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What caused the video game bust?

Jeff Tucker has a fun nerd problem posted on the Mises blog: a question from a reader about the video game bust of 1983. Anyone got an answer? (I'm looking specifically at Brandon Berg.)

The Ron Paul phenomenon

Patri has an interesting post below about the failure of the Ron Paul campaign to produce any mainstream results. The thrust of Stewart Browne's original post he cites: "The Ron Paul campaign should serve as our final proof that this strategy will never work."

I disagree. Patri mentioned some drawbacks to this position, but left out what I think is the main one: Ron Paul was not on the ballot. He did not accept the Libertarian Party's nomination and did not run as a write-in candidate. The campaign fizzled before the election. Endorsing Chuck Baldwin? Hell no. Political momentum doesn't transfer that way. I knew several people who were awakened to their dormant libertarianism through the Ron Paul campaign who would have voted for him, but who would not and did not vote for Chuck Baldwin.

Imagine an alternate universe in which Ron Paul redirected his own candidacy and was on the ballot. He would have gotten results impressive to us and frightening to the establishment. I still would not have voted, but that's beside the point.

"Free Market" Spotting

One of the reasons I think we libertarians might be missing opportunities for outreach with the Left and overstating them with the Right is that each group seems to think that the "free market" means the current economic system. For example:

“We drank the Kool-Aid,” said Jane Bryant Quinn, personal finance columnist for Bloomberg and Newsweek. “We believed that free markets were the best kind [of markets].” She said it had become “unfashionable” over the last three decades to write about regulation, so they didn’t.

The fault is not entirely ours. As you can see, the typical Educated Person generally seems to think that whatever level of freedom we have in the economy (40%?) is the absolute high end, and that the only direction for movement is towards less of it.

She continues: “We could say things were risky … but we never said ‘Where’s the Fed?’”

In the library, with the candlestick.

Via Clusterstock

Aid Watch

This is not a link to a specific post, but a general plug for the blog Aid Watch. It's headed by William Easterly, the most famous economist working in that field who has any clue what he's talking about. Aid is another one of those economic subjects that astounds me to read about sometimes: the party line is so obviously misguided, but most people defend it zealously anyway. And this is a subject that has a real-world influence. Bush & Obama's Pandering to the Elite Act will cause hardships for people here, but it's not a matter of life and death. Misguided approaches to aid are letting people die by propping up bad institutions and making it harder for good ones to flourish in societies more precariously balanced than ours.

No sense in thinking positively, we're trying to sell papers here

A few days ago this was on the front page of the New York Times:


Underneath was a sub-headline that read:


Just kidding. How New York Times would that be? It really read:


The two faces of Obama

Justin Raimondo has a great piece about Obama's deliberate and calculated hypocrisy. The money shot:

Thus, his launching of an intensified military campaign in Central Asia is portrayed as an effort to "stabilize" the region. His provocation against Russia in Eastern Europe is paired with a call to abolish nuclear weapons. And, of course, this ploy carries over into the domestic arena, as well, where – in the process of giving certain favored sectors of the financial industry trillions in subsidies – he has launched a campaign against "corporate greed" and outrageously extravagant executive salaries and perks. He rails against corporate irresponsibility, yet he has appointed to his administration the very corporate insiders who got us into this mess in the first place.

Obama ran for president as the spokesman for the underdog – the little guy just managing to make ends meet, whose volunteerism and contributions over the Internet catapulted the Illinois senator into the running. Yet the reality is that Obama was corporate America’s candidate from the very beginning, and they showed it by lavishly financing his campaign: the money emanating from Goldman Sachs was quite impressive, and, together with the DNC, Wall Street buried the Republicans, who were outspent by three-to-one [.pdf] (and out of gas in any event). Unsurprisingly, the top echelons of the president’s economic team are filled with former Goldman Sachs officials – and, not coincidentally, that firm is the primary beneficiary of the AIG/bank bailout.

