Hypocrites & Half-Wits: A Daily Dose of Sanity from Cafe Hayek by Donald J Boudreaux, Hardcover | Barnes & Noble
Hypocrites & Half-Wits: A Daily Dose of Sanity from Cafe Hayek

Hypocrites & Half-Wits: A Daily Dose of Sanity from Cafe Hayek

by Donald J Boudreaux
     
 

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Each day, Donald Boudreaux, professor of economics at George Mason University, writes a letter to the editor of a major American publication. Often, he writes in response to an absurdity offered up by a columnist or politician, or an eye-catching factoid misleadingly taken out of context. This collection, comprised of one hundred of Boudreaux’s best letters,

Overview


Each day, Donald Boudreaux, professor of economics at George Mason University, writes a letter to the editor of a major American publication. Often, he writes in response to an absurdity offered up by a columnist or politician, or an eye-catching factoid misleadingly taken out of context. This collection, comprised of one hundred of Boudreaux’s best letters, provides intelligent, witty rejoinders to questions like these:

•    Are taxes “really just prices”? (New York Times)
•    Does the Tea Party suffer from a “fatuous infatuation” with the Constitution? (Washington Post)
•    Is it “obvious” that “if there are fewer guns, there are fewer shootings and fewer funerals” (New Orleans Times-Picayune)
•    Has “slowing population growth” proven to be “critical to long-term economic growth”? (Wall Street Journal)

Without swearing allegiance to any party or ideology, Boudreaux takes aim at pundits and politicos on the left, right, and everywhere between. He tackles issues ranging from “lookism” in the office and the futility of border walls to naïve faith in alternative energy and the all-too-common tendency to trust a fallible and ever-expanding government.

Half-truths and Hypocrites won’t change the deeply held convictions of readers. But it will entertain them, enlighten them, and sharpen their eye for shaky facts, faulty reasoning, and intellectual dishonesty—all of which are threats to a free, prosperous country.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780983968702
Publisher:
Free to Choose Press
Publication date:
07/01/2012
Pages:
248
Sales rank:
1,051,551
Product dimensions:
5.60(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.00(d)

Read an Excerpt

HYPOCRITES & HALF-WITS

A Daily Dose of Sanity from Cafe Hayek
By DONALD J. BOUDREAUX

Free To Choose Press

Copyright © 2012 Free To Choose Network
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-9839687-0-2


Chapter One

I DON'T WANT TO BE UNIFIED.

14 October 2007

The Editor, New York Times 620 Eighth Avenue New York, NY 10018

To the Editor:

Thomas Friedman wants "a president who can unify the country around meaningful action on energy and climate" ("Who Will Succeed Al Gore?" October 14).

I get the creeps whenever I encounter anyone seeking national "unity." A practical impossibility in a nation of 300 million people, "unifying the country" really means government seizing enormous amounts of additional power in order to embark upon schemes of social engineering—schemes whose pursuit gratifies the abstract fantasies of the theory class and, simultaneously, lines the very real pockets of politically powerful corporations, organizations, and "experts."

I want a president who will stick exclusively to protecting my freedoms.

Sincerely,

Donald J. Boudreaux

THE ABSURDITY OF SUCH A NOTION IS DIFFICULT TO COMPREHEND.

25 April 2010

Editor, The New York Times 620 Eighth Avenue New York, NY 10018

To the Editor:

The group Green My Parents teaches children to prod adults into becoming more 'green' ("How to Green Your Parents," April 22). Allison Arieff approves. She croons that "GMP recognizes that young people are inherently attuned to their environment and understand the importance of protecting it."

Please.

Kids aren't inherently attuned to the environmental condition of even their own bedrooms, as a peek into a typical twelve-year-old's room will instantly prove. So it's asinine to think that children "inherently" care about the condition of Siberia or of Brazilian rainforests.

Today's prattling by young people about how awfully dirty the globe is reflects not kids' "inherent" tuning-in to the global environment but, instead, their indoctrination—performed by teachers and popular media—into the Church of Gaia.

Sincerely,

Donald J. Boudreaux

ART. I, SEC. 8 DOES NOT READ: "CONGRESS SHALL HAVE POWER THE TO MAKE ALL LAWS THAT IT DEEMS WILL BE GOOD FOR THE PEOPLE."

5 July 2010

Editor, USA Today 7950 Jones Branch Drive McLean, VA 22108-0605

Dear Editor:

Sandra Day O'Connor and George Nethercutt are correct that too many Americans lack sufficient understanding of U.S. history and of the meaning of this nation's founding documents ("Celebrate America by learning about her," July 3). In no group of Americans does this ignorance run more deeply and malignantly than it does for those in Congress and in the White House.

