‘Nations stumble upon establishments, which are indeed the result of human action,
but not the execution of any human design.’
Adam Ferguson, An Essay on the History of Civil Society (1767)

15 December 2016

On the Record | Must the Blue States Remain Blue and Depressed?

Please see my latest wire for The American Spectator, ‘Must the Blue States Remain Blue and Depressed?’:

Has President-elect Donald Trump a mandate to govern? Debate roils on. While he captured the Electoral College, 306-to-232, critics respond that “popular” momentum lies with Hillary Clinton, who won by more than 2.6 million ballots. Trump supporters counter that in presidential politics, it’s the state-by-state tally that matters; otherwise, Republicans would have played a different ground game. Meanwhile, a world away from this partisan sniping, ordinary Americans eke out their existence. And in this all-important contest, Democrats are clearly losing.

So argues Trump economic adviser Stephen Moore. In a column charting the migration to business-friendly states from those burdened with over-government (analysed by Moore in ALEC’s Rich States, Poor States, co-authored with economists Arthur Laffer and Jonathan Williams), he describes the “economic depression in the blue states that went for Hillary.”

All have the hallmarks of Democrat politics. “High taxes rates. High welfare benefits. Heavy regulation. Environmental extremism. Super minimum wages.” And all are losing taxpayers to those red states where the government footprint is less intrusive, more welcoming to wealth creators. Americans are voting with their feet, to Texas and Florida from California and New York.

As I conclude:

It is time for Democrat states to throw off their artificial fetters, invigorate entrepreneurial innovation, and no longer be blue in spirit. They may not convert to red politically, but they can stop being “in” the red and prosper once more by being in the black. The Empire State, for one, should take a lesson from Tammany Hall sachem George Washington Plunkitt: “I seen my opportunities and I took ’em.”

Read more . . .


My thanks to editor Wlady Pleszczynski of The American Spectator.

10 December 2016

On the Record | Welcome to the Fight: Niall Ferguson reverses his course on Brexit

Please see my latest wire for The New York Sun, ‘Welcome to the Fight: Niall Ferguson reverses his course on Brexit’:

In a season when some of our greatest intellectuals are trying to figure out how to make their peace with Donald Trump, let us take a big-hearted view of the mea culpa, mea maxima culpa just issued by historian Niall Ferguson in respect of Brexit. Speaking at a forum of the Milken Institute in London, Professor Ferguson on Tuesday gave his reasons for speaking out against an independent Britain and backing instead remaining in the European Union.

“It is one of the few times in my life that I’ve argued something without wholly believing it,” Mr. Ferguson confessed.

His rationale? A desire for a stable Britain. In theory he shared the Leave campaign’s exasperation with EU over-government, but “didn’t want the Cameron-Osborne government to fall” and with it the austerity measures vital to future economic growth after the Global Financial Crisis. Mr. Ferguson enumerated four areas of conspicuous EU failure: monetary union, security policy, migration policy, and radical Islam. In the core issues, he knew, the Europhile class of politicians, mandarins, and intelligentsia are pitted against everyone else, particularly middle-class Britons.

“One has to recognize that the European élite’s performance over the last decade entirely justified the revolt,” Mr. Ferguson admitted. “If those of us who are essentially part of the élite had spent a little bit more time in pubs around provincial England and, for that matter, provincial Wales, we would have heard what I just said.” But the rancor had reached the ears of London’s then-mayor Boris Johnson, who called the June 23rd vote Britain’s “Independence Day.”

Read more . . .


My thanks to editor Seth Lipsky of The New York Sun.

06 December 2016

On the Record | Government Is the Cause of “Brexit-Trump Syndrome”

Please see my latest post for the Quarterly Review, ‘Government Is the Cause of “Brexit-Trump Syndrome”’:

The Powers That Be never fail to demonstrate why they have earned the enmity of the average citizen. Bound up in a cocoon of self-satisfaction and self-denial, their political coup de grâce cannot come soon enough. This self-important élite are flummoxed by the people’s revolt in Britain and America, known respectively as Brexit and the Trump movement. A recent column dispatched from the prestigious London School of Economics and Political Science amply displays their continuing bewilderment.

