by Tyler Cowen
on March 17, 2013 at 5:24 pm
1. Against zippers.
2. Our political culture of too-soft expectations, and Pearlstein on whether capitalism is moral.
3. Bookslut on E.M. Cioran and fascism.
4. More from Pawel Morski on Cyprus.
5. What will Albania do with all those concrete bunkers?
6. Has the golden era of German publishing come to an end?
Pro-Zippers: Darwin Awards-inspired
Eye injuries got nothing on me, brother.
Over 17k injuries between 2002-2010. I think it’s pretty clear that we need some form of commonsense zipper control. It’s just too easy to buy pants with zippers, without even needing to pass a background check.
Does anyone need a zipper with more than 10 teeth?
this line: “Practitioners should be familiar with various zip-detachment strategies”
The Pearlstein piece, while far too long, is far better than expected. The fundamental point is missed, or inadequately emphasized, I think: Our current morals still allow exchange and innovation, and those morals have made us rich, on average and decidedly at the bottom. Kill those morals, essentially on account of envy, and we mire ourselves in eternal poverty. Yes, institutions can be improved. [Apologies if I’ve misused Hayek.]
From the article: “the nation is caught up in a historic debate over the proper size and role of government.”
The nation has been caught up in this debate since at least 1787.
And as David Boaz said, the real conflict in politics is “is not between individualism and community. It’s between voluntary association and coerced association.”
This is the link to “The empty case for big government: looking at Leviathan through rose-colored glasses.” by David Boaz
Leviathan? Sure you don’t mean Levi 501 Red Tab button fly jeans, the pin-factory answer to all injuries caused by regular capitalist flies. Practitioners should be familiar with various capitalism-attachment strategies for relevant unbuttoned or debuttoned populations.
Just Google a0303641449
i didn’t care for the article: “Unfortunately, many of the arguments have been a bit flabby…”, he tells us, before serving up pages of flab.
6. Has the golden era of German publishing come to an end
I don’t follow German publishing but this article seems a year or two out of date to this US resident. Do Germans buy many more books per capita than other countries?
No, but they pay higher prices due to a fixed book price agreement. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fixed_book_price_agreement#Scope)
There are stacks of books written in German that I urgently want translated into English. Where is this industry. Most Germans speak reasonable English. Newly arrived Spaniards could sit in Frankfurt factories improving their German and utilising their English by translating. I’m not asking for word-perfect. Just enough to getting along with. The word ‘translation’ is not mentioned once in the article! For example, I want the book by Niklas Luhmann on economics. It’s a disgrace that no one has yet translated it.
there is an industry for helping you learn German.
Do I remember correctly that one of Prof. Cowen’s parents or in-laws is a translator? Try asking nicely, and maybe he or she will be kind enough to explain to you how the translation industry works in real life.
Re#2. Friedman can be a bit of a jackass, but sometimes…
“As part of any grand bargain — which will have to include spending cuts and tax increases — introducing a carbon tax into the mix makes all kinds of options easier and smarter.” Amen.
Also, the ‘baby boomers need to look in the mirror’ meme gathers steam. Good.
The morality of free market capitalism is a simple, single word.
Markets are peaceful, voluntary, win-win deals — or “no-deals”, like window shopping and NOT buying.
Gov’t programs are all, every one, based on force, based on some win-lose with losers trying to minimize their own loss.
This statement is, historically speaking, untrue.
The example is imperfect, since a true free market capitalist country has never existed, but at the international level, at least one participant in most of the wars fought over the last century had some version of a regulated market economy (like the U.S. economy), and the two biggest conflicts pitted regulated market economies against one another.
At the individual level, lots of market transactions result in win-loss transactions: benefit to one transaction participant, harm to the other. Historically, those relationships often ended in violence between the parties, which is why we have constructed such a robust legal system in the United States. The government, in this case, makes markets more peaceful.
I think your second point has some merit.
However, I think the first argument misunderstands Tom’s position, which is talking about market activity as such. The market doesn’t prevent countries using markets from going to war, just as it doesn’t prevent individuals in countries with markets from committing murder. However, neither of these is an instance of market exchange, and that’s the only thing claimed to be peaceful. As I said though, whether it’s truly voluntary, I agree, poses some problems.
It’s a fair criticism. There’s a set of nostrums around “peace” and free markets (the whole “two-countries-with-McDonalds-never-fight” school of international relations) that I unfairly assumed were underlying that comment.
This is absolute nonsense. Due to unequal bargaining power, asymmetric information, etc. between parties many deals in a market economy end up being win-lose.
How does unequal bargaining power result in a win-lose deal?
Parties enter into long-term contract that are harmful in the long-term to the weaker party but because their bargaining power is weaker they have no choice but to enter into the deal. Poor workers who work in mines in the 3rd world that shorten their lifespan by decades are an example of this phenonmenon.
Another example of win-lose deals in market economy: cigarette transactions involving addicts.
I don’t think you understand the utility function of an addict.
How do they have no choice but to enter into the deal? Surely they would not if they didn’t think it improved their situation?
