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  • Author: Richard M. Salsman
  • Publication Date: 04-2015
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: Thomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century makes an important contribution to the economic history of industrialization since the early 18th century. His collection of data on the distribution of income and wealth around the globe, drawn mainly from tax records, surveys, and national reports, is rigorous and comprehensive; no one before has collected such credible material in this important sub-field of economics. Piketty is also to be credited for presenting the data in scores of easy-to-interpret graphs and for making it available online for those wishing to verify the presentation and/or investigate alternative empirical patterns.
  • Topic: Economics
  • Author: Richard M. Salsman
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: Free Market Economics: An Introduction for the General Reader, by Steven Kates. Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar Publishing, 2011. 352 pp. $50 (paperback). Not since 1924 has there been a comprehensive yet readable book on economics aimed at the ordinary but intelligent citizen that defends and incorporates the field's foundational principle, Say's Law (named after Jean-Baptiste Say, 1767–1832) and its main corollaries: the primacy of production, the entrepreneur as prime mover, and prices as the commercial language that coordinates economies and their subsectors. Now we have such a book: Free Market Economics: An Introduction for the General Reader by Australian business economist Steven Kates. His prior books examined the prevalence of Say's Law among top economists during the pro-capitalist 19th century and its abandonment by most economists in the anti-capitalist 20th century. The handful of texts on economic principles since the 1920s that recognize the superiority of a free economy have been too technical, narrowly devoted to refuting economic fallacies, or tainted by dubious philosophy. This book avoids such flaws. Kates accomplishes what was last achieved by Oxford professor Henry Clay (1883–1945) in Economics: An Introduction for the General Reader (1924). Better still, Kates's book offers a modern, more sophisticated, more pro-capitalist treatment than did Clay's book, and it provides the ideas people need to grasp and refute the disastrous dogmas and policies of Keynesianism. At the core of this book is Say's Law, the principle that supply constitutes demand, that one cannot demand (or purchase) anything in any market without first producing an economic value for offer (or, in a monetary economy, without first earning spendable income by producing value). This principle recognizes that markets are made by the producers and that the most economically important producer of all is the entrepreneur, who specializes in soliciting and coordinating the other main factors of production: land (including raw materials), labor, capital, and financing. Say's Law condenses the truth that material prosperity is attained not by consuming (using up) wealth, but by saving, investing, and producing wealth. Unlike most textbooks today, Kates's says economics should explain wealth creation, or “net added value,” not how we ration “scarce resources.” Keynesianism, Kates explains, explicitly rejects Say's Law and asserts that a free market is prone to “failures” and crises, to excessive production, deficient consumption, and depressions; it further insists that government deficit spending, money printing, and near-zero interest rates can fix said market failures. Keynesian policies assume, contra Say's Law, that there can be an aggregate, economy-wide excess of abundance, or deficiency of aggregate demand. Say's Law holds that aggregate supply and aggregate demand are the same thing viewed from different perspectives and thus cannot be unequal; recessions entail reduced production and typically (but not always) are caused by government policies that are antithetical to production and profits. In contrast to Keynesianism, Say's Law, properly understood, tells economists (and citizens) to reject the contradictory claim that a contracting economy reflects an overexpanding economy, that somehow poverty is caused by prosperity, and it recommends the rejection or removal of any policies that impede or depress the incentive or capacity of entrepreneurs to create wealth or employ other factors of production. According to Kates, Say's Law “is the essence of market-based economics”; and “without the clarity that [it] brings, economic theory has lost its moorings and the irreplaceable value of leaving things to the market in directing economic activity cannot be understood” (p. 6). Yet, the classical, Say-based theory of the business cycle and public policy “has the ability to penetrate the darkness left by Keynesian theory in understanding the causes of recessions and the steps that are needed to bring recovery about” (p. 7). . . .
  • Topic: Economics, Government, Law
  • Political Geography: Australia
  • Author: Craig Biddle
  • Publication Date: 08-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: Welcome to the Fall 2014 issue of The Objective Standard.
  • Topic: Economics, Education
  • Author: Ari Armstrong
  • Publication Date: 03-2013
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: If you want to learn the theories and history of economists who champion government controls of the economy-and of economists who criticize such intervention-Randy T. Simmons's Beyond Politics: The Roots of Government Failure is a fantastic resource.
