a public intellectual. Gone were the allegorical stores, the dramatic heroes and heroines, the thinly coded references to real politicians, intellectuals, and events. In The Objectivist Newsletter Rand named names and pointed fingers, injecting herself directly into the hottest political issues of the day. Through her speeches and articles she elaborated on the ethical, political, and artistic sides of Objectivism.
So contends Lev Nazrozov. He writes:
Out-of-control predatory capitalists have perpetrated a worldwide economic depression. Capitalism’s degenerate character is now extraordinarily visible during this time of multiple crises.
On each side of the page there is a picture of a miserable emaciated proletarian who carries on his back a huge pack of money, with a bourgeois seated atop of the pack and smoking a cigar.
By simply allowing the government to dominate every sector of the polity, by embracing totalitarianism, we might be able to avoid the woes of economic recession? Historical study makes such a conclusion seem ridiculous. While totalitarian economies did not suffer from “depressions”, per se, one could argue that consumers and citizens lived under a system which continuously mimicked the effects of depression.
Every year the Ludwig von Mises Institute in Auburn, AL hosts a conference for scholars of the Austrian tradition to come together and share essays and ideas. This year’s conference was loaded with big names and reputable authors among the Libertarian and generally liberty-minded.
It has been observed that the up-and-coming generation of young people are more socially conscious than their spoiled Baby Boomer parents and their SUV-driving, yuppified older siblings.
This new generation is keyed into world affairs and world suffering and is doing something about it. They march against the War in Darfur; they do fund drives for AIDS Orphans; and they largely vote for candidates who pledge to recruit the government (i.e. the taxpayer) to solve these problems.
Increasingly, these young people are voting more and more Democratic. Of course, liberal Democrats have always enjoyed the majority of the youth vote - what little there was. But today’s socially conscious youth are making up an increasing percentage of the electorate and are going to play a larger role in certain elections.
Rick Santorum quoted Aristotle in his address to CPAC-St. Louis on Saturday: “Give me the storytellers, and I will control the country in a generation.” Santorum, now the CEO of EchoLight Films, was there to talk the culture war and plug his company’s new film, “The Christmas Candle.”
A common complaint on the right is that liberals control the entertainment industry and have unchecked power to influence the culture. Conservatives in the entertainment industry have been afraid of losing their jobs for so long that defeatism has taken hold; they find comfort in being a small minority unable to break through the iron grip the left has on every aspect of the business.
A 10-year old Pennsylvania girl by the name of Sarah Murnaghan could die within a few weeks if she doesn’t receive a lung transplant soon. There’s currently a petition on Change.org directed at HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to alter the current policy so that Sarah is made a higher priority on the donor list because the clock is ticking at least somewhat faster than some who are ahead of her.
I’ll leave it to the readers to determine if this petition is the right way to go in the case of Sarah, but I think there is a much larger problem with the organ donation system that I believe could be addressed by the free market. Back in 2008, I wrote a post at The Liberty Papers about why a regulated, above board organ market would be superior and much more moral than the current “altruistic” system. Some of my examples might be a little dated (Hanna Montana is all grown up now) but my overall point stands. Though this post is mostly about live donations, compensation going to an individual’s estate would give Sarah and countless others a much better shot at living.
Free Market Organs (Posted January 24, 2008)
Last week, Doug linked a post about British Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s support for a policy that would allow hospitals to harvest organs without prior consent of the decedent or his/ her family. In essence, the organs of all deceased British citizens would belong to the government’s healthcare system except for those individuals who “opted out” prior to death. The policy in the U.S. is an “opt in” approach rather than “opt out.”
Every month, Cato puts out a new issue of Cato Unbound, an online journal that looks at various topics. This week, the topic is fusionism, something that has received quite a bit of attention here at United Liberty.
The format of Cato Unbound is quite simple. One writer contributes a lead essay, and then three other writers write response essays. Then, it descends into a furball as we all starting writing shorter response posts to each other. The discussion is not just there, however; blog posts elsewhere will be linked, and everyone—yes, including YOU!—is encouraged to join in the discussion.
Our lead essay this month is written by Jacque Otto, a friend of mine and a writer at Values and Capitalism, a project of the American Enterprise Institute. She writes:
In Part 1 of this post, I described the history of government intervention in the funding of the Internet, which has been used to exempt commercial users from paying for the use of local Internet infrastructure. The most recent intervention, known as “net neutrality”, was ostensibly intended to protect consumers, but in practice, requires that consumers bear all the costs of maintaining and upgrading local Internet infrastructure while content and application providers pay nothing. This consumer-funded commercial subsidy model is the opposite of the approach the government took when funding the Interstate Highway System: The federal government makes commercial users pay more for their use of the highways than consumers. This fundamental difference in approach is why net neutrality advocates abandoned the “information superhighway” analogy promoted by the Clinton Administration during the 1990s.