Tuesday, October 26, 2010

About the Efficacy of Prayer

I do not believe that prayer will help you get what you want, but if you pray correctly, you might better understand God's will.

Remember that the prayer taught by Jesus himself says "Thy will be done."

Sometimes that sucks, but you need to figure it out for yourself. I still do not know why my father had to die when I was five, but he did. Praise His grace, I had a wonderful step-father, and most things seemed to work out all right. I don't have to think long and hard to see how my step-father has helped me in life. I do, however, have to think long and hard as to why the same lessons and messages couldn't have been transmitted through my father. I am humble enough (just barely enough) to accept that God's will is superior to mine.

They say that the devil is in the details, but I disagree. If you look close enough with an open mind and an open heart, you can usually find the truth (or something like it) in the details.

Robert E. Lee suggested that the outcome of battles was God's will. This is always true, I suspect, even if the bad guy wins. We are too apt to think short-term and egotistically. We need to learn from our defeats as much as from our victories. Even pulp fictions like Shakespeare's tragedies teach us lessons.

Life is not like a box of chocolates, as Forrest Gump asserts. Life is a gift, and like all gifts we best take it and enjoy it for what it is.

Of course I pray that my will be done, but I also acknowledge that I would be more at ease if God's will and my will were one in the same.

They often are not, but it's not God's fault or my fault. It is what it is, and if I cannot see the light it is not because the sun does not shine but because I am still deep in the cave.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

About the Best Modern Primer on Economics: Robert P. Murphy's "Lessons for the Young Economist"

I need to take this moment to recommend Robert Murphy's Lessons For the Young Economist.

Written in clear, unassuming prose, Murphy explains both theory and practice. Unlike other economic texts, it is witty and approachable. You should check it out even if you've never liked economics. Even if you've taken some economics courses, go buy it. If you think that economics is too convoluted and inaccessible to laymen, then this book will change your mind.

Here is the table of contents:


1. Thinking Like an Economist . 3

  1. Thinking Like an Economist 3
  2. Is Economics a Science? . 5
  3. The Scope and Boundaries of Economic Science . 5
  4. Why Study Economics? . 8

2. How We Develop Economic Principles . 13

  1. Purposeful Action versus Mindless Behavior 13
  2. The Social versus the Natural Sciences 15
  3. The Success of the Natural Sciences versus the Social Sciences 17
  4. How We Develop Basic Economics 22

3. Economic Concepts Implied By Action . 31

  1. Introduction 31
  2. Only Individuals Act 32
  3. Individuals Have Preferences 36
  4. Preferences Are Subjective 37
  5. Preferences Are a Ranking, Not a Measurement Using Numbers 39
  6. Different Individuals’ Preferences Can’t Be Combined . 42

4. “Robinson Crusoe” Economics . 49

  1. Introduction 49
  2. Crusoe Creates Goods With His Mind Powers 50
  3. Consumer Goods versus Producer Goods 52
  4. Land, Labor, and Capital Goods . 53
  5. Income, Saving, and Investment . 55
  6. Goods Are Valued Unit by Unit 59
  7. Pulling It All Together: What Should Crusoe Do With Himself? . 61


5. The Institution of Private Property 71

  1. Society Requires Rules . 71
  2. Capitalism: This Is Private Property 73
  3. The Market Economy and Free Enterprise . 74
  4. 6. Direct Exchange and Barter Prices 81
  5. Why Do People Trade With Each Other? 81
  6. Direct Exchange / Barter . 82
  7. Prices 83
  8. How Prices Are Formed in Barter . 84

7. Indirect Exchange and the Appearance of Money . 99

  1. The Limitations of Direct Exchange . 99
  2. The Advantages of Indirect Exchange . 101
  3. The Advantages of Money 104
  4. Who Invented Money? 106

8. The Division of Labor and Specialization 113

  1. The Division of Labor and Specialization . 113
  2. Why Specialization Makes Labor More Productive . 115
  3. Enriching Everyone By Focusing on Comparative Advantage . 117

9. Entrepreneurship and Competition . 125

  1. Entrepreneurship 125
  2. Competition Protects Customers 127
  3. Competition Protects Workers . 128

10. Income, Saving, and Investment 135

  1. Income, Saving, and Investment . 135
  2. Investment Increases Future Income 136
  3. How Saving and Investment Increase An Economy’s Future Output . 141

11. Supply and Demand . 147

  1. Supply and Demand: The Purpose . 147
  2. Demand: Its Definition and Its Law . 148
  3. Supply: Its Definition and Its Law 153
  4. Using Supply and Demand to Explain the Market Price 155
  5. Using Supply and Demand to Understand Price Changes .159

12. Interest, Credit, and Debt . 175

  1. Interest: It’s About Time 175
  2. Savings, Investment, and Economic Growth . 177
  3. Common Credit Transactions 180
  4. The Pros and Cons of Debt . 183

13. Profit and Loss Accounting 191

  1. Profit and Loss Guide Entrepreneurs . 191
  2. Interest Versus Profit 193
  3. The Social Function of Profit and Loss Accounting 195
  4. The Limits of Profit and Loss Accounting . 199

14. The Stock Market . 205

  1. The Stock Market 205
  2. Why Issue Stock? (Debt versus Equity) . 206
  3. The Social Function of Stock Speculation 209


