In 2011, Bill Maher was on T.V. saying: “We have this fantasy that our interests and the interests of the super rich are the same, like somehow the rich will eventually get so full that they’ll explode, and the candy will rain down on the rest of us, like they’re some sort of pinata of benevolence. But here’s the thing about a pinata, it doesn’t open on it’s own, you have to beat it with a stick.”
In 2012, he bought an undisclosed amount of shares of the New York Mets, which must have been over $20 million. He’s in the top 0.005% of the world’s richest people. He makes around 50 times more after taxes than the average U.S. salary is before taxes. Does he advocate his “candy stash” raining down on everyone else? Likely not, given he’s on record complaining about how much tax he pays in California!
Honestly, I do think he makes some good points from time to time in other subjects, but his “I’m a little guy” schtick is quite far fetched. By and large, the people in popular culture that pontificate about income inequality are among the extremely rich and make little effort to change that, with their own money.
- “The quintessence of Ronald Reagan is that he is a master in supplying the conservative movement with the rhetoric they want to hear. In all politicians there is a gulf between rhetoric and reality, but in Ronald Reagan that gulf has become a veritable and mighty ocean. There seems to be no contact whatever between Ronnie the rhetorician and Ronnie the maker of policy. In that situation it is hard to know which one is ‘the real’ Reagan.”
Foreign Policy – Lebanon
- “The second flagrant defiance of the law was Reagan’s refusal to obey the War Powers Act, by which Congress ordered the President to subject the maintenance of U.S. troops abroad to its wishes as soon as these troops become subject to actual hostilities. U.S. Marines have been killed in Beirut, and yet the President stubbornly refused to obey the War Powers Act, and only grudgingly agreed to a compromise when Congress knuckled under and ratified the Marines staying in Lebanon for at least another 18 months.”
- “Just as in Vietnam, we hear from the Reagan Administration that, whether or not the Marines should have been there in the first place, once they are there they cannot be pulled out, else the U.S. will lose its ‘credibility.’ Once a ‘commitment’ is made, no matter how idiotic, it must be pursued to and beyond the bitter end in order to preserve American ‘credibility.’“
- “It is fitting to conclude by noting Ronald Reagan’s allegedly noble gesture in ‘taking full responsibility” for the fact that the truck-bombing killed 241 ill-prepared and badly defended Marines. In this way, by drawing all sin upon his own head, Reagan let our incompetent military commanders off the hook. A noble gesture? But let us examine this: In precisely what sense did Reagan ‘take responsibility’ for the killing of a large number of Americans? Clearly in no sense, for the limit of Ronnie’s assumption of responsibility is obviously his oral statement. After which statement, we are supposed to forget about the whole thing…What should ‘taking responsibility’ for the deaths of hundreds mean?”
Foreign Policy – Grenada
- “Reagan on October 25 invaded the tiny island nation of Grenada, along with a few measly troops from neighboring client governments used as a flimsy cover. Not only was this a reprehensible act of aggression…it violated every tenet of international law and of U.S. treaties…Even more of a violation is a naked act of aggression against another state and its people…As a friend of mine suggested, ‘Reagan has been anxious to Win One for the Gipper, and so he finally picked on a country he could-probably-beat.’ But even teeny Grenada minus an army gave us unexpected trouble, the Pentagon admitting that it had greatly underestimated the fighting capabilities of the Grenadians and of the Cuban construction workers (!) In fact, to defeat several hundred Grenadians, the U.S. had to send wave after wave of fresh troops, totaling over 5,000, from Marines to Army Rangers to the famous 82nd Airborne. “
- “Another heinous aspect of the [Grenada] invasion was the impudence by which the U.S. barred reporters from accompanying the invading forces. It was an act unprecedented in American history. In fact, when the U.S. troops found four American reporters on the island they promptly shipped them off by force. The insulting excuse was that the U.S. “feared for the safety” of the journalists. Again, phony humanitarianism and liberal paternalism were being used to justify arrant aggression. For, of course, it should be up to the journalists themselves whether they should endanger their safety. Does the Reagan Administration think it owns the bodies of the men and women of the press, and is therefore entitled to make such decisions? The real reason why the press was kept out, while the war was going on, is that the Reagan Administration didn’t want any Vietnam-like repetition of the media taking pictures of innocent civilians butchered by U.S. bombs and bullets. As it was, the Reaganite tactics worked beautifully, the embarrassing photos were avoided, and the pictures could be confined to happy Americans (happy to be evacuated from the Grenada war zone, that is) kissing U.S. soil. Far better for the Reaganite image!”
