Watson my mind today

Apart from grading, reviewing, and my soon-to-be 5-yr-old’s birthday, that is…

–  A good question from Don Boudreaux. “Assuming (contrary to fact) that American trade deficits do necessarily cause Americans’ indebtedness to foreigners to rise, why do you bemoan these deficits? Why not instead cheer them? … Being indebted to foreigners means that we Americans must repay these debts, which in turn means that we Americans must in the future work to produce more goods and services for export. Isn’t this situation precisely what you and other protectionists want? Isn’t a rise in the demand for American exports – especially a rise not derived from, or offset by, a simultaneous rise in American imports – your very ideal?”

–  Speaking of protectionism, Tyler Cowen on Elizabeth Warren’s agriculture proposal: “a disappointment on two fronts: too wonky to be considered a purely political document, but not nearly wonky enough to be defensible in terms of substance.” It fails to understand inflation and food price data, calls for more protectionism, and doesn’t remove subsidies. He says he might be persuadable on a “right to repair” law, but worries about copyright infringement.

–  One of the issues Ludwig von Mises himself, I am told, never fully settled in his mind was over patents and copyright. It seems a necessary evil to encourage innovation, but granting someone a government-sanctioned monopoly just grates the wrong way. Now we’ve got “patent trolls” to add to the mix, who do not innovate themselves but buy up patents to collect licenses and sue or threaten to sue others. A paper finds that patent trolls encourage more upstream innovation while discouraging downstream innovation.

–  Why does Scott Sumner simultaneously support the Federal Reserve’s interest rate hike last year and expect a cut this year? As a market monetarist, he would like the market to dictate Fed policy and “the fed funds futures market forecasts a rate cut. … Because markets continue to forecast slightly below 2% inflation, even as the economy slows, the market forecast of an interest rate cut should be taken as evidence that a rate cut is probably needed at some point this year.” I also enjoyed the picture that goes with the article – he is an owl, neither a hawk nor a dove.

–  There’s a dictionary, detailing how Africans speak about politics, including some fascinating idioms. “Three-piece suit voting” refers to supporting the same party for all elected positions. On the contrary, “skirt-and-blouse voting” means to vote for different parties for presidential and legislative elections.” Other enjoyable examples at the link.

–  538 has an interesting piece on the perceived fairness of kidney donation systems, and the real struggle that still exists trying to get people to accept slightly less-regulated systems (let alone actually compensating donors’ families).

–  David Henderson: Occupational Licensing is a Bad Idea. Still. Really.

Equality and Fairness

Yesterday, President Obama gave a stirring speech on income inequality and he declared war on it. The President is a rich man who was abandoned by his drunken immigrant father. He was brought up by his hippie mother. She had a doctorate. It took her twenty years to earn it. (I don’t mean to say that she was idle during most or any of these twenty years.)

I am an immigrant myself. I came to this country with no money (that’s NO money), no degree, no skill, nothing. (I was white, it’s true, still am.)

(By the way, about half the people with African blood in the US have zero American slave ancestry. Yes, like the president. They are descendants of immigrants like me, people who volunteered to come to this allegedly racist country.)

I have an American doctorate too. It did not take me twenty years.

Fifty years after reaching this country , I live modestly but with no serious wants. And I live in a very desirable place, even by world standards.

I bet you filled in the blank: “Poor guy, poor immigrant worked hard all his life, blah, blah…”

But I didn’t. Nearly every time I found myself at a crossroad, I chose the other path; I selected psychic income over money income; I wanted more free time rather than a bigger car, or a bigger house. Now, does President Obama mean that I should feel bitter toward the other guy in initially similar circumstances who chose the income, who put in fifty hours weeks, and who is now worth several times what I am worth?

Does the President mean that I should be bitter because so many men my age are richer than I am ? Men who live in Cleveland and such?

Does President Obama really mean that I should enlist the services of government to take that other old guy’s money by force to give it to me? And next, will they take from me, equally by force, my golden memories of the three months I spend spear-fishing on the Caribbean coast of Mexico?

That would be fair, or would it?

And do we prefer to live in a society that gives even a poor immigrant the kind of choices I had or in a society where nearly everyone gets about the same regardless of personal preferences?

Around the Web

  1. Ken White has the best post of the year (so far) on free speech
  2. Angelo Codevilla on the US’s god-awful intelligence apparatus
  3. Reclaiming fairness as a precept of commerce. Bart Wilson argues that we’ve been a-travelin’ down the wrong path.
  4. Contra Dr Delacroix‘s thoughtful argument, Jon Harrison thinks the GOP is terminally stupid
  5. Imagining a remapped Middle East: Robin Wright muses about how 5 countries could become 14 (and a map for context)
  6. A ‘comments’ thread on a libertarian blog in which a lone libertarian takes on some of the neo-reactionary elements that Andrew has been blogging about.