The Circus

by Don Boudreaux on May 1, 2011

in Myths and Fallacies, Politics, Trade

Here’s a letter to the Washington Post:

Kathleen Parker is understandably disgusted that so much public discourse is driven by buffoons such as Donald Trump who appeal to Americans who are, as Ms. Parker notes, “unconvinced by facts” (“Birthers, buffoonery and a sad discourse,” May 1).

The problem, however, extends beyond the rantings of megalomaniacs with no prospect of winning office.  It includes also the rantings of megalomaniacs who succeed in winning office.

Consider, for instance, claims by Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) that American manufacturing is declining and that the way to fix this alleged problem is with higher tariffs.  There is no factual basis for their assertions that 1) Americans no longer manufacture enough stuff (the real value of U.S. manufacturing output today is at an all-time high); 2) that America is economically successful the greater is the number of manufacturing jobs ‘created’ in America (Do Messrs. Brown and Sanders encourage their children to work on the factory floor instead of becoming doctors or web-designers?); and 3) that protecting domestic producers from foreign competition promotes economic growth (see the past 235 years of intense economic research into this matter).

So while Ms. Parker justifiably laments the reality that many Americans remain “unconvinced by facts” regarding Mr. Obama’s birthplace, this idiocy is just one of many bits of evidence that politics is a circus run by clowns performing stupid stunts for gullible audiences.

Sincerely,
Donald J. Boudreaux

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{ 109 comments }

vidyohs May 1, 2011 at 1:03 pm

In addition to your observation, I guess I am disappointed that so much of our political and social discourse is driven by the buffoons of the Main Stream Media who are but ideologues and shills giving cover for loonies of the left.

indianajim May 1, 2011 at 1:12 pm

Ms. Parker’s pundit pandering is part of a circus that distracts from more pressing laments, some of which Don raises. Don justifiably channels lament away from pundit Parker’s “bread and circuses” piece to the broader Roman orgy of idiocy bringing down the Republic.

WhiskeyJim May 2, 2011 at 3:15 pm

You are right Jim. Since I doubt Trump is an idiot, it is instructive to consider his effectiveness as opposed to the quality of his arguments.

The WH/MSM has reduced politics to a PR fight, their words by now Orwellian. Trump understands this (It is no coincidence that Obama released his birth records now rather than 3 years ago).

Free marketers and Republicans do not. In fact libertarians are notorious for destroying ideas from their own side, while losing battles and wars.

Phil May 1, 2011 at 2:33 pm

Idiocy and buffoonery is plentiful supply amongst the standard media, blogs and the world of pundits. Many claim to have or refer to the “facts”. Many of those fail to provide the sources or even relate the facts they are refer to. These observations certainly apply to the birther issue. I would just posit a few thoughts for all the holier-than-thou folks, as follows:

1. As citizens we certainly need to know that any president or president-to-be has the qualifying type of citizenship.

2. Why is there no standard process – in Congress at the very least – to verify the pre-requisites for the office of President.

3. IF ,in this instance, the President is not qualified under the citizenship rule then what? What are the implications of such an act? Is it really too trivial to bother about? ( I don’t think so). How much collusion would be required in the Congress for such a situation to occur? And, what does that say , at least, about the moral integrity of those sent to DC to serve us citizens?

In other words, it’s not just about the minor or trivial issue of a birth certificate. It certainly concerns me that the pre-requisites for the position of President of the U.S.A. – arguably, the most powerful person on this planet – our leader and representative, are being dismissed or ignored.

vidyohs May 1, 2011 at 6:33 pm

“How much collusion would be required in the Congress for such a situation to occur?”

Don’t take my comment to be an excuse to excuse anyone, but it doesn’t take collusion or deliberation to cause evil, or other bad things, just simple carelessness and/or a good measure of stupidity is sufficient onto the task.

But, I have seen just so many things that happen due to oversight or inattention that escalate into huge deals that all sides refuse to look at reasonably because to do so would be a loss of face and an admission of dereliction, or simple stupidity, in the beginning. The true place of Obama’s birth can well fall into this category. His participation the the political process could very well be based on presumption/assumption from beginning to end.

He claimed blackhood, he received special privileges including infirmitive action, he is on the beneficial side of political correctness, and he has always acted as if he belonged where he was. It is very easy to see how one could make it so high without being questioned. And, once it happened, especially becoming a Senator, everything else could just reasonably fall into place.

De toe bone be connected to de foot bone, de foot bone be connected to the ankle bone, de ankle bone be connected to de leg bone, and the next thing you know there is a new president, whose only qualification for office was his skin color.

vidyohs May 1, 2011 at 6:56 pm

So often we are who we say we are when we say it with confidence.

I think it is very well true that in the arena of American social life Obama has benefited from the fact that he claimed his blackness, people wanted to believe in him, that a black man could do “it”, and he found people along the way that saw in him, and that broad unthinking approval, an instrument they could shape and use. There was no question of questioning him, and at all stops along the way questions have been met with that political correct response that discourages questions of minorities.

Obama is really a facade.

muirgeo May 1, 2011 at 3:33 pm

The facts of President Obama’s birth certificate seems to have at least convinced The Donald that he is wrong.

The facts of our current economic stagnation decades after signing on to multiple Free trade agreements has not convinced The Don that HE is wrong but rather that those who disagree with him… based on the facts must be megalomaniacs.

So me… yes … I am “unconvinced by [the] facts” and thus your claim of the value of free trade.

Do you know of different facts then the rest of us? Maybe we should define what we mean by “economically successful “. Because no net increase in jobs since 2000 doesn’t fit my definition… nor does stagnant wages over the same time.

tkwelge May 1, 2011 at 5:02 pm

Can you really be that stupid? I mean, WOW!

vikingvista May 1, 2011 at 5:54 pm

Can you really be that surprised?

muirgeo May 1, 2011 at 6:05 pm

3 questions…

Have we decreased the barriers to trade over the last 2 decades?

