Thursday, September 18, 2008

Steven Landsburg: Like Creationism, Protectionism Requires Extraordinary Level of Willful Ignorance

Reason #1 that economist Steven Landsburg supports John McCain (with trepidation):

1. Free trade and immigration are my top issues, and McCain wins on both.

These are my top issues for several reasons. First, trade is the engine of prosperity not just for the United States but also for the poorest of the world's poor. Nothing matters more than that. Second, the instinct to care about the national origin of your trading partner (or employer, or employee, or landlord, or tenant) is an ugly one, and the instinct to care about the national origin of other people's trading partners—and on that basis to interfere forcibly with other people's voluntary transactions (through protectionism) —is even uglier.

Finally, protectionism, like creationism, requires an extraordinary level of willful ignorance. The consensus for free trade among economists is approximately as solid as the consensus for evolution among biologists, and it is a consensus supported by a solid body of both theory and observation. To ignore that consensus betrays a degree of anti-intellectualism that frightens me.

McCain is quite good on this issue, not just in terms of rhetoric (which I've known for a while) but in terms of voting record (which I've just recently researched). Obama, by contrast, promises to be our first explicitly protectionist president since Herbert Hoover. Some intervening presidents (Reagan, Bush I, and to a lesser extent Bush II) have been weak in their commitments to free trade, but none between Hoover and Obama has so explicitly rejected it.

Read the rest here in The Atlantic

18 Comments:

At 9/19/2008 8:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"...Like Creationism..."? I'm not sure why that's in the title.

 
At 9/19/2008 8:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

thinking it had something to do with this paragraph:

"Finally, protectionism, like creationism, requires an extraordinary level of willful ignorance. The consensus for free trade among economists is approximately as solid as the consensus for evolution among biologists, and it is a consensus supported by a solid body of both theory and observation. To ignore that consensus betrays a degree of anti-intellectualism that frightens me."

interesting read. thanks again for this blog. i look forward to seeing your posts everyday. keep up the good work.

 
At 9/19/2008 9:34 AM, Anonymous RebelRenegade said...

anonymous 8:27

Because Creationists are pretty willfully ignorant of all the facts against their position. The equivalent of sticking your fingers in your ear and babbling nonsense.

I guess if you pretend the evidence isn't there, it doesn't really exist.

 
At 9/19/2008 9:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Free trade? Absolutely.Unfettered illegal immigration? Forget it.

Handing out US citizenship, like a booby-prize, to any one who can violate our immigration laws and avoid capture and prosecution until an "amnesty" is called, is the death knell for our democracy.

When you allow politicians to pick and choose which parts of the legal code they will enforce and which they will ignore based on self-interest and political expediency what you have is tyranny.

It is clear from every poll that the American people overwhelmingly reject "comprehensive immigration reform" and want current law enforced. McCain says he has learned the lesson of the near collapse of his primary campaign. Has he, or will he require further instruction?

 
At 9/19/2008 10:10 AM, Blogger randian said...

Speaking of protectionism, what does McCain think of the SEC's ridiculous short-sale ban? Banning short sales, like the rules installed in the 1980s to stop LBOs, serve to entrench bad management because they remove the market's ability to properly discipline them.

 
At 9/19/2008 10:45 AM, Blogger Robert said...

Lol this is a new one. People that are protectionist are as ignorant as creationists. I don't believe one iota of common descent and/or big bang theory and I support completely free markets. Whats that make me?

 
At 9/19/2008 11:11 AM, Anonymous RebelRenegade said...

randian:

He's all for the ban on naked short selling. There's an article in the WSJ blasting him for it.

 
At 9/19/2008 12:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't believe protectionism is good for either side. I do believe in intelligent design. I guess according to this I'm only half ignorant.

 
At 9/19/2008 3:03 PM, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

> I don't believe one iota of common descent and/or big bang theory and I support completely free markets. Whats that make me?

Someone woefully ignorant of the basic underlying fundaments of evolutionary biology as well as cosmology.

