Some Links

by Don Boudreaux on May 27, 2011

in Business as usual, Civil Society, Competition, Nanny State, Trade

Bloomberg profiles Tyler Cowen.

Here’s Mark Perry on “anti-dumping” duties imposed by Uncle Sam on Chinese-made wooden furniture.  And stealing a page from Mark’s briliant play book, I do a bit of editing on the linked report from the Washington Post:

“To help their American customers avoid a 2005 U.S. tariff on American purchases of Chinese-made wooden bedroom furniture, Chinese furniture companies moved operations to other Asian countries, thwarting U.S. efforts to curb “dumping,American consumers’ ability to save money by buying Chinese-made furniture.”

Writing at Forbes, Cato Institute president Ed Crane powerfully explains the perniciousness of the notion that we Americans “are all in this together.” Here are Ed’s concluding paragraphs:

It has been duly noted by scholars that the two great totalitarian philosophies of the 20th century, communism and fascism, had similar methodologies and similar goals, so to speak. Certainly, denigrating the importance of the individual and subsuming his or her personal interests to the greater goals of the national movement were integral to both those horrific philosophies. Yet this underlying anti-individualist, collectivist theme continues — not just on the left — in today’s political environment.

Neoconservative superstar David Brooks wrote in the New York Times just this past March, “Citizenship, after all, is built on an awareness that we are not all that special but are, instead, enmeshed in a common enterprise. Our lives are given meaning by the service we supply to the nation. I wonder if Americans are unwilling to support the sacrifices that will be required to avert fiscal catastrophe in part because they are less conscious of themselves as components of a national project.”

And I wonder if it has ever dawned on Mr. Brooks that the “fiscal catastrophe” we Americans face is a direct result of national projects called Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Oh yes, and the national project to make every American a homeowner. Not to put too fine a point on it, but there would be no $20 trillion unfunded liability in Social Security had we allowed individual accounts. There would be huge surpluses. And limiting house purchases to individuals who could afford them would have avoided the multi-trillion-dollar disaster that national project created.

It’s enough to make you want to go out and see Atlas Shrugged. Again.

Speaking of Cato, I’m eager to attend this June 15th debate on stopping government from regulating what goes into our mouths (just as we stop government from regulating what comes out of our mouths; apologies to the ghost of Milton Friedman).

The great Richard Epstein on the delusion of “fair trade.”

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Methinks1776 May 27, 2011 at 4:49 pm

Our lives are given meaning by the service we supply to the nation.

I would love to meet this Mr. Our because being a slave to The Nation is not what gives my life meaning.

enmeshed in a common enterprise.

Oh no we’re not. Some of us are trying to do useful things to improve our lives and some of us are enmeshed in the Mafia trying to rob the others.

Don Boudreaux May 27, 2011 at 4:57 pm

Right on, Methinks. Such widespread collectivist romance (for some people) and (for other people) superstition is the fuel that has powered history’s most murderous and impoverishing institutions. Unlike another notorious mass killer, small pox, it’ll never be totally eliminated, but hopefully – with constant pressure – we can keep it confined.

Methinks1776 May 27, 2011 at 4:58 pm


Argosy Jones May 27, 2011 at 6:38 pm

Good thing that the free market eliminated smallpox long ago, right Don?

Methinks1776 May 27, 2011 at 7:06 pm

Good point. If the government doesn’t do something, it’ll never get done. People just don’t know how to work together and cooperate without government elites like Bwaney Fwank poking an uzi between their shoulder blades.

muirgeo May 28, 2011 at 2:26 am

Did you say smallpox?

The US Congress passed the Vaccine Act of 1813 to ensure that safe smallpox vaccine would be available to the American public.

The British government introduced compulsory smallpox vaccination by an Act of Parliament in 1853.

And there you sit not a care in the world attributable to Variola. Heck our kids never even needed to get the vaccine thanks to our collective efforts.

sandre May 28, 2011 at 1:34 pm

Can you cite that Act of congress that created Homosapiens?

Gil May 29, 2011 at 11:53 am

“Act of congress?”. ;)

Yeah much most of historical baby-making among the nobility was planned instead of leaving it to fate what with marriages being arranged and all.

sandre May 28, 2011 at 1:37 pm

Also cite the year in which the Small pox vaccine act was repealed. You are one foolish joker, muirdouche!