Is the economy better or worse?

Are you capable of an mature reply?

What do you think Don might mean when he says economically successful? I myself really have no idea what he might mean. Sometimes I think he means is his personal quality of life better than it was 10 years ago. Which if that is the case than I guess Free Trade has been successful because he has access to things he didn’t 10 years ago and plastic thing can be gotten for cheap at ChinaMart. But most of us when defining economic success tend to look at the big piicture. I am guessing we have added 30+ million people to our country if we consider ALL of them and the other 280 million AND Don together then it might be harder to say we have become more economically successful since signing our free trade agreements since not ONE of those new 30 million in effect has a job. ( ie employment number today is the same as 2000.)

John V May 1, 2011 at 6:38 pm

Muirgeo,

Yes, barriers have decreased. Yes we are better off from that.

Your issue here is that you don’t know how distinguish cause from effect nor do you know how to view effects from more open trade on a larger scale. Sherlock Holmes you are NOT. We are in an economic slump right now but it has nothing to do with more open trade. The slump is the recalculation following the bursting of the housing bubble and the chain events that followed. You can point to the Fed, you can point to poorly aligned incentives in the mortgage industry and you can point to bad housing policy and how the three intertwined to form a huge mess.

But freer trade?? No. Your economic illiteracy is obvious. You look for broad and sweeping dot connecting that makes no sense and you really need to do better than this because you look really bad.

muirgeo May 1, 2011 at 9:21 pm

John the housing market WAS a response to an already failing economy.

Here’s a graph that shows basically the slow decay of our economy.

http://www.irle.berkeley.edu/events/spring08/feller/productivity_wages_graph.gif

What ever caused that divergence caused the problems we now see today. Until that divergence is resolved the economy will not improve. Libertarians and pushers of balanced budgets and austerity have no clue how to fix the economy. Their solutions will only make it worse.

That divergence seen in th graph IMO was mostly a result of new corporate policy, finanicialization of the economy, tax cuts and trade policy.

All those factors lead to stagnant wages.The housing bubble was simply away for people to maintain their prior standards of living by going deeper and deeper into debt and borrowing against their home equity. The end result after the crash being a massive concentration of dollars to those vampires in the finance industry. But now there is no where for their dollars to go as wages stagnate along with consumer demand. Those that have wages are saving instead of borrowing whenever possible.

Free trade as set up is simply a way to force down wages and by-pass environmental laws and the equilibrium will be reached when the average third world worker is on par with the average American worker but the wealthy will continue to see their wealth concentrate. If they push too far… they will pay a price as all of history shows.

I don’t get why these super wealthy people want to become the next Carlos Slim…who wants to be so wealthy in such a poor decrepit gang ridden failed state.

John V May 1, 2011 at 10:11 pm

muirgeo,

“John the housing market WAS a response to an already failing economy”

No. It was a response to the things I mentioned along with, as time went on, investors looking for healthy growth margins after the dot com bubble burst.

BTW, your vague and dire way of saying “failing economy” is you trying to make points without saying anything….because you can’t otherwise.

And that graph doesn’t show a failing economy. It shows wages (from top to bottom) not keeping up with productivity. And that is all together different. Besides, it doesn’t account for benefits and perks…never does. It’s also not as telling as you want it be nor does it address the bad point you have been trying to make.

“What ever caused that divergence caused the problems we now see today. Until that divergence is resolved the economy will not improve.”

You have simply no idea what you are talking about. You assert a “whatever”. You don’t even know what you mean. Liberal economists actually speak about these things and it has nothing to do with “whatever” you are pushing. It’s called skills gaps and diminishing values on certain kinds of labor. Your view amounts to alchemy.

Methinks1776 May 1, 2011 at 6:46 pm

Oh, moron…..

If only you could understand the difference between “means” and “ends”. If only you could understand that if those people could never have a job (never work) and still live better than they could have 10 years ago, they would be better off. Even if they were not materially better off than they were 10 years ago but they no longer have to work as much to maintain their standard of living, they would be better off.

If only there were any hope that you could understand that toil is not an end in itself but the means by which we gain material wealth, there would be some hope for you. Jobs are a means, not an end.

Unfortunately, you are an illiterate peasant too stupid to escape the collective farm. You are a sponge for propaganda and, like a sponge, you soak up and wring out information without ever changing – except that like a sponge, you smell like a sewer after a while.

Dan May 1, 2011 at 8:42 pm

Oh, the women and children……. The elderly will die in the streets……. Oh, the horror……. Where is Sally Struthers?

muirgeo May 1, 2011 at 9:25 pm

Hmmm… that made no sense…. People with out jobs are not better off, people with decreased wages are not better off and a society with so many sitting idle needing support is NOT better off.

Methinks1776 May 1, 2011 at 9:32 pm

Of course nothing make sense to you, illiterate peasant. That’s the whole point.

maximus May 1, 2011 at 6:54 pm

Muirgarbagemouth,
Thanks for rehashing democratic party talking points. Why don’t you spend less time here and more time reading about business, economics and finance. If anybody here needs to hear the daily democratic party version of the news, we all know how to find MSNBC on the tele.

muirgeo May 1, 2011 at 9:39 pm

I am here so you all can convince me to believe the shit you believe. But none of it stands up to scrutiny. Just a bunch of dumbasses who hate paying taxes and can’t see anyuse for the goverment.

I never read much of Ayne Rand but in the end don’t all the “productive people” just leave society? You guys should ALL do that. That would teach us slackers a lesson.

Sam Grove May 2, 2011 at 11:50 am

I am here so you all can convince me to believe the shit

This contradicts your previous claim that you come here to figure out how best to refute us.