Aimed at ensuring that there would be no misunderstanding, the Tenth amendment makes clear what James Madison wrote in Federalist Paper #45 about the U.S. Constitution: "The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the Federal Government are few and defined." Those few powers are enumerated and defined in Article I, Section 8. Read the 429 words of this part of the Constitution and you'll find no authority there (or anywhere else in the Constitution) for Uncle Sam to enforce minimum wages; to command Americans to purchase health insurance; to dictate the hiring practices of private firms; to operate a universal 'pension' program; to oversee or fund education; to subsidize farmers—indeed, no authority to do so much of what Washington does today as a matter of routine.

Yet every elected official in America swears an oath to uphold the Constitution. Clearly, these oaths are muttered insincerely or in inexcusable ignorance (or both).

Sincerely,

Donald J. Boudreaux

AND, HEY, NO PUBLICATION PAYS FOR PUBLISHED LETTERS TO THE EDITOR.

1 April 2011

Editor, Los Angeles Times 202 West 1st Street Los Angeles, California 90012

Dear Editor:

I'm in the odd position of agreeing with the Huffington Post. Michael Walker criticizes that popular on-line publication for its policy of not paying $$$ to its contributors ("Why should writers work for no pay?" April 1). Arianna Huffington replies that the abundant exposure that the site she founded (and now owned by AOL) provides to aspiring pundits is itself sufficient compensation.

Ms. Huffington is unquestionably correct. Because her site is only one of thousands of venues to which pundits can peddle their prose, and because many lesser-known pundits continue to eagerly write for the HP without expecting money from the HP, the HP clearly provides ample value to its contributing writers. Tit for tat. Voluntary trade with mutual benefits. All parties to the transactions gain and no one loses. Works out nicely; it truly does.

A lesson here that I hope Ms. Huffington and her colleagues will take to heart is that third parties, even when well-intentioned, are poorly positioned to assess the merits of—and to second-guess the detailed terms of—capitalist acts among consenting adults.

Sincerely,

Donald J. Boudreaux

MORICI SEEMINGLY IS UNAWARE OF DAVID FRIEDMAN'S DISCOVERY THAT IOWANS GROW CARS IN THEIR CORNFIELDS.

6 November 2011

Editor, FoxNews.com 1211 Avenue of the Americas New York, NY 10036

Dear Editor:

Peter Morici claims that a trade deficit is "lost purchasing power" ("What's Holding Back Job Creation," Nov. 4). He's hopelessly confused.

Evidence of this confusion abounds. In the middle of his op-ed Prof. Morici laments businesses' "[i]nadequate investment in labor saving technology," yet he ends his op-ed by complaining that foreigners (especially the Chinese) ship too many goods to us in exchange for what we ship to them.

Say what? Because labor-saving technology is indeed good, then trading arrangements that enable us Americans to get more imports for fewer exports are also good. If, say, American electronics producers would demand two hours of my economics lectures in exchange for one of their flat-screen TVs, while foreign producers demand only one hour of my lectures, I save labor by purchasing the foreign-made TV. That is, I'm made richer by buying my TV from abroad. (And I'll be made even richer if tomorrow the foreign producer lowers the price of its TV to only 30 minutes of my lecturing.)

Trade itself is a labor-saving technology, to be applauded no less enthusiastically than we applaud mechanization and other labor-saving technologies.

Sincerely,

Donald J. Boudreaux

THE ARROGANCE OF THESE PEOPLE NEVER CEASES TO AMAZE.

13 May 2010

Editor, USA Today 7950 Jones Branch Drive McLean, VA 22108-0605

Dear Editor:

Sen. Bill Nelson claims that "The ultimate answer to America's energy needs lies not in oil, but in the rapid development of alternative fuels" ("Halt offshore exploration," May 13).

How in the world does Mr. Nelson divine this alleged fact? Does he have expert insight into the full costs and benefits of developing and producing non-fossil fuels? Has he displayed a unique talent at predicting changes in the technologies that are used to extract petroleum? Hardly.

After a short stint in the Army, Mr. Nelson spent all of one year (1970) in the private sector (where he practiced law). From 1971 until today he has worked exclusively in politics. He has neither experience in the energy industry nor any record of entrepreneurship. For nearly 40 years—well over half of his life—he's devoted his career to spending other people's money. In short, he has no basis for making this claim.

Mr. Nelson's "answer to America's energy needs" deserves no more attention than does any such prophecy issued by a Ouija board or by a witch doctor reading the entrails of a rooster.

