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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/5090/mises-mises-mises/

Mises Mises Mises

May 25, 2006 by

The Club For Growth takes note of this funny speech by Rep. Barney Frank (socialist!), in which he says: “Mr. Chairman, I am here to confess my reading incomprehension. I have listened to many of my conservative friends talk about the wonders of the free market, of the importance of letting the consumers make their best choices, of keeping government out of economic activity, of the virtues of free trade, but then I look at various agricultural programs like this one. Now, it violates every principle of free market economics known to man and two or three not yet discovered. So I have been forced to conclude that in all of those great free market texts by Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich Hayek and all the others that there is a footnote that says, by the way, none of this applies to agriculture.” (Thanks Greg.Bacon@gmail.com)

Also, Steve Hanke writing in the Wall Street Journal quotes Mises (he is a blog reprint): : “In addition, I repeated the great Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises’s argument that sound money ‘was devised as an instrument for the protection of civil liberties against despotic inroads on the part of governments. Ideologically it belongs in the same class with political constitutions and bills of rights.’”

Finally, National Review quotes Mises on the housing bubble question.

{ 25 comments }

Joel May 25, 2006 at 11:51 am

You guys are doing a fantastic job educating all of us. Thank you sincerely.

My jaw dropped when I saw that speech from Rep. Frank yesterday.

Nat May 25, 2006 at 1:09 pm

Jeffrey,

Weren’t you being redundant by putting “(socialist!)” after Barney Frank’s name? I mean, aren’t all congressmen socialists except for Ron Paul? ;)

Urbanitect May 25, 2006 at 1:28 pm

I am somewhat curious as to how Mr. Frank came to be introduced with Mises.

Paul Edwards May 25, 2006 at 1:38 pm

It was a pretty good speech. Here’s more:

“…there is no greater contrast in America today than between the free enterprise rhetoric of so many conservatives and the statist, subsidized, inflationary, protectionist, anti-consumer agricultural policies, and this is one of them.

…

“Sugar is an example. This program is an interference with the legitimate efforts at economic self-help in many foreign nations… Here is a chance for some of my free-enterprise-professing friends to get honest with themselves, and now maybe we will see some born-again free enterprisers in the agricultural field.”

Frank was making a Rothbardian observation of the pure hypocrisy of the phony free enterprise Republicans pretending to subscribe to one philosophy, while running statist bills through congress at the same time. Well done, despite his socialist leanings.

Curt Howland May 25, 2006 at 2:08 pm

Isn’t it amazing how members of the party presently out of power suddenly talk like Libertarians?

How much of Frank’s constituency is in corporate farming? Or maybe he’s just fishing for some contributions to shut him up.

jeffrey May 25, 2006 at 2:23 pm

As best I can tell, most of the left-wing complaints of US ag policy are focussed on domestic subsidies, which, they believe, are making US products cheaper to produce and market than they would otherwise be, and hence foriegn producers can’t compete. In short, they seem to be hoping for higher prices at the consumer level, which would then level out the playing field for imports.

Now, we can agree that subsidies ought to end but not on grounds of trade policy as such. After all, we don’t actually know what the price would be after interventions are elminated. What if a succesful import market inspired more innovations and producers at home, which then drives down the price again and once again squeezes out imports? That’s possible.

In other words–and this is no suprise–it seems that the left-wing rhetoric for free trade here is not really about free trade but something else. I wonder if Frank and friends would be amenable to eliminating foreign aid to sugar producing nations?

Dennis Sperduto May 25, 2006 at 2:23 pm

If only Rep. Frank would have the intellectual consistency and integrity to arrive at the same conclusion as he did regarding government intervention into agricultural markets for government intervention from which he and his constituencies receive the benefits.

This comment applies not only to Rep. Frank, but to virtually every other member of Congress, with the exception of Ron Paul.

M E Hoffer May 25, 2006 at 2:36 pm

“I am somewhat curious as to how Mr. Frank came to be introduced with Mises.”

Urban-bro, certainly be curious, it is, of course, that which leads us out of the cave’s darkness.

Though, be careful, pretend, not, that the folly of these Fools is due to ignorance. Their show is much too sharp to be cast by mere Simpletons.

