Sunday, February 28, 2010

Ongoing apocalypse

The Sky Has Fallen film (reviewed here) is now available on DVD.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Gold past and future

Its price has never been zero, but it's got plenty of leeway to fall. My look at the history and prospects of gold, including the quixotic notion that the gold standard should return: "The Gleam of Gold." Excerpt:
Nor is it clear that a resurrected gold standard would have credibility. To a greater degree than in earlier eras, governments today would have to convince markets that they would not simply abandon a gold standard during times of economic stress. Such credibility was easier to achieve when metal-backed money was the norm and before the world saw multiple historical episodes of commodity standards being cast aside.

In the event that the U.S. adopted a new gold standard, one plausible consequence would be an enormous increase in gold prices. Substantial gold backing of the money supply could require the government to establish convertibility at a price several times higher than current levels. (Alternatively, to keep gold prices stable, policymakers would have to allow the money supply to contract drastically, leading to severe deflation.)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Limited purpose banking

Review copy received: Jimmy Stewart is Dead: Ending the World's Ongoing Financial Plague with Limited Purpose Banking, by Laurence Kotlikoff, whom I introduced at a conference last fall after Research ran a profile of him. I'll likely have something on the book at some point.

UPDATE: My review.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

My anti-Ron Paul collection

Now that Ron Paul has won the presidential straw poll at CPAC, and given that in his speech there he said "if you disagree with me, think about it – read about it,” I note that I have been thinking, reading and writing about it quite a bit in recent months, and find I disagree with him in an intense and growing way. Here are links to several articles I have written that are relevant to Paul and particularly to his campaign against the Fed:

"Ron Paul's New Book: More Exaggeration and Conspiracy-Mongering." FrumForum, Sept. 8, 2009. My negative review of End the Fed. Excerpt: "His explanation mixes some legitimate concerns into a stew of exaggeration, misdirection and conspiracy-mongering. His solution combines the counterproductive with the untried, and is offered with an ideologue’s certitude that no adverse consequences or difficult tradeoffs need be considered."

"The Tumultuous 19th Century." Research, January 2010. Excerpt: "The course of that century, with its recurrent and severe financial crises, raises considerable doubts about End the Fed, the slogan of Paul’s movement and title of his bestselling book, and whether doing so would really produce greater financial stability and economic prosperity."

"The Fed and Its Enemies." Research, February 2010. Excerpt: "Debates about the Fed’s future should be informed by accurate accounts of the institution’s past, and that means disentangling history from some baseless, even bizarre, beliefs. Moreover, obscure figures are not alone in propagating the misconceptions. Consider how so prominent a politician as Ron Paul promotes the idea that the Fed is private...."

And there is more to come. Soon: a look at the history and prospects of the gold standard.

UPDATE: "The Gleam of Gold."

UPDATE 11/20/10: "The Fed and the GOP Weren't Always Enemies."

UPDATE: 2/25/11: "Furious at Finance."

MORE: "How Did Libertarians Lose Their Way?"

And on Rand Paul: "Paul Plays Politics with Physics."

UPDATE: Updates should not be considered comprehensive, as I have more anti-Ron Paul material than I can find time to include in this post. But here's one more: "Ron Paul's Spaced Out Plan."

Friday, February 19, 2010

Snowy house, NJ

Looking forward to a good weekend in New Jersey.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Mount Vapid Statement

I agree with Jacob Sullum and Jesse Walker, and with David Frum, who from different standpoints converge on the view that the Mount Vernon Statement of "conservative beliefs, values and principles" is meaningless schlock. Hopelessly vague, lacking any iota of self-criticism or self-reflection, and blandly invoking the founding fathers without the slightest awareness of their titanic disagreements, the thing is a document of vapidity, best soon forgotten.

Monday, February 15, 2010

ID's last gasp

Future historians of real and fake science, looking for the anticlimactic death rattle of the Intelligent Design movement, might pinpoint the essay "The End of Intelligent Design?" in the religious-conservative magazine First Things, by Stephen Barr, whose book I reviewed a few years ago. (Essay found via Walter Olson.) For years, I tried to point out that the ID argument (that the laws of nature are inhospitable to life, which thus must have arisen by a miracle) is at odds with the anthropic type of argument propounded by Barr and others (that the laws of nature are strangely hospitable to life, and thus the laws were deliberately fine-tuned). Getting design enthusiasts to even recognize this tension was hard. When it comes to making a choice, they're well-advised to ditch the ID argument.

UPDATE: Unsurprisingly, Barr's essay gets a negative reaction from IDer William Dembski, who accuses Barr of trying to curry favor with his scientific colleagues. IDers at this point apparently care little for such respect, or have just given up on it.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Libertarian piety watch

One reason libertarianism isn't more influential is the sheer smugness with which it's so often presented. Here's Matt Welch showing some self-satisfaction:
What I do care about, regardless of who's president, is human freedom and prosperity. And I strongly and consistently suspect that when the government accumulates more power, I and everyone else (except those wielding it) have less of which I seek. Republicans diss libertarians when they're in power, and Democrats diss libertarians when they're in power. Their changing attitudes toward our little (albeit growing) tribe is mildly interesting, but it's about as newsworthy (and painful) as a dog biting a chew toy.
Yes, "human freedom and prosperity" -- how admirable to care about those things. And when Welch says government power means "less of which I seek," what is he even talking about? Power? Or freedom and prosperity? Or is the sentence so noble it doesn't have to make sense?

UPDATE 2/15: A positive plug from a prime practitioner of pompous presumption.

Two cheers for Obama in space

Who's right about Obama's space policy? Those such as Charles Krauthammer and John Vecchione who argue that it's a recipe for decline and stagnation? Or those such as Rand Simberg, Newt Gingrich and Robert Walker who see it as a bold step toward a free-enterprise space future? Certainly, the policy has cut across ideological lines in an interesting way, in that everyone I just mentioned is right-of-center in some way (and I presume there are similar divisions on the left, though I haven't had time to research it). My own view goes more toward the Simberg-Gingrich side, though as I've argued before, I wish there were some indication of a long-term plan to develop energy and other resource production (and property rights) in space.

UPDATE: Taylor Dinerman argues the private sector isn't up to the job. I've had similar concerns, but we need a diversified portfolio of public and private space projects if much of anything is going to happen out there.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Sowell's Wolfe bane

At TNR, Alan Wolfe finds Thomas Sowell's new bookabout intellectuals to be joyless and not worth reading. That would not surprise me, as I was finding Sowell's work to be getting tiresome and repetitive as far back as 1995. On the other hand, a review as casually dismissive as Wolfe's makes me wonder what's actually in the book, since it's hardly discussed.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Varied and misc.

Posting isn't going to speed up too soon. Here are some things that are on my reading list:

"The New NASA: A Path to Anywhere, and Everywhere," by Rand Simberg.

"FF Symposium: Where's the Vital Center?" at FrumForum.

"Welcome to Atlantis and the quest for nitrogen," by Kathryn Eident.

Also, my radio interview with Gabe Wisdom about the Fed is currently available here (the Feb. 8 module), and as it happened the guest after me was my onetime office colleague Jim Picerno, formerly of Wealth Manager. My segment will in due course also be posted here.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


Posting may continue to be light in the near term, as I focus on some other projects. Note: I'm scheduled to be on the Gabe Wisdom radio show on Feb. 8 at 7pm ET to discuss "The Fed and Its Enemies."

Here's a picture of me with DeWitt Clinton, ancestor and namesake of my son.