- “[Reagan] claimed he acted to protect U.S. citizens in Grenada. But there was no evidence whatever that these citizens, mostly students at the St. George’s University School of Medicine, were under any threat, imminent or otherwise. In fact, the head of the medical school, Charles R. Modica, was bitterly critical of the invasion, and pointed out that the only threat to the lives and persons of the students was that posed by the invasion itself.”
Foreign Policy Cambodia
- “The Reagan Administration’s continued aid and support to Pol Pot in Cambodia, the most genocidal butcher of our time, is more reprehensible but less visible to most Americans. As a result, Pol Pot’s thugs are mobilizing at this very moment on the Thai border to return and take over Cambodia as soon as the Vietnamese pull out, presumably to renew their bizarre mass murders. ”
Foreign Policy – General
- “Reagan calls for intervention everywhere, in the Persian Gulf and Afghanistan, and demands the blockade of Cuba in alleged retaliation for the incursion into Afghanistan. And what is more, in the service of this policy of global war and militarism, Reagan would totally ‘unleash’ the FBI and CIA, to do again their foul deeds of harassing political dissent, or invasion of privacy, or espionage and assassination.”
- “Ronald Reagan was swept into office by the conservative movement, whose leader and spokesman he had become. He made a raft of campaign promises to that movement, each and every one of which he has broken egregiously. He raised income taxes rather than lowered them, he brought us $200 billion deficits rather than balancing the budget…he has deregulated nothing, he has not abolished the Departments of Education and Energy, etc…”
- “Even though [Martin Anderson was] a top Reagan aide…stories began to appear in the press that he ‘lacked clout,’ and pretty soon he was gone. As White House aide in the…Nixon Administration, Marty had plenty of clout, being largely responsible for the end of the draft and the blocking of the pernicious Moynihan Family Assistance Program. But now, despite his characteristic care in picking his spots for battle, Marty indeed lacked clout. Despite what I am sure were his valiant efforts, he failed to persuade Reagan to follow his campaign promises and abolish the infamous draft-registration program. Until near the end, his only accomplishment was to block a Reaganaut proposal for forcing ID cards on every immigrant alien. Then, it was reported that, among the top White House advisers, only Anderson opposed raising income taxes in 1982.”
- “Another noxious device of the 1982 Reagan budget is to raise taxes but to call them ‘user fees.’ In some cases they are simply taxes outright. Others might not be called taxes, but they have the same effect of shifting money from private producers to the State apparatus, raising charges for services monopolized by the government.”
- “He is seeking tax increases, to the tune of $32 billion over the next two years, and his tax raises are more pernicious than mere figures indicate.”
- “Ever since the Eisenhower Era, every time the Republicans win, the effect has been tragic for free-market..institutions” – Murray Rothbard
- “The much-heralded 1981 tax cut was more than offset by two tax increases that year.”
- “Creative semantics is the way in which Ronnie was able to keep his pledge never to raise taxes while raising them all the time.”
- “How about deregulation? Didn’t Ronnie at least deregulate the regulation-ridden economy inherited from the evil Carter? Just the opposite. The outstanding measures of deregulation were all passed by the Carter Administration, and, as is typical of that luckless President, the deregulation was phased in to take effect during the early Reagan years, so that the Gipper could claim the credit. Such was the story with oil and gas deregulation (which the Gipper did advance from September to January of 1981); airline deregulation and the actual abolition of the Civil Aeronautics Board, and deregulation of trucking. That was it. “
- “The Reagan Administration, supposedly the champion of free trade, has been the most protectionist in American history, raising tariffs, imposing import quotas, and – as another neat bit of creative semantics”
Today is the birthday of Ludwig Von Mises, an influential economist of the Austrian school and author of Human Action. He was born September 29, 1881 and would have been 130 years now if he were still alive. You can read more about him here.