I’d advise, we view the words of Actors: “It takes Brains, to be convincingly “stupid” ” (see: Ms. Sommers, of Three’s Company, Lucille Ball, and, more recently, Jessica Simpson)

Yancey Ward May 25, 2006 at 2:38 pm

Frank is participating in the ages old activity of the pot calling the kettle black. Just try finding in D.C. a politician with a consistent and correct position on agricultural subsidies and steel import tariffs/quotas. Ron Paul may be the only example one would find.

Paul Edwards May 25, 2006 at 3:12 pm

Jeffrey,

My mild objection to the thrust of this thread is its attack against a point that, if made by a prominent libertarian, would simply represent a truth well stated. The speech attacks “statist, subsidized, inflationary, protectionist, anti-consumer agricultural policies” promoted by fake free market politicians. Note that Frank uses terms such as “protectionist” and “anti-consumer” in his denunciation of republican policy. This does imply a bias against tariffs which produce high domestic prices to the benefit of domestic producers, and to the detriment of the domestic consumer (as well as foreign suppliers).

Now, for sure Frank is a politician with his own agenda and he is on no higher moral ground than the rest of the liars, thieves and hypocrites in congress; I’m not disputing that. But do the democrats spew forth so few real economic fallacies that we find it necessary to criticize them when they happen to speak the truth as well?

jeffrey May 25, 2006 at 3:16 pm

Right, well, my point may or may not apply to Frank. I’ve just noticed this general tendency on the left. You see it at WTO meetings, e.g., with everyone denouncing US Ag subs. That’s great, and yet…

Andrew May 25, 2006 at 3:37 pm

I’m guessing Frank is not opposed to the principle of agricultural programs and subsidies in general, just when such a program is introduced by someone with an (R) next to their name.

Stefan Karlsson May 25, 2006 at 3:54 pm

Agricultural subsidies are arguably the most stupid of all statist programs. Not because they necessarily do more total damage than other statist projects, but because they are even more self-evidently bad.

The U.S. government pays billions of dollars to producers of sugar for example, yet price of sugar in America is more than twice the world price of sugar. That’s right, this is a subsidy that actually raises its price. How any sane person without a vested interest in the sugar industry could favor it is beyond me. As Thomas Sowell put it in a column related to the recent cotroversy over illegal immigrants and whether they do jobs Americans won’t do, Sowell pointed out that some of those jobs illegals do, like producing sugar, are jobs that shouldn’t be done as they only end up costing American tax payers and consumers a lot of money:

http://www.townhall.com/opinion/columns/thomassowell/2006/03/29/191639.html

“With some crops, we really don’t need any of it. If the United States had not produced a single grain of sugar in the past 50 years, Americans could have gotten all the sugar they needed and at lower prices, simply by buying it on the world market for half of less of what domestic sugar costs.

Sugar has been in chronic surplus on the world markets for generations. It can be grown in the tropics far cheaper than it can be grown in the United States. All the land, labor and capital that has been spent growing sugar here has been a hugh waste.

We don’t need to grow sugar, with or without illegal workers”

Sowell’s perceptive condemnation of the parasitical nature of the U.S. sugar industry applies of course also to many other subsidised parts of U.S. agriculture (And, I could add, to subsidized agriculture in the EU, Norway, Switzerland, Iceland, Japan and South Korea).

RogertheK May 25, 2006 at 5:33 pm

Urbanitect wrote “I am somewhat curious as to how Mr. Frank came to be introduced with Mises.” Our friend Ron Paul,is always quoting Mises,and Rothbard.For all you know,he has been passing out copies of “Human Action”,or articles,from mises.org.If Frank has finally seen the light,I say “welcome aboard”.
Curt Howland wrote “Isn’t it amazing how members of the party presently out of power suddenly talk like Libertarians?”Just as there was under Nixon(See Lew’s comment about McGovern in the blog.),there is a newfound Classical Liberal undercurrent/subculture brewing amoung the “left”. as an example,I would cite Air America Radio,and Mike Malloy in particular.Cindy Sheehan writes for both LRC,and michaelmoore.com .We are now at a point,much like where we were,when Murray Rothbard wrote his classic “Ramparts” piece.We need to embrace it,by educating as many people as possible ,and to try to build real alliances,this time, unlike those that fell apart in the 70s.If the LP are going to stick with thier Republican-Lite, statist ways,I say we leave them,and go elsewhere.

Ohhh Henry May 25, 2006 at 6:54 pm

Unfortunately the coddling that America sugar companies receive provides a tremendous propaganda tool to left-leaning governments and elites, which they use to teach their people to hate and fear “capitalism”.

