Friday, November 30, 2012

AERC Call for Papers

The Austrian Economics Research Conference (formerly Austrian Scholars Conference) is accepting proposals for individual papers, complete paper sessions or symposia, and interactive workshops.

The following comes from the Ludwig von Mises Institute, the host of the conference:

Austrian Economics Research Conference

March 21–23, 2013
Ludwig von Mises Institute
Auburn, Alabama

The Austrian Economics Research Conference (formerly the Austrian Scholars Conference) is the international, interdisciplinary meeting of the Austrian School, bringing together leading scholars doing research in this vibrant and influential intellectual tradition. The conference is hosted by the Ludwig von Mises Institute at its campus in Auburn, Alabama.

Proposals for individual papers, complete paper sessions or symposia, and interactive workshops are encouraged. Papers should be well developed, but at a stage where they can still benefit from the group’s discussion. Preference will be given to recent papers that have not been presented at major conferences. All topics related to Austrian economics, broadly conceived, and related social-science disciplines and business disciplines including management, strategy, and entrepreneurship are appropriate for the conference. Proposals from junior faculty and PhD students are especially encouraged.

This year's conference features a keynote lecture from Dominick Armentano and a themed symposium on competition theory and policy to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Armentano's landmark book Antitrust and Monopoly: Anatomy of a Policy Failure. A lecture from Brendan Brown, author of The Global Curse of the Federal Reserve (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011) will celebrate the 50th anniversary of Murray Rothbard's classic America's Great Depression.  Nikolay Gertchev of the European Commission and Robert Wenzel of Economic Policy Journal will also give keynote speeches.

The deadline for proposals is December 31, 2012. Submissions after that date will be considered as space allows. Decisions will be communicated by January 31, 2013.

The registration fee is $285 for academics, $395 for practitioners. Registration covers all sessions, three buffet dinners, coffee breaks, and daily shuttles between AU Hotel and the Institute.  To register go to or call 800-636-4737 or 334-321-2100.

For qualified full-time students, the registration fee to attend all sessions and dinners is waived (complete the application form at the AERC page of

Hotel rooms at Auburn University Hotel are available. Phone 1-800-228-2876 or 334-821-8200 before February 28. Be sure to mention Austrian Economics Research Conference of the Mises Institute for the special rate of $114 plus tax (for single or double room).

All proposals are peer reviewed by a conference acceptance committee. To submit a proposal, send your information to the director at  Abstracts should be limited to 250 words.


Saturday, November 24, 2012

Coming Soon to a Doctor's Office Near You

In Chapter 17 of my book, Foundations of Economics: A Christian View, I discuss the economics and ethics of voluntary exchange and regulation. Following the analysis of Murray Rothbard, I note that government regulation of business amounts to government privilege granted to certain firms who are already operating according to the dictates laid down by the state. Often such regulations are written with important input by established business firms.

As I explain in my book, such regulation "benefits the seller receiving the special privilege. Whoever has the legal right to produce is protected from potential competition. Potential competitors are barred from entering the regulated market, reducing the number of substitutes for the good made by the privileged seller."

We are on the cusp of seeing how this economic principle will play itself out in the health care industry following the implementation of Obamacare. For those who still hope that increased centralized health care will make the world a better place, I urge you to take a listen to this address by Dr. Elaina George at the Annual Meeting of the Association of American Physicians & Surgeons.

Thanks to EconomicPolicyJournal for alerting me to the perspective from a doctor who understands how increased intervention via Obamacare will result in a more centralized industry, more government control, higher costs, and an increased wedge between physicians and their patients.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Pilgrims, Property, and Prosperity

Hugh Welchel of the Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics  has a thought provoking essay in the Washington Post entitled "Thanksgiving: Pilgrims, property rights and prosperity."

Evoking Paul Harvey, Welchel writes:
We all know the story that with the help of the Native Americans, who showed the Pilgrims how to plant corn, food shortages were resolved, resulting in a great harvest and a Thanksgiving celebration.
But few of us know the rest of the story.

In reality, the Pilgrims continued to face chronic food shortages for the next three years. But it was not bad weather or lack of farming skills that caused them.

I suspect that, based on a misunderstanding of the opening chapters of the book of Acts, the Plymouth Plantation was founded in 1620 with a system of communal property rights, not biblical property rights. The community held everything in common, including food and supplies, distributing them equally and as needed by plantation officials. Everyone received equal portions regardless of their contribution.

Welchel importantly contrasts the decisions made by the Pilgrims with those of contemporary Americans:

Yet, it is interesting that Americans in the 21st century seem to have everything but gratitude. As a nation, we are moving away from the God-given biblical and economic principles that made this nation great. There is a growing belief that the government should “fairly” redistribute the wealth and move toward an economic system that nearly doomed the Pilgrims. We no longer appreciate opportunity but instead demand what we think we deserve.

By contrast, the Americans in 1621 had nothing but gratitude and a desire to seek God’s will in their lives. They saw the error of their ways and made the appropriate corrections. 
My only quibble with the piece is that the disastrous communistic property relations were not driven by the Separatist's Christian convictions, but dictated by the directors of the company that had monopoly rights to the colony.

As I explained a couple of years ago:

In fact, the Pilgrims did not desire to establish Christian communism. As I noted a couple of years ago in response to this essay, the Pilgrims original communal property arrangements were foisted upon them by their colonial sponsors. The sponsors did this after they learned that they would not be granted a monopoly of fishing rights in Cape Cod. The sponsors’ original agreement with the Pilgrims was such that the Pilgrims were to work for four days for the sponsoring company and then would have two days to work for themselves. The sponsors later changed their deal and told the Pilgrims that they would have to work all six days of the work week for the sponsors. At the end of seven years, the Pilgrims would be granted title to the property they worked. The Pilgrims were not happy with the change, several of them recognizing that the new arrangement would make them virtual slaves of the sponsors, but they went along with the deal because many had already made large investments toward the move and they were convinced that emigrating to the New World is what God wanted them to do.

