Friday assorted links


1a. I'll give my indictment that "this is fine." It is well ordered and consistent within itself. If it suffers any flaw it is that it is too insular in philosophy and too dependent on standard examples. "Schools" work for libertarians because they think they have a fix for schools. It's round block in round hole. And, if "everything was a school" this might be fine in a broader context.

Is a national highway system "just a school" though?

While I'm not sure State Capacity Libertarianism is as protective of institutions as it should be (news of the day often being off limits to it), I think Tyler is definitely right that capacity is required to tackle many pressing problems.

We did not put a man on the moon by privatizing k-12 education. And sometimes just getting results justifies state capacity, and action.

There was no need to put a man on the moon. Its accomplishment brought limited benefits to the general population, primarily being that it served to demonstrate US superiority in technology to the godless Commies.

There was no need, but a pragmatist might look at practical results and broader return on investments. If it was positive, it was positive.

I won't ask anyone to raise hands if they use GPS on a daily basis.

The Defense Dept.'s GPS project didn't start until four years after man wandered on the moon. Us civilian use of GPS seems to contradict current observations about the Chinese military being involved in that country's technological and financial assistance to companies like Huawei.

But GPS was forecast before Ike created NASA. Not the engineering, but the idea as most people understand GPS today, as Clark put it, technology so advanced its magic.

The Navy started on NAVSTAR in a project called TRANSIT in 1958 with deployment in 1964.

GPS depends on so many inventions developed for war. Critical to GPS is the invention of spread spectrum transmission by Hedy Lamar and her friend specifically for the Navy against the Nazis, and first put into use against Stalin's commies. GPS is only a satellite version of ground based systems like LORAN, developed for war.

Of course, the prior advance in clocks was for navy navigation in war, Britian against France, Spain, etc.

Note, civilian use of GPS was controversial among those critical to funding it, the small government conservatives who mostly get the support of libertarians. As one of thousands of my employers technologists, and involved in time keeping, I followed the GPS debate closely.

Libertarians are likely aligned more to the European Galileo principles of charging users for GPS services, something that got backing mostly because the US official policy was civilian use of GPS was subject to termination at any instant without notice. The EU wanted to be independent of the whims of the US government which developed software to effectively disable civilian GPS in Africa, Asia, or Europe while keeping it working in the US, and working globally for war.

When Clinton-Gore got US policy committed to robust civilian service and the foundation of NextGen FAA free flight traffic control, support for Galileo fell sharply, with conflicts with the US on war being the only real push to fund it. Every nation building systems based on GPS technology do so based on expected war conflicts with the US. The USSR, China, Europe, India.

Note, libertarians and many conservatives argue for a privatized air traffic control system based on thousands more human operators paid lower wages. The leftist US plan is decentralized computer control based on ground and satellite technology paid for by government dictating "costly"equipment and charging taxes and fees.

Its remarkable that the Obama mandate of 2010 has gone into effect and not been eliminated by Trump. ADS-B Out is required to fly 98% of the time in the US, and Canada and Europe will follow shortly.

But who knows, Trump may yet announce he's rolling back Obama's mandate at so rally yet this year or in a tweet storm, and along with it declare civilian GPS service will be cut off.

After all, Trump is revisiting encryption issues settled by the Federal courts in the 90s as a first amendment right, and by Clinton-Gore negotiating a political consensus based in reality.

They didn’t need to put someone on the moon to develop GPS; they could’ve in fact just worked on developing GPS, and saved a lot of resources. When the state accidentally does something useful in the course of doing something extraordinarily gratuitous, the proper inference is not, “this is why it’s important to have the state constantly doing gratuitous stuff.”

I understand that there are any number of possible alternative histories here. But does that really matter to the question?

Did something "primarily being that it served to demonstrate US superiority in technology to the godless Commies" have positive spin-offs for us all?

I'd say GPS (and GLONASS) fit that bill.

But sure, if you want to imagine a fully peaceful and highly funded peaceful science and aerospace program, such a thing might have gotten us GPS as quickly. Maybe. If anyone had actually funded it.

Maybe. If anyone had actually funded it.

That, too, is a possible alternative history. All examinations of the past and its consequences involve alternative histories. Your response is rhetorically silly.

I think you lost the thread, chuck. I'm defending past aerospace funding because spin-offs. I'm not defending them because of possible alternative histories.

