David Gordon

David Gordon

David Gordon is a senior fellow at the Ludwig von Mises Institute. He was educated at UCLA, where he earned his PhD in intellectual history. He is the author of Resurrecting Marx: The Analytical Marxists on Exploitation, Freedom, and Justice, The Philosophical Origins of Austrian Economics,An Introduction to Economic Reasoning, and Critics of Marx.

Articles by David Gordon

Review: Free Market: The History of an Idea

Jacob Soll is a distinguished historian, and Free Market contains much of value, but the book cannot be considered a success, and indeed as it reaches the twentieth century, it becomes a disaster. Even in the parts of the book worth reading, Soll is in the iron grip of a central thesis, one that his historical approach by its nature makes impossible to prove.

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Democracy without Foundations

In last week’s column, I criticized Jedediah Purdy for the ignorance of economic theory on display in his Two Cheers for Politics. Fortunately, the book contains much of interest, reflecting the author’s wide knowledge of the history of political philosophy. I have to say, though, that the main argument of the book strikes me as utterly unconvincing.

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Review: The Politically Incorrect Guide to Economics

Like Ludwig von Mises and Murray Rothbard, Tom DiLorenzo is an economist with an extraordinary knowledge of history, and this shows to great advantage in his brilliant new book. In it, he stresses that economists who fail to grasp how the free market works often devise elaborate theories to show “market failures,” but when examined in the light of historical evidence, these theories fall to the ground.

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What Is Wrong with the Fed’s Inflationist Policy?

Christopher Leonard’s book brings to mind the familiar line from Faust: “Two souls, alas! dwell in my breast.” Leonard offers a penetrating criticism of the Fed’s vast expansion of the money supply, which has won for him praise from the noted hard-money advocate and friend of the Mises Institute James Grant.

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This Professor Hates the Austrian School. But He Clearly Doesn’t Know Much about It.

Rob Larson, who is a professor of economics at Tacoma Community College in Washington, does not agree with Mises, Hayek, Rothbard, and Friedman that the free market promotes freedom and prosperity and that socialism is the “road to serfdom.” That is an understatement, and you won’t find any understatements in this book. To the contrary, the book abounds in wild accusations.

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Why There Is No Free Lunch

Caleb Fuller, an economist who teaches at Grove City College, thinks that many people have a mistaken conception of economics. It is, they think, a dull and dry subject, the “dismal science,” of primary interest to specialists. Fuller disagrees. He says that “economics changed my life” (p. 11; all page references are to the Amazon Kindle edition), and in this wonderful short book, which can be read in an hour or so, he conveys his infectious enthusiasm for it.

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The Battle over the Free Market

Nicholas Wapshott is a British journalist and biographer with a strong interest in economic theory. He says that the Nobel laureate Edmund Phelps is his mentor. One theme in twentieth-century economics dominates his work: the clash between economists who favor the free market and those who support a “mixed economy,” in which the government plays a large role.

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Why Worrying about Everything Is Bad Foreign Policy

The subtitle of John Mueller’s excellent new book suggests that something unusual is in store for the reader. If someone is called complacent, he is hardly being complimented; how then can there be a “case for complacency”? In brief, Mueller thinks that most of the threats and dangers that confront nations are really not that much to worry about, if they are not altogether imaginary.

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Is Self-Ownership Necessary?

Audio Mises Wire

Isn’t a principle of nonaggression against others another way of stating the self-ownership principle? "Not necessarily," says the insightful philosopher Chandran Kukathas.

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Community and Civil Society over State

Raghuram Rajan has written a surprising book. Now teaching finance at the University of Chicago, he is an international bureaucrat in good standing, and not a minor one at that; he was chief economist of the International Monetary Fund. Yet far from calling for an increase in “global governance,” as one might expect from someone with his background, he wants to strengthen the local, “proximate,” community.

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Hayek, Friedman, Buchanan: The Villains of “Neoliberalism”

Wendy Brown, a well-known political theorist who teaches at UC Berkeley, does not like Friedrich Hayek very much. She in part blames him and others as well, including Milton Friedman and James Buchanan, for policies that have led to the bad state of the world in general and America in particular today.

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Double Standards, Reparations, and War Crimes

Joan Wallach Scott, a historian who is a professor emerita at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, has come up with a most valuable insight. She is decidedly not “one of us,” but her insight makes her sound as if she might be.

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Escaping Paternalism

Some economists, such as the 2017 Nobel Laureate Richard Thaler and his colleague Cass Sunstein, have proposed an unusual justification for government interference with people’s choices. They do not intend, they say, to override the preferences that people have. They don’t want to tell people what they “should” want, according to an external standard that people don’t accept.

