Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Tautology of Hope

Inspiration for Obama's campaign

Fascinating how some patterns keep recurring.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Free Our Oil

Editorial in today's WSJ: Free Our Oil

In Alaska, the citizens get cash payments from the royalties derived from Alaskan oil drilling. Wouldn't it be nice if we had some offshore royalties coming in to shore up sagging Florida state gov't revenues? Wouldn't it be nice if we had a Taxpayer Bill of Rights that limited growth in state spending -- and the offshore oil royalties were pouring in? Wouldn't it be nice if Florida had to send out royalty checks to its citizens -- per capita checks benefiting rich and poor, young and old, black and white, English-speaking and Spanish-speaking alike?

The only thing standing between us and those checks are the Dems in Congress. Does anybody doubt that, if the Republicans still formed a majority in Congress, the offshore oil ban would be history? If Newt were Speaker instead of Nancy, Congress would have presented a repeal of that ban for the President to sign on the same day he lifted the Executive moratorium.

And oil dropped by the biggest one-day percentage in some 16 years -- second big drop this week. This on the day after the President ended the moratorium. But we're told lifting the ban would not affect oil prices for years to come.

If Duke Cunningham, Jack Abramhoff and Mark Foley could sink the Republican majority in 2006, this issue -- Democratic obstinacy on offshore drilling -- could sink the Democratic majority. Did any of you see the electoral disaster for Republicans at this point in the summer of 2006? A steady drumbeat of criticism could do in the Congress who has overseen the doubling of oil prices and refused to respond.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Interesting lectures at

I just listened to a very interesting lecture called Rothbard as Historian that derided the use of GDP alone to gauge the health of the economy. You can hear it in the podcast available from

The relevant comments come about 25 minutes into the lecture. The issue is that much of GDP is gov't spending and gov't spending is a net drag on the economy (given that its revenue subtracts from economy in nearly equal amount as it spends). What Rothbard suggested is that we measure Private Product Remaining (which the gov't does not measure) which is GDP minus what the gov't takes out.

The lecturer, Thomas Woods, uses 1946 as an example. It supposedly was a bad year looking only at GDP figures. GDP dropped because wartime spending ended. GDP would lead you to believe the previous years were better, but in fact WW2 was not a time of great prosperity. True, unemployment was low (11 million people were in the military and some of them died -- this was not an ideal situation). In fact, lots of goods were rationed during the war. People were scraping by -- they had money, but nothing to buy. In 1946 soldiers came back, re-took their old jobs when they could (9 million of them) and replaced the less productive, less skilled people who had been doing this job (women, young and the very old). Is it reasonable to believe that productivity shrank by 22% in that year as GDP would indicate?

Rothbard claims that the only spending decisions that help when measuring the economy are voluntary transactions (rather than gov't controlled spending) because these are the only ones we can be reasonably sure are made to increase the individual's well-being. Private output increased by 30% in 1946 -- we've never had a year over year improvement as good as that. And, people living in 1946 will tell you that the American economy did very well that year, even though the standard economic measurements would have you believe it was catastrophic. is an extraordinary online resource. The lectures are quite Libertarian, so you'll hear about Rand, Rothbard, Mises, Hayek, etc. They like to take swipes (and outright attacks) against the Iraq War. I part company with them concerning foreign policy, but the economic thought is compelling.

You can find there a lecture entitled Senior Economics Seminar by Mark Thornton which examines the fallacies of alcohol and drug prohibition. It got me thinking. My son used a product which was adulterated and it killed him. He used it properly. If this were a legal product sold at Wal-Mart, his mother would be able to sue the manufacturer and probably Wal-Mart and definitely whoever it was who mishandled the product for wrongful death. Who is going to support her in her old age now that her only child has died? But because the product was an illegal narcotic and because it was sold only in an illegal market, none of the normal legal protections are available. In all likelihood, if narcotics were openly sold at a profit-making store (maybe not Wal-Mart), the capitalists who maintained that market would make sure the product was safe when used properly, lest they lose their profits through product liability lawsuits.