This is the archive for July, 2008.
- Lake Chautauqua
I spent the last week in Chautauqua, NY with my friend Brad Akin. I had a great time. We spent the week fishing, jetskiing (I was able to get the jetski up to 53mph!), kayaking, and loitering around searching the internet. Brad introduced me to Andriaccio’s Stuffed Olives Asiago which are quite possibly the tastiest appetizers I have eaten. In between eating lots of pizza and doing the above mentioned things, I had time to take some photos with my new Canon 40D.
Here are a few samples:
- What is Value?
A friend of mine was reading New Ideas from Dead Economists, a book by Todd Buchholz that explains and critiques economic thought from Adam Smith to Keynes. In it, there is a section about Karl Marx and his theories. In explaining Marx’s labor exploitation theory, Buchholz points out that Marx rests his claims on the premise that the value of a product is determined by the amount of labor needed to produce it. (Classical economists like Smith and Ricardo also believed this.) Buchholz writes later on the page that critics of Marx argue that this premise is wrong, but he does not go on to explain any of these arguments. My friend asked me what these arguments were, so I did my best to explain them for him.
First, there are different variations of the labor theory of value. Basically, they all say that the value of a good is directly proportional to the amount of labor used to produce it; i.e. a watch that takes 20 hours to make is twice as valuable as a watch that takes 10 hours to make. Like I said, there are some variations and I am not going to hit on those. I am just going to show that the basic premise here is flawed.
Whether I spend two weeks or four weeks carving a statue is irrelevant to its value. Given that the two-week statue and the four-week statue are similar in every way except for the amount of time that I put into them, which one do you think has a higher value? A passerby looks at them and, seeing no differences, values them the same. I, however, value the four-week statue more than the two-week one because I spent more time making it. Even if I told the passerby that I spent twice as long making one of the statues, since he does not see a difference in them, chances are that he is not going to change how he values them. Why the difference in the way the two of us value these statues? Values are subjective. What then, constitutes value if not the labor added? Austrian School thinkers assert that to possess value, an object must be both useful and scarce, and how much one values that object is dependent on one’s preferences and how well that object satisfies one’s wants. To quote Mises:
Value is not intrinsic, it is not in things. It is within us; it is the way in which man reacts to the conditions of his environment. Neither is value in words and doctrines, it is reflected in human conduct. It is not what a man or groups of men say about value that counts, but how they act.
-Ludwig von Mises
The closest thing we have to determining the average value of an object is price. The prices that are seen for goods in the market are formed by the aggregate subjective values of the people acting in those markets. Taking scarcity into account, higher prices reflect higher values among acting people. Something worth being pointed out is that prices tell us nothing about the reasons behind people purchasing an object. All that can be said is that in the absence of coercion, if I pay $10 for a DVD, I value the DVD more than $10 and the seller values the $10 more than the DVD.
What does this mean? I leave you with an example from The Quest for Reason blog:
If there is a wooded area that gets bulldozed (excluding government coercion and forced sales which are so often present) to put up a housing community, the housing community is more valuable than the wooded area in its natural state. For if the natural wooded area were more valuable, acting people would have prevented its alteration from occurring.
To the observer, witnessing something you think is beautiful being destroyed is unfortunate for him personally. The problem, like Mises said, is that value is only demonstrated through action. All the silent well-wishers for nature in the world have no impact on the value of things unless they demonstrate it through action.
If this is unclear or you have any questions, please leave a comment with your concerns. I will do my best to clarify and/or answer questions.
- July 4
This July 4, people all across America will be at cookouts and celebrations, their hearts swelling with patriotism for their country and everything in it. Many people will watch fireworks, sing the national anthem, honor the flag, and listen to stories of how the founding fathers inspired a nation to gain its independence. The media will once again rave with support for the United States’ military presence in the middle east and lecture on how the all-powerful state is protecting us and our “freedoms”. We will read in the paper and watch on television the importance of patriotism, obeying the “law”, and paying tribute to all of our “civil servants”.
I believe, however, that July 4 is no longer a holiday celebrating our independence and liberty. It has transitioned over the years into a holiday celebrating the state. With each passing year, we are fed more statist propoganda.
Let me remind you of just a few of the ways that your liberty is being restricted in the United States today:
- A large percentage of your income is being taken away by force
- Your phone conversations and emails are no longer actually private
- You can no longer eat the food that you wish
- You are told what you can and cannot do with your own property
- There is no longer a free movement of goods and people in this country
- Import quotas and excessive tariffs are limiting imports and artificially raising prices of goods
- The paper fiat money in your pocket is worth less every day
- The legislators grant monopolies to companies and not only restricts but almost exterminates competition
- And just as a July 4 example, keep in mind that most of the people in this country are not allowed to set off their own fireworks on their own property and so must go to a government-sponsored show paid for with confiscated wealth.
The list goes on and on.
We need a new revolution. I refuse to celebrate the State today. I am going to celebrate the little bit of freedom we have left and try to persuade people to abandon their nationalism and join in the fight for liberty and true independence (independence from the state).
- Cleveland Orchestra Star Spangled Spectacular
…not so spectacular this year.
Well, at least not the fireworks. The orchestra sounded great and Tower City was beautifully lit up.
On the downside, however, the fireworks were in a different spot than they have been in previous years. I had my tripod and camera all set up to take some fireworks shots and all of a sudden, I hear the fireworks going on behind me. The entire audience had to turn their chairs around in order to see them. I was in a terrible spot to take photos of these fireworks (although I had chosen a prime spot for where I thought the fireworks would be). No announcements were made telling the crowd that the fireworks had switched locations this year, even though there were announcements and acknowledgements in-between each piece by the orchestra. On top of all that, just as the fireworks started, it started down-pouring. I was able to see lightning off in the distance, but I had hoped that it would hold off. No such luck. Henry, Jackie, and I had to quickly pack up all of the chairs and my camera equipment and hustle back to the vehicle, about half a mile away. We were entirely soaked. Luckily, last year, I spent the extra money to get the All-Weather cover for my LowePro SlingShot 300 camera bag. It was well worth the investment. It has bailed me out three times that I can remember. If not for that bag, my camera would have certainly gotten wet those three times. Thank you, LowePro.
- Post-Graduation Party Update
My trip to NY and two weeks of FEE seminars came to an end on Friday. I was originally scheduled to fly home at 7:30, but I managed to get a flight at 5:30 (which I was thankful for because LGA had a 2-hour backup for take-offs). I had a great time and learned a lot. I also had the privilege of seeing two TSA personnel harass a man for making a comment under his breath.
Anyway, my grad party was on Saturday. I was pleased that a lot of people came and we all had a pretty good time. Since then, I have been frantically writing thank you cards for graduation gifts so that I can get them out on time. Meanwhile, my family is still in from out of town, so I have been spending time with them after I get home from work. It is a busy week so far.
By the way, I picked up my advance tickets for The Dark Knight (the midnight showing). I can’t wait. It is going to be a great movie.
- Good Reads
I decided to link to a few articles that I think are worth reading. If you have some time, look through them.
- The Dream That Was America by Robert Hawes
- Can You Say Marginal Rate of Substitution? by Gary Galles
- The Enemy Is Always the State by Lew Rockwell
- Everything You Love, You Owe to Capitalism by Lew Rockwell
- Anarchy, Anarchy – Wherefore Art Thou? by Wilt Alston
- Spontaneous Order on the Streets of Saigon by Joshua Snyder