A Primer on Jobs and the Jobless

22 01 2007

With the economics of employment and unemployment constantly discussed on the business pages and political campaigns, let us turn our attention toward fundamentals and root out some fallacies.

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Democracy: The God That Failed

18 01 2007

On the most abstract level, I want to show how theory is indispensible in correctly interpreting history. History – the sequence of events unfolding in time – is “blind.” It reveals nothing about causes and effects. We may agree, for instance, that feudal Europe was poor, that monarchical Europe was wealthier, and that democratic Europe is wealthier still, or that nineteenth-century America with its low taxes and few regulations was poor, while contemporary America with its high taxes and many regulations is rich. Yet was Europe poor because of feudalism, and did it grow richer because of monarchy and democracy? Or did Europe grow richer in spite of monarchy and democracy? Or are these phenomena unrelated?

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The Problem with Natural Rights

12 01 2007

With this mention of liberalism, though, we are getting ahead of our story again. Instead, we need first consider still another point that is relevant to the newly emerging natural rights doctrine of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. For so far as these doctrines go, one key question remains: granted that Hobbes may have been right, that on the basis of the new scientific conception of nature in general and of human nature in particular, the natural condition of men is one of ceaseless and ever proliferating appetites and desires; and granted that man’s overriding passion is thus one of self-preservation in the gratification of these appetites and desires; still, why should such a natural concern on man’s part be considered as being in any way a “right”?

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Reflections on the Formation and Distribution of Wealth

7 01 2007

If the land was divided among all the inhabitants of a country, so that each of them possessed precisely the quantity necessary for his support, and nothing more; it is evident that all of them being equal, no one would work for another. Neither would any of them possess wherewith to pay another for his labour, for each person having only such a quantity of land as was necessary to produce a subsistence, would consume all he should gather, and would not have any thing to give in exchange for the labour of others.

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Origins of the Welfare State in America

7 01 2007

Standard theory views government as functional: a social need arises, and government, semi-automatically, springs up to fill that need. The analogy rests on the market economy: demand gives rise to supply (e.g., a demand for cream cheese will result in a supply of cream cheese on the market). But surely it is strained to say that, in the same way, a demand for postal services will spontaneously give rise to a government monopoly Post Office, outlawing its competition and giving us ever-poorer service for ever-higher prices.

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Molinari and the anti-statist liberal tradition

6 01 2007

This article first appeared as an Honours thesis presented as part of an Honours degree at Macquarie University in 1979. It was subsequently published in three parts in the Journal of Libertarian Studies, Vol. 5, nos. 3 and 4 and Vol. 6, no. 1. Thanks are extended above all to Leonard Liggio, then at the Institute for Humane Studies, Menlo Park; Murray Rothbard, editor of the JLS; and Mark Weinburg, Senior Research Associate, H. C. Wainwright & Co., Economics, for his assistance in the translation of quoted passages from their original French. The author would also like to thank the Cato Institute for a grant which enabled him to research this essay.

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Equality: The Unknown Ideal

6 01 2007

All men are created equal.

When Thomas Jefferson, in the Declaration of Independence, set out to enunciate the philosophical principles underlying the American Revolution—the principles of ’76, as later generations would call them—that’s the one he put down first, as the foundation and justification of all the rest. Equality—not, as one might expect, liberty.

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