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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This Could Be the Greatest Gambling Platform in History by Jim Epstein

An online gambling platform could do to the neighborhood bookie what electric refrigerators did to the ice delivery man.

Coming this fall, Augur will allow participants to wager money on any future event of their choosing. Software will set the odds, collect the bets, and disperse the winnings. The price alone should give Nevada sportsbook operators pause; an estimated one percent of every pot will go to keep the system running. The average vig today is about 10 times that.

Augur isn’t a full-fledged casino. You can’t play roulette or poker, and running lotto on the platform would be tricky. But it’ll be great for sports betting.

Here’s what’s truly novel about Augur: It won’t be controlled by any person or entity, nor will it operate off of any one computer network. All the money in the system will be in Bitcoin, or other types of peer-to-peer cryptocurrency, so no credit card companies or banks need to be involved.

If the system runs afoul of regulators — and if it’s successful, it most certainly will — they’ll find that there’s no company to sue, no computer hardware to pull out of the wall, and no CEO to lockup in a cage.

This is new legal territory. If Augur catches on as a tool for betting on everything from basketball games to stock prices, is there anything the government can do to stop it?

Augur is a decentralized peer-to-peer marketplace, a new kind of entity made possible by recent breakthroughs in computer science. The purpose of these platforms is to facilitate the exchange of goods and services among perfect strangers on a platform that nobody administers or controls. Augur’s software will run on what’s known as a “blockchain” — a concept introduced in 2008 with the invention of Bitcoin — that’s essentially a shared database for executing trades that’s powered and maintained by its users.

Bitcoin’s blockchain was designed as a banking ledger of sorts — kind of like a distributed Microsoft Excel file — but Augur will utilize a groundbreaking new project called Ethereum that expands on this concept.

Ethereum allows Augur’s entire system to live on the blockchain. That means the software and processing power that makes Augur function will be distributed among hundreds or thousands of computers. Destroying Augur would involve unplugging the computers of everyone in the world participating in the Ethereum blockchain.

The rest of the article can be read here.

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New York’s Taxi Cartel Is Collapsing. Now They Want a Bailout by Jeff Tucker

An age-old rap against free markets is that they give rise to monopolies that use their power to exploit consumers, crush upstarts, and stifle innovation. It was this perception that led to “trust busting” a century ago, and continues to drive the monopoly-hunting policy at the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department.

But if you look around at the real world, you find something different. The actually existing monopolies that do these bad things are created not by markets but by government policy. Think of sectors like education, mail, courts, money, or municipal taxis, and you find a reality that is the opposite of the caricature: public policy creates monopolies while markets bust them.

For generations, economists and some political figures have been trying to bring competition to these sectors, but with limited success. The case of taxis makes the point. There is no way to justify the policies that keep these cartels protected. And yet they persist — or, at least, they have persisted until very recently.

In New York, we are seeing a collapse as inexorable as the fall of the Soviet Union itself. The app economy introduced competition in a surreptitious way. It invited people to sign up to drive people here and there and get paid for it. No more standing in lines on corners or being forced to split fares. You can stay in the coffee shop until you are notified that your car is there.

In less than one year, we’ve seen the astonishing effects. Not only has the price of taxi medallions fallen dramatically from a peak of $1 million, it’s not even clear that there is a market remaining at all for these permits. There hasn’t been a single medallion sale in four months. They are on the verge of becoming scrap metal or collector’s items destined for eBay.

The rest of the article can be read here.

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Great Moments in Socialism by Dan Mitchell

Socialism is an economic failure. International socialism didn’t work in the Soviet Union. National socialism didn’t work in Germany. And democratic socialism, while avoiding the horrors of its communist and Nazi cousins, also has been a flop.

Socialism fails because it attempts to replace market-determined prices with various forms of central planning based on government-dictated prices.

Moreover, socialism channels self interest in a destructive direction. In a free market, people get income and improve their lot in life by satisfying and fulfilling the needs of other people. In a socialist system, by contrast, people squabble over the re-slicing of a shrinking pie.

Sure, the masses are equally impoverished by socialist systems, but a handful of people escape this fate. You probably won’t be surprised to learn that the government elites have very comfortable lives. And that may be the understatement of the century, as indicated by this report in the U.K.-based Daily Mail. Here are some very relevant passages.

The daughter of Hugo Chavez, the former president who once declared ‘being rich is bad,’ may be the wealthiest woman in Venezuela, according to evidence reportedly in the hands of Venezuelan media outlets. Maria Gabriela Chavez, 35,…holds assets in American and Andorran banks totaling almost $4.2billion… Others close to Chavez managed to build up great personal wealth that was kept outside the petrostate. Alejandro Andrade, who served as Venezuela’s treasury minister from 2007 to 2010 and was reportedly a close associate of Chavez, was discovered to have $11.2billion in his name… During his lifetime, Hugo Chavez denounced wealthy individuals, once railing against the rich for being ‘lazy.’ ‘The rich don’t work, they’re lazy,’ he railed in a speech in 2010. ‘Every day they go drinking whiskey – almost every day – and drugs, cocaine, they travel.’