I should also note that the entire idea of "technology transfer" is founded on the notion that such spin-offs are not "accidental," and in fact are intended to be optimized.

As an aside, I look back as the moonshot as effective in this sense, but I oppose a manned Mars mission because I don't think it would bring the same benefits. In fact, I don't see the Mars mission solving any interesting problems, and certainly not at any reasonable price.

So, charitably, what $200 billion dollar project should the government invest in now, hoping for technological payoffs in consumer products in 40 years ?

That's an interesting question. We could start by comparing your $200B to other things:

"In all, federal spending on major higher ed programs reached $74.8 billion in 2017 — though that figure excludes student loans and tax deductions — while states spent $87.1 billion."

The National Science Foundation only gets $7B in FY 2020 for grants.

The National Institutes of Health are running at about $40B per year.

So of those, maybe the NSF is the laggard .. and doubling their funding would cost far less than $200B. Ah, the DOE Office of Science, which funds the national energy labs, only gets $5B. Double them too.

Total cost, $12B/yr.

(Perhaps anyone who believed in State Capacity Libertarianism, and nuclear power, would want to drop more on the DOE Office of Science.)

So that’s obviously not comparable to the Apollo program.

Instead, it looks as though you feel the marginal project that does not receive grant funding is what would create the next GPS level of consumer product. Fair enough.

Keep in mind the marginal NSF grant would be less useful than, and please remember this is the National Science Foundation and please pretend to think on the margin:

Over $400,000 to study “media choice and polarization”

$150,000 to how “discussing politics makes us stressed”

$315,000 to study the effects of “FarmVille on social relations”

$300,000 to study “how humans ride bicycles”

All of those received grant funding from the NSF. So remember to think on the margin, and your contention is that a grant proposal less deserving of funding than the above would lead to consumer product breakthroughs.

Can you justify why the average tax payer should contribute $800 to fund grant proposals less worthy of funding for the above?


Any grant process is lossy. We should not expect 100% home runs there. Venture capitalists certainly do not.

1b is less interesting to me. Maybe it's "fine" too? But it spends too much time navel gazing on who really is a libertarian (Wikipedia says there were 511,277 Libertarians in July 2017).

The implicit argument has always been that even if Libertarians are few, they punch above their weight in defining conservatism. And so you should look for signs of State Capacity Libertarianism in broader conservatism.

Perhaps if they wanted a manned Mars mission, really, really, badly?

1. Decent critique, but this is a lot of digital ink spilled for a movement with maybe 5% of the population. Too lazy to link, but the political quadrant test is pretty sparse for the bottom right corner

2. High trust society, see 6

3. Informative. +5 for using the term embiggens

5. Politics Dams are not about policy, at least for Egypt

6. Everything is downstream from culture

Clearly dams are about culture, at least for Egypt.

Yes, #3 was excellent.

2. A police station on every corner, and always being watched? I wonder if they return umbrellas in Urumqi.

I've lived in Japan 16 years from 1992 to 2013. Americans are watched more than Japanese. The Japanese, however, have this weird quirk where they think that things they find that are someone else's property aren't theirs. I know, a crazy belief.

#2 "Because turning something in is taught from a very early age"

"Give me a child until he is seven and I will show you the man." - Ignatius Loyola

#3 Because Germany has a reputation for high-quality manufacturing and design and they maintain and defend it vigorously. However, this will not last forever.

#6 To paraphrase John Wayne, "Being an economy is tough, it's twice as tough if you can't print money." Developing economies are truly at the mercy of currency and lending markets. To a certain extent we all are, but them much more so.

1. We see the enemy in a mirror. From the link: "A free society today continues to face dangers from big government open to unproductive rent seeking. But the greater threat is probably the rise of identity politics and its tendency toward the dissolution of civic union." Michael Lind has written a book on the same thesis, that angry white men are the victims, that the greater threat to America are the social justice warriors not the neo-Nazis or the Russians. Lind: “The boss class pursues the working class after the workday has ended, trying to snatch the unhealthy steak or soda from the worker’s plate, vilifying the theology of the worker’s church as a firing offense and possibly an illegal hate crime to be reported to the police and denouncing the racy, prole-oriented tabloid internet as ‘fake news’ to be censored by the guardians of neoliberal orthodoxy and propriety.”

Don't be confused: Lind is no libertarian, having written another book attacking libertarianism. I've commented many times on the libertarian-authoritarian axis. We are witnessing it's coming out party in real time. Pay attention.

