Don Boudreaux’s latest Pittsburgh Tribune-Review column is simply superb, echoing both Israel Kirzner and Deirdre McCloskey:
The undeniably smart Steve Jobs’ vision for an affordable smartphone was dazzlingly creative. But that vision would have amounted to zilch had not many other people been available to help make Jobs’ vision a reality. Some of these other people were also smart. Others were of only ordinary intelligence. And almost every one of them was a complete stranger to Jobs.
Yet somehow, they all cooperated with Jobs and with each other to create the iPhone.
What has not been around, unlike smart people, for tens of thousands of years is the smart process that encourages the globe-spanning cooperation that makes goods such as the smartphone possible.
As Don points out, this “smart process” is a market economy. This is the Kirznerian insight that a market is not a thing or a place. It is an ongoing, never-ending process. Or, as Kirzner described market competition, a discovery procedure. Don also alludes to Deirdre McCloskey’s insight that this smart process cannot work unless people let it. Public opinion has to value things like innovation and commerce, and not look down its nose at them. The more that people denigrate entrepreneurs, the fewer of them there will be — and that means no smart phones, no matter how many smart people there are.
Read the whole thing.
Have a listen here.
Nick Tucker, producer and director of the new CEI short film “I, Pencil,” discusses the importance of Leonard Read’s classic essay, how the project got started, and how ideas like spontaneous order and connectivity are genuinely inspiring.
One doesn’t usually think of electronic gadgets as being environmentally friendly. But Cato’s Marian Tupy makes a good point about the iPhone. By replacing legions of bigger, clunkier items like newspapers and magazines, alarm clocks, compasses, and even white noise machines, smart phones can drastically reduce the amount of raw materials people need to maintain a first world lifestyle.
It’s an underappreciated point about capitalism and the innovation it makes possible that should be made more often. Click here to read Marian’s post, which is accompanied by a cool graphic.
With a single graph, NYU’s Bill Easterly shows, not tells, why America’s current economic troubles aren’t as bad as they seem.
I won’t spoil the suspense; just click here. And keep in mind that the graph is logarithmic. Its true slope is far steeper.
Some people think that the only reason poverty still exists is because Congress hasn’t passed laws guaranteeing the right to decent housing, health, and education.
Some of these people are in Congress. Over at The American Spectator, my colleague Jacqueline Otto and I explain why their hearts are in the right place, but their heads aren’t:
Suppose that poverty really can be abolished by passing a few laws. Jackson isn’t going nearly far enough, then. The Constitution should guarantee everyone not just a decent home, but a mansion filled with servants to take care of every need.
Everyone should have the right to not just a doctor’s visit every 6 months, but a cadre of specialists with access to the latest technologies and tests. This would be a boon for life expectancy.
And why only an iPod and a laptop for children? They deserve supercomputers! And the right to a Harvard Ph.D. Such a law would give America the most educated population in the world; though it would probably know the least.
Congress might as well pass a law guaranteeing an above-average lifestyle for all Americans.
Posted in Economics, Publications, The Market Process
Tagged american spectator, rights, constitutional amendments, economics lessons, jess jackson jr., ipad, apple, publishing, paper, paper industry, positive rights
Via Russ Roberts, this is an amazing video. I’m always impressed with creative, compelling ways to use data to tell a story. And this story is one of the most important in human history: how most of humanity went from being poor and sick to healthy and rich in just 200 years.
There is still a ways to go. But if past is prologue, I’m optimistic about the future.
Posted in Development Economics, Economics, Fun with Statistics, The Market Process
Tagged bbc, bbc 4, cafe hayek, data, hans rosling, optimism, russ roberts, storytelling
Joe Biden believes that government played a large role in the success of railroads in the 19th century. In this video, Don Boudreaux points out that that isn’t actually true. There were four transcontinental railroads. Three of them received subsidies. The fourth was the Great Northern Railway, founded by Canadian immigrant James J. Hill. He alone rejected any special government favors.
All three subsidized railroads went into receivership. Hill’s Great Northern Railway remained solvent, and is still in business today as the BNSF Railroad.
Posted in Economics, The Market Process
Tagged bnsf railroad, Don Boudreaux, government meddling, great northern railway, james j. hill, joe biden, joe biden gaffe, private enterprise, railroads, subsidies
My colleague Ryan Radia and I recently sent this letter to The New York Times:
Editor, New York Times:
Catherine Rampell’s September 7 article, “Once a Dynamo, the Tech Sector Is Slow to Hire,” mourns the recent decline in U.S. data processing jobs. She blames much of the decline on the automation of previously tedious tasks.
May we suggest one way to get those jobs back: No more automation. Ban the use of computers for data processing. Imagine how much information flows through today’s global economy in an average day. Computers handle most of the load. That costs millions of jobs.
The effects would reverberate far beyond the tech sector. The paper, pen, and pencil industries would also boom.
Companies are dead-set on doing more with less. True, that creates more jobs in the long run by freeing up resources — and employees — for new ventures. But if only they would consider doing less with more, they could create more data processing jobs.
Ryan Young and Ryan Radia
Competitive Enterprise Institute
Posted in Business Cycles, Economics, The Market Process
Tagged basic economics, catherine rampell, creative destruction, data processing, econ 101, Economics, economics 101, employment, high tech jobs, jobs, new york times, outsourcing, progress