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On the Injustice of Conscription

In my latest column for AIER, I argue that the all-volunteer nature of the U.S. military ensures that the burden of America’s military provision falls where it belongs – on taxpayers rather than on military personnel. (Well, by not falling on soldiers and sailors this burden falls closer to where it belongs; because today’s citizens-taxpayers use deficit financing to push off onto future citizens-taxpayers much of the cost of providing government outputs and services, some people – tomorrow’s citizens-taxpayers – are indeed unjustly burdened with a large chunk of the cost of providing for the military today. But this is an issue for another time.)

A slice:

By being part of a market economy in which each person specializes in that task for which he or she enjoys a comparative advantage, and then voluntarily exchanges the fruits of his or her efforts for the countless fruits of the efforts of hundreds of millions of other individuals who are also specialized as producers, each of us exchanges burdens with each other. And in the process, we greatly lighten each other’s burdens. It’s less of a burden for me to teach economics and then to exchange some of my income with handymen (and others) to perform tasks for me than it is for me to perform for myself all of the tasks that must be performed for me if I am to enjoy my current standard of living. Ditto for Ernesto. It is easier for him – a lighter burden for him – to perform handyman tasks and then exchange the fruits of his labors for the many things that he buys for his and his family’s consumption.

A person who voluntarily enlists in the military obviously believes that that employment option is the best one for him or her. In exchange for his or her performance of military duties, that soldier or sailor is paid an amount that fully compensates that person’s time and effort spent in the military. The payment received by the soldier or sailor comes from taxpayers, who are the ultimate beneficiaries of whatever services are supplied by the military. In an all-volunteer military, the soldier or sailor no more shoulders the burden of supplying military services than Ernesto the handyman shouldered the burden of hanging my tv on my wall.

This equitable and just reality would be undone if the US government conscripted individuals into its military. All of the many individuals forced into military service against their will would, unlike today’s servicemen and servicewomen, not be fully compensated for the time and effort they would be forced to exert on behalf of taxpayers. Conscription, in short, would enable taxpayers to steal the labor of conscripts – to impose a large portion of the burden of supplying military services on conscripts.

It would clearly be unfair and unjust for me to threaten Ernesto with violence unless he supplies the service of hanging my tv at a low wage that I arbitrarily dictate. My acting in this manner would shift the burden of hanging my tv from me (where it belongs) to him (where it does not belong). For the very same reason, it would be no less unfair and unjust for me and my fellow taxpayers to threaten violence against young men and women if they refuse to supply the service of military protection at low wages that we, through our Congressional representatives, arbitrarily dictate.

Conscription ensures injustice. The all-volunteer military promotes justice.


Some Links

Although I detest everything about the NatCon ‘philosophy,’ I’m proud to be among the signers of this letter denouncing the effort to prevent NatCons from speaking in Brussels.

Writing on this illiberal effort to silence the illiberal NatCons is the thankfully liberal Stephanie Slade.

Tom Palmer makes the moral case for globalization. Four slices:

To seriously consider globalization, it’s best to avoid definitions that contain the conclusions of complex arguments. A fruitful discussion of globalization requires a nonmoralized and operational use of the term. The definition is nonmoralized if it does not signal whether we should embrace or reject the term defined and is operational if it identifies uncontested, or at least verifiable, features of the world that people of different moral traditions and ideologies can agree are features of the world. So, this essay’s definition of globalization is the relatively free movement of people, things, money, and ideas across natural or political borders. Thus, increasing globalization means reducing or eliminating state‐​enforced restrictions on voluntary exchanges or interactions across political borders that would be permitted if the private (nonstate) parties were on the same side of a border. A consequence of increasing globalization is an increasingly integrated and complex global system of production and exchange.

Some critics of globalization include in their definition the existence of certain international organizations, such as the World Trade Organization (WTO), the International Monetary Fund, the International Labour Organization, the World Bank, and the World Health Organization. While there are arguments for and against those organizations, none of the organizations are essential to globalization, and some have hindered it. Moreover, none of them are world governments, and none have enforcement powers, armies, etc. They are created by treaties among sovereign states. James Bacchus addresses many myths about the WTO.


