Monday assorted links

1. The Essential Hayek, by Don Boudreaux.

2. Claims about dementia.

3. www.clickhole.com is a funny site and probably the best critique of the web I have seen.  Here is Slate on the site.

4. Larry Summers on TPP makes perfect sense.  I haven’t seen anything on the anti- side coming close to this level of analysis, and in a short column at that.

5. There is a skills gap and the Beveridge curve has shifted.

6. How and why Facebook automates.

7. Scott Sumner has two excellent posts on state taxes, here and here.

Comments

From 4 and Larry Summers:

"The world’s remaining tariff and quota barriers are small and, where present, less reflections of the triumph of protectionist interests and more a result of deep cultural values such as the Japanese attachment to rice farming."

The sorts of barriers that are "a result of deep cultural values" such as the extensive US sugar quota barrier are large. Perhaps he is saying that they are on a relatively small number of products, but where they exist they are enormous.

I thought the main distortions in US sugar were subsidies rather than quotas.

"America’s sugar farming industry is currently one of the most protected industries in the United States. Two centuries ago, the U.S. government embarked on this protectionist trend in order to gain the loyalty of the sugarcane farmers in the Louisiana Territory. Today, the original program has evolved into a series of complicated import tariff-rate quotas (TRQs) that heavily distort the sugar market. These TRQs are combinations of quotas, limits on the amount of the good that can be imported, and tariffs, taxes on these imported goods. The TRQ used to protect the American sugar industry allows a certain amount of sugar to be imported at lower tariffs, but for all sugar exceeding this amount, tariffs rise to around 150% of the sugar’s cost. On average, Americans pay 3 times the world price for sugar. This huge price distortion is one of the largest in the U.S. and has had far-reaching negative consequences, both at home and abroad." from http://dartmouthbusinessjournal.com/2011/05/u-s-sugar-protectionism/

The sugar tariffs protect marginal US sugar producers and make sugar 3X more expensive than elsewhere in the world. (Probably good for everyone's health!) But, on the other hand, a tax on everyone in America. Republicans why don't you eliminate this tax? You hate taxes, right?

Right.

Not good for everyone's health....it's a big reason why high fructose corn syrup is used as a substitute so often

Because Florida.

There was a recent vote on amendments to eliminate or sharply reduce the sugar program in the House in the last farm bill renewal a couple years ago. 60% of Republicans voted to eliminate it, but a greater percentage of Democrats voted to save it, and the amendments barely failed.

Yes, Florida, and Minnesota sugar beets, and corn syrup are important in getting the votes. But the program survives, like most rural subsidies, due to the votes of urban Democrats who support it.

Here's one vote to nearly eliminate the sugar program. Then there was another amendment by the same to to reform it by increasing allowable sugar imports year round here The Senate rejected reform here in the same session, which also had more Republican support in a Republican minority. (Also, where there were two Senators from the same state who voted differently, the Republican voted for sugar reform and the Democrat against.)

The bottom line is that the sugar program is more widely supported by Democrats even without controlling for rural vs urban seats, and is much, much more heavily supported by Democrats if you control for sugar production.

He was referring to neither the number of products, nor the average size of the barrier per product, but the total across all products in dollar terms in comparison to world product. And that number is quite small.

Does anybody know what the average tariff is across all products? That number never seems to come up. I vaguely recall 2.9% in some Tim Harford book a decade ago, but, like I said, it's not easy to get multiple sources for this number.

I think it's something like 4%. IIRC, import quantities are pretty insensitive to tariff levels bar undifferentiated crops and raw materials. Unless these agreements are addressing trade in non-factor services or non-tariff barriers to trade, it's difficult to see that they are worth any effort. The fruit on the free trade tree has been picked bar at the very top, and the 40,000 pages leads one to believe its not about trade liberalization at all.

Asia is choking on the inability to get goods to US markets. Cell phones, lawn darts, rotting in the fields...

Is it not itself a joke that Slate's review of clickhole is obscenely long with about thirty million links?

It sounds like someone trying to explain popular music to grandpa. If you're a regular internet user and under 40, then you automatically get Clickhole. No explanation required.

If you’re a regular internet user and under 40, then you automatically get Clickhole. No explanation required.

