From the “Preface to the English Edition” of “The Theory of Money and Credit” by Ludwig von Mises: “All proposals that aim to do away with the consequences of perverse economic and financial policy, merely by reforming the monetary and banking system, are fundamentally misconceived. Money is nothing but a medium of exchange and it completely fulfills its function when the exchange of goods and services is carried on more easily with its help than would be possible by means of barter. Attempts to carry out economic reforms from the monetary side can never amount to anything but an artificial stimulation of economic activity by an expansion of the circulation, and this, as must constantly be emphasized, must necessarily lead to crisis and depression. Recurring economic crises are nothing but the consequence of attempts, despite all the teachings of experience and all the warnings of the economists, to stimulate economic activity by means of additional credit.

Mathematicians of the day.

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From Atlas Obscura: Over Half a Ton of Ancient Roman Coins Unearthed by Construction Workers

Over 1,300 pounds of ancient Roman coins were discovered by a construction crew laying pipes on Wednesday in southern Spain.

The coins, many of which were minted with the likenesses of the emperors Maximian and Constantine, were found in 19 amphoras, sealed jug-like containers that were apparently used to store the money. 

The coins were not buried deep, just about a yard beneath the earth in Tomares, outside of Seville, according to the Associated Press

The rest of the article can be read here.

Image from the twitter feed of Consejería Cultura ‏@CulturaAND

Image from the twitter feed of Consejería Cultura ‏@CulturaAND

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Elon Musk, Crony Capitalist by Veronique de Rugy

While I prefer the term racketeer, “Elon Musk, Crony Capitalist”, is a good article about Musk’s multi billion dollar rackets.

Creating something that people want is how one gets wealthy in a market economy. Sadly, there’s another way to get rich. It’s called cronyism, and it can make billions for the lucky businesses that get government support—whether their products are profitable or not. In the process, the taxpayers foot the bill.

Taxpayer insurance against unprofitability takes many forms, from loan guarantees to grants, which provide a no-lose scenario for beneficiaries. If the business is profitable, then the corporation makes massive profits. If the business goes bust, then the taxpayers take a hit. Either way, the crony capitalist wins.

Perhaps the most prominent case of cronyism in modern history is Elon Musk.

More recently, however, Musk has used his wealth to invest in space travel, solar panels, and electric cars. There wasn’t anything wrong with that until Musk dragged the government into it. Tesla Motors, SolarCity, and SpaceX—a few of his highest-profile projects—have relied heavily on government subsidies. According to a 2015 article in the Los Angeles Times, these three companies “together have benefited from an estimated $4.9 billion in government support.” And though none of these projects is profitable on its own, Musk is making a mint.

Tesla secured nearly $1.3 billion in benefits from a variety of sources, including money from Nevada to set up a car battery factory, federal subsidies through the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing program, and a number of federal and state tax breaks for the purchase of Tesla vehicles (such as the $7,500 federal tax credit and a $2,500 California rebate). Why would so much in government subsidies go to produce a car that only a few Americans can afford? The new Tesla Model S ranges from $80,000 to nearly $115,000 before tax credits and rebates.

SolarCity got over $300 million in federal grants and tax incentives, in addition to state and local subsidies meant to create an artificial demand for solar energy. In a funny twist, the company even moved in to old office space from Solyndra, the bankrupt crony solar panel company run by large donors to President Barack Obama’s campaigns and subsidized by the infamous Department of Energy’s 1705 loan program.

The Los Angeles Times shed some light on the state and federal cronyism involved in SpaceX: “On a smaller scale, SpaceX, Musk’s rocket company, cut a deal for about $20 million in economic development subsidies from Texas to construct a launch facility there. (Separate from incentives, SpaceX has won more than $5.5 billion in government contracts from NASA and the U.S. Air Force.)” And why are the taxpayers subsidizing a company that specializes in commercial space travel when the United States has a hard enough time balancing a budget?

