Richard Ebeling identifies the poisonous root of the NBA’s recent kowtowing to the authoritarians in Beijing. In this slice, Richard makes the solid point that two wrongs don’t make a right:

In the hysteria of an American political election season, the worst thing that could happen would be if politicians and pundits now propose to legislate or regulate the response by the NBA or the Houston Rockets to the Chinese government. With all the chatter about the Chinese attempting to abridge the freedom of speech of Americans through the weapon of financial intimidation if they want to do business in China, it then would be the U.S. government dictating what those sports teams and their NBA representatives could say and agree to in trying to salvage their growing business in China.

More broadly on the same topic is George Will. Here’s his conclusion:

Unfortunately, however, [Beto] O’Rourke, [Elizabeth] Warren and [NBA Commissioner Adam] Silver demonstrate the tendency of too many progressives to cut constitutional corners, to despise and bully adversaries, and to practice theatrical but selective indignation about attacks on fundamental American principles, some of which they themselves traduce. Just what we did not need in our dispiriting civic life — additional evidence that there really is no such thing as rock bottom.

On October 23rd, Steve Landsburg will speak (along with, among others, GMU Econ alum Paola Suarez) at Kennesaw State University.

Ben Zycher exposes problems with ‘renewable’ energy. A slice:

In the larger context, the opposition to conventional energy that is the core of the GND is fundamentally anti-human, because one major implication of the opposition to fossil fuels is an aversion to increases in the value of human capital and other parameters that have the effect of increasing the demand for conventional energy. Moreover, the authoritarian implications of the GND are serious, however unnoticed.

In this letter in the Wall Street Journal, Tom Grennes again exposes the absurdity of the Jones Act.

James Pethokoukis observes, accurately, that this time is an especially strange one for the West to tremble in fear of the Chinese economy.

Also from James Pethokoukis is this podcast with the eloquent and learned Scott Lincicome, who today has few peers in defending free trade.

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Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on October 17, 2019

in Complexity & Emergence, Law

… is from page 136 of GMU Econ alum Edward Stringham’s important 2015 Oxford University Press book, Private Governance:

The most personal form of private governance is individual self-governance or internal moral constraints. Ignored by strict neoclassical economists, the importance of individual self-governance or internal moral constraints has been discussed by writers from Adam Smith to Immanuel Kant and Leo Tolstoy. Internal moral constraints are rules that people choose to follow even if other people do not impose them; these constraints are chosen from within. Manners, politeness, honesty, and trustworthiness are common examples of internal constraints that people commonly adopt independent of external rules.

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Some Links

by Don Boudreaux on October 16, 2019

in Economics, Health, Philosophy of Freedom, Trade, Video

My intrepid Mercatus Center colleague Veronique de Rugy isn’t favorably impressed by Trump’s new kinda-sorta-maybe trade deal with China.

Megan McArdle isn’t favorably impressed with Elizabeth Warren’s knowledge of health-care economics.

Vincent Geloso isn’t super-impressed with the economics that was most-recently awarded a Nobel Prize. A slice:

First, the narrowing of the focus provides results that are not that surprising: more capital makes small firms more productive; better food increases schooling performance; access to vaccines improve health; better teachers mean better test scores for students. These are highly unsurprising results even if the measure of the effects is incredibly accurate. Some of their findings were, at first sight, more surprising. For example, Banerjee and Duflo (along with Rachel Glennerster) found that a program to deal with nurse absenteeism in Indian public hospitals that had positive effects initially was ultimately undermined by local politicians and bureaucrats. However, for scholars familiar with the insights from public choice theory and the economics of bureaucracy, the results are unsurprising. They illustrate a point they have been making for a long time regarding the need to consider public sector players to be just as self-interested as everybody else.

And here’s David Henderson on this year’s economics Nobel laureates. Here’s David’s conclusion:

Many other economists are asking that question, and coming up with big answers. Michael A. Clemens, an economist at the Center for Global Development, has written that removing or substantially reducing barriers to immigration would create tens of trillions of dollars of additional income for people from poor countries, while also benefiting the rich countries to which they move. How about a Nobel Prize to Mr. Clemens for working on a big question?

Here’s the video of Deirdre McCloskey’s interview yesterday (by James Pethokoukis) at AEI.

Gary Galles celebrates comparative advantage.

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… is from page 230 of Mike Munger’s excellent essay “Final Thoughts on Egalitarianism,” which is the conclusion to the new 2019 volume, In All Fairness (Robert M. Whaples, Michael C. Munger, & Christopher J. Coyne, eds.):

Power doesn’t stay where you put it. It expands, and corrupts, other activities and other government officials.

