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Ryan McMaken

Ryan McMaken

Ryan W. McMaken is the editor of Mises Daily and The Austrian. He has degrees in economics and political science from the University of Colorado, and was the economist for the Colorado Division of Housing from 2009 to 2014.

Articles by Ryan McMaken

Hey GOP, Want to Cut the Burden of Government? Cut Spending.

7 days ago

Washington, DC is currently in the middle of a the "tax reform" process, which as Jeff Deist, points out, is " a con, and a shell game." Tax reform proposals, Deist continues "always evade and obscure the real issue, which is the total cost — financial, compliance, and human — taxes impose on society."Tax reform is really about which interest groups can modify the current tax code to better suit their own parochial interests. The end result is not a lessened tax burden overall, and thus does nothing to boost real savings, real wealth creation, or real economic growth. It’s just yet another government method of rewarding powerful groups while punishing the less powerful ones. Not surprisingly then, the news that’s coming out of Washington about tax reform demonstrates that

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There’s No Such Thing as an “American” Homicide Rate

12 days ago

In September, the FBI released new homicide data, and the overall US homicide rate rose for the second year to an eight-year high. According to the report, the nationwide homicide rate in the US in 2016 was 5.3 per 100,000, up from 2015’s rate of 4.9. The homicide rate in 2014 — 4.4 per 100,000 — had been a 51-year low, and comparable to rates not seen since the 1950s. Homicide rates still remain well below where they were in the 1980s and 1990s, when homicide rates sometimes exceeded 9 per 100,000. 

When it comes to making any serious analysis, however, nationwide homicide rates for a place as large as the United States are next to useless. When we look at numbers on a state-by-state basis, we find that homicide rates vary from 1.3 per 100,000 in New Hampshire to

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Why a Small State Is More “Voluntary” than a Big One

13 days ago

Because of their physical size, large states are able to exercise more state-like power than geographically smaller states — and thus exercise a greater deal of control over residents. This is because larger states benefit from higher barriers to emigration than smaller states, thus allowing them to avoid one of the most significant barriers to expanding state power: the ability of residents to move away. Moreover, by virtue of the fact that the land area of the earth is more or less fixed, a small number of large states prevents the formation of a large number of small states.The economic and political implications of this are explained by Ralph Raico in his seminal work "The European Miracle." Raico explains how a large number of small states — and thus the relative ease

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When Gunmen Strike, You’re on Your Own

14 days ago

Here is an often-used tactic to defend government police organizations from criticism. Whenever critics point out abusive tactics of police officers, defenders counter with: "And yet you won’t refuse police help the next time there’s a robber in your house!" This, we are told, illustrates that all police critics are "hypocrites." This has always been a dishonest tactic, of course, since "consumers" of police "services" are forced to pay for the local monopoly police force, and have no other options. Government police forces have monopolized the marketplace and crowded out affordable private security through other means. Thus, calling the police to scare off some robbers on one’s property is no more hypocritical than a critic of the local power company who nevertheless

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Madison’s Definition of Democracy Is Now Irrelevant

17 days ago

The claim that the United States political system is "a republic, not a democracy" is often heard in libertarian and conservative circles, and is typically invoked whenever the term "democracy" is used in any favorable context. This claim is generally invoked when the user believes one of the following:"I don’t like your idea, and since it involves aspects that are democratic or majoritarian, I’ll invoke the republic-not-a-democracy claim to discredit your idea.""A majority of the population appears to support this idea, so I will invoke the republic-not-a-democracy claim to illustrate that the majority should be ignored." Also key to these claims is to invoke the authority of "the Founding Fathers" — by which is meant the pro-centralization nationalists and not the

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If American Federalism Were like Swiss Federalism, There Would be 1,300 States

20 days ago

In a recent interview with Mises Weekends, Claudio Grass examined some of the advantages of the Swiss political system, and how highly decentralized politics can bring with it great economic prosperity, more political stability, and a greater respect for property rights. Since the Swiss political system of federalism is itself partially inspired by 19th-century American federalism, the average American can usually imagine in broad terms what the Swiss political system looks like. There are Swiss cantons, which are like the American states. And there is the Swiss federal legislature, which is like the American congress.What the American tends to miss, however, is that the scale of political units in Switzerland is much, much smaller than that found in the United States.