It also marks you as one who has a bit to learn about the interconnectedness of science. Many of the techniques and processes used in justifying evolution are directly tied to the same or similar stuff used in forensics. Invalidating one invalidates the other. You can't pick and choose with science. If it's valid in one field, it's valid in all fields it relates to.

This does not and need not conflict with religion. Religion and Science do not have a conflict. There is nothing in evolution or cosmology which say anything positive or negative about the existence of God. They speak as to the techniques He used, if He does exist, and He did do as has been described. That's all.

Science makes no claims regarding the existence or non-existence of Him. Anyone who says otherwise is a fool or a charlatan. Science is bounded by facts in evidence and a specific set of operations which can be performed on that evidence, to derived an enhanced class of information with a high degree of reliability.

Belief in God is about Faith. Inherently. Further, it's quite clear that God wants your belief -- your faith -- to be based not on facts in direct evidence (otherwise, He would have not the slightest problem proving He exists, would He not? Why this would be I don't argue. But it's a self-evident fact.

Hence, it is clear that He would have to have designed the universe in such a way that He would not be required to justify its existence. Otherwise, there would be a violation of the premise above about belief.

So the universe, by His design, must not -- clearly -- have anything in it which can prove or disprove Him.

Yeah, that's not scientific. It's not supposed to be. God and religion are about Faith, not Science. The two are not in contention, and never have been. One deals with why you believe what you believe, the other deals with things you can know and your ability to rely upon your knowledge.

 
At 9/19/2008 3:11 PM, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

> I do believe in intelligent design.

ID is stupid on the surface.

It presumes that God wasn't smart enough to design a universe which lacked the internal consistency necessary to exist without Him, thereby proving to all and sundry that He MUST exist.

Sorta violates the whole "faith" idea in the first place, doesn't it?

QED.
The design of the universe is such that it does not require a designer to exist for the universe to exist.

If you want to believe in God, you'll have to do it because you have Faith -- not Proof.

If you want to believe in God, it can't be because He proved He existed to you by subtle but objective means.

 
At 9/19/2008 7:16 PM, Anonymous QT said...

McCain's remarks on the actions by the FED and the Treasury today were abyssmal. By contrast, Obama came out in favor of stabilizing markets and supporting the actions of the FED.

McCain may have just lost himself the presidency.

The uncovered story here is that Paulson & Bernanke are Bush pics. We owe some thanks to Bush for deploying an outstanding team which is managing the most difficult financial crisis in decades. Don't expect any pundit to cut the sucker an even break.

By contrast, Obama will ride the FED's coattails & McCain has not been smart enough to do so. Expecting anything from a pair of presidential candidates seems to be wishful thinking (the triumph of hope over experience).

 
At 9/20/2008 6:31 PM, OpenID sethstorm said...

He just wants to paint protectionists as worthy of demonization. Nice try, but he forgets that it did not work when the xenophobia label was tried.

(edited for accuracy)
Second, the instinct to care about the national origin of your trading partner (or employer, or employee, or landlord, or tenant) is normal
One point is that if the developed world's citizens are (rudely) excluded, they will take measures into their own hands. Protectionism is one of them.

Interference with our own desire by any means (even if "indirect" means such as "free-trade") is just as "ugly" if not worse. At best, it is viewed as a means to subvert the actions of citizens to the will of a group ineligible to vote (by virtue of being outside the nation).


the instinct to care about the national origin of other people's trading partners—and on that basis to be forced by virtue of lack of national choice (and by extension, quality- on the whole) is normal and expected.

Product nationality (and product quality without exhorbitance) matters. On the whole, more junk is made available from the "free-trade/despotic" countries that have replaced our own as well as pre-expansion Europe.

It means nothing to have junk available. It may be there, but tearing away at quality only means needless repurchases (that end up exceeding repair costs).


I'd like to know what the next attempt will be to discredit protectionism. Associating it with the undesirables of xenophobia and creationism will not work.

 
At 9/20/2008 6:31 PM, OpenID sethstorm said...

