Wednesday , February 20 2019
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Robert Murphy

Robert Murphy

Christian, Austrian economist, and libertarian theorist. Research Prof at Texas Tech and author of *Choice*. Paul Krugman's worst nightmare.

Articles by Robert Murphy

A Different Way to Understand Salvation Through Faith

3 days ago

One of the trickiest aspects of Protestantism is the notion of “salvation through faith alone,” as opposed to works. This is obviously a huge area of theological controversy, with many nuances in each denomination’s position. (This Wikipedia article gives an idea of the issues involved.)

For our purposes here, the reason this doctrine seems so perverse from a worldly perspective is that a serial killer who repents on his death bed “goes to heaven,” while a law-abiding, friendly guy who simply can’t believe thousand-year-old stories about a guy walking on water “goes to hell.”

One of the classic verses to support the Protestant position comes from Romans 4:

1What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? 2For if

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Catching Up on Podcasts

3 days ago

I have been traveling a lot and I can’t remember if I posted all of these. So anyway…

The Bob Murphy Show ep. 14 is my review of The Three Lads and the Lizard King.

The BMS ep. 15 is my interview with David Gornoski, which got into some heavy-duty stuff about scapegoating.

The BMS ep. 16 is my interview with Joe Salerno, which covers some of his work in Austrian economics but also fun Rothbard anecdotes.

And the last three episodes of Contra Krugman–here, here, and here–have been pretty fun, largely because we recorded late and Tom is usually in bed by 9.

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God Is Good

10 days ago

At the tail end of my discussion of The Three Lads and the Lizard King, I alluded to the familiar problem of evil, and how the orthodox Christian answer is a bit scandalous. Specifically, God allows evil to happen. In the book of Job, the Devil literally gets permission from God to do horrible things.

Yet the Bible also shows that God uses these evil acts–which do not originate with Him–to ultimately be turned into serving God’s purposes. The most obvious is the crucifixion of Jesus, which is the worst possible sin we could have committed, and yet God flipped it into our salvation and deliverance from evil.

Another one is the horrible policy of the Pharaoh to have newborn Israelites snuffed out (in order to control Israel’s population growth and keep them

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Yet Another Analogy on the Carbon Tax

15 days ago

We only have 12 years to act before I run out of analogies…

Try this one kids:

Should Students Support a “Point-Neutral Exam Reform?”Suppose a college math professor is very concerned about the self-esteem of her students, and so declares that for the upcoming exam, she will give each student the average of the actual scores that the class earns. That is, the professor will first grade the exam the normal way, then add up the total points earned by all of the students collectively, then divide the total by the number of students in the class, and finally she will award that result as the score to each student.When the professor announces the rule, at first the students are suspicious, as they have come to distrust anything proposed by adults—especially

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Why Does God Allow Suffering?

23 days ago

My pastor tackled this question today in church. I was impressed and glad to hear him admit fairly early that, “I don’t know.” (R.C. Sproul did the same thing, if I recall correctly, in his speech, “What Is Evil and Where Did It Come From?”)

My pastor used an analogy that I have often found useful, in comparing us to little children with earthly parents. There are time when a child might be furious at his mother, not understanding why she’s “being so mean!!” Yet in many cases, the human parent is actually acting in the best interest of the child, even though he might not understand why he has to take medicine, leave the playground, go to bed, etc.

Likewise, though we as adults are far wiser and smarter than toddlers, we are nothing compared to God. And so

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Nominations for Best Intro Episodes to Contra Krugman?

27 days ago

Some homework for you, kids: My dad wants me to compile a list of some of the best Contra Krugman episodes for him to send others, if they express interest in the concept. So the point here isn’t to teach someone Austrian business cycle theory, the point is to get the person to think, “Oh yeah, I’m glad I just spent a half hour listening to that, I’ll get some more episodes.”

What do you think? I’ve noticed that my favorite episodes are not necessarily yours.

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Why a Revenue-Neutral Tax Dividend Check Doesn’t Negate the Deadweight Loss of a Tax

29 days ago

I can see in the comments here, regarding my article about the economists writing a pro-carbon tax letter to the WSJ, that several of you aren’t seeing the big picture on the dividend stuff.

So in this post, let me give you a quick numerical example to show the standard way economists think about taxes, and how they distort behavior to cause “deadweight loss.”