The ruling elites of this country, confronted by the specter of a rising populist anger, have found in President Obama a subtle and skillful anger-management expert. For years they’ve been frustrated in Washington, as their efforts to fight a spreading war met increasing resistance from the American people. Divine Providence smiled down on them, however, as Obama suddenly appeared out of nowhere. Here was an "antiwar" candidate who said we’ve been fighting the wrong war all along – and, upon taking office, immediately rectified that by sending 21,000 more troops to the wilds of Central Asia.

Hot cakes Qd

The Wikipedia caption for this photo from a Library of Congress collection reads: "A line for the distribution of cooking oil in Bucharest, Romania in May 1986". That line for cooking oil!

Saturday tour of the blogosphere

1. Here's a hearty sample from Peter Klein's latest O&M post:

Hate to keep flogging a dead horse, and perhaps preaching to the choir, but the point can’t be made often enough: relative prices matter. The childish Keynesianism of people like DeLong and Krugman, like Bernanke and Geithner, understands only aggregate concepts like “national output,” “employment,” and “the price level.” A consistent theme of this blog’s rants is that resources are heterogeneous (1, 2) and, consequently, relative prices must be free to adjust to changes in demand, technology, market conditions, and so on. When government policy generates an artificial boom in a particular market, such as housing — drawing resources away from other parts of the economy — the key to recovery is to let resources flow out of that market and back to the sectors of the economy where those resources belong (i.e., to match the pattern of consumer demands). It’s quite simple: home prices should be falling, interest rates should be rising, savings rates should be going up, and debt levels should be going down. The Administration’s policies, like that of the last Administration, are designed to achieve exactly the opposite. Why? Because relative prices don’t matter, the allocation of resources across activities doesn’t matter, all that matters is to keep any sector from shrinking, any prices from falling, any firms from failing, any consumers from reducing their consumption. A child thinks only about what he can see. The unseen doesn’t exist.

Click for more, and for omitted links.

2. Don Boudreaux, always a fount of clear thinking (and speaking/writing), addresses some critics of free trade:

Persons who, fancying themselves observant realists, insist that "free trade doesn't exist" have their visions and brains distorted by political boundaries.

It is quite true that national governments almost universally erect barriers that hinder their citizens' freedom to trade with citizens ruled by other national governments. Some governments erect higher barriers than do other governments. But, indeed, it's rare to find a national government that doesn't indulge the greed of politically powerful interest groups, as well as the prejudice and economic ignorance of much of its population, with trade barriers.

And yet free trade is ubiquitous. Freedom to trade generally reigns within political borders. For example, the 50 U.S. states are united on one very large and very successful free-trade zone.

Barring state barriers, this is a valuable thought. Boudreaux gives examples of (mostly) free trade conducted between himself and grocers in California, for instance. It works just fine, and there's far less geographical distance between Fairfax and Montréal; the only difference is an imaginary but sadly influential line between them. El Paso and Juárez form one large metropolitan area, but politicians prefer that El Pasoans trade with people in San Antonio, Albuquerque, and Phoenix, hell, even with Boston, Miami, and Seattle, rather than with their fellows a few miles away. His personal example continues:

And yet no one, not even Lou Dobbs, insists that the Boudreaux family would be richer if only the government in Richmond could fine a successful way around the U.S. Constitution and managed to slap stiff tariffs on California wine, Florida citrus fruits, cajun seasoning from Louisiana, and you name it.

3. Mary Theroux points out how pervasive tax errors are among the powerful, and the lesson rarely learned:

If rich, smart people like Treasury Secretary Geithner, Tom Daschle, and the Obamas don’t have to comply with tax laws until they want a high-profile government job, can those of us who don’t want such jobs ignore them too?

Police spokesman has never heard of economics

Here's a gem from the New York Times:

Mr. Brill said Detective Eager had no incentive to lie. “What did she have invested in lying?” he said on Tuesday, recounting his remarks in court the day before. “She has made 1,300 arrests.”

