As Bitter As It Is Illuminating

“Leave no man behind.”  This slogan is the peak of military romanticism.  No matter how much you suffer for the cause, you are never alone.  You belong to an unbreakable brotherhood of blood. “I’m expendable.”  This admission is the peak of military realism.  You’re not part of a loving “family”; you’re part of a callous system.  If you die, you’ll be replaced by someone else.  Before long, the men who sent you to your doom won’t even remember your name.

Infant Industries and the Dubious Benefits of Barriers

While I was teaching at the John Locke Institute, our Summer School sponsored a debate on free trade between Daniel Hannon and Terence Kealey.  Kealey rested his case for protectionism squarely on the classic infant-industry argument.  Kealey’s version: While free trade does indeed improve efficiency at the moment, the long-run effect is to suppress economic growth in poorer countries.  Why?  Because you don’t improve at doing things that you don’t do.

The Big Deal About Masks

What’s the big deal about masks?  In exchange for slight inconvenience and discomfort, we save lives.  Basic human selfishness explains why many would fail to comply.  Anti-authoritarian scruples might lead some to oppose government mask mandates.  But how could anyone sincerely disagree with the principle that wearing masks is a good thing?

Why Not Rectify Past Injustices?

I just got back from a month in the UK, working for the John Locke Institute‘s two summer schools.  The morning before I left, I delivered my talk on “The Economics of Antipathy and Stereotyping.” In the subsequent Q&A, one of the students asked (roughly), “But shouldn’t we try to rectify past injustices that caused present-day differences in worker productivity?”  Since I wasn’t satisfied with my answer at the time, here are the three key points I wish I’d made.

Huemer’s Two Taxes

In my “Knowledge, Reality, and Value” Book Club, I focus on my disagreements with Huemer, even though I agree with the vast majority of what the book says.  Recently, however, he wrote a separate piece that I disagree with almost entirely, entitled “Two Taxes that Aren’t Theft.”  Using Huemer’s common-sense approach to ethics, I say that he’s deeply mistaken on both counts.