He was given an honorary doctorate at Grove City College. His work has influenced a diverse group of individuals, including Leonard Read, Henry Hazlitt, Max Eastman, Murray Rothboard, Israel Kirzner, Sylvester J. Petro, and Ayn Rand.
Mises had a broad and impressive knowledge of politics, economics and philosophy married with a keen insight about what was transpiring in practical terms. He was a man ahead of his time, scorned for things that we now see to be fact. Murray Rothbard observed that “Mises’s warnings of financial collapse and depression were remembered after 1929, although they were generally scorned at the time.” Murray Rothbard once said, “In his critique of logical positivism, Mises saw that a philosophy that treated people as if they were stones and atoms, whose behavior could be predicted and determined according to quantitative laws, was particularly likely to lead to the viewpoint of social engineers, who deal with people as if they were inanimate physical object”
Ralph Raico said of him “For over sixty years he was at war with the spirit of the age, and with every one of the advancing, victorious, or merely modish political schools, left and right….Decade after decade he fought militarism, protectionism, inflationism, every variety of socialism, and every policy of the interventionist state, and through most of that time he stood alone, or close to it…But the lack of recognition seems to have influenced or deflected Mises not in the least.”
Mises discovered the Austrian school of economics through Carl Menger and went on to be one of its leading proponents. I, for one, have found his writings to be very readable, helpful, and simply make a lot of common sense especially when compared with the prevailing misinformation and illogical hogwash that is so commonly labeled “economics”. He also was really good at intellectually demolishing the prevailing pretensions and falsehoods of politics and economics in a very understandable way.
Mises was extremely limited in his teaching post in the University of Vienna, but he ended up lecturing many people, including Friedrich A. Hayek. In the early 1930’s, when people were denying that Nazism could happen in Austria, Mises foresaw what would transpire. In 1940, when the Nazis took over France, Mises and his wife fled to the United States. Mises, lecturing at NYU even up to the age of 87, became the oldest active professor in the U.S. NYU didn’t pay him, but he was paid through a separate fund, the Volker Fund.
In regard to Ludwig’s marriage with Margrit, Rothbard said that “Margit and Ludwig von Mises were a magnificent team”. Margrit once said that “In the first years of our relationship, Lu[dwig] was almost an enigma to me. I never had seen such modesty in a man before. He knew his value, but he never boasted. … I think it was the extreme honesty in Lu[dwig]‘s feelings that attracted me so strongly to him. These feelings were so overpowering that he, who wrote thousands of pages about economics and money, could not find the words to talk about himself, and explain his feeling.”
Here are a few memorable quotes from Von Mises
- “Depression is the aftermath of credit expansion.” (Planning for Freedom)
- “Many who are self-taught far excel the doctors, masters, and bachelors of the most renowned universities.”
- “Capitalism and socialism are two distinct patterns of social organization. Private control of the means of production and public control are contradictory notions and not merely contrary notions. There is no such thing as a mixed economy, a system that would stand midway between capitalism and socialism.” (The Anti Capitalistic Mentality)
- “It is vain to fight totalitarianism by adopting totalitarian methods.” (Omnipotent Government)
- “The criterion of truth is that it works even if nobody is prepared to acknowledge it.” (The Ultimate Foundation of Economic Science)
- “As a rule, capitalism is blamed for the undesired effects of a policy directed at its elimination” (Interventionism: An Economic Analysis)
- “The usual terminology of political language is stupid. What is ‘left’ and what is ‘right’? Why should Hitler be ‘right’ and Stalin, his temporary friend, be ‘left’? Who is ‘reactionary’ and who is ‘progressive’? Reaction against an unwise policy is not to be condemned. And progress towards chaos is not to be commended. Nothing should find acceptance just because it is new, radical, and fashionable. ‘Orthodoxy’ is not an evil if the doctrine on which the ‘orthodox’ stand is sound. Who is anti-labor, those who want to lower labor to the Russian level, or those who want for labor the capitalistic standard of the United States? Who is ‘nationalist,’ those who want to bring their nation under the heel of the Nazis, or those who want to preserve its independence?” (Interventionism, An Economic Analysis)
