When Does Trade Become Extortion?

When does trade become extortion? Economists say never, at least in principle. Free trade is a voluntary exchange between two parties who both stand to gain from the trade. Where’s the extortion? Let’s consider a criminal transaction in the airport of some backwoods country. A customs agent says you have to pay him a thousand… Continue reading When Does Trade Become Extortion?

Bait and Switch

My complaint isn’t with the market. Try running a complex society without trade or money. My complaint is how so many never practice what they preach. It’s a matter of bait and switch. That means promising something good but delivering something else. Economists are masters of bait and switch. The bait of utopian capitalism is… Continue reading Bait and Switch

Stop the Machine

There’s no such thing as free markets. Never has been. Never will be. The Invisible Hand is a figment of economists’ imagination. Sure there’s a hand — on the levers of power — but it’s only invisible because the private sector doesn’t allow for transparency. There’s no such thing as non-socialism. There’s no country that’s… Continue reading Stop the Machine

Economics vs Weather

Imagine if you will, you’re planning an ocean cruise, and you want to know whether you might face rough seas. Will you hire a weather scientist or an economist? The answer’s obvious, but the reasons are illuminating. The weather scientists will measure temperature patterns, air pressure patterns and how they’re spinning, ocean currents and how… Continue reading Economics vs Weather

A Bizarre Theory That All Economists Believe

Back when I taught Economics to gullible undergrads, and to even more gullible grad students, I posed a conundrum. (I couldn’t push it too hard for fear of heresy.) But it’s actually not that difficult if put in straightforward terms, so those who have not been afflicted with Economics courses should bear with me. It… Continue reading A Bizarre Theory That All Economists Believe

Frugal Living is Counter-Cultural

What if we all decided to follow the advice of just about every spiritual tradition, as well as some secular humanist traditions? What if we all agreed to live frugally, acquiring only what we need to live a life of meaning and service to humanity? All hell would break loose. Capitalism would implode. A capitalist… Continue reading Frugal Living is Counter-Cultural

Preference for the Poor

There are so many issues around poverty, but the spiritual issue is largely ignored in our consumption-worshipping culture. We’re all supposed to be medium-poor in our frugality of spirit, as we renounce the excesses of empty affluence. Instead we glut ourselves on all the commodities we can wring out of the market, and we ignore… Continue reading Preference for the Poor

Interest: Why Do We Disobey?

Both Islamic and Christian Scriptures strictly forbid anyone charging interest. Why do Muslims obey devoutly, but Christians disobey flagrantly? Spoiler. Westerners were offered a deal they couldn’t refuse. Scrap that particular prohibition on financial exploitation — and we’ll give you riches beyond your wildest dreams. “Ban, what ban? Gimme the goodies!” I’ll start with Christian… Continue reading Interest: Why Do We Disobey?