You are either unable or unwilling to do any of your own work in grasping our many explanations, either discarding them outright, or substituting your own mal-interpretations.

Chucklehead May 1, 2011 at 6:58 pm

Have we increased the size scope and cost of government over the last two decades?
Is the economy better or worse?
Do you understand the difference between correlation and causation?
And they call me a Chucklehead.

Muirdiot May 1, 2011 at 9:40 pm

Wut? Wut ab out the totol de rigyoulashun uv wall streit and corulashun and cazashun iz juss wut lipritopiums fal bak on az anonargumant wenn thei doesnt’s hav aleg to stand on.

Ewe guyz ar just not unerstan hou durivativs hav robed thuh reel ekonomi uv gud jobs lik dichdigggeeng and gav them to thuh KOMMMMYOUNIST CHEEEZE!!

muirgeo May 1, 2011 at 9:57 pm

“Do you understand the difference between correlation and causation?”

Yes I do. And the size and scope of governemnt …has NOT increased that much except for the military.

Free trade agreements are NOT increases in size and scope of government.

You can’t posit a logical coherant explaination of how “size and scope ” of government has crashed the economy. I CAN give a coherant explaination of how tax cuts, corporate policy and free trade DID screw our economy.

Muirdiot May 1, 2011 at 10:21 pm

In other words, Chucklehead, Muirdiot has no idea what you’re talking about, where he is, what year it is, and what his name is. Your dog will give you better, more understandable answers to your questions.

Krishnan May 1, 2011 at 6:16 pm

He (or she) is hopeless. There is no use trying. Really. It is like convincing Obama about free trade and the free enterprise system and how the US has done so much for the world – All Obama sees in the US is “evil” – because we have done so well and helped so many …

So, do not try – waste of effort …

Dan May 1, 2011 at 8:46 pm

Muirgeo can’t see the forest thru the trees. Probably fails to see the changes and increased prosperity of the rest of the world thru free trade. The recession has little to do with trade and everuthing to do with govt interventions in housing.

muirgeo May 1, 2011 at 10:05 pm

Again the housing crash is a result of a previosly failing economy.

It’s real easy to spot when things statrted going wrong…

http://www.irle.berkeley.edu/events/spring08/feller/productivity_wages_graph.gif

We lived through all this together. I clearly remember the Keynesian economist warning of the problemds they saw in this graph and others while the libertarians and republicans were cheering right to the top of the housing bubble. They cheered right off the ciff. McCann stated the fundmentals of the economy were strong. Don and Russ denied any problem and never made a call to arms. It’s all documented all over this blog and the blogosphere.

That’s why I know my position is right and yours is wrong.

John V May 1, 2011 at 10:20 pm

“We lived through all this together. I clearly remember the Keynesian economist warning of the problemds they saw in this graph and others while the libertarians and republicans were cheering right to the top of the housing bubble. They cheered right off the ciff. McCann stated the fundmentals of the economy were strong. Don and Russ denied any problem and never made a call to arms. It’s all documented all over this blog and the blogosphere.”

What a load of BS. You are so willfully ignorant. In the first part, you continue to alternate throughout this thread about these vague long-term decays resulting from trade, then you point to graphs about wages and productivity about 1970, then it’s about the housing bubble burst and, to you, it’s all the same discussion. Very easy when you are so ignorant.

Then you talk about Keynesian economists pointing out that graph? What about that graph? When? Who?

And then you throw a vague shot out at libertarians concerning that graph. Or it is something else? Cheering right off the cliff? McCann? It’s all over the blog? The blogesphere?

What the hell are talking about? Do you even know? Are you going to take this all in another direction? You are so pathetic.

WhiskeyJim May 2, 2011 at 3:20 pm

Consider for a moment that Trump is not an idiot.

Consider that he chose a far right birther issue, and an equally far left protectionist argument (that would surely bring us to our knees). See Muirgeo jump?

Consider Obama got elected saying all kinds of things he did not mean at all. Consider the media circus that followed him.

I first watched the Trump in disgust. Now I am watching him with some interest.

Tim May 1, 2011 at 3:52 pm

The President We Deserve
Trump 2012!

Gil May 2, 2011 at 12:50 am

“The Simpsons” foresaw it in 2000.

Bret May 1, 2011 at 4:13 pm

There are problems with each of Professor Boudreaux’s arguments:

1. Even politicians such as Brown and Sanders understand that manufacturing output is, on average, increasing. The fact is that manufacturing jobs are decreasing and that’s where their concern lies.

2. Not everybody has the capability to become a doctor or web designer. Nearly everyone has the capability to be an employee at a manufacturing plant. With the current high unemployment, especially among the less educated and less capable, more jobs in manufacturing could quite possibly be helpful to many of those looking for a job.

3. There are winners and losers under every economic system and there’s little doubt in my mind that worldwide economic growth has in aggregate been greatly enhanced by the free trade that has been allowed. Furthermore, there’s little doubt in my mind that in the long run over the last several decades, the poor, the uneducated, and the less capable have benefited the most from free trade.

Nonetheless, in the long run we’re all dead, and if I was a politician, it’s in the realm of plausible that in the short term (less than a decade) I would be helping the poor, uneducated, and less capable by instituting policies to restrict trade at the current time.

Don Boudreaux May 1, 2011 at 4:34 pm

Then you’d be a good politician: someone willing to sacrifice the long-run for alleged short-run gain. (Note how government is often sold as the agency that is particularly interested and adept at keeping its eye on the long-run by ignoring the temptation to ease every immediate, short-run cost and anxiety.)

You’d be a good politician also in the sense that you might imagine that your trade-restriction policies help poor people. But, in fact, you’d help only politically salient interest groups (including, always, capitalists who gain from government protecting their firms from competition). Gains to any poor persons helped by your policies would be more than off-set, even in the short-run, by losses suffered by countless unseen poor people who would be harmed by your short-sighted, politically convenient policies.