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My July 7th, 2005, column for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review was inspired not only by the attempt by the China National Offshore Oil Corp. (CNOOC) to buy a majority stake in Unocal, a U.S.-headquartered oil company, but by some poorly reasoned opposition to this sale. (See, for example, this bizarrely bad column by Paul Krugman.) My arguments for why Americans had nothing to fear from this purchase are in the column beneath the fold.

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Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on October 16, 2019

in Philosophy of Freedom

… is from page 694 of philosopher Chandran Kukathas’s October 1998 Political Theory paper, “Liberalism and Multiculturalism: The Politics of Indifference“; by “liberalism” Chandran of course means classical liberalism rather than the simple-minded ideology of statism that today more and more calls itself “Progressivism”:

Liberalism does not care who has power; nor does it care how power is acquired. All that matters is that the members of society are free to pursue their various ends, and that the polity is able to accommodate all peacefully.

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Bonus Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on October 15, 2019

in Philosophy of Freedom

… is one that I learned of long ago; I am surprised that I’ve not yet featured it here at Cafe Hayek. A favorite of Deirdre McCloskey – who used it today to very good effect in talks that she gave both at the American Enterprise Institute and at the Cato Institute – it’s among the final words spoken by a Leveller, specifically, Richard Rumbold, in 1685 before his execution in Edinburgh:

I am sure that there was no man born marked by God above another; for none comes into this world with a saddle on his back, neither any booted and spurred to ride him.

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Free Trade, Properly Defined and Understood

by Don Boudreaux on October 15, 2019

in Myths and Fallacies, Trade

In my latest column for AIER I do my best to explain that a policy of free trade for country X does not depend upon what policies are, or are not, pursued by the governments of countries Y and Z. A slice:

Protectionists define free trade differently than do economists. Economists (and all knowledgeable free traders) define free trade exclusively as a domestic condition – that is, as a policy to be adopted or not by the home government. If adopted, the home government remains blind to the nationality of its citizens’ trading partners; the home government neither uniquely obstructs nor stimulates its citizens’ trade with foreigners. In any country in which individuals and firms are left free by the government there to buy, sell, invest, and disinvest as they choose regardless of the nationality or location of their trading partners, there reigns free trade.

In sharp contrast, protectionists define free trade as a global condition. For protectionists, free trade reigns if and only if no government on earth intervenes in any way that might affect the details of how its citizens engage commercially with people in other countries. With free trade defined as such, nearly all protectionists today gaudily announce their allegiance to it.

This stance might be called the “I’m a free-trader but….” position. For protectionists, standing firm in this position is convenient and cheap. It allows them to pose as free-trade’s staunchest friends in principle without their ever having to abandon protectionist sentiments in practice. Because in practice the world will always feature governments that use tariffs and subsidies, in practice protectionists will never be without a ready excuse for their governments to use tariffs and subsidies.

Indeed, even if by some happy miracle all foreign governments immediately, unconditionally, and permanently eliminated all tariffs and export subsidies, protectionists would nevertheless offer ample excuses for their own governments’ continued use of tariffs and subsidies. If history is a guide – and, of course, it is – protectionists would allege that economic policies apparently internal to foreign countries are ones that nevertheless, when their full effects are traced out, negatively affect the international economy and, therefore, warrant protectionist policies at home.

One familiar such foreign-government policy involves legislated labor standards. Protectionists in the United States and other wealthy countries today are quick to call for tariffs to be levied at home in response to the failure of governments of poorer countries to impose workplace-safety rules, collective-bargaining privileges, and other labor standards that are as high as those imposed by governments of wealthy countries.

Lower government-imposed labor standards abroad are not only said to give firms and workers in poor countries “unfair” advantages over firms and workers in rich countries. Lower labor standards abroad also are declared by rich-country protectionists to be such an affront to human decency that rich-country governments are bound by the precepts of morality to impose tariffs on imports from poor countries in order to ‘punish’ poor-country governments for their inhumanity.

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In this June 26th, 2005, column in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, I was inspired by the just-rendered Kelo decision to ponder the superstitious belief that state power can work miracles. The column is beneath the fold.

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Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on October 15, 2019

in Growth, Myths and Fallacies, Standard of Living

… is from page xi of Deirdre Nansen McCloskey’s hot-off-the-Yale-University-Press 2019 book, Why Liberalism Works: How True Liberal Values Produce a Freer, More Equal, Prosperous World for All; by “Great Enrichment,” McCloskey refers to the historically unparalleled increase, over the past two centuries (and still occurring), of the material standard of living of ordinary people in societies classically liberal and (hence) relatively free:

The Great Enrichment doesn’t mean, of course, that there’s nothing more to do in helping the poor, especially by ending the numerous, monstrous, and yet politically popular policies that in fact damage them worldwide. But it does mean that it is mischievous to attack, as many political theories do, a “capitalism” that has done more than anything else to help the poor.

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