Tag Archives: human action

What Do You Do?

In Washington, the first question people ask you is usually, “what do you do?”

“I’m an economist,” I answer. “I work at a think tank.”

“Oh,” the usual response goes. Followed by an immediate change of subject.

So I’m not a hit on the DC cocktail party circuit. But this quotation made me swell with pride when I read it:

“Economics is not a dry subject. It is not a dismal subject. It is not about statistics. It is about human life. It is about the ideas that motivate human beings. It is about how men act from birth until death. It is about the most important and interesting drama of all–human action”

-Percy Greaves

Hat tip: the Foundation for Economic Education, which did much to introduce me to the economic way of thinking when I was younger, and continues to educate and inspire me today.


The Economic Way of Thinking about Stimulus Packages, Part II

In light of the news about stimulus job creation statistics not being as advertised — complete with made-up Congressional districts — I offer another surprisingly relevant insight from Mises’ Human Action. Turns out there is a reason stimulus advocates are resorting to trickery:

“If government spending for public works is financed by taxing the citizens or borrowing from them, the citizens’ power to spend and invest is curtailed to the same extent as that of the public treasury expands. No additional jobs are created.”

-Ludwig von Mises, Human Action, 4th ed., (Irvington-on-Hudson New York: Foundation for Economic Education, 1996 [1949], p. 776.

The Economic Way of Thinking about Stimulus Packages

“[A] government can spend or invest only what it takes away from its citizens… its additional spending and investment curtails the citizens’ spending and investment to the full extent of its quantity.”

-Ludwig von Mises, Human Action, 4th ed., (Irvington-on-Hudson New York: Foundation for Economic Education, 1996 [1949], p. 744.

What Does Protectionism Protect?

Classic reductio ad absurdum.

Modern technology could easily grow oranges and grapes in hothouses in the arctic and subarctic countries. Everybody would call such a venture lunacy. But it is essentially the same to preserve the growing of cereals in rocky mountain valleys by tariffs and other devices of protectionism while elsewhere there is plenty of fallow fertile land. The difference is merely one of degree.

Ludwig von Mises, Human Action, p. 395.

Markets and Special Interests

Detractors of capitalism decry that it caters to special interests. The opposite is actually true. Just look at what’s happened in the last year.

Most of Wall Street came to government asking for a bailout when the government-created housing bubble popped.

The Big Three automakers also went to Washington for largesse when their customers came to prefer Toyotas and Hondas.

Health insurance companies stand to make a killing if Obamacare passes.

T. Boone Pickens and Al Gore would make millions from environmental legislation.

Ludwig von Mises explained the reason for all of this corrupt behavior with a single sentence back in 1949: “It is precisely the fact that the market does not respect vested interests that makes the people concerned ask for government interference.”
Human Action, 4th Edition, p. 337.