You ought to run for office. You seem to have the mind-set, morals, and understanding of economics possessed by most successful politicians.

And think about this, Bret. Would you – to help poor people – also prevent research and development and all other efforts even of American firms to pioneer and implement technological advances? Would you slap additional, punitive taxes on consumers who wish to save more for their children’s education or for their retirements? Such changes in consumer spending and savings patterns would cause some industries currently doing X amount of business to do X-Y amount of business – thus prompting firms in these industries to lay workers off. Would you aim to stop such change from happening? If not, why do you single out changes in trade patterns that happen to cross political borders for your special care and concern?

Bret May 1, 2011 at 4:42 pm

How do you know that those helped “would be more than off-set, even in the short-run, by the countless unseen poor people who are harmed?”

I agree that it’s possible, but you wrote that with such confidence. How do you know? Especially regarding the “MORE than off-set” part in “the short-run”.

Don Boudreaux May 1, 2011 at 4:44 pm

You’ve never had an economics course, I gather.

Bret May 1, 2011 at 5:26 pm

I take it you’re not going to answer the question. Bummer, because I am sincerely curious.

In my exposure to economics, I’ve found that the impulse response to policy change (or anything that affects supply-demand curves and other effects) is generally ignored or glossed over (i.e. P1 and Q1 are assumed to go to P2 and Q2 instantaneously and efficiently which seems very unrealistic to me). It seems to me that the effect of policy change the day after it’s enacted is potentially much different than the effect of that same policy ten years later or once effects related to that policy approach steady state.

So it seems to me that to know that in the short-term the effect of a policy will be overall negative to the poor, you have to know the trajectory of all of the effects of the policy over time, especially over the short-term.

Perhaps you really can estimate those trajectories with sufficient accuracy to back your statement. If so, I’d really like to know how. Perhaps you could at least provide a link?

Lastly, I’m not sure what taking an economics course has to do with anything. Do you believe that taking a course is the only way to learn anything? I have taken an economics course, but I’ve learned far more about economics outside of school.

robert_o May 1, 2011 at 6:01 pm

Bret,

The full argument against tariffs and other protectionist policies is much too long to print out in a blog post, a newspaper article, or even a blog comment.

For an initial overview, consider that any visible gains by a particular party is at least offset by invisible losses by other parties (even ignoring the non-comparability of values). Moreover, such policies are not costless to implement, and so, in the best case, result in a deadweight loss to society.

Please also consider the incentive effects, across all people (and not just your preferred people).

Finally, please consider why do invisible arbitrary lines on a map matter (or not) with respect to the validity of the arguments going either way.

If you want to learn more on the topic, I recommend you pick up one or more of the following books:
- Basic Economics, Thomas Sowell.
- Economics in One Lesson, by Henry Hazlitt.
- Pop Internationalism, by Paul Krugman (*shudder*)
- Economic Sophisms, by Frederic Bastiat.
- Human Action, by Mises.

I am sure there are many others, but those are the ones that come to mind.

Bret May 1, 2011 at 6:35 pm

Regarding losses to society, I’m in complete agreement, but that’s not the question I’m posing. The question is whether or not it is possible via trade restrictions to help a certain group of unemployed in the short-term, even though there is immediate net cost to the rest of society and net cost in the long term to that group or its descendants. That’s what the politicians Brown and Sanders are arguing (though obviously they leave out the net cost to society part).

I own and have read Basic Economics by Sowell and it does not directly address this question.

John V May 1, 2011 at 6:55 pm

Bret,

“The question is whether or not it is possible via trade restrictions to help a certain group of unemployed in the short-term, even though there is immediate net cost to the rest of society and net cost in the long term to that group or its descendants.”

Well sure….maybe in a very short run. But that is a rather silly question. Why would you want to do this?? I suppose you could prop up a certain manufacturer by slapping high tariffs on competing imports. In a very, VERY short run, the manufacturer may hire a few more people….but look at what you’ve done:

You’ve made that product more expensive for direct purchase by many, many, many consumers than workers you helped. In turn, you’ve hurt retailers (and possibly employment with those retailers) who sell those goods because higher prices will hurt sales. If the product is further up the supply chain as a part of delivering a finished retail product, you’ve made that product as an input for domestic manufacturers and are hurting their competitiveness and costing jobs there.

So, you’ve burdened consumers, taxpayers and either the retail sector or manufacturing sector (how ironic!) or BOTH and likely shed as many jobs as you created or more and the longer run effects are worse.

And why again would we do this??? To help out some unemployed?

And if you read Sowell’s book, you would have seen that the lesson about ideas for interfering in the economy on behalf of a narrow goal is to ask “And then what?”. And you keep asking that question and you get the answers you need as you figure out the multiple ripples of consequences from an action. BTW, he does cover free trade in the book as well as the general idea of hurting one group at the expense of the rest. He covers this many times in different scenarios. So either you haven’t read the book or are avoiding understanding it.

Chucklehead May 1, 2011 at 7:06 pm

The question is whether or not it is possible to help a certain group of unemployed in the short-term, even though there is immediate net cost to the rest of society and net cost in the long term to that group or its descendants.
Yes, It is called theft.

Bret May 1, 2011 at 10:33 pm

John V asks, “And why again would we do this??? To help out some unemployed?”

Yes, that is the intention of Brown and Sanders.

John Dewey May 2, 2011 at 5:38 am

Bret: “That’s what the politicians Brown and Sanders are arguing (though obviously they leave out the net cost to society part).”

Brown and Sanders and countless other politicians continue to “leave out the net cost to society part”. That’s why their foolish plans need to be constantly exposed by Don Boudreaux and by you and by me.

