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free market

Economics

The Racist History Of Minimum Wage Laws

In 1966, Milton Friedman wrote an op-ed for Newsweek entitled “Minimum Wage Rates.” In it, he argued “that the minimum-wage law is the most anti-Negro law on our statute books.” He was, of course, referring to the then-present era, after the far more explicitly racist laws from the eras of slavery and segregation had already been removed. Friedman’s observation about the racist effects of minimum wage laws can be traced back to the nineteenth century, and they continue to have a disproportionately deleterious effect on African-Americans into the present day. The earliest of such laws were regulations passed in regards to the railroad industry. At the end of the nineteenth century, as Dr. Walter Williams points out, “On some railroads — most notably in the South — blacks were 85–90 percent of the firemen, 27 percent of the brakemen, and 12 percent of the switchmen.” The Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen, unable to block railroad companies from hiring the non-unionized black workers, called for regulations preventing the employment of blacks.… Keep Reading

Tech

Could Donald Trump Save The Internet?

Ludwig von Mises dedicated a great amount of ink to the role that ideas play in shaping society. Not only does his analysis illustrate why it is so important to educate the public on topics such as economics, but also explains the enormous danger posed by widely accepted political myths. Examples include various false narratives such as deregulation caused the financial crisis, that American healthcare costs are driven up due to “capitalism,” or FDR saved America from the Great Depression. Of course. these various fictions, which all enjoy the support of most of the “intellectual” class, all conveniently lead to policy prescriptions that justify ever greater government intervention into the economy and individual’s daily lives. In recent years, another dangerous myth has worked its way into the American zeitgeist: that government is the only thing guaranteeing us a free and open internet. Cloaked in the friendly phrase “net neutrality” is an agenda of greater government control. The idea turned into political action in 2015 when the Obama administration ordered… Keep Reading

healthcare
Economics/Politics

Healthcare Is Neither a Right Or a Privilege

A few days ago I had the opportunity to participate in a brief discussion on the subject of healthcare, more precisely, whether it is a right or a privilege. The person I was talking with is one of those who frames the debate in terms of a false dilemma: healthcare is either a right or a privilege. If it is not one it must be the other, the former being the morally upright side of the debate, the latter being on the side of evil corporations and systemic greed aimed at killing and robbing as many poor people as possible. Stated again, this is a false dilemma. Healthcare is neither a right or a privilege, it is a service subject to scarcity and hence, subject also to the principles of economics. Keep Reading

Economics/Politics

Did The Free Market Kill Coal?

Would you like to know my secret to turning my environmentalist friends into stalwart defenders of the marketplace? The answer is simple: coal. You would be amazed by the reversal in rhetoric witnessed right before your eyes, typically accompanied by a big dose of schadenfreude aimed at Appalachian people. The “free market killed coal” adage apparently qualifies as ironic humor in leftist circles. Never mind the tens of thousands of families, hundreds of communities, a plethora of near-bankrupt school districts, and so many others left behind in the wreckage of coal’s decline. They’ll laugh as states who have endured generation after generation of poverty face choppy fiscal seas, forcing indelicate, hammer-doing-a-scalpel’s-job reductions in infrastructure, education, and health spending. None of these things seem to matter when it isn’t their political constituency on the destructive end of creative destruction. My instinctual reaction to this “meme-ification” of my home state’s suffering was anger. I wanted to show everyone how truly uncompassionate the left is about these sorts of things. But now… Keep Reading

Economics/Politics

Single-Payer Sucks

Proponents of universal healthcare hold one of the most morally attractive political positions of present day: healthcare is a natural human right and should be readily available to all, regardless of socioeconomic standing.  On top of their moral high ground, they pile on supposed proof of single payer’s merits by pointing to Canada, Scandinavia, and various other countries.  It’s their belief that if only such a system were implemented in the US, the problems associated with healthcare would largely be alleviated. It’s a very emotionally pleasing opinion to hold.  Single-payer advocates pat themselves on the back for being so benevolent to the poor and insurance-less, claiming that if it weren’t for their efforts, countless people would unnecessarily die.  Unfortunately, positive emotions for its proponents is the only good thing that comes from single-payer healthcare. When subjected to reason, the only way for a single-payer system to look attractive is to analyze it solely with emotion.  Logical and economic reasoning, along with an honest moral assessment, serve to show such… Keep Reading

Economics

Ayn Rand, Rand Paul, And Paul Ryan Walk Into a Bar…

The age of social media has given rise to an increasingly large group of people who believe that a couple sentences, or even just a few words posted on a picture constitute an effective argument.  While in some ways, political and philosophical debate is healthier than ever before, the over reliance on simplistic arguments is creating a “meme world” where an asinine idea can be conveyed in few words and posted in mere seconds.  Proper refutation, however; takes more than a few words. In the 140 character world of Twitter, these types of arguments exist almost exclusively.  This tweet from “Miss O’Kistic” has made its rounds in the online world: “Ayn Rand, Rand Paul and Paul Ryan walk into a bar.  The bartender serves them tainted alcohol because there are no regulations.  They die.” It’s the classic, “But if not for the state, how would we…” delusion.  People live in such fear over the possibility of government shrinking just one iota, that when confronted with radical reduction of government,… Keep Reading

Economics

James J. Hill And The Liquidation Of Malinvestment

James J. Hill is unquestionably one of the greatest entrepreneurs in American history.  This past weekend marked the 100th anniversary of his passing.  He is best remembered for the successful construction of the only transcontinental railroad to not go bankrupt.  He didn’t accept government subsidies, and argued eloquently against his competitors who did: “The government should not furnish capital to these companies, in addition to their enormous land subsidies, to enable them to conduct their business in competition with enterprises that have received no aid from the public treasury.” His endeavors can claim to be largely responsible for the settling and economic development of the upper midwest United States, and for making Seattle into the commercial metropolis that it is today.  For the best histories of the man and his legacy, these two articles (here and here) are unmatched. Countless business, entrepreneurial, and economic lessons can be learned from a detailed study of Mr. Hill.  One particular economic lesson stems from his entrance into the business of railroad ownership… Keep Reading

Economics

Hayek, Statistics, And Trade-Cycle Theory

Austrian economics is often caricatured and criticized because of its approach, or deliberate lack of an approach, to mathematical models, multivariable calculus, and econometrics. Attacks are leveled against Austrians such as Mises, Rothbard, and Kirzner for their failure or refusal to avail themselves of applied empirical research in their scholarship. The Austrian methodology most frequently targeted is praxeology. It is not the purpose of this short article to refute these attacks or to explore their errors and merits. That has been done ably by others (see, for example, the series of debate-essays available here, here, here, and here). Nor does this article attempt to stand up for the deductive reasoning of praxeology or to defend its claims about a priori truths, a task better suited for a lengthy work of scholarship, not a short article. This piece instead asks one simple question: does Hayek’s early work on trade-cycle theory complicate stereotypes about the methods of Austrian economics or clarify the manner in which Austrians can and do approach economic… Keep Reading

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