Sincerely,

Donald J. Boudreaux

LIKE TOO MANY LAW PROFESSORS TODAY, DEBORAH RHODE MISTAKENLY THINKS THAT "LAW" MEANS "COMMAND." PERHAPS HER EMPLOYER SHOULD CHANGE ITS NAME TO STANFORD COMMAND SCHOOL—AN INSTITUTION THAT TRAINS ITS STUDENTS IN THE SCIENCE OF ORDERING OTHERS ABOUT.

10 June 2010

Editor, Los Angeles Times 202 West 1st Street Los Angeles, California 90012

Dear Editor:

Meghan Daum reports that Stanford law professor Deborah Rhode wants legislation to prevent "lookism" ("Business: beastly toward beauty?" June 10). Ms. Rhode is disturbed that human beings prefer attractive people to unattractive people, and she wants to stop us—or at least stop business people, who channel their customers' preferences—from acting on this preference.

Ms. Rhode's proposal reminds me of Kurt Vonnegut's 1961 short story, "Harrison Bergeron," about a dystopia in which government intrudes obscenely into everyone's lives in order to achieve total equality of outcomes. Implants are put into smart people's brains to disrupt their better-than-average abilities to reason; "handicap bags" are worn by strong people to consume their above-average strengths; and masks are clamped over the faces of attractive people to hide their beauty.

While Ms. Rhode's proposal doesn't yet go this far, it shares the same totalitarian spirit that Vonnegut warned against. Those consumed with this spirit regard an imperfection in society—unequal abilities and opportunities—as an evil whose elimination justifies not only the most oppressive restrictions on people's freedoms but also the most tyrannical suppression of their very thoughts and desires.

Sincerely,

Donald J. Boudreaux

JIM CROW WAS LEGISLATION.

22 May 2010

Editor, The New York Times 620 Eighth Avenue New York, NY 10018

To the Editor:

Reacting to Rand Paul's remarks about the 1964 Civil Rights Act, you say that his libertarian philosophy "is a theory of liberty with roots in America's creation, but the succeeding centuries have shown how ineffective it was in promoting a civil society ... It was only government power that ... abolished Jim Crow" ("Limits of Libertarianism," May 22).

You've got it backwards. Jim Crow itself was government power. Jim Crow was legislation that forced the segregation of blacks from whites. Research shows that people acting in the free market that you apparently believe is prone to racial discrimination were remarkably reluctant to discriminate along racial lines. It was this very reluctance—this capacity of free markets to make people colorblind—that obliged racists in the late 19th century to use government to achieve their loathsome goals.

Had Mr. Rand's libertarian philosophy been followed more consistently throughout American history, there would have been no need for one government statute (the Civil Rights Act) to upend earlier government statutes (Jim Crow) and the business practices that they facilitated.

Sincerely,

Donald J. Boudreaux

WESTERN EXCEPTIONALISM.

4 May 2011

Editor, The Wall Street Journal 1211 6th Ave. New York, NY 10036

Dear Editor:

I disagree with Holman Jenkins's thesis that the killing of Osama bin Laden "vindicates" American civilization ("Civilization Vindicated," May 4). However necessary or just it was to kill Bin Laden, a civilization's value is never measured by the skill with which its government kills even the most deserving victims.

Governments have killed people for millennia. In taking down Bin Laden, the U.S. government simply did what governments throughout the ages have regularly done.

What distinguishes America and the west from most other civilizations (including the primitive one championed by Bin Laden) isn't our skill at martial deeds, but our embrace of individual liberty—liberty that clears space for peaceful and creative commerce. Our civilization is vindicated by our supermarkets full of food, by our shopping malls full of clothing, by our homes with solid floors and solid roofs and automatic dishwashers, by iPads and aspirin and antibiotics and Amazon.com, by the globe-spanning cooperation that makes all of these things real—and by the freedom from central direction and mind-numbing, soul-shriveling superstitions that have made so many other 'civilizations' sanguinary and hellish.

Sincerely,

Donald J. Boudreaux

WITH THANKS TO MY BETTER HALF FOR THIS INSIGHT.

7 December 2006

The Editor, The New Yorker 4 Times Square New York, NY 10036

To the Editor:

Lou Dobbs believes "unequivocally" that free trade harms ordinary Americans ("Mad as Hell," Dec. 4). So being a courageous man of principle, he'll no doubt soon inform his bosses at Time-Warner, CNN's owner, that they contribute to the demise of middle-class America by broadcasting (according to CNN's website) in "Asia Pacific, South Asia, Europe, Middle East, Japan, Africa, Latin America, North America." And when his bosses refuse to stop trading internationally, I await hearing Mr. Dobbs thunder on air that CNN's participation in globalization is yet another instance of shameless corporate greed.

Sincerely,

Donald J. Boudreaux

A NATION WITH A SUFFICIENT NUMBER OF SUCH SHEEP WILL SURELY HEAD FOR SLAUGHTER.