The entire article can be read here.

I had previously posted an excerpt from “What Passes For Economic Policy In New York” that provides information about Musk’s SolarCity racket.

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The Tom Woods Show: Episode 650 – Fascism: The Career of a Concept

How about that: fascism has a definition after all, and isn’t just a term for whatever people happen to dislike. In his new book, Paul Gottfried traces the meaning of the word and how it’s been used over the years as a polemical device in ideological battles.’

Additional information can be found at the show notes page.

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From Fight Aging!: It Looks Like UNITY Biotechnology is Taking the Drug Development Path to Senescent Cell Clearance

UNITY Biotechnology and Oisin Biotechnologies are both early stage startups working on commercial development of therapies capable of clearance of senescent cells. Since accumulation of senescent cells is one of the root causes of aging and age-related disease, periodic removal of these cells is a narrowly focused form of rejuvenation. There are a number of other forms of damage and disarray that contribute to degenerative aging, and all will have to be fixed if aging is to be controlled by medicine, but an individual with fewer senescent cells is absolutely better off than one with more senescent cells regardless of the state of other forms of damage. Earlier this year researchers associated with UNITY Biotechnology published the results of the first life span study in normal mice engineered to destroy their own senescent cells, showing a 25% extension of median life span.

Judging from recent news, it seems that UNITY Biotechnology will take the apoptosis-inducing drug development path, and, interestingly, is also setting up from the outset to deploy therapies outside the US in less heavily regulated regions:
The entire article can be read here.

The article refers to a press release from Ascentage Pharma, a company based in China, announcing a joint venture with UNITY Biotechnology.

Ascentage Pharma, a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company focused on apoptosis-targeted oncology drug discovery and development, and UNITY Biotechnology, a San Francisco-based biopharmaceutical company focused on the development of medicines to improve healthspan, announced a worldwide collaboration to develop senolytic treatments for age-related disease.

The Ascentage team has been working for over a decade to create small-molecule drugs targeting programmed cell death and has established a best-in-class compound library and clinical-stage lead compounds for oncology therapeutics.

UNITY Biotechnology, backed by ARCH Venture Partners, Venrock and Wuxi Healthcare Ventures, has been working for four years to elucidate the link between senescence and aging and has demonstrated in animal models that clearing senescent cells reverses or prevents many age-related pathologies, including osteoarthritis, atherosclerosis, glaucoma, and kidney disease.

“At UNITY, we have demonstrated that senescence is a key mechanism in aging and age-related disease,” said Dr. Nathaniel David, founder and CEO of UNITY Biotechnology. “We have evaluated a wide panel of drug candidates that clear senescent cells, and Ascentage’s compounds are some of the best we’ve seen. Access to their compound library through this collaboration will significantly accelerate our efforts to develop drugs to improve healthspan by halting or reversing several age-related diseases.”

The Ascentage R&D team has a proven track record in structure-based drug design and lead optimization of small-molecule drug candidates targeting protein-protein interactions. “We chose Ascentage as our partner in this exciting anti-aging field not only because of its cutting-edge technology, but also because this partnership will allow us to reach a global market,” David said. As part of the deal, the companies will also form a joint venture for the development and commercialization of senolytic drugs in China.

The rest of this article can be read here.

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A Superior Vision by Walter Williams

Last month, I celebrated the beginning of my 81st year of life. For nearly half that time, I have been writing a nationally syndicated column on many topics generating reader responses that go from supportive to quite ugly. So I thought a column making my vision, values and views explicit might settle some of the controversy.

My initial premise, when looking at all human issues, is that each of us owns himself. I am my private property, and you are your private property. If you agree with that premise, then certain human actions are moral and others immoral. The reason murder is immoral is that it violates private property. Similarly, rape and theft are immoral, for they, too, violate private property. Most Americans will agree that murder and rape violate people’s property rights and are hence immoral. But there may not be so much agreement about theft. Let’s look at it.