Politicians almost always advocate some policy which takes from one group and gives to another. When the taking is obvious, the losing group is a small one (ie, the rich). When the taking is hidden – the not so obvious costs of tariffs – politicians can take from the many. But, in all cases, politicians are taking.

Perhaps more important than the issue of who benefits and who is harmed from tariffs is this question:

What right does a government have to restrict the freedom of people to freely trade with whomever they wish?

John V May 2, 2011 at 10:05 am

Bret,
Your short answer to me is weak. I took your question and fully answered and that response you give is all you have to say?

You’d have looked better not even replying.

robert_o May 1, 2011 at 7:07 pm

Bret,

Given a free market, except for the trade restriction, then no, it’s not. All the trade restriction would do in that case is lower overall wealth.

However, outside of a free market (eg: given other silly policies such as the minimum wage), then it is indeed possible to construct a scenario where a trade restriction would increase the short-term wealth of certain particular people (whether unemployed or not).

That said, even if improving the condition of certain people is seen as desirable, it does not imply that any policy that achieves that is a worthwhile, feasible or preferable policy. One also needs to consider the costs (both economical and moral).

It’s better to remove the initial restrictions that made the trade policy change palpable as a “solution” in the first place, wrt the unemployed.

My edition of Basic Economics discusses trade barriers in Part VI.

Bret May 1, 2011 at 10:37 pm

Yes, mine too, where Sowell wrote, “At any given time, it is undoubtedly true that some industries will be adversely affected by competing imported products…”

That’s what Brown and Sanders are trying to address in the short term.

John Dewey May 2, 2011 at 5:44 am

Bret: “That’s what Brown and Sanders are trying to address in the short term.”

What gives then the right to do so, Bret? Why do they have the right to force you and me and everyone else to pay more for a product than the seller asks us to pay?

I understand that Congress has the legal right to assess tariffs. But they can only exercise that right when voters remain ignorant of basic economics, and make such arguments as:

“How do you know that those helped “would be more than off-set, even in the short-run, by the countless unseen poor people who are harmed?”

Bret May 2, 2011 at 10:13 am

John Dewey asks: “What gives them the right to do so…?”

The most fundamental and only objective right that trumps all others: Might Makes Right.

Sam Grove May 1, 2011 at 8:05 pm

Try this: The poor have very little political influence.

muirgeo May 1, 2011 at 10:08 pm

Isn’t that how you want it to be???

Sam Grove May 1, 2011 at 11:49 pm

What I or you want is irrelevant.

And you are attempting a sly ad hominem AND well poisoning.

I have little political influence even though I am not poor, and I’m really not interested in having political influence. I eschew political power.

brotio May 2, 2011 at 12:01 am

Isn’t that how you want it to be???

Let’s see:

Sam thinks that Americans should be able to buy televisions from wherever it is most-economical to manufacture televisions. You believe that Americans should not be allowed to buy a television manufactured outside of the US, even if it triples the cost, and makes television unaffordable to poor Americans.

Sam thinks that Americans should be able to buy automobiles from wherever it is most-economical to manufacture automobiles. You believe that Americans should not be allowed to buy an automobile manufactured outside of the US, even if it triples the cost, and makes autos unaffordable to poor Americans.

Sam thinks that government-subsidized boondoggles, like windmills, and solar collectors unnecessarily increases the cost of generating electricity; which especially harms the poor. You believe that the poor should wear sweaters and huddle closer together in winter.

Chucklehead May 2, 2011 at 2:41 am

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.
Liberty

muirgeo May 2, 2011 at 9:55 am

You have little political influence because you are a dumbshit who is OK with or wants to set up society so that only the well off have ANY influence.

Most smart peole would like to see rules that make equal each persons policitcal influence.

Sam Grove May 2, 2011 at 12:01 pm

You have little political influence because you are a dumbshit who is OK with or wants to set up society so that only the well off have ANY influence.

Most smart peole would like to see rules that make equal each persons policitcal influence.

OK YFI, I have no desire to “set up” society. Any attempt to “set up” society will produce a hierarchy of power, as there then must be those who will do the setting up and they will set it up according to THEIR own criteria.

Political power is synonymous with hierarchy. You claim to intend the equal distribution of political influence, but the means you choose guarantee the opposite.

That shows the limitations of your intellectual facilities.

You are the uncontested winner of the YASAFI award.

yet another Dave May 2, 2011 at 1:07 pm

Most smart peole would like to see rules that make equal each persons policitcal influence.

Ignoring the problems with your presumptive assumptions here, the only way to “make equal each persons policitcal [sic] influence” is to eliminate government completely.

WhiskeyJim May 2, 2011 at 3:31 pm

@Brotio

Congratulations. You have just encapsulated the small government PR message for the next small government President, who should spend $200 million getting them out.

Please send those notes to the silly politicians stumbling over their own words who are arguing with Obama, and let the games in the media really begin..

muirgeo May 2, 2011 at 3:33 pm

Your solution is nothing less than anarchy… which is stupid, childish and no solution at all. You say we want to force our views on people ( we don’t) but you want to force human nature to be something it isn’t… or maybe wait for us to evolve a new brain… again stupid…childish…not practical or reality based. Absolutely no help solving the problems of the world.

When you get everyone to agree that their should be no rules let me known… but until then the adults will look for ways to get the rules of society to allow for everyone to have a greater participation.

nailheadtom May 1, 2011 at 5:37 pm

” I would be helping the poor, uneducated, and less capable by instituting policies to restrict trade at the current time.”
———————————-
How does such a plan help those individuals? And, as has been mentioned on this site many times, if policies limiting international trade are a good idea, why wouldn’t extensions of restrictions to include domestic trade be an even better concept? Big tariffs on Wisconsin cheese entering Missouri would enable Show-me State cheese factories to employ more curd pressers, but cheese in KC would cost everyone more.

