What one thing could we do to best boost future economic growth?

In my article for a Cato Symposium I cite foreign policy:

It is possible that we are still living inside the biggest bubble of them all and that is called “the peace bubble.” I’ve also heard this described as the bubble of “Pax Americana,” although that is a more partisan take on the role of America in global peace. You might think the chance of this being a “peace bubble” is say only five or ten percent. Maybe so, but still in expected value terms that is still the most important issue to worry about. The breaking of that peace bubble on a larger scale could endanger all of the progress and accumulated well-being of the human race, including the United States.

Let’s not forget that over the next one hundred years, if the world remains relatively peaceful, it is unlikely that most global innovation will come from the United States. China in particular may assume a major role as a generator of new ideas, just as the United States supplied a wide variety of useful innovations to Great Britain starting in the mid to late 19th century. Even if a “Fortress America” could survive geopolitical turmoil in the broader world, it would be a much poorer place. We rely on the rest of the world for inspiration, for creation, for appreciation, for increasing market size and thus the spurring of American innovations, and of course we rely on the rest of the world for innovations more directly. A future America in a chaotic world is much, much poorer and riskier than a future America in a peaceful world.

I should note that I am indebted to John Nye and Garry Kasparov for this notion of Pax Americana as the biggest bubble of them all.  There are several other arguments in the piece, for instance:

When electing a President or a Congress, foreign policy should be by far our number one concern. That said, I don’t think there is any simple formula for getting foreign policy right. Unlike many libertarians, I do not adhere to a strictly non-interventionist stance on foreign policy. I believe in alliances among the world’s relatively free and (one hopes) peaceful nations. I believe that American intervention has at some critical times led to much greater freedom and prosperity. Without the current and past American security umbrella, for instance, I believe much of Asia would be a far less free place than it is today, starting but not ending with Taiwan and South Korea.

I am, however, also skeptical of conservative or hawkish claims that we simply need to get tough with the bad guys in the world. A market-oriented economist, as I view myself, should be well aware of the general arguments about the difficulty of government planning and the importance of unforeseen, unintended consequences from government action. Furthermore government policies, once they get underway, are often hijacked by special interest groups or by voters who are uninformed, misinformed, or who react emotionally rather than analytically. We should not be especially optimistic about the ability of our government to pull off successful foreign interventions.

Daniel Larison comments on me here (when I write “For better or worse,” that means I am not judging a possible Syria intervention, contra Larison.  Otherwise the popularity of drones is a good example of American squeamishness, another example being our early withdrawal from Iraq.)  The broader symposium is here, it has many quality contributors.  Here is Eli Dourado on incentive pay for Congress.

Addendum: Arnold Kling comments.

Comments

Ignore it.

+1 ... it is interesting how an intelligent guy like Tyler has such a biased, naive world view, and seems to have very little understanding of what foreign policy (not only american, but every country at any point in history), namely wars and interventions are all about ($$$).

If you actually read what he says you will find that he says exactly that. Unless you believe that economic activity has nothing to do with ($$$).

George Washington's Farewell Address discusses the dangers of what might be called "regulatory capture" by foreign interests when Washington D.C. attempts and activist foreign policy:

"So, likewise, a passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter without adequate inducement or justification. It leads also to concessions to the favorite nation of privileges denied to others, which is apt doubly to injure the nation making the concessions by unnecessarily parting with what ought to have been retained, and by exciting jealousy, ill will, and a disposition to retaliate in the parties from whom equal privileges are withheld; and it gives to ambitious, corrupted, or deluded citizens (who devote themselves to the favorite nation) facility to betray or sacrifice the interests of their own country without odium, sometimes even with popularity, gilding with the appearances of a virtuous sense of obligation, a commendable deference for public opinion, or a laudable zeal for public good the base or foolish compliances of ambition, corruption, or infatuation….

"Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence (I conjure you to believe me, fellow-citizens) the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake, since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government. But that jealousy, to be useful, must be impartial, else it becomes the instrument of the very influence to be avoided, instead of a defense against it. Excessive partiality for one foreign nation and excessive dislike of another cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other. Real patriots who may resist the intrigues of the favorite are liable to become suspected and odious, while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people to surrender their interests."