Theft is when a person’s property is taken from him — through stealth, force, intimidation, threats or coercion — and given to another to whom it does not belong. If a person took your property — even to help another person who is in need — it would be called theft. Suppose three people agreed to that taking. Would it be deemed theft? What if 100,000 or several hundred million people agreed to do so? Would that be deemed theft? Another way to ask these questions is: Does a consensus establish morality?

Self-ownership can offer solutions to many seemingly moral/ethical dilemmas. One is the sale of human organs. There is a severe shortage of organs for transplantation. Most people in need of an organ die or become very ill while they await an organ donation. Many more organs would become available if there were a market for them. Through the National Organ Transplant Act of 1984, Congress has made organ sales illegal. Congress clearly has the power to prevent organ sales, but does it have a right? The answer to that question comes by asking: Who owns your organs? One test of ownership is whether you have the right to sell something. In the case of organs, if it is Congress that owns our organs, then we have no right to sell them. That would be stealing from Congress.

The rest of the article can be read here.

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From The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center: 93 percent of advanced leukemia patients in remission after immunotherapy

‘… 93 percent of participants with B-cell acute lymphocytic leukemia, or ALL, who went into complete remission after their T cells were re-engineered into cancer killers — even though multiple other treatments had already failed them.

The CAR T-cell infusion Kleinhofer received was unique to this trial — a careful one-to-one mixture of “helper” (CD4) and “killer” (CD8) T cells, both engineered with a CD19-specific CAR that was designed and tested in the lab of trial investigator Dr. Stanley Riddell at Fred Hutch. As their names imply, the helper T cells assist the killer T cells in their mission to eradicate cells bearing the CD19 marker.

In other CAR T-cell trials, Maloney said, investigators “take whatever they can get,” meaning that the specific T cells engineered with a CAR are random, and each participant could get a different mixture of the two types of cells.

By creating a CAR T-cell product with a defined composition of helper and killer cells, the researchers were able to link the dose of cells a patient received with what they experienced afterward.

“You can’t work out how to go forward if you don’t have any correlations between what you put into the patient and what happens to the patient,” Turtle said. “If there’s an element of random effect in the dose of the stuff you’re giving or other things you’re doing, it’s very hard to make improvements.”

Low, medium and high doses of cells all seemed to cause remissions. The CAR T cells were effective at eliminating cancer cells anywhere they appeared, the researchers reported, whether in the bone marrow or in masses throughout the body.

Of the two participants cited in the study who didn’t go into remission, both had relatively little cancer in their marrow at the start of the trial. One of these ended up getting a transplant, relapsing, and rejoining the trial — and achieving remission after getting a higher T-cell dose.

Many participants experienced side effects after receiving the cells, the researchers reported. The most common side effect in the first two weeks after infusion was a condition called cytokine release syndrome, which is characterized by high fever and low blood pressure. Half of the participants also experienced confusion or other serious neurological side effects, almost all of which were temporary.

The people who were more likely to experience the most severe side effects were those who had the most cancer in their bone marrow initially and those in whom the CAR T cells multiplied most profusely after infusion, the researchers reported. In addition, the first two participants on the trial who received the highest dose of cells experienced severe toxicities, and one of these died. (A total of two patients died on the study.)

“Toxicity [from this therapy] can be severe. And we’re getting a handle on it, and we hope to make it safer, and indeed, I think we have made it safer,” Maloney said.

In response, the researchers changed their approach: No more participants received the highest dose level, and participants with the greatest tumor burdens were assigned to receive the lowest dose of CAR T cells. This seemed to help.

The entire article can be read here.

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A Weekly Dose of Hazlitt: What Russian Trade?

What Russian Trade?” is the title of Henry Hazlitt’s Newsweek column from February 16, 1959. Here, Hazlitt shows how the gullible or useful idiots believed Soviets boasts about the strength of its export sector. It is interesting to speculate if the various US government agencies that provided bogus overestimates of the strength of the Soviet economy for decades made the same mistakes that Hazlitt notes in this article.

