Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse lectures on basic economics

Here is a podcast on basic economics from Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse.

About the speaker:

Jennifer Roback Morse, Ph.D. is the founder and President of the Ruth Institute — a project of the National Organization for Marriage — which seeks to promote life-long married love to college students by creating an intellectual and social climate favorable to marriage.

She is also the Senior Research Fellow in Economics at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty.

She is the author of Smart Sex: Finding Life-long Love in a Hook-up World, (2005) and Love and Economics: Why the Laissez-Faire Family Doesn’t Work (2001), recently reissued in paperback, as Love and Economics: It Takes a Family to Raise a Village.

Dr. Morse served as a Research Fellow for Stanford University’s Hoover Institution from 1997-2005. She received her Ph.D. in economics from the University of Rochester in 1980 and spent a postdoctoral year at the University of Chicago during 1979-80. She taught economics at Yale University and George Mason University for 15 years.

The MP3 file is here.

Topics:

  • The study of economics is anti-postmodern – there is objective truth independent of what people think
  • The study of economics believes in fixed principles of human nature
  • Economics studies the allocation of scarce resources that have alternative uses
  • Economics studies how people exchange resources
  • How both people who engage in a voluntary trade always believe that they will be better off
  • How both people who engage in a voluntary trade both benefit from the exchange
  • How incentives motivate people to act
  • Understanding supply and demand
  • Understanding how “free” government services are rationed
  • Understanding opportunity costs
  • How prices signal producers to produce more or less, and consumers to buy or not buy
  • Market-driven prices versus price controls
  • The role of substitution
  • The necessity of allowing failure in a free market

The requirements of economic growth:

  • private property
  • contracts
  • the profit motive
  • competition
  • free trade
  • entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation
  • the rule of law

If you want to learn more about basic economics, I recommend picking up a book or two by Thomas Sowell – the first book I usually give away is “Intellectuals and Society”, and then next “Basic Economics”.

Filed under: Podcasts, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

How Margaret Thatcher, the Iron Lady, saved Britain

Here’s an article from the UK Daily Mail with some more details about her.

Margaret Thatcher stood almost alone in driving through the tough policies now credited with saving the economy, secret papers reveal.

The Tory Premier had to take on her predecessor Harold Macmillan, Bank of England governor Gordon Richardson and even her own Chancellor Geoffrey Howe to push through the policies which pulled Britain back from the brink of economic chaos.

Documents released by the National Archives under the 30-year rule show the pressure Mrs Thatcher faced from the Establishment behind the scenes – and the extent to which she was isolated.

In 1980, the year after becoming Britain’s first female Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher embarked on a controversial programme to revive the moribund economy through deep public spending cuts and strict control of the money supply, intended to stamp out inflation.

He warned that while her programme of cuts might give a ‘sense of exhilaration’ to her supporters, the country was heading for industrial collapse and ‘dangerous’ levels of unemployment.

Macmillan, then 86, sent the letter following a meeting with the Prime Minister at Chequers in August 1980.

He criticised her for abandoning ‘consensus politics’ to pursue radical reforms and ‘divisive politics’, which he said went against the ‘essence of Tory democracy’.

It was Macmillan who coined the phrase ‘you’ve never had it so good’ in 1957 during the long post-war economic boom.

His brand of consensus politics is now credited with contributing to the economic malaise that brought Britain to its knees in the late 1970s.

Years later, in her memoirs, Mrs Thatcher poured scorn on consensus politics, writing: ‘What great cause would have been fought and won under the banner “I stand for consensus”?.’

[...]In 1981, 365 economists wrote to The Times urging Mrs Thatcher to change course and limit the damage caused by the recession.

But she was unmoved, and her tough stance succeeded in reducing inflation from 27 per cent to four per cent in four years, putting Britain on the road to recovery.

Mrs Thatcher’s economic views were heavily influenced by the right-wing Cabinet minister Sir Keith Joseph, with whom she set up the free market think tank the Centre for Policy Studies in 1974.

Both drew on the work of the influential American economist Milton Friedman whose monetary theories challenged the post-war consensus on economic thinking.

I recommend reading the whole article for some more articles where Lady Thatcher had to stand against everyone and hold onto her convictions in the teeth of the majority.

Here’s an article from Forbes magazine that summarizes her effort to turn Britain around.

Excerpt:

It’s hard to appreciate today how desperate Britain’s condition was before Thatcher took office.  Its economy was a laughing stock, the perennial sick man of Europe.  Strikes were endemic and union bosses effectively governed the country.  Her Conservative Party had long ago made its peace with the welfare state and the ethos of high spending and high taxes. While the previous Tory Prime Minister, Edward Heath, wanted to revive Britain, he hadn’t a clue how to do it. In a make-or-break showdown with the coal miner’s union, Heath called a special election under the banner “Who Governs Britain?”  Heath lost and unions’ dominance in Britain seemed secure.

