Cafe Hayek's Don Boudreaux Brings Sanity to the "Half-Witted" Media

"Many years ago my family ordered me to remove my shoes before sitting down to watch the evening news," recalls George Mason University economist Don Boudreaux in his new book, Hypocrites & Half-Wits: A Daily Dose of Sanity from Cafe Hayek.

"Seldom had I spent 30 minutes of any given evening watching the likes of Dan Rather without my wanting to throw my shoe at his face after he uttered some absurd economic fallacy."

So the barefooted Boudreaux began writing letters instead. A decade later he's penned nearly 5,000 missives not just to network news executives but to newspapers, magazines, websites, and blogs. The highlights are collected in his new book.

Many of Boudreaux's epistles offer concise explanations of basic economics for misguided journalists. In a note to NPR's Tom Gjelten, for example, he explains why "imbalanced" trade is not something to be concerned about. In a letter to The Economist, he analogizes using price controls to tamper inflation to "trying to control the temperature of a room by rigging thermometers so that they never record readings above 72 degrees." In another letter, Boudreaux aims his pen at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company for sending him an email promoting activities in which you "give back to the community."

"Your profits aren't pirate booty," Boudreaux tells the Ritz. "[T]hey're legitimate earnings."

Boudreaux sat down with ReasonTV correspondent Kennedy for a chat about the art of letter writing, the state of economic literacy in America, and why markets as far more robust than he once thought.

You can keep up with Boudreaux's letters at Cafe Hayek, the blog he shares with economist and hip-hop impresario Russ Roberts.

Approximately 7 minutes.

Shot by Jim Epstein and Josh Swain, and edited by Epstein.

Go to Reason.tv for downloadable versions and subscribe to ReasonTV's YouTube Channel to receive automatic updates when new material goes live.

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  • T||

    5,000 leteers later, journos still economically retarded. Keep at it, Sisyphus.

  • John||

    He is out there doing God's work in some of the dumbest communities in America.

  • Almanian's Evil Twin||

    What John said

  • Spartacus||

    Note to self: do not GIS "pirate booty" at work anymore.

  • T o n y||

    You can make pirate booty into legitimate profits simply by not outlawing piracy.

  • Almanian's Evil Twin||

    Whew - I don't know - spoof or no?

    "You can make murder into legitmate activity simply by not outlawing murder."

    Uh, no, moron. Not even a nice try. Join Urine in the corner - you can piss on each other till you smarten up.

  • T o n y||

    Who decides it's not legitimate? Which magical fairy being?

  • Nyarlathotep||

    CDN$

  • Raistlin||

    "Who decides it's not legitimate? Which magical fairy being?"

    Why top men, of course.
    Top. Men.

  • Sheldon J. Plankton||

    I like me some Cafe Hayek. Boudreaux and Russ Roberts are out there fighting the good fight.

  • Almanian's Evil Twin||

    Also, a little "pirate booty" now and then's not a bad thang, when I get my freak on. Mmm, hmmm....sweet, sweet pirate booty.

  • JoshSN||

    Let's pretend, for sake of argument, that freedom is something to be valued. Let's thrown in some liberty, too.

    And let's mark the difference between competitive advantage and absolute advantage in terms of trade, and trade imbalances.

    So, because China can execute people who might want to start their own political party, and those who might want to start their own union, they have a greater control over the cost of labor than a free-er country, which has to deal with independent unions, and a political system that has some input from those unions.

    This is an absolute trade advantage between China and the USA. And if we were using gold to balance our payments, we'd run out, and they'd still have this advantage (it's absolute, not comparative).

    Then, of course, we are putting money into the pockets of people who deny the value of freedom. Who use that money to violently keep freedom away from other people.

    Don't try to tell me PNTR and MNF status for China, and a trade imbalance with China, don't matter.

    Or, tell me you don't give a rat's *ss about freedom.

  • Torontonian||

    Or, you could say "We can't guarantee freedom in China, but we can guarantee it in the USA", and that means honoring people's freedom to buy/sell what they choose, from/to whom they choose, at whatever price they mutually agree upon, without any penalties, constraints or limitations.

    You know... because we actually value freedom and liberty, and we don't just pretend to to do so.

  • JoshSN||

    Your freedom to help enslave others is what you want to preserve.

  • KDN||

    What we have is someone that failed intro to trade theory. Bravo. Left wing trolls - bringing you smug economic illiteracy on the internet since 1997!

  • JoshSN||

    Have I made some error of fact? Not in my definitions of relative or absolute advantage in trade. Then, what was it? That enriching the PRC enriches the people who suppress the freedom of others? No, that's just a plain fact.

    For someone who is so proud of themselves, you sure weren't able to point to anything specifically wrong in anything like a helpful fashion.

  • Devil's Advocate||

    What the fuck did Monday Night Football do to get dragged into this?

  • JoshSN||

    Holy Mackerel! Are you blind, or deaf, or some combination thereof?

    Ever since the NFL (a government imposed monopoly) and the Tri-Lateral Commission (as a cabal, it's not as strong as it used to be, put it still pulls some weight) teamed up with the authors of My Little Pony to begin to encourage the distribution and exchange of digital watches...

    incidences of the bubonic plague have increased 300%!

    Or, I meant Most Favored Nation (MFN).

    The digital watches reference is loosely adapted from the filler material of the Infocom game Bureaucracy: http://infodoc.plover.net/screenread/bureaucr.txt

  • triclops||

    Your error, Josh, is that you claim trade with China only enriches those that violently suppress freedom. It clearly enriches both sides of the freedom/oppression ledger.
    We make the rest of the world more free by trading with them, but indirectly. By interacting with trade partners, subversive ideas like freedom and liberty spread. That is our true power; we show other peoples what it is like to have freedom and liberty, and then they want it badly.
    That is why I think embargoes and trade sanctions are, for the most part, counterproductive.

    This doesn't mean we shouldn't try to use soft power to encourage China to behave in a certain way. But it is important to keep in mind that our greatest power is that people with less relative freedom and liberty see how we live, and they want that shit!

  • JoshSN||

    Let's just say your argument was correct, and, by trade, we spread the idea of liberty and freedom.

    Then, naturally enough, when China trades, they spread the idea of tyranny.

    So, even if I believed your argument, that somehow buying Chinese goods without tariff somehow leaks freedom back into China, and than increasing tariffs would decrease that flow, the opposite flow must also exist, and I don't want any part of it.

  • An0nB0t||

    No. More. Kennedy.

  • Nyarlathotep||

    Agreed. Lucy > Kennedy.

  • joy||

    So the barefooted Boudreaux began writing letters instead. A decade later he's penned nearly 5,000 missives not just to network news executives but to newspapers, magazines, http://www.petwinkel.com/pet-polo-c-38.html websites, and blogs. The highlights are collected in his new book.

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