  • Topic: Economics, Government, Politics
  • Author: Craig Biddle
  • Publication Date: 03-2013
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: Welcome to the Spring 2013 issue of The Objective Standard.
  • Topic: Economics, Government, Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Michael Dahlen (reviewer)
  • Publication Date: 10-2013
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: From 2006 to 2007, Peter Schiff, CEO of Euro Pacific Capital, was one of few people warning that the U.S. economy was fundamentally unsound and that real estate was grossly overpriced. In his first book, Crash Proof: How to Profit From the Coming Economic Collapse (2007), he predicted that the economy, the housing market, and the stock market would fall apart. He also voiced these predictions on several cable news shows, yet few people heeded his warnings. Some hosts and other guests even mocked and ridiculed him. But Schiff was right. In his recent book, The Real Crash: America's Coming Bankruptcy-How to Save Yourself and Your Country, Schiff says that the worst is yet to come and that the 2008-2009 economic crisis was merely a "tremor before the earthquake." Schiff argues that the main culprit of our economic instability is America's central bank: the Federal Reserve. Through its control of the money supply and the effect this has on interest rates, the Fed artificially inflates the prices of various asset classes, creating so-called "bubbles," and when those prices inevitably collapse, the Fed then inflates the prices of other asset classes. "Throughout the 1990s," Schiff observes, "we had the stock bubble and the dot-com bubble. The Fed replaced that with the housing bubble and the credit bubble. Now, the Fed and the administration are replacing those bubbles with the government bubble" (p. 20). By "government bubble," Schiff is referring to the U.S. dollar and Treasury bonds. When asset prices collapse and recessions ensue, Schiff notes, the Fed-via bailouts and low interest rates-props up insolvent banks and other companies (while also helping to finance government debt). It has taken these actions allegedly to minimize the short-term pain of recessions, but in doing so, the Fed has prevented the economy from correcting itself, making it increasingly unsound. "If you keep replacing one bubble with another, you eventually run out of suds. The government bubble is the final bubble" (p. 23). If the Fed keeps interest rates artificially low and if the government keeps running massive budget deficits, the day will come, Schiff argues, "when the rest of the world stops trusting America's currency and our credit. Then we'll get the real crash" (p. 1). In his introduction to the book, Schiff explains that he is taking a different approach here than he took in his previous books: "[T]his time I have decided that rather than simply predicting doom, I would lay out a comprehensive set of solutions. That's why I wrote this book" (p. 2). After diagnosing our economic problems, Schiff explains how we can fix them. . . .
  • Topic: Economics, Government
  • Political Geography: America
  • Author: Richard Salsman
  • Publication Date: 03-2012
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: Despite its many errors, contemporary academic economics has improved considerably in recent decades, especially after the Keynesian detour of interventionism from the 1930s to the 1970s. There is a lagged influence between academic economics and public policy, but increasingly since the 1970s academic economists have recognized that free markets work, that “market failure” reflects poorly defined and ill-protected property rights, and that boom-bust cycles and sapped prosperity are consequences of bad public policies.
  • Topic: Economics
  • Political Geography: Israel
  • Author: Craig Biddle
  • Publication Date: 06-2012
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: Because of its seemingly prophetic nature with respect to current events, Ayn Rand's 1957 novel Atlas Shrugged is receiving more attention today and selling at greater volume today than it did when it was first published fifty-five years ago. That's a good thing, because the ideas set forth in Atlas are crucial to personal happiness, social harmony, and political freedom.
  • Topic: Economics
  • Political Geography: America
  • Author: Ari Armstrong
  • Publication Date: 12-2012
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: Stop letting the enemies of capitalism claim the moral high ground. There is nothing noble about altruism, nothing inspiring about the initiation of force, nothing moral about Big Government, nothing compassionate about sacrificing the individual to the collective. Don't be afraid to dismiss those ideas as vicious, unjust attacks on the pursuit of happiness, and self-confidently assert that there is no value higher than the individual's pursuit of his own well-being.
