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Posts Tagged ‘capitalism’

Must-see HDTV

Posted by Richard on April 25, 2007

Did you take my advice and watch "The Ultimate Resource" last night? It was simply outstanding, meeting and exceeding my rather high expectations. Visually, it was first-class — beautiful high-definition video comparable in quality to the better Discovery HD programming. The content was fascinating as well as uplifting.

My only minor criticism is that the last of the five segments — the story of Shanghai entrepreneurs and their computer game company — was the weakest. The China segment was merely interesting, while the preceding four segments were moving:

  • In Ghana, a poor fisherman and his wife wanted their daughter to get a good education, so they put her in a private school instead of the free government school. James Tooley explained that in this very poor region of Ghana, 75% of the schools are private and for-profit, and all of them outperform the government schools.
  • In Peru, remote mountain villagers celebrated when they finally get legal titles to land that their families have worked for generations. Hernando de Soto talked about how property rights and the rule of law can turn the world's four billion poor into eager and successful stakeholders in the capitalist system.
  • In Estonia, the former Soviet republic has become one of the economically freest countries on Earth, enabling the Estonia Piano Company to transform itself from an inefficient producer of mediocre pianos for the state into an efficient, successful producer of some of the world's highest-quality instruments.
  • In Bangladesh, a young woman got a small loan so she and her husband could buy a loom. This enabled them to make and sell high-quality saris, lifting themselves out of poverty. Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammed Yunus and his Grameen Bank have made millions of similar "microcredit" loans (averaging $70), always for an income-producing purpose that will lift a family out of poverty. The repayment rate is 99%. 

The program is a joyous and heartwarming celebration of the human spirit and of the benefits of liberty. By all means, see it if you can. HDNet is showing it several more times in the next few days (see schedule). I'm sure it will eventually be available on DVD, but if you can see it on HDNet this week, I bet you'll be glad you did. 

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The Ultimate Resource

Posted by Richard on April 23, 2007

If you're an advocate of free markets and a fan of the late Julian Simon and the late Milton Friedman, and you have an HDTV, it doesn't get any better than this: glorious high-definition images from exotic locales all over the world celebrating people's creativity as the ultimate resource and freedom as the key to enabling them to accomplish wonderful things. 

Tuesday, April 24, at 10 PM Eastern, HDNet premieres a new documentary from Free To Choose Media entitled "The Ultimate Resource." It will repeat five more times between then and May 5 (see schedule), so you have time to buy that high-def TV you've been thinking about and order HD programming from your cable or satellite provider. 

Lance at A Second Hand Conjecture has lots of info:

In short, they travel to China, Bangladesh, Estonia, Ghana, and Peru and show examples of how people (thank you Julian Simon) – when given the incentives and the tools – are proving they can apply their free choice, intelligence, imagination and spirit to dramatically advance their well-being and that of their families and communities. …

You can see the trailer and more here. Teachers can get the video (and lots of other resources) for free at

These stories of entrepreneurship and achievement among the world's poorest people illustrate the ideas of four outstanding thinkers featured in the program:

Muhammad Yunus, winner of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize, founded the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, which uses microfinance to bring opportunity to the world’s poorest people by helping them to start their own businesses.

Hernando de Soto, founder of The Institute for Liberty and Democracy in Peru, helps developing countries open their systems — creating strategies for legal reform that offer the majority of the world’s people a stake in the free market economy.

James Tooley, British professor of education policy, explores the widespread, dramatic impact of low budget private education– financed not by charities or wealthy supporters– but by the poor families themselves in India, China, Nigeria, Kenya and Ghana.

Johan Norberg, Swedish author and scholar, takes aim at both left-wing critics, who would condemn developing countries to poverty until they develop “First World” workplace standards, and Western governments, whose free market rhetoric is undercut by tariffs on textiles and agriculture, areas in which developing countries can actually compete.

Wow, what a lineup! I can't wait to see it. 

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Cocky and dumb

Posted by Richard on April 3, 2007

There's still more evidence that American kids don't measure up to their foreign counterparts, and according to Ralph Reiland, American kids are cocky and dumb by design:

Only 6 percent of Korean eighth-graders expressed confidence in their math skills, compared with 39 percent of eighth-graders in the United States, according to the latest annual study on education by the Brown Center at the Brookings Institution in Washington.

