From the comments: All of the Bad Things that democratic governments do

My general point has to do with this anti-democratic argument:

[…] where are the masses to stand up against war, bank bailouts, taxation, police aggression etc?

These are all Bad Things that democratic governments do, but they are also Bad Things that all governments do. And, in turn, these Bad Things are much less prevalent in democratic societies than they are in non-democratic societies.

In fact, it is only in democratic societies that you can complain about these Bad Things. It is only in democratic societies that you can do something about these Bad Things (even if it’s just blog-ranting).

This simple observation leads me to conclude that anti-democratic libertarians have it back asswards when it comes to democracy. Democracy is a byproduct of liberty. Maybe anarchy would lead to even less “war, bank bailouts, taxation, police aggression etc,” but as of now it is in democracies that these Bad Things have been made less prevalent.

Anti-democratic libertarians aren’t thinking on the margin when it comes to democracy. (Hence the dogmatism you find in certain anarcho-capitalist circles.)

This is from yours truly, in another dialogue with Chhay Lin on democracies, anarchies, and meritocracies. Read it from the top!

From the comments: Microstates and military protection

I took a look at the table Easterly & Kraay provided in the paper that you cited (here is an ungated pdf; it’s on pg 22) and all of the rich small states save for The Bahamas (which is 50 miles away from Florida) enjoy military protection from larger polities.

Bahrain and Qatar have the US Navy looking after them, Iceland is in NATO, Bermuda is a Crown Colony, and Luxembourg is nestled comfortably in between France and Germany (and people say the EU is worthless!). If you throw Macau and Hong Kong into the mix you’re looking at a well-protected group of microstates.

It’d be very interesting to see how empirically robust this observation is, but I suspect it won’t be done because most people who focus on microstates tend to have a soft spot for them. To acknowledge the deep intertwinement that successful microstates have with larger polities is to acknowledge the prominence that incoherence and messiness enjoy when it comes to existence of states and the issue of sovereignty.

This is from yours truly, in a dialogue with Chhay Lin on microstates and economic development. Read the whole thing from the top!

LARB can’t figure out why South Korea’s government is so bad at marketing campaigns

Colin Marshall is a blogger for the Los Angeles Review of Books (LARB), a great publication that has featured NOL‘s own Barry Stocker before. Marshall is puzzled by the fact that Seoul’s best marketing comes from independent filmmakers rather than the South Korean government. I guess I shouldn’t say “puzzled” because Marshall has a theory as to what is to blame, but I thought the piece was interesting because it highlights so well why libertarianism is so important.

Here is a link to Marshall’s piece. It is filled with lamentations about the Korean government’s inability to produce good marketing for the country. Instead of going for the jugular, though, and pointing out that incentives matter, here is where Marshall pins the blame:

I often wonder whether the problem has to do with the difficulty Koreans have in seeing Korea clearly, at least when looking for its good points; when dwelling on the negative, they suffer from no such lack of perceptual acumen. Many an acquaintance here has asked me, indeed insisted I reveal to them, what displeases me about Korea. For years I didn’t have a straight answer, but then I realized that nothing bothers me quite so much as Korea’s culture of complaint itself.

Got that? Marshall is wondering aloud (blaming) Korean culture for the bland marketing campaigns of the Korean government, even though he recognizes the brilliant marketing campaign of the independent filmmaker in the beginning of his piece. Not only does he blame Koreans for a problem that affects all governments, he attacks the “culture of complaint” that Koreans are well-known for.

Complaining, critiquing, one’s culture is a necessary component for a free and open society (Chhay Lin wrote about this at NOL awhile back, regarding Cambodia).

Am I engaging in bad faith here? Is Marshall really that ignorant of markets and alternative orders that he fails to understand why the Korean government cannot produce anything creative? Is Marshall so stupefied by the predictable failure of the Korean government to produce anything creative that he would stoop to insulting his hosts? Help me out here, folks.

BC’s weekend reads

  1. Understanding Trump’s trade mistakes
  2. Empiricism and humility
  3. Epistemological modesty and unintended consequences
  4. Immigrants and slaves
  5. 5 takeaways from the Dutch election

BC’s weekend reads

  1. Madonna offers oral sex for those who vote Hillary Clinton
  2. Trump-inspired ‘pussy’ ad banned in San Francisco subway
  3. The poverty of democracy
  4. The battle for the Arctic
  5. Countries rush for upper hand in Antarctica
  6. Why not world government? (Part 2)
  7. Meet China’s state-approved Muslims
  8. The good, the bad, and the ugly of Somaliland secession

From the Comments: Why did Cambodians trade foreign terror for domestic horror?

John Cyberome pitches the question to Chhay Lin on his post about the terrorist attacks in Paris. Chhay Lin’s response (which I have broken up into smaller paragraphs) deserves a closer look:

I don’t understand why Cambodians traded foreign terror for native horror. It’s something I’ve always wanted to understand. I don’t remember a time when I did not have such questions as: how can people be so cruel to each other or would they (the friends I had) be able to commit such horrendous acts to me if they would live during the Khmer Rouge period? It seems like there is a terrible part of human nature that is called upon in certain circumstances. I think the Milgram Experiment and the Stanford Prison Experiment have been examples of how peaceful people can move to extremely horrifying acts. I also think that the Khmer Rouge had good intentions. In their eyes, they were saving the nation from corruption, from immorality, from foreign invaders and from domestic traitors.

Cambodia by the way, is a country that is quite paranoid. Until this day, they still fear that the Thai or the Vietnamese will one day take over the country. Some already believe that the country only exists by name, but that it’s actually under Vietnamese rule. According to them, after the Vietnamese occupation from 1979-1989, they have installed a pro-Vietnamese ‘puppet’. This paranoia feeds nationalism – a sentiment, I believe, that can be easily manipulated into hatred towards foreign Khmer like Sino-khmer or Vietnamese-khmer.

Besides that, I also think that the poorer people were envious of the wealthy class. When the Khmer Rouge came into power and turned the social hierarchy upside down by installing the poor people into higher social positions, they may have been especially cruel to those fellow Cambodians who they believed were better off.

I also think that we can partly blame it on the Cambodian culture. The culture is very hierarchical. People of status look down on poorer people and treat them like crap. The poor don’t even dare to look the better-off in their eyes. It’s a culture that breeds envy and discontents between classes. I think these are a few reasons why the Cambodians had traded foreign terror for native horror. In all honesty, I find the culture quite backward 😛.

This is a whole lotta insight packed into one short ‘comment’.

For starters, I would be comfortable in suggesting that land is the crucial factor of production in Cambodia, rather than capital. (I am not as confident as Rick in arguing that land, labor, and capital are basically obsolete tools, in large part because there are big swathes of the world that don’t share the institutions that have created the West.) Land-based societies that I have read about all share the same general cultural characteristics as those mentioned by Chhay Lin (though none would dare call these characteristics ‘backward’!).

Trade has, in my reading of history, been the traditional arbiter of destruction for land-based interests. Does anybody have any good information on international trade and Cambodia? I’ve looked in to a few sources (World Bank, OECD, Heritage) and it looks like the volume of trade has been increasing since at least 2010, but that there are institutional problems which have yet to be addressed.

‘Creative destruction’ is such a strange concept, especially to a libertarian like me.