Saturday, August 13, 2005

Points to Ponder:
(On Normative Questions and Theories)

This is a continuation of sorts from the thread posted HERE.

Which is the best method of resolving conflict over what's produced, how and when it's produced, and who's going to get it? Among the methods for doing so were the market mechanism, government fiat, gifts or violence. The answer is that economic theory can't answer normative questions.

Normative questions deal with what is better or worse. No theory can answer normative questions. Try asking a physics teacher which is the better or worse state: a solid, gas, liquid or plasma state. He'll probably look at you as if you're crazy. On the other hand, if you ask your physics teacher which is the cheapest state for pounding a nail into a board, he'd probably answer that the solid state is. It's the same with economic theory, as opposed to economists. That is, if you asked most economists which method of conflict resolution produces the greater overall wealth, they'd probably answer that the market mechanism does.

The bottom line is that economic theory is "objective" or non-normative and doesn't make value judgments. Economic policy questions are normative or "subjective" and do make value judgments -- questions such as: Should we fight unemployment or inflation, should we spend more money on education, and should the capital gains tax be 15 percent or 20 percent? It's in the area of value judgments where there's so much disagreement among economists.

Keeping the distinction between non-normative and normative in mind is very important, so let me elaborate a bit. Take the statement: The dimensions of this room are 30 feet by 40 feet. That's an objective statement. Why? If there's any disagreement, there are facts to which we can appeal to settle the disagreement, namely getting out a measuring instrument. Contrast that statement with: The dimensions of this room should be 20 feet by 80 feet. Another person disagrees, saying it should be 50 feet by 50 feet. There are no facts to resolve such disagreement. Similarly, there are no facts to which we can appeal to resolve a disagreement over whether the capital gains tax should be 15 percent or 20 percent, or whether it's more important to fight inflation or unemployment.

The importance of knowing whether a statement is non-normative or normative is that, in the former, there are facts to settle any dispute, but in the latter, there are none. It's just a matter of opinion, and one person's opinion is just as good as another. A good clue to telling whether a statement is normative is whether it contains the words should and ought. [Walter E. Williams (circa January 13, 2005)]

Labels: ,

Friday, August 12, 2005

Points to Ponder:
(On Methods of Resolving Conflict Resolutions)

There are several methods of conflict resolution. First, there's the market mechanism -- let the highest bidder be the one who owns and decides how the land will be used. Then, there's government fiat, where the government dictates who gets to use the land for what purpose. Gifts might be the way where an owner arbitrarily chooses a recipient. Finally, violence is a way to resolve the question of who has the use rights to the coastline -- let people get weapons and physically fight it out.

At this juncture, some might piously say, "Violence is no way to resolve conflict!" The heck it isn't. The decision of who had the right to use most of the Earth's surface was settled through violence (wars). Who has the right to the income I earn is partially settled through the threats of violence. In fact, violence is such an effective means of resolving conflict that most governments want a monopoly on its use.

Which is the best method to resolve conflict issues surrounding the questions of what's to be produced, how and when it's produced, and who's going to get it? Is it the market mechanism, government fiat, gifts or violence? Before you attempt an answer -- which I'll give in the next lecture -- be advised that it's a trick question that easily traps many of my teeny-bopper sophomore students and even a few graduate students...[Walter E. Williams (circa January 12, 2005)]

Labels:

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Some of my favourite poetry is song lyrics. This is particularly the case when the latter are written by those who have an intuitive understanding of the human condition. (Not to mention the ability to relate to people of various times and circumstances.) With that in mind, here are some lyrics to a song called Four Walls of Raiford. It was written by one of my favourite songwriters Ronnie Van Zant{1} (may he rest in peace). Anyway, the following strike some chords with me so I wanted to share them with you at the present time...

Well them four walls of Raiford, closing in on me
Doin’ three to five hard labor, for armed robbery
I had two years behind, but I could not wait the time
Everytime I thought about it, well I died some more inside


And I had stripes on my back, memories that hurt
For the only time I seen sunshine is when I hit the dirt
Diggin’ ditches for the chain gang, sleepin’ in the cold
Oh Lord please forgive me for I could not wait no more


And I comin’ home to see you Jesus
Well it feels so close this time
Please take mercy on this soldier
From the Florida-Georgia line


When they find me they must kill me
Oh Jesus save my soul
I can’t go back down to Raiford
I can’t take that anymore


Well these last few years behind me
Oh Lord, have been so sad
I fought proudly for my country when the times were bad
Now they say I’m guilty, when they find me I must die
Only me and Jesus know that I never stole a dime


Well when Vietnam was over there was no work here for me
I had a pretty wife awaitin and two kids I had to feed
Well I’m one of America’s heroes and when they shoot me down
Won’t fly Old Glory proudly, put my medals in the ground


And I comin’ home to see you Jesus
Well it feels so close this time
Please take mercy on this soldier
From the Florida-Georgia line


When they find me they must kill me
Oh Jesus save my soul
I can’t go back down to Raiford
I can’t take that anymore



Note:

{1} The problem is, I am in some ways more like Barry Goldwater probably. He was a conservationist also. Not that Reagan was against conservation but he was not supporting of it in the same manner as Goldwater did. Actually, some symbiosis of Reagan, Goldwater, St. Augustine, and Ronnie Van Zant would come closer to the real deal. Oh well, no test is perfect I suppose...[Excerpt from Rerum Novarum (circa March 23, 2003)]

Labels: , ,

Points to Ponder:
(On War and Last Resorts)

War should always be a last resort, and we can't just go in with an army and invade wherever religious freedom doesn't exist or where our missionaries can't operate in the open. Ann Coulter's ill conceived prescription was closer to an Islamic fascist's than St. Paul's (though that doesn't make her an Islamic fascist, obviously--just quick-tempered). Christians still have to look at the morality of the thing to the extent that it's possible to do so, and we still have to weigh the costs and risk of war against maintaining the status quo.

It may often be the case that from a Christian point of view, war is not the answer. But it may also be possible, again from a Christian point of view, that war is the only answer. In the case of the terrorist insurgency calling itself al Qaeda that is in league with many of the tyrannical governments across the Middle East that suppress Christianity there and want to exterminate it everywhere, war seems to be the only thing that will break a status quo that very much deserves destruction. To defend the status quo is to invite danger to our own freedoms and leave millions in bondage to brutal, Satanic governments. [Bryan Preston (circa 6/19/05)]

Labels: ,