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In Fed We Trust

25 days ago

At this point, does anyone believe the Fed is willing to do anything that might really spook markets? During the 1990s, back in the days of "Maestro" Alan Greenspan, it was widely believed that investors should pay careful attention to every word uttered by Fed chairment for clues as to where Fed policy was headed in the near future. Did Greenspan seem to favor higher interest rates, or was he keeping the money spigots open for the foreseeable future? If it looked like there was no threat of rising rates, then the markets responded bullishly. Monetary policy in that era will still easy-money oriented, historically speaking. But, the target rate did rise above six percent at times, so when the Fed chairmen talked about "tightening" there might at least be some mild rate

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Pentagon Pushes Plan for Female Draft Registration

25 days ago

The Pentagon is moving forward with pressuring Congress to add women to the Selective Service program, which will make virtually all young people eligible for the military draft. The Washington Times reports: The Pentagon says the country should stick with mandatory registration for a military draft, and it advocates a requirement for women to sign up for the first time in the nation’s history.The recommendations are contained in a Defense Department report to Congress that serves as a starting point for a commission examining military, national and public service.Congress ordered the Pentagon report, and the office of the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness completed it in the early months of the Trump administration.Currently, only male citizens and

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Can Trump and Rand Paul Save Healthcare?

October 19, 2017

Last week, Donald Trump signed a new executive order facilitating more flexibility for consumers of health insurance. The order allows for more flexibility in purchasing insurance across state lines, and greater freedom both small businesses and groups of consumers in creating "association health plans" (AHPs). In theory, this will broaden access to the benefits currently enjoyed only by those with employment-based insurance, and other types of group insurance. The order paves the way for healthcare reforms long favored by Kentucky Senator Rand Paul who believes the reforms will help bring down healthcare costs. In an op-ed for Breitbart, Paul writes: Millions of Americans will be eligible to band together to demand less-expensive insurance. The 28 million individuals left

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Europe’s Secession Problems Aren’t Going Away

October 19, 2017

Earlier this week, The New York Times noted that movements for greater local autonomy appear to be spreading throughout Europe. In some ways, the conflict in Catalonia is just the tip of the iceberg. The Times reports: Coming on the heels of the Catalan vote, the Lombardy and Veneto referendums are yet another signal of the homegrown conflicts that persist in many of the European Union’s member states. Separatist movements are also simmering in Britain — where voters in Scotland rejected independence in a 2014 referendum but continue to debate the issue — as well as France, Germany, Belgium and Romania.Like Catalonia — and unlike Scotland — the Lombardy and Veneto regions of Italy are among the wealthiest regions, and send enormous amounts of tax revenue to Rome. Italy’s

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Ayn Rand Was All Wet

October 12, 2017

One of Ayn Rand’s most notorious claims is that Europeans and their descendants were justified in driving Indian tribes off their lands because aboriginal Americans “did not have the concept of property or property rights,” and because they “wish[ed] to continue a primitive existence.” Rand also claims the Indian tribes had no right to the land they lived on because “they didn’t have a settled society,” and “had predominantly nomadic tribal ‘cultures.’” Rand even uses scare quotes around “cultures” to perhaps imply that Indian culture was not any type of culture at all.
Today, many critics of laissez-faire liberalism (i.e., libertarianism) continue to quote these lines in order to indict all defenders of private property, whom critics

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In a Cashless World, You’d Better Pray the Power Never Goes Out

October 10, 2017

When Hurricane Maria knocked out power in Puerto Rico, residents there realized they were going to need physical cash — and a lot of it. Bloomberg reported yesterday that the Fed was forced to fly a planeload of cash to the Island to help avert disaster:William Dudley, the New York Fed president, put the word out within minutes, and ultimately a jet loaded with an undisclosed amount of cash landed on the stricken island…[Business executive in Puerto Rico] described corporate clients’ urgent requests for hundreds of thousands in cash to meet payrolls, and the challenge of finding enough armored cars to satisfy endless demand at ATMs. Such were the days after Maria devastated the U.S. territory last month, killing 39 people, crushing buildings and wiping out the island’s

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Did the Indians Understand the Concept of Private Property?