What does Lind have to do with any of this ?Libertarian and authoritarian are opposites, tautologically.

You’re making no sense.

2.My sister in law, a tourist, not Japanese, left her phone on a bulletin train. It got returned to her. Amazing.

#2: "Until 10 or 20 years ago, it was quite normal for doctors in Japan to withhold diagnoses from their patients."

This was also what motivated the plot of this year's movie "The Farewell", except it's about current China rather than Japan 10-20 years ago. The doctor told the family that their grandmother had incurable cancer, and the family concealed that information from her (to the consternation of the granddaughter who lives in the US).

But I don't know how common this practice really is in China, or was in japan. More common than in the US, we can perhaps deduce.

As for the umbrellas, the article suggests that their cheap ubiquity is the reason why the Japanese don't bother to return them to their owners (or presumably try to reclaim lost ones).

There might be an analogy with plastic bags from supermarkets in the US. They're just there and free for the taking. (In contrast I had a friend who taught in Ghana about 20 years ago and items such as bags or even scrap paper were scarce and valuable; the students sought scrap paper because they didn't have their own paper to practice writing on.)

But those plastic bags are getting scarcer and more valuable in some US cities namely the ones that have banned plastic bags from supermarkets. I have a sister who lives in the Bay Area and thus doesn't enjoy free plastic bags anymore. So when she visits our mother she grabs some and takes them home with her, to put to the various utilitarian tasks that old bags are good for.

Jerry Seinfeld once made a joke about pens, that while everything else is owned and personal property is enforced, pens seem to just be this communal thing. The pen you have now, you don't know how you got it, and in 3 months it will just disappear and someone else will grab it.

I suppose that is equivalent to umbrellas in Japan. In my old high school it was like that for non graphing calculators.

2. Higher cultural valuation of conscientiousness, duty?

They also have few public trash cans, but also no litter - people hold on to their trash until they get home! Imagine that. Service workers (cleaners, fast food employees) seem to take pride in their work and as a result the standard of care is high.

#3: Entertaining, but it took a ton of words and graphs to express just three ideas.

1. China undervalues its currency to promote exports.

2. Manufacturing provides positive externalities or network effects to the economy.

3. Germany benefits from the EU because it advantages German exports.

What the article failed to do was convince the reader of the relevance or correctness of those three points.

1. Currency undervaluation provides a subsidy to foreign consumers who get cheap Chinese goods (yeah yeah, at the expense of their own industries, Autor/Dorn/Hanson, etc.).

2. Claims about the multiplier effects of the local factory exaggerate its true social value.

3. The Germany/EU idea though merits further consideration, I don't have an immediate counter-argument for it. At the moment my only thought is that the EU probably helps other members' exports too, compared to not being in the EU.

I'm not even saying that the counter-arguments to (1) and (2) are correct. Rather the article takes those points as given, i.e. the article stems from mercantilist assumptions, assumptions about manufacturing being good, etc. and doesn't provide new arguments or information to convince the reader why those are good assumptions.

How can both "Germany benefits from the EU because it advantages German exports" and "EU probably helps other members' exports too, compared to not being in the EU." both be true? The only thing I can think of is that the trade relations give more value than the other countries are losing by having a stronger currency. I don't know if I can fully buy into that. It's more likely that the Germany is just eating the rest of the EU's lunch by inflating all of their exchange rates.

"How can ... both be true"

Because trade is not a zero-sum game. Just because Germany's exports are increased thanks to its EU membership doesn't mean that other countries' exports can't also increase. In fact I suspect that is indeed the case for most of the EU members, thanks to the decrease of cross-border trading costs with each other. And if the article is correct that the Euro is in a sense undervalued, that also causes all EU members to "enjoy" increased exports to non-EU countries.

Some countries will have their exports benefit more than other countries do; that's inevitable. Trade, and markets, are not egalitarian.

With respect to 1 “government” isn’t inherently positive or negative in a properly functioning democracy. I think the scariest thing about the government in a properly functioning democracy with fiat currency is the printing press. So Elizabeth Warren has “plans” for a lot of things and they all involve just cranking up the printing press and printing us to a solution. Going forward I would say the printing press is only a solution to a minor fix to a problem everyone agrees is a problem. So Obamacare and Medicare Part D were minor fixes to issues everyone agreed were crank up the printing press and solve the problem.