Coining the term ‘Brexit-Trump Syndrome’, British academics Michael Jacobs and Mariana Mazzucato claim that an inability to understand economic reality explains why average working-class citizens, who suffered lost jobs and wages and failed to bounce back from the Global Financial Crisis of 2007-09 (despite billions spent in stimulus schemes), voted either to exit the European Union or put Donald Trump in the White House. Both described as ‘disastrous’ socio-economic choices. The implications drawn are that people were duped into voting against their financial interests. Au contraire.

To counter such continuing nostrums leading to government and economic failure, there is no better guide forward to liberty and prosperity than John Stuart Mill.

Read more . . .


My thanks to editor Dr Leslie Jones of the Quarterly Review.

24 November 2016

On the Record | Trump Tariff Threat Gains Tactical Victory in Kentucky

Please see my first wire for The American Spectator, ‘Trump Tariff Threat Gains Tactical Victory in Kentucky’:

A mere fortnight after becoming President-elect, Donald Trump’s tariff threat gained a tactical victory in the battle to keep American jobs at home.

Trump announced via Twitter that Ford Motor Company intentions to transfer SUV production south of the border were shelved. Chairman Bill Ford “advised me that he will be keeping the Lincoln plant in Kentucky — no Mexico,” Trump tweeted last Thursday.

“During his campaign, Trump was relentless in his criticism of Ford for planning to move all its North American small-car production to Mexico,” Bloomberg reported, “where wages are 80 percent lower than in the U.S.” Critics argued that Ford had intended to relocate only the Lincoln MKC but, in response to the tweet, “the company acknowledged for the first time it had been considering moving production of the MKC to Mexico” following the expiration of the union contract, albeit to allow Ford to focus on its Escape model which outsells Lincoln, 12-to-1.

Nevertheless, Trump supporters, Kentucky politicians, and union members rejoice at the news. But this is only the beginning. The company issued a statement that the future of Ford production in America was contingent on the belief that “President-elect Trump and the new Congress will pursue policies that will improve U.S. competitiveness.” And therein lies the rub, for producers and consumers alike.

Read more . . .


My thanks to editors Wlady Pleszczynski and F.H. Buckley of The American Spectator.


DMI wishes its American friends a happy Thanksgiving Day!

18 November 2016

On the Record | Britain Itches for Freedom and a Trade Accord with Trump’s America

Please see my latest wire for The New York Sun, ‘Britain Itches for Freedom and a Trade Accord with Trump’s America’:

President-elect Trump is in like Flynn with America’s most enduring “special relationship.” For though his electoral victory is the cause of protests at home and unease at European capitals, “Mr. Brexit” basks in favorable reviews from the British government. Small wonder. Both nascent administrations swept to office on a wave of anti-establishment populism.

Leading the welcoming party are Brexiteers who spearheaded efforts to take the United Kingdom out of the European Union and regain the sovereign powers it had ceded to the continent. UKIP’s former leader, Nigel Farage, calls Mr. Trump “instinctively Anglophile;” Britain’s foreign secretary Boris Johnson is urging EU colleagues to cease their “collective whinge-o-rama” and accept the incoming American administration. Mr. Johnson, himself New-York born, betrayed affinities for across the pond when he christened the June 23 vote for Brexit Britain’s “Independence Day.”

Prime Minister May, in an address earlier this week at the Lord Mayor’s Banquet, echoed an openness to Trump. Mrs. May, who became premier when her pro-EU predecessor David Cameron resigned following the vote for British independence, began by noting their joint brash rise to high office: she, to “forge a bold, new confident future for ourselves in the world;” Mr. Trump, “who defied the polls and the pundits all the way up to election day itself.”

So 2016 is the year of change politics and “when people demand change, it is the job of politicians to respond.” Mrs. May has reason to sympathize with Mr. Trump, as both will be contending with obstructionists.

Read more . . .


My thanks to editor Seth Lipsky of The New York Sun.

05 November 2016

On the Record | Trump Awakens the Entrepreneurial Spirit

Please see my latest post for the Quarterly Review, ‘Trump Awakens the Entrepreneurial Spirit’:

Businessmen don’t understand politics. Success in the marketplace doesn’t necessarily follow in the political arena. Early criticism of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign were variations on this theme, from the first day he rode down the escalator at Trump Tower to announce his candidacy. How that tune has changed. Trump’s business acumen may prove his greatest political asset to an America that elects him president.

