Monday, March 30, 2009
Will End the Fed end the Fed?
Amit Ghate points to a debate in the Wall Street Journal that Harry Binswanger says, " was in response to Alan Greenspan's unintelligible WSJ piece of March 11, 'The Fed Didn't Cause the Housing Bubble.'" [link added]
Ghate asks whether "we can realistically hope for a dismantling of the Fed in the not so distant future." His question is well-founded since two of the six writers brought up the idea of abolishing the Federal Reserve.
Interestingly, there even seems to be some popular support for the idea. Sunday morning, while at the grocery store, I spotted a guy wearing a tee shirt whose front read, "End the Fed", and whose back read, "Sound Money for America." Being in a hurry, I did not stop to talk to the man, but later, I was able to find the web site for an advocacy group (called "End the Fed" -- what else?) that appears to be backing a measure to abolish the Federal Reserve.
That's the good news. The bad news is that, based on my skim of the web site, the organization is not founded on philosophical principles that are compatible with capitalism. For example, the site complains at one point that the Fed is "about as Federal as Federal Express." It also complains that the Fed acts without Congressional oversight. Do we really want to put Nancy Pelosi in charge of that? Another complaint by End the Fed is that despite the fact that it is a "private corp.", the Fed doesn't pay taxes. In laissez-faire, there is no taxation at all.
Most ominously, End the Fed "contingents" have been participating in anti-war rallies marking the anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. While it is true that sound money would put the brakes on such attempts to export the welfare state, left-wing anti-war activists are not enemies of the welfare state and would support ending the Fed only if they thought doing so would harm America. They certainly are not friends of freedom or capitalism.
This last also causes me to wonder whether End the Fed really understands what it is doing. If ending the Fed really would make our country stronger (and I am sure it would), why not attempt to persuade real patriots that it is a good idea? And if capitalism is good -- which it is -- what's wrong with a "private monopoly" on money? The real answer is "nothing" -- but then the Fed, being a government creation is not really a private monopoly.
The difference between a good (i.e., private) monopoly and a bad (i.e., government-enforced) monopoly is that a good monopoly can exist only so long as it earns the confidence of the market. Calling a federal creation a private monopoly is wrong and creates confusion about the difference between government coercion and individual freedom.
End the Fed appears to be -- at best -- an ad hoc group desperately in need of intellectual ammunition. Whatever it is, though, the real thing that needs to end is confusion about the proper role of the government, including belief in the charade that a nominally private entity created by the government like the Federal Reserve Bank, or Fannie Mae, or Freddie Mac is really a private entity.
Although I favor ending the Federal Reserve and returning to a gold standard, I cannot support this group.
Questioners and Answerers
Jennifer Snow has been blogging pretty actively lately, and has an interesting post on how people approach the fact that they don't know everything:
I realized that when people don't know something, most fall into one of two approaches to dealing with it. Some immediately start asking questions of whoever or whatever is available, while some sit down, summon up all of their relevant knowledge, and try to think through it themselves. I call these two types (obviously enough) the Questioner and the Answerer.She has lots of interesting insights about each type.
I'm an answerer, but I can't help ending this with a question: Which type are you?
Card Check in Check -- for Now
Kimberly Strassel of The Wall Street Journal reports what passes for good news these days, but correctly notes that it will probably be fleeting:
The business community is dancing a victory jig over Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter's announcement that he'll provide the crucial vote to stop Big Labor's top priority, the "card check" bill. Fair enough, though the real test of corporate America is yet to come. [link added]Later, she continues: "[L]ate last week ... news leaked that the CEOs of three companies -- Whole Foods, Starbucks and Costco -- were breaking with the rest of the business world to support some sort of compromise."
This unprincipled skirmish on the part of American businessmen has been a holding action at best. And yet many persist in decrying principles as "impractical." This issue won't go away until people start making the case that such restrictions on freedom of speech and freedom of association are morally wrong and contrary to the proper purpose of government.
Netbooks and Data
Over a year later, I remain happy with my netbook, which has been invaluable during my travels between Boston and Houston. (Those have certainly gone on for far longer than I initially expected.)
An article in the New York Times describes four market leaders in that laptop category. Of the four, the HP MINI seemed like the least attractive to me, but not due to its "small" 60 GB hard drive. Is it just me, or is that not a ridiculous amount of data to keep on a secondary computer which could easily be lost or stolen?
And speaking of data, do you maintain good backups? Regular backups of important data also happen to be one way of combating "data rot," a problem I have been aware of for some time.
Edison Hour -- or "Human Achievement Hour?"
I was happy to see that many people in my own neck of the virtual woods celebrated Edison Hour -- Rational Jenn even posted a photo -- but I was ecstatic to learn that some other pro-capitalists are competing with us via "Human Achievement Hour" (HT: HBL).
Michelle Minton of the Competitive Enterprise Institute writes:
We have no problem with an individual (or group) that wants to sit naked in the dark without heat, clothing or light. Additionally, we'd have no problem with the group holding a pro-green technology rally. That's their choice. But when this group stages a "global election" -- enviros are asking the world's citizenry to vote Earth by switching off our lights with the express purpose of influencing government policies to take action against global warming -- we have every right as individuals to express our vote for the opposite.Human Achievement Hour" is a fine name, but I find "Edison Hour" catchier -- and the man's name is virtually a synonym for human achievement, anyway.
If our Human Achievement Hour is at all a dig against Earth Hour, it is so only by the fact that we are pointing out what Earth Hour truly is about: It isn't pro-Earth, it is anti-man and anti-innovation. So, on March 28, I plan to continue "voting" for humanity by enjoying the fruits of man's mind."
Let's outshine HAH next year!