October 9, 2017

One of Ayn Rand’s most notorious claims is that Europeans and their descendants were justified in driving Indian tribes off their lands because aboriginal Americans "did not have the concept of property or property rights," and because they "wish[ed] to continue a primitive existence." Rand also claims the Indian tribes had no right to the land they lived on because "they didn’t have a settled society," and "had predominantly nomadic tribal ‘cultures.’" Rand even uses scare quotes around "cultures" to perhaps imply that Indian culture was not any type of culture at all. Today, many critics of laissez-faire liberalism (i.e., libertarianism) continue to quote these lines in order to indict all defenders of private property, whom critics like to associate with Rand’s peculiar

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Does Ethnic Heterogeneity Make Homicide Worse in the Americas?

October 6, 2017

When gun-control advocates make international comparisons on homicide rates, they generally employ an assumption that places with more stringent gun control laws have lower homicide rates. Unfortunately for them, this only holds up when countries with both high levels of gun control and high homicide rates are excluded from the analysis.By recognizing the need to exclude most of the world’s nations from this analysis, the gun control advocates are of course implicitly admitting they recognize that gun control cannot explain low homicide rates in many areas. The case of Mexico, for example, illustrates quite well that simply imposing gun control does not eliminate problems with homicide.So, what can explain these differences? Forced to admit that gun control does not

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After Vegas Shooting, It’s Time to Take Private Security Seriously

October 2, 2017

In the wake of the Aurora Theater shooting, I suggested that private sector establishments ought to be expected to be more concerned about the safety of their customers. In the case of the Aurora Theater, this was magnified by the fact that the theater was a "gun free zone" and did not allow patrons to carry their own firearms as self defense. At the same time, the theater owners themselves couldn’t be bothered with taking even the most rudimentary steps against allowing a gunman to casually carry multiple weapons from his car into one of the theater’s back doors. The issue came up again with the Orlando shooting in 2016, when the perpetrator simply walked into a private establishment with a rifle and started shooting. Again, we find ourselves with a situation in which the

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3 Ways to Help Puerto Rico Right Now

September 29, 2017

There is a lot to learn from the slow and painful post-hurricane recovery that is going on in Puerto Rico right now.One of Puerto Rico’s biggest problems is that it is by far, one of poorest areas of the United States. The median household income in Puerto Rico is approximately $18,600. The median household income in the United States, by contrast, is around $57,000. As we’ve recently discussed here at mises.org (see here and here) it is generally far more difficult for low-income areas to weather storms, than it is for high income areas. The amount of capital at hand for repair and recovery is less in poor areas, as is the wealth available for constructing high-quality infrastructure. Repeating this fact to Puerto Ricans, however, does them little good in the short term.

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Yellen: The Economy May Be Weaker than We Thought

September 28, 2017

Janet Yellen this week cast doubt on the Fed’s announced plan to continue Fed rate hikes and reverse its years of "unconventional" monetary policy. “My colleagues and I may have misjudged the strength of the labor market,” Yellen announced on Tuesday, adding that they’d also misjudged "the degree to which longer-run inflation expectations are consistent with our inflation objective, or even the fundamental forces driving inflation."Yellen also "noted that the labor market, which historically has been closely linked to inflation, may not be as tight as the low unemployment rate suggests."In other words, Fed economists are concerned by the fact they’ve been unable to achieve their arbitrary 2% price-inflation objective, which they believe indicates a healthy level of

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Now that Roy Moore Won, Is his “Lawlessness” a Problem?