  • Topic: Economics, Government
  • Political Geography: America
  • Publication Date: 12-2012
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: I was disappointed by Richard Salsman's review of Northrup Buechner's Objective Economics [TOS, Spring 2012]. It was not so much a review as it was a putdown of Dr. Buechner and his knowledge of economics, its history, and accepted laws. (By the way, there is no law of supply and demand as such in economics.) The list of things Dr. Buechner is criticized for doing, or not doing, seemed to go on endlessly.
  • Topic: Economics
  • Author: Michael A. LaFerrara
  • Publication Date: 03-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: More and more Americans are coming to recognize the superiority of private schools over government-run or “public” schools. Accordingly, many Americans are looking for ways to transform our government-laden education system into a thriving free market. As the laws of economics dictate, and as the better economists have demonstrated, under a free market the quality of education would soar, the range of options would expand, competition would abound, and prices would plummet. The question is: How do we get there from here? Andrew Bernstein offered one possibility in “The Educational Bonanza in Privatizing Government Schools” (TOS, Winter 2010-11): Sell government schools to the highest bidders, who would take them over following a transitional period to “enable government-dependent families to adjust to the free market.” This approach has the virtues of simplicity and speed, but also the complication of requiring widespread recognition of the propriety of a fully private educational system—a recognition that may not exist in America for quite some time.
  • Topic: Economics, Education, Government
  • Political Geography: America
  • Author: Craig Biddle
  • Publication Date: 03-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: Craig Biddle: Thank you for joining me today, Harmon. I'm very excited about the Atlas Shrugged movie, and I know that TOS readers want to hear all about it. Harmon Kaslow: It's my pleasure. CB: How and when did you get involved in making this movie? HK: I got involved in April 2010 after being contacted by John Aglialoro, my coproducer. At that point, a movie had to be made quickly or John would lose the rights to it. So he contacted me to see if I might be able to help him put together a lower-budget version in short order. CB: As coproducers, what have been John's and your respective roles in the movie? HK: John's role was to keep the movie faithful to the book. Mine was to get the movie into production before June 15. John has probably read Atlas more than a dozen times, and during the process of writing the screenplay and getting the film into production, he was constantly rereading chapters, mulling over the elements of the story, and working to ensure that the production remained true to Rand's ideas. My job was to work with John to make the movie happen, to get all the pieces together so that we could say “action” and make certain the film was completed. CB: Atlas Shrugged is a 54-year-old story. Why do you think it matters today? HK: For starters, many events from the story parallel real-life events today. For instance, whereas in the story the government passes business-thwarting laws such as the “Anti-Dog-Eat-Dog Rule” and the “Equalization of Opportunity Bill,” in real life today the government is passing laws such as the “Emergency Economic Stabilization Act” and the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.” But more fundamentally, the story matters because it dramatizes timeless philosophic truths about human nature, the role of reason in human life, the morality of rational self-interest versus predation or “greed,” the role of the government and of the citizen, and man's need of political and economic freedom. These truths will always matter. . . .
  • Topic: Economics, Government
  • Author: Richard M Salsman
  • Publication Date: 03-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: Economics is widely regarded today as dry, lifeless, boring. But given what economics properly studies, this should not be the case. Economics studies the production and exchange of material values in a division of labor society. We live in a material world; we produce material values in order to live and prosper; and we exchange these values for those produced by others in order to live even better lives. In other words, economics studies one of the major means by which people live and achieve happiness. Why, then, do so many people regard this science as boring? And what could remedy the situation? The answers may be gleaned by comparing two books, each of which has sold millions of copies over the past five decades: Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged (1957) and Paul Samuelson's Economics (1948). The first is a story about the role of reason in man's life and about what happens to an economy when the men of the mind go on strike. The second is the quintessential economics text of the 20th and 21st centuries, and is generally assigned reading for beginning students in the field.1 Although Atlas is a work of fiction, and although Rand was not an economist, her novel is replete with economic truths. Conversely, although Economics is a work of nonfiction, and although Samuelson was a Nobel-winning economist, his book is full of economic