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In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Category archive: Economics

Wednesday April 09 2014

As already noted here, I did a piece last week for Samizdata entitled The Institute of Economic Affairs and its support for Liberty League Freedom Forum 2014.  “Hayek1337” has just added this interesting and informative comment, which I want to remember before it disappears off the bottom of Samizdata:

It’s worth noting that Liberty League is ultimately run by Anton Howes, James Lawson, and Will Hamilton – who I’ve considered great friends since their first conference (and the 80s dance floor in some dingy Birmingham club).

Their contribution in the silent background is huge, even if largely ignored. They had the entrepreneurial drive, and they’re the ones who make sure the conference actually has worthwhile speakers,and young people filling the rooms. They do it on the side, Anton’s a full time PHD student for example, but often has a bigger impact than a lot of these full time think tankers. They don’t make a penny from their efforts, it all goes to the conference and supporting student societies. There’s also whole Liberty League team around them, promoting Liberty across all corners of the UK at student societies.

Obviously the IEA is a big backer, and it’s got a hell of a lot of financial muscle, but Liberty League is very close to others in the Free Market movement, and isn’t an IEA project. I’ve seen those three at every Adam Smith Institute Next Generation since time began, and I met two of them at Freedom Week, back when it was set up by JP Floru of the ASI. So, you’ve got to look at return on investment, and those in the background. People like Madsen Pirie of the ASI, and Donal Blaney in the more Conservative movement have played a key role here – identifying and developing entrepreneurs in the battle of ideas, or as Atlas calls them, “multipliers for liberty”.

I guess it’s a case of the more multipliers for liberty the merrier …

Indeed. Quality is good, but quantity of quality has a extra quality about it.  It’s not just more of the same.  Things become possible, even inevitable, that were impossible before quantity kicked in.

I’ve admired Anton Howes for quite a while, and I hope to get to meet and learn more about James Lawson and Will Hamilton at LLFF2014, which is happening next weekend.  Here are some pictures of these three, at the top of this clutch.

What I’ve heard about James Lawson (him in particular) says he might be an excellent Brian’s Fridays speaker.

Sunday April 06 2014

...  but something from me here, about the IEA and LLFF2014.

Sunday March 30 2014

Incoming from Simon Rose, entitled “End of the World not happening tomorrow”.

What this means is that the End of the World CLUB MEETING is not happening tomorrow, because of a double booking mix-up of some sort.  But for a moment there, I was wondering what mad prophecy Simon was taking it upon himself to contradict.

The End of the World Club is an up-market version of my Last Friday meetings.  Despite its rather grumpy old man title, these meetings are very good, with excellent speakers.  For instance there was that fascinating talk by someone who had lived through the Zimbabwe inflation.

And, I first came across Dominic Frisby when he addressed the EotW Club, about this book.  Ever since Frisby spoke at my home, about his next book I have been hearing his voice on television, what with me being fond of TV documentaries.  Here (click on that only if you want to hear noise at once) is what he sounds like.  More Frisby audio info here.

Email me if you want to know more about these EotW meetings, and I’ll put you in touch with Simon Rose.

If the world ever does end, I want Frisby doing the voice overing for it.

Wednesday March 26 2014

On Monday last I attended a BBC Radio 4 event, at which Evan Davis interviewed Deirdre McCloskey:

image image

Yes that is the same screen, and it remained the same colour throughout.  In “reality” I mean.  If you were there, which I was.

But digital cameras, when set on “automatic” as mine always is, have minds of their own when it comes to colour.  One picture happens to have a lot of a certain colour in it, and it changes the overall colour of everything to compensate.  For instance, when you take indoor pictures but there is outdoor sky to be seen, then even if in reality the sky is deepest grey, the camera turns the sky deepest blue, and the indoor bits orange.  Likewise, when the sky is blue, but if you are outdoors, the camera, for no reason, is liable to fill a clear blue sky with pollution and turn it a sort of slate colour.  What was happening here is that these two pictures are both cropped.  But the left one was only cropped a bit, while the left one was cropped a lot.  And the stuff that got cropped out of the left one meant that the screen was no longer green.  It was blue.

As to what Deidre McCloskey actually said, well the thing I was most intrigued by was that she was entirely cool about being asked about how she used to be Donald McCloskey.  In which connection, don’t you just love how that circumstance is alluded to in this:

image

That’s an article reproduced at her website.  So, is that her handwriting?  Could well be.

I doubt the medical side of the switch was as easy to do as that.

