Tracing consequences both seen and unseen.
Wirkman VirkkalaRepurposing Capital: Human Action
Posted at 8:54 pm on September 23, 2013, by Wirkman Virkkala

In an economic downturn, when massive business failures appear simultaneously, owners of the means of production need to find new uses for their discarded capital-intensive production processes, and investors need to find new forward-looking enterprises to place their funds, in hopes of some future return.

This is part of the recalculation necessary during the cluster of business errors called a depression.

The terminology I’m using is that of the Austrian school, of its capital theory as well as its theory of the business cycle.

And I’m applying it to this very blog.

Which has been comatose for some time.

I invite the former participants in The Lesson Applied to give Ludwig von Mises’ Human Action: A Treatise on Economics, a careful reading. Or re-reading, as your case may be. Writers, contact me on Facebook and I’ll sign you up for Reading Matters, a Facebook group that will handle some of the technical matters of our co-ordinated reading. I propose to read this long treatise chapter by chapter, moving on when a consensus of active readers agree.

This blog will be location for our ruminations. That is, we will discuss the book and its ideas here.

Perhaps after we’ve read Human Action, the blog will revive back to its original purpose, of exploring the ramifications of policy upon market society, beyond stage one, as Thomas Sowell so neatly put it, in a Hazlittian spirit.

Always, lingering in our thoughts, will be Bastiat’s insight: where in Mises’ work does it fit?


Filed under: Economic Theory, Education, Philosophy
Comments: None
 

Justin M. StoddardThe Language of Markets
Posted at 4:29 pm on April 14, 2011, by Justin M. Stoddard

Diane Ravitch of NYU talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the ideas in her new book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education.

Click here for the podcast and the supplementary information.

Here’s the money quote from the very end of the discussion:

I think the problem with what I would call a market language rather than a market process is that, too often, government policy takes the language of markets, which is fundamentally about incentives, which is what this is about, and then tries to graft them into institutional arrangements where there’s no market process. There’s bureaucracy or government mandates, and the incentives are supposed to then be tailored and tweaked so that it looks like…acts like a market, because it has these incentives. And, the problem is without the full range of effects, it doesn’t work at all.

It reminds me of the California energy market, when they tried to use incentives to allocate energy, but they didn’t have a market. It was a government created market. And, it seems we’re are doing that in education, that the main beneficiaries are the people who, as we talked about earlier, who fund the…who create the circular add-ons, the consulting, the training, all the bells and whistles. They don’t get to the students. And, yet, it has the language of markets, so people like me are going to be lured into thinking, ‘well, they’re incentives, so it’s just like a market.’ But, it’s not. And, there’s no fundamental process that allows those market improvements to take place.

[Cross-posted at Shrubbloggers.]


Filed under: Education
Comments: 1 Comment
 

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
Comments: None
 

Justin M. StoddardA Flagging Stupidity
Posted at 4:23 pm on May 10, 2010, by Justin M. Stoddard

“The essential difficulty of pedagogy lies in the impossibility of inducing a sufficiency of superior men and women to become pedagogues. Children, and especially boys, have sharp eyes for the weaknesses of the adults set over them. It is impossible to make boys take seriously the teaching of men they hold in contempt.” — H.L. Mencken

For the most part, the out-of-proportion response to the suspension of five juveniles for wearing clothing emblazoned with American flags to school on Cinco de Mayo is all over but the shouting. Though this incident serves as incredibly effective fodder for the ever increasingly silly (and almost wholly invented) culture war being waged at the fringes, it also reminds those of us less prone to “the vapors” to recognize what’s important in cases such as these … and it is a central libertarian theme.

Sometimes we are put in the position where we feel obligated to defend stupidity.

Let’s not be coy about it. The act of donning over-the-top patriotic garb on Cinco de Mayo was an act of adolescent sophistry. Not that I’m opposed to such actions, were it aimed in the proper direction. But this was not an act aimed against an authority or unjust policy. It was simply aimed to, well … disrupt. Being such, it was impolite, uncouth, and a bit stupid. Certainly not an action that would elicit my sympathies. Until, that is, the Man stepped in and screwed everything up.

When the principal of the California school got involved, things got a bit surreal. Telling the students that they were welcome to wear such accoutrements any other day other than Cinco de Mayo, said principal immediately made himself out to be a bit of a buffoon. When he suspended the boys for the day and sent them home, he unwittingly thrust himself and the entire brouhaha into the national spotlight, proving to everyone in America what children have known for ages: A school administrator wielding arbitrary power is an irresistible recipe for ridicule.

Don’t let’s get caught in these culture war traps. What these boys did was silly and unwarranted, a feat begging to be ignored. Any intelligent school administrator would have recognized this stunt for what it was, and acted appropriately — that is, not at all. What we have now is a principal (and the school administrators who backed him) worthy only of ridicule and censure.

Race and immigration policies are tangential, here. This is about restraint (the wisdom of knowing when to wield and when to yield the power you have) and personal responsibility, two capacities for which individuals could stand to develop more.

[Cross-posted at Shrubbloggers.]


Filed under: Culture, Education, Nanny State
Comments: 2 Comments
 

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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