Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Wide-Awakes for Trump?

Back in the days of Lincoln when the Republican party was the party of freedom and devoted to a better life for ordinary Americans, Republicans organized a paramilitary organization called the Wide-Awakes. The mission statement of the Chicago branch of the Wide-Awakes:
1. To act as a political police.
2. To do escort duty to all prominent Republican speakers who visit our place to address our citizens.
3. To attend all public meetings in a body and see that order is kept and that the speaker and meeting is not disturbed.
4. To attend the polls and see that justice is done to every legal voter.
5. To conduct themselves in such a manner as to induce all Republicans to join them.
6. To be a body joined together in large numbers to work for the good of the Republican Ticket.
(Source: Wikipedia)

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Is the American ideal "done"?

Kira Sirote asks: Is the American ideal of progress through liberty "done"? I feel like parts of American society are indeed more just and more righteous than they were 50 years ago, can that be clarified and then extended beyond its own borders?

In my view the ideal of progress is not "done" but it is in tatters.

In medicine Americans are no longer willing to pay for progress.

In race there has been steady regress since 1965.

The war on poverty made things for poor people worse.

The Universities are markedly worse at educating or encouraging freedom of research than they were in our day.

The internet mostly brings distraction.

Television (!) is the dominant medium not just of communication but of art, and for all the strengths of The Wire it is not Dostoevsky.

The US has too many rules which persuade too many people that nothing worth doing can be done anymore. The (pre-Trump) GOP was too focused on taxes, which matter little, and not focused enough on regulation, which is crushing. The Democrats think that the response to the failure of rules (i.e., the subprime crisis), is to add rules.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Trump, #NeverTrump, and 2014 might-have-beens

If the Republican House had impeached Obama over his refusal to enforce immigration law, and a majority of the Senate had voted to convict, we would at least know that the Republican establishment is on the the side of the law and the Constitution. Now what we know is they are committed to open borders and really hate Trump.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Why I am an immigration restrictionist and a trade protectionist

In a Facebook back and forth, Ashland University History Professor John Moser pointed me to this April 2015 NYTimes piece by Greg Mankiw arguing for the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

My father, Levis Kochin, is a Chicago School economist and so I grew up hearing this kind of argument.  I do not believe anymore that these arguments should persuade people who care about the well-being of their country.  Here is why:

The classical free trade/open borders arguments ignore
1) Distributional consequences, who gets what
2) People's risk preferences. I offered a room full of academic economists each a dollar to give up their tenure while retaining all the other parts of their contract. No takers.
3) fiscal consequences: classical mercantilism was intended to maximize net state revenue by routing trade through ports where customs could be conveniently levied. Nowhere in The Wealth of Nations does Smith mention this.
4) One argument Smith does mention and endorse:  "defense is more important than opulence" -- presumably this applies not just to defense of territory but defense of culture or our way of life.
5) classical economics treats labor as a cost and leisure as an unalloyed benefit. And yet I know academic economists who forfeit income in order to teach when they could collect more if they retired. In other words, this is bad psychology.

The most compelling case I know for a protectionist and restrictionist political economy is made by the German philosopher J. G. Fichte, in his short book The Closed Commercial State (originally published 1800).    Read it and decide for yourself.