Clickhole is just as annoying as the sites that is parodies.

Whatever you say gramps

A wise man once told me that while it's true a "first mover" in any business usually makes the most money (think The Onion, but not MySpace), it's also true that the followup 'second entry' in the field also does very well (numerous examples, and Clickhole is but another such example, aping The Onion). Works with restaurants too, entertainment (movies, which ape each other every season, depending on what's hot; pop artists), and pretty much every field.

Clickhole isn't aping The Onion; it is The Onion (literally; same people).

it is 100% a joke

Laughing all the way to the bank!

"it is to suggest that such talks must be only one component of a broader approach that has as primary stakeholders not just global companies but also those concerned with economic equity, protection of the environment, opportunities for workers to migrate and financial stability. If the TPP is to be secured, there must be clear signals that international economic diplomacy will turn to these concerns."

Blah, blah, blah. If that's the case, there'll never be a TPP.

Agreed. By the time you get to the end if it, you realize this is a mess of a column taking every position and everything into account. Fine for a book length treatment of the topic but useless for an essay.

“”””I haven’t seen anything on the anti- side coming close to this level of analysis, and in a short column at that. “””

The anti-side could probably come up with more if they were actually allowed to read TPP.

Or TISA.

Also the only argument Summers has is that this agreement is called a free trade agreement and so the US must pass it. If it is not passed then it will be a disaster for the US. With this thinking any agreement labeled a “free trade” agreement must be passed no matter what is in it. No wonder he is not bothered about the secrecy, he would agree to anything as long as someone labeled it free trade.

If it's a 'free trade' agreement, why is it 40,000 pages long? A while back, Jaghdish Baghwati said that trade agreements had grown so complex he no longer understood them. I cannot help but suspect this whole thing is a payoff to various and sundry clients of the Democratic Party.

Wow, I'm sure it took you a long, hard journey to come to suspect that. I bet it wasn't at all your kneejerk reaction to anything you find too complicated but know you don't like.

No, he's right. This is byzantine, rococo legislation drafted by and for special interests.

40k pages does suggests that there are a lot of payoffs to the friends of those who have written it.

He's just stating the obvious.

Yup - if this thing is so wonderful bring it into the sunlight and let everyone read it (or pretend to read it).

Nope, then the special interests get to dig in

If its so full of payola to the democrats why are they against it?

THIS. It's mainly Democrats torpedoing it.

Because the Democratic Party's clients are at odds and BO's minions are favoring one set over another.

If its so full of payola to the democrats why are they against it?

It's because the Democrats in Congress are racist, of course.... I thought everyone knew that's the only reason anyone would ever oppose President Obama's initiatives.

Oh yeah, Art Deco, passing Obamacare was a walk in the park that in no way was hindered by Al Franken needing six months to get sworn in or Scott Walker winning Ted Kennedy's seat or the Republicans trying to repeal it approximately 943 times since then or Republican governors going through Plastic Man contractions to prevent citizens from getting health care ad nauseum ad infinitum

Exactly. My primary objection to this trade agreement is the secretive nature by which it has been made. Treaties ultimately become laws, so why are they not treated like other forms of laws? I don't feel comfortable giving the office of the President increased authority to enter the US into trade agreements at their determination. I think the normal way that we treat treaties are very good as it gives Congress and the American people the chance to understand and approve what are going to become laws that they will have to abide by.

I don't care one whit about how secretive the negotiations are. All I care about is that it can be read and understood prior to Congress approving or disapproving it, which is the case.

Haven't we seen enough of this administration's rejection of the Constitution? We need transparency and honesty at a minimum. There certainly isn't any credibility for any assurances from the White House. Not for those who heard about shovel ready jobs, keeping insurance and doctors, Benghazi demonstrations for youtube videos, and not a smidge of corruption in the IRS' denial of civil rights.

The way to convince people of the rightness of your argument is to always invoke Benghazi. BENGHAZI !

Keep up the good work!

Are you actually challenging any of his claims?

Are you endorsing his analysis ?

Point was that the administration is pretty scummy, The handling of Benghazi is evidence of this.

Just because you are tired of hearing about it does not make it false.