Ken May 28, 2011 at 11:17 pm

Didn’t realize Edward Jenner was an act of state.

Gil May 29, 2011 at 11:48 am

So that’s why there’s many poor Americans – the government made sure the poor would survive infancy to fill the welfare rolls and election booths.

vikingvista May 28, 2011 at 12:55 pm

Double like.

Ken May 27, 2011 at 5:01 pm


“I would love to meet this Mr. Our because being a slave to The Nation is not what gives my life meaning.”

Don’t be silly. As an individual, you can’t possibly know how to give your life meaning. That has to be decided in committee and a cloture vote taken before the meaning of your life be debated in open session by people you don’t know living thousands (possibly) of miles away.

“Oh no we’re not.”

Why you selfish wench! I can’t believe you’re not working to the common enterprise of installing a fence and pool in my backyard. Why if I didn’t know better, I’d think you think that I have no right to your stuff. Being that we’re both citizens of course that’s just crazy talk.


DG Lesvic May 27, 2011 at 5:08 pm

My impression of Tyler Cowen is that he is more of an entertainer than an economist and dilettante than deep thinker, and wouldn’t last long in this den of wolves.

Argosy Jones May 27, 2011 at 6:25 pm

Amen, DG.

Only the strong survive in the CafeHayek comment threads– the thunderdome of economics debate.

As for Cowen, if I wanted to hear “Good ship Lollipop” one more time, I’d dig it out of my massive Shirley Temple DVD collection.

DG Lesvic May 27, 2011 at 11:56 pm

the thunderdome of economics debate

Great line

And how true. There is no place on Earth for economics debate like Cafe Hayek, thanks to our proprietors, the greatest men in the world today.

Sandre May 27, 2011 at 7:23 pm

I agree.

Ryan Vann May 28, 2011 at 1:08 am

He comes off as a bit of a court jester in the large smattering of posts I’ve read of his. At times, I think his irony is misconstrued, which can lead to some rather verbose comment sections.

kyle8 May 28, 2011 at 11:24 am

As a dilettante and shallow thinker I am insulted by any comparison to Tyler Cowen.

Debbie Downer 2013 May 27, 2011 at 5:30 pm

Why the frowny faces. I am totally stoked to bring you hope and change from the future, where it is still legal to have sex with over 30 year old unmarried women like me if you have a valid sex-license, use a full-body condom, helmet, knee pads, and back support.
I just pulled an all-nighter trying to get Bono elected world president, but at the stroke of midnight ZST the Chinese totally out social networked everyone on twitter dot gov and Yao Ming won with 987 million followers. Well anyway the muezzin in the minaret is calling me for the 5th time today, gotta go:

I pledge my allegiance to the tweets of the united cyberspace domain.
And to the NATO, SATO, POTO, IOTO, & AOTO Alliances for which it stands.
One planet under the UN Spirit Council’s randomly designated supreme being.
With liberty and justice for all compliant terrestrial life forms with a validated account on facebook dot gov.

Ken May 27, 2011 at 6:12 pm

“With liberty and justice for all compliant terrestrial life forms with a validated account on facebook dot gov.”

Ha! That made me laugh!

Scott G May 27, 2011 at 6:13 pm

Don, thanks for sharing Ed Crane’s excellent piece on national thinking. At least that’s what I would call it. A few weeks back I got caught up in Robert Higg’s post on national greatness, wondering if a country could be called great. I argued that a country could be called great in my first comment, but by the last comment I had decided that I would never be satisfied calling a country great. Here’s my thinking:

“Dr. Higgs,

If you imagine yourself in your ideal utopian world, what would you say about that place after having had the best experience of your life there?

Wouldn’t you loudly say with a terrific smile, “this is the greatest place!”

And isn’t there some place in between America and your ideal utopia that you would agree is a great country? Call it WayBetterThanAmerica.

I have a feeling that you would not call WayBetterThanAmerica great for very long. I’m not sure that I would either.

Why is it that I would call my ideal utopian world the greatest place, but not call WayBetterThanAmerica the greatest place?”

After writing the above comment I realize that the utopia I would be satisfied with is a stateless one (a 100% voluntarist world).

I find it very interesting that even after calling myself a libertarian anarchist I still felt like a country could be called great. It took me a few days to resolve the issue.

