A Free Week-Long Economics Seminar

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On Wednesday, July 28, at 11:30 a.m. central daylight time, I will lecture to about 250 college students at the Ludwig von Mises Institute in Auburn, Alabama.

You can go to the Web and watch it for free. Free is good. I’ll give you the link later in this report.

Each summer, the Mises Institute hosts Mises University. This seminar is worth paying for, and thousands of students have either paid or have received scholarships to attend. Anyway, someone has paid. They come to Alabama from all over the world. The Mises Institute has a strong Web presence. Foreign students learn of Mises U and fly to attend.

Without question, this is the finest week-long training program for free market economics in the world. I say this as the former Director of Seminars at a non-profit free market foundation. I know what a good seminar is. Nothing matches this one for the high quality of its presentations.

If it’s so good, how can it be free? Because of that unsung marvel, Ustream. Ustream was developed by an ex-G.I. so that soldiers stationed abroad could communicate in real time with relatives back home. The service has grown. It recently raised $90 million from investors. How, I do not know. It has yet to make a profit.

Mises U is broadcast live over Ustream each year. Anyone can go to Ustream’s site and view every major presentation. The seminar is so packed with presentations that some are held at the same time. So, Mises U cannot broadcast all of them on the same day. But there is enough material to keep viewers occupied all day long. The presentations that are not broadcast live will be posted as audio files the same day . . . for free.

If students can watch for free, why do they pay the money to fly in? Because Mises U is a networking opportunity. Students make contacts that can last a lifetime. They can also meet with professors whose books they have read. Normally, this is not possible. The faculty is assembled under one roof for a week. They, too, fly in from all over the world.

I drive in. I don’t give lectures that I cannot drive to in a couple of hours. I just cannot spare the time.

This is an advanced seminar, by anyone’s standards. It used to be mostly graduate students. These days, it is 55% undergrads. I have interacted with them at previous seminars. They are way above average. Average students do not sit in lecture rooms in July from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., taking notes, when there are no grades involved.

As Lew Rockwell commented, “After the day is over, when you walk by groups of students, they are talking about economic imputation, not Lindsey Lohan.”

GIVE IT AWAY

Mises Institute is on the cutting edge of digital communications. It posts all of its books and journals online for free. You might think that this would hurt the sale of the Institute’s physical copies of these books. On the contrary, it sells huge quantities of printed books, because it gives the PDFs away. People who like books like to hold them. They do not like printouts in binders. They suffer from what I have called Picard’s Syndrome.

By positioning itself as the #1 publisher and clearing house of Austrian School economic ideas, the Mises Institute has been able to raise money precisely because it does give everything away. When your self-appointed task is to spread an unpopular word, people who agree with that word will write checks. The word gets out. But why not sell some of those words in a format that people want? No good reason. So, the outfit sells a lot of books.

It is possible to get an advanced economic education for the price of toner, paper, and time. This is the miracle of the Web. This technology did not exist in 1982, when Lew Rockwell launched the Mises Institute. The possibility of getting these ideas behind the Iron Curtain 24×7 did not occur to him. Then, without warning in 1991, there was no more Iron Curtain. More amazingly, he found that the ideas of Mises, Hayek, and Rothbard had been circulating behind the Iron Curtain for years. There was a ready market for more of their ideas.

So, there was perfect synergy, a term used by people who don’t like to talk about providence. In 1990, the first Website went up. In 1991, the Soviet Union went down. In 1995 came the Netscape browser. That same year, the Mises Institute set up its Website.

Digits are not free. Bandwidth costs money. But it costs a whole lot less than pieces of paper and postage.

Mises Institute was positioned well. It made good use of this new technology. It made better use of it, and faster, than any other non-profit economics institution, including the American Economic Association, the main professional association of American economists. The AEA does not even have its own Website. It’s a subdomain of Vanderbilt University’s site. Mises is rated higher in terms of traffic and links into its site (over 5,000) than all of Vanderbilt.

This is why the organization has stayed ahead of the digital revolution. It is honoring that fundamental principle of economics: “As the price falls, more is demanded.” It finds ways of cutting the price to zero for the user.

Free is good. Free sells. Free is the second most powerful word in marketing, after “you.” As one marketing expert has put it, “the two most powerful offers in marketing are ‘free’ and ‘all you can eat.'” When it comes to ideas, the Mises Institute offers all you can eat for free.

WHAT’S IN IT FOR YOU?

We are under assault. Two decades ago, we were officially under assault by the USSR. Red China was busy transforming itself out of its status as a socialist paradise, but the Russian Communists were still officially on board the Good Ship Marx. It sank.

This left us in the clutches of the central bankers and the Keynesians. They proved their competence in the recessions of 1990, 2001, and 2008. We are barely out of the last one, and another one looms on the horizon. They are visibly bankrupting the West.

The Keynesian economists say we need more deficits. The Chicago School economists say little, but they generally concur that a doubling of the monetary base in October 2008 was necessary, despite all the negatives.

In any case, only the Austrians predicted 2008, and they suggest that the cure is going to prove worse than the disease.

If you are unaware of the logic of the Austrian position, Mises U lectures can get you up to speed fast. If you don’t have time to watch them during the day, you can watch the re-runs. You can also download the audio files.

