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Book Suggestion Thread

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fegeldolfy Posted: Sat, Nov 17 2012 4:31 PM

I thought it would be good to have a thread where people can ask for suggestions of books on certain topics, questions about book a vs book b, and stuff like that.

I have a few questions.

1.Has anyone here read Ronald Takaki's "A Different Mirror"? I read some stuff in class about Irish immigrants, and it was pretty interesting. Thoughts?

2.What is the difference between Rothbard's The Mystery of Banking and The Case Against the Fed? Do both need to be read? What if I read The Mystery of Banking and "The Origins of the Federal Reserve?

3.Does anyone know any good "pop" Keynesian or monetarist works? I've got Milton Friedman's Capitalism and Freedom, but that's pretty much it. Same question for socialism/marxism/mutualism.

4.Are there any good books/articles (preferably books that can be downloaded for free) on free market healthcare?

 

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Wheylous replied on Sat, Nov 17 2012 4:36 PM

Pop neo-Keynesian - End This Depression Now

Don't know whether it's good or not, but it's popular.

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I think my sister has a copy of that.

I flipped through the table of contents. I can't wait to see all the ad-hominems and emotional appealing in the chapter on "austerians".

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Neodoxy replied on Sat, Nov 17 2012 6:12 PM

The Darwin Economy

It's one of the best mainstream anti-libertarian works I've ever read exactly because it focuses upon the areas which the free market has a hardes time dealing with: collective goods problems. With this said I think that he ultimately fails because he overestimates how common the problems are and the capabilities of government

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It's one of the best mainstream anti-libertarian works I've ever read exactly because it focuses upon the areas which the free market has a hardes time dealing with: collective goods problems.

What are you talking about with this? Are you saying the gov't can deliver goods? Isn't force exclusive to the deliverance of goods? The way you frame the problem (the provision of "collective goods") you make it seem as if goods can be delivered in any other way than within a market. 

There are problems of getting people to act collectively, that is, to act as a collection of individuals, but this is merely inherent in the problem of societies themselves; that people have extremely varying views over how to live their lives. Markets and voluntary agreements harmonize these differing views by creating possibilities of exchange, a coincidence when two people can make a trade to each make one another closer to accomplishing his or her respective goals. 

So, yea. Hope this makes sense to you because it did to me, albeit that I'm winging it.

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Wheylous replied on Sat, Nov 17 2012 8:28 PM

The conclusion that government is able to provide public goods efficiently is the great non-sequitur in economics. Just because markets (supposedly) fail, it doesn't mean governments don't. Also, note that some goods are provided for the exact reasons that economists say they shouldn't be provided - like toll roads in the 19th century - they were provided not because they were profitable (they weren't!), but because of the positive externalities provided to businesses around the roads.

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Where can I read about that, Wheylous? You have a link?

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Wheylous replied on Sat, Nov 17 2012 8:52 PM

The general source list for infrastructure is here:

http://candlemind.com/projects/progclub/file/michael/getEducated.php?listID=15

The specific fact is mentioned here:

http://fee.org/the_freeman/detail/private-highways-in-america-1792-1916/

 

The unprofitability of turnpikes soon became obvious. The vast majority of turnpikes paid only very small dividends or none at all. First, toll evasion was rampant, as people would circumvent tollgates, a practice known as “shunpiking.” Second, many roads were built in advance of settlement and travel demand was low. Third, legal restrictions and regulations, limiting both toll rates and countermeasures to shunpiking, hamstrung the turnpikes’ abilities to improve their financial situation.

But poor financial returns did not necessarily mean unfruitfulness. Even an unprofitable turnpike stimulated commerce, raised land values, and aided expansion. Therefore, community leaders resorted to a fascinating array of tactics to boost the turnpike cause despite the sad prospects for dividends. Supporters used newspaper appeals, town meetings, door-to-door solicitations, and correspondence to apply social pressure. In this way as in others, American communities relied on voluntarism, as so elegantly described by Alexis de Tocqueville, to meet local needs. The result in terms of turnpike construction in New York is shown in Figure 1.