Restricting the liberty of people to travel or exchange information, ideas, goods, or services requires justification. The burden of proof lies with the party that would restrict the liberty of another, just as the burden of proof in a criminal case lies with the one making the charge (the prosecutor). In contrast, the immoralityof arrogating to oneself the power to restrict the choices of others is more evident: it violates the presumption of equal liberty that is foundational to free, harmonious, and prosperous societies by presuming instead that some people be required to ask permission to act from some privileged class. At the very least, such assertions require more justification than is generally offered by advocates of restrictions on trade, travel, or the exchange of goods, services, and ideas.

There is evidence that our commonly accepted norms of morality emerge from trade, which established the importance of legitimate expectations and reputations, both of which are necessary for the emergence of law and morality. Morality itself is a product of exchange, and the more trade, generally the more humane a society is.


In a deglobalized world in which only privileged people were free to travel and trade those few privileged people would experience tremendous diversity every time they traveled from one country to another. Most people, however, would experience far less diversity. In a world in which people are free to trade and travel, though, most of us experience far more diversity than we would in a world without such freedom. Wealthy visitors to poorer countries often identify the culture of those countries with their poverty and “quaintness.” That is a mistake. Icelanders, to take an example of a small nation with a distinct culture, maintain their language and way of life not by being isolated but by trading with foreigners and using their resulting wealth to sustain publishing houses, film production, education, and much more in their own language. Economist Tyler Cowen described the forms of variety on page 15 of his book Creative Destruction: How Globalization Is Changing the World’s Cultures.


Cultural exchange is foundational to living cultures. Pasta, for which Italian cuisine is famous, has origins in Asia, whether it was brought to Italy by Marco Polo, as folklore tells, or earlier, and the tomatoes that form the base of many Italian sauces are cultivated from plants brought from Meso‐​America by Spaniards. Food has been globalized for millennia, but somehow that has not stopped it from developing an amazing diversity of identifiable cuisines, styles, and dishes with many distinctive characteristics. The same can be said of architecture, traditions, mores, religions, and every other element of human culture.

Some local customs have dwindled or disappeared. Consider the virtual disappearance of human sacrifice and slavery, both of which had long traditions in many cultures. In that respect, all cultures have become more similar over time—and a good thing too. As a political example, if all the countries of the world were to adopt democracy and to throw off autocracies, tyrannies, colonial masters, and so on, there would be less diversity among systems of government, although a wide variety of forms (Westminster parliamentarism, federalism, presidential systems, constitutional monarchies, etc.) would remain. If genocide, ethnic cleansing, and colonialism were to be eliminated and replaced by some form of live‐​and‐​let‐​live mentality, another kind of diversity would be reduced.

GMU Econ alum Dominic Pino talks with Samuel Gregg about industrial policy.

Jim Bacchus is correct: “The globalization of ideas enriches the world.” A slice:

Facilitated by trade, the invention of critical discussion in Athens led, a century before Plato, to the conception of the new idea that became democracy. As the British classicist Peter Green wrote in The Greco‐​Persian Wars, what the feudalistic Persians despised most about the Greeks, as exemplified by the Athenians, was their “addiction to trade,” and especially, “the free exchange of opinions that went with it.” The same might be said of how trade has, in the 2,500 years since and in so many places throughout the world, promoted more openness to uncounted new ways of thinking and doing and living. In particular, this can be said about the idea of democracy.

Here’s more from the irrepressible Bruce Yandle.

GMU Econ doctoral candidate Giorgio Castiglia understands the unfortunate consequences for workers of minimum wages.

NPR does not like to be criticized

but Matt Taibbi is highly critical of new NPR chief Katherine Maher.

Tal Fortgang reports on progressive arrogance and illiberalism at (not shockingly) U.C.-Berkeley. A slice:

In other words, these students know that the ostensible adults in the room aren’t just with them on the issues; they encouraged the zealotry, assertion of moral superiority, and black-and-white thinking that allows students to disrespect anyone — even a dean and eminent scholar — whom they deem morally impure. It’s no wonder that these young activists, feeling no restraint and facing no consequences, behave like spoiled brats.

