Latin American Economies and Free Markets

Macroeconomics is a tricky beast. It’s easy to take data out of context to fit your narrative, but it’s always important to look at the data and consider what it means, whether it supports you point or not.

This first section is in response to a post on the internet about Chile and Pinochet. Continue reading

White Oak, Maryland
Seeding LEED, Public Domain image

David Friedman, Generic Drugs, Papal travels, and other links

I’ve got a couple interesting things in development, but in the meantime here are some links I’ve come across recently with some short analysis tacked on.

I don’t consider myself an anarcho-capitalist, although I agree with some of the arguments ancaps make.  I don’t find them too crazy if, for example, you accept the premise that even a well constrained government slowly escapes its constitutional shackles (debatable).  The result of this premise that the only option that would keep a government from expanding and infringing on freedom is to never have one at all. But I find it mostly uninteresting since I’m into politics and the political reality is that we have a government, we’ve had one for a long time, and we’re going to have one for quite some time into the future. Moreover, because I’m a consequentialist and most ancaps are deontological, some of the outrage at the government’s existence is also dulled. But despite all of that, this video by consequentialist anarcho-capitalist David Friedman summarizing his argument in The Machinery of Freedom (reviewed by Slate Star Codex here and more here) is excellent and well worth the 20 minute watch. Continue reading

Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0, Gage Skidmore

Why We Should Stop Talking About Trump

I made a pledge not to talk about Donald Trump about a month ago. I felt that he was getting too much media coverage, and since I believed he had no chance to win the nomination, I felt that every person discussing him was to his benefit…and to the detriment of everyone else on Earth. I made that prediction based on a few factors (Nate Silver does a good job talking about them here), mostly that Trump has no campaign infrastructure, no party support, terrible favorability ratings, and early polling is essentially meaningless. Of course, he also doesn’t have any cohesive platform and the ideas he does have are atrocious, but because the conversation about Trump never died down, his terrible ideas have stuck around despite his inevitable campaign collapse. Continue reading

Movies! Summer 2015

This is a break from the more issue-focused last couple of posts to talk about one of the more fun things I was able to get done this summer, see some great movies!

In total I was able to see 7 movies during the summer movie season: Avengers: Age of Ultron, Mad Max: Fury Road, Tomorrowland, Jurassic World, Inside Out, Ant-Man, and Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation.  It’s also worth noting that I tend to look at movies as a science fiction fan, and last year’s best summer sci-fi movie was far and away Edge of Tomorrow. How do this summer’s movies compare? Continue reading

Public Domain Image - White House Photograph Courtesy Gerald R. Ford Library.

The Limitations of the Left-Right Spectrum

I.

I came across an article whose thesis is that people with my worldview are gravely mistaken about everything they believe.

How many liberals and progressives have heard this? It’s ridiculously common. Hell, even David Koch of the Koch brothers has said, “I’m a conservative on economic matters and I’m a social liberal.”

And it’s wrong. W-R-O-N-G Wrong.

You can’t separate fiscal issues from social issues. They’re deeply intertwined. They affect each other. Economic issues often are social issues. And conservative fiscal policies do enormous social harm.

Despite the age of the article (it was published in May), I’m interested in this for a couple reasons. One is that if we take “economically conservative” to be in favor of free markets (not always clear), then “economically conservative and socially liberal” is a good working definition for moderate libertarianism or classical liberalism. Believing libertarianism is just “wrong” is something that needs to be addressed given the large amount of people who identify as such, including myself. I was hoping for a strong critique of libertarianism, but it seems that the author mischaracterizes some libertarian positions. What’s more, if the author’s argument is correct, there are no real political positions outside the Left-Right political spectrum and perhaps none outside the Left at all! This would severely limit political discourse and our creativity in forming policy solutions to society’s challenges. Continue reading

The Idealized Presidential Platform

If you were running for president, what would you run on?

These days there are more presidential candidates than ever, and those candidates like to come up with idealized policy proposals that have no chance of passing to post on their websites and shore up their ideological credentials. I’ve decided to join the ruckus with my own mix of libertarian proposals from fairly obvious to extremely radical. I’m going to be treating these pieces as a first draft of my hypothetical presidential platform with room for growth and change, and I won’t be delving too deeply into any single topic.