He may be learning on the fly the science of politics, but Trump instinctively comprehends the craft of intuiting the people’s discontent and offering them an alternative to the Capitol Hill duopoly. Whether on illegal immigration, terrorist threats, endless wars, or disappearing jobs, Trump reads the American mood like the practised pols of old. What he lacks in sophistication he more than compensates with gut instinct.

His outsider status is Trump’s self-proclaimed ace card — he’s not a politician but he understands how they operate, since he’s been negotiating with them all his life as a mega-developer. It’s these transformative skills that he exploits in his White House bid. ‘I’ve been very lucky. I’ve led a great life,’ he told an audience Sunday in Greeley, Colorado. ‘Now I want to give back to the country which has been so good to me.’

Read more . . .


It may surprise that a student of the political careers of Benjamin Disraeli, Earl of Beaconsfield, and Sir John A. Macdonald would take such a dim view of protectionism. I simply refer you to 19thcentury French economic journalist Frédéric Bastiat’s Economic Sophisms and his rigorous deconstruction of the protectionist argument.

With respect to Donald Trump and his policy of border tariffs, as I suggest in this article (and my two columns to which I link), Trump has offered two alternative methods of addressing American business decline: an end to global currency manipulation and entrepreneurial innovation.

And it is Trump’s appeal to the entrepreneur and to the ‘law of markets’ in which ‘demand is constituted by supply’ where great opportunity lies.

So my approach has been much like Kennedy’s attitude to Khrushchev’s conflicting messages during the Cuban Missile Crisis: ignore the one full of bluster and bellicosity, and focus instead on the note promising hope and a way forward. Take Trump’s protectionist threat as a negotiating bid with other nations (and U.S. industries) while defending and encouraging his call to entrepreneurs.

Conservative essayist Joseph Sobran limned the political divide between nomocracy with its simple plan to enforce the ‘rule of law’ and teleocracy with its vision of the perfect society to foist upon an unsuspecting public.

Donald Trump is, in my view, a nomocrat, as evidenced by his ‘America First’ presidential campaign. As such, he should be criticised when he errs and, if elected President, be subject to the checks and balances of American constitutional federalism; but Trump should also be praised when in the right and given all the support and assistance of the American people.


My thanks to editor Dr Leslie Jones of the Quarterly Review.

29 October 2016

On the Record | Trump’s Off-Hand Aside on State Competition Opens a Door on Policy

Please see my latest wire for The New York Sun, ‘Trump’s Off-Hand Aside on State Competition Opens a Door on Policy’:

Give The Donald his due: rarely is there a dull moment at a Trump rally. Last night at Geneva, Ohio, he ruminated on his “America First” economic policy. Mr. Trump returned to his protectionist message that companies moving manufacturing jobs out of country would be subject to a 35% tariff at the border. The he added a twist with the potential to reshape American enterprise.

“Our good jobs are going to other countries. So we’re going to stop it. It’s not even hard to stop it. And when they know there is that kind of a consequence, they’re not leaving, they’re staying,” Trump reiterated. Then, almost nonchalantly, he added: “They may go to a different State, and that’s different. Right? But they’re staying, they’re staying in our country.”

In a stroke of ostensibly unconscious genius, he recast a problematic policy into the promise of voluntary interstate competition, shorn of federal coercion. Free marketeers have always chafed at Mr. Trump’s protectionist program, which goes against every laisser-faire tenet of free trade, comparative advantage, and consumer choice. Yet they were faced with the fact that jobs were fleeing to foreign jurisdictions, leaving displaced American workers with few alternatives.

Mr. Trump assuaged these misgivings by focusing on currency manipulation, promising to bring forward legislation against Communist China and marking the Federal Reserve’s own easy money policies for contributing to what he calls in America a “false economy.” The limits of this demarche in enthusing voters were evident. Something more, to capture the imagination and spirit of American initiative, is needed.

Read more . . .


My thanks to editor Seth Lipsky of The New York Sun.

18 October 2016

On the Record | Clinton’s Pledge on Debt Emerges as a Risible Claim

Please see my latest wire for The New York Sun, ‘Clinton’s Pledge on Debt Emerges as a Risible Claim’:

A risible headline comes courtesy of Hillary Clinton. “I am not going to add a penny to the national debt,” she promises. Raucous readers are permitted a moment to compose themselves.