Who’d a-thunk it? (And here.)


Quotation of the Day…

… is from page 422 of Robert Bork’s masterful 1978 book, The Antitrust Paradox:

Competition in open markets reflects the ideal of equality of opportunity, while antitrust’s longstanding and growing concern for the small and less efficient reflects a preference for equality of outcome. Outcomes are not equal in open competition, hence the pressure for more intervention by law. Nor can equality of outcome be achieved by making the slow faster, that being beyond the powers of legal compulsion, but only by holding the faster back.

DBx: In part because of the influence of Bork’s work, antitrust regulation and jurisprudence from the late 1970s until very recently took a turn for the better. It became much less hostile than it was in earlier years to successful, creative entrepreneurship and competition. Unfortunately, many people high up today in America’s antitrust bureaucracy would return antitrust to being a tool to restrain the creative and punish the successful (and, hence, reduce economic prosperity to the masses).


Some Links

Richard Epstein and John Yoo call upon the U.S. Supreme Court to stop Honolulu’s unlawful assault on oil producers. A slice:

Federal courts have limited the Biden administration’s authority to set nationwide standards regulating emissions from power plants. But some cities and states are pushing to meet stringent climate goals by other means. In October, the Hawaii Supreme Court allowed the city and county of Honolulu, along with the local water utility board, to claim that oil and gas companies failed to disclose the risks their products posed to the environment. As a result, the suit alleges, buyers overconsumed oil and gas, which caused excess emissions, which increased global temperatures, which caused sea levels to rise, which then damaged Honolulu.

The energy companies are now asking the U.S. Supreme Court to put a stop to this charade. It should, for several reasons.

Jeff Jacoby warns of the dangerous precedent Biden is setting by defying – and boastfully so – the U.S. Supreme Court. Two slices:

EVER SINCE the Supreme Court ruled last year that President Biden had no authority to unilaterally write off $430 billion in student loans, he and his aides have been crowing that they intended to do it anyway.

Within hours of the court’s decision, Biden truculently told reporters that the court was wrong. He declared he would “stop at nothing to find other ways” to get what he wanted. Soon the administration began generating fresh schemes to cancel student debt — or, more accurately, to transfer that debt to taxpayers. In February, announcing his intention to relieve an additional 153,000 borrowers of the obligation to pay back what they owe, Biden again stressed that he would not comply with the court’s mandate. “The Supreme Court blocked it, but that didn’t stop me,” he boasted on Feb. 21.

Last Monday came another White House move to wipe out student loans — this time absolving some 30 million individuals of their liabilities. Once more there was an explicit assertion of resistance to the court’s decision. “When the Supreme Court struck down the president’s boldest student debt relief plan,” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona proclaimed, “within hours we said: ‘We won’t be deterred.'”


Either way, Biden’s open snub of the Supreme Court is pushing the rule of lawlessness to a dangerous new level. As he campaigns against Trump in this year’s election, the president keeps warning that America’s democratic values are in jeopardy. He’s right. But as his refusal to abide by an unambiguous decision of the nation’s highest court shows, his opponent isn’t the only candidate jeopardizing them.

Thomas Feddo warns of Biden’s reckless pandering to labor unions and the economically ignorant. A slice:

President Biden weighed in last month on Nippon Steel’s proposed acquisition of U.S. Steel. “It is vital,” he said in a statement, for the latter “to remain an American steel company that is domestically owned and operated.” Soon after, the United Steelworkers endorsed the president. This may be an empty election-year promise. If it isn’t, it’s a pledge to subvert the law and cripple a vital national-security tool in the process.

The only obvious way to stop the acquisition is through the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S., or Cfius, a nearly 50-year-old interagency panel that scrutinizes cross-border deals to determine whether they could harm national security. The two steel companies had filed for Cfius review a week before the president’s statement.

