Do you like counter-intuitive facts? What if I was to tell you that the drug pusher, the dishonest cop, the profiteer or the employer of child labour perform useful, productive services? More than that, they improve the morality of the free market and do more good than thousands of emotional “anti-you-name-it” activists.
How can this be right? It sounds completely insane!
I’m sure you will love this book. I am closing with a quote by FA Hayek, another popular economist many never head of, but which greatly influenced the modern world:
"A real understanding of economics demands that one disabuses oneself of many dear prejudices and illusions. Popular fallacies in economics frequently express themselves in unfounded prejudices against other occupations, and in showing the falsity of these stereotypes Block is doing a real service, although he will not make himself more popular with the majority."
I was walking home one evening and came upon a clearly depressed man standing at the edge of a bridge, looking like he was about to jump. I called out to him to wait, and ran over to see what was the matter.
It’s this country, he lamented. It’s falling into ruin and there’s nothing I can do about it. The election was the last straw. I don’t want to live on this planet anymore.
Well cheer up, I said. We’re all in this together. Say, are you a conservative, or a libertarian?
A libertarian, he said.
That’s great! I said. See, you’re not alone. Are you a free-market libertarian or a libertarian socialist?
Free-market libertarian, he said.
Me too! I said. Paleo-libertarian or neo-libertarian?
Paleo-libertarian, he said.
Hey, so am I! I said. Chicago or Austrian school of economics?
Austrian, he said.
Me too, I said. Hayek or Rothbardian strand?
Rothbardian, he said.
Same here, I said. Are you a consequentialist or deontological libertarian?
Consequentialist, he said.
So I said: Die, you statist scum! and pushed him off the bridge.
Plenty of good, intelligent people make poor economic choices. You can spot lack of economic insight in their statements. Usually emotions and preconceptions undermine their judgment.
I finally came across a book on economics that tackles all the major issues, is very easy to read, while being very profound. Every subject has 1-2 pages. It summarizes the essence of what you would learn from reading the top 10 books on that specific subject.
Don’t plead ignorance on this issue. Don’t ignore the subject. I have heard all the excuses before. You’re not too old, or too busy or too knowledgeable in other fields so you can foul others or yourself into thinking you can ignore economics. Invariably, you will pay handsomely for the privilege of economic ignorance.
Note: I used to recommend Economics In One Lesson as the first book on economics people should read. It still is a masterpiece. Read it after The Concise Guide To Economics if you have not read any of them.
«In blurring the distinction between the rulers and the ruled, a democratic republic strengthens the identification of the public with a particular state. Indeed, while dynastic rule promotes the identification with one’s own family and community and the development of a “cosmopolitan” outlook and attitude, democratic republicanism inevitably leads to nationalism, i.e., the emotional identification of the public with large, anonymous groups of people, characterized in terms of a common language, history, religion and/ or culture and in contradistinction to other, foreign nations. Interstate wars are thus transformed into national wars.
Rather than representing “merely” violent dynastic property disputes, which may be “resolved” through acts of territorial occupation, they become battles between different ways of life, which can only be “resolved” through cultural, linguistic, or religious domination and subjugation (or extermination).
It becomes more and more difficult for members of the public to remain neutral or to extricate themselves from all personal involvement. Resistance against higher taxes to fund a war is increasingly considered treachery or treason. Conscription becomes the rule, rather than the exception. And with mass armies of cheap and hence easily disposable conscripts fighting for national supremacy (or against national suppression) backed by the economic resources of the entire nation, all distinctions between combatants and noncombatants fall by the wayside, and wars become increasingly brutal.»
"Actions create consequences. Consequences which produce new worlds, and they’re all different. Where the bodies are buried in the desert, that is a certain world, where the bodies are left to simply evolve, that is another. And all these worlds, heretofore unknown to us, they must have always been there, have they not?
Reflective men often find themselves at a place removed from the realities of life. In any case we should prepare a place where we can accommodate all the tragedies that sooner or later will come to our lives, but this is an economy few people care to practice.
You are the world you have created. And when you cease to exist that world you have created will also cease to exist. But for those with the understanding that they’re living the last days of the world, death acquires a different meaning. The extinction of all reality is a concept no resignation can encompass. And then, all the grand designs and all the grand plans will be finally exposed and revealed for what they are.”
