He was also an early defender of gay rights. At the September 1978 Mont Pelerin Society meeting in Hong Kong, he decried a California ballot initiative that would have banned homosexuals from teaching in public schools, ignoring snickers from some in the crowd. The initiative went down to a well-deserved defeat, helped by the opposition of Demsetz’s fellow Californian Ronald Reagan.
In 1963, when Demsetz was on the UCLA faculty, a University of Chicago economist named Reuben Kessel asked him if he was happy there. Demsetz, sensing an offer in the works, answered, “Make me unhappy.” Chicago did just that, and Demsetz spent eight very productive years there—eight years that changed the course of economics forever.
A so-called trade war occurs when the government of country A imposes taxes on the people of country A in order — or so the government of A claims — to compel the government of country B to remove similar taxes on the people of country B. Some protectionists, such as President Trump, allege that this is how one arrives ultimately at free trade. It’s like having the people of country A shoot themselves until the people of country B stop shooting themselves, except that if the matter were left to the people suffering the wounds, they would never be so masochistic as to proceed with such an idiotic war.