The problem is that the surveyed Korean students are better at math than the American students.

Their kids are unsure and good, in short, while ours are cocky and dumb — not exactly a good position for the U.S. to occupy in an increasingly competitive global economy.

Reiland sees this as the predictable consequence of educators' aversion to competition and embrace of unearned self-esteem. They've chosen to promote "unskilled self-satisfaction" over competence:

…  For those in American education with an aversion to competition, an aversion to the thought of winners and losers, the idea of putting self-esteem ahead of academic performance was an easy concept to adopt.

It's like those no-score ball games. The goal is good feelings. Everyone plays, no one loses, every kid gets a trophy. It's like the teachers' contracts — no scorecard, no linking of pay hikes to performance, everyone's a winner.

It's a mind-set that sees score-keeping as too judgmental, too oppressive, too capitalist, too likely to deliver inequality and injured self-images, whether it's with pay or on the ball field.

In a related development, Seattle's Hilltop Children's Center recently banned Legos because they "teach capitalism" and promote private property rights:

According to the teachers, "Our intention was to promote a contrasting set of values: collectivity, collaboration, resource-sharing, and full democratic participation."

The children were allegedly incorporating into Legotown "their assumptions about ownership and the social power it conveys." These assumptions "mirrored those of a class-based, capitalist society — a society that we teachers believe to be unjust and oppressive."

They claimed as their role shaping the children's "social and political understandings of ownership and economic equity … from a perspective of social justice."

This is the same contemptible mindset made even more explicit.

The field of education is largely in the hands of extreme egalitarians and collectivists. They despise winning, achievement, and success because they see every instance of those things as a reproach. They loathe individualism because it encourages people to differentiate themselves from the herd in which they think we should all be submerged. They hate liberty because it frees some to rise above others, and they believe we should all be constrained to the level of the least of us.

Nothing would do more for the future of liberty than wresting control of the schools of education from the socialist scum who currently dominate the field. Of course, it would help if those wresting control had a coherent philosophy that celebrated the individual, freedom, and reason, instead of the incoherent, unprincipled mess that is today's conservatism.

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Happy Milton Friedman Day!

Posted by Richard on January 29, 2007

Today is Milton Friedman Day — "a celebration of the economist’s positive impact on American life and business, and the spread of the benefits of free markets to nations around the globe." Friedman, who died on November 16 at the age of 94, is considered one of the — if not the — most influential economists of the 20th century. To honor his memory, the University of Chicago is holding a memorial service today at 2 PM Eastern. Speakers include Czech President Vaclav Klaus. As I write this, the live webcast should be starting in a few minutes. You can also watch it, along with the entire Free to Choose TV series and other Friedman video, at

Later tonight, don’t miss a new PBS special on Friedman from Free to Choose Media, The Power of Choice. Here in Denver, it’s on KRMA-6 at 9 PM. Check your local PBS affiliate’s listings.

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Posted by Richard on September 12, 2006

Rick Sincere is hosting Carnival of Liberty #62 this week, and as you might guess, there are some 9/11-related entries. Lots of other topics, too — check it out.

Also, check out Carnival of Cordite #71 at Spank That Donkey. If you use IE to visit, you can listen to a delightful little sermon. But with any browser, you’ll find a wealth of great links and pictures. Including the link to buy some of these fine bumperstickers:

Give Peace a Chance - Kill Terrorists

Meanwhile, Joshua Sharf promised to have the special 9/11 edition of Carnival of the Capitalists ready any time now, so just check the main page of View From a Height.

UPDATE: It’s up, so here’s the direct link to the Carnival of the Capitalists. Wow, it’s huge! From 9/11 to personal finance, there’s bound to be something to pique your interest.

UPDATE 2: Another huge collection of links, well-presented: the Carnival of Homeschooling at Principled Discovery. Check it out.

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Investigate falling gas prices!

Posted by Richard on September 2, 2006

The price of unleaded regular at a gas station near me has dropped 20 cents from when I filled up last week. I’m down to a quarter tank, so I could have filled up this morning. But I’m going to wait until I’m on empty in case the price drops further in the next couple of days. I heard an industry analyst last night predict the price would fall to $2 or less in the next few months.

