Jeffrey A. Tucker is Editorial Director for the American Institute for Economic Research. He is the author of many thousands of articles in the scholarly and popular press and eight books in 5 languages. He speaks widely on topics of economics, technology, social philosophy, and culture. He is available for speaking and interviews via his email. Tw | FB | LinkedIn
Jeffrey A. Tucker
Articles from Jeffrey A. Tucker
The film brilliantly shows the wild jockeying for power that follows Stalin’s death, with fantastic portrayals of all the important figures from this period: Nikita Khrushchev, Lavrently Beria, Vyacheslav Molotov, Andrey Andreyev, Georgy Zhukov. It also serves as an excellent guide to what actually happened in those strange months that led to Beria’s execution and the rise of Khrushchev to become General Secretary.
This week, it was my pleasure to sit on a panel with Gavin Brennen of Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, a physicist and one of the world experts on this topic. He presented a very nice paper that examined this question in some detail. He began with his frustration over the headlines that swept the tech world last October and November. They were as alarmist as they were misleading. He set the record straight.
The hotel room in Sydney, Australia, didn’t have a coffee pot. But there was a water heater and some packages of instant coffee. Blech, right? That’s what I remember from the old days, meaning some uncertain point in the past. But desperation forced experimentation. I heated the water, poured the packet of Moccona “Indulgence” in the cup. No stirring. You know what? It was just wonderful.
It’s not at all surprising that with the highly politicized environment of the US, with ever more controls, more people are looking for new ways to live a peaceful life. It only takes one visit to a paradise like St. Kitts to get the mind turning toward dreams of a new start, a life of peace and quiet. I completely get it. I was only in St. Kitts for three days and now I understand completely.
If we had a genuine free market in food – and the market is doing its best with the Amazon acquisition of Whole Foods – we would also likely see a greater alignment between what is affordable and what is actually good food for human consumption. It would be nice at least to be able to test this, starting with an end to the farm program.
As it turns out, many people have needs that cannot be appreciated or discerned in advance by intellectuals. Many times, they cannot even understand them. This has been obvious since the late 19th century, when the socialist critique of the capitalist market underwent a huge shift. The Marxists had predicted that capitalism would impoverish the working class while enriching the class of capital owners. When that turned out to be obviously false, the critique shifted: now the system was being attacked for providing too much in the way of frivolous luxury goods to the middle class.
The company ZTE (Zhongxing Telecommunications Equipment) in Shanghai had employed as many 75,000, and does business in 160 nations, while relying heavily on importing American component parts and manufacturing cellphones and other digital equipment. The US Commerce Department came down hard on the company for dealings with North Korea and Iran. It fined the company $1.2 billion and banned American exports to the company for fully seven years. It was all part of the “get tough” policy that Trump has been promoting his entire career.
The rise of the city scooter as part of the app economy is a fantastic example of how markets generate solutions in the face of intractable problems. The more people tool around on these wonderful scooters, the lighter the traffic, the cleaner the city, and the happier people are. Note that no central planner came up with the idea. It has emerged out of discreet forms of market-based innovation using the best of modern technology combined with a perceived solution of a genuine use case.
It is the great presumption of public policy that some people with power, resources, and status can know what is true, and therefore what must be better. This is in contrast to the lowly actors in the marketplace who must deal daily with the problem of not knowing. To navigate life, to find profitable investment opportunities, to discover what it is that society needs now and what can wait, is the great challenge of material life. But the state takes a different route. It declares what is true, attempts to freeze the process of life, and then impose it as a matter of law.
Here is what is so amazing. It all happens without any central direction from the top down. In fact, we can go further to say that it could not happen under central direction. No government bureaucrat made this possible. They only get in the way. You need owners, marketers, manufacturers, prices, markets, banks, millions of people, and thousands upon thousands of rounds of trading across dozens of countries, plus many years, decades, and centuries of economic development, all ending in a sweet little healthy snack just for me.
The years between 1890 and the Second World War were the golden age of the American piano. Pianos were the biggest-ticket item on every household budget besides the house itself. Everyone had to have one. Those who didn't have one aspired to have one. It was a prize, an essential part of life, and they sold by the millions and millions. Then it all went away.
It was this time ten years ago that people started to catch on that something was going wrong. Home prices stopped rising, many were falling, the flipping schemes were dying out, and default notices were being posted for smaller banking houses. Could it be that the entire glory days of the spectacular increases in home prices were coming to an end? Denial was still in the air.
As much as I do not want to admit it, it would be precisely right for the court to decide that Trump’s campaign statements should have no bearing on the legality or illegality of his executive order. It is not up to the courts to assess the motivations for what we do, much less to evaluate the inner workings of our minds and hearts, not even the president’s. The law should deal only with what can actually be known: what we do. Oddly, a court decision in favor of the executive order puts President Trump in the position of being the only citizen in the Western world whose statements and motivations will not be so evaluated.
The choice between virtue and vice is a human choice. Relying on the government to make this choice for us disables the social order’s internal mechanisms for bringing about and rewarding responsible behavior. It seems like a paradox, but it is true: The only path toward restoring sanity in teenage drinking is greater liberty. Arresting kids and bartenders on the typical Friday evening does nothing to solve the problem and even makes matters worse.
Just as humanity saw the first glimmer of the hope of universal human prosperity, prevailing ruling-class opinion turned against the idea and pushed a host of nostrums to stop it from happening. Here was where Henry George made the difference. He entered into this milieu with a powerful message: prosperity for the entire world is possible provided we keep pushing out the boundaries of freedom, provide no privilege to any single class, we fix the problems that are keeping people in poverty, we address the underlying cause of the boom-bust cycle, and continue to innovate and trade.
What is the point of adopting a fact-based worldview? Rosling says that it is essential so that we can better navigate life, the way a GPS helps us navigate a city. Further, knowing the facts about life around us brings us more comfort. We are less alarmed at the news. We are less likely to be manipulated by panicked political promises. We see through the fog. We can be more calm, rational, and perceptive.