The libertarian propaganda side of this is that McCloskey is a character, rather than just a boring bod in a suit.  The usual evasive sneers against pro-capitalists just won’t work on her.  And I even think it helps that (maybe because of those medical dramas - don’t know) her voice is a strange hybrid of male and female, often sounding a bit like electrical feedback.  She also has a slight but definite stutter.

The reason I feel entitled to mention all this is that it clearly does not bother her, or if it does she has learned very well to stop it bothering her, and indeed to make a communicational virtue of it all.  I guess she figures if you are saying interesting stuff, it really doesn’t matter if your voice sounds a bit funny and if people sometimes have to wait a second or two before hearing the next bit of it.  In fact it probably even helps, because it gets everyone listening, proactively as it were, guessing what is coming instead of just hearing it.

See also: Hawking.

Wednesday March 19 2014

imageIncoming from Sam Bowman in the form of an email, dated March 6th, entitled “Bleeding Heart Libertarianism - an apologia”:

Hey Brian,

Thanks for mentioning my Libertarian Home talk on Samizdata. I look forward to seeing you tonight if you can make it.

“Tonight” was March 6th (Simon Gibbs introductory spiel about Sam and his talk here), when Sam gave his talk at the Rose and Crown.  This is not yet available on video, but it presumably soon will be, because as always at these Libertarian Home Rose and Crown talks, a video camera was in action.  On the right is a photo that Sam took of me and him with his mobile, after he had given his talk.

And thanks for coming on Monday!

That was an ASI event, about whether prison works.  (Answer, with all kinds of reservations: yes.)

I typed out quite a long email to you but decided against it, because I figured none of it would be new to you.

Wrong.  Now that my hair is mostly grey and I no longer say everything I am thinking, other libertarians seem to assume that I now know everything that there is to be known, and because I own lots of books that I have read everything that there is to be read, about libertarianism.  None of this is true.  I do not read and have not read nearly as much as I have time to read and have had time to read.  I regret that Sam didn’t preserve this longer email.

Having said that, since it’s something we’re both interested in I thought I’d try to outline my position a bit more briefly:

Excellent.  I asked Sam, quite a long time ago now, if he minded me recycling what follows in a posting, and maybe then sticking bits of it up at Samizdata.  No, he said, post away.  So here it is:

I still hate the term ‘social justice’ (Hayek did a real number on me), and philosophically I’m not on board with the Rawlsian view of ethics. My moral position is preference utilitarianism – that people getting what they want is what’s good. Having said that, practically I think that ethical consequentialists and believers in ‘social justice’ are in basically the same position: both think that improving the welfare of the poor is a high priority.

I think it makes sense to treat libertarianism as being about means, not ends. Most political positions claim that they’re good because they will make people’s lives easier, happier, etc. (There are some exceptions of course.) I think many people make the error of forgetting that the world is complex, so they assume that differences of opinion about politics must be down to differences of opinion about what sort of world we want.

People sometimes also try to waterproof their beliefs by attaching moral claims to empirical arguments – eg, a supporter of the minimum wage, presented with strong arguments that undermine their empirical claims, may fall back on the argument that it’s just indecent for people to earn below £x/hour, and a decent society should simply not allow that, consequences be damned. Of course we libertarians often do this too – presented with strong arguments in favour of the minimum wage we may fall back on the claim that it’s just wrong to interfere with private contracts between adults. I think there’s some merit to both these claims (much more so the latter, obviously) but they shouldn’t be treated as unbreakable absolutes. If they were, were the earlier, empirical arguments just rhetoric?

So you can boil my position down to this: if I was convinced that free markets and a high degree of individual liberty were not the best way of allowing people to get what they want, I wouldn’t support them. My libertarianism/liberalism is entirely contingent on empirical beliefs I have about the world.

I make explicit the fact that I’d be relaxed about redistribution of wealth from rich to poor if I thought it led to good outcomes, and indeed I think the libertarian empirical case is much stronger on regulation of people’s lives (in the broadest sense) and commerce than it is on wealth redistribution.  I also think that it’s where we have the most original things to say.

How this makes me any different to people like Milton Friedman and FA Hayek I am not sure, given that both were also explicitly supportive of wealth/income redistribution. Of course, any consequentialist libertarian would have to concede that, at least in theory, they would be open to the idea of redistribution.

Best,

Sam

Some emails, rather like some comments, can have particular expressive merit.  Because people are relaxed rather than mounted self-consciously on their official high horses, so to speak, they often communicate in this more informal circumstance with particular eloquence.  So, my particular thanks to Sam for allowing me to publish this.  More of his many thoughts here, although you may have to scroll your way past a huge photo of Sam in front of a brick wall.  (Odd.  Did anyone else have this problem?) I recommend doing this.