Bradford’s establishing private property was not a repudiation of any belief they had that Christian charity requires communism. They had no intention of implementing such a system. The Pilgrims’ move to private property was, in fact, a move to a properly Christian ethic as it regards property. God blessed the Pilgrims with material plenty as they forsook their original socialist property arrangement and adopted one more in agreement with Christian ethics. 


Saturday, November 17, 2012

Kreider on Systemic Uncertainty

Congratulations to Soren Kreider, a recent GCC economics graduate, for the publication of his article "Systemic Uncertainty: An Examination of Its Causes and Consequences!" It was published in Volume 9, Issue 1 of Undergraduate Economic Review. Kreider presented an earlier version of this article at the most recent Austrian Student Scholars Conference, winning 2nd Prize. In his paper, Kreider builds upon the work of Robert Higgs and applies it to recent economic history during the presidencies of George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Stamm Review of Foundations of Economics Now Online

K. Brad Stamm's review of Foundations of Economics that appeared in the Fall 2010 issue of Faith and Economics is now online. You can access it by clicking here.

As I noted when the review was published in hard copy:

Right off the bat, Stamm's review made me glad by describing my book as "both a text and a treatise combining various scriptures with the philosophical contributions of free market advocates such as Ludwig von Mises [and] Murray Rothbard. . ." That shows me that Stamm understands the nature of the book. It is not meant to be merely a text in the conventional sense, but it also is not meant to be a work of theology. It is meant to be an introduction to the foundations of economics and economic principles within a Christian theological and ethical framework.

Stamm concludes his review by putting me in some rather distinguished company:

As we move further away from a market-oriented economy, the likelihood of Friedrich A von Hayek, Peter J. Boettke of George Mason University, or Shawn Ritenour, being vindicated, seems to be ever increasing. Finally, Foundations of Economics adds to the literature important concepts and applications that could assist Christian economists in developing a Christian economics taxonomy. . . .
I did note is that there is an error when Stamm quotes me on the issue of poverty on page 151 of the review. He quotes me as saying "God does not make it clear that we are to help the poor" p. 441). My text actually reads as follows:
God does make it clear that we are to help the poor. We are to be imitators of God and he tells us that he cares for the poor (Ps. 35:10). God tells us that the poor and orphaned are to be defended from would-be oppressors (Ps. 82:3). We definitely should not turn a deaf ear to the cry of the poor. In fact, God tells us that whoever ignores the plight of the poor himself shall not be heard when he calls for help (Prov. 21:13). God tells us that in times of trouble, he will deliver the one who has consideration on the poor (Ps. 41:1). Whoever is charitable to the poor lends to the Lord and God will repay him for his generosity (Prov. 19:17). The mandate to minister to the poor even includes our poor enemies (Prov. 25:21).

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Zahringer on Monetary Disequilibrium Theory

The latest issue of the The Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics includes the article "Monetary Disequilibrium Theory and Business Cycles: An Austrian Critique" by Kenneth A. Zahringer. Zahringer's paper was presented at last year's Austrian Student Scholars Conference here at Grove City.

The abstract of the article reads:
Monetary disequilibrium theory has some common ground with Austrian economics, but there is substantial disagreement regarding the analysis of business cycles. While monetary disequilibrium theory does include some consideration of the market process so important in Austrian theory, at its core lies a view of equilibrium as essentially a static state. This incorrect definition has led to an inadequate explanation of the business cycle in the monetary disequilibrium tradition. The Austrian theory of the business cycle examines business cycles from within the context of the entire economic process and thus, far from being overly specific, is the only theory that provides a complete explanation of that phenomenon.
The article is particularly relevant for today because much of the current enthusiasm for the Federal Reserve to adopt nominal GDP targeting is fueled by monetary disequilibrium theory.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Mises the Humanitarian

Here is a brief and fascinating address about Ludwig von Mises the man by his widow Margin von Mises. The remarks were recording live in 1985 during an event celebrating the republication of Mises' book Liberalism.

What I find especially interesting about Mrs. Mises' talk is her desiring to bring out the humanitarian side of her husband. He did this, said his wife, by lifting "economic science out of a mechanistic rut." For those who think Austrian economics necessarily fosters cold, uncaring, selfishness, I encourage you to listen to Margit's biographical vignettes about the great economist.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Ritenour Quoted in U.S. News and World Report

I was blessed to be interviewed by David Francis last week for a piece published today by U.S. News and World Report. In his article, Francis asks "Is the Economic Recovery Real?" Francis quotes myself and Ron Weiner, founder and president of RDM Financial Group.

Francis accurately communicates my views on the question. I stressed that the financial and economic meltdown of 2008 was due to massive capital malinvestment, so any apparent economic recovery that is the result of government fiscal or monetary stimulus is unsustainable.

Readers should note, however, that the article states Grove City College is south of Pittsburgh when it is actually 58 miles north of Pittsburgh. Additionally, at one point I am quoted as saying, "My concern is the stimulus seems to be what is needed to keep unemployment from being really bad." That statement should not be taken to mean that I am in favor of government stimulus to keep the unemployment rate down. The statement was in the context of what would happen to unemployment if we allowed the market adjustment process to run its natural course.

I suggested that without government intervention it is likely that in the short-run the unemployment rate would jump higher until the necessary adjustments took place so that entrepreneurs could get an accurate lay of the economic land. Only then would they be able to make better decisions putting us back on the road to prosperity. My concern is that the lower unemployment rate is not due to real improvement in the economy due to increases in truly productive activity, but is, in fact, more due to government stimulus.