Ian Vásquez remembers Jim Gwartney. A slice:
He was influential also through his involvement in the Public Choice Society and the Association of Private Enterprise Education, of which he had served as president, and which has grown into an alternative to the more established economics associations that Jim correctly considered had become insular, elitist, and ideologically narrow. Last year, the Johns Hopkins Institute for Applied Economics published a lengthy and informative interview with Jim about his life’s work.
Second, Gwartney will be remembered as a founder of the Economic Freedom of the World (EFW) index, which is published by Canada’s Fraser Institute. The index was the brainchild of Rose and Milton Friedman and the Fraser Institute’s founder Michael Walker, who organized a series of conferences beginning in the late 1980s to investigate the feasibility of creating a quantitative measurement of economic freedom by country. Gwartney frequently told the story about how he received his invitation to attend the second such meeting in Vancouver in 1988. He was going to decline it (thinking to himself: How can you possibly measure economic freedom?) until he saw the invitation came from Milton Friedman himself, so he fired off his acceptance. After a third meeting in Banff, Gwartney and Walter Block (along with his graduate assistant at the time Robert Lawson) hatched a plan to create an economic freedom index based on a small but gettable number of indicators for a large number of countries. Prototypes of this index were presented at the fourth and sixth meetings in the series, and the final product was published in 1996. The EFW index has been released annually ever since and now presents an economic freedom rating for 165 nations based on several dozen indicators.
People who didn’t know Jim might be unaware that he was blind for the last quarter-century of his life. As he was losing his eyesight, he adopted computer technology to compensate. He continued his productive scholarship right up until his final weeks. His fading eyesight never seemed to affect his disposition or his productivity, and I never viewed it as a handicap. I don’t think Jim did either. Some people are tall. Others are short. Some people have red hair. Some people are bald. Jim happened to be blind. He didn’t let that hold him back.
Nationalism is particularly dangerous in a diverse nation like the United States, where it is likely to exacerbate conflict. The ideology is virtually impossible to separate from harmful ethnic and racial discrimination of a kind conservatives would readily condemn in other contexts. Like socialism, with which it has important similarities, nationalism encourages harmful government control over the economy. Nationalism also poses a threat to democratic institutions. Finally, nationalist ideology is at odds with America’s foundational principles, which are based on universal natural rights, not ethnic particularism.
In crucial ways, nationalism is just socialism with different flags and more ethnic chauvinism.
Nationalists in the United States and elsewhere advocate wide‐ranging government control of the economy, most notably in the form of industrial policy, protectionism, and immigration restrictionism. In this respect, the nationalism of the right has much in common with the socialism of the left. It’s no accident that the more extreme early 20th‐century nationalists, such as the Nazis and Italian fascists, explicitly sought to appropriate socialist economic policies for purposes of helping their preferred ethnic groups, as opposed to the more expressly universalist objectives of left‐wing socialists. It should not, therefore, be surprising that nationalist economic policies have many of the same flaws as their socialist counterparts.
To preserve their dominance and promote their interests, nationalists here and elsewhere advocate government control not only of the culture, but of the economy as well. In the United States, NatCon economic policy channels early 20th‐century progressivism by embracing industrial policy, immigration restrictions, and trade protectionism — three policies that almost always produce harmful outcomes, suffer from problems similar to those that bedevil socialist central planners, and can lead to disaster.
Industrial policy consists of government efforts to promote industries supposedly critical for the nation’s economy or security. Ethanol subsidies offer an illustrative example of industrial policy in the United States — as well as its deleterious effects.
During the mid‐20th century, Nobel Prize‐winning economist Friedrich Hayek famously argued that socialism cannot work because central planners lack the knowledge needed to determine which goods to produce and in what quantities — a concept commonly referred to as the “knowledge problem.” Market prices, he argued, enable producers to know the relative value of different goods and services, and to determine how much consumers value their products.
Nationalist economic planners, like their socialist counterparts, have no way of knowing this information. They also have no good way of determining which industries government should promote and how much it should promote them. Nor have they any basis for concluding that foreign products or immigrant workers are somehow worse than domestic ones.
For these reasons, nationalist economic planning has produced poverty and stagnation — much like its socialist counterpart. Such were the results in nations like Argentina (where nationalism wrecked one of Latin America’s most successful economies), Spain, and Portugal under their nationalist regimes.
But then how can he seriously call for a second Bill of Rights in the image and likeness of FDR’s New Deal—including a right to employment, food, and health care, whose enforcement would require an even windier maze of bureaucratic rules than the one we have now—when the first New Deal imposed serious restrictions on freedom, personal agency, and democracy? It is similarly difficult to reconcile Sunstein’s preference for nudging, dripping with its technocratic condescension (not to mention its long-term ineffectiveness), with human dignity.
Fauci just admitted to Congress that the six-foot social distancing rule was completely made up and had zero scientific basis. Incredible.
So many people — scientists included — were completely ostracized, silenced, and prevented from even talking about the sketchiness of the rule.
The public is right to be skeptical of any health mandates.