Mises Daily Top 10 of 2010

January 4, 2011

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The Mises Daily Top 10 of 2010
by Briggs Armstrong on January 4, 2011

Every year the Mises Institute publishes hundreds of articles, videos, audio recordings, and electronic books on Mises.org; all are available for free. It would be incredibly difficult, perhaps even impossible, to keep up with all of the content generated in a year. All of the articles and media have great value and are instrumental in advancing good economic understanding throughout the world, but some have proven to be wildly popular. This article is the first of a series intended to give busy Mises.org readers an easy way to catch up on some of the smash hits of 2010. The rankings are based solely on the number of reads or downloads each item received during the year.

Top 10 Mises Dailies of 2010

Mises.org features three daily articles on the homepage every weekday. These articles are short and focus on specific, narrow topics. They are written for the masses, which is not to say that they are not informative or that experts cannot benefit from reading them. Mises Daily authors possess a skill held by very few others; they are able to take complex topics and convey them in a form that is accessible, concise, and enjoyable to read. Some of these articles are written by academic professionals, but the majority of dailies published on Mises.org are written by brilliant amateurs who are passionate about a particular issue and want to help the world gain a better understanding of their topic of interest. Like everything published by the Mises Institute, these articles are not imprisoned by copyrights; they are often reposted on dozens of other websites and translated into many other languages.

1. “Repeal the Drinking Age” by Jeffrey A. Tucker

This was the most popular article published in 2010. Tucker discusses the issue of a minimum drinking age from both a practical and ethical standpoint and thoroughly disabuses the reader of the notion that prohibition is somehow beneficial for particular age groups. He reminds readers that, for most underage men and women, the law is little more than an inconvenience and can even result in increased incidence of binge drinking. Tucker examines, in his singular fashion, the history of drinking laws as well as the laws of less restrictive European nations while discussing the many unintended consequences of such legal restrictions on human liberty. If you somehow missed this piece, be sure to give it a read now.

2. “How the Stock Market and Economy Really Work” by Kel Kelly

Oh, how very different CNBC would be if all of its employees — especially Jim Cramer — and guests took five minutes to read this piece. Kelly, a veteran Wall Street trader, explains that the money supply is the real driving force behind consumer prices, stock prices, and GDP. Without throwing around any of the confusing jargon so dearly loved by Wall Street traders, he explains how the Fed uses its printing press to give the appearance of growth and prosperity. Kelly writes,

The only real force that ultimately makes the stock market or any market rise (and, to a large extent, fall) over the longer term is simply changes in the quantity of money and the volume of spending in the economy. Stocks rise when there is inflation of the money supply.

Reading this short article will surely pay huge dividends.

3. “Ten Economic Blunders from History” by John S. Chamberlain

This piece is not only fun to read but also serves as a much needed reminder of how easily policies that may seem like good ideas can result in absolute disaster. The blunders span nearly two millennia and have one thing in common, all result from government authorities who try to change reality at the point of a sword or the stroke of a pen. Though Chamberlain gives each of the ten blunders he highlights only one paragraph, all of the important details are addressed. The reader quickly learns that in each case, the failures weren’t the result of poor implementation but were the inevitable result of attempting to intervene to change immutable economic law.

4. “Prop. 19 Goes Up in Smoke” by Mark Thornton

Dr. Thornton’s piece was a huge hit, not because Mises.org readers are a bunch of stoners, but because it was the only article that thoroughly answered the question on everyone’s minds: How did marijuana legalization fail in California? For many, legalization seemed like a foregone conclusion; so when it failed, people across the country were scrambling for an explanation. Thornton, author of The Economics of Prohibition, came to the rescue with his brilliant insight that the Baptists-and-bootleggers model perfectly applies to this situation. He explains why religious groups teamed up with alcohol producers and even marijuana growers themselves to run an extremely well-funded fear campaign against legalization. With plans already reportedly in the works to reintroduce the legislation in 2012, this article will only grow in popularity.

