Saturday, May 14, 2011

Greg Mankiw Attacks Libertarians; Alludes to Somalia

Greg Mankiw is at it again. He posted this video on his blog. Let's go through the video, shall we?

The post is here:

  • The beach
The video starts with a couple about to vacation at some nice beach. They then are shocked to learn that it is public! After all, isn't that socialism?! Alas, public beaches are not all that great as the video makes they seem. They are frequently polluted to the point that they are closed. Furthermore, they are very crowded! Those of us on the West Coast know just how insane these beaches can be during the summer. Beaches are supposed to be an example of the benefits of public ownership? Please. Try again.

  • Somalia
The video then makes an abrupt shift and makes the classic progressive claim that if libertarianism is so great, then why is Somalia in such bad shape? Easy, Somalia is not in a state of anarchy. It has not had a functioning government over the entire country, but there have been rival gangs trying to control the land. That is not anarchy; it is essentially multiple governments trying to claim sovereignty over the nation.

  • Greg Mankiw
I realize that he was not a part of the video, but he is a joke. What kind of serious economist would post this kind of tripe on his blog for serious discussion? This video should be laughed at and disregarded in the time it takes to say fake economist.

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  1. Wow...not sure what to say about this. Promoting socialism as a good thing while making fun of libertarian from wanting to be free from a overreaching government. Very classless video by Mankiw in my opinion.

  2. As someone who is in walking distance of the Somali border I can assure everyone that he is full of it. Things are in east Africa are nothing like what the propaganda media tries to report it being.

  3. I had no idea you lived there, Trestin. It would be very refreshing I'm sure to hear your opinion on the state of that area.

  4. Thanks John. It's a shock video and nothing more. The fact that a "serious" economist would put this on his blog as a serious topic is laughable.

    If he wanted to put an entertaining video on his blog that merited serious discussion, he could have tried Keyens vs. Hayek.

  5. Most of the poverty in this region is a direct result of Keynesianism.

    Central banking institutions like the World Bank have exploited the desperation caused by past famine and war to make these nations hopelessly in debt to their high interest loans. Just to pay the interest on the loans and feed their people, they are forced to take out further loans. There is not any money left over to develop any of the needed infrastructure.

  6. So would you say that these nations would be better off without their governments? Because the UN has been trying to institute a government in Somalia for years and undoubtedly that has been a source of violence in the region.

  7. The governments here tend to operate on a level of corruption that is hard to comprehend until you see it. I would not go so far as to say they are better without any form of government.

    The reason Somalia became as bad as it is, is largely due to the government being driven out of existence by debt international Keynesian banking institutions.

    As a result local drug lords have far more power and influence than the government. Somalia actually (and has for years) has a government which is largely propped up by the African union.

  8. Greg Mankiw - "If you were going to turn to only one economist to understand the problems facing the economy, there is little doubt that the economist would be John Maynard Keynes. Although Keynes died more than a half-century ago, his diagnosis of recessions and depressions remains the foundation of modern macroeconomics. His insights go a long way toward explaining the challenges we now confront."

    Yeah, Keyenes has done a great job getting us out of this downturn. How do these guys even get jobs?

  9. Really, that is a criticism of anarcho-capitalism, and there is some truth to it, which is why I am not an anarcho-capitalist, but rather a medium-core libertarian.

    Anarcho-capitalism is a logically coherent philosophy, but it's shocking lack of taking human nature into account makes it an interesting theory at best.

    This is one issue that separated the Rothbards from the Hayeks. I love Murray Rothbard and he was a brilliant man, but picking one camp or another, I'd have to go with Hayek.

  10. Somalia is not an example of anarcho-capitalism as it is a state that has been marred by civil war and various factions trying to get in power. That's not anarchy. And Rothbard's theories are the ones that most account for human action as all of his conclusions are derived from the self-evident axiom of human action.

    As for Hayek, he was way too sympathetic with the Keynesians. He gave them too much credit when he had all the answers already from Mises.

  11. I agree that Somalia is not an example of anarcho-capitalism, but it is an example of one bad alternative that can result from an absence of government.

    If anarcho-capitalism came naturally to human nature, wouldn't we see more real-life examples of it?

  12. But my contention is that Somalia is not really an example of an absence of government. It is an example to show the horrors of war, no doubt. But the hallmarks of an anarcho-capitalist society that includes private police services are not present. The area is not stable. It's more of a power vacuum than an anarchist society.

    And I'm not sure that the second claim is true. I mean, for all we know it was true. However, people like to break the rules and take the power for themselves. This was the origin of governments. Warlords would invade lands and enact a tribute. That is how our governments started. That said, there are examples of anarcho-capitalism, but admittedly they are few and far between.

  13. "However, people like to break the rules and take the power for themselves. This was the origin of governments."

    Precisely my point. It's a Hobbesian world out there.

  14. Either way, the criticism is faulty because the libertarian critique of public owership of goods does not mean that all libertarians want anarchism, and Somalia is not the anarchy that anarcho-capitalists envision.

    I'll just let this article state some facts about Somalia that this video is clearly ignoring.

  15. I agree the criticism is faulty. Again, your own words reinforce my point: "Somalia is not the anarchy that anarcho-capitalists envision."

    Of course its not. No theory would posit such a situation as its end. My point is that Somalia is what happens when government collapses. You get violent chaos, not peaceful self-interested people enacting anarcho-capitalism.

    So, it's an interesting theory, but hard to find in reality.

  16. It's not too hard to find in reality. It's only that you have to look at the small-scale. After all markets existed before governments. That shows that peaceful interaction can occur without government involvement.

  17. Yes it can. I think that most people have just become accustomed to the state and cannot envision life without it. Although there is an argument to be made about protection, I am not convinced that the state is the best provider of it.

  18. Funny how the progressives like to ignore how oppressive Siad Barre's regime was before the revolution that led to Somalia's civil war, as though any form of government is needed in order to protect us from evil self-interest, even at the cost of taking the lives of those who dared to question authority.

    I wonder if these ideologues on the left truly don't care about fact checking or if it's another example of the "Chomsky-Zinn dismissal through ideology." I figure it must be both, or that one is complimentary upon the other.

    Either way, it's intellectually dishonest to focus on Somalia's civil war as being a prime example of anarchy or libertarianism.