Washington's "Farewell Address" used to be considered the wisest of 18th Century American documents, but now it seems to be mostly forgotten. I wonder why?

He was slamming entanglement with British-French disputes, at a time when both France and Britain controlled vast territories and large regular armies in North America itself, never mind in Europe.

Of course by 1812 - a mere three presidents later - the United States declared war on Britain. So the lesson seems to have been forgotten almost immediately.

He wasn't saying never go to war when provoked, he was saying don't pick sides when you don't need to.

"don’t pick sides when you don’t need to" is good advice for a new, small, relatively powerless nation: the mouse wisely avoids the dance floor when elephants are out dancing on it.

But would it still have made sense to apply it to the USA in the 20th century? The 21st?

Sure, but please pay careful attention to Washington's analysis of the poisonous effects of an activist foreign policy on domestic politics:

"Real patriots who may resist the intrigues of the favorite are liable to become suspected and odious, while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people to surrender their interests.”

Serious question: If the US adopted true Swiss-style hands off neutrality tomorrow, would the state of the world suddenly improve or worsen? I think it's honestly a really difficult question, it might go really well or things might really turn ugly. Yes, it's easy to point to foreign policy debacles like post-Saddam Iraq or various Central American banana republics. On the other hand, I think potential American reactions keeps many countries from doing some potentially awful stuff. Certainly implicit American security guarantees lower the probability of total war in East Asia. And despite Putin pushing his weight around the Ukraine, an America-free Europe would probably be in much more danger from Russian oppression. And this isn't even considering the awful stuff many tinpot dictators would probably due to their own people without any fear of teeth behind international human rights condemnations.

I guess my point is that it's probably a different consideration: following neutrality from the beginning of the country vs. withdrawing now that large portions of the geopolitical equilibrium are built on top of Pax Americana. Analogously I think the US shouldn't have gotten involved in Indochina to begin with. But the abrupt halt of air support to the South Vietnamese and the reneging of any guarantees after the ARVN violated the Paris Peace Accords was a treacherous stab in the back.

+1

It's amazing to me how people, upon observing that Switzerland is neutral, isolationist, and unmolested, conclude that the U.S. could or should do the exact same thing with similar results.

Being a hegemon, or really just a great power, has a certain cold internal logic to it that can't simply be wished away.

What you're saying is that the pure, virtuous US is surrounded by evil and only the coercion of the saintly US can restrain the purveyors of evil from maiming, killing and enslaving everyone in the world. Though these mal hechors deserve death, and sometimes get it, the US has been able to maintain order to the benefit of everyone. Is that it?

I don't think he's saying that at all.

To take a concrete example, I don't think either modern-day Japan or Korea are significantly more or less "evil" than the US. But imagine US hegemony disappears tomorrow. They're both fairly evenly matched in military terms, and close neighbors. History would likely play out that one ends up falling under the eventual hegemony of the other. That prisoner dilemma logic feeds back on itself and produces an increasing attitude of mistrust and rivalry. It's no different than France and Prussia/Germany from 1850-1945, neither wasn't necessarily good or bad, yet they both ended up in a state of arms build up and a series of destructive wars. It's not that US hegemony is saintly, only that the modern equilibrium of global peace is highly inter-tangled with it. Removing it creates a power vacuum in many places, and even "good" countries may see themselves as forced to become aggressive, if only to stop others from filling that vacuum.

Basically I see it like this. Military technology significantly increased in destructiveness over the past few centuries. This largely has to do with the ability to project highly destructive force further behind battle lines. (Nukes are the obvious reason, but a largely overlooked mechanism are long-range missiles and air power). When Sweden and Denmark went to war in the 17th century militaries could only destroy what troops could reach. That meant at most only one side could be totally destroyed, and usually far less than that as a victor would be apparent before either side got very far into the other's territory. Nowadays if Sweden and Denmark went to total war, even without nukes, it's pretty clear that both countries would be virtually flattened.