Let’s be generous and take the former secretary of state at her word. Seriously. How does she plan to pay for the largesse of her presidential platform, be it infrastructure and research spending, enriching ObamaCare, subsidizing college — among other emoluments to its base?

Vote-buying is an art form among Democrats, who no longer camouflage the contours of their platform, summarized as any number of “soak the rich” vendettas, targeted through income, capital gains, corporate, or inheritance tax hikes. “We’re going to go where the money is,” Mrs. Clinton admits in a restatement of what is called “Sutton’s law,” after Willie “The Actor” Sutton. “We’re going to make the wealthy pay their fair share.”

Without doubt, a cheer erupts from Mrs. Clinton’s constituency, exulting over their supremacy over “the other,” ignorant that no one escapes the consequences of tax increases, the poor and middle class least of all. Revenge is a dish best served as cold comeuppance.

Read more . . .


My thanks to editor Seth Lipsky of The New York Sun.

11 October 2016

On the Record | Trump’s Churchill Moment

Please see my latest post for the Quarterly Review, ‘Trump’s Churchill Moment’:

Donald Trump ‘explained’ Churchill to me. And, after the first Trump-Clinton presidential debate, Churchill reciprocated the favour.

The fame of Sir Winston Churchill, who served in several Cabinet offices and was twice prime minister, left me cold, for which I harboured feelings of shame and regret. His life and times certainly fascinated, but I was by no means a Churchill aficionado. Why did I not revere this Conservative hero as so many others did? Why did I not honour him as the greatest statesman of the twentieth century?

Definitely the man had a flair with words — his political speeches are highly quotable and his numerous biographies and histories written with a compelling simplicity. Indeed, Churchill was awarded the 1953 Nobel Prize for Literature for his multi-volume histories of the Second World War and of the ‘English-Speaking Peoples’.

Yet his political record was chequered. In 1900, Churchill entered Parliament as a Conservative representative, crossing the floor four years later to join the pro-free-trade Liberals. Not to be outdone, he re-crossed — and re-joined the Conservatives in 1924, saying famously: ‘Anyone can rat, but it takes a certain amount of ingenuity to re-rat.’

Fluid party identity was the least of Churchill’s sins. His achievements in government were blemished by failure: inept tactical planning during World War I; returning post-war sterling to the gold standard at unrealistic convertibility; helping to precipitate the General Strike; opposing independence for India; and even losing the 1945 election after denouncing Clement Attlee’s Labour platform for requiring ‘Gestapo-like’ measures. Oxford historian and sometime Tory MP, the late Robert Rhodes James, in his Churchill: A Study in Failure, 1900–1939, chronicled the general public’s ambivalent assessment of Sir Winston’s early career. Why, I wondered still, the universal acclaim?

Read more . . .


The wire above was written before the release of Trump’s ‘locker room’ comments Friday (eleven years after they were caught on a ‘hot mic’) and before his stupendous second debate Sunday night against Hillary Clinton. Public support remains firm.

A Politico/Morning Consult poll conducted after the remarks were leaked ‘found that 74 percent of Republican voters said GOP leaders should stick by Mr. Trump’, The Washington Times recounts, while ‘about 41 percent told the pollsters that they would be more likely to support a candidate who continued to back Mr. Trump.’

Meanwhile, following Sunday’s debate, a ‘stunning’ new poll ‘showed Donald Trump has reclaimed the lead from Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton,’ The Times reports, ‘becoming the latest survey to suggest the GOP presidential nominee has put a bad month behind him.’ This latest CNN/ORC tally shows Trump enjoying a ‘2-percentage point lead in a national four-way race among likely voters’, with Republicans ‘likeliest to vote’ supporting Trump by 90 percent.

The ‘movement’ rolls on . . .


My thanks to editor Dr Leslie Jones of the Quarterly Review.

03 October 2016

On the Record | British Tribune of Trade Could Steal the March on Trump’s Protectionism

Please see my latest wire for The New York Sun, ‘British Tribune of Trade Could Steal the March on Trump’s Protectionism’:

Britain after Brexit is wasting no time announcing to the trading world it is open for business. Minister of International Trade Liam Fox speaks of free trade with an optimism that must inspire envy in America’s market conservatives. Who can imagine government praising the virtues of free trade?