There is clear evidence backing up each of his examples. This administration, and the permanent governing class embedded in agencies like the IRS, has no scruples about lying to the public.

4. The repudiation of TPP "would leave the grand strategy of rebalancing U.S. foreign policy toward Asia with no meaningful nonmilitary component". That's Summers' most important insight. Of course, there are those who would prefer to resolve economic differences with our trading partners militarily. Here's Summers related insight: "Political necessity has in recent weeks led advocates to increasingly aggressive formulations about how the TPP enables us to gain advantage at the expense of China. We may come to regret this provocation. Certainly, it will be important down the road to consider China’s possible membership in the TPP on terms no different from those applied to others." With TPP, we have the framework for further developing a peaceful and mutually beneficial relationship with China; without TPP, the more likely outcome is military confrontation.

If you believe Summers. Show us the document, let's see if he's right.

I didn't see a lot of insight there. Publish the TPP and the TISA, and debate it in public, and let the politicians debate it openly. Maybe, they have a reason for being afraid....

Why is public debate necessary, is the public going to vote on it?

The public should have an opportunity to let their representatives know what they think. Your statement is astounding. TPP's proponents seem terrified that a democratic majority might prevail on this legislative proposal.

I'm underwhelmed.

Military base closing lists are secret before presented to Congress, and Congress agrees to that ahead of time. And the bill is fully public in time for Congress to queer the deal.

It's the only way to deal with overcapacity of military bases in the US. If you present a bill that closes 12 bases in 12 districts through the normal legislative processes, those 12 Congress people can freeze the bill or add amendments that say "OK but our military base gets to stay open."

The TPP bill, too, will be fully open before Congress votes. Congress is just agreeing to either accept it in toto or reject it in toto. It will still take a democratic majority to pass it at that point.

But nobody is going to read a 40,000 page treaty, especially members of Congress, who wouldn't have room for it on their golf carts.

Criticizing its size I can understand. Still, Congress can say "no, we haven't had time to read it all, let alone understand it, so we vote no."

2. Claims about dementia.

Having worked with and around the elderly with dementia for years, I agree with much in this article. My experiences are admittedly anecdotal, but they are consistent with Ronald Pies' observations.

What often surprised me about these individuals was how much of their humanity and personality remained vividly intact.

It no longer surprises me. But that means spending time with people who have dementia, really being present with them. Touch is also important, such as holding their hands and patting them on the shoulder (when they can see you, not from behind).

Yet one of the myths I sometimes encountered, even among some staff members, was that people with dementia are 'globally incompetent' — that they cannot give informed consent of any sort. This view is wrong, and it can cause patients to be denied privileges and pleasures most of us enjoy simply by virtue of our basic humanity.

It is the "professional staff" who do not have - or often do not make - the time to deal with people with dementia who are dehumanizing them.

Many people would agree that, in the very early stages of dementia, consensual sexual intimacy with a loved one is often beneficial to the afflicted person. Conversely, many would argue that, in the most severe and extreme states of dementia, truly informed consent is difficult, if not impossible, to ascertain.

What is tragic is that in many cases, as a person's dementia gets worse, family members tend to see the person less and less, when what that person needs is more connection with family, not less.

Also see this about Kerry Mills:

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/making-sense/tips-for-talking-dementia-coach/

The way we discard the elderly and other "non-productive" members of our society is merely part of the culture of death.

#5 Is it really lack of skills, or companies paying a ridiculously low salary for the job?

#5

Agreed - I read an article where a manufacturing CEO was lamenting the lack of highly skilled workers. Meanwhile, the non-union job was in a toilet state in the middle of nowhere, paid $12/hour and the production run was for only 18 months. The CEO was not going to train the workers (he expected the local technical college to do that) and the job was far more challenging than traditional assembly line work.

Young Americans are dumb but they aren't stupid. They saw this country outsource its manufacturing jobs and understand there is no job stability in manufacturing. Your job only exists as long as it pays less than a robot over a two year production run. Who is going to go to technical school for a specialized degree for a $12/hour job with no security and a short production run? You're better off cutting hair for a living. These CEOs then lament the lack of workers and blame a skills gap.