One of the best interviews ever! Phil Donahue talks to Milton Friedman - the guy that famously said: If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in 5 years there will be a shortage of sand.
There are many lessons to be learned from Friedman, a 1976 Nobel laureate and libertarian. You can start with this video piece.
"The bigger the crowd the more negligible the individual becomes. But if the individual, overwhelmed by the sense of his own puniness and impotence, should feel that his life has lost its meaning - which, after all, is not identical with public welfare and higher standards of living - then he is already on the road to state slavery and, without knowing or wanting it, has become its proselyte. The man who looks only outside and quails before the big battalions has no resource with which to combat the evidence of his senses and his reason. But that is just what is happening today: we are all fascinated and overawed by statistical truths and large numbers and are daily apprised of the nullity and futility of the individual personality, since it is not represented and personified by any mass organization. Conversely, those personages who strut about on the world stage and whose voices are heard far and wide seem, to the uncritical public, to be born along on some mass movement or on the tide of public opinion and for this reason are either applauded or execrated. Since mass suggestion plays the predominant role here, it remains a moot point whether their message is their own, for which they are personally responsible, or whether they merely function as a megaphone for collective opinion.
Under these circumstances it is small wonder that individual judgment grows increasingly uncertain of itself and that responsibility is collectivized as much as possible, i.e., is shuffled off by the individual and delegated to a corporate body. In this way the individual becomes more and more a function of society, which in its turn usurps the function of the real life carrier, whereas, in actual fact, society is nothing more than and abstract idea like the state. Both are hypostatized, that is, have become autonomous. The state in particular is turned into a quasi-animate personality from whom everything is expected. In reality it is only a camouflage for those individuals who know how to manipulate it. Thus the constitutional state drifts into the situation of a primitive form of society, namely the communism of a primitive tribe where everybody is subject to the autocratic rule of a chief or an oligarchy.
The dictator state has one great advantage over bourgeois reason: along with the individual it swallows up his religious forces. The state has taken the place of God; that is why, seen from this angle, the socialist dictatorships are religions and state slavery is a form of worship. But the religious function cannot be dislocated and falsified in this way without giving rise to secret doubts, which are immediately repressed so as to avoid conflict with the prevailing trends towards mass-mindedness. The result, as always in such cases, is overcompensation in the form of fanaticism, which in turn is used as a weapon for stamping out the last flicker of opposition. Free opinion is stifled and moral decision is ruthlessly suppressed, on the plea that the end justifies the means, even the vilest. The policy of the state is exalted to a creed, the leader or party boss becomes a demigod beyond good and evil, and his votaries are honored as heroes, martyrs, apostles, missionaries. There is only one truth and besides it no other. It is sacrosanct and above criticism. Anyone who thinks differently is a heretic, who as we know from history, is threatened with all manner of unpleasant things. Only the party boss, who holds the political power in his hands, can interpret the state doctrine authentically, and he does so as suits him.
Even a dictator thinks it necessary not only to accompany his acts of state with threats but to stage them with all manner of solemnities. Brass bands, flags, banners, parades and monster demonstrations are no different in principle from ecclesiastical processions, cannonades and fireworks to scare off demons. Only, the suggestive parade of state power engenders a collective feeling of security, which unlike religious demonstrations, gives the individual no protection against his inner demonism. Hence he will cling all the more to the power of the state, i.e., to the mass, thus delivering himself up to it psychically as well as morally and putting the finishing touch to his social depotentiation. The state, like the church, demands enthusiasm, self-sacrifice and love, and if religion requires or presupposes the “fear of God,” then the dictator state takes good care to provide the necessary terror.
As I have already pointed out, the dictator state, besides robbing the individual of his rights, has also cut the ground from under his feet psychically by depriving him of the metaphysical foundations of his existence. The ethical decision of the human being no longer counts- what alone matters is the blind movement of the masses, and the lie has thus become the operative principle of political action. The state has drawn the logical conclusions from this, as the existence of many millions of state slaves completely deprived of all rights mutely testifies.”