Randoms of the day

Professor Bainbridge does an unintentionally excellent job of explaining the problems of free trade. Basically he’s complaining that China continues to act in its own interests instead of properly subjugating its interests to the common good.

Divorce is for dumb people.

You can be too alpha.

Ulysses on marriage. I also have a lot of trouble writing about the good stuff. I’m not sure why this is. Partly, I think the things that make me happy aren’t the things that make other people happy – especially when it comes to women. For example, I’ve always been attracted to ambitious women. The stuff that works for me, then, doesn’t necessarily work for everyone else. Nevertheless, Ulysses has done a great job summing up the important stuff.

Devin and Aretae are in a back and forth (here, here, here and here) on authority. The more I read libertarians defend libertarianism the more the whole philosophy seems divorced from any realistic assumptions about what people are actually like. Granted, if I was allowed to re-make people, I’d make them in such a way that libertarianism would be best form of government. But that doesn’t mean that libertarianism is the best form of government for people as they are.

Matthew Yglesias has apparently not heard of the ’70s (this is a great use of a chart to lie, by the way. The chart starts just when stagflation ends).

Megan McArdle thinks that the good old days weren’t that good for women. Unfortunately for today’s women, most of them don’t have jobs as cool as hers and they still want to have kids. I’m guessing that today’s deal which forces more women to work in crappy jobs and not spend time with their kids is worse for the average woman. Even for above average ones, it’s not clear to me that many wouldn’t prefer raising their children.

Suck it, plebes.

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18 Responses to Randoms of the day

  1. Tschafer says:

    Bainbridge is a Catholic Bryan Caplan, and McArdle is a female one. Like Caplan, their musings should be tagged “for entertainment purposes only”. All can be entertaining, but none of them are anything remotely resembling serious thinkers, and trying to engage them at that level is a waste of time. I’ll never forget Bainbridge’s castigation of WWII veterans for not being as morally enlightened as he feels himself to be, even though they were following the rules of war and just war concepts as they were understood at the time. Likewise, McArdle is simply incapable of imagining her grandmother’s world, and how she saw it, let alone how a working class woman might see things today. And both take themselves deadly seriously. At least Caplan has a sense of humor – or at any rate, I hope some of his stuff is supposed to be funny…

    • Alrenous says:

      Bainbridge’s screed is a raft of bald assertions. Whether free trade is a good idea or not, nobody should be convinced by that.

  2. AC says:

    “Professor Bainbridge does an unintentionally excellent job of explaining the problems of free trade. Basically he’s complaining that China continues to act in its own interests instead of properly subjugating its interests to the common good.”

    If they’re subsidizing their exports, thus paying more to give everyone else cheaper stuff, that’s stupidity, not clever gamesmanship. It makes life worse for the average Chinese, whose taxes go up to give foreigners cheap stuff.

    • AC says:

      Exchange rate fixing is basically the same thing.

    • Foseti says:

      “If they’re subsidizing their exports, thus paying more to give everyone else cheaper stuff, that’s stupidity, not clever gamesmanship. It makes life worse for the average Chinese, whose taxes go up to give foreigners cheap stuff.”

      I don’t know how any mortal could state with certainty whether this is worse for “the average Chinese.” The average Chinese is more likely to be employed at an increasingly high paying but (as you correctly point out) bears some cost (though not necessarily in taxes).

      It impossible to know with certainty which factor is more valuable. The Chinese are guessing that employment is more valuable and the US is guessing that cheap goods are more valuable. My guess is that the Chinese are right.

      • AC says:

        In a market at equilibrium, the producer is making as much money as he possibly could based on the demand curve. If he lowers prices, he will sell more product, but that is more than made up for by decreasing revenue. On a countrywide level, if the government taxes people and gives the money to the company to subsidize its exports, the country loses as a whole.

        I acknowledge that it’s possible that “employment-as-job-training” could happen in some industries – that high output in a few areas trains workers and management so that they’re able to work in high-end, high-margin industries. (Let’s say, assembling electronics teaches techniques you can use to move up the value chain to producing microprocessors). But this requires exceptionally clever leadership, and one that is not swayed by special-interest lobbying. Something nonspecific like the exchange rate manipulation, or a general mercantalist ideology of “produce more at lower margins,” won’t get you that effect. (And even with discretion there’s a strong incentive for it to devolve into political capture of regulators by their industries.)

      • Foseti says:

        Everything you say in your first paragraph is correct . . . based on the assumption that China is trying to maximize immediate-term economic activity.

        The problem is that they are not (and should not be) trying to do so. They are trying to maximize longer-term economic growth *as a country*.

        This is not as hard to do as you would suggest, especially since it’s all relative w/r/t other countries. There are certain types of modern factories that are built nowhere but in China (this article gets around to discussing it: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2010/12/dirty-coal-clean-future/8307/). At some point, they become the only big country left that can actually do anything.

      • RS says:

        > Something nonspecific like the exchange rate manipulation, or a general mercantalist ideology of “produce more at lower margins,” won’t get you that effect.