17 December 2010

Editor, The New York Times 620 Eighth Avenue New York, NY 10018

To the Editor:

Reproaching people who complain about taxes, Liane Norman insists that "taxes are really just prices" (Letters, Dec. 17).

No ma'am. Prices are terms of exchanges voluntarily agreed to by willing buyers and willing sellers. Because prices result from people spending—or not spending!—their own money, they reflect genuine consumer desires and resource scarcities.

In stark contrast, taxes are forced extractions. Even when spent with the intent of benefitting taxpayers, taxes—unlike prices—are never the result of bargains between buyers and sellers. Taxes, instead, are the result of commands issued by rulers to subjects.

Buyers who refuse to pay sellers' asking prices go without the goods. Subjects who refuse to pay the sovereign's demanded tax go to jail.

Sincerely,

Donald J. Boudreaux

THE MESSIAH-NIZATION CONTINUES.

13 November 2008

Editor, The New Yorker 4 Times Square New York, NY 10036

Dear Editor:

Your November 17th cover shows the "O" in "New Yorker" as an Obama "O", rising like a radiant and beneficent moon into a peaceful night sky.

This picture is beautiful. It's also terrifying.

Even to hint that any human being possesses super-human powers—that he or she is anointed by celestial forces—that he or she reigns over the rest of us in some grander-than-human fashion—is an atavistic reflex, one that modern humanity should have progressed beyond.

Americans rightly laugh at the ridiculous things that many North Koreans believe (or are at least told) about Kim Jong-il. Let us not turn ourselves into objects of similar ridicule.

Sincerely,

Donald J. Boudreaux

AND IT'S NOT EVEN AN INFATUATION THAT'S SOBER AND MATURE ...

21 September 2010

Editor, Washington Post 1150 15th St., NW Washington, DC 20071

Dear Editor:

Enjoying an uproariously good time poking fun at the Tea Party, Richard Cohen helpfully explains that its adherents' insistence on strict interpretation of the Constitution is the result of a "fatuous infatuation" with that document—is the consequence of a yokel-like refusal to recognize that the Constitution is valuable "only because it has been wisely adapted to changing times. To adhere to the very word of its every clause hardly is respectful to the Founding Fathers" ("Republicans under a spell," Sept. 21).

Question for Mr. Cohen: if government officials and the courts are free to choose which words of the Constitution to "adhere to" and which to ignore, what meaning does the Constitution really possess? And why did the Founding Fathers struggle so hard during the long, hot summer of 1787 over the precise wording of the Constitution? Why didn't they—to ensure that they would win the respect of future generations of Very Smart Persons—simply draft a document that reads "Government may do whatever it judges to be best for The People" and leave it at that?

Sincerely,

Donald J. Boudreaux

USA TODAY ASKED ITS REGULAR LETTER WRITERS TO COMMENT—IN CELEBRATION OF THAT NEWSPAPER'S 25TH ANNIVERSARY IN SEPTEMBER—ON HOW 2007 DIFFERS FROM 1982. (BE WARNED: YOU MIGHT STRONGLY DISAGREE.)

29 August 2007

Editor, USA Today 7950 Jones Branch Drive McLean, VA 22108-0605

To the Editor:

The Internet, cell phones, GPS navigation, and the Boston Red Sox's 2004 World Series victory are just some of the happy marvels of the past quarter-century. Alas, 2007 differs from 1982 also in ways less happy—one of which is the re-emergence of xenophobia. 9/11 fueled this ugly trend. But even before that awful September day Americans were growing more overtly hostile to immigrants. Groundless fears over jobs and threats to America's culture are stoked successfully today by nativist rabble-rousers such as Lou Dobbs and Michelle Malkin. Modern "Minutemen" officiously "guard" Americans against immigrants. A 700-mile-long wall is being built to "protect" us from Latin Americans seeking work. Across the land there spreads a disquieting "us-versus-them" mentality.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from HYPOCRITES & HALF-WITS by DONALD J. BOUDREAUX Copyright © 2012 by Free To Choose Network. Excerpted by permission of Free To Choose Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author


Donald J. Boudreaux served as chairman of the department of economics at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, from 2001 to 2009. He runs a blog, www.CafeHayek.com, with Russ Roberts and has lectured in the United States, Canada, Latin America, and Europe. He is the author of Globalization (2008), and his writing has been published in the Wall Street Journal, Investor's Business Daily, Regulation, Reason, Ideas on Liberty, the Washington Times, the Journal of Commerce, the Cato Journal, and several scholarly journals.

Before chairing the economics department at George Mason, Boudreaux was president of the Foundation for Economic Education; associate professor of legal studies and Economics at Clemson University, and assistant professor of economics at George Mason University.

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