Libertarian as Ethnicity

The past few months have been busy, to say the least. The Obama administration announced a series of executive actions regarding immigration and that has taken up most of my time. Meanwhile in my day job as a graduate student I’ve been overwhelmed with midterms and finals; I am sure my fellows in NoL can sympathize with this. The few moments of peace I have enjoyed have gone towards pondering one question: Who is an American? 

The question is not isolated. By asking who an American is, I’m really asking what ethnicity, and other social groups, really are. The best answer to my question was an old Cato blog post appropriately titled, What is an American? In it Edward Hudgins discusses what makes an American. It is not, as some believe, a common language, creed, or ancestry. What makes an American is his love for liberty. It is in his closing remarks that Hudgins hits on something amazing, there is no meaningful thing as ‘American’.

Unfortunately, the American spirit has eroded. Our forebears would look with sadness at the servile and envious character of many of our citizens and policymakers. But the good news is that there are millions of Americans around the world, living in every country. Many of them will never make it here to the United States. But they are Americans, just as my grandpop was an American before he ever left Italy.

There exists those individuals who can prefix themselves as Americans, but at best this only tells us that they are somehow affiliated with the American continent. There exists a group of people who yearn for liberty and are willing to fight for it, but many of them were neither born or live in the United States. Likewise there are those who were born and live in the United States who are no friends of liberty. And so my initial question has lead me to a new one. Why not promote being a libertarian as an ethnicity? Why not introduce ourselves as ‘Libertarios’ instead of Americans, Germans, or Turks?

At first my proposal may sound strange to some. Would it not be silly to define an ethnicity by political views? I don’t think so. Few ethnic groups have a concrete basis in reality and are based more on fiction than anything else. I was born in Mexico, raised in the United States, and am directly descended from Germans, Jews, and Cubans. I feel little fraternity to these latter groups though. Why should I? I didn’t elect to have Jewish or Mexican ancestry, but I did elect to be a libertarian. Anyone who proclaims to be a libertarian automatically has my sympathy and support, even if I know nothing else about them. As this is the case I would prefer to be identified as a Libertario than any other ethnic group.

I am sure that there are those who would prefer not to be identified by any collective label at all. For those of you who fall into this category I would offer a pragmatic case for identify as Libertario.

I hope it can be taken for granted that, as libertarians, we wish there to be more libertarians. In the best scenario more libertarians in the world might lead to better public policy. In the worst scenario we at least have more potential friends. By promoting our existence as an ethnic group we would encourage more people to remain as libertarians. I have often found people who have libertarian political views, but who withdraw from participation if they become discouraged about the hope for change in their lifetimes. If we were an ethnic group though these individuals would continue to promote liberty, if only to signal their membership in the group. An ethnic group therefore not only encourages members to remain active, but produces positive externalities to promote the group’s message.

For comparison consider the Mormon people. Many Mormons spend time advocating on behalf on their religion, with several even going abroad on missionary work. From anecdotal experience I’ve noticed that many of them are ill treated when they perform their advocacy. Why do they bother to do so then? Because, as I’ve noted above, it signals their membership in the Mormon community. The average Mormon may not particularly enjoy being harassed for their beliefs, but they do it anyway to tell other Mormons a simple message, “I’m one of you.”

It goes without saying that there must be a benefit to belonging to a given group for this to work.

Additionally the existence of an ethnic libertario community would make raising children to be libertarians much easier. I side with Bryan Caplan in the belief that a relatively easy way to grow the movement is by simply having more children than the general population. It doesn’t matter if you believe children’s political beliefs, and by extension their ethics and other characteristics, are shaped by genetics or their nurturing, a libertario community would help with producing children. If you believe in the genetic argument, then an ethnic community reduces the cost of finding a spouse who shares your political beliefs. If you believe in the nurture argument, then surely a child raised among libertarians is more likely to end up being one himself.

Thoughts? Am I just crazy? Or do you have a counter proposal to ‘Libertario’ as our ethnic label? Comment below.

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Choques reais e choques monetários…juntos – observações aleatória sobre bitcoin, Lucas, Marschak e, claro, política monetária

One source of difficulty in formal empirical studies of monetary policy effects on real variables has been the common practice of focusing attention on real responses to policy innovations—i.e., unexpected components —in vector autoregression (VAR) studies. [McCallum, B.T., here]

O que dizer da distinção entre choques reais e monetários quando o governo norte-americano, de forma inteligente, aceita a inovação do bitcoin?