15. The Failures of Socialism—Theory . 221

  1. The Vision of Pure Socialism 221
  2. Socialism’s Incentive Problem . 223
  3. Socialism’s Calculation Problem . 229

16. The Failures of Socialism—History . 239

  1. Economic Theory and History . 239
  2. Communism vs. Fascism 241
  3. Socialism’s Body Count . 242


17. Price Controls 255

  1. The Vision of Interventionism . 255
  2. Price Ceilings . 256
  3. Price Floors . 261

18. Sales and Income Taxes 271

  1. Government Spending 271
  2. How Government Finances Its Spending . 275
  3. Sales Taxes 277
  4. Income Taxes 279

19. Tariffs and Quotas . 287

  1. Mercantilism 287
  2. The General Case for Free Trade . 289
  3. Tariffs . 293
  4. Import Quotas . 299

20. The Economics of Drug Prohibition 305

  1. Drug Prohibition . 305
  2. Drug Prohibition Corrupts Government Officials 307
  3. Drug Prohibition Fosters Violence 314
  4. Drug Prohibition Reduces Product Safety 320
  5. Money Inflation vs. Price Inflation . 325

21. Inflation . 325

  1. How Governments Make Prices Rise . 329
  2. The Danger of Government Price Inflation 336

22. Government Debt 345

  1. Government Deficits and Debt 345
  2. Government Debt and Inflation 350
  3. Government Debt and Future Generations 353

23. The Business Cycle 361

  1. The Business Cycle . 361
  2. How Governments Cause the Business Cycle . 363
  3. The Inevitable Bust Following an Artificial Boom 368
  4. The Causes of Mass Unemployment 369

Glossary 377

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

About Being So Damn Busy

I again apologize to my readers (both of them--or are they now three?) for the scarce postings. My duties as football coach along with other professional obligations leave me tired most evenings.

On the bright side, my boys thoroughly whipped a team that ran the score up on us last year. Their only points (two touchdowns, no extra points) came in the fourth quarter when their first string faced our third string.

We scored at will on offense.

Final score: 48-12.

About George Washington (Briefly)

When I think of how easily George Washington could have seized--heck, could have accepted--dictatorial power yet chose instead to return to Mount Vernon as citizen Washington merely, I have two reactions.

First, I shudder at how easily a Republic can fall to demagoguery.

Second, I wish that we today had someone half as equal: popular, wise, and respectful of the Constitution.

Alas. Now his name is tainted by the city of hypocrites, tyrants, and thieves.

Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?
Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you.
--Simon and Garfunkel's "Mrs. Robinson"

Thursday, October 14, 2010

About a Ridiculous Argument Against Legalizing Pot

In an article entitled "Legal Pot in California a Big Mistake," (apparently verbs no longer en vogue) columnist Ruben Navarette, Jr. asserts

If you legalize any kind of undesirable behavior -- from vagrancy to prostitution to identity theft -- you'll remove the stigma and get more of that behavior.
I disagree. First of all, it's not as if access to marijuana is terribly restricted. Ironically, it's easier for kids to buy pot from an illegal vendor (i.e. drug dealer) than it is to buy beer from a legal vendor (i.e. Rajeeth at 7-11--I'm not being racist here. My local 7-11 is owned and operated by a man named Rajeeth. Were it not for my beard and my being a regular customer, he'd card me every time). Illegal vendors don't card their customers. When I was in high school, my buddy Garreth R., no, that's to specific, let's call him G. Ritz, used to hook us up through an old boss who would buy us beer and try to sell us pot at the same time.

Also, it's incorrect to suggest that legalizing something reduces the stigma and leads to greater demand. All legalizing something does is permit those who demand it to trade for it openly. As far as I understand, eating my dog's feces is legal, but there's still plenty of "stigma" attached to doing so. Were it legal to marry my sister, I wouldn't.

What Navarette means is that legalizing something in demand leads to people legally (and thus visibly) consuming it. Such is not the same demand increasing.

Few people who have never tried pot have abstained simply because it is illegal. It is already readily available. The illicit trade is the cause of much violence on the streets and tax-payer burdens in the form of court costs and prison accommodations.

Legal pot stops the violence and tax-payer burden. There is no argument valid to suggest that it will lead to more people smoking pot.

Besides, suppose that pot smoking becomes a bigger problem. Can't its legal status simply be repealed?

Tuesday, October 05, 2010


These are exhausting days. Although I've been doing my job perhaps better than ever before, I'm working against several frictions that neither decrease my performance nor damage my reputation, but they are annoying.

On top of this, it is football season, and I am again coaching. We won our first game last week, and we've another tomorrow. It occurs to me when I come home that I am no longer in my twenties, and that years of relative non-exercise have taken their toll. I like to run with the kids, even hitting a bit to show how to drive block or deliver a good "pop," but my legs are less responsive and the soreness persists longer than ever.

Add the coming elections, and I fall into despair. The right men and women will either not win or default on their promises. The wars persist. Monetary and fiscal policies are insane. The dollar is in real danger. I'm not an economist, but I see dark clouds on the horizon.

I haven't heard many speak of it, but I think that in addition to rising debt and persistently low interest rates from the Fed, we're looking at petroleum being valued by a currency other than the dollar. This is only a hunch. I've heard it in a few places (though I cannot remember where), but it makes sense. Perhaps Bob can correct me on this, but if petroleum drops the dollar, global demand for the dollar will plummet. Given the unprecedented supply (am I right on this?) of dollars, a rapid drop in demand will be a catastrophe of unprecedented proportions (in the United States, that is).

Someone who knows better than I do on the above subject should chime in and clarify or correct my assumptions.

And my Fantasy Football teams suck.

I am not old, but I am tired.

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