A nice Murray Bookchin obit by Jesse Walker, who quotes him from the 1979 Reason interview by Jeff Riggenbach:
People who resist authority, who defend the rights of the individual, who try in a period of increasing totalitarianism and centralization to reclaim these rights -- this is the true left in the United States. Whether they are anarcho-communists, anarcho-syndicalists, or libertarians who believe in free enterprise...I feel much closer, ideologically, to such individuals than I do to the totalitarian liberals and Marxist-Leninists of today.
Eugene Plawiuk writes on the shift toward decentralized, organic, community agriculture in Cuba after the cutoff of Soviet economic aid. I've blogged about it myself. When the USSR was still a source of life support, Castro preferred the Soviet model of large-scale, mechanized factory farms. The cutoff of Soviet aid resulted in a steep decline in the Cuban diet--followed by steady improvment as sugar cane was replaced by small-scale horticulture for local consumption. Could it be that the old Soviet bloc was following a "neoliberal" model of its own, encouraging satellites to specialize in export crops for the sake of the "socialist community"?
As Stephen King's Gunslinger would say, the world has moved on. My book is no longer the theme of the latest issue of Journal of Libertarian Studies. But the good news (or additional good news, some might say) is that there's a lot of good new stuff, so check it out. And the new practice of immediately publishing the new issue to the web, which began with the recent symposium issue on my book, continues with this issue.
Bob Murphy has an article at Mises.Org in defense of agribusiness. In response to a woman who complains of the inefficiency of shipping produce all the way around the world when it can be grown in the same community where it's consumed, he writes:
After all, isn't it a wondrous achievement of the market economy that costs of shipping are so low that we can enjoy goods delivered from all over the globe?...
Well it's true, I don't really know how many calories of fuel it takes, but I bet the owners of the shipping companies — you know, the ones who reckon that it's cheaper to ship spinach from China than from New Jersey — have a pretty good idea. (After all, they have to buy the fuel.)
Anyway, what's Taylor's point? Absent government interference, market prices reflect the different opportunities for resource usage in various lines....
Taylor, and you other critics of the spontaneous outcomes of the market economy, please do us all a favor: Go read Henry Hazlitt's Economics in One Lesson.
Let's see: low shipping costs an "achievement of the market economy".... "absent government interference".... "spontaneous outcomes of the market economy".... Yep, all the signs are there. What we've got here is a massive exercise in question-begging.
Carlton Hobbs, in the comments to a Mises Blog post linking to the Murphy article, is so impolitic as to quote ADM's Dwayne Andreas, the patron saint of an agribusiness industry about as "free market"-oriented as Big Pharma or Boeing and McDonnell-Douglass.
So much for those who say "Smash the State!" and then go back to singng "How great art thou Monsanto." How foolish art thou farmers' markets. If you want to know why it is cheaper to get spinach from China than from your neighbor, read "Everything I Want To Do Is Illegal"
Quasibill, in the comments to my "Outsource Everyone But the Pointy-Haired Bosses" post, directed me to a hilarious exchange in which an MBA took umbrage at the same article I linked in the post. This time, it was Jeffrey Tucker who linked to the article at Mises Blog. After a series of comments sniping at MBAs, an offended MBA jumped into the fray. Scroll down to the comment by MBA Grad. To quote quasibill's description, MBA Grad listed, among the insights he gained from an expensive business school education, a bunch of platitudes that any Mises Blog reader could have told you for free. Then he wrote:
My compensation is now better than triple what I earned pre-MBA (which was itself above average), however, I know that my employer will drop me in a heartbeat for some other bright kid if I fail to perform to their expectations.
Employers pay a premium because they value whatever it is that MBA grads have that the general population doesn't. Otherwise, they'd save themselves a whole lot of cash, and hire from high-schools or community colleges.
So, next time you want to complain that MBAs are stupid and overpaid because you happen to have met a few who fit that description, rethink your argument in a free-market context before spouting overgeneralized opinions.
Ahem. Well, it might just be that the institutional structure and culture of MBA Grad's employer result from something besides a free market--that his skills are desireable, rather, in the Gosplan-like atmosphere of an enterprise bloated (thanks to state intervention in the market on behalf of big business) far beyond the optimal size for efficiency. The MBA's skills of milking organizations to inflate quarterly returns, of shifting finances between divisions of an organization based entirely on such returns, and imposing arbitrary cuts on entire divisions or categories of productive labor, with no idea of the internal productive workings involved, are quite similar to the skills of a state finance apparatchik in a planned economy. Robert Jackall, in Moral Mazes (which I reviewed last month), admirably described the effects of the MBA Disease in the bureaucratic culture of the large corporation.
Iceberg has a great post on a corporate welfare deal in New York, fascist economics passed off on the taxpayers as "privatization" of roads and bridges.
Elsewhere on the corporate welfare front, Sheldon Richman writes at FEE:
Libertarians should revise their attitude toward retailers that collude with government in land theft and other forms of corporate welfare. They are shoulder-deep in state privilege, enjoying all the creative financing and tax schemes their political friends can cook up. They are so integrated into the local and regional economic-planning establishment that they compromise their private-sector status. That should make laissez-fairists uncomfortable.
Alexander Kjerulf, at Positive Sharing, posts on Rosenbluth International, a corporate travel agency whose top priority is keeping its employees happy. CEO Hal Rosenbluth found that happy employees were the key to providing the best possible customer service. As counterintuitive as it seems, if you treat people like shit, all the corporate motivational programs in the world won't make them enthusiastic about doing a good job. And if you downsize service workers and then double the work load of the survivors, even Hallmark Cards can't write enough smarmy mission statement rhetoric to prevent lousy service. During the near-collapse of the travel industry after 9-11, Rosenbluth was hit hard. But layoffs were a last resort, after across-the-board pay cuts that included senior management. And even after the layoffs, Rosenbluth made rehiring laid off workers a top priority.
Mike O'Mara, on the geolibertarian-leaning ProLiberty Democrats list, links to a great article by Mason Gaffney: Land as a Distinctive Factor of Production.
According to Fred Foldvary, the "natural minimum wage" in a free market is determined by the alternative income a worker can expect from self-employment. One such source of alternative income is subsistence labor on cheap marginal land. Another is self-employment in low-overhead jobs like peddling and odd jobs. Anything government does to make cheap land scarcer and less accessible, or to set up entry barriers (i.e., licensing) for cabs, errand services, peddling, and the like, artificially reduces the minimum wage below its natural level.
Patri Friedman links to B.K. Marcus' classic "Straw Men and Ham Sandwiches," with this wonderful quote:
political capitalism (which we pro-capitalists sometimes call mercantilism, corporatism, state capitalism, crony capitalism, or even fascism), is something we and the anti-capitalists can agree on: it is the exploitation of the productive class by a parasitic class. We might even surprise them with our sample list of parasites: defense contractors, the banking cartel, the steel industry, big agribusiness, Halliburton … There is a persuasive power in joining the leftists’ rants against privilege once you’ve insisted that the term they mean is political capitalism. Similarly, it is easier to convince them to open their minds to the potential virtues of economic capitalism than it is to promote only ‘capitalism’ without the distinguishing modifiers.”
B.K.Marcus announces that The Market for Liberty, by Linda and Morris Tannehill, is available online. He also links to another great online resource, Robert Higgs'
"Quasi-Corporatism: America's Homegrown Fascism."
Finally, a great post at Oligopoly Watch on the "Patent Protection Racket," by which giant corporations buy up patents in bulk with no intention to work them, just so they can collect tolls on anyone who does.