One of my favorite quotes on MR was from a post on this issue. I can’t remember who posted it, but it was something like “the losers are not party to the transaction.”
I think Perlstein fails to see much of the complexity of the libertarian argument against redistribution.
It’s not just a matter of calling redistribution theft and saying theft is immoral. What we have is a fairness norm that says that people are entitled to property rights, over what they earn and what they have accumulated. That’s a moral argument, but the fairness norm exists because it has a utilitarian function of minimizing conflict over resources. There doesn’t seem to be any alternative fairness norm that can applied as uniformly or which produces any better results. Once you start redistributing wealth, you run into the question of how much should you take and who should get it, and with no alternative guiding principle, that ultimately gets driven by political expedience. So you replace a simple rule that protects rich and poor alike with, essentially, might makes right.
Property rights is one of those institutions Perlstein mentions that serves to shape how the market functions. He is not taking a deep enough view of what the core institutions are and how they work. Contract law in another, plus courts to enforce them. If you look around the world you can find plenty of examples of countries with weak property rights and corrupt courts, where the “market” exists, but produces much worse and less equitable outcomes. But when libertarians talk about the “free” market we’re often taking those things for granted – and leaving them unsaid.
So when liberals talk about wealth redistribution, what they are doing is threatening one of the core institutions that allows a free market that allows any sort of fair outcome to exist. Undercut property rights, and you cut the legs out of any market player that doesn’t have the political connections to get the right legislation passed or defeated. That makes the market less fair, and LESS equitable, in the long run. It’s short-term thinking, equivalent to ripping up the floorboards of your house for firewood.
In the long run, when the government controls the distribution of resources, those resources will tend to get distributed towards the more politically powerful and connected.
Liked #4. That guy has a nice way of cutting into it.
Regarding Pearlstein: I find it amazing how no one (that I know of) has put up a good fight against this argument (a fallacy if there is one) of luck.
So let’s assume everything in life is luck. Your IQ, your likelihood to be a hard worker, even your choice of career. Let’s pick a profession that make good money: stock brokers. Now, stock brokers have very stressful jobs. They work long hours, have fierce competition (from all the very lucky people who were born the same way), and so on. Yes, they will (on average) earn more money than, say, a high school teacher. But how can it be fair that we distribute the money equally while keeping all the negatives I mention unequal? What is moral about that?
Furthermore, if everything is indeed luck what is the argument for investing so much in education? Aren’t we just kidding ourselves here? shouldn’t we have a gatacca like society where the ‘lucky ones’ are educated and the subclass is put in their rightful place and receive forced charity collected by the government?
The luck argument is not only false is the most dangerous part of the liberal lunacy.
It doesn’t matter that its dangerous or evil. It only matters that they can use it to advance their rent seeking.
On Luck: My first argument is that nothing (as I see it) they ever propose actually fixes it. For example, does a tournament based education system fix it? By definition, no. They simply offer more remoras on the luck shark.
Secondly, I could go down the road of “well, mate choice and the genetic transmission thereof is not luck” but there is no point. As DocMerlin suggests, if they were interested in fixing it, you could point to fixes. They only want political footballs.
A slightly more sophisticated argument might go that the more luck is involved, the more you want to increase the cycle rate because luck is fleeting. Thus, you want to make the game more like Black Jack and less like Roulette. Is that what they offer, a more dynamic economy? Nopes.
Expanding on luck – you can’t tell (unless you are a casino) whether it is luck or skill based solely on the outcome- the opportunities/outcome thing. Is the player counting cards? How many iterations would it take to statistically tell the difference between luck and skill? In the stock market it is several lifetimes, right? Does letting the same game go on but simply lopping off a pittance and handing it to the losers fix the core problem? Certainly not in education (which noone argues with me about anymore) which is possibly the best and the worst cause.
Is the point of this example that stock brokers have more stressful jobs and work longer hours than high school teachers? Because in my own experience of knowing both stock brokers and high school teachers, that statement doesn’t actually hold true. YMMV, of course.
It may be that I’m not so much a fan of Cioran’s corpus as I am of the relatively late Cioran: my only “favorite” work is Anathemas and Admirations, the Richard Howard translation itself a collection of pieces from the 1950s (Fitzgerald), 1960s (Saint-John Perse), 1970s (Fondane, Michaux, Beckett, de Maistre), and the 1980s (the bulk of the aphoristic chapters, presumably). Just as I find balance with both Cioran’s essay on de Maistre and that by Isaiah Berlin (just as I balance de Maistre’s Considerations on France with Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France), so if I were to read Marta Petreu’s account of Cioran’s development in Romania I’d also want to consult that of his late translator Ilinca Zarifopol-Johnston, Searching for Cioran (with its foreword by the late Matei Calinescu). (In my appreciation for the aphoristic form in the prior century, I find myself repairing in comparable degrees to both Cioran and Lev Shestov.)
How about a trigger warning for #1?!
Is there a satisfactory substitute for pants zippers?
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