Someone told me about a documentary that was broadcast on Canadian television in which American companies were accused of, among other crimes, underpaying the workers they employed on sugar plantations in poor countries around the Caribbean. Of course it doesn’t occur to the people making such films, or to 99% of the people watching it, that these companies would have to pay these workers a much better wage if these countries didn’t have such terrible governments who make it so difficult for their own people to establish and run their own businesses. When offered an insufficient living wage in countries with a free market, workers can find their way into other industries relatively quickly. But when new businesses are thwarted by government taxes and regulation, and are often just plain robbed or driven out of business by guntoting government agents, the poor people have no choice but to work on the gringo-owned plantations for a very low wage. The person who told me this was tut-tutting about how such is the inevitable result when “big corporations have their way”.

LoganFerree May 25, 2006 at 6:54 pm

I really must say that I am shocked by this. Not by Frank’s statement, as he has made similar ones in the past. But the knee-jerk reaction of almost everyone here. Using socialist to refer to Congressman Frank was the first misstep, but the replies became even worse. I bet most of you have no idea about Barney Frank and instead you projected your own mental boogey man image of Democrats onto him. Congressman Frank has shown himself to be a consistent critic of all agricultural subsidies, his opposition to this sugar program is not based on a partisan opposition to Republican agriculture pork but a support for Democratic agriculture pork. He opposes both. This is not to defend his record on other issues, but he actually has been rather bold in talking about the need for a free market in agriculture. The readers of this blog need to focus more on reality.

M E Hoffer May 25, 2006 at 7:11 pm

Logan,

Do you mean my Capt. Kricky “One size fits all, Stereotype Set”, is no good anymore?

Come to think of it, “What was I thinking?!”, must have been too many slick advertisements viewed on TV.

hmmm…Broad Spectrum, things not necessarily Binary…O, Epiphany! My long lost friend!~

This string, should indeed, thank you, Logan, I know, I do.

Peter May 25, 2006 at 8:38 pm

I must be missing something. I don’t see any criticism of congressman Frank here, let alone “knee-jerk reaction”, etc. The whole point of the article, as I read it, is that he’s speaking truth. It’s just funny because it’s a socialist effectively saying free markets are good.

Peter May 25, 2006 at 8:42 pm

By the way, M E Hoffer, is there any chance you could learn to write sensible English? I don’t understand 3/4s of what you write, with your randomly-occurring commas, seemingly unrelated sentences intermixed with each other, etc.

Roy W. Wright May 26, 2006 at 12:00 am

I’ve been wanting to ask the same of him for weeks, but thought it might be a bit trollish.

M E Hoffer May 26, 2006 at 12:15 am

Peter,

No probs. If you would, could you attach an example of: “seemingly unrelated sentences intermixed with each other” ? It would be helpful, to me, to see what you mean.

And, as an open invitation to everyone else, if you would happen to have a question about something I’ve posted, certainly feel more than free to ask. I promise, I’ll not take offence.

I know that I’ve asked others, here, to clarify, believe me, it wasn’t difficult. )

Peter May 26, 2006 at 12:50 am

Well, for example, “This string, should indeed, thank you, Logan, I know, I do.” reads like at least two independent sentences at once. Or, from the “Fibonacci” comments, “Recently released, after much vetting and peer-review, further understanding, concluding further diligent research into the text of “The Dead Scrolls”, about the rise of capitalism, has been obtained.” – though that could conceivably be a single sentence with strange phrase order. Those are still in the “Recent Comments” sidebar; I’m sure you’ve written stranger things in the past few days, but I don’t feel like hunting through all the other comments to find them.

Person May 26, 2006 at 8:05 am

Hey Jeffrey, I think I found what Barney Frank was referring to. I found this in “For a New Liberty”: “The predictable result of government subsidies is both a shift to less effecient production methods, and to production of lower-valued goods.[16]…[16]By the way, none of this applies to agriculture.”

TokyoTom May 26, 2006 at 9:20 am

Jeffrey, interesting post. I would just say that, despite your surprise, Frank’s speech isn’t funny but absolutely correct on an important matter.