Suppose there are two goods, X and Y. The consumer has a utility function:

u = ln(X) + ln(Y),

where ln(*) is the natural logarithm.

Further suppose that the price of X in the market is 1, while the price of Y is 2. Finally, suppose the consumer has a budget of 3000.

Without any taxes, the consumer optimizes by maximizing utility subject to the budget constraint. Typing this through

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Murphy Twin Spin on Energy Topics

January 19, 2019

==> My Part 2 of my critique of the “Green New Deal.”

==> My response to the 45 economists who wrote an open letter to the Wall Street Journal calling for a carbon tax. My favorite part:

Before leaving this section, let me try one last attempt to get the reader to see the sleight-of-hand that these economists are pulling here. Suppose that President Trump had his protectionist economic adviser, Peter Navarro (who has a PhD in economics from Harvard, by the way), announce a new tariff of 100% on all Chinese imports, but that the proceeds from this new tax would be sent lump-sum to every American citizen. Would the economists who signed the WSJ letter then agree that “most American families” would benefit financially from the tariff? I mean after all, rich

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Would Jesus Be Annoyed With Libertarian Memes?

January 14, 2019

Of course He would be–He’s fully human after all…

But specifically, what about the “TAXATION IS THEFT!” line of argument? Gene Callahan blogs that this isn’t scriptural, since we read in Luke 3:

10 And the crowds asked him [John the Baptist], “What then shall we do?” 11 And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics[b] is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.” 12 Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” 13 And he said to them, “Collect no more than you are authorized to do.” 14 Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.”

On this blog, someone in

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Lara-Murphy Show Ep. 65

December 19, 2018

This was a deep(er) dive into IBC mechanics, in response to a friendly wager submitted by two listeners. Specifically:

The controversy concerns two apparently conflicting goals: On the one hand, Nelson Nash says in BYOB that you should pay more against your policy loans than the insurance company requires, effectively buying more paid-up life insurance. But on the other hand, shouldn’t you aggressively fund your IBC policy up to the MEC limit right away, meaning there wouldn’t be any room left to pay more on a loan?

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The Dyson Sphere: I’m Not Saying It’s Aliens, But…

December 18, 2018

On Twitter I came across the actual paper (it’s one page) in which Freeman Dyson spelled out his idea of a sphere that harnesses the total energy output of a star. I never knew the context, though: He suggested that aliens had already built them, and explained the signature we should look for.

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December 17, 2018

==> For some reason, I was thinking about debt forgiveness and how the IRS treats that as taxable income. (In a related point, when Oprah first started giving cars out as prizes, apparently the recipients were upset because they’d get hit with a huge tax bill. So then Oprah had to cover the tax liability too, for her gift of a car to people.)

This came up I’m pretty sure in the wake of the housing bust, where even if a bank forgave somebody’s mortgage debt, the IRS would treat that as taxable income. Libertarians and normal people alike were outraged.

However, notwithstanding that taxation is theft, given the structure, it actually makes sense. Forgiving a debt in terms of the accounting is equivalent to income. (The recipient’s ability to consume without

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Surrendering to God

December 17, 2018

My girlfriend owns a massage studio and she told me that with some clients, they refuse to relax and stay tense, making it impossible for her to help them as much as she could, if they would only let down their defenses and trust her.

It occurred to me that this is what we do with God. Jesus said, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”

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December 12, 2018

==> On episode 8 of the Bob Murphy Show I interview David R. Henderson. Among other topics, we discuss his time on the Council of Economic Advisors where he rubbed shoulders with Krugman.

==> On episode 167 of Contra Krugman we call an audible and cover “hard topics” in libertarianism, such as terrorism and medical quarantines.

==> In the recently released Lara-Murphy Report, we interview Steve Landsburg. Note that we ask Steve to discuss some topics that didn’t come up in my podcast interview with him.

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I Feel Like I’m Taking Crazy Pills

December 10, 2018

Do any of you notice that my blog looks different? Specifically, does it seem that a lot of the borders have disappeared? (Maybe I’ve been hacked by Bryan Caplan?) My web guy recently did an upgrade, and so I thought that was it. But when I go to the Wayback Machine to try to show him what (I thought) it looked like before, it is also Open Borders Blog. Any thoughts?

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