Cognitive Blocks and Libertarianism

Last year Brian Gothberg, who was lecturing at a summer seminar I attended in 2009, left the following comment in response to a post about media coverage and Austrian economics:

I think there’s a perceptual or cognitive block, that simply makes it hard for many people to see government activity in the foreground of the story, as an actor which actively and (often) arbitrarily changes outcomes. It reminds of the recent Brian Greene programs on cosmology on PBS. In one, he compares the treatment of space, through most of scientific history, as simply being the unadorned theater stage, upon which the truly interesting things actually happen. It’s only later that Einstein (using Riemann’s math) described space as having positive, unambiguous characteristics. After Einstein brought space itself into the foreground, you could make statements about particular things that space did do, and other particular things that space did not do.

Another example: at a gathering of friends with children, my wife and I were observing a small boy (3-ish) who kept biting the other children. When it came to tears, parents would come in and intervene, and scold him. Later, we watched the same parents — who were baffled at the boy’s biting — laugh and giggle as the father playfully bit his son. Apparently, nobody had ever brought the father’s behavior into the foreground, for their scrutiny, as a possible influence on the son’s problem. Sometimes, the obvious does stare people in the face. I think that the way we describe the role and actions of government, in the press and schools, goes a long way to explain this cognitive block. Libertarianism is nothing like common sense; not nearly.

I was reminded of this as I read the following 2008 piece by Roger Lowenstein in the New York Times, where he documents the regulatory regime that was built by the state in the years leading up to the Great Recession. Check this out: Continue reading

Two More Days!

Two more days to sign up for the Independent Institute’s summer seminar scholarship offer.

I first became interested in libertarianism during the 2008 presidential campaign, when Ron Paul gained national prominence for his tangle with Rudy Giuliani on foreign policy.  In the summer of 2009, just after the presidential primaries wrapped up, I embarked on a nationwide journey to learn more about the concept of liberty.

My first stop was the Independent Institute’s summer seminar, an from that experience I not only learned a lot about how markets work (I just spent the afternoon going over my notes from the seminar), but I was also able to make some great connections as well.  Indeed, the co-editor of this blog, Fred Foldvary, was a lecturer at the seminar, and Brian Gothberg, who is incredibly good at teaching basic economic subjects, are just some of the fantastic people that I have been able to count over the past three years for intellectual support.

If you want to spend a week in one of the San Francisco Bay Area’s most beautiful locales, learning about liberty, history, civil society, and the market process, then I highly suggest checking out their seminar.  It is absolutely fantastic.

Links From Around the Consortium

Jacques Delacroix continues his vendetta against Ron Paul.

Dr. Ninos Malek points out the obvious in regards to guns and public schools

Fred Foldvary has a wonderful piece in the Progress Report on Turkey joining NAFTA

Brian Gothberg (with Gregory Christainsen) writes on property rights and whaling technology

Professor Jeffrey Rogers Hummel on Ben Bernanke versus Milton Friedman (pdf) in the Independent Review

Have a great weekend!

Links From Around the Consortium

Over at the Progress Report, Dr. Fred Foldvary writes on how we can extirpate poverty from the world.

Jacques Delacroix calls out Ron Paul’s statement about Iran being surrounded by the U.S. government.

Professor Jeffrey Rogers Hummel tackles the issue of slavery head-on in a Freeman article.

Brian Gothberg writes about the potential technology has to start protecting the ocean’s resources through property rights.

And our newest blogger, Dr. Ninos Malek, defends stereotyping (defending the undefendable is why I love being a libertarian!).

Links From Around the Consortium

Brian Gothberg’s piece on whaling and property rights deserves another look, as he channels Nobel laureate Ronald Coase:

According to a simple version of the Coase (1960) theorem, if the costs of transacting were very low, it would not much matter for the allocation of resources how stock rights were initially assigned. Trading ensures that rights would be put to their highest-valued uses, whatever they might be. If particular whales have more value as a source of pizza toppings than as the subject of a tourist?s photo session, whale-watching companies would be encouraged to sell any rights that they might have to whalers. If, on the other hand, particular whales have great value simply as magnificent creatures whose existence is to be nurtured and cherished, conservation groups would tend to end up with the rights to those whales.

Reality is not always simple, however. Transaction costs are sometimes high. In particular, there is a free-rider problem […]

Co-editor Fred Foldvary opines on how deregulation hurts the economy.  This is perhaps the best piece I have found on regulation and its effects on the economy at large.

I found this piece by Jeffrey Rogers Hummel on President Martin van Buren, whom he calls the ‘American Gladstone’.  If you’re itching for some historical information on one of the American republic’s little known presidents, I recommend you grab a cup of coffee and enjoy.

And, not to be outdone, Jacques Delacroix asks if the French have it better.  He is specifically referring to the debt-to-GDP ratios of France and the U.S.  The whole thing is good throughout, more so because Delacroix professes to hate the French.

Rainy Day

Here is a quick list of links around the web from our bloggers at the consortium:

Fred Foldvary weighs in on the 2011 Nobel Prize winners in Economics

Some Possible Consequences of a U.S. Government Default by Jeffrey Rogers Hummel

One of Jacques Delacroix’s famous short stories (and this co-editor’s personal favorite)

Brian Gothberg introduced me to Colossus: The Forbin Project at a summer seminar in 2009

I hope everybody stays dry out there!

Laundry Day!

Links from around the web by the consortium.

Brian Gothberg wants to save the whales.

In an oldie but goodie, Jeffrey Rogers Hummel writes about Federal Reserve accounting and insolvency.

Jacques Delacroix feels remorse for singing the praises of Newt Gingrich.

And Fred Foldvary gives his take on the Israel-Palestine mess.

Happy Friday, and enjoy your weekends!