We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

The best way to make people bad and poor is the illiberality of communism and fascism, and even the slow if sweet socialism of over-regulation. Women among the theocratic despots of Saudi Arabia are quartered at home, unable to flourish so much as driving an automobile. The economic nationalism of the new Alt-Right is impoverishing, and anyway closes us to ideas from the wide world. If betterment is slowing in the United States — a widely held if doubtful claim — we need the betterment coming from newly enriching countries such as China or India, not cutting ourselves off to “protect jobs” at home. Protectionist logic would have us make everything in Illinois or Chicago or our local street. Breakfast cereal. Accordions. Computers. It is childishly silly as economics, though stirring as nationalism.

Deirdre N. McCloskey

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19 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • CaptDMO

    Oh goody! Another expert in rephrasing political science conquest as utopian economics.
    Wyh yes as a matter of fact, ideally grain transformed into cereal, and exchanged for foreign gold,
    WOULD be ideal.
    Repairable (rebuildable) automobile components would be superior to imported component *replace sector* design.
    Shoes made from sewn leather (sheep/cow/horse/pig) WOULD be a better choice than imported “celebrity” footwear of glued petrochemicals. (oh wait, they might last too long.)
    Natural gas, exchanged for durable windmill generators and solar panels, would make for a better cascade, on paper!
    (Back to “Energy so cheap it’s not worth metering”?)

  • pst314

    “Accordions.”
    Would it not be better to fund local chapters of Accordion Players Anonymous? 😀

  • bobby b

    With free across-borders trade, the average American will enjoy a better life.

    I don’t know any average Americans in that sense. Everyone has their own circumstances and resources.

    The crowd voting for Trump, and also voting for closing off borders and restricting trade, are net losers in a global economy. The crowd voting for open borders are the ones who generally reap the increased money flow.

    Once again, “let’s do better as a country even if many of us – half? – do poorly while the rest get rich” no longer impresses people who are watching as we replace them with cheap overseas labor. This is one bloc voting against the other so as to redirect the money flow their way. If the overall national wealth decreases while their own circumstances improve, they win.

    If we could find a way to share the benefits with those people, they might not vote it down. It’s a bit galling to listen to people who don’t work with their hands lecture people who do on why increasing the incomes of the first group should be the second group’s priority.

  • Paul Marks

    We (in both the United States and Britain) can not keep borrowing money to finance consumption – in that, and in that ONLY, do the “economic nationalists” are correct. They are correct that there is a terrible problem (and the “trade deficits do not matter” brigade are wrong), but they are entirely WRONG in the actions they suggest to deal with the problem.

    Government taxes and regulations on imports, and government subsidies and government “infrastructure” (Corporate Welfare) schemes at home will just make things worse.

    It is silly to use the word “Fascism” here – as such suggestions for economic policy actually go back to Henry Clay and Alexander Hamilton. So the “economic nationalists” are right to stay their suggestions go back a long way, but they fail to grasp basic economics (i.e. that their suggestions are WRONG).

    What to do?

    Get rid of the regulations that are strangling American manufacturing – to be fair Donald Trump has taken a few (minor) moves in that direction.

    Dramatically reduce taxation on American business – and dramatically reduce GOVERNMENT SPENDING (there is no such thing as a free lunch – if you want to lower taxes you must make real suggestions for reducing government spending).

    And END the Credit Bubble finance of the wild (imported) consumption. End the Federal Reserve – and the magic circle of banks and other such that depend upon it.

    But that is like asking a heroin addict to go “Cold Turkey” – it is very unlikely that any President would take such a position. The suffering as the Credit Bubble finance was withdrawn would be horrific.

    So the decline of society (yes – of society) will continue. Wild consumption financed by Credit Bubble finance.

    Till Kipling’s “Gods of the Copybook Headings” (the thrift and hard work of the Victorians) bring down justice (terrible justice) upon us all.

  • pete

    Some people will always be poor.

    It is human nature. That’s why the poor are always with us.

    Nobody can do anything about it.

  • It’s a bit galling to listen to people who don’t work with their hands lecture people who do on why increasing the incomes of the first group should be the second group’s priority.

    Well they may find themselves galled even more when the successful parts of the economy they do not work in directly start tanking as a result of their economic myopia. An ebb tide lowers all boats.

  • The poor will always be with us, indeed. That’s because poverty is graded on the curve.

  • Alisa

    And because it is useful.

  • Fraser Orr

    @Ellen
    > That’s because poverty is graded on the curve.

    It is hard to understand the importance of this point Ellen. The poor today have TVs, cell phones, places to live, food to eat, access to all the information in the world, free public education, libraries, more music and other forms of entertainment than anyone else in history. They have access to penicillin, and other products of modern medicine. Buckets full of electronic gadgets and miscellaneous tchotchkes from overseas sweatshops sold at Walmart, and on an on. Poor people used to die of starvation, today’s poor die of obesity.