By World War II the destructiveness of advanced militaries had reached the point that assures that it had to be the last major war in history (i.e. World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones). The ultimate winner of that last, horrific war, has settled the score as the top dog forever. For better or worst the US decided to become highly interventionist in the early 20th century. If it hadn't some other dominating superpowers would have emerged, probably Japan in Asia, probably Germany or Russia in Europe, and the US in the Western Hemisphere. It might have been a different peace, but by 1960 there'd almost certainly be hegemonic peace. But for all intents and purposes, the US fought and won that final those conflicts in every major theater. Global peace is highly dependent on that equilibrium. I can see that changing gradually and deterministically, in such a way that sudden power vacuums are avoided. But it can't change overnight without massively jeopardizing the underlying game theory that keeps billions of people from being vaporized.

The United States foreign policy (or expansionist) ambitions were pretty much confined to North America between 1815 and 1898, and then there was another short "isolationist" period between 1920 and 1940, though the US was more involved in world affairs than commonly portrayed.

During the first period, most of the nineteenth century, the rest of the world seemed to get on OK without the US acting as a policeman, though you could argue that this was because the UK fulfilled that role.

During the early twentieth century you had World War I and World War II. The expansionist/ globalist/ internationalist argument really depends on World War II and the idea that the US could have prevented it if it had maintained its World War I alliance with Britain and France.

No one seems to think that if the US had been involved in European power politics (it was involved in international conferences and the Far East), it could have prevented World War I. The British Empire at the time was unable to prevent World War I and British diplomacy may have made the July crisis worse.

The problem with viewing international diplomacy through the lens of the 1930s is that it was really an usual period. Also, I don't think it really works with the 1930s. The British were still a world power, and its easy to imagine a different outcome if you change British foreign policy in the late 1930s. You really don't need the US. The US started rearming and actively backing the UK (plus the USSR later) within months after the invasion of Poland, and the US never was inactive in the Far East, though this doesn't seem to have curtailed Japanese ambitions. Plus the American public had concluded (accurately) that they had bamboozled into entering World War I, so you really have to drastically curtail democracy in the US domestically to get a more active foreign policy in Europe.

I think it's certainly possible that if America openly supported the British/French in 1914 that the war could have been avoided. Germany's plan was to defeat France quickly and move on to Russia. Knowing that a million American doughboys were going to stand behind the French from Day 1 would have changed that calculus a bit, no?

an America-free Europe would probably be in much more danger from Russian oppression.

An America-free Europe would have to choose between keeping their martial traditions and their national armies, or growing their fat, complacent welfare states.

Because the speech is incredibly long and boring.

I also dont think that the foreign entanglements Washington envisioned are quite like they are now. He couldnt conceive of ICBMs, international terrorism, aircraft carriers, ballistic missile subs, and strategic bombers.

Eisenhower's Farewell Address is among the most quoted and least understood. Its most familiar quote is taken out of context and equally dire warnings about scientific capture of government are completely ignored.

Why on earth would we want to boost future economic growth?

Sure, it would make me richer, but it would also make all the (other) evil people richer, resulting in more suffering.

And if they get richer, I have to get even richer to be as rich as them.

Fuck that. I want all the (other) evil people to be piss poor forever.

America took over from the UK as the leader in innovation because 1) it embraced an individualistic, frontier culture, and 2) attracted like-minded people from all over the world.

China is a traditionalist, top-down, authoritarian culture, rife with mistrust and barely emerging from communism. It's been great at copying, leapfrogging some tech/Econ steps, and providing lots of cheap labor.

Throw in their increasingly belligerent claims on neighboring territory and near xenophobic approach to foreigners.

A world-leading innovator?

Not likely.

While I believe in America's culture fostering innovation, one shouldn't ignore the huge benefit of: 1) not getting bombed out in WWII and 2) not having the country destroyed by a destructive ideology. A big part of our edge simply came from being the only major developed country left standing at a key point.

Also, you are way too certain about China not being able to innovate. It's individuals who innovate, not cultures/institutions/government. The country is now open enough that innovation is possible and incentivized economically, and some individuals will take advantage of the opportunity. Even if it is at a lower rate, their much larger population potentially counteracts that. Further, not to be ignored is the current brain drain of the top people out of China, which is likely to slow down as opportunities within the country improve.

Back in 1999 people would tell me that the Japanese weren't creative, which is why they never win Nobel Prizes in the hard sciences.