Bret May 1, 2011 at 6:50 pm

First, I need to clarify the specific context of the statement you are questioning. As I described above, the policy would only help some of that group (uneducated, less capable unemployed poor) for the short-term and would hurt them (or at least their descendants) in the long term.

The second bit of context is that the current regulatory regime inhibits capital formation for lower end manufacturing enterprises for a huge number of reasons including environmental protection, minimum wage, OSHA, etc. While I readily agree the best way to help the unskilled unemployed is to remove those hurdles, it simply isn’t going to happen and will probably get much, much worse in the next few years.

Given that, one way (in the short-term) to shift the comparative advantage of the U.S. from high-tech, high-valued items that inherently favors employment for high-tech, high-valued knowledge workers relative to low skilled workers to low end manufacturing is to restrict trade. The supply of low end manufactured items is reduced, the price goes up, making it possible that minimum wage workers can now be employed to produce them. Maybe not, since the regulatory environment may still be too onerous and/or robots and other automation might be used instead, but it’s plausible to me that it might help in the short term.

Policies limiting international trade are different than policies limiting domestic trade because the political jurisdiction and laws are different. Wisconsin and Missouri have the same regulations from the EPA and other government agencies. Not so for China )for example) and the U.S.

Chucklehead May 1, 2011 at 7:16 pm

So the answer to rent seekers causing moral hazards is a new program in which creates more moral hazards and rent seekers, which must continue to multiply to correct previous malinvestments caused by rent seeking regulations. Nice.
Every solution just causes different problems. One must address the root cause, which you correctly began to described: environmental protection, minimum wage, OSHA, etc.

Sam Grove May 1, 2011 at 8:07 pm

Given that, one way (in the short-term) to shift the comparative advantage of the U.S. from high-tech, high-valued items that inherently favors employment for high-tech, high-valued knowledge workers relative to low skilled workers to low end manufacturing is to restrict trade. The supply of low end manufactured items is reduced, the price goes up,

The price goes up and people buy less of these goods. Less demand, fewer jobs.

Bret May 1, 2011 at 10:38 pm

Yes, there would be fewer jobs worldwide but more jobs in the U.S.

Sam Grove May 1, 2011 at 11:51 pm

Fewer in the U.S. as well as fewer U.S. goods will be purchased by foreigners.

WhiskeyJim May 2, 2011 at 3:40 pm

@Sam

1. Higher prices will depress USA demand also.
2. The most efficient and cost effective way to institute this moral policy for the poor is to severely restrict their wages but supplement them with barracks style apartments, soup kitchens, and technology-free factories so as to maximize utility to the most people.

WhiskeyJim May 2, 2011 at 3:45 pm

Wow, I think I am really onto something here.

With barracks so close to the factories, our carbon footprint would be smaller without multiple houses and cars.

We could start a program; bulldozers for Africa, and loan them the money to buy them. No doubt their agrarian production would triple and we could solve world hunger.

Dan May 1, 2011 at 8:52 pm

Your as likely to get less inhibitive regulations as you are to get economic depressing tariffs. Now what?

danphillips May 1, 2011 at 9:13 pm

It always unnerves me to listen to arguments over what should be the proper public policy. What is a public policy? Is it not a political solution to a social problem? Are not political solutions top-down, heavy-handed, mandated, threatened-with-jail-if-you-don’t-comply, required solutions – the exact opposite of economic solutions?

For me there is only one question to ask about a public policy: does the policy make me free? If it does not (and there is no such thing as a political public policy that makes me free) then it is rotten and ought to be fought tooth and nail.

I’ll say it again: when you engage yourself in pragmatic arguments with statists over the workability of their grand designs you are granting them a moral legitimacy they don’t deserve. You lose the argument before it even begins. You cede to them the correctness of their intentions.

Chucklehead May 1, 2011 at 9:55 pm

Good point, well said.
“when you engage yourself in pragmatic arguments with statists over the workability of their grand designs you are granting them a moral legitimacy they don’t deserve.” reminds me of video I saw last night of Epstein vs Soros. All Soros could do is resort to the “why cant we just get along” appeal when he could not prevail on reason.
http://bit.ly/l1LgO7 Epic battle against the dark lord
Richard Epstein, George Soros, and Bruce Caldwell Discuss Hayek’s Constitution of Liberty

vikingvista May 2, 2011 at 2:53 am

I wholeheartedly agree.

If the deliberate undoing of public policy can be considered public policy, then it is the only public policy I support.

muirgeo May 2, 2011 at 10:02 am

No Dan there will ALWAYS be public policy. Better for it to come from the will of the people than greedy bastards wanting all the power and money in the world.

That COULD happen with a properly set up democracy…that will NEVER happen in a libertarian society.

I can only assume you are an anarchist from your statement.. and I’m sorry but that’s just stupid.

Sam Grove May 2, 2011 at 12:04 pm

Better for it to come from the will of the people than greedy bastards wanting all the power and money in the world.

OK, wise guy, what IS the will of “the people”?

Not what You think it is, but what it really is.

If there really is a “will of the people” then it must be manifested as what exists which suggest that people are satisfied leaving things in the hands of others.

muirgeo May 2, 2011 at 3:38 pm

“OK, wise guy, what IS the will of “the people”?”

It’s adult who’s parents taught them the value of sharing, compromise and working together to decide democratically how best organize the rules of society so that any given child has reasonable access to success.

vikingvista May 2, 2011 at 6:01 pm

I see. So the will of the people is the will of the people who agree with muirde.

vikingvista May 1, 2011 at 6:00 pm

First, it is not just on average.

Second, DB’s list was not all inclusive. A great many service sector jobs require less experience and training than manufacturing jobs.