Great leaders have an astute sense of taking advantage of circumstances. Even though Heath had lost two elections, none of the senior party officials would challenge him.  At the time, Thatcher was not regarded as one of the party’s major figures.  But she was the only Tory who firmly believed in free markets and in Britain’s ability to become again a proud nation based on the principles of liberty. She was a devotee of Friedrich von Hayek and Milton Friedman and of the idea of paring back big government and giving free enterprise room to flourish. Astonishingly she beat Heath in a leadership fight in 1975 and led the Tories to victory in 1979.

Immediately she began slashing income tax rates and reining in galloping spending and fighting inflation.  She also exhibited that critical sense of timing. When she took office, she was faced with a potential strike of nurses whose union was demanding huge pay increases. Thatcher compromised in a way that some thought she didn’t have the backbone to turn Britain around.  Instead she was exhibiting a great politician’s sense of knowing when to pick a fight.  Thatcher eventually pushed through major labor union reforms and made it clear she would not tolerate any union riots or violence.  Shortly after Thatcher won reelection, the coal miners union, which had destroyed Heath, decided to take her on. But unlike Heath Thatcher was fully prepared.  The big showdown ensued and Thatcher beat the coal miner’s union resoundingly. It never recovered from that defeat.

Thatcher knew the deadweight on the economy of excessive taxation. She cut the top income tax rate from 98% to 40%. She cut the corporate income tax rate from 52% to 35%.

One of Thatcher’s greatest innovations was the systematic selling off of the government’s business assets, dubbed privatization.  After World War II Britain nationalized enormous swaths of the economy which actions subsequent Conservative governments left largely untouched.  Thatcher sold government companies off and her example has been followed by countless nations around the world.

In the area of privatizations, she did two remarkable things. She sold off much of Britain’s public housing.  An enormous number of Britons, far more than in the U.S., lived in these government-owned buildings. Thatcher pushed the sale of these apartments to occupants at low prices and on very advantageous terms. The purpose was to begin to shift the mentality of people and their dependence on government. Her other smart move was in the privatization of government-owned companies:  offering a significant number of shares to workers at very low prices.  Union leaders hated privatization but their opposition was undermined as their members realized that they could do very well buying cheap shares in these newly-privatized entities.  Here again she was changing peoples’ thinking:  pro-big government workers now saw themselves as share owners, taking on more of a capitalist mentality.

Before Thatcher, many social observers thought that Britain had an ingrained, unchangeable, anti-commercial culture that would forever stand in the way of the country becoming an economic success. Yet within a decade of her taking office, Britain had the most vibrant, large economy in Europe, one even more dynamic, innovative than that of Germany’s.  London became a magnet for entrepreneurs from France, Sweden and elsewhere.

One unchangeable characteristic of a great leader is courage and that means taking career-breaking risks.  Thatcher demonstrated her mettle in the Falkland Islands crisis.  When the Argentinean military dictatorship seized Britain’s Falkland Islands, most military experts felt the Sceptred Isle simply did not possess the military means to take them back. Defying almost the entire political establishment which was haunted by both Britain’s current weakness and the memory of the Suez Canal debacle in 1956, Thatcher declared that the seizure would not stand and that Britain would go to war to take the Islands back. Thankfully she received critical help from the U.S. thanks to in large part the unrelenting efforts of Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger (who years later became Publisher and Chairman of Forbes). To the surprise of experts, Britain’s military expedition succeeded. The Argentinean military dictatorship fell and democracy was restored in that country.  For Britain the Falklands war was a huge boost to a demoralized nation. To the world it meant that once again tyranny would be resisted.

I recommend reading that whole article. It’s hard not to smile at a woman who clearly loved her country and worked to save it from poverty.

Why good men love Maggie

And now I must offend everyone. See, I have a theory about women. I think that women generally tend to be more beholden to the opinions and fashions of the crowd than men are. It’s not absolute, but it’s maybe two-thirds to one-third, in my experience. I think that it is generally hard for them to hold to their convictions in the face of peer pressure. That’s why so few young, unmarried women are conservative after graduating from college. As soon as they reach college, they are swayed towards liberal views by their need to feel good about themselves and their need to be liked by others. Their views at home were not rooted in real knowledge, they were just fitting in with their families and churches and saying whatever words they were expected to say. And then they go off to college and learn other words to say from another community that uses praise and blame to replace their former convictions with new convictions.

But Maggie Thatcher wasn’t like that. And here’s why:

John Ranelagh writes of Margaret Thatcher’s remark at a Conservative Party  policy meeting in the late 1970′s, “Another colleague had also prepared a paper arguing that the middle way was the pragmatic path for the Conservative party to take .. Before he had finished speaking to his paper, the new Party Leader [Margaret Thatcher] reached into her briefcase and took out a book.  It was Friedrich von Hayek’s The Constitution of Liberty.  Interrupting [the speaker], she held the book up for all of us to see.  ‘This’, she said sternly, ‘is what we believe’, and banged Hayek down on the table.”  (John Ranelagh, Thatcher’s People:  An Insider’s Account of the Politics, the Power, and the Personalities.  London:  Harper Collins, 1991.)