Since then, though, the Japanese have won a lot of Nobels.

You're confusing destruction of infrastructure with innovation. The US had a leading culture of innovation well before the war.

China has relaxed, true. And their diaspora is inventive and intelligent. But ask yourself, when do you foresee the CCP unbanning Facebook. Eventually the creative types run into conflict with the tyrants.

And the tyrants have a super weapon: they're probably the only thing stopping massive civil unrest when the boom from copying and cheap labor fades, while peoples expectations soar. Cue the foreign conflict and xenophobia to divert attention.

This is not to say the US will remain on top. The mounting liabilities, inexorably expanding govt, rise of petty totalianariasm and general cultural sloth doesn't bode well.

Maybe innovation and innovators will cluster in self regulated micro communities, perhaps cities like Singapore or places in comparably reasonable counties like Canada or australia.

You think not getting bombed and not having a destructive ideology are independent from our frontier grit?

BIDU, Ali Baba and many other examples of Chinese innovation.

Can you give examples of actual innovation they have done? Those companies mainly seem to copy existing business models.

Connected CCP scions copying existing business models and banning the foreign originals. That's real innovation.

China is driving Solar manufacturing more than any other country. Everyone else is playing catchup.

"China is driving Solar manufacturing more than any other country. Everyone else is playing catchup."

China is driving lost cost low efficiency panel manufacturing. Whereas, most American manufacturers are concentrating on high efficiency, high cost panels. So, China is not driving Solar manufacturing, and no one else is playing catch up to China.

Baidu is based on the RankDex search algorithm, which was developed by the founder Robin Li. It is similar to Google's PageRank algorithm but was developed before Google's algorithm, and Larry Page's Google PageRank patent application cites RankDex as the first qualitative search engine.

According to wiki, Li studied and worked in the US from 1991 till 2000, when he founded Baidu.

Sure the company caters to people in China, but did China provide the innovative culture that led to Baidu?

This was exactly what I wanted to say - written much better than I would have written it. This constant praising of China in spite of all its, well, China-ness is ludicrous.

1. Deregulate business: http://www.devilsdictionaries.com/blog/is-the-american-economy-overregulated

2. Cut corporate tax rates: http://www.devilsdictionaries.com/blog/the-world-income-tax-championship

3. Cut the welfare state: http://www.devilsdictionaries.com/blog/the-world-income-tax-championship

Yes, survival of the fittest rocks.... It is in the bible. Jesus said, poor people are just lazy and stupid

Yes, survival of the fittest rocks.... It is in the bible. Jesus said, poor people are just lazy and stupid. And corporations should obviously have the lowest tax rate possible

Corporations are pass-through entities; they don't pay taxes.

Corporate taxation (relative to their income) is already at a record low. With no obvious boost to the labor market. I say we try something else.

"With no obvious boost to the labor market."

Nobody wants a job, they just want the money they need to buy beer, cigarettes, flashy tattoos and make the rent and cable TV payments. If it were otherwise people would be standing in line for low paying jobs and wouldn't worry about a minimum wage.

It's always seemed to me that "America... as the leader in innovation" is much exaggerated - until our own times. It's in the IT age where her innovation seems to me to be outstanding. Otherwise Americans tend to comfort themselves with tales of innovation that are often simply untrue: though few would join President Ebola and claim that motor cars were an American invention. Or at least I hope they wouldn't. And how can you discuss innovation and leave Germany out?

To return to the subject: I'd say that Pax Americana ended with Bush the Elder: Clinton onwards has seen the US stirring up trouble, not damping it down.

America is pretty much missing from the lists of hard science Nobels until the very end of the 1920s.

Ben Franklin made important theoretical contributions to both physics and economics in the 1750s. If he'd been born in England he might well have been an even greater theoretician, but his provincial lack of education and the enormous opportunities of life in America put some limits on how far he could go or wanted to go in science and economics.

Apparently his famous kite-and-lightning experiment was pretty theoretical: that is to say, it looks as if he didn't do it.

Another lovely tale dies: there's no end to the disappointments in life if you live long enough.

Franklin designed the experiment. Whether he was stupid enough to do it himself is a different question. (A German scientist was electrocuted.)