Cfius is composed of nine cabinet officials and led by the Treasury secretary. Its work is confidential, rigorous and fact-based, and its statutory remit concerns only national security. Congress mandates Cfius conduct its analysis in secret and precludes the president from dictating its decisions. Mr. Biden’s statement didn’t mention Cfius or national security, but it’s reasonable to suspect he hoped to influence the committee.

But an adverse ruling from Cfius would clearly be improper.

Speaking of Biden, these letters in today’s Wall Street Journal are spot-on. Here’s one:

Why are student loans more deserving of forgiveness than any other kind of debt? (“Biden’s Latest Lawless Debt Forgiveness,” Review & Outlook, April 9). President Biden hasn’t proposed paying off everybody’s mortgage or car loan—yet. If, after canceling student loans, he wants to buy still more votes with other people’s money, that will be an option. Don’t think he wouldn’t consider it.

Keith E. Smith
Silver Spring, Md.

Here’s my intrepid Mercatus Center colleague, Veronique de Rugy, on inflation.

The Fund for American Studies president Roger Ream reflects on NPR reporter Uri Berliner’s recent revelation of the extreme bias at NPR. A slice:

What’s troubling today is the new ideology that’s taken over newsrooms during the Trump years. Journalism is now focused more on political correctness and political point scoring than on traditional journalistic ethics like fairness, independence and truth-seeking. It enforces a rigid orthodoxy that promotes specific viewpoints while shutting out other voices that don’t stick to the approved narrative. In short, the news today tells its readers, viewers and listeners what to think.

James Pethokoukis unfailingly writes wisely about innovation.

Katarina Hall reports that “Argentine President Javier Milei and Tesla CEO Elon Musk met for the first time in Austin, Texas, where they ‘agreed on the need for free markets.'” A slice:

During their meeting the two “agreed on the need for free markets and defend the ideas of freedom,” the Argentine government said in a statement. “The President and the businessman spoke in Texas about the importance of eliminating bureaucratic obstacles that keep investors away,” it added.

Kimberlee Josephson explains how today’s business schools often undermine wealth creation.

GMU Econ alum Jayme Lemke reviews Jessamine Chan’s dystopian 2022 novel, The School for Good Mothers.

It pays to have friends in high places. (HT Todd Zywicki)


Quotation of the Day…

is from page 128 of David Schmidtz’s excellent 2023 book, Living Together (footnote deleted):

Robert Frank once reported being baffled that I would reject modest redistribution from rich to poor. Amartya Sen intervened at that moment and told Bob he needed to listen. Affluent scholars see a pie and see how they want to slice it, but Sen saw me starting in a different place – with the truism that power corrupts. Starting from that truism, what is baffling is that anyone could so cavalierly endorse concentrated power when we live in a world where concentrated power is so often used to redistribute not from rich to poor but from poor to rich. Sen went on to say that when it comes to inequality, the question is not whether we can find a statistic that gives credence to the resentment the richest scholars feel as the richest movie stars leave them behind, but which dimensions of rising inequality do poor people care about?


Some Links

Arnold Kling is understandably unimpressed with economists’ understanding of business. A slice:

Economists treat “the firm” as if it were a single, cohesive unit. In 2016, Bengt Holmstrom and Oliver Hart won a Nobel Prize for undertaking analysis of just one internal conflict—that between a manager wanting performance and a worker preferring to shirk. But in the real world, a business is a cauldron of conflicts.

John O. McGinnis reviews Ingrid Robeyns’s “case against extreme wealth.” Two slices:

Politically, she contends that the state should limit individuals to a net worth of 10 million dollars. Ethically, she claims that moral individuals should possess no more than a million dollars’ worth of assets.

Her arguments are not at all convincing, but they are clarifying. While the left’s interest in progressive taxation can be reconciled with a market society, even if it reduces economic growth, proscribing wealth would lead to a society with little or no growth. While the left’s interest in creating more equality of opportunity can be reconciled with liberalism’s priority on human autonomy, Robeyns’ contentions are deeply illiberal and depend on her own unimaginative prescriptions for human flourishing. Unfortunately, given the prevalence of the swing against the rich, friends of liberty will hear more such arguments and need to be prepared to refute them.


