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Apr 29, 2009

Common Sense Economics: A review

Though, my blog has readers almost next to none but still I must say it has been a long long time since I updated my blog and I was afraid that my blog was slowly going into oblivion. Looking around in search for something to post , i found a short review I had written about this book called "Common Sense Economics", which one of the first book i read in my quest for understanding free market economy and its importance. I present my readers my review .

Common Sense Economics

What Everyone Should Know About Wealth and Prosperity
By James Gwartney, Richard L. Stroup, and Dwight R. Lee

Economics and fun have long been an oxymoron to a layman. Economics has been accused of being too abstract, irrelevant, unrealistic and boring subject but here comes a book that defies all these notions. "Common Sense," subtitled "What Everyone Should Know About Wealth and Prosperity," contains a wealth of information about the major sources of economic progress, economic progress and the role of government, and important elements of practical personal finance. Written by three of the most prominent economists of today, this book acts as a bridge between common sense and the basic principles of economics. Its language is simple, clear and straightforward but not at the cost of any important insights and basic economic theories. It is a book with strong message justified by strong arguments- economic progress is the result of competitive & free markets, of individual initiatives and minimalist state.

The last section of the book contains finance principles on how to invest your money, using the principles of compound interest and how to get more out of your money. There's nothing in the book that goes beyond common sense, something rare these days.


Part I: The Key Elements of Economics

-Incentives matter
-No matter what people care about personal costs and benefits. Incentives play vital role when people make specific decisions
-Applies to economical, political and social situations, selfish and altruistic acts.
-There is no such thing as a free lunch.
-Productive resources that fulfill human desires are limited whereas human desires are virtually unlimited
-Everything has a cost, direct or opportunity cost. If a resource is free for a person, then the cost is being borne by someone else.
- Decisions are made at the margin.
-Decisions or choices always involve additions to, or subtractions from current conditions, rather than "all-or-nothing" decisions.
-Political actions also reflect decisions made at margin.
-Trade promotes economic progress.
-Trade moves goods from people who value them less to people who value them more.
-Trade makes larger outputs and consumption levels possible because it allows each of us to specialize more fully in the things that we do best.
-Voluntary exchange makes it possible for firms to achieve lower per-unit costs by adopting mass production methods.
-Transaction costs are an obstacle to trade.
-Costs incurred in transactions make trade costly.
-Not all middlemen are obstacles; sometimes they reduce transaction costs by brokering deals.
- Profits direct businesses toward activities that increase wealth.
-People earn income by helping others.
-Only if people value a person's service will they be paid
- High earnings come from providing goods and services that others value
-Economic progress comes primarily through trade, investment, better ways of doing things, and sound economic institutions.
-Investments in productive assets (e.g. tools and machines) and in the skills of workers enhance our ability to product goods and services.
-Improvements in technology spur economic progress.
-Improvements in economic organization can promote growth.
-The "invisible hand" of market prices directs buyers and sellers toward activities that promote the general welfare.
-Too often long-term consequences, or the secondary effects, of an action are ignored.

Part II: Seven Major Sources of Economic Progress

-Legal system: The foundation for economic progress is a legal system that protects privately owned property and enforces contracts in an even-handed manner.
-Private ownership encourages wise stewardship.-Private ownership encourages people to use their property productively.
-Private owners have a strong incentive to develop things that they own in ways that are beneficial to others.
-Private ownership promotes the wise development and conservation of resources for the future.
-Competitive markets: Competition promotes the efficient use of resources and provides a continuous stimulus for innovative improvements.
-Competition places pressure on producers to operate efficiently and cater to the preferences of consumers. Firms that fail to provide consumers with quality goods at competitive prices will experience losses and eventually be driven out of the markets.
-Competition gives firms a strong incentive to develop better products and discover lower-cost methods of production.
-Competition also discovers the business structure and size of firms that can best keep the per-unit cost of a product or service low.
-Limits on government regulation: Regulatory policies that reduce trade also retard economic progress.
-Many countries impose regulations that limit entry into various businesses and occupations.
-Regulations that substitute political authority for the rule of law and freedom of contract will tend to undermine gains from trade.
-The imposition of price controls will also stifle trade.
-An efficient capital market: To realize its potential, a nation must have a mechanism that channels capital into wealth-creating projects.
-To make the most of its potential for economic progress, a nation must have a mechanism that will attract savings and channel them into the investments that are most likely to create wealth.
-Monetary stability: Inflationary monetary policies distort price signals, undermining a market economy.
-Low tax rates: People will produce more when they are permitted to keep more of what they earn.
-High tax rates discourage work effort and reduce the productivity of labor.
-High tax rates will reduce both the level and efficiency of capital formation.
-High marginal tax rates encourage individuals to consume tax-deductible goods in place of nondeductible goods, even though the nondeductible goods may be more desirable.
-Free trade: A nation progresses by selling goods and services that it can produce at a relatively low cost and buying those that would be costly to produce.
-The people of each nation benefit if they can acquire a product or service through trade more cheaply than they can produce it domestically.
-International trade allows domestic producers and consumers to benefit from the economies of scale typical of any large operations.
-International trade promotes competition in domestic markets and allows consumers to purchase a wider variety of goods at lower prices.