Pois é. A criação do bitcoin e similares é um choque tecnológico, mas é também um choque monetário. Digo, você injetou mais moeda de forma descentralizada e temporalmente aleatória na economia. A princípio, isto tornaria a oferta de moeda mais instável do que a demanda, penso.

Bem, como seria de se esperar, políticos, que são tão racionais quanto nós, facilitaram o fluxo de bitcoins…para eles.Seria legal agora que pudéssemos investigar uma galera da Papuda. Será que eles têm bitcoins também?

Old bottles…

Suspeitas à parte, a questão sobre como medir o choque monetário do bitcoin é algo a ser pensado, não? McCallum já chamava a atenção para a dificuldade, em termos do debate acerca da demanda de moeda (a equação (4) do texto, reproduzida a seguir) e dos choques tecnológicos já em 2002.

mt −pt = γ0 +γ1γt +γ2Rt +εt

Agora que você se lembrou da famosa equação, eis o trecho interessante:

Indeed, it would seem almost to suggest the opposite—for the theoretical rationale for (4) is built upon the transaction-facilitating function of money, but the technology for effecting transactions is constantly evolving. And since technical progress cannot be directly measured by available variables, the effects of technical change (not captured by a deterministic trend) show up in the disturbance term, εt. But the nature of technological progress is such that changes (shocks) are typically not reversed. Thus one would expect a priori there to be an important permanent component to the εt process, making it one of the integrated type— and thereby making mt −pt not cointegrated with yt and Rt.

Podemos ver que McCallum, ao discutir a questão do progresso tecnológico, deu-nos uma pista para como poderíamos começar a entender o problema. Temos que estudar mais séries de tempo, cointegração e pensar melhor no sistema de equações que usamos. Ok, não é um conselho fácil, mas nem inventar o bitcoin foi fácil, não é?

Fica esta dica para o debate sobre o choque que é (ou os choques que são) a introdução do bitcoin no modelo.

Mas vamos aproveitar que o autor é bom e citar outro trecho!

“Eu já sabia. Pelo menos o Lucas deve ter lido meu artigo…”

Ah sim, em um outro excelente momento do texto, ele mostra seu conhecimento da evolução histórica do pensamento econômico. Vejam que trecho ótimo:

Now clearly the switch from the fixed-lag to the rational expectations hypothesis was the consequence primarily of theoretical, rather than empirical, analysis. At the time it seemed a rather drastic step, but after the fact it has come to be recognized as an entirely natural extension of the usual approach of neoclassical economic analysis to an area of economic activity (expectation formation) that had previously been treated in a non-standard manner. Today, many economists trained after 1980 appear, empirically, to have difficulty in even contemplating any other expectational hypothesis. Also, it should be remembered that Lucas’s critique itself was not new, but merely a (brilliantly persuasive) application of Marschak’s (1953) fundamental insight that policy analysis requires a structural (as opposed to reduced-form) model.

Marschak é um autor bem mais antigo, nascido em Kiev (Ucrânia, Putin, Ucrânia…) e, como você pode ver, não era um sujeito qualquer. Não digo para sair por aí correndo para ler artigos dele, mas pense na questão que sempre destaco aqui: a importância do capital humano na formulação e condução da política monetária. De certa forma, o genial Bryan Caplan já pensou em algo assim quando publicou aquele artigo que sempre cito aqui sobre a idea trap (versão para iniciantes aqui, para alunos que já fizeram pelo menos um ano de curso e não temem as letras do alfabeto em combinações algébricas aqui).

Só para você ter um gostinho do que Caplan intuiu:

The current paper presents a simple political– economic model of the interaction of growth, policy, and ideas to explain this puzzle. Growth, policy, and ideas are mutually reinforcing, given a key assumption about the impact of growth on ideas. Countries tend to have either all ‘‘good’’, all ‘‘mediocre’’, or all ‘‘bad’’ values. An important implication is that social forces do notinexorably drive economically unsuccessful countries to reform. In my model, policy ‘‘turn-arounds’’ instead arise due to large random disturbances that shock economies into better equilibria. While this conclusion is somewhat counterintuitive, it is much more consistent with the empirical failure of the convergence hypothesis than the optimistic ‘‘learning’’ model (Williamson, 1994a).

Pense nisto um pouco. Não é o que ocorre no Brasil? Sai uma equipe econômica que coloca a economia no lugar, entra outra que parece não ter lido nem um livro-texto básico. Não há porque a política econômica ser sempre melhor do que a anterior porque ela é feita por seres humanos. Logo, diria o leitor de Buchanan, precisamos de amarras constitucionais para não dependermos de anjos, né?

