Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Philanthropy

Do you give of your own income? How much? If you don't where do you expect the funds for caring for those you are concerned about to come from?
To whatever extent we expect the government to care for charities in our name we give up that liberty to the government. Increase of liberty requires the assumption of personal responsibility not only for one's self but also for those around us.
Nathan

Monday, January 30, 2006

Wal-Mart

I realize this is only going to open a can of worms, but I think these worms need to get out.

What's so bad about Wal-Mart? Talk to the people at Wal-Mart and you'll wonder how North Carolina ever managed to live without them. But talk to protesters and you'll wonder how we ever let a disaster like Wal-Mart happen to us. Turns out you can defend just about any position in between, which makes for a pretty interesting debate.

Why I like Wal-Mart: they streamiline the production process and supply chains to keep prices low just for me (I'm special). Even if I never shopped at Wal-Mart, they'd still put pressure on other producers and retailers to streamiline their operations. If I really hated Wal-Mart, I could still choose to shop somewhere else and have nothing to do with them. This is a good thing.

Why I dislike Wal-Mart: they seek out and often receive help from Uncle Sam (eminent domain, incentive packages, etc). This is a bad thing because I can no longer choose not to support Wal-Mart. Sam doesn't bother to ask my permission before he makes me support Wal-Mart. In this case, if I really hate Wal-Mart, I just have to bite the bullet. Only in extreme cases is pursuing the political process worthwhile.

Daniel Underwood

Anybody catch Daniel's column last Friday in the technician? I ran into Daniel the other day, and we shared emails. I sent him the following plug and clarification of the whole liberal conservative labelling issue. It runs as follows and provides some insight into my screen name and blog title.

I've got a book (short, 130 pgs. written at a 6th grade reading level) for you called "Are You Liberal, Conservative, or Confused?" by Richard Maybury. www.bluestockingpress.com, but I'll lend you mine, if you like.
A few selections in response to Friday's column:

Liberals believe you should have privacy in your social conduct, but not in your economic conduct. Conservatives grant privacy in your economic conduct but not in your social conduct. Thr right wants to use force to stamp out immorality. The left wants to use it to stamp out inequality of wealth. A Moderate compromises. Borrowing from both left and right, he wishes to control both your economic conduct and your social conduct. Moderates will allow you more economic freedom than liberals and more social freedom than conservatives but they want to keep a close eye on both areas. They don't like privacy. Both Republicans and Democrats are closer to Moderates than either extreme Liberals (socialists), or extreme Conservatives (fascists). This is where they perceive the bulk of the votes to be. The other Middle View is Juris Naturalism. Juris Naturalists are the opposite of Moderates, they combine the left's desire for liberty in social affairs and the right's desire for liberty in economic affairs. Juris naturalism never is found on the Left to Right spectrum of political ideals. This is because the spectrum contains no place for it. From far left to far right its all statist. Juris naturalists are terrified of political power, and consider it the most evil drug ever discovered.
Nathan

ISI?

Are there any other ISI members among you?
Nathan

Morality of Capitalism

I have invited some folks to dicuss the morality of Capitalism, economics, and varying political and market structures over the next week or so. Please visit and comment.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Deep Insight.........I'll share it after I stand in line for $20/loaf bread

What is immoral?

Save $35

Professor Walden's book "Smart Economics..." sells for $35 on Amazon.com. I looked it up.

So if you want to know what the book says without spending the money, come to the SPEL event Monday at 7pm in Nelson 4210. It's on us.

The description from Amazon.com: "Budget deficits, gas prices, health care costs, social security, job security.... Anxiety over the economy pervades our daily lives--from reports on the early morning newscasts to gossip around the water cooler to dinner table debate. Yet most citizens are woefully ignorant when it comes to understanding how the economy works and how to interpret the impact of policies and business decisions..."

Bastiat revisited

In his essay "Property and Plunder," Frederic Bastiat has this prediction, or hope, to offer:

"...the time will come very soon, I hope, when only services within its competence will be asked of the state, such as justice, national defense, public works, etc...."

What is included in the "etc." at the end? Some believe far more things are within the competence of the state, and some far less. For example, some say the state must provide health care while others say the state cannot even provide justice.

What Bastiat mentions specifically in that essay is that the state should not be in the business of handing out favors to special interests or offering protection from foreign trade to certain industries at the expense of all others. This much I completely agree with.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Question of the Day

How can you define taxation in a way which makes it different from robbery?

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Organ Market

What if there were free trade in human organs? I'll admit it's a creepy idea, but is there any other way to completely eliminate the organ shortage? Nobel laureate Gary Becker lays out some economic analysis of what an organ market might be like here. I've spent a lot of time thinking about this and I eventually began supporting the idea of freeing up organ markets.

Is anyone on this blog morally opposed to selling irreplaceable body parts? Is it an individual's right to sell himself piece by piece (basically a portion of his life)? These are the real sticking points in the debate since the economics of organ markets is a little easier: it's much the same as a market with a price ceiling (at zero dollars).

Think about it.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Hold on a minute

I just read that Canada elected a conservative economist and Christian for Prime Minister. Is it bad that's so surprising? I didn't even know they had elections again so soon.