Economic growth, Mr. Fox asserts, is supported by three pillars of market freedom. One is liberty of trade, unshackled from state interference, since “the idea that governments should restrict the right of individuals to exchange their hard work for goods and services at an agreed price in an open market is one of the gravest infringements of personal liberty.”

Two is entrepreneurship, where “competition leads to innovation” that in turn “powers progress.” Three is competitive advantage, whereby markets “specialise in the production of goods where they have the greatest efficiency.”

Read more . . .


My thanks to editor Seth Lipsky of The New York Sun whose encouragement acts as a necessary inducement to write.

27 September 2016

On the Record | Let the States Roar

Please see my latest post for the Quarterly Review, ‘Let the States Roar’:

Notice is given from its ‘Constitutional Affairs’ department that ‘The New York Sun . . . opposes a balanced budget amendment.’

The justification cannot be that The Sun favours deficit spending, for the broadsheet prides itself as a tribune for limited government, fiscal probity, and sound money — grounded on the Gold Standard.

An awareness of the speed of unforeseen circumstances is one likely scenario for the editorial stance: allowing for contingency language written into a balanced budget amendment to take into account war or domestic necessity requiring its temporary suspension, The Sun may reason that even such foresight would frustrate government efficacy.

This observer can only speculate. But one germane objection to a constitutionally mandated balanced budget arises in relation to criticism of the supply-side economic revolution of the 1980s. While true that lowering high marginal tax rates can increase government revenues — the famous Laffer Curve axiom — such tax reform itself is not conclusive of prudent government policy. No responsible tax proposal comes without its corollaries: limited government and budgetary restraint.

Read more . . .


My thanks to editor Dr Leslie Jones of the Quarterly Review; and my appreciation to Foundation for Economic Education president, Lawrence Reed, for his assistance to me in framing America’s indebtedness.

22 September 2016

On the Record | Trump Rallies Entrepreneurial Spirit to Restore the American Dream

A golden-haired hero arrived in Toledo, Ohio, Wednesday last to rescue the American Dream. Donald J. Trump is its paladin: “We’re going to have this economy work again for you.”

The spirit that shook thirteen colonies to independence and catapulted a nation to world-power status a mere century later will rise again. Anæmic growth and stagnant employment will come to an end, he promised, by unleashing the competitive initiative held in check by government red tape.

Please see my latest posting for the American Thinker, ‘Rallying the entrepreneurial spirit’:

The guardians of economic orthodoxy took issue with Trump from the beginning, whether it was his tariff threat against foreign imports or his promise to penalize manufacturers who moved industries out of country. Classical economists, from Smith to Ricardo to Mill and beyond, had demonstrated that Western civilization was built upon the foundations of division of labor and the law of comparative advantage. How did Trump imagine he could “make America great again” when he flouted the free trade principles responsible for said greatness?

Over the summer Trump redeemed himself. He focused on currency manipulation as a key component of unfair foreign competition -- hand-in-hand with incompetent American trade negotiators -- while taking aim at high taxes, regulatory burdens, and Federal Reserve chicanery among the factors contributing to President Obama and the Democrat Party’s “false economy.”

“The contrast between the presidential contenders could not be starker,” writes Trump economic advisor Lawrence Kudlow. “Mr. Trump has an economic-recovery-and-prosperity plan. Mrs. Clinton has an austerity-recession plan.”

Read more . . .


My thanks to the editors at the American Thinker.


With the arrival of the autumnal equinox, it’s that time of year again to recommend the quintessential fall film, The Trouble with Harry.

Starring John Forsythe and Shirley MacLaine, Edmund Gwenn and Mildred Natwick, with a young Jerry Mathers, director Alfred Hitchcock set this 1955 classic in a Vermont countryside bursting with a riot of colour.

Part mystery, part romantic comedy, this film is an excellent way to welcome the arrival of autumn — when the air is crisp, the leaves turn, and gilded sunlight throws long shadows, you’re sure to be humming Bernard Hermann’s wonderful score in anticipation.

(Trailer below to whet your interest; once hooked, enjoy this complete YouTube video of The Trouble with Harry.)

20 September 2016

On the Record | British Prep for Deal on Trade with Yanks in the Wake of Brexit

Please see my latest wire for The New York Sun, ‘British Prep for Deal on Trade with Yanks in the Wake of Brexit’:

“The British are coming!” So history records Paul Revere’s warning, as the Redcoats marched toward Lexington and Concord out of Boston — with the shots heard round the world issuing forth the independent United States of America.

