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Lagniappe

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Being on vacation with my son, Thomas – we’re at the big Star Trek convention at the Rio in Las Vegas – I have less time than usual to blog.  In particular, I’m way behind on my “Some Links” and “Quotation of the Day…” features.

But I steal this opportunity to offer one link from Mark Perry’s Carpe Diem; it’s to a post of Mark’s entitled “Using Value-Added Trade Estimates, We Have a +$32.25B Trade SURPLUS with China for 2011 [2].”  The title should be sufficiently intriguing to click on the link and read the entire post.  Here’s the opening:

According to research at the San Francisco Federal Reserve [3], 36% of the value of imported goods goes to U.S. companies and workers, and for Chinese imports it’s much higher: the U.S. content of “Made in China” is close to 55%.  Reason? The SF Fed explains:

“The fact that the U.S. content of Chinese goods is much higher than for imports as a whole is mainly due to higher retail and wholesale margins on consumer electronics and clothing than on most other goods and services.”

And apropos nothing save one of the general themes of this blog, I use this opportunity also to report that, during his time on stage this morning at the convention, actor John de Lancie (who portrayed the god-like character “Q” in several Star Trek episodes) speculated that his character “Q” is interesting because it combines “infinite power with no responsibility.”  De Lancie quite properly suggested that this combination is a very bad one indeed.

So I ask: what is the state if not an institution that permits those who manage to get their hands on its levers of control to exercise vast (altho’, of course, hardly unlimited) power with virtually no responsibility?  The responsibility that matters, of course, is personal responsibility – responsibility of those flesh-and-blood individuals who actually decide and act.  To say that “the state” as an institution is “responsible” for something – say, the welfare of society – and to point to formal documents in which that responsibility is trumpeted, is neither to create nor to identify genuine and meaningful responsibility.

Barney Frank, for instance, might work for an institution that professes that it is – and is alleged to be – “responsible” for this and that aspect of American governance.  And in so working for that institution in the high and exalted capacity in which he works for it, Mr. Frank is indeed invested with real and vast power.  But the same institution that gives him his power simultaneously shields him from taking responsibility for the very consequences of his exercise of that power.

And as Bryan Caplan explains [4] far better than I ever can, the same is true – though to a much lesser degree – for each and every voter.

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