There simply is no intelligent reason to bemoan a decline in manufacturing jobs.

vidyohs May 1, 2011 at 6:45 pm

“Nonetheless, in the long run we’re all dead, and if I was a politician, it’s in the realm of plausible that in the short term (less than a decade) I would be helping the poor, uneducated, and less capable by instituting policies to restrict trade at the current time.”

Well Bret, if we apply honesty to your closing paragraph we would have to interpret it this way: “Nonetheless, in the long we’re all dead, and if I was(were) a politician, it’s in the realm of plausible that in the short term (less than a decade) I would be buying the votes of the poor, uneducated, and less capable by instituting policies to restrict trade at the current time.”

You admit by the words above that closing paragraph, that you would not be helping them.

Seth May 2, 2011 at 11:52 am

Bret – Re: #2: I know you’re presenting an illustrative example, but I think it’s worth point out that the choice isn’t just between a manufacturing job, doctor or web designer. It’s much more complex and dynamic than that.

W.E.Heasley May 1, 2011 at 4:23 pm

No. In the long run Keynesianism is dead.

W.E.Heasley May 1, 2011 at 4:42 pm

“Consider, for instance, claims by Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) that American manufacturing is declining and that the way to fix this alleged problem is with higher tariffs. There is no factual basis for their assertions…….”.
Sherrod (Ohio) Brown aka S.O.B. and Bernie Sanders aka BS makes quite the pair of clowns.

Problem is, the clown car took a ride out into the country side one early Wednesday morning and dropped off Sherrod and Bernie, and sped off in a cloud of dust. Hence there is no returning them to their keepers.

WhiskeyJim May 2, 2011 at 3:56 pm

Some people will never get it.

I once came into a $500 Million company to improve their profits. I immediately began a product development group and spent a significant amount of time instituting a system that allowed me to measure ROI by activity and product (The company did not know why it was profitable).

The Vice-President of Marketing approached me later and said, “I think I understand Marketing now Jim. It is really just measurement.”

The forest would be so much easier to see if there weren’t trees everywhere.

rhhardin May 1, 2011 at 5:27 pm

The news is a business. Their product is not news, but you. They sell your eyes to advertisers.

The news that runs is whatever keeps you from tuning away, and nothing more.

The rule for mass markets is simple and predictable narratives.

So it’s not clownishness but good business that the complaint ought to be directed at.

The business model may not succeed, but if not, there’s nothing that will replace it. You need a large consistent audience to pay the day-in day-out bills, and hard news doesn’t sell. Think city council meetings.

Dr. T May 1, 2011 at 5:51 pm

Our population also is at an all-time high, so a per capita assessment is in order. All other things being equal, manufacturing output rises in parallel with population. USA manufacturing output per capita was highest in 2000 and 2007. Those values are more than 40% higher than in 1970.

I believe that the true reasons for proposing tariffs are appeals to economically ignorant voters and a desire to generate more money for the federal government.

John Dewey May 2, 2011 at 5:48 am

IMO, all politicians propose tariffs for the same reason that George W. Bush slapped a tariff on imported steel: to gain votes and to gain campaign contributions. Those politicians know that few Americans understand the economics of tariffs and that few Americans stop to consider that tariffs are a restriction of freedom.

Krishnan May 1, 2011 at 6:13 pm

Perhaps democracies like ours are inherently unstable – in that there will always be a group (i.e. politicians) who will do anything to hold onto power – and because we have one person, one vote – they can always appeal to class warfare and claim that all they do is “protect the little guy”

Data will never convince them. Even if you can show that on the average, poor people do (and have) benefited – they will trot out one or two people who are (really) worse off and perhaps even for no fault of their own – and the politicians will use these few, rare, emotional cases to jump from the particular to the general – “See? See these two people? See how free trade hurt them?” Never mind that there may be say 1000′s of others who have been helped by “free trade” – Never mind that on the average, EVERYONE is better off … by harping on a few, select cases – they tug on people’s emotions (and yea, many voters are too stupid to see how they are being manipulated) – and people say “Yea, my Congressman said that free trade hurts and he had two cases that were genuine” (or some such crap).

We may have an inherently unstable system that may crash – there may not be anything we can do about it – but yes, we should try and try and educate and educate – but our system as designed to elect people into power and their inherent egos and stupidities almost ensures that the system will crash and perhaps then the “system” will wake up …

The US system has experienced unparalleled growth and our nation has become better – wealthier – and we have been the world’s economic engine – we may be 5% of the world’s population – but contribute 25% (??) or more to the world GDP (something like that) – but all that these crazies will see is that we “consume” – they refuse to see how we have contributed …

The ones that can produce/create are in effect responsible – they make the world of the takers possible because no matter what, the producers keep producing and take the abuse … That many think Trump is someone interested in Free Trade is sickening – A perfect example of a wheeler-dealer – a perfect example of a crony capitalist who plays with OTHER people’s monies and grabs some for himself … A fiscal conservative who may not be the fiery social conservative may not make it past the first few rounds of the primaries … they’d rather vote for some nut who may not be able to gather more than 20% of the vote in a general election …

muirgeo May 1, 2011 at 10:11 pm

“The US system has experienced unparalleled growth and our nation has become better – wealthier – …”

Really? When did that happen more than even.. What period of our history are you talking about?

Slappy McFee May 2, 2011 at 10:56 am

You do know that you’re on the internet right? The same internet that has unleashed freedom throughout the Arab world. The same internet that allows you access to billions of people instantaneously. Just that aspect alone, makes this the single greatest time to be alive. We are richer forever because of that freedom.

muirgeo May 2, 2011 at 3:43 pm

“We are richer forever because of that freedom.”

Really? I thought we had more debt then ever and more people without jobs then ever? Those glasses you wear may make shit look like roses but I still wouldn’t recommend smelling those flowers or picking the pedals.