"Franklin designed the experiment": and let everyone understand that he had done it. But the naughty boy hadn't. Once you know he's a porky-pie merchant, how much trust can you put in the rest of his claims?

And as you say, it was a lethal design.

Franklin was an accomplished inventor and a great thinker. Bashing him on this relatively minor point seems petty.

America calls the shots. Have not seen an evidence of 'Pax America' in decline. You can be sure with GOP control of all three branches, the Bush doctrine will be resurrected.

A typical high school grad might say that Henry Ford invented the auto.

There is no peace bubble in that the post-ww2 era of stability is not temporary. It's permanent, thanks to earlier sacrifices and globalization. America is running circles around the rest of the word, especially since 2008. Japan, Russia, most of Europe, and Australia are either in a recession or teetering on one. Other countries such as Brazil have more growth, but lots of inflation. The left says Europe is doing badly because of austerity, but then how would they explain Japan which has more stimulus relative to GDP than America and is in recession? We have the best performing stock market a strong currency, and the most innovative companies. America's economic hegemony has only been strengthen since 2008 - the opposite of what many predicted, which was that the banking problem would usher a 'post-America' era. Why is America so exceptional? Free markets, effective policy during crisis, good demographics, ownership society, high premium on IQ, tough on crime, meritocracy, and so on.

It's not as hard to be exceptional when the sum total of your real estate was effectively stolen from its previous neolithic owners. It's a lot cheaper than actually buying at the price they want for it, if, in fact, it's even for sale. Why isn't that the strategy in the Middle East? Just occupy Iraq and after a short period of time make it a state, like Hawaii. One could always make the point that "democracy" is being brought to them, a big favor.

Wow, America apparently is awesome... Fox News could not put it better...

Global trade sure worked well to ensure world peace in 1914. Didn't it?

"Free markets, effective policy during crisis, good demographics, ownership society, high premium on IQ, tough on crime, meritocracy, and so on."

Well said ummm.

Where are the libertarian non-interventionists? The libertarians are the right's negative image of communists. At heart they're universalists with a political program in their back pocket and they'd love to tell you about it. Ron Paul is really more of a paleo-conservative/federalist than a libertarian if you listen closely to what he says, so he's not a good counterexample. Rand Paul is practically promising to invade Iran at this point.

Is a universalist belief that the whole world should be freed from tyranny the same as a universalist desire to subject the whole world to tyranny?

"Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience." - CS Lewis

So far we've wrecked three countries in this quest to free everybody from tyranny. They were going to fall apart eventually, but billions of dollars and thousands of lives and we're still not in control of the process and we're arming our future enemies.

Enough with the universalists and American exceptionalism. They are going to blow the whole world up with their fanatic vision.

We took out some bad autocrats, and other bad people took over. Oops, maybe that wasn't a good idea.

That's not tyranny, though.

What's that you say? Being a revolutionary and overturning the status quo by toppling a government, executing its leader, and barring the ruling class from any position of authority may have negative consequences?
Never has such a thing occurred in the history of mankind, I say.

The "save the world" impulse is the same in both cases. You make the case better than I could, dan1111.

The way in which one proposes to save the world matters a lot.

Spoken like a true believer, dan1111.

You have me there. I don't believe that representative and non-representative systems of government are morally equivalent, and therefore neither is the desire to spread each system morally equivalent. I believe this for reasons of moral principle, but even if you think that is a crock of something-or-other, the empirical evidence is overwhelming that representative systems have better outcomes for the people who live under them.

Also, being a "true believer" is inherently neither good nor bad in anything other than a completely relativist worldview.

Where are the libertarian non-interventionists?

Seriously? You must not be looking. Non-intervention is more common among libertarians than is Tyler's position. Libertarians don't trust big government when it wages war any more than they trust it to manage the economy. And they recognize that 'war is the health of the (police) state' -- civil liberties are very quickly lost during times of war and it's always a struggle afterward to regain them. Here are a handful of randomly-selected anti-war links from libertarians:

http://reason.com/archives/2014/08/17/what-liberty-in-america-looked-like-duri/
http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2010/04/the_common-sens.html
http://cafehayek.com/2014/08/an-inexcusable-brutality.html
http://studentsforliberty.org/peace-love-liberty/

You're right, there are plenty of libertarian isolationists. But my first search for "Bryan Caplan" iraq war turned up Caplan's post "Why did so many libertarians support the Iraq war?" Cowen, Kling, Brink Lindsey all supported the Iraq war. The temptation for libertarians to support humanitarian intervention is so great because the slide from "liberty" to "liberation" is too easy. That's my explanation.