Re: jobs in general - go online and look at job postings. Many of the requirements are dozens of bullet points and the day-to-day responsibilities are frequently enough to keep three people busy. The jobs aren't there - we receive hundreds of resumes per opening and it took one of our highly decorated double Harvard attorneys two years to get a job in the private sector. Wages are stagnant and there are still more than 10 mil unemployed and underemployed Americans not counting the people who dropped out of the workforce. Employers know this and jack up job requirements to unreasonable levels.

Sure. And some Chinese, Indian, south american person would risk their life to get a chance at it.

And some foreign government will lay out the red carpet to get the industry there.

There's also a severe Gap (shortage) of new high-end automobiles.

I will not pay more than $30K for a new Mercedes-Benz class automobile, but find it impossible to acquire such quality vehicles in our sorry economy.

High-end car makers are obviously lazy, inefficient, and unwilling to improve themselves to meet market demand.

'I will not pay more than $30K for a new Mercedes-Benz class automobile, but find it impossible to acquire such quality vehicles in our sorry economy.'

You are right - however, a German assembly line worker at Mercedes has no problem buying such quality vehicles, new, at around that price point. (They do have to keep it for a year, though.)

Of course, they are the people that actually made the car, but then, Germany is a socialist hellhole.

The Germans don't appear to believe in their own supposedly bright, equitable future.

http://www.tradingeconomics.com/germany/fertility-rate-total-births-per-woman-wb-data.html

By this (stupid) token, Palestinians and Africans have the most bestest system of them all.

Does Mercedes stay in business if they give all customers the same discount?

Yes all car manufacturers give discounts to their employees, so what?

The anecdotal evidence that I have heard is that at the working/lower-middle-class end of the spectrum, "qualified workers" as often as not is a euphemism for "able to pass a drug test." Obviously, the plural of 'anecdote' is not data, but I would be interested to hear if anyone has studied this problem with numbers.

If that's seriously the reason, that's absurd. Drug tests are really good at detecting marijuana use, so good at it that you can fail even if you haven't touched it in a couple weeks, but really bad at detecting anything but very recent use of most of the substances that one would think are more likely to present risks to most employers. And yes, yes, I know the argument about what it shows about responsibility that an applicant didn't stop marijuana usage when s/he started looking for the job, I know. But given the length of time it takes some people to find a job when they're looking... I don't know. Not sure that's good reasoning.

Also, having done a fair bit of low-end wage labor when I was in high school and undergrad, highly doubt it's true in the first place, frankly. I think the only company that ever drug tested me was the Home Depot (from whom I ended up declining the job offer anyway), and I held something like six other retail, labor, and low-end office jobs during that period of my life.

Manufacturing needs to drug test more than other employers because of the dangerous machinery.

For us, qualifications were often basic numeracy including a test question about the ability to tell which of two zip codes are the same. I'm pretty sure our difficulty finding people was almost all about the reservation wage people wanted in order not to do physical work in a hot environment.

There is a skills gap ...

More precisely: employers are looking for people who can hit the ground running at low pay and with a high degree of "cultural fit".

Pretty sure you got the URL wrong on the clickhole and summers piece.

Save the League of Nations...now that is a great comic book series.

Favorite clickhole:

http://www.clickhole.com/blogpost/i-put-fat-suit-understand-what-its-be-your-mom-2061

#2 includes a reference to this smelly case here

http://www.inquisitr.com/1673771/henry-rayhons-had-sex-with-alzheimers-suffering-wife-now-hell-be-prosecuted/

Which the jury resolved to the dissatisfaction of the prosecutor.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/04/22/henry-rayhons-not-guilty-abusing-wife-alzheimers_n_7121544.html

It's stupefying that the state attorney-general's office elected to make itself the cat's paw of this man's vicious and creepy step-daughters.

A sitting Republican is targeted by a state attorney-general's office for having sex with his wife? Let me guess - the AG is a Democrat?

Lately Democratic office holders have not been exactly restrained in their use of office for partisan political ends.

Don't worry about facts - it's OK, you're Republican!

This case is about having evil children. Second marriage for both, the wife had alzheimer's.. and so the guy had the case brought against him by the wife's kids. He was acquitted because everyone in town knew the pair was in love.