Tuesday March 11 2014

Earlier this evening Detlev Schlichter spoke to the Libertarian Alliance (London Tendency), on the subject of Ludwig Von Mises and his claim that economics is a body of knowledge based upon “A Priori” knowledge.

I attended and took photos:

image imageimage image

As you can see I was sitting just behind the video camera, and had fun lining this up with the object of its attentions.

The talk was good, as you will be able to hear when the video is up and viewable.

While sorting out the link to Libertarian Alliance (London Tendency) I discovered that Sean Gabb, leader of the Libertarian Alliance (South Coast Tendency), has recently given a couple of talks to the Libertarian Alliance (London Tendency).  I did not know this.  Interesting.

Friday February 14 2014

imageOn the right is a fake-up of a new building, for another of those Mega Mega Companies that you have never heard of, until they suddenly construct themselves a new Big Thing in the middle of London.  Construction is expected to start next year.  As you can see, it will be part of what is now the Gherkin/Cheesegrater cluster.

Also a potential part of that cluster, and potentially the biggest Big Thing in it, the Helter Skelter (aka “The Pinnacle"), now looks like it will soon resume being built as well, as already noted here.

Of the Helter Skelter’s rise from the dead, Londonist says:

The optimism is driven by an improving economy and (believe it or not) a growing shortage of suitable office space in the financial centre.

It’s like 2008 never happened.

Sunday January 12 2014

On November 24th, which by my calculations is around seven weeks ago, I did a posting entitled Happiness is Gold Blend at only £3 instead of £4.50.

Today, also in Sainsbury’s, I found that my pleasure was not diminished:

image

I was just coming to the very final end of the stash I had purchased on November 24th, since which date, Nescafe Gold Blend has been stuck at £4.50.  Until today.

Small pleasures.  Including the pleasure of having bought exactly the correct amount, to tide me over until the next price reduction.