I'd say there are virtually no libertarian isolationists, but lots of libertarian non-interventionists, and that's a critical distinction. Libertarians are strongly in favor of trade and other forms of cooperation across borders and are are strongly opposed to a 'fortress America' approach to the world.

Silly me, I'd think how to boost future economic growth would look at things like tax policy, regulatory capture, barriers to entry, etc. But apparently we've got to roam the planet stomping out the evil Chaos.

In other words, more of the same neo-conservative/neo-liberal "invade the world, invite the world." I guess that's how you get invited to symposiums.

However, I do see one sobering bit of realization, which is why I wish Tyler would say to hell with it and start saying what's really on his mind: "Pax Americana as the biggest bubble of them all."

The Fed's and the USG's footprints are so big in everything, nobody knows how assets should be priced or where investment dollars should go. The US is sucking in huge amounts of capital and labor. How much of it is fundamentally supported? We'll find out when we find out.

The best thing the U.S. ever did that the rest of the world might be interested in, was to show in the 20th century that its citizens actually mattered for real wealth creation. These days the only thing that seems to matter to governments are...governments and more war, instead of the well being of one's citizens. Tyler continues to fall away from truly free markets, with all the rest.

Pax Americana like Pax Romana before it enforces a peace that facilitates international trade and economic growth, but paradoxically increased trade creates the tensions (from competing spheres of influence) that lead to a break in peace.

What conflicts since the dawn of Pax Americana came from trade issues from competing spheres of influence? The Korean war doesn't seem to count - that was not for the potential trade with north korea. The Cold War was much deeper than a capitalist trade dispute. Take that out, and there are a lot of little wars about territory and power, religion, and ethnicity (mainly nasty little civil wars). Russian action is essentially revanchist; an attempt to claw back a bit of the old USSR. Post-Korea, the primary danger is Taiwan, which also has its roots in the Chinese civil war, not trade spheres. The top economies are the US, EU (and its components that are in the top 10, like the UK, France, and Germany), China, Japan, etc.

The first thing would be to restore robust growth in NGDP. A root and branch reconsideration of accumulated regulation by application of cost benefit analysis would help. Then would come elimination of business taxation replaced by a progressive consumption tax.

In terms of the U.S. only, I'd say a ground-up rewrite of the tax code where nothing is off the table.

A great piece. As Angela Merkel dryly said at the G20 summit with Russian warships looming in the distance, "It's clear that these geopolitical tensions are not really conducive to promoting growth." The Pax Americana is under pressure, and if it goes, we will be longing for that great stagnation.

"Russian warships looming in the distance"

The correct term for surface warships without air cover is "targets".

This is obvious: colonize Mars.

Everybody is suggesting short-term measures like "avoid stupid wars" or "fiddle with tax systems," which will at best add a few percent to our well-being. Not that they're bad ideas, but they are small thinking.

Making humanity a multi-planet civilization will massively increase our economic growth for at least the few hundred years it will take to fill up the solar system. It's also a decent form of insurance against having that wealth drop to zero in some disaster or accident.

What do you mean, wealth drop to zero? If everyone dies in a disaster, there is no more need for economic growth.

Wealth is for the living.

Colonizing Mars is economically useless because you can't profitably trade with earth. You'll just add another potential enemy; the last thing we need is anti-Earthists who can fling shit down from outside the gravity well.

I'd consider my wealth dropped to zero if you killed me. I'd consider something that protected my grandkids after I was gone worthwhile.

You can also trade anything that comes in bits over pretty large distances. That's an increasing fraction of our economy. In 100 years I'd bet it's almost all of our economy.

These are silly objections.