Taxes and trade were the powder of that conflagration; and in post-Brexit Britain, financial well-being once again comes to the fore: this time with London seeking terms with her sometime overseas possessions.

In June a majority of Britons voted to cut ties with the European Union’s régime of continental economic regulation and subsidies; and focus shifts to reviving commercial routes that thrived at the zenith of the British empire.

In the wake of the Brexit vote, interest is growing in respect of free trade relations with the “Canzuk” Commonwealth members, leading naturally to prospects of a larger liberty bloc among other Anglosphere nations adhering to rule of law, representative democracy, and free markets. Her Majesty’s Government has America in its sights.

Read more . . .


My thanks to editor Seth Lipsky of The New York Sun for his generous assistance.

17 September 2016

On the Record | Why Not Add America’s Advantage to the Anglosphere Commonwealth?

Please see my latest article for the American Thinker, ‘Why Not Add America’s Advantage to the Anglosphere Commonwealth?’:

“England and America are two countries separated by the same language,” George Bernard Shaw once remarked. Post-Brexit, why allow any barriers to stand between the world’s two greatest allies?

During debate over the United Kingdom referendum to exit the European Union, Remain supporters argued that British trade would suffer; Leave campaigners countered that Britain had the world as its oyster, pointing to her proud history of overseas trade during which the “second” British Empire flourished. But why should Britain limit herself? Why not include her “first” imperial American offspring?

For even as the War of Independence created the worst relations imaginable between the two countries, with peace America wasted little time in renegotiating trade deals with her former mother country.

When the United States became tangled up in Britain’s conflict with revolutionary France upon the high seas, President Washington sent John Jay as his envoy to London, resulting in the eponymous treaty which resumed trans-Atlantic “amity, commerce, and navigation.”

Disagreement at the climax of the Napoleonic conflict brought the two nations to arms again during the short-lived, fairly inconsequential War of 1812. But tranquility and, more important, a dynamic alliance, has reigned ever since. Now another opportunity presents itself.

“Of all the many splendid opportunities provided by the British people’s heroic Brexit vote,” British historian Andrew Roberts writes, “perhaps the greatest is the resuscitation of the idea of a Canzuk Union.”

Read more . . .


My thanks to the editors at the American Thinker.


And allow me to wish my American friends a happy Constitution Day! — celebrating the adoption of the U.S. Constitution on this date in Philadelphia, 1787.

12 September 2016

On the Record | Education of a Quick Study Presidential Candidate

Please see my latest article for the American Thinker, ‘Education of a Quick Study Presidential Candidate’:

The Donald never ceases to amaze. Much like the developer’s ladder he climbed under the tutelage of his father, Trump has scaled the political ladder with equal speed and facility. He has risen from the no-chance dilettante candidate to the GOP’s nominee in a (current) statistical tie with his Democrat adversary for the White House. Friend and foe alike are nonplussed. But the quick-study presidential candidate would be no surprise to Alexis de Tocqueville.

Sent to the United States by the French government to study prison reform, Tocqueville encompassed the entire republican experiment, publishing his reflections as Democracy in America.

The New World’s break with aristocratic Europe fascinated him; immediacy, dynamism, and action took the place of refined, unhurried contemplation. “The democratic social state and democratic institutions lead most men to act constantly,” Tocqueville wrote; “now, the habits of mind that are appropriate to action are not always appropriate to thought.”

Critics of Trump will read into these sentiments an indictment of the Republican presidential nominee, whose early campaign was marked by cringing off-the-cuff statements and unfiltered appraisals of his opponents.

Read more . . .


My thanks to the editors at the American Thinker.

06 September 2016

On the Record | Paine the Economic Royalist

Please see my first article for the American Thinker, ‘Paine the Economic Royalist’:

The foibles of most public men are unearthed while they walk among us. “The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.” But revisionism makes history its palimpsest. Heroic pamphleteer Thomas Paine is but the latest of the Founding generation laid low by this twenty-first-century zeitgeist.

His sin? Paine was a bimetallist who believed in commodity currency -- gold or silver. Honored in his time, today’s establishment would have the New Rochelle revolutionary tarred-and-feathered for his heterodoxy.