If you have a child or grandchild taking economics during the school year, you can offer some sort of deal for a written summary of what will be broadcast next week. Make it worth the student’s while. That could turn out to be the best money you’ll spend in 2010.

Drive time is free time, mentally speaking. So is puttering time. When you can convert free time into educational time, you should. Reading time is expensive time. You can get cogent summaries by men who are paid to read and digest what they read. This will not cost you a dime.

Education is changing because prices are changing. But one thing has not changed in recorded history: the lecture as a way to impart new information rapidly and effectively. You can survey a topic and decide if it’s worth pursuing by an investment of costly reading time. There is nothing better than a good lecture to help you make that decision accurately.

THE LINE-UP

To see who will be speaking, when, and on what topics, click here.

Let me offer some suggestions. These are limited by the presentations that will be in video format. Most of them will not be. However, within two hours, they will be posted in audio format. The AV guy is efficient. These can be downloaded and listened to in drive time or whenever you are puttering and want to get an education. If you find one that requires you to sit down and take notes, fine. Listen a second time.

Hooray for iTunes!

The list of video presentations is at the bottom of the screen here.

The listing’s rule is later comes first, so you have to go to the second page to see which lectures come first. Warning: the times on the Mises U schedule are central daylight time; the times on the Ustream listing are PDT.

Sunday evening’s presentation on the life and work of Ludwig von Mises is a must. The speaker is Guido Hülsmann, the author of the huge, definitive biography of Mises. He is also a first-rate economist. This introduction will show you why Mises was a truly revolutionary thinker. Without him, the world would be a different place. Yet he is not well known. Get to know him.

The three presentations on Monday morning are aimed at economics students who don’t know much about the great change in economic thought that began in the 1870s. Three economists, writing independently, re-thought economics in terms of individual subjective value, thereby moving economics away from the older theory of objective or intrinsic value. That was the end of the labor theory of value. This left Karl Marx and his disciples in the theoretical dust. But it took the fall of the USSR in 1991 to deposit Marxism into Trotsky’s famous dust bin of history. That is, it took 120 years to do visibly to Marxism what subjectivist economic reasoning had done to it intellectually. Things take time to work out.

Then comes Hülsmann again, speaking on the division of labor. You had better watch this one. This is what is at stake whenever central banks try to influence the business cycle by inflating or deflating. The division of labor makes us rich. It keeps us alive. Bad monetary policy threatens to make us a lot poorer. If it’s sufficiently bad — Zimbabwe bad — it will kill people.

Doug French was a banker in Las Vegas. Greenspan’s bubble made Las Vegas rich. Bernanke’s attempt to wind down the Greenspan bubble wiped out Las Vegas. French moved to Auburn. He will be speaking on the origin and nature of money. He was a student of Murray Rothbard’s.

Robert Murphy speaks on capital and interest. This is technical, but it is at the heart of the Austrian theory of the business cycle. Here is where central banks mess up the structure of production by inflating.

Peter Klein is an academic economist who can speak very well. This dual ability is somewhat rare. He will be speaking on entrepreneurship. If you are interested in becoming an entrepreneur, watch his speech. (I hope it will not scare you off.)

Robert Murphy speaks again on Tuesday. He speaks on banking. From a practical standpoint, this is the topic that is most likely to be of interest to readers who are wondering why the big banks were bailed out, and what that means for the rest of us, who weren’t bailed out.

Roger Garrison follows with a detailed look at the Austrian theory of the trade cycle. We are stuck in the middle of it. We might as well get the bad news early. We are not going to get out of it cheap. Garrison is a high-powered economist, but he speaks as a normal human being does. Most of the time. Let’s hope they don’t let him near a whiteboard. Them graphs is confusing!

Thomas DiLorenzo, who is famous for his biography of Lincoln, will be speaking on monopoly and competition. I can tell you what he will argue. Monopoly is against competition, and it is the result of government grants of privilege. Get government out of the privilege-granting business, and prices will come down.

If you want to know why socialism failed, watch Joe Salerno’s presentation on socialism and calculation. In 1920, Mises wrote a short article on how socialism is inherently irrational, for it destroys the markets for pricing resources. He said the system would fail. Hardly anyone believed him. Economists dismissed his argument. He turned out to be correct. But economists still pretend that in theory he was wrong. The entire profession dismissed him for too long. The fall of the USSR made them look stupid. They resent this.

On Wednesday, I will be speaking on Murray Rothbard as an academic role model. Oddly, Hülsmann returns on Friday for another session on Mises as a model. This was not planned — central or otherwise.

There will be a mystery speaker on Thursday. I can tell you this much: it will not be Lindsey Lohan.

The other talks will be posted as audio files within two hours after they are presented.

CONCLUSION

I recommend that you set aside time next week to get an introduction to Austrian economics. Watch a couple of lectures. Download audios. Find out what the economists who are most opposed to the Federal Reserve System have to say about the way the economy works, and why it’s going to work a lot worse, now that the FED is in charge of regulating the banking system.

The New World Order is just around the corner. Find out why it’s not going to work as planned.

Gary North [send him mail] is the author of Mises on Money. Visit http://www.garynorth.com. He is also the author of a free 20-volume series, An Economic Commentary on the Bible.

The Best of Gary North

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