Archive for the ‘Uncommon Knowledge’ Category

Senator Rand Paul, son of former Republican Presidential candidate Ron Paul, discusses his political ideas with Peter Robinson forĀ Uncommon Knowledge:

There is a route to victory for Republicans nationally without diluting our message.

If you care about small government, there is almost a requirement of care about supporting the family.


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For Uncommon Knowledge, Peter Robinson and economist Thomas Sowell discuss the nexus between culture and economic outcomes. The discussion is based on Sowell’s latest book “Intellectuals and Race”.

Multiculturalism is an insistence that the particular cultures found among less fortunate groups are not to be blamed for disparities in income, education, or crime rates but are on net positive.

This quotation reminds me of another sentence by Thomas Sowell that I posted about a year ago (link):

Although intellectuals pay a lot of attention to inequality among different groups, seldom has this attention been directed toward how the less economically successful might improve themselves by availing themselves of the culture of others around them.

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About a century ago, the Socialist Party of America called for the first national Women’s Day. Over the years movements started and today, March 8 has become the International Women’s Day (IWD) and events take now place in almost all of the world’s countries.

To buck the trend, Thomas Sowell and Peter Robinson dissect the argument that employer discrimination lies at the core of male-female economic differences:

If we become fixed on eliminating male-female income differences, is it the case that the only choice for doing that is to involve the government in redesigning the very nature of the family?

One of the commentators on youtube sets up the following hypothesis:

Liberals need the populace to feel victimized because if they weren’t, then they’d have to take responsibility for their own actions. But why take control of your own life and it’s outcome when you can just blame your shortcomings on your skin color, sexuality, or gender?

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In the past, I have frequently wrote about the disregard of the Constitution of the United States. While watching a recentĀ discussion between Peter Robinson and Thomas Sowell, I came across this brilliant quotation:

When all is said and done, the Constitution of the United States is a set of words on pieces of paper. The only way the Constitution can protect us is if we protect the Constitution. If we rise up and revolt, if we vote out of office people who violate the Constitution, then of course it will mean something. However, if people can do this – say a few pretty words and we say ‘Oh well’ – then the Constitution will erode over time to the point where it will mean absolutely nothing. There will be nice words on paper but people with power will just do what they like.

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John Stossel is not an economist. He studied psychology at Princeton and has been a journalist for the last forty years. But throughout his career, he has done what an economist could not do better: trace and analyze the impact of government intervention.

His discussion with Peter Robinson from Uncommon Knowledge took place about a year ago. Stossel reminds me of my recent post on Jeremy Clarkson, which makes the video all the more worth watching:

The economy is not like an orchestra that a conductor to has to start or a car that needs jump-starting. An economy is people with needs and if you leave them alone they will do amazing, wonderful things to meet those needs. And we take it for granted that a supermarket has thirty thousand products, and they are all cheap, and it is open 24/7, and they rarely poison us.

Robert Hicks said ‘war is the friend of the state’. Well, so is crisis and fear.

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Although this interview took place before the presidential election, with president Obama’s victory it is all the more important. Peter Robinson and Thomas Sowell discuss Obama’s track record, the importance of the election, and what America can expect with the president’s reelection:

It’s like being a mosquito in a nudist colony: you don’t know where to start. We will not be able to be on air long enough to dissect all the faults in those few words. [on Michelle Obama’s speech]

It is painful for me to realize that youngsters growing up in the same places in Harlem where I grew up more than 60 years ago have far less chance of rising, economically, educationally or otherwise.

I want to stop politicians from trying to fix the economy.


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Having spent several years studying economics at a university, most graduates still find it hard to discuss properly current economic policies. This is due to the fact that the subject of economics today focuses mostly on abstract theories and estimation techniques. It mainly consists of mathematical formulas which describe models of limited practical use.

This is not to say that economic research does not deliver new insights into how an economy works. But rather that the study of economics often misses the bigger picture and lacks a profound analysis of various real-world economic policies.

Thomas Sowell has published a brilliant book that addresses this shortcoming:

Basic Economics by Thomas Sowell

In this book, Sowell discusses dozens of policy interventions and economic mechanisms. He does so without formulas, math, tables, or figures. Instead the reader finds plain English text, historical examples and common sense reasoning.

The fundamental theme that runs throughout the book is the definition of economics itself:

Economics is the study of the use of scarce resources which have alternative uses.

Topic after topic, Sowell explains what this simple definition implies and how it contradicts many political statements:

However useful economics may be for understanding many issues, it is not as emotionally satisfying as more personal and melodramatic depictions of these issues often found in the media and in politics. Dry empirical questions are seldom as exciting as political crusades or ringing moral pronouncements. But empirical questions are questions that must be asked, if we are truly interested in the well-being of others, rather than in excitement or a sense of moral superiority for ourselves. Perhaps the most important distinction is between what sounds good and what works. The former may be sufficient for purposes of politics or moral preening, but not for the economic advancement of people in general or the poor in particular. For those who are willing to stop and think, basic economics provides some tools for evaluating policies and proposals in terms of their logical implications and empirical consequences.

While waiting for the delivery of your copy you may want to watch how Sowell himself discusses his book with Peter Robinson:

The problem is not that the profession has not reached a level of understanding. I think if the average citizen understood economics as well as it was understood by economists two hundred years ago, most of the nonsense that is done in Washington would be impossible politically.

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While listing to a discussion between Peter Robinson and Thomas Sowell, I found this arresting statement:

Although intellectuals pay a lot of attention to inequality among different groups, seldom has this attention been directed toward how the less economically successful might improve themselves by availing themselves of the culture of others around them.

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Here we have a wonderful discussion of the pros and cons of America’s war on drugs with Milton Friedman and Pete Wilson. The debate was recorded in December 2000, after three decades of fighting against drugs.

As it is we have caused tens of thousands of deaths in Colombia and other Latin American countries. I think that prohibition of drugs is the most immoral program that the United States has ever engaged in. It has destroyed civil rights at home and it has destroyed nations abroad.

The only way you can enforce it is through informers. That is the way in which the Soviet Union tried to enforce similar laws which tried to prevent people from saying things.

What is the difference between saying to somebody that government may tell you what you can take in your mouth but the government may not tell what you may say out of your mouth?

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It is now more than four years since the beginning of the financial crisis. And ever since economists have discussed whether we will face an L-shaped, a U-shaped, a V-shaped, or a W-shaped recession. If you don’t know what that means, there is a simple explanation on Wikipedia.

Let aside theory, what counts is actual experience. And unfortunately, as Greg Mankiw pointed out the data support the L-shaped story:

Employment population ratio

To some extent this development is similar to the 1930s. Despite (or because) of massive government intervention job growth in the private sector has been very slow. This view is supported by two videos: the first from an interview with Dr. Thomas Sowell, and the second from ReasonTV:

Once you start to intervene, it is not just the question of the merit of the particular intervention, it is the fact that nobody knows when you are going to intervene again.

Unemployment stood at 17 percent in 1939, a decade after the stock market crash.

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