Tag Archives: ludwig von mises

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.

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Making Broadband Accessible: Innovation, Not Intervention

FCC regulators want to provide wider and cheaper broadband access by subsidizing it, raising taxes, and forcing network owners to share their network infrastructure with competitors.

A few things the FCC should consider:

-Subsidies don’t make broadband access any less expensive. They just change who pays for it. In this case, that would be anybody with a phone. Which probably includes you. The great economist Ludwig von Mises observed that “A government can no more determine prices than a goose can lay hen’s eggs.”*

-The tax would make owning a phone more expensive. And when something becomes more expensive, people consume less of it. With tax-exempt technologies like Skype and Google Voice now available, people can switch away from a taxed phone to something cheaper more easily than ever. The more people who do that, the less revenue the phone tax would generate, defeating its very purpose.

-If a company has to share its network infrastructure with its competitors, it loses the incentive to maintain and improve that network. Why invest millions of dollars if it will help your competition just as much as yourself? Quality suffers. So does innovation. In the long run, it is innovation, not FCC intervention, that will make broadband affordable and accessible for everyone. The long-run view is just as important as the short-run view here.

-Land-based networks are expensive to build in rural areas. The cost per customer is huge compared to denser urban areas. Fortunately, that isn’t as much of a problem for wireless technologies. The FCC seems hellbent on the land-based networks since wireless networks aren’t yet advanced enough for mass-market broadband service. But they will be soon enough. And every dollar spent on old-fashioned wired networks is a dollar unavailable for improving wireless service. An unintended consequence of FCC intervention would be slower innovation.

*Ludwig von Mises, Human Action, 4th ed., (Irvington-on-Hudson New York: Foundation for Economic Education, 1996 [1949], p. 397.

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

ludwig-von-mises
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.