In past articles I have called attention to some of the
fictions and fallacies in recent hysterical comparisons
between Soviet Russia’s alleged “rate of economic
growth” and our own. But supposedly responsible
American publicists, in and out of government, continue
not only to swallow the Soviet boasts without adding
even a grain of salt, but to draw conclusions that would
be flagrantly fallacious even if the boasts were reliable.

One of the latest developments to arouse these
viewers-with-alarm has been “the Soviet challenge
in foreign trade.” In their front-page anxiety about
this they are merely acting as megaphones for official
Communist propaganda, as illustrated, for example, in
Mikoyan’s statement in Moscow on Jan. 31 in favor of
“peaceful competition in cooperation with other countries
in developing the economies of the underdeveloped
nations,” etc. Before we ask how “peaceful” this
“competition” has been or is likely to be, we may begin
by putting the subject in factual perspective. Just how
important, relatively, has Russian buying and selling
been? How does Russia rank in international trade?

It should not be too difficult to answer that question,
at least in approximate terms. The official figures are
available. It is merely necessary to have sufficient enterprise
and industry (like Alice Widener, for instance, in
U.S.A. magazine for Feb. 13) to dig them up and interpret
them. They are to be found among the 777 pages
of the United Nations Yearbook of International Trade
Statistics.

Soviet ‘Statistics’

According to the U.S.S.R.’s own official figures, it had
total exports of 17.5 billion rubles in 1957 and 15.8 billion
of imports. If we accept these figures at face value,
the next question is how to convert them into dollars
for purposes of comparison. The official rate of the ruble
is 4 to the dollar. The U.N. tables solemnly convert it
at that rate. Even at that rate, we find that the Soviet
Union did only 2 percent of world trade in 1957. And
we find that total U.S.S.R. exports to the free world in
1957 (after deducting “trade” with the Russian satellites
and Red China) amounted at that rate to only $966 million.
This is less than 5 percent of the total exports of
$20.6 billion from the United States in that year.

But the official 4-to-1 rate for the Russian ruble is a
flagrant fiction. Foreign-currency dealers in New York
will sell you rubles at 25 or more to the dollar and will
buy rubles at 50 to the dollar. If we are unkind enough
(as Mrs. Widener is) to convert rubles into dollars at
a rate of 24 to 1, we bring Russian exports to the free
world in 1957 down to a value of only $161 million. This
is less than the gross exports in that year of a single
American company, like General Electric. If, generously,
however, we convert rubles at the official tourist
rate of 10 to the dollar, we get total 1957 exports to the
free world of $386 million. This is less than the U.S.
Government spends every two days.

A Negligible Factor

About 73 percent of Soviet exports go to other
Communist countries. But even if we convert the
U.S.S.R.’s total exports in 1957 of 17.5 billion rubles at
the tourist rate of 10 to the dollar, we get only $1.8 billion.
This is not only less than one-tenth of U.S. exports
of $20.6 billion; it is only one-fifth of the 1957 exports
of West Germany ($9 billion), and it is about equal to
the exports of little Switzerland ($1.6 billion) with a
population 1/40th as large as the Soviet Union. And it
is by no means certain that a conversion rate of 20 or 25
to 1 for rubles into dollars would not be more realistic
than the tourist rate of 10 to 1.

Nor can these ridiculously small exports be attributed
to American “discrimination” against Russia since
1947. Soviet Russia has always been a negligible factor in
world trade. In 1938, the last full year before World War
II, American exports to the Soviet Union were valued at
about $70 million, and our imports from the U.S.S.R. in
the same year were valued at about $24 million.

Finally, as the Russian satellites and such reluctant
victims as Finland have discovered, “trade” is something
that Soviet Russia forces on weaker neighbors as a
form of tribute or extortion. But that’s another story.

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