Robeyns appears to think “intrinsic motivations” rather than external rewards will be enough to keep the economy humming but she provides no evidence for this. Intrinsic motivation has not permitted even small-scale socialist experiments to endure. Even the higher tax rates in Europe that are far lower than what would be necessary to eliminate the rich—depress the levels of work and innovation there compared to the United States.

Wall Street Journal columnist Mary Anastasia O’Grady writes insightfully about Brazil and Elon Musk. Two slices:

In modern liberal democracy, free speech acts as a check on absolute power. The executive has the bully pulpit, but the public’s access to contrarian points of view contributes to the vibrancy of political debate. Brazil’s constitution protects civil liberties, and free expression has been a Brazilian value since the country returned to democracy in 1985.

That is, until Lula and his Workers’ Party got caught with their hands in the cookie jar and Lula went to jail in 2017. The largest graft and bribery scandal in Western Hemisphere history exposed the criminality of the political class and its business-community friends. In 2018 Brazilians elected President Jair Bolsonaro, an outsider who promised to clean house.

Mr. Bolsonaro is a former army captain with a lowbrow style who can be crude. But that alone doesn’t explain why a good part of the country has come down with Bolsonaro Derangement Syndrome. Lula can also be vulgar.

Mr. Bolsonaro’s main transgression was his pledge to protect private property, restore law and order, and challenge identity politics. He was supported by social conservatives, libertarians, the working and middle classes, entrepreneurs and farmers, all of whom were tired of democratic socialism. Many were willing to overlook Mr. Bolsonaro’s flaws in exchange for getting rid of the Workers’ Party. The legacy media calls them “the far right.”

As president Mr. Bolsonaro was far from a champion of free markets and his language was often reckless. But his administration restored fiscal sanity, deregulated parts of the economy, and made doing business less onerous through digitization


Brazil’s Congress has failed to pass legislation that empowers the court to ban what it subjectively brands “fake news.” But the court continues to demand that platforms block speech. On April 6 Mr. Musk rebelled, tweeting that while Twitter has “informed” accounts that it was told to block, it doesn’t “know the reasons these blocking orders have been issued.” Nor does it “know which posts are alleged to violate the law” and it’s “prohibited from saying which court or judge issued the order, or on what grounds.” Twitter is “threatened with daily fines if we fail to comply,” he said. Last week he lifted the block on some users. He also threatened to release his communication with the court, an accounting Brazilians deserve to see.

Professor Michael Way’s letter in today’s Wall Street Journal points to a real problem:

Nothing makes clearer to me the degree to which government influences and meddles with business than to learn that Intel has a “chief government affairs officer” (Letters, April 10). True capitalism may not be dead yet in the U.S., but it is on life support.

Prof. Michael H. Way
California State University, Bakersfield

Pierre Lemieux ponders incentives.

John Cochrane speaks to APEE. Two slices:

Economics is about incentives. We don’t have much to say really about transfers. Our expertise, our claim to truth that applies to everyone, is the analysis of incentives.

Politics is all about transfers. Government grabs resources from A and gives them to B, or distorts markets to benefit B. Look at any discussion of taxes. The newspapers are full of who gains or loses $100, but practically silent on incentives to work, save, invest. In many ways, managing transfers by force is the point of government.

This is all good news. In a discussion that is essentially about transfers, we can pop in, say “excuse me,” and have something genuinely different to say, rather than just jump in on the partisan scales of who gets what.


Another weakness is that we are boring. Many politicians want a New Big Idea as a core of their propaganda racket with a new name. Make America Great Again. Bidenomics. National Conservativism. Anti-Racism. To this cage fight we bring, “Remove the Regulatory Roadblocks in Real Estate Permitting. “New” on the package is the first lesson of marketing. “Stimulus,” write everyone a check, makes great politics. But our national life is a hoarder’s nightmare. We need a patient Marie Kondo cleanup, not stimulus. First the sock drawer, then the kitchen cabinets, and maybe next month we can look inside the garage.