Happiness is still Gold Blend at only £3 instead of £4.50
Happiness is Gold Blend at only £3 instead of £4.50
Anton Howes at the Rose and Crown
Corrie Chipps pictures the Zimbabwe inflation
The next four Brian’s Last Fridays (including December 27)
Amazon pricing puzzle
The Times of May 24th 1940
Bad and good in bad weather
Views from Kings College
Craig Willy on Emmanuel Todd
The mystery of the one good photo
Better a year late than never
Photoing people who are photoing food
Click to see the big picture
And on my other personal blog …
Meow
Talk by Frank Braun about Bitcoin at my home on Aug 3rd
Why I do not share Johnathan Pearce’s admiration for Bjorn Lomborg
Steve Baker MP
Occupy St Paul’s pictures
Street social services management integrated command sub-centres
James Tooley discovers private schools for the poor in the slums of Hyderabad
Matt Ridley’s demolition of CAGW
Go Gary Johnson!
Freedom Tower and Gary Johnson at Samizdata
A review of Detlev Schlichter’s new book (multiplied by 4)
Kevin Dowd last night
Thrashing India
David Friedman on the similarity between fractional reserve banking and insurance
My personal Fixed Quantity of Blogging unfallacy
Empty tables and empty chairs
Words for bloggers to live by
No fruit juice
Bitcoin etc.?
Five pictures of me
Science can relax about the harm done to it by Climategate
Rally Against Debt signs
Gordon Brown curses the United Kingdom
Nil scrap value
BrianMicklethwaitDotCom not threatened by the end of the Big Thing Boom
Pictures of Detlev Schlichter
Everything competes with everything
The Big Dig and some smaller digging
Quota choke?
Cat news
Let us now trash infamous men
Why I prefer blogging to writing for a magazine
Wot inflationz?
Climate science as make-work for former Cold Warriors
Potential dental interruption
Me and Patrick Crozier talk about the banking crisis and its possible consequences
Thoughts on England not just keeping the Ashes but winning the series 3-1 (with asterisks)
Emmanuel Todd quoted and Instalanched
Dawkins does better sound than God ever did
Obamanomics dod not work
Talk at Christian Michel’s
The joy of error correction
Those cameras are getting cheaper
“I was banished to a separate room …”
Help with Audacity please
Mmmmmm … Asian skyscrapers!
The curse of interchangeable lenses and how I want my category killer
K Street - metonym - synecdoche
Which just goes to show that stuff gets around
Happy hundredth
Andy Flower urges England fans not to punish cricket for being corrupt
Ten thoughts about the Pakistan cricket corruption story
Toby Baxendale on what went wrong and what to do about it
A picture I want to remember
Reading various bits of Roger Kimball
Snappy quote from Victor Davis Hanson that may or may not actually be true
Exploitation?
Tim Evans looking happy
Sneezing chat
At the launch of Alchemists of Loss
Spare A3 paper
Big box computers versus laptops
As strong and sweet as the free market itself
BrianMicklethwaitDotCom twitter of the day before the day before yesterday
Darling and Darling cat
Watching IPL cricket beats watching England play rugby
SAY NO TO GOVERNMENT MOTORS
Happy New Year and how to save seventy thousand quid
Burj Dubai looking semi-sane
The Shard is definitely being built!
Picture of an aftershock of the credit crunch rippling around the world
Talking with Toby Baxendale
Apple mobile phones are very profitable but Nokia mobile phones are not very profitable
Wuhan railway station under construction - with sunset behind
Pictures of Anthony Evans
Going global
Scrounging Englishmen and stories too good to check
Paul Marks on the financial crisis and on the badness of Obama
Under a hundred copies
Environmental
Why I vote against AGW
Quotes dump
Great speech by Kevin Dowd in Paris which should be available to listen to soon
Slumponomics
Another London lump?
Laptop for emails
Minimum Wage flatvert at Guido’s and Iain Dale’s
Indy Flatverts and a Guido Q&A
IPL continues to literally trump proper cricket
Croziervision of default
Fantasy budgets
My opinion of yesterday’s budget
The Vita-Mix 5000 at the Veggie Show
At Samizdata: cricket - crime - Kevin Dowd quote
James Tyler’s speech at Policy Exchange
Lawrence H. White on the Scottish experience of free banking
My confusion about free banking
Daniel Hannan and the shape of the media to come
Kevid Dowd video now up and watchable
Work begins on the Shard of Glass
Don’t blame banking
Paul Marks on the financial crisis
Work photos
TARP stuff - and a trip to Sheffield
Do nothing?
Meme for the New Depression
Kevin Dowd says what should be done
Commenting about the Dowd lecture at Samizdata
London continues to build big
Kevin Dowd
Michael Jennings on shoring up the bad old economy versus building a good new one
What-iffing
Is the contemporary art bubble bursting?
P. J. O’Rourke confuses the average with the significant
The Official Story and the Most Confident Alternative
I have not been living beyond my means
Why Willem Buiter blogs and why I do
Cheap CDs and sopranos I’ve never heard of
It’s over
Ruminating about politics and ideology
Another pendulum theory
Metaphor muddle alert
Guido Fawkes conflates the Monetarists and the Austrians – needs to chat with Antoine Clarke
Reasons to be a bit more cheerful
Antoine and Michael on what to do now
Antoine Clarke on the financial turmoil and the US election
Gordon Brown to guarantee everything
Tom Burroughes on the banking crisis
Not the book I want to read right now - maybe later
Chinese Friday?
Profundity and silliness
Banks
It only takes One Rich Lunatic
On classical music voice addiction
Armed is less dangerous
The British Public continues to dislike too-high-and-rising taxes
Voice of God journalism
Eurovision sense from Squander Two
IPL-lag
To let – one Ark
Paul Marks told us so
Big, Bigger, Biggest - starring Heathrow Terminal 5
Flat pictures for flat screens
Cuba before Communism
The petty cash effect cuts in for Linux
Linux versus Windows - the bigger tiny laptop breakout
The economics of Jonathan Ross
Has global warming stopped?
Another don’t-get-it-right-get-it-written Samizdata posting
A bog standard (but rippling and therefore ultra-cool) tower soon to be built in Chicago
Billion Monkeys and a Real Photographer at the Golden Umbrellas
When the penny drops
The bridge that was going to make Westminster a fine city and London a desert
Eurostar says goodbye Waterloo hello St Pancras
Aid rewards low growth
Will China fail?
Filthy rich
The double thank-you moment
Antoine Clarke on Sarkozy
Free trade explains the success of the Swedish Model
Serious tax cutting
Darrin M. McMahon and me and George Orwell on the pursuit of happiness
Emmanuel Todd (4): From ideology to economic progress
The visitor
Jott
Leon Louw talks about the habits of highly effective countries
Geek girl I like your thinkings - are nice - I want have sex with it
It only takes two idiots
Should blogs - this one in particular - specialise?
Remembering the Alternative Bookshop experience
Two Red Bull pictures
The Wealth of Networks
That’s it
Pauses - Indian accents - English names
To be controlled in our economic pursuits means to be dot dot dot controlled in everything
Some economics
“The basis is economic development”
Thoughts on habits and on killer apps