The Republican National Convention, held in Philadelphia, June, 1900 – Public Domain Image

Continue reading

New Horizons, Prediction Markets, and other Links

This morning, the New Horizons probe had its closest approach to Pluto.  It’s pretty cool that human ingenuity has gotten to the point where it’s possible to launch a rocket, and then 10 years later get it within a couple thousand miles of a (dwarf) planet orbiting ~6 billion kilometers away from us. But keeping with this blog’s theme, this doesn’t seem very libertarian! Isn’t this a big waste of money and resources for the government to be sending probes to Pluto?  Well, yes, obviously.

 - Public Domain Photo from NASA

This picture of Pluto cost $650M

Continue reading

Inequality and Consequentialism

This post is a response to two related posts on Bleeding Heart Libertarians, one by Duke Professor Jonathan Anomaly and one by Richmond Professor Jessica Flanigan.

Professor Anomaly’s post asks the question: “Is global wealth Inequality unjust?”. He cites Dan Moller in an article about economic growth divergence which is pretty convincing.  Moller points out that most of the disparities in wealth can be attributed to exponential economic growth that certain nations seemed to stumble upon. The causes for these are not known, but they seem to be long-term over the course of hundreds of years. Likely candidates include scientific advancement and technology, political and economic institutions, bourgeois social norms, etc.  Since growth was similar across countries that participated in colonialism and ones that did not, over the course of hundreds of years and many different policies, it seems clear that colonial exploitation, while awful and unjust, isn’t a good explanation for differences in wealth.  The resources exploited were trivial in terms of how vastly the differences in economic development are. I would highly recommend reading the whole article. Continue reading

Choosing Sides: NBA Finals Edition

For the first time in eight years, the Cleveland Cavaliers have made the NBA Finals. As a Heat fan who got to watch the greatest player, perhaps ever, in his prime bring my team to the NBA Finals four years in a row, it’s weird to see Lebron leading the Cavs.  And now I’m faced with the question of whether to root for him or not. Continue reading

The Burden is on Free Trade Opponents

In response to the Senate’s difficulties in passing Trade Promotion Authority for the Trans Pacific Partnership, I’ve noticed a fair amount of opposition to TPA, often implying opposition to free trade generally (this reddit thread is demonstrative). First, in regards to TPA, as long as you feel that a trade agreement can have pros and cons just like any other international agreement, there really isn’t much reason to oppose it. Most international negotiations are unlikely to happen without Congress delegating negotiating authority to the executive branch. I think the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks, for example, were negotiated somewhat in secret.  And then legislation was later placed in front of Congress to implement.  I couldn’t find much more info on it so I may be wrong, but trade treaties aren’t substantially different from other international agreements.

Public Domain image thanks to Captain Albert E. Theberge, NOAA Corps (ret.)

Next on America’s trade policy and free trade generally, it’s difficult for me to accept criticisms of free trade, when so many experts seem to be pretty sure it is beneficial. Honestly, I’ve never seen so many economists from all the top institutions all agree on something. Moreover, this isn’t exactly a new position, and it’s not like alternatives haven’t been tried. Brookings, which is by no means some right-wing think tank, is pretty set on free trade (NAFTA included). It’s also probably worth noting, that higher educated voters tend to favor free trade more. Lots of bad policies may be popular, but hopefully higher information voters will actually like better policies.

There’s also some belief that free trade hurts poor Americans. Even if that were true (which seems unlikely given expert opinion and increased growth), doesn’t that imply that poor people in other countries are benefiting? Is fighting global income inequality a particularly bad outcome? Allowing for freer investment in developing countries seems like a categorically “good” thing.

That’s not to say I’ve never heard of opposition to free trade from respectable sources…but most of them tend to be single economists from the 1980s. There’s also this recent article in the New York Times…except it was an op-ed written by a fellow from a partisan progressive think tank.  It’s just hard to find opposition to trade from academic sources, not tied to industry. Now, it’s possible I’ve just been brainwashed to believe the same things that lots of smart people believe and I can’t think for myself, but at this point I think I’d be crazy to largely oppose American free trade policy, there’s just too much expert opinion on the other side.