Animal_Farm_book_cover_v2A_by_AstroCrush

The entire article can be read here.

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Genetic Algorithms for multimodal optimization: a review

In this article we provide a comprehensive review of the different evolutionary algorithm techniques used to address multimodal optimization problems, classifying them according to the nature of their approach. On the one hand there are algorithms that address the issue of the early convergence to a local optimum by differentiating the individuals of the population into groups and limiting their interaction, hence having each group evolve with a high degree of independence. On the other hand other approaches are based on directly addressing the lack of genetic diversity of the population by introducing elements into the evolutionary dynamics that promote new niches of the genotypical space to be explored. Finally, we study multi-objective optimization genetic algorithms, that handle the situations where multiple criteria have to be satisfied with no penalty for any of them. Very rich literature has arised over the years on these topics, and we aim at offering an overview of the most important techniques of each branch of the field.

The entire paper can be read here.

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Political Economy Quote of the Week for 20150831

“And, indeed, what is the State anyway but organized banditry? What is taxation but theft on a gigantic, unchecked, scale? What is war but mass murder on a scale impossible by private police forces? What is conscription but mass enslavement?” – Murray Rothbard, For a New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto.

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The Tom Woods Show: Episode 477 – Hans Hoppe on How and Why the State Controls Money and Banking

In this episode of The Tom Woods Show, Woods discusses why the state must control money and banking, using the analysis of Hoppe in his book The Economics and Ethics of Private Property. As always, additional information can be found at the show notes page.

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Mises and the Market By Robert P. Murphy

The U.S. equity markets have whipsawed about, causing investors consternation because of the drops but also the volatility. Indeed, on August 24 trading in major equity indices was temporarily halted, including the first time ever for the S&P 500 Futures, while the next day saw the biggest downside reversal for the Dow since October 2008. As shocking as these developments may be to some analysts, those versed in the writings of economist Ludwig von Mises have been warning for years that the Federal Reserve was setting us up for another crash.

Mises (1881–1973) was a champion of the “Austrian School” of economics. The school of thought is so named because historically its members came from Austria, though nowadays there is a strong tradition of Austrian economics in the United States. (Mises himself taught at New York University for 24 years.) The most celebrated Austrian economist is Mises’s follower Friedrich Hayek, who won the Nobel Prize in 1974, primarily for his elaboration of Mises’s theory of the business, or boom-bust, cycle.

Although fans of the Austrian approach can cite numerous advantages over rival schools, in our times the most important distinction is the Austrian understanding of this cycle, which plagues modern market economies. Somewhat perversely, it turns out that if the Austrians are right, then the “medicine” administered during a slump by central banks around the world—including our own Federal Reserve—is actually poison.

According to Mises and his disciples, interest rates serve a vital function in a free-market economy. The legitimate market rate of interest signals the relative scarcity of savings versus investment opportunities. If the community is willing to defer immediate gratification by reducing consumption and saving more, then this frees up real resources. Rather than channeling steel, labor, and lumber into building another shopping center, those resources can be diverted into constructing a deep-sea oil rig.

In this example, the extra savings from the public manifests itself in lower interest rates, which give entrepreneurs the green light to invest in longer projects (such as the oil rig). Eventually the average standard of living will be higher, but only after the longer projects are completed and the finished consumer goods shoot out the end of the longer pipeline.

However, what happens if interest rates fall not because of a genuine increase in saving by the public, but rather because central banks flood the financial sector with newly created money? According to the Austrians, this typical remedy merely sets off an unsustainable boom. Entrepreneurs still get the green light to start longer term investment projects, but the economy lacks the real savings necessary to bring them to fruition.

Such has been the condition of the U.S. and other major economics since the extraordinary interventions by central banks after the 2008 financial crisis. For example, the nearby chart shows the tight connection between the S&P 500 and the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet since the first round of QE (quantitative easing) in 2009:

As the chart indicates, the impressive bull market in U.S. equities has been tied directly to the Fed’s unprecedented asset purchases. Specifically, since the crisis in 2008 the Fed has purchased trillions of dollars of Treasuries and mortgage-backed securities (these were the so-called “toxic assets” of the financial panic), quintupling its balance sheet in just seven years. The purchases came in three waves of “quantitative easing,” and the chart shows that the U.S. stock market generally rose in synch with these purchases.

The rest of the article can be read here.

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