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Neodoxy replied on Sun, Nov 18 2012 3:35 PM

"What are you talking about with this? Are you saying the gov't can deliver goods? Isn't force exclusive to the deliverance of goods?"

The government can deliver goods and while force itself is antithetical to providing goods the affects of force are not. If I steal money from you and I use it to start a company which makes a profit then the fact is that I have produced goods and value has been produced, from a market perspective. Even if I produce something that exchanges for less on the market I have still produced a good.

Let me make this clear; nothing in Austrian theory counteracts the basic idea of collective goods which is that the marginal monetary contribution an individual would make to the provision of a product is practically immeasurable in paying for the production of the product. Usage of the product cannot be denied to an individual if he does not pay. If we assume this then it is only insofar as people overestimate their own marginal contribution, and/or they consider their contribution an end in and of itself that the good will be provided at all. Let's look at a vague, archetypal, and ideal example like this: Project A will not be provided without funding through confiscatory taxation. Every individual in society values project A more than the costs that would be imposed to each individual if everyone were taxed equally in order to pay for project A. From this point of view every individual would be made better off so long as each individual would prefer to have project A completed than the cost imposed on them and the fact that they were forced to pay the tax.

Let's assume that defense and property rights can only be provided through confiscatory taxation by a state, just assume it for now. If this is the case then taxation at almost any level will make individuals better off than the alternative, since money only gains value from the existence of the market. Without defense and property rights in effect money becomes useless, and all materials and exchanges on the market are contingent upon this. From this perspective taxation is almost entirely justified from the valuations of the individuals in society themselves. Where anarchism and voluntaryism come in is if we challenge the premise that only the state can provide defense in the first place.

"The way you frame the problem (the provision of "collective goods") you make it seem as if goods can be delivered in any other way than within a market."

The state, in its actions, certainly has a much easier time getting around the problem, since it functions on a much grander scale than any firm, and it doesn't have to deal with the pesky problem of actually making a profit and verifying that it has contributed to society. The biggest problem with the state, which infects all of its other actions, is that it suffers inherently from the problem in the form of voting and bureaucracy.

Voluntary interactions can get around the problem more efficiently than the state can, but not as easily.

@Wheylous

That's an excellent display of the failure in common economic theory in thinking that somehow the market won't provide for positive externalities when it's inherent to the positive externality that it benefits people. Insofar as positive externalities have a hard time being rectified on the market it's exactly because the externalities involve collective goods.

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Another question

Are there any benefits to having austrian works as physical books as opposed to ebooks? I ask this because all the stuff I have is on my kindle, but christmas is coming up so i was wondering if it was worth asking for austrian books.

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Neodoxy replied on Sun, Nov 18 2012 5:30 PM

Not unless you prefer to read it in a physical copy or make markings that you know you want to keep.

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If I steal money from you and I use it to start a company which makes a profit then the fact is that I have produced goods and value has been produced, from a market perspective.

What? If you steal your means of production, you've no way of calculating the costs of your endeavor, and thus no way of determining if you've really produced a profit or created value. 

Let me make this clear; nothing in Austrian theory counteracts the basic idea of collective goods which is that the marginal monetary contribution an individual would make to the provision of a product is practically immeasurable in paying for the production of the product. Usage of the product cannot be denied to an individual if he does not pay

It seems to me you haven't even described anything relating to economics. You've just described some hypothetical problem of a certain production method that, if conditions held, may lead to it not being provided, but then again, you really have no idea a priori.

If we assume this then it is only insofar as people overestimate their own marginal contribution, and/or they consider their contribution an end in and of itself that the good will be provided at all.

People won't contribute if they don't value their contribution highly enough. Is that all you're saying here? And how do you even know it's a good? You're just assuming that too, I guess?

Let's look at a vague, archetypal, and ideal example like this: Project A will not be provided without funding through confiscatory taxation.

Project A will not be provided unless it is funded by theft. Implicit in your definition is that it will not be provided for voluntarily. This means individuals have not revealed a preference that it be provided.

 Every individual in society values project A more than the costs that would be imposed to each individual if everyone were taxed equally in order to pay for project A.