Chucklehead May 1, 2011 at 7:22 pm

All the closed factories leads me to question the veracity of the data, primarily the real 2005 dollar. First I question if there is such a thing as a real dollar anymore, but also the inflation figure used to calculate future and past dollars. Do they use the CPI, the money supply, if so which one, the price of gold, oil, big macs? Each would yield considerably different results.

Marcus May 1, 2011 at 8:47 pm

Concerning all the closed factories, if we assume the data is valid, I can think of a couple of relevant factors:

1) One possible implication of more efficient factories with fewer employees may be fewer factories.

2) When a modern factories are built to replace aging ones, the old ones are still left standing (which then some people point to as proof of the decline of manufacturing).

Just some thoughts.

Dan May 1, 2011 at 8:56 pm

Ford built a modern factory in mexico. They wanted to build one here. Politics prevented it. The modern factory is a 5 in one factory employee less but paying considerably more. Unions stopped more high paying jobs in the US, because it threatens their low wage, low educated sheep who are more easily manipulated.

Chucklehead May 1, 2011 at 11:03 pm

Trade Deficit Delusions
http://bit.ly/kTnj22

muirgeo May 2, 2011 at 10:05 am

Oh wait.. your link goes to the Cato institute. They are stupid and irrelevent shills for the Koch nut jobs. They exist to brainwash poor fools… eeeeennnttt..link rejected.

Sam Grove May 2, 2011 at 12:10 pm

Witness how muirgeo’s mind (such as it is) works.

CATO, Koch = no good.
Don’t bother reading the article. That’s how he keeps his mind clear…REALLY clear.

muirgeo May 2, 2011 at 3:50 pm

It wasn’t an article it was a podcast and it was Don telling us how good the trade deficit is.

He said foreigners are investing in our economy… more like buying out our country.

He seems OK with foreigners buying out our country… I wonder if he would like to move to China and live under their rules?

muirgeo May 2, 2011 at 12:02 am

Barack Obama interrupts the last 10 minutes of Celebrity Apprentice to announce they killed Osama bin Laden. PRICELESS!

Methinks1776 May 2, 2011 at 1:12 am

Must have been a real blow for him.

Dan May 2, 2011 at 1:42 am

Thank you GWB and General Petraeus, without whom we are not in place to hunt the animal down.

Methinks1776 May 2, 2011 at 3:14 am

Was it worth it? I don’t think so.

While we’re thanking GWB, let’s not forget to thank him for the Patriot Act, which makes it next to impossible for law-abiding Americans to open so much as a bank account abroad and for law-abiding non-Americans to deal with any American financial institution. Meanwhile, the terrorists’ and Russian mafia’s money laundering operations are in full swing.

vikingvista May 2, 2011 at 4:30 pm

Militarists are not interested in considering the negative consequences. Not nearly as interested as they are in ridiculing those who do.

brotio May 2, 2011 at 3:05 am

Why are you happy bin Laden is dead? Didn’t you just get through telling us that the 9-11 attack was justified retaliation for Republican warmongering for oil?

Yeah they were more casualties of our lust for oil and the oil industry – Yasafi, on the, “My take on Hayek’s take” thread.

Hypocrite

muirgeo May 2, 2011 at 9:49 am

Where in that sentence doe sit say it was justified you F Face….

brotio May 2, 2011 at 3:24 pm

Don’t try to be coy. You’re too stupid to be as effective at it as Daniel is.

Casualties of our lust for oil and the oil industry implies that 9-11 wouldn’t have happened if we had just left those poor Arabs and their oil alone. IOW, we had it coming.

Methinks1776 May 2, 2011 at 9:18 pm

In a second he’s going to ask you why you called him a fish.

brotio May 2, 2011 at 11:58 pm

LMAO!

Sam Grove May 2, 2011 at 12:12 pm

What difference do you think that will make in the world?

It’s like announcing the capture of a drug lord; news item, the drug war does on.

tomharvey May 2, 2011 at 1:05 am

Do Messrs. Brown and Sanders encourage their children to work on the factory floor instead of becoming doctors or web-designers?

[Brown, wikipedia] “Brown’s daughter Emily works for the Service Employees International Union, daughter Elizabeth was an editorial assistant at New York Magazine and is currently a communication staff person for the Ohio House Democratic Caucus, and daughter Caitlin is currently performing a year of service with City Year Rhode Island, an Americorp program.”

[Sanders, burlington.edu] “Levi Sanders is a Senior Legal Advocate at Greater Boston Legal Services”

Can’t really say how the encouragement went, but I don’t see a factory floor anywhere. I’m not catching the faintest whiff of hot machine oil.

ettubloge May 2, 2011 at 8:19 am

Never forget: “It’s for the good of the kids”.

Martin Brock May 2, 2011 at 12:32 pm

I love it. Today’s Big Story looks a lot like a carefully orchestrated side show.

Marcus May 2, 2011 at 11:54 pm

I’ve been thinking exactly the same thing.

B.Stone May 3, 2011 at 12:29 pm

I’ve only recently found this blog and subsequently started reading the comments as well. I’ve found the level of economic reasoning and knowledge put forth by commentators here quite refreshing, compared to the willful ignorance that is so prevalent throughout the internet and society in general.
Which leads me to muirgeo…I love this guy. I like to think that in reality no one can be that ignorant of economic principles, be so consistently wrong on fundamental levels, and yet remain so vociferously confident of their positions. Therefore my fantasy is that muirgeo is actually a pseudonym and it’s actually Prof. Boudreaux testing the regulars here via a covert Socratic Method. Sadly, I know the probability of this is nil, and in reality there’s no shortage of such individuals who are so very wrong, who think they are so very right, and who want to mandate their views on everyone.

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