September 27, 2017

Roy Moore has won the run-off in the Republican primary for the US Senate. This virtually guarantees that Moore will be the next US Senator from Alabama, replacing Jeff Sessions, who is now US Attorney General. Moore will replace Luther Strange, who was appointed as temporary Senator until a special election could be conducted. Strange had the endorsement of both Donald Trump and Republican establishment fixtures such as Mitch McConnell. Moore isn’t getting any points for running against Trump’s preferred candidate, though. Immediately following Moore’s election, media leftists set to work denouncing Moore for being "Trumpian," "extreme," "a bigot" and all the usual epithets directed at Trump during the 2016 campaign. A look at social media right now, however, makes it

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Stop Wrapping the Flag Around Pro Sports

September 26, 2017

Desperate to fill hours and hours of air time on 24-hour news channels, media corporations have made sure the discussion of the correct posture of National Football League players has been front and center. Apparently, before grown men can chase a little toy around a grassy field for a few hours, it’s absolutely essential that they take part in a variety of pro-government rituals. This was not always the case, though, and prior to the twentieth century, it was hardly expected that a ballgame be preceded by a recitation of the national anthem or any other song of national allegiance.Some assert that current rituals are of especially recent origin, with  Tom Curran claiming on Comcast Sportsnet that prior to 2009, football players "weren’t on the field for the national

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Doesn’t Mexico Have Building Codes?

September 25, 2017

During the 1987 Whittier Narrows earthquake in Los Angeles, my mother was working in downtown Los Angeles in one of the buildings then known as the Arco Towers. The building was of early 1970s vintage, but thanks to expensive technology introduced to help high-rises withstand earthquakes, the Arco Towers merely swayed from side to side, rather than collapse in response to the quake. That earthquake was a medium-sized earthquake (to use casual terminology), but the building is designed to withstand far larger tremors. Eight people died in the wake of the quake. Two years earlier, the 1985 Mexico City earthquake struck with devastating results. While the earthquake was considerably stronger, the casualty totals were far beyond what we would expect were a similar quake to hit

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The Washington Post’s Latest (and Lamest) Attack on the Mises Institute

September 20, 2017

Earlier this year, when Nancy MacLean released her book on economist James Buchanan, Democracy in Chains, many of Buchanan’s supporters were shocked that someone would manufacture such an intricate and strained conspiracy theory to attack Buchanan. MacLean employed all the usual tricks of innuendo and hearsay to arrive at her conclusions: Buchanan was a racist. Buchanan supported dictators. Buchanan pushed a dark agenda of undermining America’s most cherished institutions. All accusations relied on guilt-by-association tactics and assigning motivations to Buchanan that MacLean could not possibly have known. "But Buchanan was such a harmless guy!" went up the chorus from Buchanan’s supporters, who were surprised by the personal nature of many of the attacks. What Buchanan’s

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If the Majority Votes to Secede — What About the Minority?

September 20, 2017

In recent years, left-wing groups have often been the driving force behind secession movements. This has been the case in Scotland, in Catalonia, and in California. In each case, the secession movements have been initiated in part to forward left-wing goals, such as the creation of a larger welfare state or to escape limitations imposed by political interest groups and institutions deemed to be too right-wing. Within the American context, the loudest calls for secession right now are coming from California where leftists are eager to assert their independence from the Trump administration in Washington.Generally speaking, these California secessionists want single-payer health care, an even larger welfare state, confiscation of private firearms, and an ever larger

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Trump’s China-Sanctions Madness Imperils the Dollar

September 20, 2017

Last week US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin warned the US will impose new sanctions on China if it doesn’t conform to UN sanctions on North Korea:"If China doesn’t follow these sanctions, we will put additional sanctions on them and prevent them from accessing the U.S. and international dollar system, and that’s quite meaningful."In other words, the administration wants to sanction one of the US’s biggest trading partners, and the world’s second-largest economy.China is the world’s third-largest recipient of Americans exports, behind only Canada and Mexico. China is the world’s largest source of imports for Americans, slightly ahead of both Mexico and Canada.In 2016, Americans exported $169 billion in goods and services to China while importing $478 billion of goods and

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US Sanctions Against Venezuela Will Hurt Americans

September 19, 2017

After fifty years of imposing embargoes and other sanctions, the United States never managed to topple Cuba’s communist regime. After forty years of the same in Iran, the US met with similar amounts of success. Ongoing sanctions against North Korea have not toppled to regime there. But, some people in Washington won’t let decades of failure dissuade them. Last week, Congressman Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) introduced new legislation to bar Americans from importing oil products from Venezuela. The Washington Examiner reports: [T]he Protecting Against Tyranny and Responsible Imports Act, or the PATRIA Act … would target Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro after he stripped the country’s democratically elected national assembly of its power and authority. According to the bill,