#4 Summers starts out full Godwin, invoking League of Nations rejection as a fail. Then he follows with point 2, that the US should instead fund and enable international institutions including UN, none of which have evidenced a combination of transparency, accountability, and effectiveness. So Summers expresses well his mood affiliation for any rejection of systems of sovereignty and democratic subsidiarity. This is his best sales proposition?

What's strange about Summers' career is that profiles of him always include anonymous quotations about how intimidating he is because he's just so f****** brilliant. I've been reading his public interventions (on and off) for nearly 30 years and cannot recall a single one that was anything but pedestrian.

Same here. Could never figure out what's so "brilliant" about this guy.

David Brooks said the same thing last week: Obama not getting the TPP signed and notarized is like Wilson's League of Nations falling apart. A strange meme if ever there was one.

1. Can't buy the Hayek book on Amazon in my country. (I know, there's a free PDF version, but I wanted to buy it as ebook).

#7 - File under wishful thinking - higher taxes are going to benefit the poor somehow. Right. This delusion used to be examined more carefully but now Cowen, Summers, and a lot of other people who should know better are all into the feel good, let's raise taxes, it can't hurt mode. Not coincidentally no one is talking about program evaluation anymore either. Mercatus used to do a lot of good work on Government accountability - GPRA report analysis, etc. but why bother if you are just going to keep on with the government programs we have got all ready. Just maybe throw more money at them. Oh, well, another opportunity to vindicate Gary Becker, RIP, who probably put it best:

...a small amount of further redistribution is unlikely to do much damage, but any significant amount would have negative consequences for efficiency of the economy. Lower income households would work less in order to qualify for welfare benefits, unless the redistribution to these households took the form of policies like the earned income tax credit (EITC) that subsidizes low-income earners. High income households would work less too, but probably more importantly, they would engage in additional efforts to hide income, invest abroad, shift to capital gains from regular income, and time their income receipts to reduce their tax burden.

The important point on efficiency is that the effect on the efficiency of the economy as taxes and subsidies rise does not increase linearly with the increase in taxes and subsidies, but increases at the square of these rates. Even a small increase in these rates would cause a big efficiency lose if it builds on a high tax or subsidy base.
http://www.becker-posner-blog.com/2013/12/redistribution-and-the-well-being-of-the-poor-becker.html

The poor do better under higher-tax regimes. Sweden has high taxes, and poor people are veritably middle-class, at least the ones who have lived there for more than a decade. America has low taxes and is appaling to be poor in.

Right. That's why poor immigrants avoid this appalling, low-tax hellhole and our native-born poor are boarding rickety boats for the treacherous passage to Sweden.

It's appalling to be poor in America because you consume more than a middle-class European?

The only thing that Americans consume more of is Kochtopus tentacle.

Summers : nothing knew or insightful. But I think one point deserves to be reiterated as many times as possible :
"Third, there needs to be careful consideration going forward of the ramifications of trade agreements that include some countries while excluding others."

Note to libertarian bloggers such as Cowen and Caplan: please note that Summers focuses on the benefits of TPP to American workers and American grand strategy. He does not spill a drop of ink on the benefits of TPP to foreigners, except to point out that a strong America is beneficial to our allies. This sounds like the correct rhetorical approach.

Your approach of "the good this does to foreigners outweighs the bad it does to Americans" assumes that the person hearing the argument equally weighs the welfare of foreigners and US nationals. That may be how libertarian ideologues work, but that is not how most Americans or most people anywhere work.

Agreed. Summers is pretty inept at arguing for it but that is another issue.

The people tat believe in Santa have a deeper analysis than the people that don't Depth of analysis only proves passion. I haven't read many in-depth articles why Santa doesn't exist.

I wonder how much of the skills gap is, for example, firms looking for someone with a BA and three years of experience.
But because firms were not hiring three years ago the people with three years of experience do not exist.

In other words, is a significant portion of the skills gap just a lagged function of the great recession and the weak recovery--especially for experienced workers.

Not just skills.. take everything you just said and then include the reality that they want to pay $12.50/hr with no benefits for that role.

It's the fact that they can't find skills FOR CHEAP that results in the assertion of a skill gap.