The rhetoric of national thinking is pervasive. Two examples are the pledge of allegiance and my favorite cartoon as a kid.

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Yo Joe!
He’ll fight for freedom where ever there’s trouble.
GI Joe is there.

It’s GI Joe against Cobra the enemy
Fighting to save the day.
He never gives up.
He’s always there,
Fighting for freedom over land and air

GI Joe- A real American hero
GI Joe is there

GI Joe is the codename for American’s daring, highly trained
special mission force.
It’s purpose, to defend human freedom against Cobra-
a ruthless, terrorist organization determined to rule the world.

He never gives up.
He’ll stay til the fight’s won.
GI Joe will dare.

GI Joe- A real American hero
GI Joe

kyle8 May 27, 2011 at 6:25 pm

I would like to tell David Brooks, (who isn’t really any type of conservative) that My self worth is NOT tied to what I can do for the nation.

It is tied to what I can do for my family and friends, how much pride I take in my own work, and maybe waaaay down the line, any sort of sacrifice I might be willing to make for the nation. IF, and only IF, the nation actually requires such sacrifice. Like, for instance, if we are invaded by a foreign power.

To think otherwise is to fall for the blandishments of jingoistic charlatans.

Sam Grove May 27, 2011 at 7:07 pm

Our lives are given meaning by the service we supply to the nation.

Damn, how many times does Benito have to try again?
Sometimes, reincarnation is a bad thing.

Sam Grove May 27, 2011 at 7:41 pm

Our lives are given meaning by the service we supply to the nation.

The RRinger translator says: “Our lives are given meaning by the service we supply to the politically powerful.”

Ryan Vann May 28, 2011 at 1:11 am

I have a sneaking suspicion Brooks comes from a line of plantation owners.

muirgeo May 28, 2011 at 2:31 am

Ed Crane thinks social security has something to due with our “fiscal catastrophe”??? Really? And he is the president of the Cato Institute. Wow!

Sam Grove May 28, 2011 at 11:42 am

Can you get someone to proofread your comments before posting?

Of course, your faulty spelling/grammar could have something to do with your faulty logic circuits which would explain your failure to grasp real economics.

Yes, the SS system in combination with our demographic curve does present a looming fiscal catastrophe.

You probably think wealth is created every time the Treasury cranks out another sheet of FRNs.

maximus May 28, 2011 at 4:02 pm

“Can you get someone to proofread your comments before posting?”

He’s an MD. He doesn’t have to worry about such lowly details as spelling, grammer, or clearly communicating. To muirgeo, it is as he says it is. Just ask him.

muirgeo May 28, 2011 at 6:47 pm


Mr Crane said, “the “fiscal catastrophe””. the..the the the….He DID NOT say the “LOOMING “fiscal catastrophe””.

Social security has a $2.6 trillion dollar surplus in its account. Again it has NOTHING to do with the current “fiscal catastrophe”. The current fiscal catastrophe has almost everything to do with the deregulation of our financial sector, our tax structure and offshoring of jobs.

YOU are the one with the reading comprehension deficiency and an inability to think logically and to sort out primary causes. You are a clueless un-objective ideologue… nothing more. You have NO free will, NO free thought and no personal liberty…. your mind is COMPLETELY OWNED…. by silliness of the highest order at that.

Sam Grove May 28, 2011 at 7:32 pm

And I wonder if it has ever dawned on Mr. Brooks that the “fiscal catastrophe” we Americans face is a direct result of national projects called Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid

The phrase “we Americans face” is the equivalent of “looming”.

Obviously, these things need to be explained to you as you seem to be unable to sort them out yourself.

muirgeo May 28, 2011 at 2:35 am

I decided to actually read Mr. Cranes article and was blown away by the first sentence.

“Having attended UC–Berkeley in the sixties….”

I’m sorry but DB POS hypocrite is my best reply. What a JA!

Sam Grove May 28, 2011 at 11:33 am

As it has been obvious that your are a(n) Marxist economic idiot, your reviews deserve an inversion sign.

Michael Mace May 30, 2011 at 1:09 am

Well, I went there in the seventies and it took me a long time to de-program myself. Especially the Keynesian nonsense.