        Yet they do manipulate exchange rates. Sheer stupidity? Well, with 1.3 billion people, we can assume that they have 175-IQ economists coming out of their ears. Not nearly all of the 1.3 B are well-exposed to a PhD track, but still, China is full of pieces of paper covered with math problems that would make me, and presumably you, grimace. Even if not all the ones that confound me confound you, there are still plenty. And unlike the case here, their econ chiefs aren’t under pressure to do this or that to help politicians out in the very short term.

      • RS says:

        Of course, I acknowledge that their presumed intelligence doesn’t prove them right. I just think it’s interesting.

      • RS says:

        When our guys disagree with their guys, I’m really tempted to just bet on their guys. It seems that our society is insane overall and steering for ever more destruction, while theirs goes the opposite direction. Their society recovered swimmingly from inferior doctrines, while our doctrines have gotten monotonically worse for over 70 years. The monotonic run can’t last more than another 25 years, but only because the heat will force us back the other way at least a little bit.

      • AC says:

        They may have many smart people; doesn’t mean the government is implementing the right answers. Questions about public incentives and power politics matter a lot more when it comes to collective achievement.

        Don’t forget – those same very smart, highly meritocratic fellows were also running the show in the China of the 1800s.

  3. tenkev says:

    Your assertion that trade protectionism = higher employment does not necessarily follow. What about the factory job that is no longer viable because protectionism has increased the cost of raw material X? What about the loss of efficiency because capital product Y is now too expensive to import?

    If protectionism is so great at lowering unemployment, why does the empirical data suggest

    • Foseti says:

      I’ve never asserted anything as simplistic as “trade protectionism = higher employment.”

      I’m merely pointing that no nation (that has lasted more than a few days) has ever engaged in trade on “equal” terms. Nations that exist always seek the best terms. Criticizing China for seeking the best terms of trade is absurd.

      All else equal, I’m not surprised that “free trade” reduces unemployment. But is not always equal.

  4. M.G. says:

    The more I read libertarians defend libertarianism the more the whole philosophy seems divorced from any realistic assumptions about what people are actually like.

    I’ve long sensed, uncomfortably, that libertarians and communists end up being two sides of the same coin. Intense projection in both cases. (‘Everyone is surely just like me, and thus my system can’t fail!)

    Hyper-masculine, maybe, on the libertarian side (‘survival of the fittest,’ highly rational, highly intelligent, mathematically-inclined), and hyper-feminine on the communist side (‘I love all my children equally,’ no competition, ‘let’s all share,’ economic illiteracy).

    Odd to note that the nuclear family is about the only group where true communism actually does work, and work well.

    • Handle says:

      The military is an institution that is deeply Socialist in practice and where that communism actually works well.

      Is the military, there is central planning, hierarchy, arbitrary orders, harsh discipline, workers are told what to do, when and where to move (frequently), and their lives are heavily regulated and supervised in the most intimate detail, all for overriding benefit of the “Needs of the Service”.

      Most people admit this is all perfectly appropriate and necessary and even optimal to get actual real-live human beings to perform well under the special requirements of a war-fighting institution.

      The irony, of course, is that the ideology of most service-men is opposite that of the lifestyle they enjoy, and I wonder if the same might be said for Western Progressives.

      Even after a decade of intense contracting and outsourcing (thanks a lot Rumsfeld), there remain many of the elements and occupations of broader society in support roles – Doctors, Lawyers, Engineers, Scientists, and many others. A large ship, especially a Carrier, at sea, is truly a little model (Socialist) society (Patri Friedman, call your office) where heavy focus is placed on maximizing Social Capital (cohesion, trust, morale, etc.)

      The only thing missing is primary wealth-production, and to that extent the military needs to have a patron in the government’s taxing power, and ride on the wave of efficient-resource-allocation information as generated in the broader free market.

      One of the ways the Soviets solved their own legion (and inescapable) central planning problems was to have a part of their “open-source” intelligence service constantly monitor prices in the West, so that they too could free-ride on that information. (And also copy all the technological innovations produced by the free market’s encouragement of innovation and entrepreneurship).

      Stalin justified Soviet militarism by saying that Socialism could not reach its inevitable total liberation of humanity without a means to defend itself against militarist capitalist imperialism, against which a pacifist Communism could not long survive.

      Actually, Soviet Communism could not have survived nearly as long as it did without the ability to constantly peek over at the other guy’s results (like cheating on a test). Truly Global Communism, like a Fully Military Society, would yield perpetual stagnation and endless waste. But within certain bounds and scales, and especially with voluntary entry and exit, it can work well.

  5. RS says:

    That’s some weak grog – or at least, divorce by class is much more interesting per individual than per state, and not surprisingly shows a much stronger relationship that way.

  6. dearieme says:

    “The more I read libertarians defend libertarianism the more the whole philosophy seems divorced from any realistic assumptions about what people are actually like.” E O Wilson said about socialism something like “Great theory, wrong species”.

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