Climate change and student loan debt are two issues that should NOT be solved by cranking up the printing press. So there is no evidence that climate change is a problem or that the solutions proposed by activists would even reduce CO2 emissions. With respect to student loans colleges—first off colleges have endowments that can be used for tuition. Secondly, I don’t see any evidence that a liberal arts degree is worth anywhere close to what it why should we print money to pay for something that has questionable value for our society??

With respect to 3 cheap steel is always always always good for the overall American economy. The problem with our Rust Belt was that those jobs were lost at the same time Americans were migrating to the Sun Belt. So people that owned property and businesses in Youngstown, OH couldn’t up and move their property to Dallas and Atlanta...only the football coaches could move seamlessly down south because the Sun Belt had new football teams that needed coaching. ;)

3. What is the justification for looking only at trade balances and not current account balances (which would include services trade)? A dollar you get from providing a service or as an investment return is worth just as much as a dollar you get from providing a good.

By current account balances, Germany has the largest surplus by far, with Japan second and China third:

And really, we should be looking at *per capita* current account balances. When you're evaluating a nation's prosperity, you consider per capita GDP, not total GDP. If you look at per capita current account balances, Germany looks unexceptional, with the Netherlands, Switzerland, the Scandinavian countries, Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore, and Middle Eastern Petrostates all posting bigger numbers.

The idea that Germany is using the Euro to deliberately undervalue its currency also seems inconsistent with the fact that the Germans have spent the last ten years arguing for higher interest rates and thus a stronger Euro. It's the Southern Europeans who want a weaker Euro.

The author is interested in manufacturing and the large determinants of the world economy. He is not obliged to write an analysis on whatever it is you think he ought to be writing about instead!

The argument is that the Germans benefit more from "Southern European" competitors being shackled to the same currency, weak for Germany and strong for others (unlike Poland for ex).

A stronger Euro may hurt German exports, though not necessarily (depends on what import costs and where these feed the German value chain; lowering imports costs can raise export competitiveness more than increases in processing costs in Germany) or it may further entrench their advantage within their Eurozone market.

... and also on world export markets where Eurozone countries - France, Italy, Spain etc - are competitors (a point the blog post makes).

Previous: The New York Times’ bizarre campaign against Britain

I was right. There is something going on.

BY Douglas Murray

One read the NYT version and just thought “But that isn’t quite right”. In time this happened with story after story until you realised that if you didn’t trust them on the things you knew about, how could you trust them on the things you didn’t?

In no area in recent years has the NYT made itself more ridiculous than on the subject of the United Kingdom. Since those of us who live in the UK might be regarded as, if not experts, then at least well-informed observers, the paper’s coverage has stood out as being especially ridiculous or defamatory, depending on your mood that morning.

Month by month the story has continued. As though to prove some ill-intent, by December 2018 America’s paper of record was advertising on its social media accounts, asking people to submit stories to the paper if they had “experienced a petty crime in London”.

The truth is sadly simple. At some point in 2016 the Times decided that the Brexit vote and the election of Donald Trump were both of a piece. After the President turned into their number one critic it became important not only to attack him at every given opportunity but to damn everything else they saw as part of the same trend.

How is it anti-British (or, especially, anti-Brexit) to investigate something related to petty crime in London and want to speak to people who experienced it first-hand? Is Donald Trump anti-American for complaining about high crime in the U.S.?
"New York Times' Serious Request For London 'Petty Crime' Stories Backfires British Twitter users flooded the newspaper with fantastically fake experiences."

How stupid can you be?? Is NYT a serious newspaper?? Even the German are laughing their pants off.

edit you=they

Conrad Bastable is perhaps the best writer about "free trade" and international trade.

When "free trade" is sacralized, it becomes "free-trade theology."

With respect to free trade have you been reading about the United Mine Workers of America pension bailout?? So apparently Wyoming has coal that burns cleaner and is easier to mine AND the coal workers aren’t unionized. So even though American coal production peaked in 2008 West Virginia kept losing market share to Wyoming. So because coal is harder to mine in West Virginia the workers are unionized and the pay is better and it employe more workers. So if you believe cheap steel from China is a problem shouldn’t you believe cheap coal from Wyoming is also a problem??

Water is a valuable commodity and Egypt and Sudan have an interest in how quickly the Ethiopian dam is filled, but Egypt's water "crisis" basically results from poor (zero) pricing of water for irrigation, leading to water being used for water-intensive crops like sugar cane, rice and wheat.

Comments for this post are closed