To be sure, the idea that habits of civility are indispensable to building a just, free, peaceful and prosperous society is not an original point, and Hudson doesn’t claim that it is. Nor is such a claim necessary for the book to be enlightening and valuable. Rather, what matters is that this view of the world and the practices of civility are massively underemphasized in society today and that the roots of many of our social pathologies can be traced to ignorance of or indifference to our collective secular and communal religious traditions. Bookstore shelves sag under the weight of books of ephemera that capture attention for hours or days—the Trump administration alone fueled a whole market of timely tell-alls, none of which retain even the slightest intellectual value. What can’t be found these days are tomes that restate, explain and elucidate timeless truths.
In his contribution to the Cato Institute’s “Defending Globalization” project, Johan Norberg explains that “the overall direction [brought by trade] is one toward better jobs, higher wages, safer workplaces, and less child labor, and it has happened the fastest in the countries that have opened the most and are most integrated in global supply chains.” Four slices:
One typical op‐ed in the New York Times asserted in 2015 that the race to the bottom encourages corporations to “relocate production to the lowest‐cost country,” employ children because they are paid less, and neglect safety measures, resulting in the deaths of more workers. This has always been a theoretical possibility, but empirical data have stubbornly refused to cooperate with it.
The International Labour Organization considers the share of the labor force in elementary and lesser‐skilled jobs as a proxy for low incomes and bad working conditions. This share has declined by more than 10 percentage points globally from 1994 to 2019. The decline was 6 percentage points in low‐income countries and as much as 20 percentage points in upper‐middle‐income countries, the group of countries that have taken the greatest leaps to integrate with the global economy.
The number of working poor has declined very fast. Between 1994 and 2022, the share of employed persons worldwide who live in extreme poverty (receiving an income below $1.90 adjusted for inflation and local purchasing power) declined by more than three‐quarters, from 31.6 percent to 6.4 percent—a reduction of more than half a billion people despite setbacks during the pandemic (Figure 1). The share of workers in moderate poverty (earning between $1.90–$3.20) also declined, from more than 21 percent to around 12 percent. Poverty is strongly correlated with gross domestic product (GDP) per capita, and in upper‐middle‐income countries, the share of extreme working poor was less than 1 percent in 2022.
The race‐to‐the‐bottom hypothesis got it wrong because it neglected half the cost‐benefit analysis. If labor compensation (in the broad sense, including working conditions) were just a gift generously bestowed on workers, it would make economic sense to reduce it as much as possible, but in a competitive labor market, it is compensation for the job that someone is doing, and therefore there is a tight link between pay and productivity. Some workers might be twice as well paid as others, but that does not make them uncompetitive if they are also twice as productive.
This is not the only flaw in the race‐to‐the‐bottom hypothesis. Foreign trade and investment do indeed find their way to the poorest countries sometimes, especially in sectors where low capital investment means that labor costs are an important factor, such as the production of garments and footwear. But in those instances, their main effect is to raise the level of productivity and to improve wages and working conditions.
These jobs might look bad to journalists and activists in rich countries, who are used to much higher standards, but they usually offer something much better for people in poorer countries. Compared with the alternatives in agriculture, services and domestic manufacturing, these factories offer better pay and working conditions. In fact, when the World Bank writes about how the Cambodian economy could improve the quality of jobs, it offers a recommendation that seems completely counterintuitive to the critics in rich countries: “Use the same labor standards applied in the garment factories to other industries and sectors.”
There are certainly instances of bad working standards even in companies producing for global markets, but there is “virtually no careful and systematic evidence demonstrating that, as a generality, multinational firms adversely affect their workers, provide incentives to worsen working conditions, pay lower wages than in alternative employment, or repress worker rights,” according to Robert E. Baldwin and L. Alan Winters in the 2004 report Challenges to Globalization: Analyzing the Economics, who go on to say, “In fact, there is a very large body of empirical evidence indicating that the opposite is the case.”
As we get richer, we develop more energy‐efficient products and processes and turn more goods into ones and zeros in digital systems. In the world as a whole, the energy required to produce one unit of GDP fell by 36 percent between 1990 and 2020. Low‐ and middle‐income countries have made an even faster journey because they have been able to move quickly from old, dirty technology to the very latest, which they imported. China’s energy intensity fell by a whopping 72 percent during this period.
[DBx: Do read all of Johan’s splendid essay. For further evidence in support of Johan’s thesis, see Nathan Jensen’s 2006 book, Nation-States and the Multinational Corporation.]
By catalyzing a coalescence around Haley, Scott could transform the nation’s political mood. As long as the Republican race pits Donald Trump against a cluster of lagging pursuers, the nominating electorate cannot ponder a binary choice. When, however, it is Trump against one experienced, polished, steely and unintimidated adversary, voters can internalize this exhilarating reality: There is a choice suitable for a great nation.
Scott could mercifully end the candidates’ miserable “debates,” which are caricatures of real ones and diminish everyone involved. (In the Lincoln-Douglas debates, one spoke for an hour, the other for 90 minutes, then the first speaker delivered a 30-minute answer.) More 60-second simplicities about complexities will benefit only the nonparticipating candidate, who has time on his side.
The Editorial Board of the Wall Street Journal warns of the FDA’s regulatory overreach – in this case, an attempt to regulate [as the WSJ writes] “as medical devices the tests that are developed, manufactured and performed by labs.” A slice:
FDA regulation would effectively prevent labs from using real-world patient data to continuously improve results. Bureaucratic review, which can take years of back-and-forth with agency staff, could discourage labs from developing tests.
Academic and hospital labs lack the resources to hire lawyers to pore over FDA submissions. Neither do biotech startups that are developing liquid biopsies to identify early-stage cancers, Alzheimer’s, and auto-immune rheumatic diseases. The FDA would have to hire hundreds or thousands of new employees.
The public-health left has been pressing the FDA to regulate lab tests by flogging the example of Theranos, which claimed to have developed a test that could detect diseases with a finger prick of blood. But stopping fraud or fly-by-night test purveyors doesn’t require sweeping new regulation.
Trained to follow the evidence, Kheriaty found that intellectually confronting the “Covid-justified” lockdowns, school closings, multiple required vaccinations, vaccine passports, masks, social distancing, etc. required him to practice the discipline of political philosophy, which examines regimes—the few and the many—authority, power and freedom, and so on. During the pandemic scare, constitutional norms were suspended, civic liberties once taken for granted were denied with insouciance and cruelty, and those “out-of-step” with mandated behaviors were coerced by public and private entities, vilified by the medical establishment and legacy media, and banned by social media behemoths. Comprehensive categories, and comprehensive thinking, were required to take it all in, to find intelligible coherence in what was going on. Occurring in real-time, massively visible while also suggesting behind-the-scenes machinations, the task was enormous and daunting. Nor was it just an American reality.
“Anti-Science” is a red-herring to bypass accountability and “anti-authoritarianism”.