I agree with the trading bits part but still see the potential enemy objection as more important. Sure, Mars and earth can exchange anime and pornographic fan fiction, but this is more than outweighed by the weaponization of the gravity well. Just steer asteroids the right way, you don't even have to bring all the destructive energy in since it's already there - the ultimate "uphill battle".

Not to mention the conditions for life on Mars are really shitty. It's even more unethical to have children in an irradiated tin can there so that they can be forced to eat toothpaste than it is to force them into a Brazilian favela.

It's this kind of short-sighted Earth Nationalism that will force the proud Martian people into a pre-emptive defensive strike.

We've (U.S.) run out of the kind of nations on whose behalf it is worth intervening. Nations of a confucian culture were good investments, concerning our investment of power (Taiwan, Singapore, S. Korea), but anything else is really futile, as it concerns our efforts to seek security. I do presuppose that Europe is fine (regardless of E. Europe convulsions--Ukraine/Russia).

What one thing could we do to best boost future economic growth?
Create an 'Apollo-type program' for transportation batteries, (de-centralized) home energy creation, and nuclear facility construction, including mass incentives and subsidies for EV vehicles from scooters to RVs to trains to aircraft to factory mobile equipment. Underwrite all nuclear power plant production for the next 30 years. Fully electrified transportation system at per mile costs comparable to other fuels in 2001, by 2040.

also - (grab an asteroid for earth-moon orbit Pt-series mining)

"What one thing could we do to best boost future economic growth?"

First thing is to look at what's working best now.

Everywhere we look we see that where (A) competition is keenest, where (B) innovators can profit from innovation, and (C) government policies don't protect incumbents, block entrants, or isn't the main customer, that the economy is working to produce growth.

Consider the most notoriuos growth-suck: health care, where spending skyrockets but outcome don't. That's because ABC are short circuited. But parts of HC, where ABC reigns, work well: laser eye surgery works better, costs less, and has quicker recovery times than ever.

So get as much of the economy as possible facing market conditions and it's as simple as ABC.

Some pro-growth policies lead to short-term reductions in economic activity and anti-incumbent sentiment, like fiscal austerity (most of the time). Pro-growth policies might help a future congressman enjoy performance bonuses, but they might also cut your pay today as well as getting you fired.

Get rid of the incentives for debt over equity in the capital structure (interest deduction, higher likelihood of being bailed out if you have lots of creditors). All this fuss over zero-bounds and the need for high NGDP growth (even if it's mostly inflation) stems primarily from the fact that debt is nominal (since we now know that wages are not very sticky). Then we can stop obsessing over monetary policy, takes the keys to the kingdom back from the Fed, and have a serious discussion about true economic policy.

Where does climate change fit into this picture? It just makes for a more chaotic future world, or is there more to it than that? I'd say a more accurate characterization of now vs the future is that we're living in the Before-the-Climate-Change-Deluge (and I don't mean deluge literally).

Please give this speech to the Sunday Shows and argue against John McCain, Bill Kristol, Rand Paul (in Jan. 2016) and other hawks (Including HRC)? I thinking that the growth in the US has accelerated in 2014 because we now have wars occurring in the world and the US was not invited to the Ukraine-Russian Near Somewhat War.

Best thing we could do is smash the zoning cartels in areas with high housing prices. There are millions of people who could benefit from being closer to high paying/high productivity jobs but can't move there because there is no affordable housing.

Tax reform that levels the playing field, trade liberalization, weakening patent/copyright protections, moving to skills-based immigration quotas, ending the war on drugs, actually cutting health care costs...all that would be lovely too.

Best thing we could do is smash the zoning cartels in areas with high housing prices. There are millions of people who could benefit from being closer to high paying/high productivity jobs but can’t move there because there is no affordable housing.

That's a fool's errand. If you "smash the zoning cartels," Mark Zuckerberg will just buy more houses to give his family elbow room from the riff-raff.

For every Mark Zuckerberg buying up more land to build one big house you'll get dozens of Avalon Development Companies that buy up empty warehouses/rundown down strip malls and replace them with 6 story apartment complexes.

The trend in my area is for towns to purchase large pieces of land when they come on the market, rather than to rely on zoning to exclude apartment blocks. The idea is the same - keep poor people from "immigrating" and ruining the schools/property values.