Paine’s motivation for writing Dissertations in the mid-1780s was a Pennsylvanian banking bill and the rivalry it spawned: one bank with notes guaranteed by specie versus another with no guarantee other than legal tender laws, which he reasoned belied the currency’s worthlessness and “calculated to support fraud and oppression.”

“Nature has provided the proper materials for money, gold and silver, and any attempt of ours to rival her is ridiculous,” Paine wrote; they were “the emissions of nature: paper is the emission of art.”

Read more…


My thanks to the editors at the American Thinker.

26 August 2016

On the Record | In Just a Wee Bit of Irony Scots Could Be Orphaned by British Independence

Please see my first cable for The New York Sun, ‘In Just a Wee Bit of Irony Scots Could Be Orphaned by British Independence’:

Here’s a wee bit of irony. The decision of the British people to leave the European Union may have been seen by the Scottish elite as yet another chance for Scotland itself to secede from the United Kingdom and set up their own country, seated within the European Union. But it turns out that the scheme could run into trouble owing to Scotland’s own leftist tendencies.

It’s the Scottish adherence to welfare state policies that may yet do them in. “To be a member of the EU you should have, except in extremis, a budget deficit of no more than 3% of GDP,” writes political economist Tim Worstall for Forbes. “Fudging is possible [but] not a tripling of that target.” Were Scotland an independent state, its budget deficit would be 9.5%.

Scotland’s unofficial poet laureate, Robert Burns, might have remarked, “The best-laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men gang aft agley . . .”

Read more…


My thanks to Seth Lipsky, editor of The New York Sun, for his kind assistance in preparing this cable for the press.

24 May 2016

On the Record | Donald Trump addresses America’s Debt

Please see my latest post for the Quarterly Review, ‘Donald Trump addresses America’s Debt’:

‘The Open Conspiracy.’ That is what Henry Hazlitt, the renowned New York journalist, called the political effort to ‘monetise the debt’ by inflating the currency so that U.S. government debts incurred to-day will cost less to pay to-morrow; or, as is the case, years into the future — if ever.

But in an interview with CNBC on 5th May, Donald Trump, presumptive Republican presidential candidate, took a swing at the conspiracy by matter-of-factly stating that, as President, he would seek to restructure the payment of U.S. Treasury bonds at lower returns.

Trump then cracked the conspiracy wide open four days later, acknowledging America’s — and all countries with fiat money — dirty little secret: ‘you never have to default because you print the money’.

And, in the process, Trump unleashed yet more political opprobrium upon his head.

Read more…


My thanks to Dr Leslie Jones of the Quarterly Review; and my appreciation to Professor Steven Kates of RMIT University for guidance on calculating inflation.

04 May 2016

On the Record | Government Greed Axes the Golden Goose

Please see my latest post for the Quarterly Review, ‘Government Greed Axes the Golden Goose’:

President Barack Obama mounted the bully pulpit again last month, to decry the practice of ‘tax inversion’ and those corporations with the effrontery to believe in private property and the profit motive, thus escaping exorbitant tax bills by moving operations out of the United States for the welcoming low-tax jurisdictions of foreign lands.

According to an AP News report:

“Obama called it ‘one of the most insidious tax loopholes out there’ because it shortchanges the country. He said less tax revenue means the government can’t fully spend on schools, transportation networks and other things to keep the economy strong. He said the practice also hurts middle-class Americans because ‘that lost revenue has to be made up somewhere.’”

Oh, dear! Where does one begin to enumerate President Obama’s recurring penchant for economic (and constitutional) illiteracy?

Read more…


My thanks to Dr Leslie Jones of the Quarterly Review.

27 April 2016

Albany pranked New York in cruel April Fools’ Day joke

New Yorkers awoke on the first day of April with news that, among those budgetary items Governor Andrew Cuomo tentatively finalised with the legislature, was an increase in the hourly minimum wage (staggered across industries and jurisdictions over the next six years), from $9 to $15 — the cruellest of April Fools’ Day jokes, with consequences lasting more than a day and afflicting more than the targeted beneficiaries.

Governor Cuomo, speaking of the plan at a January rally, took aim at critics by a populist appeal. ‘We are going to do it for the State of New York, we are going to lead the way for this nation, we are going to restore honor and dignity and respect to the workers, we are going to say to this country, “You can do very well on the top level and you can also rise up the bottom level.”’