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Mises and Moral Relativism

I heard several days ago from my friend Larry Beane that people in Walter Block’s seminar who had been reading Theory and History wondered whether Mises is a moral relativist. As I’ll try to show, the answer depends on what you mean by “moral relativist,” but in the way the term is usually understood in contemporary philosophy, he isn’t.

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Monetary Policy Flapping in the Wind

Stephanie Kelton’s new book has attracted much attention, and Bob Murphy and Jeff Deist have already reviewed it, with devastating results. Why another review? The policies proposed in the book are so pernicious that further exposure of what she has in store for us is needed, and I have some new points to offer for your consideration.

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Walter Berns and the Cult of “Patriotic” Sacrifice

[unable to retrieve full-text content]In his great new book The Problem with Lincoln, Tom DiLorenzo brought back an old memory. As Tom points out, Walter Berns, who taught political science at Cornell and then worked for the American Enterprise Institute, was one of the main figures urging us to worship Honest Abe.

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Does the Free Market Corrupt People?

The political theorist Michael J. Sandel is a popular teacher at Harvard, and his lectures circulate widely on YouTube and elsewhere. He attracted attention as a serious political theorist with his critical work on John Rawls, Liberalism and the Limits of Justice (1982). As most readers will know, I’m no fan of Rawls, and it’s easy to find poor arguments in his A Theory of Justice. But Sandel totally misunderstands him, and his attack on Rawls fails.

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Rothbard: The Constitution Was a Coup d’État

[Conceived in Liberty: The New Republic, 1784–1791. By Murray N. Rothbard. Edited by Patrick Newman. Mises Institute, 2019. 332 pages.] We owe Patrick Newman a great debt for his enterprise and editorial skill in bringing to publication the fifth volume, hitherto thought lost, of Murray Rothbard’s Conceived in Liberty.

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Money, Inflation, and Business Cycles: The Cantillon Effect and the Economy

Abstract: Austrian economists hold that money matters a great deal in concrete terms in the immediate short run and has permanent long-run effects. Sierońs book investigates the Cantillon effect, which indicates that money is not neutral because inevitabily it is injected unevenly, creating economic distortions. These distortions are important to the long run and the Austrian theory of the business cycle.

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Luck and Taxes

“Luck egalitarianism” is a philosophical fad, and in the past I have had some characteristically unkind things to say about it. I’d like today to discuss a new argument that concerns luck and government. The economist Robert H. Frank says in Under the Influence, Because successful people often fail to appreciate the importance of seemingly minor random events in life, they tend to develop an exaggerated sense of entitlement to the enormous material rewards they command in the marketplace.

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Economist: Your Freedom Is Dangerous Because You Might Set a Bad Example

Last week I discussed a new argument against paternalism in the important book of Mario Rizzo and Glen Whitman, Escaping Paternalism. Today I’d like to give the other side a chance. Robert H. Frank is an economist at Cornell University, well-regarded for his work on the emotions and usually anxious to stress the flaws of the free market. In his just-published Under the Influence, he offers, among many other things, a defense of high taxes on cigarettes, and this is what I’m going to talk about today.

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Why Paternalists Keep Calling Us “Irrational”

Some economists, such as the 2017 Nobel Laureate Richard Thaler and his colleague Cass Sunstein, have proposed an unusual justification for government interference with people’s choices. They do not intend, they say, to override the preferences that people have. They don’t want to tell people what they “should” want, according to an external standard that people don’t accept. They claim, however, that accepting the actual preferences people have still leaves room for government intervention. How is this possible? Their answer is that people often choose in an irrational way.

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Is Greater Productivity a Danger?

It is bad enough that opponents of the free market wrongly blame capitalism for environmental pollution, depressions, and wars. Whatever the failings of their causal theories, at least they are focused on undoubtedly bad things. We have really gone beyond the pale, though, when the market is blamed for something good.

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Failing to Emigrate Does Not Mean You Give Consent to the State

Eric Nelson, a Professor Government at Harvard, has published this year a brilliant and imaginative book, The Theology of Liberalism (Harvard University Press, 2019). Nelson, it should be said, is no leftist, despite what you might expect from his Harvard affiliation. To the contrary, he is a conservative and favors, though not to the fullest extent, the free market and private property rights.

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Yes, Taxation Is Theft

Libertarians think that taxation is theft. The government takes away part of your income and property by force. Your payments aren’t voluntary. If you think they are, try to withhold payment and see what happens.
An influential book by Liam Murphy and Thomas Nagel, The Myth of Ownership, tries to show that this view of taxation is wrong. Many people, they say, foolishly resent taxes.

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