Both The State And The Market Are Based On Coercion

It is common to hear people on the internet complain about the power of the state. It is regularly denounced for forcing people to obey its laws and pay taxes. Libertarians criticise this use of coercion and regularly compare it to a gang of thieves or the mafia. Many advocate that we either abolish or minimise the size of the state and replace it with a world where everything is based on voluntary co-operation and you are free to do what you want so long as it does not harm anyone (known as the Non-Aggression Principle). It seems like a simple choice between peaceful liberty or violent oppression. It is a handy debating trick as it allows libertarians to paint themselves as defenders of freedom while opponents look like tyrants. As nice as it sounds, it suffers from the fatal flaw that the market is just as reliant on the coercion as the state is. Continue reading

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Why Competition Alone Is Not Enough

Free marketers view competition as the solution to most if not all problems in the market. If a business is charging too high a price or selling poor quality products then a new business can simply enter the market and take its place. If workers are mistreated or underpaid, then there will be an incentive for competitors to offer better conditions. Competition will cure all problems, prevent excessive profits, exploitative wages, protect the environment, increase your IQ and make you ten years younger (you may think I’m being facetious, but I have yet to come across a problem that libertarians haven’t claimed competition would solve). Continue reading

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Why Economics Is Not A Science

Economists like to pride themselves on their job and how scientific it is. Politics might be full of emotional rhetoric and unthought out ideas, but economists rely solely on cold hard facts. Flicking through my old textbooks, I see many references to “thinking like an economist” where we were supposed to cast aside fallacies and view the world with a rational and scientific eye. If only it were so. In reality, economics lacks the basis in real world evidence, the scientific method, and predictive power to be considered a science and is instead a highly politicised topic. Continue reading

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How Economics Should Be Taught

On this blog I criticise mainstream economics and how it is taught in colleges a lot. In fact that’s one of my main aims with the blog. However, rather than just always criticise and say how things shouldn’t be done, today I would like to put forward a few proposals. Now to list everything that should be taken out of economics would take many, many posts, so this will be a short general overview. It should also be said that the economics curriculum is in dire need of reform (and there are encouraging signs that a growing number of people realise this). For example, my lecturers would tell me that we could buy editions of textbooks either from before or after the 2008 recession; there was no real difference between them. When the greatest crisis in decades doesn’t cause any serious review, then you know we have a problem. Continue reading

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A Week In Esperanto Land

An Irishman, a Pole, a Russian and a Frenchman are all in a room. What language do they speak? This isn’t a riddle or a joke but what happened to me last week. You see I’m just back from spending eight days in the town of Nitra in Slovakia where I participated in the Somera Esperanto Studado (Summer Esperanto Study). So what is Esperanto like in practice? What is the Esperanto community like, what do Esperantists do when they meet and how does Esperanto function as a language? Continue reading

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What Is Capitalism And Socialism?

Even though we all live in a capitalist economy, few people seem to understand what this means. The word is thrown around in economic and political debates without much consistency. The situation is even worse for socialism which seems to be a label thrown onto random policies without any understanding. So to help clear up the confusion, I thought I would give a clear and simple explanation to what these words mean. Continue reading

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Can The Labour Party Be Saved?

The Irish Labour Party is in dire straits. Its vote has collapsed from 19.7% in the 2011 general election to only 7% in last months local election, causing its leader Eamon Gilmore to resign. Now there is a leadership election ongoing between Joan Burton and Alex White, both of which are making bland statements about what they would do as leader (neither have mentioned any policies or anything concrete). But is this simply a case of rearranging chairs on the Titanic and finding someone to take the poisoned chalice and lead Labour into election meltdown? Continue reading

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