Tracing consequences both seen and unseen.
David M. BrownWhat if there were deficit thinking, thinking deficit, on a desert island?
Posted at 1:43 am on August 9, 2011, by David M. Brown

Let’s attempt the program of “economic stimulus” on a desert island. Five persons have survived the shipwreck. Joe is good at gathering berries and reeds, and dressing wounds; Al is good at fishing, hunting and basket-weaving; Bob is good at making huts and gourd-bowls; and Sam, who wants to spend all his time sharpening sticks, and who regards any other kind of employment as beneath him, cannot produce a tool of any usefulness.

Let more and more of the resources that would have been exchanged in life-fostering and productivity-fostering trade between Joe, Al and Bob be confiscated by a fifth person, the king (who happens to have the only gun, a Kalashnikov that he grabbed from the ship before it crashed; elsewise no one would listen to him). And let this confiscated wealth (after a suitably large finder’s fee for the king has been deducted) be given to Sam to subsidize his slow and pointless blunt-stick production, since it would allegedly be unacceptable for Sam to have to accept alms in accordance with the sympathies and judgments of his fellows. And let the king perpetually demand more and more “revenue” to distribute and perpetually bray that criticism of his taxing and spending policies by “economic terrorists” is undermining confidence in the island’s economy.

What are the effects of this confiscatory and redistributive process on the prospects for the islanders’ survival? Discuss.

[Cross-posted to Davidmbrowndotcom.]


Filed under: Culture, Economic Theory, Efficiency, Finance, Food Policy, Gains From Trade, Government Spending, Health Care, Labor, Law Enforcement, Local Government, Market Efficiency, Nanny State, Philosophy, Politics, Property Rights, Taxes, Trade, Unintended Consequences
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David M. BrownThe lesson designed: An example of the new national conformity educational standard
Posted at 9:20 pm on July 22, 2010, by David M. Brown

From the Times report on how many of the states, bribed, are embracing “National Standards for Schools” (maybe):

The common core standards, two years in the making and first released in draft form in March, are an effort to replace the current hodgepodge of state policies.

They lay out detailed expectations of skills that students should have at each grade level. Second graders, for example, should be able to read two-syllable words with long vowels, while fifth graders should be able to add and subtract fractions with different denominators.

Two years in the making. The kids should learn to read and add and subtract. Also, by the ninth grade, I want them doing a précis of Chapter 11 of War and Peace.

Of course, no “national standards” are necessary, no timeline. It’s okay to have the hodgepodge. It’s okay if some kids learn some things faster or slower than other kids. It’s okay if some kids and some teachers and some parents and some schools and some towns and some states do things differently from and perhaps better than other kids, teachers, parents, schools, towns and states; better with respect to some grand timeless objective scale of Means and Content of Learning and Teaching or at least better with respect to their own individual goals, abilities and situations. A country of non-slaves doesn’t need to be and perhaps would not even enjoy being subjugated to any “national standards for schools” either so generic as to be meaningless or so specific and totalitarian as to be obliterative of competition, innovation, and independent-thinking alternative ways of fostering the mental skills and moral values needed to understand that coercively imposed “national standards for schools” is a fascistic egalitarian crock.


Filed under: Education, Nanny State
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Henry Hazlitt"[T]he whole of economics can be reduced to a single lesson, and that lesson can be reduced to a single sentence. The art of economics consists in looking not merely at the immediate but at the longer effects of any act or policy; it consists in tracing the consequences of that policy not merely for one group but for all groups."
Henry Hazlitt, Economics in One Lesson
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