falsehoods. And whereas the truths in Atlas are dramatized with passion and excitement, the falsehoods in Economics are conveyed by way of lifeless, boring prose.2 Lest one assume that the reason Atlas is more exciting than Economics is merely a matter of the different mediums, one being fiction and the other nonfiction, observe that Rand's nonfiction—and much other nonfiction—is hands-down more exciting than many works of fiction (ever read The Catcher in the Rye?). Nor is people's boredom with economics due to Samuelson's book per se. But his text and those influenced by it, which represent the modern approach to the subject, have largely contributed to the way economics is taught and viewed today. To see the difference between the modern approach to economics and that dramatized in Atlas, let us consider the essence of each with respect to six key areas: the source of wealth, the role of the businessman, the nature of profit, the essence of competition, the result of production, and the purpose of money. The Source of Wealth Samuelson and company contend that wealth results essentially from labor applied to raw materials (or “natural resources”)—and by “labor” they mean physical or manual labor, not mental labor. The general idea is that the economic value of a good or service reflects the physical labor that went into making it. This is known as the “labor theory of value,” and it was originally advanced by classical economists including Adam Smith, David Ricardo, and Karl Marx.3 This theory is widely accepted today, especially by the Left. In the late 19th century, however, some free-market economists, trying to counter the growing Marxist charge that labor was being robbed by greedy capitalists, amended the theory to say that “consumer desires” also determine value, jointly with labor. This approach—dubbed “neoclassical economics”—is now largely accepted and is the prevalent view in today's textbooks. Ayn Rand, in contrast, holds that the mind—human thinking and the resulting intelligence—is the primary source of wealth. The mind, she says, directs not only physical labor but also the organization of production; “natural resources” are merely potential wealth, not actual wealth; and consumer desires are not causes of wealth but results of it. Each great producer in Atlas—Hank Rearden, Dagny Taggart, Francisco D'Anconia, Ellis Wyatt, Ken Danagger, Midas Mulligan, or John Galt—is dedicated first and foremost to using his mind. Each thinks, plans long-range, and produces goods or services thereby. Atlas dramatizes this principle in many ways, but perhaps most vividly through the work of Rearden. In one scene he is in his steel mill looking on as the first heat of the first order of his revolutionary new metal is poured. He reflects back on the ten long years of thought and effort it took him to get to this point. He had purchased a bankrupt mill even as experts dismissed the venture and industry as hopeless. Rearden has breathed life back into both. Rand writes that “his was a lifetime lived on the axiom that the constant, clearest most ruthless function of his rational faculty was his foremost duty” (p. 122). Here is an indication of the production process in his mill: “Two hundred tons of metal which was to be harder than steel, running liquid at a temperature of four thousand degrees, had the power to annihilate every wall of the structure and every one of the men who worked by the stream. But every inch of its course, every pound of its pressure and the content of every molecule within it, were controlled and made by a conscious intention that had worked upon it for ten years” (p. 34). Rand shows that Rearden's mind is the source of this wealth, and that labor and materials had stood idle until his mind showed up for work. Others in Atlas voice the textbook view of the entrepreneur. Rearden's wife dismisses his achievements: “Intellectual pursuits are not learned in the marketplace,” she scowls; “it's easier to pour a ton of steel than it is to make friends” (p. 138). A hobo in a diner accosts Dagny Taggart with a similar attitude: “Man is just a low-grade animal, without intellect,” he growls; “[his] only talent is an ignoble cunning for satisfying the needs of his body. No intelligence is required for that. . . . [W]itness our great industries—the only accomplishments of our alleged civilization—built by vulgar materialists with the aims, the interests and the moral sense of hogs” (p. 168). Perhaps an economist might recognize the nature of Rearden's achievement? As the metal is poured a train passes by the mills, and inside, a professor of economics asks a companion, “Of what importance is an individual in the titanic collective achievements of our industrial age?” (p. 33). The “importance” is happening just outside his window, but he doesn't see it, conceptually speaking. Nor do others. “The passengers paid no attention; one more heat of steel being poured was not an event they had been taught to notice” (p. 33). Professors such as this one had taught them not to notice. Such scenes illustrate how intelligence creates wealth, how business success entails a long-range process of thought and planning carried out by a focused individual—and how little this is understood. Yet Dagny understands—as is evident in the scene where she takes her first run on the John Galt Line, traveling on a track and over a bridge made of that as-yet untried Rearden Metal, at unprecedented speeds. . . .