It seems that he makes this point fairly regularly:

“Mr. FRANK of Massachusetts. Mr. Speaker, trying to decide what is the greatest hypocrisy in politics is a hard job, but I believe that by sheer dollar volume the support of many who call themselves free market conservatives for the leading aspects of America’s agricultural policy qualifies for the prize.

Few areas in public policy in this country are as heavily subsidized by the taxpayers, rigged against consumers, blatantly unfair to poor people in other parts of the world, and contemptuous of the whole notion of competition and free enterprise as American agriculture policy in various of its aspects.

I am frequently puzzled to hear many who declaim their staunch allegiance to free trade, low taxes, no government intervention in the economy, the free market, and unmitigated competition make an implicit exception when the subject is corn, cotton, wheat, peanuts, sugar, or other commodities. Apparently, there are people who believe that the works of Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek contain an invisible footnote that says that none of this applies to agriculture.”

http://www.barneyfrank.net/node/9 [February 24, 2004]

“And in each of the past two years, the Republicans listed billions of additional assistance dollars for farmers as emergency aid. This emergency appears to have been the product of the passage of the Freedom to Farm Act of 1996 by the very same Republicans who proudly proclaimed that they had unshackled American agriculture from the restraints of government. Unfortunately for their ideological consistency, the overwhelming majority of their agricultural constituents expressed a strong preference for those federal shackles, which included subsidy payments, and the Republicans promptly forgot their commitment to a free market in farming. (Apparently, there are footnotes in the free market economics texts of Friedrich von Hayek, Ludwig von Mises, and Milton Friedman, which say “none of this applies to agriculture.” These footnotes are not visible to the naked eye and can only be deciphered by one who is a professed free market advocate who represents agricultural areas.)”

http://www.house.gov/frank/prospect_article.html [February 2000]

He also made an interesting point on the Congressional action re: Schiavo earlier this year:

“History will look at this as a turning point in American politics and perhaps the death knell of Federalism. In the past four years, the Republicans have gone from the party of thrift and small government to the party of big spending and the biggest increase in the federal budgets in history. The champions of Federalism, the Religious Right who control the House, the Senate and the White House, have now ruled against a judge sitting in state court through legislation. Democrats are now the voice of those who the cherish Federalism and do not believe in Federal intervention.

These are the same Democrats whom Republicans accuse of wanting to murder babies and steal guns. Sen. Barney Frank spoke for us all when he stated: “Every aggrieved party in any similar litigation now will go to Congress, come to Congress and ask us to make a series of decisions. This is a terribly difficult decision which we are, institutionally, totally incompetent to make. And to allow ideology to triumph in that context is a shame.”"

http://www.thedmonline.com/media/storage/paper876/news/2005/03/22/Opinion/Column.Federalism.Forgotten.By.Republican.Party-1592370.shtml?norewrite200605260908&sourcedomain=www.thedmonline.com

You and others might also enjoy this surprising opinion piece by George McGovern in the 5/22 LA Times, on labor unions:

“I understand the attraction of asking business — the perceived “deep pockets” — to shoulder more of the responsibility for social welfare. But there are plenty of businesses that don’t have deep pockets. And many large corporations operate with razor-thin profit margins as competitors, both foreign and domestic, strive to attract consumers by offering lower prices.

The current frenzy over Wal-Mart is instructive. Its size is unprecedented. Yet for all its billions in profit, it still amounts to less than four cents on the dollar. Raise the cost of employing people, and the company will eliminate jobs. Its business model only works on low prices, which require low labor costs. Whether that is fair or not is a debate for another time. It is instructive, however, that consumers continue to enjoy these low prices and that thousands of applicants continue to apply for those jobs.”

The world just seems topsy-turvy these days!

M E Hoffer May 26, 2006 at 11:15 am

Peter, this: “This string, should indeed, thank you, Logan, I know, I do.”, is truly clumsy, and, as you point out, poorly syntaxed-reads like at least two independent sentences at once.

And, this: “Recently released, after much vetting and peer-review, further understanding, concluding further diligent research into the text of “The Dead Scrolls”, about the rise of capitalism, has been obtained.” – is poorly self-edited, the second use of “further” should have been excised and the Sea, in “The Dead Sea Scrolls”, is missing.

I’ll try to pay more heed to simplifying my posts–one minor problem is that typing is not my forte’, and thoughts get somewhat ahead of my keyboarding. Past that, take note, this is two-dimensional field of expression and it is sometimes difficilt to deliver all intended “nuance”.

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