Part III: Economic Progress and the Role of Government

-Government promotes economic progress by protecting the rights of individuals and supplying goods that cannot be provided through markets.
-Government is not a corrective device.
-The costs of government are not only taxes.
-There is the loss of private-sector output that could have been produced with the resources that are now employed producing the goods supplied by the government.
-There is the cost of resources expended in the collection of taxes and the enforcement of government mandates.
-There is the cost of price distortions resulting from taxes and borrowing.
-Unless restrained by constitutional rules, special interest groups will use the democratic political process to fleece taxpayers and consumers.
-Unless restrained by constitutional rules, legislators will run budget deficits and spend excessively.
-Government slows economic progress when it becomes heavily involved in trying to help some people at the expense of others.
-The costs of government income transfers are far greater than the net gain to the intended beneficiaries.
-An increase in government transfers will reduce the incentive of both the taxpayer-donor and the transfer recipient to earn income. Economic growth will thereby be retarded.
-Competition for transfers will erode most of the long-term gain of the intended beneficiaries.
-Programs that protect potential recipients against adversity arising from their imprudent decisions encourage them to make choices that increase the likelihood of the adversity.
-Central planning replaces markets with politics, which wastes resources and retards economic progress.
-Central planning merely substitutes politics for market verdicts.
-The incentive of government-operated firms to keep costs low, be innovative, and efficiently supply goods is weak.
-There is every reason to believe that investors risking their own money will make better investment choices than central planners spending the money of taxpayers.
-There is no way that central planners can acquire enough information to create, maintain, and constantly update a plan that makes sense.
-Competition is just as important in government as in markets.
-Constitutional rules that bring the political process and sound economics into harmony will promote economic progress.

Part IV: Twelve Key Elements of Practical Personal Finance

-Discover your comparative advantage.
-Be entrepreneurial. In a market economy, people get ahead by helping others and discovering better ways of doing things.
-Providing others with goods and services that are highly valued compared to their cost is the key to financial success.
-Spend less than you earn. Begin a regular savings program now.
-Don't finance anything for longer than its useful life.
-Two ways to get more out of our money: Avoid credit-card debt and consider purchasing used items.
-Begin paying into a "real-world" savings account every month.
-Put the power of compound interest to work for you.
-Diversify-don't put all of your eggs in one basket.
-Indexed equity funds can help you beat the experts without taking excessive risk.
-Invest in stocks for long-run objectives; as the need for money approaches, increase the proportion of bonds.
-Beware of investment schemes promising high returns with little or no risk.
-Teach your children how to earn money and spend it wisely.

Apr 8, 2009

Estonia: The little country that could!

Being a libertarian, I am always fascinated by the progress achieved by Estonia by transforming its its economy from a centrally planned structure under Soviet Communism to a free market economy. Estonia is currently the 41st country among the countries with the highest per capita income. It has rose from oblivion to recognition for its economic freedom,its adaptation of new technologies along with being one of the world's fastest growing economies for several years.

I was scanning through the Wikipedia and found these facts about Estonia, maybe we could learn something from her. Maybe, we (Nepal) could be a little hopeful about breaking this vicious circle of poverty.

In August 1940, Estonia was illegally annexed by the Soviet Union as the Estonian SSR. The provisions in the Estonian constitution requiring a popular referendum to decide on joining a supra-national body were ignored.

TheEstonian Sovereignty Declaration was issued on November 16, 1989 and formal independence declared on 20 August 1991, reconstituting the pre-1940 state, during theSpviet military coup attempt in Moscow. The first country to diplomatically recognize Estonia's reclaimed independence was Iceland. The last Russian troops left on 31 August 1994.

In 1994, Estonia became one of the first countries in the world to adopt a flat tax, with a uniform rate of 26% regardless of personal income. In January 2005 the personal income tax rate was reduced to 24%. A subsequent reduction to 23% followed in January 2006. The income tax rate will be decreased by 1% annually to reach 18% by January 2010.

A balanced budget, almost non-existent public debt, flat-rate income tax, free trade regime, fully convertible currency backed by currency board and a strong peg to the euro, competitive commercial banking sector, hospitable environment for foreign investment, innovative e-Services and even mobile-based services are all hallmarks of Estonia's free-market-based economy.

Estonia Ranks 22nd in the index of Civil and Political Liberties.

Although Estonia is in general resource-poor, the land still offers a large variety of smaller resources.

The Estonian energy market liberalization is in progress and should be completed before 2009, as well as all of the non-household market, which totals around 77% of consumption, before 2013.
Please share your comments!!

Apr 2, 2009

"Good artists copy... Great artists steal" Pirates of Silicon Valley : A Review

Pirates of Silicon Valley (1999)

Directed by:Martyn Burke
Runtime: 95 min

IMDb: 6.7/10
RottenTomatoes: 84%

I watched this documentary while screening it at a program about entrepreneurship. Being avid fan of information technology and internet, and entrepreneurship and a guy with dreams of changing the world, it was a feast for me. The documentary is an interesting look on how two of the most prominent personalities of IT industry Bill Gates of Microsoft and Steve Jobs of Apple Computers,started their ventures from basements and used their unique personalities to grow their businesses into empires and dominate the computer world. I was delighted to know the kind of businessmen they are today compared to how they began.

Besides this, the documentary also manages to capture the developments in computer industry which determined the nature of modern computing. Ignorance and lack of far sighted vision of Xerox and Hewlett-Packard, Steve Job's artistic vision and personality, Bill Gates ruthless business practices, innovative computer scientists are some of the most important things that shaped the computer industry and the documentary presents them well.

The documentary isn't very kind to its subjects, Bill Gates is portrayed as a ruthless,sociopath who is determined to destroy every enemy that comes into his way. Steve Jobs is shown as a visionary but at the same time a slave driver and a cruel person ( as he refuses to accept the young girl as his daughter). I think it adds to the neutrality of the documentary.

To talk about the negative aspects , the documentary is boring at times and historically inaccurate in some places.

Overall, a good watch for people with inclinations towards IT industry and for those who dream of changing the world.

Thank you reading patiently!

Apr 1, 2009