Today’s guest is Viktor Vanberg of the Walter Eucken Institute. We discuss a recent working paper of his entitled Individual Choice and Social Welfare: Theoretical Foundations of Political Economy.

What we call an economy, i.e. the nexus of economic activities and relations within some defined regional limits – e.g. a local, a national or the world economy –, has always been subject to measures taken, or constraints imposed by political authorities. How economies work is inevitably, and to a significant extent, contingent on the political environment within which they operate.

It is not surprising that economists studying the working principles of economic systems have rarely been content with confining their work to describing and explaining the economic realities they observe. Their ambitions always extended to passing judgments on the policies that shaped these realities and to providing guidance for what politics ought to do to improve economic matters. In economics explanations of what is and judgments on what politics should do are often not only more closely intertwined than in most other fields of scientific inquiry, and more than from practitioners in other fields the general public expects economists to pass such policy judgments.

We discuss welfare economics, what it means for economics to be an applied science, and the work of the late James Buchanan.

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  • Whether such a system of social security is a good or a bad policy is essentially a political problem. One may try to justify it by declaring that the wage earners lack the insight and the moral strength to provide spontaneously for their own future. But then it is not easy to silence the voices of those who ask whether it is not paradoxical to entrust the nation’s welfare to the decisions of voters whom the law itself considers incapable of managing their own affairs; whether it is not absurd to make those people supreme in the conduct of government who are manifestly in need of a guardian to prevent them from spending their own income foolishly.

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  • The “Tax Honesty” movement has demonstrated a few things to a lot of people.  To cover a lot with a few words, I’ll put it this way:  The IRS breaks its own rules in order to rob us through deceit. Some people (Irwin Schiff, for example) have suffered because they attempted to protect themselves from the rule-breakers.  There is now a theory popular among liberty-minded people that the government is too corrupt and powerful for anyone to succeed in an effort like Irwin Schiff’s.  There is also some good evidence showing this theory to be wrong.  It’s available at Peter Hendrickson’s website, I think that a lot of bureaucrats feel and believe that they are helping society.  This leaves them open to consider fixing situations in which their bureaucracy is breaking its own rules.  And let’s face it, there are some rules that can actually help liberty.  Perhaps the loads of evidence that Hendrickson has on his site can be explained by the presence of such “good-hearted” individuals in the bowels of the IRS. In any case, if you can, please entertain the possibility that the US Income Tax is not being administered honestly.  Consider that maybe, just maybe, in the gargantuan tangle of words called “Title 26,” the legal meaning of the law as it applies to most people is not coercive at all.  Maybe, if it were properly applied, the government would be a nuisance like neighbors who let their dogs poop on your lawn, instead of a nuisance like cancer in your lungs.  It could be true.  I think it is true, and I think that failing to follow all the twists and turns that Hendrickson uncovered to see for yourself that it is true kind of justifies you still being enslaved to a government that steals from you in order to cause havoc all over the planet in a massive deception that justifies its existence. If we want to honor the goodness in all people, including those who have been tricked into serving evil, we can do so by understanding the rules they think they should be following, and using them to protect ourselves from enslavement.

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  • Should education be a mandatory thing, or does the coercion of how it is in the U.S a violation of our rights? Even in the case of a voluntary city, should mandatory education be seen as such, or would it make sense for people to demand it for their city. The bigger picture I’d also like to discuss is: What is the best form of education, structured, unstructured, or encouraging? These are the terms I think of, and I’ll define them.   Structured: we have curriculum which dictates what is generally taught or only taught. Could be the system we have now(nationalized), or private schools/charter schools, or even homeschooled. Just specify which you prefer.   Unstructured: Kids are taught by parents or teachers, but they have no set curriculum and are guided by what they or the teacher decide to be interested in. Or there could be no formal education in this category, and kids learn only through happenstance or someone making the decision to educate them.   Encouraging: Kids have a curriculum they learn by when they start school, but then branch to specific categories to learn in these fields of their choosing. This system would avoid unnecessary education to the kit/teen, but you run the risk of them choosing something prematurely.   Or you could come up with a different system. I’m really curious what the Libertarian perspectives are in regards to this. Thanks

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  • Does this list have anything else that could be added to it? The goal is to have a checklist that could be used to check any article on the topic. I would guess most people on this site are aware that arbitrarily raising the cost of labor isn’t the best way to help workers.

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  • Hello, I’ve become quite keen on Jeffrey Rogers Hummel views on inflation. That governments don’t get as much cash money as they used to from Seigniorage(money printing)…becuase of some details of the modern banking system. Hummels view is that the US Gov is more likely to actually default on it’s bonds than print it’s way out of it’s financial problems as so many of us libertairans often predict. Any way…. how are people actually calculating the revenue states are getting from seigniorage? There is constant mention to specific statistics in his works on what revenue governments make from printing money…but how are economists attempting to calculate this so exactly? “Almost none of the developed countries could boast seigniorage amounting to more than 1 percent of GDP, despite the fact that the study incorporated the inflationary years of the 1970s. Joseph H. Haslag’s smaller sample of 67 countries over a longer period, 1965 to 1994, finds that seigniorage averaged about 2 percent of total output for the entire sample, ranging from as low as 0.25 percent to as high as 9.98 percent (for Ghana).” However, I’m not smart enough to figure out how this is being calculated? When I Google — I see Seignoarge defined as the cost to money vs what the money is worth. (if it costs 1cent to print a dollar bill than Seigorage is 99cents). Pennies have negative seigniorage — cost the Gov more to mint than 1 cent.) But for the point Hummel is making it seems like a more sophisticated calculation? How did people figure out that for example in WW2 seignorage was 6%? Perhaps this is rather obvious? Thanks! –Luke

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