If prices keep dropping into the fall, I’m sure some demagogue in Congress will schedule hearings to look into it, right? Probably before the election recess. I can’t wait to see oil industry executives being grilled by hostile and suspicious senators or representatives:

"Mr. Big Oil Executive, the American people have been watching these gas prices drop day after day, week after week, and they want to know what’s going on! There’s no cause that I can see, no logical explanation. It seems to me that you and the other big oil companies have just arbitrarily decided to ratchet down prices and slash your profits, and the shareholders be damned! How do you justify what you’re doing?

"I’m especially disturbed by the revelation that you’re cutting prices on existing inventory. The gasoline that’s already in the storage tanks of your distribution centers and service stations was bought some time ago at a much higher price. But your selling price reflects today’s market, not the market in which the gas was bought. Is that fair? Why, in some cases you’re selling the gas for less than it cost! Why shouldn’t this Congress put a stop to that?"

The news media, of course, will do human interest stories to illustrate the impact of the price drops on average Americans:

"I’m at a Shell station in suburban Maryland, Bob, and here’s a woman filling up her Prius. Hi, there! How have these falling gas prices affected you?"

"I just don’t understand it. They change from one week to the next for no reason, and you never know what they’re going to be. How am I supposed to budget under these circumstances? And when I think of how much more I paid to get a hybrid — don’t get me started!"

"I’m sure many of our viewers can relate, thank you. Here’s a man filling up a big pickup truck. Sir, what effect have the lower prices had on your family?"

"Well, it’s been an adjustment, that’s for sure. I’m paying almost ten bucks less a tankful than I used to, and I drive a lot, so it adds up. My wife drives a lot, too, what with running the kids around and everything."

"What kinds of adjustments have you made? Are you buying more prescription drugs than you used to?"

"Well, no… we don’t need any more of those. But we’re buying better cuts of meat and trying to go out more often. And I’m puttin a little extra into my 401K at work, ’cause I expect my energy fund isn’t going to do as well as it’s been doing the last few years… But we’re OK. It’s people like my mom that I worry about. She doesn’t drive anymore, but she counts on that Exxon dividend… I can help her out if I have to, I guess…"

"Thank you, sir. I’m sure we’re all hoping your mom — like the rest of us — gets through these trying times OK. So that’s the story out here on the street, Bob — people are confused and concerned, but coping as best they can. Back to you in the studio."

Yeah, I can’t wait until politicians and the media start looking into these falling gas prices. That’ll make for some must-see TV.

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The case for Islamocapitalism

Posted by Richard on June 21, 2006

Turkish writer Mustafa Akyol has an interesting essay about Islam and capitalism at TCS. Akyol observed that whether Islam is compatible with modernity is a hot question. He noted that the discussion of this question has tended to focus on political matters — pluralism, democracy, etc. — but that Islam’s relationship to what he called economic liberalism — the free market — also needed to be discussed.

Akyol argued that Islam is — or should be — friendly to capitalism, and he cited a number of reasons, including the example of Muhammad himself:

Indeed, when Prophet Muhammad was asked to fix the prices in the market because some merchants were selling goods too dearly, he refused and said, "only Allah governs the market." It wouldn’t be far-fetched to see a parallel here with Adam Smith’s "invisible hand." The Prophet also has many sayings cherishing trade, profit-making, and beauties of life. "Muhammad," as Maxime Rodinson put it simply, "was not a socialist."

Lots of interesting historical, religious, and philosophical information. I was especially interested in what he said about the roots of radical Islam (hint: they’re in Europe), the problem of usury and "Islamic banking," and the recent rise of "Islamic Calvinism" in Turkey. Read the whole thing.

My take? Religious belief is based on faith, not logic or empirical data. So it doesn’t matter whether Muhammad was in fact more of a capitalist or more of a socialist, and it doesn’t matter whether the Koran actually forbids all interest or only "excessive" interest. What matters is what most Muslims believe.

If such Muslims as Akyol, Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan, and Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad of the Minaret of Freedom Institute succeed in persuading enough of their co-religionists that Islam and capitalism are allies, then they will be allies. "Islamocapitalism" has kind of a nice ring to it.

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