This feels vaguely more libertarian, but it's still pretty odd. The area is extremely liberal, fwiw.

Hillsborough, a wealthy town south of San Francisco, has a minimum house size requirement of 2,500 square feet. Unsurprisingly, the median house value in this town exceeds $3,000,000.

It's wonderful for the existing homeowners who get to sit back and reap the benefits, it's terrible for people looking for a place to live in Silicon Valley.

That's the problem with the zoning cartels. It's perfectly logical for local property owners to pass laws that enrich themselves at the expense of everyone else.

Yglesian economic policy: we need to abolish zoning laws so I can afford to live around my rich friends.

Let's say you get your wish: all zoning laws are abolished and the supply-demand curve is allowed free rein. What do you think will happen to the price for low-density housing, or the price for housing with wealthy neighbors close to economic centers?

"It’s perfectly logical for local property owners to pass laws that enrich themselves at the expense of everyone else."

Is that what they're doing? It seems like they, through rent, purchase price, and taxes, are paying for the privilege. I understand libertarian arguments that a nation is not like a corporation owned by citizens, or like a voluntary club controlled by members, but surely at some level it's true. A town is awfully close to a member's club that you buy into and sell out of. I think most people intuitively get that, which is why they are tolerant of what are effectively immigration restrictions that are much, much stricter than those in existence at a federal level.

In my example, the town pays a market price for the land it buys to exclude the riff-raff. The people living in the town pay for that with taxes. What's unfair about that? Arguably they could do it without involving the town at all, but it helps to have some mechanism to enforce a long-term contract regarding what's going to happen to the land that will last after the initial purchasers leave the town. Which is necessary to preserve the town, and hence be able to credibly promise to the guy buying your house today that the town will be similar 20 years hence, even after you are gone.

This is an excellent and wise contribution, although I expect you will get push back from those with libertarian sentiments. (Reflecting the difficultly many libertarians have in appreciating, e.g., that markets rely on agreed and enforceable property rights, that natural rights stem from some shared social agreement about human nature, etc., and which is exacerbated whenever questions of war and peace arise.)

We can say more, and point to two conflicting trends that will determine whether Steven Pinker’s predictions are likely to hold. Most of the world is or soon will be ageing and entering a period of demographic decline. Ageing and declining societies are not usually warlike.

On the other hand, “pax Americana” (and more generally the alliance of what used to be called the free world) is subject to continuing subversion by its own elites. Disparaging what Arnold Kling calls the civilization-barbarism axis is a key shibboleth of modern upper class status. (This is a long-standing pattern, exhibited by the anti-anti-communism of the cold war and anti-‘Islamophobia’ more recently.) This seems to get worse with prolonged peace and prosperity, but more realism in foreign policy tends to follow erosion of deterrence. I agree that today’s world is the scariest we’ve seen in decades; let’s hope a reaction sets in.

Arnold Kling’s comment “I wonder whether he explains how the U.S. could [act as the world’s policeman] without also becoming the world’s social worker” is spot on. Much criticism of US policy, and much of the actual failures of US foreign interventions, is the result not of “getting tough with the bad guys” but of the inability of American elites to resist playing world social worker and embarking on doomed ‘nation building’ adventures in lands they understand even less well than their own.

the cancerous growth of america must be stopped by any and all possible means

All well said, but misses that we are clearly heading for a Russian invasion of the Baltics. Starting with little green men naturally. It's not about fooling anybody, it's about leaving the US president room to deny he's aware that Russia invaded. Putin loves to humiliate the US by throwing our unpreparedness in our face. As long as Obama keeps folding, Putin's going to keep raising his bets.

Best for (world) future economic prospects... Invest in fusion power development. As Prof. Brian Cox recently asserted, Americans currently spend more on pet grooming than fusion research.

Don't see how we could find out that we aren't enemies if not actively engaged, even if long periods of frenemy-like relations are required in the meantime. But in some ways that is like a continuation of an earlier status quo, which involves relative decline of the USA, which will not be the dominant force in all things for all time.

" I believe in alliances among the world’s relatively free and (one hopes) peaceful nations."

But wouldn't such alliances have to exclude the USA itself? Being one of the least peaceful nations in the world.

I think you meant "line in the sand."

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