The chief spokesman for the Police Department, Paul J. Browne, declined to comment on Detective Eager’s case other than to say that she had been suspended from the force. But when asked to comment about police officers accused of perjury, he said, “It does not happen often, but when it does, it is baffling why police officers would risk prosecution and their careers to advance a criminal case rather than let the chips fall where they may.”

It's not baffling to me. They take this risk because they know they will rarely get punished. The potential payoff is a career boost, definitely something people look for. Except in the face of overwhelming evidence, they always get away with it. Even when they don't, they're rarely punished. Even when they're punished, it's rarely more than a slap on the wrist. Sometimes they're sentenced, sure, but everyone knows that sometimes you get killed when you leave your house, and most of us do it anyway.

She's made 1,300 arrests? How many have video evidence to support her statements in those cases? Does anyone really think this is the first time she gave a bullshit story?

Via Radley Balko

The culture of dehumanization

The fantastic Roderick Long points to some disturbing quasi-official Israeli Army t-shirts with horrifying slogans, such as a design of a pregnant Arab woman in crosshairs with the words "One Shot, Two Kills" underneath, image here.

The article he refers to mentions that there must be similar shirts among American soldiers. That's certainly true, and I wish I had written about it earlier. I remember seeing these as a child and they were vaguely weird but I never realized how awful they are until I was an adult. For instance, this was the first Google Image search result. People who'd like to object that "Kill 'em All and Let God Sort 'em Out" is a longstanding Army slogan are only underscoring the problem.

Another victim of the police exonerated

Radley Balko links to yet another video of cops beating someone up. Again, in this case, the assault happened but it was the victim who was charged, complete with bogus police report details. Then the video surfaced and exonerated him.

I'm sure people do occasionally attack police officers. Occasionally. It's certainly less common for one person to attack three police officers. Who really thinks they can win? What there seems to be no shortage of is groups of police officers who are vicious and dishonest enough to attack innocent people and lie about it later, consequence free. (Not only that, but there are plenty of collaborationists who not only excuse this kind of behavior, but criticize us for getting upset about it. With friends like those...)

Next time I hear about someone assaulting an officer, I'll just have to assume the real criminal is getting away with it unless there's a video.

"Post asking a question"

Does anybody know why crossword puzzles so frequently repeat clues and answers--not one paper over time, but multiple papers at the same time. The New York Times, USA Today, and my local paper will all use the same word in different puzzles all within a short time span, and I know these things must be written fairly well in advance. Moreover, they're all by different people.

For example, "Ile de la Cite" does not just appear out of nowhere in two separate crosswords.

It seems to happen way too much to be accidental, but I don't have a plausible explanation. Five DR points for the person who comes up with the most plausible explanation.

Visible corruption in Detroit schools

I don't normally like those collections of photos of decaying not-so-old buildings--well, maybe the first 1,000 were OK--but Vice Magazine has a really good one here. It's a collection of closed-down Detroit school buildings full of books, furniture, and even personal student records, but no copper parts or anything else that could be sold. The kicker is that companies were contracted to do this work a long time ago, but somehow or other it didn't get done.

Via Archinect

The Federal Reserve: destroyer and savior

Robert Higgs offers an interesting parable:

In my mind’s eye, I envision a street fair—one of those happy community gatherings at which sellers of handcrafted ceramics, funky clothing, herbal remedies, fresh vegetables, and edible delicacies congregate to display their wares for the strolling customers, who chat amiably with the stall-keepers and with one another. Suddenly, amid horrified shrieks and the roar of a giant engine, a truck plows through this placid setting, scattering twisted debris and broken bodies in its wake. Finally, after wreaking a hundred-yard swath of death and devastation, the truck stops, and the driver, Ben Bernanke, climbs down from the cab.

“People, people,” he exhorts them in a calm, world-weary voice, “do not panic. I am here to assess the damage and make recommendations for reforms that will prevent a recurrence of this unfortunate and wholly unforeseen act of God.” ...

Read the rest.

WWII as fighting maps

Via Strange Maps, here's the short, geographical comic book version of World War II by Angus McLeod. Very nicely done.