Man, Economy, and State…and Other Ramblings

So yesterday I actually got around to starting “Man, Economy, and State” by Murray Rothbard. I’ve meant to start it for a couple weeks. I wasn’t exactly procrastinating, but just…well, um, I didn’t get to it. It is one of those books you can’t exactly take with you in the car, or read while eating lunch, or read in bed as you drift off to sleep. It is a bit too big for that, at 2 and 1/2 inches thick and 1,438 pages. But I opened it up yesterday, slowly and gently. You know how some movies and songs are so good they make your spine tingle and you go cold all over? Well, it was a little funny, but that’s how I felt when I opened up “Man, Economy, and State.” Who would have guessed that a massive treatise on economics would be so exciting? I must admit, it was a little confusing on a couple pages talking about marginal utility. It was all information I knew already, and the whole thing about the farmer and his cows and horses and X-1, Y-1, X-2, Y-2, etc…(X and Y are two types of goods being considered on the value scale of someone. They might value X-1 and X-2 [the first 2 horses] over Y-1 and Y-2, and so forth) so I really didn’t bother to read that super-closely. I did like the part about a ham sandwich (which demonstrates capital and consumer goods, and the means that must be used to reach an end) because, well, I love ham sandwiches. More than Peter Klein’s croutons. That’s a sorta inside  joke, but I’m feeling generous, so I’ll explain. When taking some online classes from Prof. Klein, I noticed that in nearly every lecture he would bring up croutons. He’d use them to demonstrate all sorts of economic principles, and he’d always note how much he likes to make croutons. So my sisters and I joke about it, how when I go to Mises U I should bring some really nice stale bread and present it as a gift for him so that he can make croutons. So Prof. Klein uses croutons to demonstrate capital vs. consumer goods. Rothbard uses a ham sandwich, and that’s much better (in my opinion) because I like ham sandwiches 5 times better than croutons. And this last sentence about ham sandwiches being 5 times better…well, that’s a little inside joke too. We were talking about it on Facebook yesterday, because I posted a quote from Man, Economy, and State. Rothbard was maintaining that it is impossible to use cardinal numbers (like 2 or 5 or 10) when talking about preferences. He said that we can’t say, “I like playing piano 3 time as much as washing dishes,” but that we can only use ordinal numbers, “I like playing piano firstly, then secondly I like reading a book, and then washing dishes.” So I didn’t really mean what I said about like ham sandwiches 5 times as much as croutons, I was just being facetious. 🙂

And while we’re on this wonderful topic of economics, let me share with you a quote which was sent to me this week by a good friend. It is from “Theory of Money and Credit” by Mises and goes like this, “Acts of valuation are not susceptible to any kind of measurement.” Isn’t that great? I love it! Okay, I’ll let you in on the secret now. Notice how it starts, “Acts of valuation.” Up to this point in economics (1924) valuing had been considered a feeling. Instead of saying “value can’t be measured because it is a feeling, it can only be compared to other similar feelings,” Mises clears up all the confusion by showing that valuation is an act, not just some weird emotion. I’ll quote my dear friend who sent the quote, Floy Lilley from the Mises Institute, “Although this change did not affect his actual analysis of the problems of conceiving of value as a quantifiable entity, it marked a conscious transition from a psychological conception of value to one in which value was an act rather than a feeling.” Isn’t that great? It just gives me such relief and happiness to think of valuing as an act rather than a feeling. Not sure why. But this quote really made my week, I made the “quote of the week” on my whiteboard next to my desk.

And you don’t have to be quite so thrilled about it as I am, I’ll still think of you as a good person and perhaps a good Austrian. I tend to be a little extreme about things right now. Hey, I’m a teenager, don’t blame me too much. At least I’m not into hard rock music (just Josh Groban. How does that old book go? Dante’s Inferno? The deepest circle in hell is reserved for those who listen to hard rock music, and the next one is for those who listen to Josh Groban. No, I’m really joking now, so don’t worry, if you listen to Josh Groban, I think we have far more serious sins to consider, although listening to Josh Groban isn’t really a sin.) and funky hairstyles and all that. You see, I’m not the typical teen, for I don’t get excited about Lady Gaga, I get excited about Man, Economy, and State!!!! 🙂

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