Policies like unilateral disarmament, wealth redistribution and redefining marriage sound good to many women – especially in college, and especially when only one side is presented and the other side is demonized. The only way to resist ideas that feel good and ideas that get you peer-approval is to have formed your own views through independent study. Lady Thatcher’s economic policies were formed through a study of real economists like Nobel-prize-winning economist F.A. Hayek and Nobel-prize-winning economist Milton Friedman. The reason why she was able to hold to her principles is because she knew what she was talking about, and her opponents did not. She didn’t care about feeling good. She didn’t care about what other people thought of her. She knew was right, and that was enough to sustain her in trying times. She had the knowledge, and her opponents couldn’t change her core convictions by trying to shame her. It didn’t work.

Filed under: Commentary, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

A lecture on basic economics by Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, former professor of economics at Yale University and George Mason University, gave a lecture on basic economics.

The MP3 file is here.

Topics:

  • The study of economics is anti-postmodern – there is objective truth independent of what people think
  • The study of economics believes in fixed principles of human nature
  • Economics studies the allocation of scarce resources that have alternative uses
  • Economics studies how people exchange resources
  • How both people who engage in a voluntary trade always believe that they will be better off
  • How both people who engage in a voluntary trade both benefit from the exchange
  • How incentives motivate people to act
  • Understanding supply and demand
  • Understanding how “free” government services are rationed
  • Understanding opportunity costs
  • How prices signal producers to produce more or less, and consumers to buy or not buy
  • Market-driven prices versus price controls
  • The role of substitution
  • The necessity of allowing failure in a free market

The requirements of economic growth:

  • private property
  • contracts
  • the profit motive
  • competition
  • free trade
  • entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation
  • the rule of law

If you like this podcast, you can take a look at Thomas Sowell’s textbook on “Basic Economics“. Highly recommended!

Filed under: Podcasts, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Philosopher Ron Nash lectures on capitalism, morality and freedom

Watch the lecture. (H/T Luis)

Nash speaks from 0:06 to0:45. Then he takes questions.

His two favorite economists are… WALTER WILLIAMS and THOMAS SOWELL! Just like me!

Christianity isn’t something you do in church to have happy feelings, or to get along with your parents and friends. It’s a worldview. And the whole point of it is that is is true, and helps us to make sense of the world because it is true.

By the way, he even talks about how Jesus uses hyperbole to get people’s attention in the question and answer time. I blogged about that a while back because one of our Christian commenters told me that Jesus never uses hyperbole. (She is a Calvinist, so… you know… ). F.A. Hayek also comes up in the Q&A time. Hayek is my third favorite economist. I think all Christians should have favorite economists. I think we should think about how Christianity relates to every area, from science to history to philosophy to ethics to marriage and family. And to politics and economics, as with this lecture!

We should all have favorite scholars, just like non-Christians have favorite musicians and movie stars. Ron Nash is one of my favorite philosophers.

Who is Ron Nash?

I learned about economics by listening to all the lectures in this course taught by Dr. Nash. He presents a view of economics that is consistent with the laws of logic and the Bible. And this course is comprehensive. I’ve moved on from Dr. Nash’s course to read F. A. Hayek and Thomas Sowell, and then Walter Williams. And I found that Dr. Nash’s course was excellent preparation for these more advanced books.

Take a look at some of the topics:

  • the role of the government in regulating commerce
  • the meaning of justice
  • capitalism and socialism
  • interventionism vs free market capitalism
  • introduction to economics
  • marxism
  • wealth and poverty
  • liberation theology and the religious left
  • judicial activism vs legal positivism
  • pollution
  • public education

You can grab the lectures here.

A little blurb about Dr. Nash

Nash taught theology and philosophy for four decades at three schools. He was chairman of the department of philosophy and religion and director of graduate studies in humanities at Western Kentucky University, where he was on faculty from 1964-91. He was a professor at Reformed Theological Seminary from 1991-2002 and at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary from 1998-2005.

Nash wrote more than 35 books on philosophy, theology and apologetics, including “Faith & Reason: Searching for a Rational Faith,” “Life’s Ultimate Questions” and “Is Jesus the Only Savior?” Nash received his Ph.D. from Syracuse University; his master’s degree from Brown University; and his undergraduate degree from Barrington College.

From this Baptist Press article.