  • Topic: Economics
  • Author: Craig Biddle
  • Publication Date: 03-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: It's here. Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged finally has come to the silver screen, and in this special, Atlas-themed issue of TOS—which begins our sixth year of publication—we have details on the movie and a whole lot more. As you may have noticed, we have lost our tombstone-like academic look and gained a full-color graphic cover to match the verve you have come to expect from the journal. The artwork on the present cover depicts a scene in the movie from the first run of the John Galt Line. A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Harmon Kaslow, coproducer (with John Aglialoro) of Atlas Shrugged: Part I, to discuss the film, how it came together, choice of screenwriter and director, casting, score, and distribution. Dovetailing with this interview are Chris Wolski's concise history of the efforts to adapt Atlas for the screen and his review of the film (he attended a prescreening in February).
  • Topic: Economics, History
  • Publication Date: 06-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: No abstract is available.
  • Topic: Economics, Education
  • Political Geography: New York
  • Author: John David Lewis
  • Publication Date: 09-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: Examines the essence of this approach and what it's delivered so far.
  • Topic: Economics
  • Political Geography: America
  • Author: Richard M. Salsman
  • Publication Date: 09-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: As an economic historian sympathetic to free markets, McCloskey knows well that for centuries intellectuals have disdained the moneymaking orientation and commercial ethic of capitalism—and to her credit, she disdains this disdain. Capitalism deserves respect, she argues, for it “has not corrupted our souls” but instead “has improved them” (p. 23). McCloskey seeks to defend capitalism, not mainly by recounting what she acknowledges is its indisputable productive prowess, but by patiently explicating what she considers to be the “bourgeois virtues.” Yet her goal is polemical: to refute leftists who today persist in despising capitalism. She is concerned that her critics will find her case defensive, and justifiably, because McCloskey herself accepts certain anticapitalist premises, even summarizing the theme of her book as “an apology for our bourgeois lives” (p. 56). Yet, why would a political-economic system require an “apology” unless it was presumed guilty? Instead, why would it not be positively and resolutely heralded as a moral ideal? Despite McCloskey's view of the bourgeois life as virtuous, she insists that certain of its crucial motivating elements are decidedly un-Christian, hence suspect. Her hodgepodge of virtues makes for her less-than-emphatic case. McCloskey begins her book by recognizing how both Kantian and utilitarian ethics have been unfriendly (if not hostile) to laissez-faire capitalism, the former by requiring man to subordinate his personal pursuit of happiness to self-sacrificial duty, the latter by condoning hedonism while dismissing man's individual rights. For capitalism to survive and flourish, she contends, the ethics of commercialism must be defended. McCloskey attempts this by drawing on the “virtue ethics” arguments developed in academic philosophic circles since the late-1950s, which seek modernized versions of a more secular Greco-Roman ethics. While much can be said for McCloskey's use of “virtue ethics,” her approach does not ground morality in human nature. McCloskey divides an otherwise rambling and wide-ranging discourse of what she calls the seven main virtues into three main sections (pp. 91–302): the “Christian and Feminine Virtues” (faith, hope, and love), the “Pagan and Masculine Virtues” (courage and temperance), and the “Androgynous Virtues” (prudence and justice). The Christian and feminine virtues she also calls “theological” (p. 152) and pertinent to “the transcendent” and “sacred” (p. 304), while the pagan virtues are said to relate to “the self” and the “profane” (p. 304). Despite lengthy and digressive discussions of these seven virtues, McCloskey does not make clear why they are central to a moral case for capitalism, or why some are derivable from one gender versus another. . . .