(unlisted) Last time I'll mention the story that won't be mentioned here. Can someone explain why Rachel Dolezal gets crucified when her heart is actually in it, while Elizabeth Warren's ancestry-as-career-expedient gets a pass?

Or why no one has apologized or been fired for calling the Afro-Peruvian George Zimmerman a White Hispanic - and hence causing riots and no end of trouble.

It is almost as if the mainstream media has a political agenda.

I agree that Zimmerman is a narrative that the left prefers. But the distinction between Dolezal and Warren? Warren too powerful an ally? Blackface more profane than Indianface? Aren't they the same story?

Did Dolezal get admitted to Harvard on the basis of her cool hair-do?

#5: The total number of openings in manufacturing is about 325,000. The number of people who are unemployed, according to the household survey is 8.7 million. If all of these openings were filled by unemployed workers the unemployment rate would drop by only about 0.2% (from 5.5% to 5.3%)

Re: #5: There is a skills gap...

'm looking at three pieces of (BLS; monthly, NSA) data: Average weekly hours, average hourly compensation, and average weekly overtime hours (for those receiving overtime), all for production and non-supervisory workers in goods producing industries.

Average weekly hours fell from 2005 to 2008, then recovered, but has been essentially flat since 2011. If there's a skills gap, why haven't weekly hours continued to increase?

Real average hourly compensation (adjusted using the CPI) fell from 2007 to 2009, then recovered somewhat, but has been unchanged since 2010. If there's a skills gap, why isn't compensation increasing?

Average weekly overtime hours (for those with overtime hours) fell by about 50% (from about 4.5 to about 2.25) from 2006 to 2009, then recovered to about 4.5 and have been flat, with seasonal fluctuations, since 2012. If there's a skills gap, why haven't overtime hours continued to rise?

I agree that the trends shown at the link in openings and hiring are occurring, but why have other labor market indicators not followed?

#4

I think you misread Summers. He does not support the TPP as a free trade agreement.

He says, "What we call trade agreements are in fact agreements on the protection of investments and the achievement of regulatory harmonization and establishment of standards in areas such as intellectual property."

So, it's not a free trade agreement.

He goes on to say, "Concerns that trade agreements may be a means to circumvent traditional procedures for taking up issues ranging from immigration to financial regulation must be taken seriously."

He ends with this: "Our challenge now is less to increase globalization than to make the globalization we have work for our citizens. None of this is to suggest an end to trade diplomacy. Rather, it is to suggest that such talks must be only one component of a broader approach that has as primary stakeholders not just global companies but also those concerned with economic equity, protection of the environment, opportunities for workers to migrate and financial stability. If the TPP is to be secured, there must be clear signals that international economic diplomacy will turn to these concerns."

Exactly how you can characterize his column as "pro" TPP amazes me.

I stand in awe.

He makes some bad political (i.e., pro-Obama) arguments for the TPP, and then proceeds to whine about it being flawed trade strategy.

"What we call trade agreements are in fact agreements on the protection of investments and the achievement of regulatory harmonization and establishment of standards in areas such as intellectual property."

IP is one of the core issues driving "the internet's" opposition to the TPP. The TPP has been a hot topic on tech-minded internet forums (Ars Technica, Boing Boing, many sub-Reddits, Tech Crunch, etc.) for well over a year, and people have been beating the anti-TPP drum re: IP issues the whole time.

At a time when IP law in the US is badly need reform (see The Tabarrok Curve), this trade deal is viewed by that vocal, yet relatively sophisticated, minority as perpetuating and solidifying bad US law on the international level in a way that harms the US and foreign citizens for the benefit of entrenched regulatory rent-seekers (e.g., Hollywood, Pharma, software companies, and other members of the pro-strong IP lobby).

Consider the possibility that if you took out IP from this trade deal, you'd see a lot of ruckus die down.

I'm sure they think of themselves as sophisticated, but that doesn't mean they are.

When it comes to tech, they are sophisticated. When it come to IP, they are on the front line dealing with worst parts of US law that is so strong it's actively stifling innovation.

So in this case and on this topic, they both think of themselves as sophisticated and, by nearly relevant metric, are sophisticated.