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Money-Supply Growth Drops Again — Falls to 108-Month Low

September 18, 2017

7 hours agoRyan McMakenGrowth in the supply of US dollars fell again in August, this time to a 108-month low of 4.2 percent. The last time the money supply grew at a smaller rate was during August 2008 — at a rate of 4.1 percent. The money-supply metric used here — an "Austrian money supply" measure — is the metric developed by Murray Rothbard and Joseph Salerno, and is designed to provide a better measure than M2. The Mises Institute now offers regular updates on this metric and its growth.The "Austrian" measure of the money supply differs from M2 in that it includes treasury deposits at the Fed (and excludes short time deposits, traveler’s checks, and retail money funds). M2 growth also slowed in August, falling to 5.3 percent, a 75-month low. 

Money supply

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Why Natural Disasters Are Worse For Poor Countries

September 15, 2017

In the wake of hurricane Harvey, disaster experts were shocked by how few deaths resulted from the storm: "“It was astounding that we didn’t have a much larger loss of life,” said Phil Bedient, co-director of a Rice University effort to research severe storms and evacuations. A recent count puts total storm-related deaths at 82,  out of a metropolitan population of more than 6.5 million. The relative lack of lives lost is being attributed to a variety of factors including luck, the timing of evacuation orders, and "swift action by first responders." There’s no doubt that these factors contributed to the relatively low numbers in terms of deaths. A well-developed communications system has been key. A large network of well-maintained highways has been important, as has a

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The Neoconservatives Have Declared War on the Realists

September 14, 2017

In recent years, I’ve increasingly suspected that when it comes to foreign policy, the realists offer some of the most sane observations. These suspicions were confirmed earlier this year when after the election of Donald Trump, John Mearsheimer, one of modern realism’s current standard bearers, wrote in The National Interest that Trump should "adopt a realist foreign policy" and outlines a far better foreign policy agenda that what we’ve seen coming from Washington. And what is this realist foreign policy? For Mearsheimer, some main tenets include:Accepting that the US attempt at nation building in Afghanistan, Egypt, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen "has been an abject failure.""Washington [should] respect the sovereignty of other states even when it disagrees with their

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Think Gentrification Is Bad? The Opposite Is Worse

September 13, 2017

We’ve long been told that gentrification is the scourge of many communities, and we’ve become very familiar with the scenario: a stable middle-class community is destroyed when wealthy (usually white) people move in, drive up home prices, and force out the "diverse" population that had been there previously. There are problems with this narrative of course. Very often, the working-class homeowners who leave the neighborhood experience a windfall from selling their property to the incoming "up and comers" who buy out the aging homeowners. There is an upside.On the other hand, there are indeed downsides to gentrification. There are real social costs when a neighborhood disintegrates and the neighbors go their separate ways. As we’ve noted before, communities with a highly

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Is Forced Military Service Good for the Economy?

September 13, 2017

Conscription, also known as "the draft," is typically justified with appeals to values like partriotism, public service, and "sharing the burden." That’s in peacetime. In times of war, of course, government claims conscription is necessary to provide the manpower needed for military victory.Apologists for the draft keep all of these claims ready, just in case. The US, of course, has never really let go of the draft and continues to maintain the Selective Service, just in case.Is Conscription Good for the Economy? But sometimes, is it even claimed that conscription is an economic-development tool.In the latest attempt at making conscription more popular among politicians, Elizabeth Braw of the Atlantic Council this week announced in the Financial Times that the benefits of

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What If Every Person Paid an Equal Share of the Military Budget?

September 11, 2017

Government employees and their apologists like to lecture Americans about how "freedom isn’t free." And indeed it isn’t. In recent years, the US military establishment costs the American taxpayer around $700 billion per year. Thanks to the hard work of the American taxpayer, the US military — and other "defense" agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security — the US government is the most well-funded in the world. in spite of numerous ongoing interventions worldwide, casualties in the US military are low thanks to highly-advanced technology funded by — you guessed it — the American taxpayer. Now, for the sake of argument in this article, we’ll just assume that the full $700 billion per year has something to do with actual defense. This is a highly debatable notion,

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