July 2009

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Saturday, July 25, 2009

End The Fed? 

I'm not an economist.

I don't have enough knowledge to understand all of the issues involved in radically changing monetary policy away from fiat currency managed by the Federal Reserve System, towards a gold standard (or some bundle of commodities), or competing private currencies.

My gut inclination is that the power over money is likely to be abused, or mismanaged, by any central authority, and it's best to just establish a good institutional framework that allows for the evolution of private systems of exchange media, or, if that's not feasible, to constrain monetary policy by simple reasonable rules that may be something like a gold standard. But, I'm temperamentally conservative enough to be a little cautious of making a radical and potentially disruptive change that could have a lot of negative consequences on people who were led to believe in the continuation of the current system. So, I've been ok with mostly agreeing that the focus of some right-libertarians like Ron Paul who want to End the Fed, may be a bit foolish and extreme. Megan McArdle seems pretty sure that it's a bad idea.

But, after listening to this recent Econtalk podcast, in which John Taylor argues that the recent financial crisis is largely the result of bad Fed policy, and seeing some recent responses (by Robert Higgs and Lawrence H. White) to a petition by some economists “To reaffirm their support for and defend the independence of the Federal Reserve System as a foundation of U.S. economic stability”, and thinking back to Lawrence H. White's fairly recent defense of the gold standard, I'm starting to think that a move in this direction may not be as crazy or dangerous as I'd thought.

It doesn't really matter practically, since I don't think that such a thing will be feasible for quite a while, but I'm getting more open to the idea that a move away from the current monetary system is a good idea.


Sunday, July 05, 2009

Let People Buy and Sell Organs! 

I've posted about this before.

Today I saw another great article by Jeff Jacoby trying to argue for common sense in organ donation regulations.

There are many anti-market policies and regulations that result in harm. But, this one is so breathtakingly stupid and deadly that I find myself embarrassed to live among large numbers of people who approve of it.

Here's some sense from the Jacoby article:

No one would dream of suggesting that medical care is too vital or sacred to be treated as a commodity, or to be bought and sold like any other service. If the law prohibited any “valuable consideration’’ for healing the sick, the result would be far fewer doctors and far more sickness and death.
The result of our misguided altruism-only organ donation system is much the same: too few organs and too much death. More than 100,000 Americans are currently on the national organ waiting list. Last year, 28,000 transplants were performed, but 49,000 new patients were added to the queue. As the list grows longer, the wait grows deadlier, and the shortage of available organs grows more acute. Last year, 6,600 people died while awaiting the kidney or liver or heart that could have kept them alive. Another 18 people will die today. And another 18 tomorrow. And another 18 every day, until Congress fixes the law that causes so many valuable organs to be wasted, and so many lives to be needlessly lost.

Jacoby may be a little optimistic with his "No one" estimate, but the point is valid.

I understand that it's natural and common to think that there's something wrong with body parts being bought and sold. But, it seems clear to me that anybody who reasonably weighs the costs and benefits of prohibiting such a market would realize that the costs are much higher.

We're told that we've thankfully removed the religion-driven, irrational, stupid, policy makers from dominance. Ok, so let's see some smart policy-making!

I'm waiting.