We should stay boring. We should not bend to the desire for power and influence, to serve as the ideological fountain for people who strive for power. That is not the way our ideas will advance. They will find us when the time is right, as Reagan found Friedman.

Our ideas also seem old, and politics demands the fresh and new. But our ideas are better because many are old and well tested. Just because force = mass times acceleration is an idea from the 1670s doesn’t make it any less applicable today. Just because Adam Smith and David Ricardo showed tariffs were dumb centuries ago doesn’t make tariffs any smarter today. Old well-tested ideas make a lot better policy. One of my greatest annoyances is economists who fly to Washington with a clever new idea for Washington to spend a few trillions of dollars; the same Washington that can’t get a the existence of a supply curve, a budget constraint, or trade balance identity (trade deficit = capital inflow) straight. Policy should get the simple tried and true right, as boring as that might be for whiz economists.

el gato malo tweets: (HT Jay Bhattacharya)

i remember in feb and march of 2020 being astonished by this lockdown idea and loudly yowling “do you have any idea what shutting down the world for 2 weeks would do to global supply chains and economic function?”

it did not even occur to me that anyone would be crazy enough to try it for months or years at the expense of small business, social fabric, and education.

it was simply such an insane idea that my mind could not compass the notion that someone would try it or that anyone would go along with it if they did.

i think a number of us suffered from a similar failure of imagination. there was a pervasive sense among us that there was just no way that the “people in charge” could be this stupid, barking mad, and hopelessly corrupt and self-absorbed or that society could be so easily panicked into a stampede of self-enforcing submission to collective delusions.

it turns out that the intersection of milgram and ash is a very dangerous place for society.

it turns out that propaganda works.

and it turns out that “the experts” are anything but.

the question that remains is “did we generate the societal antibodies to resist the next one?”

a significant part of that is resisting this historical re-write of “mistakes were made, but no one could have known.”

they could. they did. and they will again.

but alone, that does not amount to much.

you get run over.

it’s who society stands behind that decides whether or not “people knowing better” matters.

choose well.


Quotation of the Day…

… is from page 205 of the original edition of Walter Lippmann’s sometimes deeply flawed but profoundly insightful and important 1937 book, The Good Society:

And so I insist that collectivism, which replaces the free market by coercive centralized authority, is reactionary in the exact sense of the word. Collectivism not only renders impossible the progressive division of labor, but requires, wherever it is attempted, a regression to a more primitive mode of production.

DBx: Yes.

Show me an advocate of full-on socialism and I’ll show you someone whose preferred policies, if implemented, would destroy modern civilization. Show me an advocate of partial socialism – for example, an advocate of industrial policy – and I’ll show you someone whose preferred policies, if implemented, would inflict great damage on modern civilization, with the amount of damage being a positive function of the extent to which the industrial policy displaces market-directed allocations of resources.


Some Links

Scott Lincicome clarifies the ‘China Shock.’ Four slices:

Reading those summaries, you will inevitably think that 1) the China Shock was driven mainly by U.S. trade liberalization; 2) it devastated the U.S. economy, destroying more 2 million American manufacturing jobs and causing widespread social problems too; and 3) that these widespread harms are settled economic canon. Wanting the government to thwart another round of such devastation today—including via tariffs—would be an understandable response.

But there’s only one problem: Almost none of what I just said about the China Shock is actually correct.


More importantly, economists have repeatedly found that other factors—not PNTR or China’s WTO accession—were the main drivers of the China Shock. Economists Kyle Handley and Nuno Limão, for example, found that PNTR’s reduction in trade policy uncertainty accounted for only about one‐third of the growth in Chinese exports to the United States between 2000 and 2005. Mary Amiti and colleagues foundsimilar results, attributing approximately two‐thirds of the trade effects on U.S. manufacturing not to PNTR but to China’s own tariff reductions, which counterintuitively make exporters more competitive. (Preliminary results from a new group of economists suggest that—again contra the narrative—China reduced domestic tariffs by a greater amount than was expected for nations joining the WTO.) Even the China Shock papers by Autor, Dorn, and Hanson (I’ll refer to them as ADH going forward) emphasize that China’s internal reforms—on privatization, trading rights, and (again) import liberalization—were the major contributors to China’s export surge in the late 1990s and 2000s.