- ” It is not because we have distilleries that people drink whiskey; it is because people like to drink whiskey that we have distilleries. One may deplore this. But it is not up to the entrepreneurs to improve mankind morally. And they are not to be blamed if those whose duty this is have failed to do so.” (Interventionism: An Economic Analysis)
- “If one rejects laissez faire on account of mans fallibility and moral weakness, one must for the same reason also reject every kind of government action.” (Planning for Freedom)
- “A free man must be able to endure it when his fellow men act and live otherwise than he considers proper. He must free himself from the habit, just as soon as something does not please him, of calling for the police. ” (Liberalism)
- “Governments which are eager to keep up the outward appearance of freedom even when curtailing freedom disguise their direct interference with consumption under the cloak of interference with business. The aim of American prohibition was to prevent the individual residents of the country from drinking alcoholic beverages. But the law hypocritically did not make drinking as such illegal…It merely prohibited the manufacture, the sale and the transportation of intoxicating liquors, the business transactions which precede the act of drinking. The idea was that people indulge in the vice of drinking only because unscrupulous businessmen prevail upon them. It was, however, manifest that the objective of prohibition was to encroach upon the individuals’ freedom to spend their dollars and to enjoy their lives according to their own fashion.” (Human Actions)
- “But once the principle is admitted that it is the duty of government to protect the individual against his own foolishness, no serious objections can be advanced against further encroachments. A good case could be made out in favor of the prohibition of alcohol and nicotine. And why limit the government’s benevolent providence to the protection of the individual’s body only? Is not the harm a man can inflict on his mind and soul even more disastrous than any bodily evils? Why not prevent him from reading bad books and seeing bad plays, from looking at bad paintings and statues and from hearing bad music? The mischief done by bad ideologies, surely, is much more pernicious, both for the individual and for the whole society, than that done by narcotic drugs.” (Human Action)
- “The worship of the state is the worship of force. There is no more dangerous menace to civilization than a government of incompetent, corrupt, or vile men. The worst evils which mankind ever had to endure were inflicted by governments.”
Ronald Reagan (~280% increase)
- $985 billion in February 1981;
- $999.8 billion in September 1981;
- $1.0798 trillion September 1981;
- $1.1431 trillion in June 1982;
- $1.2902 trillion in September 1982;
- $1.389 trillion in May 1993;
- $1.49 trillion in November 1983;
- $1.52 trillion in May 1984;
- $1.573 trillion in July 1984;
- $1.8238 trillion in October 1984;
- $1.9038 trillion in November 1985;
- $2.0787 trillion in December 1985;
- $2.111 trillion in August 1986;
- $2.3 trillion in October 1986;
- $2.32 trillion in July 1987;
- $2.352 trillion in August 1987;
- and $2.8 trillion in September 1987.
George Bush Sr (~48% increase):
- by $70 billion to $2.87 trillion in August 1989;
- by $252.7 billion to $3.1227 trillion three months later, in November 1989;
- by $107.3 billion to $3.23 trillion 11 months later, in October 1990;
- and by $915 billion to $4.145 trillion one month later, in November 1990.
Bill Clinton (44% increase):
- by $225 billion to $4.37 trillion in April 1993;
- by $530 billion to $4.9 trillion four months later, in August 1993;
- by $600 billion to $5.5 trillion two years and seven months later, in March 1996;
- and by $450 billion to $5.95 trillion 17 months later, in August 1997.
George Bush Jr (~90% increase):
- by $450 billion to $6.4 trillion in June 2002;
- by $984 billion to $7.384 trillion 11 months later, in May 2003;
- by $800 billion to $8.184 trillion 18 months later, in November 2004;
- by $781 billion to $8.965 trillion 16 months later, in March 2006;
- by $850 billion to $9.815 trillion 18 months later, in September 2007;
- by $800 billion to $10.615 trillion 10 months later, in July 2008;
- and by $700 billion to $11.315 trillion three months later, in October 2008.
Barack Obama (~26%):
- by $789 billion to $12.104 trillion in February 2009, Obama’s first year in office
- by $290 billion to $12.394 trillion ten months later, in December 2009;
- and by $1.9 trillion to $14.294 trillion two months later, in February 2010.