Monday, January 23, 2006

SPEL Promotion

Hello everyone,

I just wanted to say that we as SPEL members should each be more proactive to get people involved. One thing I was thinking about was AIM. That is a huge untapped resource. I know there are those "Away Message Vultures" (people that chronically read away messages) so we should hit them with SPEL Meetings and times. I think we should each put information about SPEL meetings in our away messages and profiles. If everyone in the club did that imagine how many people would see.

Another idea I had was to post the meetings on Facebook groups. We should be diligent about this for EVERY meeting. A few groups that come to mind are College of Management Majors, Campus Crusade, Proud to be Christians, Palestine, Family Guy, College Republicans etc etc (I am not endorsing these groups but DAD BURNIT they have over 3000 members sometimes!)

Welp have a good week!

Sunday, January 22, 2006

No, it's nothing like Oprah's book club

This year's book group will discuss Frederic Bastiat's Selected Essays, a perfect book for our purposes becuase 1) it encompasses all three disciplines, 2) each chapter can be read independently of the others (you can skip a week and not be lost), and 3) readers of all levels and from any discipline can learn a lot from Bastiat.

Guillermo, our Vice President, is organizing the group this year and we're going to meet on Wednesdays at 4:30pm in Nelson hall. Email Guillermo at gfpenap@ncsu.edu for more details if you're interested.

When in the course of human events...

A friend of mine just gave me a copy of the Constitution. Maybe you've seen it; it's the little pocket Constitution from the National Constitution Center like the one John Stossel pulls out when he goes on a rant about how government is too big. Anyway, the Declaration of Independence is in the appendix of my new pocket Constitution, so I read it.

I'm not sure if I'd read every word of it before, but it's fantastic. In fact, some of the Founders' petitions could apply currently to the very Nation that they ended up creating. Specifically, I'm talking about the lack of free movement of both goods and of people across U.S. borders and the proliferation of bureaucracies. About King George:

"HE has erected a Multitude of new Offices, and sent hither Swarms of Officers to harass our People, and eat out their Substance."

To me, that sounds like they're describing our overgrown executive branch. Only I don't know who "HE" is in that case.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Economics and the brain

Neuroeconomics workshops are trying to answer some difficult questions:

"What are the computational processes that the brain uses to make economic decisions? What is the neural basis of these processes? How do these processes shape economic behavior?"

All I know is that I have no idea; I'll leave it up to the Stanford program and maybe check in every few years to see what they've done. Pretty heavy stuff, though.

P.S. You Political Science people have to post more often so I don't bore everyone to sleep with economics.

Public Choice Theory

It seems appropriate, if I'm going to talk about the Economic Analysis of Law, to include Public Choice Theory, which is essentially the Economic Analysis of politicians and voters. In my opinion, all Public Choice Theory does is recognize that people remain 'economic actors' even in the public realm and when they vote. But it turns out you can get a lot of mileage out of this crucial recognition, as James Buchanan and Gordon Tullock did in their 1962 book, "The Calculus of Consent."

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Economic Analysis of Law

Since I'm taking a Law and Economics class this semester, I'll probably keep posting ideas from that class that I think are worth spreading around. The idea for today is a decision rule for normative Law and Economics: Kaldor-Hicks efficiency. What is wrong with Kaldor-Hicks efficiency and why is it incomplete as a decision rule? (There are at least two completely different angles from which to attack it.)

Glad we have a discussion arena

Hi SPEL members.

Travis thanks for setting this up. We'll make this blog work.

Hope to read some fun discussions here in the future.

Guillermo

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

If you read one thing this year...

The other day, I was talking with SPEL's faculty adviser, Dr. Roy Cordato, about how hard it would be for me to teach economics even though I have done nothing but study economics for four years. I told him I wouldn't know where to start. He said, "I always start with 'I, Pencil.'" It made perfect sense. Why start with a graph that I probably don't even understand? After all, the market process is much more fantastic and interesting than any graph.

So I urge you to read every last word of Leonard Read's "I, Pencil" despite how silly the name sounds at first and despite how boring it usually is to read economics. You won't get this stuff in the funny-looking graphs you're used to.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Finally, An Actual Topic: Patents

Are patents good? We have patent laws that (once applied for and granted) give inventors a time-limited monopoly on the products of their work. The question is, do they do more good than harm?

Some say patents are necessary to sustain research and development, that far less R&D would get done without patent laws and that less R&D is detrimental. Others argue against patents because they enforce monopolies, that the legal block on competition before a patent runs out is harmful.

So which is the lesser evil? Or, more practically, how can we determine the optimal duration of a patent? The only tip I have before you try to answer that question is that it's not easy.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

How do SPEL members post?

Just send me an email (tsfisher@ncsu.edu) and I'll give you a member invitation. Only email addresses on the SPEL mailing list will be added as members. Thanks!

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

What fun...

Look how much fun it is to post on the SPEL blog. Wheeeeeee!!!!

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

About the name of this blog...

From Webster's Dictionary

spellbinder n (1888): a speaker of compelling eloquence; also: one that compels attention

Monday, January 09, 2006

Meeting 1/30/06

The next SPEL meeting is Monday, January 30th at 7pm in Nelson 4210. We are hosting a talk by Dr. Michael Walden, one of three William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professors of Economics at NCSU. Read more about him here. He will discuss his new book, Smart Economics: Commonsense Answers to Fifty Questions About Government, Business, and Households. Plus, if you still have any questions that weren't part of the fifty he answered in his book, I'm sure he'll comment on just about anything. Hope to see everyone there.