Eu adoraria falar mais disto, mas notei que isto está se transformando em outro post. (a ser publicado em De Gustibus Non Est Disputandum)

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Gun control: Centralized vs. Dispersed

Hayek made the point that the debate of whether to have central planning was not over whether or not there would be planning, but over who would plan for whom. This point has an analog in the debate over gun control. The option is not between reason and chaos, but between centralized (and therefore bureaucratic) control and decentralized control.

Just because you (i.e. your ideals as embodied in the Democratic National Convention) aren’t in control, doesn’t mean that nobody is. A decentralized gun control regime is one where individual gun owners are responsible for securing their weapons and criminals are responsible for crimes they commit. Will mistakes be made? In the imperfect world we live in that’s almost a certainty. Will the results be worse than one with government gun control? That’s an empirical question. Political gun control will raise the cost of getting guns, but it will also raise the relative criminal effectiveness of guns. It will save some lives but will also cost some. There will probably be fewer accidental deaths and suicides, maybe fewer crime-of-passion murders, but likely more “kill the witness” murders. If the penalty for using a gun in a crime is high, then the relative cost of killing a witness is low (for example, adding a life sentence for murder on top of a 30 year sentence for armed robbery is like getting a 30-year off coupon on that life sentence).

With 3D printed guns on the horizon (to say nothing of the “dangerous” lack of regulation of machining tools!) an effective political gun control regime would have to expand to all manner of regulation. This regulation would cost a lot! But, one might object, mere money is not worth as much as the lives that might be saved. But it’s not embossed portraits of dead white men that’s at stake. I don’t think we should let economists play God, but I think there is something to economists’ activity of considering what we might be willing to give up for a life.

Money is a medium of exchange; it’s not the end, just a tool we use to make life easier. The cost of regulation is real human well-being, time, and effort foregone. Taking someone’s money prevents them from spending it on what they otherwise would have. It also discourages them from investing further effort into producing something valued by others. Regulation also takes people’s (irreplaceable!) time; saving someone’s (irreplaceable) life provides some moral justification for this, but the cost must be acknowledged.

If (if!) there is a benefit to political gun control (that is if we judge the lives lost under a decentralized regime as morally superior to those lost under a political regime), then we should still consider the cost. In any case, we should all stop using the term “gun control” when we mean “political gun control.” A problem defined is a problem half solved, and the blanket term “gun control” mis-defines the problem.

My Latest Op-Ed: “…Libertarians Are Selfish and Stupid”

It’s on foreign policy and the straw men libertarians routinely have to deal with. An excerpt:

If there is one thing that Leftists are known for, it is being rationally ignorant: the less you know about your opponent, the easier it is to dismiss him as a “right-wing nut job,” a “Korporate Klown,” or a “Teabagger.” The less you know about your opponent, the easier it becomes to swallow the fall of the Berlin Wall and the stagflation of the 1970s. The less you know about your opponent, the easier it is to forgive Barack Obama for his trespasses (see also this post by an economist, Bryan Caplan, on Leftist ignorance of conservative and libertarian arguments).

Conservatives are indeed more well-informed about Leftist programs and Leftist thought, but this is hardly something to be proud of. Being proud of such a fact is like Cuba being proud about the fact that it is not considered to be the worst violator of human rights in the world.

Read the rest. It’s on Dr Delacroix’s “other” blog. I’ve got a new one coming out either today or tomorrow, so be sure to check in more often and watch the fireworks.

Hopefully nobody is getting too tired of the NOL’s foreign policy focus lately…

How to Rebut the Condescending Leftist

Economist Bryan Caplan, in responding to calls for more to be done by governments for the world’s poor, writes the following:

Isn’t the entire problem that the world’s poor have little of value to sell on the world market? The answer, surprisingly, is no. The world’s poor have a very valuable good to sell: their labor. Though Third World workers often earn a dollar or two a day, even unskilled labor is worth $10-$15,000 per year on the world market.

There’s just one problem: First World governments’ immigration policies effectively forbid international trade in labor. The world’s poor cannot legally work in a First World country without that government’s permission. For most current residents of the Third World, this permission is almost impossible to obtain. If you’re an unskilled worker with no relatives in the First World, you have to endure Third World poverty, win the immigration lottery, or break the law.

Do read the whole thing. It’s from the recent Cato Unbound symposium on “Authority, Obedience and the State.” The Cato Institute is probably one of three think tanks that actually puts out work I can count on (the other two being Brookings and Hoover). Their monthly Cato Unbound is one of the best symposiums on the web.

Dr. Delacroix has written on immigration before. Here is a piece he produced for the Independent Review. Here are his blog posts on immigration.

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