  • Topic: Economics
  • Author: Ari Armstrong, Diana Hsieh
  • Publication Date: 12-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: Surveys the expanding efforts to outlaw abortion in America, examines the facts that give rise to a woman's right to abortion, and shows why the assault on this right is an assault on all our rights
  • Topic: Economics, Government
  • Political Geography: America
  • Author: Michael |A. LaFerrara
  • Publication Date: 12-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: New York: Crown Forum, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc. 247 pp. $24.99 (hardcover). Reviewed by Michael A. LaFerrara While working on the 2004 Bush-Cheney reelection campaign team, Fox News contributor Margaret Hoover came to a stark realization: On gay rights, reproductive freedom, immigration, and environmentalism, the Republican party “was falling seriously out of step with a rising generation of Americans . . . the 'millennials'” (pp. ix, x). “[B]orn roughly between the years 1980 and 1999 [and] 50 million strong,” this rising new voter block, says Hoover, has “yet to solidly commit to a political party” and thus could hold the key to the GOP's electoral future (p. xi). Hoover looks back for comparison to 1980, when Ronald Reagan fused a coalition of diverse conservative “tribes” around a central theme: anticommunism (p. 25). If the millennials, who “demonstrate decidedly conservative tendencies” (p. xii), could be united with today's conservatives under “a new kind of fusionism” (p. 41), the Republican party would be on its way to majority status, she holds. Hoover sees differences among conservatives and divides the “organized modern conservative coalition in America” (p. 28) into three main categories: economic libertarians and fiscal conservatives led by three “leading lights” who “were . . . not populists [nor] self-described conservatives,” but “thinkers”—Friedrich von Hayek, Milton Friedman, and Ayn Rand. social conservatives, traditionalists, and the “Religious Right” led early on by Russell Kirk, Richard Weaver, and Robert Novak, and later by Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, James Dobson, and Phyllis Schlafly. anticommunists and paleocons led by Whittaker Chambers, John Chamberlain, James Burnham, and Pat Buchanan. According to Hoover, these three factions have formed the core of the movement that began with the publication of the National Review in November 1955 (p. 28) and have since been joined by neocons (p. 35), Rush Limbaugh's “Dittoheads,” Sarah Palin's “Mama Grizzlies,” the Tea Party uprising (pp. 36–37), and the “Crunchy Cons” and “enviro-cons” (p. 37). Hoover's hope is to find common ground between these conservatives and the millennials. . . .
  • Topic: Economics
  • Political Geography: America
  • Author: Loribeth Kowalski
  • Publication Date: 12-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: Cato Institute, 2010. 376 pp. $25.95 (hardcover). Reviewed by Loribeth Kowalski Parents in America typically tell their children that they can be anything they want to be when they grow up, and children tend to believe it and explore the countless possibilities. I recall my own childhood aspirations: imagining myself as an archaeologist, wearing a khaki hat and digging in the desert sun; as a veterinarian, talking to the animals like Dr. Doolittle; as a writer, alone at my desk, fingers poised over a typewriter keyboard. Recently I found an old note in a drawer. It said, “When I grow up, I want to be a doctor. I want to save people. When I grow up, I WILL be a doctor.” Underneath my signature I had written “age 10.” Unfortunately, in today's America, a child cannot be whatever he wants to be. Leave aside for the time being the difficulties involved in entering a profession such as medicine. Consider the more man-on-the-street jobs through which millions of Americans seek to earn a living, support their families, and better themselves. Suppose a person wants to drive a taxi in New York City. To do so, he will first have to come up with a million dollars to buy a “medallion.” If he wants to create and sell flower arrangements, and lives in Louisiana, he'll have to pass a “highly subjective, State-mandated licensing exam.” If he wants to sell tacos or the like from a “food truck,” and lives in Chicago, he had better keep his business away from competing restaurants, or else face a ticket and fine. And a child doesn't have to wait until he's an adult to directly experience such limitations on his freedom. Last summer, authorities in various states shut down children's lemonade stands because they didn't have vending permits or meet other local regulations. In today's America, it is increasingly difficult to enter various professions, near impossible to enter some, and, whatever one's profession, it is likely saddled with regulations that severely limit the ways in which one can produce and trade. Timothy Sandefur explores and explains these developments in The Right to Earn a Living: Economic Freedom and the Law. Sandefur addresses this subject in the most comprehensive manner I've seen, surveying the history of economic liberty from 17th-century England through the Progressive era in America and up to the present day. He shows how the freedom to earn a living has been eroded in multiple ways throughout the legal system, from unreasonable rules, to licensing schemes, to limitations on advertising, to restrictions on contracts. In The Right to Earn a Living, we see how these and other factors combine to create a system in which it is more and more difficult to support oneself and one's family in the manner one chooses.
  • Topic: Development, Economics
  • Political Geography: New York, America