WhiskeyJim May 28, 2011 at 9:00 am

If David Brooks is a conservative then David Friedman is a deep thinker.

WhiskeyJim May 28, 2011 at 9:21 am

Re: Tyler Cowen

1. I only read 2 or 3 books a week, but Tyler teaches me to get over my reluctance to not finish a mediocre book. Sunk cost and all that.

2. Cowen gives a great deal of time to academics and journalists who believe we are getting a bang for a government buck which consumes close to 40% of the economy (cost, not taxes). Perhaps my business training spoils me since without clear benefits such overhead would long ago been dismantled or altered. In observing Cowen’s management of academic stardom, it requires a devotion of time to diplomacy I’m not sure I have. Unfortunately for the country, we don’t have time for it either.

nailheadtom May 28, 2011 at 9:27 am

Richard Epstein says: “A second form of unfair competition involves situations where one market participant uses fraud in order to win over the customers of his competitor. This fraud can operate in two ways. By the first, one competitor passes off his inferior goods as though they were the superior goods sold by a competitor, and thus seeks to profit from the reputation of a rival.”
But is it the proper role of government to involve itself in this kind of problem?

kyle8 May 28, 2011 at 10:40 am

In that narrow case I would say that yes, Government has a roll in prosecuting fraud.

vikingvista May 28, 2011 at 4:36 pm

No. There are private mechanisms to protect against fraud. Free individuals should be given the respect to decide for themselves which mechanisms they want to purchase and utilize, rather than being forced to pay outrageous sums for the shitty services the Monopoly forces upon them.

Gil May 29, 2011 at 11:59 am

It said some one who buys bird seed thinking they can grow bird won’t be protected by anti-fraud laws. Fraud is probably the hardest crime to enforce because the lighter fraud falls under “buyer beware” and the harder stuff the perpetrator is long gone by the time the person realises he’s been defrauded.

vikingvista May 29, 2011 at 2:58 pm

In its defense, that is one reason why the government does a shitty job enforcing it. The problem is that you are still forced to pay for those shitty services, even while it is one kind of offense an individual has the greatest ability to defend himself against. Basically, the private market provides most of those protections anyway. But you still must pay tribute to the worthless Monopoly.

kyle8 May 29, 2011 at 1:48 pm

In this case it is a firm deliberatly stealing the brand name of another firm, so yes they can seek remedy on their own, in court, but the governement still has to operate and enforce a civil court system.

vikingvista May 29, 2011 at 3:39 pm

The court system is renowned for it’s ineffectiveness and inefficiency in these matters. Add to that offenses that go hand-in-hand with the employment of state services, it is unwise for anyone concerned about human liberty to advocate such action. The most effective actions are already private, and include public exposure of frauds, authenticity verification mechanisms, and private contact enforcement with suppliers and distributors.

vikingvista May 29, 2011 at 6:24 pm

contract not contact

WhiskeyJim May 28, 2011 at 9:30 am

RE: Communism and fascism

Communism seems but a small variant of fascism, both being top-down hierarchical structures which construct similar economic incentives.

Why then do many Progressives talk like fascism is a phenomenon on the Right? For on a two dimensional spectrum, small government conservatism leads to libertarianism which extends if anything, to anarchy. Fascism fits nowhere there. I do not understand the thinking; Hitler and Mussolini were socialists, not ‘conservatives.’

kyle8 May 28, 2011 at 10:43 am

On this vein, I wonder if you have ever read Jonah Goldberg’s “Liberal Fascism” ?

It is a very good read and an important book. It gives a timeline history of socialist and fascist thought and proves that indeed fascism was but an offshoot of Marxism.

Furthermore, people like FDR and many of his advisers had good things to say about Mussolini and wanted to copy many of the things he did.

DG Lesvic May 28, 2011 at 12:40 pm


You’re right.

Jonah Goldberg had it just right.

Sam Grove May 28, 2011 at 11:36 am

I don’t think fascism calls for the abolition of money.

However, Communism does require a heavy dose of Fascism.

vikingvista May 28, 2011 at 12:59 pm

Statists like to argue about good statism vs bad statism.

