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, most recently The Market Loves You. 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
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.
Even as the US is pulling inward, demonizing foreign nations, calling everyone in the world a cheater, China is aggressively opening to the world, negotiating bilateral trade pacts with every nation it can and another 14 multilateral trade pacts. More goods and investment coming and going – this seems to be the Chinese credo. It is winning them wealth, prosperity, and good will the world over.
What Elizabeth Warren intends is to make the highwayman rob you in your sleep, so that you never know he is there and come to expect less ownership in the morning than when you went to bed. Her proposed change to tax filing would diminish property rights, make tax increases easier, reduce your privacy, and fundamentally upend what remains of the idea that you are entitled to the wealth you earn. It would also end up restricting your possible sources of income
There will be another winter. And another. To get the best sense of the potential here, it’s best to look at the price, not day to day, but on a logarithmic scale. Here is where we can see the potential of the technology. That has a much more meaningful significance than the fickle judgments of seasonal news hounds that make the difference on the daily margin.
Right now, Facebook faces massive competition from other platforms in social media, copycats, and alternative uses of people’s time. In some ways, it’s the best possible moment to call on government to institutionalize Facebook as a form of public utility. That might actually be the end game that Zuckerberg has in mind. Then the politicians can update their timeline status: today we passed regulations that brought this wayward company to heel.
The personal signature has a notorious history: J.S. Bach’s on his compositions, the founding fathers on the Declaration of Independence, Picasso on his paintings, and the president’s today on executive orders. Creating your own was a right of passage. With credit card companies admitting the obvious that it does nothing to verify your identity, does it matter anymore? The signature isn’t going away. It has just changed forms.
The enthusiasm for imperious government impositions at the level of cities and states has waned dramatically. Governments are out of money. More importantly, they are out of ideas. All the most exciting innovations of our time come from the private sector and the brilliant process of market competition. With stretched budgets and a dearth of new ideas, government has nothing to lose by just selling assets lot by lot.
There is real inspiration to be had by looking at the iterative process of innovation, how that funny little machine from 1883 gradually evolved into the tiny payment processing units we use routinely today, an epic story of improvement in machinery in which the current stage is knitted to all previous stages through an invisible thread of passion for solving problems and serving others.
The results of this war are as follows. US consumers get to pay more for imports from China. American companies lose markets as Chinese consumers and importers turn to other countries to provide wines, pork, and fruit. And this is only round one. The financial markets have suffered a terrible quarter one, just as all this interventionist rhetoric picked up steam. We are doing ourselves no favors here. This is not how a nation becomes great again.
It used to be a cliche to observe that libertarianism is neither left nor right. I don’t hear that much anymore, so it needs to be restated. Mostly it needs to be understood. Left and right emerged in the 19th century as a revolt against liberalism. They each favored different forms of statism to push back against the progress liberty was making possible. It remains the same today.
Economics is lovely because it unlocks the great mysteries of the material world: why we thrive, why we experience progress, how we can build prosperity and peace, the path toward making the best out of our limited time in this world, and leave something better for the next generation. Knowing and contemplating these things is indeed a source of immense joy.