5. “A Culture of Fear” by Jonathan M. Finegold Catalan

Over the past century, the American government has worked hard to cultivate a perpetual culture of fear. Catalan writes that a public that is afraid of various bogeymen is willing to accept, even demand, an increasingly large government to provide the illusion of safety and security. Fortunately, people eventually become jaded and desensitized to fear-mongering propaganda and begin to realize that the supposed threats may not be all that real. This forces government to frequently change the mask that the eminent danger wears; it was capitalism during the Great Depression, the Germans and Japanese during WWII, Marxism during the Cold War, Muslim terrorists after 9/11, and now it’s back to capitalism. Catalan argues that this culture of fear has been very successful in persuading the public to sell their individual rights and freedoms to big government.

6. “They’re No Angels” by Stephen Mauzy

Mauzy puts into words what most everyone already senses on some level; police aren’t angels and usually aren’t friends. He addresses the well-known fact that from birth we are told by the government that cops are the public’s greatest ally, existing to “protect and serve.” We can see that this indoctrination has been effective whenever voters applaud increases in the number of cops on the streets. Unfortunately, more cops means more severe enforcement of arbitrary laws and greater violations of property rights. Mauzy reminds readers that when it is you who is being harassed and ticketed for minor violations of traffic laws, you tend to see officers as more of a threat to your freedom and your wallet. In a country obsessed with exalting cities’ armed revenue collectors, this article is immensely valuable.

7. “Praxeology and Ethics of Traffic Lights” by Justin T.P. Quinn

According to Quinn, many who vehemently oppose virtually every sort for government regulation and intervention often concede that regulations are indeed necessary for traffic control. The long-held belief is that, in the absence of road signs and traffic lights, traffic would be at a perpetual standstill, if not worse. Quinn writes that videos of real-world cases of complete traffic deregulation conclusively demonstrate that roadway anarchy is the ideal situation for both drivers and pedestrians. He uses praxeology to explain the seemingly odd phenomenon of roadways that were once the commuters’ nightmare becoming uncongested through deregulation. The evidence Quinn proffers to support his call for immediate removal of all traffic lights and signs is truly astounding and worth viewing — especially if you happen to be stuck in traffic and have a smartphone.

8. “The Brilliance of That Hayek vs. Keynes Rap” by Jeffrey A. Tucker

When this article first ran in February, the famous video had a half million views; today it has nearly two million. Tucker systematically analyzes virtually every scene in this seven-and-a-half minute economics-rap video by John Papola and Russ Roberts. Tucker brings to light many of the subtleties that may otherwise be lost on the casual observer and, in doing so, gives the reader a far greater appreciation for Papola and Roberts’s work. He explains that the singular synthesis of creativity, accuracy, and even fairness in a format that is both educational and appealing to the masses makes the video so special and valuable. You could watch the video a dozen or so times to try to pick up on all of the subtle points, or you could just read Tucker’s article and marvel at the creative genius that went into the video’s making.

9. “Gold and Guns” by Douglas French

Austrians and libertarians have been obsessed with gold and guns for ages. Only recently has the general public boarded what was once considered the “crazy train.” But it seems that two distinct camps have emerged, those stocking up and those liquidating. French describes the process of civilization as “delaying consumption, saving, and building capital.” He relies upon the work of Hans-Hermann Hoppe to help explain why the government’s actions over the past few years are leading some less informed people to engage in what he describes as decivilization. These people are desperately trying to maintain the lifestyle to which they grew accustomed during the Fed-fueled boom and are selling off every scrap of gold they can get their hands on, often for substantially less than its broader market value. Those in the civilized camp are buying up all the guns, gold, and ammo they can get their hands on, to the point that merchants’ shelves are completely bare. This, according to French, is the rational behavior of rational people insuring themselves against future disasters. This short piece sheds light upon the psychological and economic reasons for the current gold-and-guns phenomenon and couldn’t have come at a better time.

10. “The Constitution of Utilitarianism?” by David Gordon

David Gordon’s book reviews have long been the stuff of legend, and it is easy to see why. Unlike so many reviewers employed by the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal, Gordon reads every single page and applies his penetrating intellect to examining both the book as a whole and the most subtle of details. His reviews provide valuable insight even to those who have already read the book in question, and this review of Timothy Roth’s Morality, Political Economy, and American Constitutionalism is no exception. This review is the perfect conclusion to our list of the 10 most popular Mises Dailies appearing on Mises.org in 2010.

Briggs Armstrong holds a degree in accounting from Auburn University and is a staff member of the Ludwig von Mises Institute. Send him mail. See Briggs Armstrong’s article archives.

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