Economiser May 28, 2011 at 10:56 am

The responses to David Brooks wouldn’t be complete without a nod to Milton Friedman’s introduction to Capitalism and Freedom:

In a much quoted passage in his inaugural address, President Kennedy said, “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.” Neither half of the statement expresses a relation between the citizen and his government that is worthy of the ideals of free men in a free society. The paternalistic “what your country can do for you” implies that government is the patron, the citizen the ward, a view that is at odds with the free man’s belief in his own responsibility for his own destiny. The organismic, “what you can do for your ‘country” implies the government is the master or the deity, the citizen, the servant or the votary.

Michael Mace May 30, 2011 at 1:10 am

Thanks, I was hoping someone would post this.

Seth May 28, 2011 at 1:06 pm

I was partial to this passage from Crane’s essay:

“Set aside the false dichotomy. The choice is hardly between in-this-together sheep and atomistic individuals. Tocqueville was astounded at the many ways Americans loved to work together. Granges, churches, business associations, volunteer fire departments — the list was pretty much endless. That said, these associations were voluntary and the government had nothing to do with them.”

john sullivan May 28, 2011 at 10:25 pm

A metaphysical construct, the collectivist idol, with no actual concrete existence, is used by the groups seeking power, or holding it, as the exuse or reason upon which to subordinate or subdue the rest of society. Historically, the idol takes on many forms. They can be potent or subtle, religious or secular, and racist or nationalistic. The purpose for the idol is to function as an excuse for some to rule over others, and to educate everyone from birth to believe in the excuse. People will not easily submit to rule without their first believing in a myth that justifies it.

Once the idol has been established, the leaders declare that it has needs and interests superior and more important than the selfish trivial needs of the individuals, and then it is declared that when there is a conflict of interest between the idol and the people, the the idol must prevail.

As more people become empowered in a society, the collectivist idol becomes more passive, thus we no longer have witch doctors ruling us, or do we?

A good challenge for people is to understand how the various idols operate in places like the middle east, Europe and here. Notice that whenever you are being asked to sacrifice your rights, you are never given a list of the individuals who will gain from your sacrifice, but you will always be given the name of the collectivist ideal instead.

Like the wizard of Oz said…”Pay no attention to the little man behind the curtain!”… who wants to rule over you.

nailheadtom May 29, 2011 at 10:31 am

Very true.

Nevada Doctor May 29, 2011 at 11:43 am

Yours is the kind of intellegence I wish I had. I think some Idols work because in some ways they allow some few great men to be great men. I will worship the Chinese and the Middle Kingdom, since they are the least ape-like and have a long successful track record lol.

vikingvista May 29, 2011 at 8:03 pm

True. All hail Zardoz!

Or at least almost all do.

Nevada Doctor May 29, 2011 at 11:37 am

To an extent they’re right that we’re all in it together. According to M. Ridley, about 15% right. The differences between all individuals living or dead is attributable to individual variation of (85%),tribal/national variation of (8%), and racial variation of (7%).

I logged onto the Clark County Nevada administrative websites. All of their demographic and planning considers only this 15% of tribal/national/ and racial. The same holds for everything dot nv and dot us. All of our laws address only this 8% and 7%.

Since they have the guns and nukes, I am forced to render under Caesar what is Caesar’s. To salute, goosestep, shoulder a sickle, wipe the drooling chins of the nearest section 8 highrise. Yet at the first opportunity, I revert back to trying to become a man of high reproductive potential, which is my true calling.

People are attracted to people of high reproductive potential, the consequences of which are sexual selection. Even behavior is adapted to this goal. I am descended from men who preferred fertile women. The goal is not just to survive but to breed. The human intellect itself has evolved to contribute to reproductive success. As a parent, consider what is really worth imparting to your children, the mainstream be d@mned.

Atlas Shrugged is a science fiction novel about what happens if the cream of the 85% success stories disappear and you were left with the non-exceptional people. The rules and privelege granting schemes of the Soviets eventually fall flat.

Consider what Bill Gates is now doing, versus what he would have done without Government interference and it becomes clear why China will overtake our economy in about three years. It’s also clear why we shouldn’t care much, since we are only 15% White Christian Americans.

JBleek May 30, 2011 at 12:47 pm

Free/Fair Trade: Beware the notion of “Free Trade”! NAFTA, a “Free Trade” agreement, decimated an entire industry of American worker (probably more than just one). With more talk of more “Free Trade”, it makes one wonder which American worker are they targeting next.

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