    The plain fact is that today’s poor live, in many ways, better than kings and princes of two hundred years ago. Doubt it? I’ll prove it with two words: “dental anesthetic”.

    By historical standards of “poor” there are no poor people in America or Britain except those who choose to be poor or have some mental defect and have fallen through the extremely generous mental health systems.

  • Fraser Orr

    BTW, in my previous comment I meant to say “It is hard to understate the importance of this point Ellen.” Sorry, my mistake.

  • bobby b

    It’s not the heat, it’s the humility.

    Interesting thing about how things have changed just in my lifetime: thanks to tech and tv and all, whereas back when I was a kid fifty years ago we got a general sense that there were rich people out there, living lives of comfort, now everyone has the upper crust thrust into their faces every day all day (if you carry a phone or surf).

    Now, everyone in the world is painfully and constantly aware of how their own lives pale compared to the better-off, because it’s the better-off who we see and hear and read about every waking moment. When I was a kid, we got maybe an hour of tv per day. Now, everyone is connected to some view constantly.

    So I wonder if we no longer measure poverty in numbers, but in the constancy and intensity of feelings of insignificance that arise as we see how wealthy everyone else seems now that we see them constantly.

  • […] Johnathan Pearce linked to this Deirdre McCloskey article I hadn’t seen […]

  • George

    @ Fraser Orr. That should be ‘overstate’ surely?

  • Johnathan Pearce

    bobby, I am not sure that feelings of grievance and so on would necessarily be so much better without a daily diet of TV. There was a fair amount of grievance around in, say, 1789 and 1917, or indeed, in 1945, for admittedly reasons that aren’t identical. The TV world we know of today did not exist back then but it was hard in the case, say, of pre-Revolutionary France to miss the fact that some people were rich as Croesus, relatively, and others dirt-poor.

    We could turn the argument around and state that, the very fact that almost every person in the West has a TV, and other gadgets, not to mention access to a reasonable amount of food, entertainment, etc, is surely grounds for thinking that we have it pretty good compared to our ancestors. Also, TV gives us a chance to glimpse what hell-holes exist in places under various types of dictatorship and authortarian rule, and where the wonders of free enterprise do not hold sway.

  • Also, TV gives us a chance to glimpse what hell-holes exist in places under various types of dictatorship and authortarian rule, and where the wonders of free enterprise do not hold sway.

    Sadly things that show that all too often end up on the editing room floor (figuratively speaking in this digital age).

  • Paul Marks

    Rising poverty and cultural breakdown in the United States is very real – even life expectancy is falling (that did not happen even in the 1930s).

    I repeat – there is a terrible decline, and people who pretend that things are basically O.K. are delusional – they do not see what is right in front of their eyes.

    However, the “solutions” of the “Alt Right” will just make things worse.

  • staghounds

    Everything will be fine until the day comes that the EBT cards don’t work for about 30 days. Then there will be a terrible change.

  • MadRocketSci

    Computers are cheaper. Everything else is more expensive: The primary components of our wellbeing (food, housing, medical care, cars and heavy capital equipment) are all radically more expensive (and regulated and bureaucratized) than they have been just 20-30 years ago. (Within my own living memory, cities that were vibrant economic centers have been destroyed so thoroughly that an enemy bombing campaign couldn’t have done more damage! The crumbling ruins of my childhood home are obvious and can’t be handwaved away.) 50 years ago, you could buy a house with a year’s income and a car outright for a 5th of a years income from an easy to acquire job that didn’t require extensive specialization. Medicine was affordable out of pocket and drugs that worked well were attainable. (Yes we’ve made scientific progress since then, but it doesn’t do you any good if you can’t obtain it for any price anymore.) Americans have been keeping ahead of the Red Queen’s race by having both members of a household work more skilled and more precarious occupations, but that isn’t papering over the decline anymore.

    We are much poorer by many measures. Yes our electronics are cheaper. No that isn’t distracting us anymore. The populists are doing well because everyone else is trying to pretend that they haven’t been hurting us.

  • MadRocketSci

    PS – if you think you’re safe because you work in a “skilled occupation” – those are also being proletarianized. Programming is being outsourced to India. Software engineers and EEs are being treated like dirt now. The EEs that I listen to gush about Shenzhen, the electronics capitol of the world, to which they frequently travel: Industry that has vanished from so-called Silicon valley, Texas, and many other places. Engineers aren’t very useful from half a world away from the processes they are supposedly overseeing – in addition to being the specialist luxuries of a wealthy industrial society.

    The entire economy can’t be based on foreign investment banking and advertising revenue – if Tofflerian 3rd-wavers get their way, that will be all that remains.