Not caring about the US's ability to flex non-military power in Asia over the next 20 years doesn't make you unsophisticated. And both from a pro-markets and pro-innovation perspective, it might actually be a very good thing if current US IP law doesn't become more pervasive.

So Summers is for TPP.

Confirmation that this is a deal for the Corrupt Class that now runs the advanced economies.

Expect average people to get poorer. Middle class, what's that? Your pension, Ha, ha, ha.

How many people have a pension? The middle class isn't just people in comfy sinecures.

There is no job I can't do well with a few years training. What should I do?

I have harshly criticized Larry Summers in public on more than one occasion. But, I agree with Tyler that this is a very well written and on point column by him. For those freaking out over his bringing up all that League of Nations stuff, he himself said this is not nearly as big a deal as that was.

Lawrence Summers article on the travails of the Trans-Pacific Partnership is a very good piece of flawed advocacy. Here’s the intro:

"The Senate’s rejection of President Woodrow Wilson’s commitment of the United States to the League of Nations was the greatest setback to U.S. global leadership of the last century. While not remotely as consequential, the votes in the House last week that, unless revisited, would doom the Trans-Pacific Partnership send the same kind of negative signal regarding the willingness of the United States to take responsibility for the global system at a critical time."

Now, my biases make me instinctually support anything that starts with a lament over the Senate’s refusal to join the League of Nations. But, as Summers notes, the rejection of the League in 1919, and the present rejection of the TPP, are in radically different categories of significance. Indeed, the difference is so large that the comparison in this paragraph makes little sense.

The next part is also problematic:

"The repudiation of the TPP would neuter the U.S. presidency for the next 19 months. It would reinforce global concerns that the vicissitudes of domestic politics are increasingly rendering the United States a less reliable ally. Coming on top of the American failure to either stop or join the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, it would signal a lack of U.S. commitment to Asia at a time when China is flexing its muscles. It would leave the grand strategy of rebalancing U.S. foreign policy toward Asia with no meaningful nonmilitary component. And it would strengthen the hands of companies overseas at the expense of U.S. firms. Ultimately, having a world in which U.S. companies systematically lose ground to foreign rivals would not work out to the advantage of American workers."

First, any real democracy is going to have troublesome domestic politics; even the rejection of the League, bad it was, did demonstrate that the president is not a dictator. Ultimately, a big part of America’s appeal to other countries is that it is both liberal, and powerful; popular politics can cause major foreign policy headaches, but they do not necessarily diminish Washington’s attractiveness in the long run. Additionally, later in the piece, Summers emphasizes America’s failure to reform its approach to multilateral institutions like the IMF and the UN. As he rightly points out, those failures are considerably more important than the current impasse over the TPP; so, again, why is the TPP debacle so significant?

Second, clearly Washington had a poor approach to the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, but how is that failure connected to America’s credibility as a security provider in the Pacific? On the grand-strategic level, any two policies can be linked together, but not all connections are meaningful.

Third, later in his discussion, Summers points out that the anti-China aspect of TPP advocacy is regrettable, and may prove to be counterproductive. Since one can say the same thing about the entire Asia-Pacific rebalancing strategy, the failure of one of its major components might stimulate some productive criticisms of the conventional wisdom.

In contrast to its intro paragraphs, the rest of the article presents a thoughtful and, as far as I can tell, entirely correct meditation on global political economy. It re-affirmed my belief that Larry Summers is always worth listening to, but it did not persuade me that the TPP has foundational importance for U.S. foreign policy.

even the rejection of the League, bad it was,

There was nothing bad about rejecting Woodrow Wilson's inane collective security scheme. The behavior of the replacement organization has demonstrated that in graphic terms.

I see virtually no benefit to "harmonizing regulation" other than to reduce pressures to streamline or eliminate much of our own burdensome regulation.

"Larry Summers on TPP makes perfect sense. I haven’t seen anything on the anti- side coming close to this level of analysis, and in a short column at that"

Reading the column, I was surprised, because it seems as if Summers is on the *anti*-side. He starts off saying how important this is to the Administration's credibility, to be sure, but the last half is all about how trade agreements don't really matter much and are probably *bad* if they're limited to just a few countries.

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