As Cuomo doubtless knows but heeds not, the arguments against the minimum wage are legion: that it hurts the working poor, that it penalises workers with low skills, and that it bars young job-seekers (particularly the marginalised) from gaining valuable experience and work-habits — criticisms that are all well-rehearsed, but no less true.

Yet in laying out the case for the minimum wage, Governor Cuomo raised issues that are further proof that state intervention into markets only compounds problems the political process purported to fix. He is not alone, for it must be a prerequisite of political office to misjudge the organic nature of market operations.

The market is a clearinghouse, with individuals offering each other what they have — be it goods and services — for what they need. Barter was the modus operandi at the beginning; with various media being introduced in time to facilitate transactions. But in its essence, exchange means exchange. You can only buy if you have something to sell and cannot sell if you price yourself out of the market.

But through its economic interventions, the State has priced the poor out of market, and in many cases (such as the minimum wage), have left them nothing to exchange (e.g., their labour). The only thing left they have to barter is their vote, and in this exchange, between the individual and the political process, the parties are unevenly matched.

‘The minimum wage doesn’t even work numerically in this State,’ bewailed the Governor. ‘This is below a subsistence level. You can’t make it on a minimum wage job. You need two, three, four minimum wage jobs to actually make it, and that’s not what the minimum wage was all about.’

However, if the market were allowed free scope, buyers and sellers would have to reach agreement, or else neither would be able to exchange. What impediments stand in their way?

At January’s announcement, Cuomo pointed the finger at businesses that ‘make money on the minimum wage’, noting that ‘McDonalds pays a minimum wage, but at the minimum wage in this State, you are still below the poverty level. So this State then, with tax dollars, gives you a welfare payment, food stamp payment, housing assistance. When you look at it at the end of the day, McDonalds pays the minimum wage [$18,000] and the people of the State of New York pay on average $6,800 more.’

With the availability of State aid and the get-out-of-purdah free pass of a legislated minimum wage, who can blame McDonalds or any other industry from maximising its profits, given the perverse government incentives?

‘I am getting out of the hamburger business,’ the Governor promised; but who put State officials into the free market exchange in the first place?

Moreover, as a result of this minimum wage legislation, the New York Post reported, ‘Wages will be hiked to the new minimum for 2.3 million workers in New York, a move Cuomo says will infuse $15.7 billion into the state economy’ — with nary a second thought about the origins of this bounty nor Albany’s ‘take’ thereof. Such an echt bureaucratic attitude from the State capital.

‘If you had taken the minimum wage in 1970,’ Cuomo observed nonchalantly at the rally, ‘and you had indexed it to inflation, you know what it would be today? Fifteen dollars an hour. That’s the fair wage for a minimum wage in the State of New York.’

But as American fiat greenbacks are nothing more than a medium of exchange, without any connexion to real worth — such as the gold standard — government-induced money inflation does not add to America’s net worth but only benefits those crony capitalists with government ties and hurts those of low incomes hit by inexorable price increases.

As negotiations had neared completion, Cuomo told waiting reporters, ‘I believe that this is the best plan the State has produced in decades.’ Nonsense. This April 1st budget is only the latest example of government having a good laugh at citizens’ expense.

04 April 2016

On the Record | Mill Power

Please see my latest post for the Quarterly Review, ‘Mill Power’:

On the campaign stump, Donald Trump’s visceral answer to manufacturing decline has been called a self-defeating return to the processes of primitive economics. But Trump’s route to powering America’s revival does lead through a mill — John Stuart Mill.

Trump’s economic prescription to ‘Make America Great Again’ by imposing tariff walls to foreign trade has been lampooned by mainstream economists as equating the Great Depression hysteria that gave rise to the Smoot-Hawley tariff act, which saw affected nations impose retaliatory trade restrictions.

Many of these same economists prefer their own Depression-era madness, in the form of Keynesian stimulus that argues that downturns are caused by a lack of aggregate demand, requiring government spending to prime the pump and restore consumerism.

Long before Lord Keynes, however, nineteenth-century classical economists had debunked this fallacy, notably J. S. Mill.

Read more…


My thanks to Dr Leslie Jones of the Quarterly Review and to Professor Steven Kates of RMIT University, who introduced me to the classical economics of J.B. Say and J.S. Mill, and to Ricardo’s succinct refutation of Malthus: ‘Men err in their productions, there is no deficiency of demand.’