Why We Don’t Need Jobs

My new book, Jobs-veryverysmall-BuYQYxWIUAAeFSTWho Needs Jobs? Spreading Poverty or Increasing Welfare, is just out at Palgrave Macmillan. In this book, I explain why jobs are costs, not benefits; and why, consequently, we need as few of them as possible. I also explain the economic concepts necessary to understand this (rather standard) economic result, so the book is accessible to the lay reader. It may even be considered as an introduction to the economic way of thinking.

You can order the book from Amazon.com, from Palgrave Macmillan, or from your favorite brick-and-mortar library.

Perhaps after reading it you will want to leave a comment on Amazon?

Duncan Black on Lewis Carroll

Ducan Black (1908-1991) was an economist who made important discoveries in the theory of elections: the median-voter theorem and, rediscovered after Condorcet, the paradox of voting. Charles Dodgson (1832-1898), a.k.a. Lewis Carroll, was a mathematician who explored the same field, although he is better known for his literary work, mainly Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Here is a remarkable observation by Black Continue reading

Obama and the Seventh Century

I cannot get excited against air strikes on 7th-century violent barbarians persecuting civilian populations. However, I believe any supporter of liberty must get excited against Barack Obama when he says: “I don’t want to get in the business … of being the Kurdish air force.” (Financial Times, August 9, 2014).

Who does he think he is? Does he think he is an airforce?

The conceit of rulers, so-called democratic, is despicable, but alas symptomatic of their power.

The Public Debt Is Not Paid by Future Generations

If you think that the public debt will be paid by “future generations,” you are wrong. It is a transfer of resources from current lenders, the purchasers of government bonds, to current borrowers, the people pretending to represent the taxpayers. When the public debt is reimbursed (or as interest on it continues to be paid in the future), it will be a transfer of resources from the taxpayers of a future generation to other people in the same future generation, the holders of the government bonds at that time.

Something Troubling in James Buchanan’s Theory

Just when I first read Buchanan’s The Limits of Liberty (1975) 30 years ago, I find the following intriguing or troubling:

In the model incorporated here … I allow quite explicitly for personal inequality in the natural equilibrium, the anarchistic base from which primal disarmament contracts are conceptually negotiated. … [T]he establishment of positive claims to stocks of goods or endowments may not be possible until and unless some unilateral transfers are made. This potential for transfer allows us to introduce an additional dimension of adjustment which may possibly facilitate the reaching of agreement among parties in contract. …
[C]ertain “exchanges” of resources endowments of goods and behavioral constraints may be necessary before clearly acknowledged ownership imputations are possible. (pp. 92-3)

The Santa Barbara Killings

A few hours before Jews were slaughtered in Belgium, a young madman was shooting and knifing people of his age in California. Besides the fact that the two killings happened in a gun-free zone, there seem to be few similarities between the two criminal acts.

The Santa Barbara killer was a very disturbed young man, as obvious from his troubling video. But civilization and morals used to teach a man to control himself, not to yield to all instincts, desires or frustrations, wherever he sat on the continuum between normal and mad. (The killer had been diagnosed with “high functioning Asperger’s” as a child.) Obviously, this constraint has been much softened—a thesis I defended in my post on “The Rise of the Young Mass Killer.”

And we must recall that in places like California (and Belgium), ordinary citizens cannot easily carry handguns to protect themselves.

The result of all this is that anybody who puts his feet into a BMW and his hands on a gun or knife is a possible threat.

The reaction of the very authorities responsible for social-engineering such a society will probably be to try and further restrict the right of the innocent to defend themselves. And watch the backlash against people deemed to be mentally disturbed or different, and guilty of pre-crimes.

Anarchy and the Limited State

One can argue for total anarchy if it is the only stable equilibrium that is acceptable on the continuum from total anarchy to the total state. Note that both total state and total anarchy are stylized concepts, which can only be approximated in reality. Note also that stability has a time dimension. During history, neither near-total state nor near-total anarchy has been stable for more than a few centuries. One could venture the claim that total anarchy would be stable, but it does not seem more a stretch of the imagination to make the same claim for a classical liberal, limited state.

Urban Legends about Mathematics and Keynes

Many urban legends circulate about the use of mathematics in economics.

For example, many people think (they have heard that…they know somebody who knew somebody who knew…) that John Maynard Keynes loved and used mathematics. In his 1936 magnum opus, The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, Keynes seldom used math. He even attacked economists for using them too much. One can find this by simply reading the General Theory:

It is a great fault of symbolic pseudo-mathematical methods of formalizing a system of economic analysis… Continue reading