Anonymous 8:40:
One thing was forgotten - economics carries the baggage associated with indoctrination, while appearing to be an exact science.

 
At 9/20/2008 7:13 PM, Blogger randian said...

He just wants to paint protectionists as worthy of demonization.
They are.
One point is that if the developed world's citizens are (rudely) excluded, they will take measures into their own hands.
Excluded in what sense? There are plenty of domestic suppliers for most anything you can imagine. Anybody who thinks Americans should buy domestic should start their own business and prove, with their own money rather than money extorted from consumers by force of law, that Americans want to buy domestic. If you have something better they will beat a path to your door. Compared with most other places businesses in the US are quick and easy to start.
Interference with our own desire by any means (even if "indirect" means such as "free-trade") is just as "ugly" if not worse. At best, it is viewed as a means to subvert the actions of citizens to the will of a group ineligible to vote (by virtue of being outside the nation).
Subverted or interfered with how? I submit that the will of US citizens is amply demonstrated by what they actually buy, rather than by what protectionists want them to buy.
It means nothing to have junk available. It may be there, but tearing away at quality only means needless repurchases (that end up exceeding repair costs).
It's not for you to say what is or isn't junk, or to determine what constitutes a "needless repurchase". That is and should be the sole province of the purchaser.

 
At 9/20/2008 10:32 PM, OpenID sethstorm said...

Randian:

Subverted or interfered with how? I submit that the will of US citizens is amply demonstrated by what they actually buy, rather than by what protectionists want them to buy.

They are subverted/interfered by turning the product from:

1) A product that delivers on quality and sells with US/EU in mind and others as a special case.

to

2) A product manufactured in quantity (with less quality) from a "Free Trade" region that treats the EU/US as a special case of the "Free Trade" region.

The developed world is turning into a special case of the developing one, with an impact on quality. The legions of purchasers that could get quality now are a dismissible minority.


Excluded in what sense?

They are being excluded by being treated as a burden due to having citizenship in a developed nation. It can be seen in the actions of firms such as Grigsby & Cohen that make their point of excluding citizens from work. It can be seen by the lobbying for citizen-hostile immigration policy(a failure on both government and business). It can be seen by the frustrations of those such as Richard Ebens, Michael Nitz and their contemporaries. It can be seen in the attempted block of the sale of IBM PCD to Lenovo (and the marginalization of quality-seeking customers as an inevitable result). It can be seen in the recent attempts to save the Detroit way of automotive design and manufacture.

That is the exclusion for which I am talking about. That is why protectionism is being re-considered as a means to deal with this problem. Starting a business isn't the universal answer.

The eventual answer will have to include these excluded people and marginalized purchasers on their terms.

 
At 9/21/2008 1:09 PM, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

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================================
The Nation That Lost Its Jobs, But Got Them Back
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At 9/21/2008 1:17 PM, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

In a global economy, a nation should do what it does well, and leave other nations to doing what they do well.

This is an easily demonstrated economic principle.

Even bobbie and anonymous could follow it.

Protectionism is for morons who can't do basic math.

Like Marxism, it tickles the mood centers of a specific, limited class of minds, but cannot deliver on anything it promises to anyone except possibly a narrow elite who inevitably (and quite "conveniently") manage to wind up "in charge" of the process...



Take back your protection; We are now men, and we can beat the world at the manufacture of steel.
- Andrew Carnegie -

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At 3/31/2009 11:43 AM, Anonymous Nightly Sok said...

Landsburg obviously has an ax to grind about creationism.

As a biologist I take offense to his comment. Evolution is not observed - protectionism is.

Consensus among idiots is still idiocy.

His comment should read:

Finally, protectionism, like FLAT-EARTH-THEORY, requires an extraordinary level of willful ignorance. The consensus for free trade among economists is approximately as solid as the consensus for WHAT-IS-OBSERVED among biologists, and it is a consensus supported by a solid body of both theory and observation. To ignore that consensus betrays a degree of anti-intellectualism that frightens me.

 

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