In short, PNTR probably accelerated Chinese exports to the United States by reducing tariff uncertainty, but it was China’s own market‐based reforms—policies beyond U.S. officials’ control and ones China critics should cheer—that were the China Shock’s biggest drivers.


First, the figure of 2.4 million lost jobs during 1999 and 2011 was the authors’ maximum (“upper bound”) estimate, with the more likely scenario (“central estimate”) being only about half that number. Just as importantly, only half of those job losses were in manufacturing—all the others were in local and supporting services. Those jobs matter too, of course, but common claims that the China Shock destroyed 2 million or more American manufacturing jobs are—by even the authors’ most extreme estimates—just plain wrong.

Second, the ADH papers focus strictly on job losses incurred by specific local labor markets because of the China Shock—they don’t account for everything else happening in the U.S. economy at the same time, including Chinese imports’ other effects. This methodological issue is really important, because a) the much-ballyhooed 2.4 million job losses (max) came amid an economy‐wide gain of approximately 2.2 million U.S. jobs (even as the labor market effects of the Great Recession persisted beyond 2011); and b) those 1 million lost manufacturing jobs (max) accounted for less than 20 percent of the total manufacturing job losses over the same timeframe—and a tiny fraction of the tens of millions of job separations that occur in the United States each year. Thus, even the China Shock papers themselves confirm that manufacturing job losses caused by Chinese imports were at best a significant contributor to—not the main driver of—total factory job declines during the 2000s.


Second, the original ADH China Shock papers didn’t examine the consumer effects of trade with China for the United States. Other economists have filled this gap, again with more optimistic results. Xavier Jaravel and Erick Sager, for example, found that for each percentage point increase in Chinese imports, consumer prices fell by nearly 2 percentage points, with savings from both imports and domestically produced goods (thanks to heightened competition). Notably, middle‐ and low‐income households enjoyed a disproportionate amount of these benefits, as the most affected products were those often sold at big‐box retailers, such as Target and Walmart. As the 2024 Economic Report of the President also just noted, other studies have found Chinese imports to have provided similar reductions in consumer prices—“almost 90 percent of the U.S. population saw an increase in purchasing power”—as well as significant benefits for American manufacturers that consume imported inputs.

David Henderson is correct: High IQ and grasp of factoids isn’t sufficient to make someone a sound thinker.

Amar Bhidé tells “the boring truth about AI.”

And here are thoughts from Arnold Kling on Bhidé’s piece.

Freddie Sayers talks with Harvard Law professor Randall Kennedy about DEI.

C. Jarrett Dieterle reports on Minneapolis’s assault on gig workers and consumers. A slice:

In response to the council’s override, ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft have announced they are planning to pull out of the Minneapolis market entirely unless the council reverses course. The ride-share companies originally were set to leave the city on May 1 when the ordinance went into effect, but after a last-minute agreement by the council to delay the ordinance’s effective date to July 1, the ride-share companies are in wait-and-see mode.


Quotation of the Day…

… is from page 233 of F. A. Hayek’s March 1945 essay, in Fortune, “Review of Sir William Beveridge’s Full Employment in a Free Society,” as this essay is reprinted as Chapter 12 of Hayek, Contra Keynes and Cambridge (Bruce Caldwell, ed., 1995), which is volume 9 of The Collected Works of F.A. Hayek:

It is the great merit of democracy that the demand for the cure of a widely felt evil can find expression in an organized movement. That popular pressure might become canalized in support of particular theories that sound plausible to the ordinary man is one of its dangers.

DBx: So true.

There is today a superabundance of policy ideas that sound plausible to ordinary men and women but that, upon inspection with sound economics, are revealed as crackpot. These ideas include minimum-wage legislation as a means of improving the lives of poor workers, protective tariffs as a means of enriching the people of the nation, and ever-increasing funding for government schools as a means of providing better education.