You've assumed away the whole market process, which is the litmus test to determine if individuals actually do value the end result, and if they value it more than the opportunity costs. I don't understand the point of this analysis. I don't see it as having any practical use at all. The fact is we live in conditions of uncertainty, the things people value are not at all a given, the extent to which they value things is not at all a given, and whether they will keep valuing such things in a linear manner is not at all a given. 

I mean, just look at your assumption. You'd basically have to be omniscient to know if a collective good should be provided by taxation or not.

From this point of view every individual would be made better off so long as each individual would prefer to have project A completed than the cost imposed on them and the fact that they were forced to pay the tax.

How could you ever come about this knowledge?

Let's assume that defense and property rights can only be provided through confiscatory taxation by a state, just assume it for now.

I can't assume it, because labeling things as "defense" and "property rights" smuggles an objective conception of these things detached from individuals in the marketplace who determine what they are, how they will be provided, and whether they wish to trade to acquire or ensure them.

If this is the case then taxation at almost any level will make individuals better off than the alternative, since money only gains value from the existence of the market.

You've left out a necessary assumption: that the state (or whoever is receiving the stolen funds) will provide "defense" and "rights protection" in the manner individuals actually desire. For all you know, the state could use the funds it gets to exploit an underclass and protect the property of an elite. Or it could kill millions oversees, something individuals might think imposes a cost far greater than any benefit from the "defense" they're receiving in the first place.

And furthermore, you've framed the entire problem to lead to this conclusion. I don't see why that makes it a relevant analysis. Look, if I assumed there was a god living among us, and I further assumed he was a benevolent god, making him ultimate dictator would probably make everyone better off. So what? And my response to the "problem" of a collective good that you present is "so what?" You can't even prove the collective good is desirable. You just have to assume it, and that's where your analysis begins, only to be followed by additional, unrealistic assumptions.

Where anarchism and voluntaryism come in is if we challenge the premise that only the state can provide defense in the first place.

I thought it came in when we realized the state steals from people, builds shit and then calls it "defense" and then says it's desirable, and then that it can only be provided for by stealing, and then that nothing even resembling it could be provided voluntarily!

The state, in its actions, certainly has a much easier time getting around the problem

What problem!? The only thing a state has an easy time doing is making tons of shit that people wouldn't fund voluntarily. It has an easy time ignoring people's conflicts and forcing them to live in ways they haven't consented to. The problem of national defense being non-excludable breeds from the fact that not everybody agrees on how to live their lives. Some will contribute out of principle, others will want to free-ride. Maybe this demands a different deliverance of the good altogether (or maybe not), or maybe it demands that the resources be directed in an entirely different manner altogether. So what? The point is, markets harmonize differing interests, while states ignore them. To posit that the process which ignores the valuations of people will produce the better result, as judged by those same people, is ridiculous (though not impossible).

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I may have talked past some of what you said. Of all things a market can deliver, I would say you are roughly right that it would have the hardest time producing "collective goods." I just place zero faith in gov't as a solution to this problem, so therefore I think it is basically irrelevant to discuss besides in specific ideas of how to provide such things within a marketplace. 

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Jargon replied on Mon, Nov 19 2012 12:03 AM

@ Fegel

 

http://c4ss.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/C4SS-The-Healthcare-Crisis-A-Crisis-of-Artificial-Scarcity-by-Kevin-A.-Carson.pdf

This should get you started on healthcare.

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The Anarch is to the Anarchist what the Monarch is to the Monarchist. -Ernst Jünger

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fegeldolfy replied on Mon, Nov 19 2012 12:15 AM
Thanks!
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Anenome replied on Mon, Nov 19 2012 12:24 AM

Healthcare:

http://mises.org/daily/6091/The-Devilish-Principles-of-Hillarycare

http://mises.org/daily/6099/Government-Medical-Insurance

And this will blow your mind, a whole reading list on healthcare, pretty awesome actually:

http://mises.org/daily/3737/Why-ObamaCare-Will-Fail-A-Reading-List

Autarchy: rule of the self by the self; the act of self ruling.
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Neodoxy replied on Mon, Nov 19 2012 1:22 AM

"What? If you steal your means of production, you've no way of calculating the costs of your endeavor, and thus no way of determining if you've really produced a profit or created value."