Related posts

Filed under: Mentoring, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Canada created twice the number of jobs as the United States in January

U.S. Labor Force Participation

U.S. Labor Force Participation

By now, everyone has heard that Marxist Obama has failed to create jobs again, so that the underemployment rate is at 19.2%. (Underemployment is even higher than employment because it takes into account people working part-time who want to work full-time but can’t). That means that 20% of the population either cannot find work, or cannot find full-time work. The labor force participation under Obama’s socialist regime is now at a 26-year low.

Excerpt:

At 64.2%, the labor force participation rate (as a percentage of the total civilian noninstitutional population) is now at a fresh 26 year low, the lowest since March 1984, and is the only reason why the unemployment rate dropped to 9% (labor force declined from 153,690 to 153,186). Those not in the Labor Force has increased from 83.9 million to 86.2 million, or 2.2 million in one year! As for the numerator in the fraction, the number of unemployed, it has plunged from 15 million to 13.9 million in two months! The only reason for this is due to the increasing disenchantment of those who completely fall off the BLS rolls and no longer even try to look for a job. Lastly, we won’t even show what the labor force is as a percentage of total population. It is a vertical plunge.

But these kinds of failures are not unavoidable. For example, look at Canada’s latest unemployment numbers.

Excerpt:

Canada’s job creation in January was more than four times the median forecast, pushing the Canadian dollar to its strongest level since May 2008 and adding to evidence the country’s economic recovery may be accelerating.

Employment rose by 69,200 and the labor force increased by 106,400, Statistics Canada said today in Ottawa. The jobless rate rose to 7.8 percent from December’s 7.6 percent, as more people sought work. Economists forecast 7.6 percent unemployment and job growth of 15,000, according to the median estimates of 25 and 26 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News.

“This adds confidence to the notion we are headed for a better year for growth and growth in the job market,” said Mark Chandler, head of Canadian currency and rates strategy at Royal Bank of Canada’s RBC Capital Markets unit in Toronto. “There isn’t a lot of slack in the labor market in Canada, certainly on a relative basis to other countries.”

Canadian policy makers have been dealing with the impact of a strong currency and a slowdown in growth of household and government spending that crimped the economic recovery in the second half of last year. Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney stopped raising interest rates after September and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty scaled back plans to exit stimulus.

“It’s one of these reports that’s strong through and through – it’s hard to find any weakness,” said David Tulk, chief Canada macro strategist at Toronto-Dominion Bank’s TD Securities unit.

“The Bank of Canada would likely just see this as a step towards a stronger recovery, but not a point where they would need to respond,” he said. He predicts a July rate increase.

[...]The report restores Canada’s status as having regained all the jobs lost in the recession, after a Jan. 28 revision based on updated census data reduced Statistics Canada’s estimate of total employment.

The Canadian dollar gained 0.4 percent to 98.75 cents per U.S. dollar at 4:30 p.m. in New York from 99.11 cents yesterday, after earlier touching 98.32 cents, the strongest level since May 2008. The benchmark 10-year Canadian government bond yield increased four basis points to 3.46 percent, the highest since May.

[...]“Too many Canadians are still looking for work, the economic recovery is fragile,” Flaherty said today in response to a question in the House of Commons. “We need to continue with our job-creating, low-tax plan.”

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said reductions in corporate taxes are the best way to boost employment.

[...]Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world’s largest retailer, said Jan. 26 it will open 40 “supercenters” in Canada by the end of January 2012, creating 9,200 construction and store jobs.

Basically, the Canadians listened to Obama’s speeches, and then decided to do the EXACT OPPOSITE of what he said. They are drilling for more oil, lowering corporate taxes below 20%, (ours is 36%), cutting spending and raising interest rates to encourage people to spend less and invest more, which supports job creation. This is what Hayek would recommend. In order to create jobs, you need to cut corporate taxes to provide businesses with a profit motive. And you need to make sure that there is capital to borrow for risk-taking, which happens when interest rates are higher because people save more money by giving it to banks to lend to businesses. When a business sees that it can keep profits that it makes then that’s what they’ll do. That’s when they start expanding their businesses and taking risks – when there is money to be made. If you keep banning drilling, imposing health care costs and demonizing businesses in speeches, like Obama does, then they WON’T hire anyone.

I hope that all the young people who voted for the first MTV President are happy with their 18% youth unemployment rate. Ideas have consequences.

But the differences between Canada are even more pronounced. Recall that Canada is ONE TENTH the size of the United States, with one-tenth the population, one-tenth the GDP, and one-twentieth the national debt. A 700,000 increase in the number of jobs is really like a 700,000 increase when projected proportionally to the United States. Canada didn’t spend massive amounts of money on “stimulus” spending, because the prime minister is NOT a Keynesian. He’s a Hayekian, like me. He’s not following the socialist, academic playbook – he’s following the capitalist, real-world playbook. He doesn’t believe that lowering interest rates and wasting money of government public works projects is a way out of a recession. And he’s right.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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