I'm not stealing the means of production, I'm stealing money with which to purchased the means of production. Profit is still just judged off of the price of inputs vs revenue.

"It seems to me you haven't even described anything relating to economics. You've just described some hypothetical problem of a certain production method that, if conditions held, may lead to it not being provided, but then again, you really have no idea a priori."

... What? All of Austrian economic theory, by its very nature is something which will occur certain situations. We cannot tell that anyone will EVER engage in market activities, nor that anyone will ever actually pursue profit or even utilize money. The same applies for all a priori sciences. We don't know that there will ever be a perfect circle, nor a right triangle. We can tell, however, what the result will be when two groups of of four are added together, or what the results of profit pursuing activities on a market in which certain consumers choose to utilize a generally accepted means of exchange.

The problem of public goods fits all of these criteria and deals with human valuation, exchange, and production, fitting all of the normal criteria for having to do with the subject known as "economics". Also how is it that something hypothetical cannot be a priori?

"People won't contribute if they don't value their contribution highly enough. Is that all you're saying here? And how do you even know it's a good? You're just assuming that too, I guess?"

Yes. What's the problem with that? If you're going to suggest that I should not be doing so because it doesn't apply to real life, then that's a perfectly legitimate concern. That was, as I stated in my first post, my biggest problem with the Darwin Economy, that he overestimates the commonality of public goods. The commonality of the problem is also something that we can only know a posteriori.

"Project A will not be provided unless it is funded by theft. Implicit in your definition is that it will not be provided for voluntarily. This means individuals have not revealed a preference that it be provided."

Yes, that is a major problem with the statist assumption that you can calculate the ideal provision of a public good.

"How could you ever come about this knowledge?"

You can't. That's part of the problem.

"I can't assume it, because labeling things as "defense" and "property rights" smuggles an objective conception of these things detached from individuals in the marketplace who determine what they are, how they will be provided, and whether they wish to trade to acquire or ensure them."

What? How can you exchange property rights? And yea we kind of have an objective idea in mind when thinking about the market place, and these things do have to be provided.

"You've left out a necessary assumption: that the state (or whoever is receiving the stolen funds) will provide "defense" and "rights protection" in the manner individuals actually desire. For all you know, the state could use the funds it gets to exploit an underclass and protect the property of an elite. Or it could kill millions oversees, something individuals might think imposes a cost far greater than any benefit from the "defense" they're receiving in the first place."

Correct.

"And furthermore, you've framed the entire problem to lead to this conclusion. I don't see why that makes it a relevant analysis. Look, if I assumed there was a god living among us, and I further assumed he was a benevolent god, making him ultimate dictator would probably make everyone better off. So what? And my response to the "problem" of a collective good that you present is "so what?" You can't even prove the collective good is desirable. You just have to assume it, and that's where your analysis begins, only to be followed by additional, unrealistic assumptions."

And that would be a legitimate line of reasoning if you're trying to understand what the affects of an almighty god living amongst us would be, now isn't it? If you determine that there isn't then this would mean that everything which we have stated would not apply, but this does not mean that we cannot learn something from the analysis. All other factors cannot be held equal, yet this is a common method used by economists in order to show economic relationships, whether this comes in the form of "ceteris paribus" or the ERE, you can't just cut them off and say "that would never happen", even though this is perfectly true

"I thought it came in when we realized the state steals from people, builds shit and then calls it "defense" and then says it's desirable, and then that it can only be provided for by stealing, and then that nothing even resembling it could be provided voluntarily!"

"What problem!? The only thing a state has an easy time doing is making tons of shit that people wouldn't fund voluntarily."

The problem I have just outlined. Just because someone wouldn't fund something voluntarily doesn't mean that they don't value the provision of a good to be zero dollars.

"To posit that the process which ignores the valuations of people will produce the better result, as judged by those same people, is ridiculous"

Why?

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Loppu replied on Mon, Nov 19 2012 2:07 AM

Has anyone here read Essays in Austrian Economics by William Barnett and Walter E. Block? The book doesn't have any Amazon reviews, and I'm struggling inside whether I should buy it or not.

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