Reflections on the Krikorian-Caplan Soho Forum Debate

Thanks again to Gene Epstein and Reason for sponsoring last week’s immigration debate between myself and Mark Krikorian.  Thanks to Mark, too, for debating before an unsympathetic audience.  The resolution, you may recall, was: The current pandemic makes it all the more necessary for the federal government to tighten restrictions on immigration. Here are my extra thoughts on the exchange.

The Other Great Shutdown

Coronavirus originated in China, migration brought it here, and suddenly life is terrible.  Dogmatic libertarians can keep droning on about “liberty,” but everyone else now plainly sees that strict immigration controls could have stopped this plague – and only strict immigration controls can stop the plagues of the future. This argument sounds so right.  What could possibly be wrong with it?

Gouge Is Good

If you’ve bought anything in the past six weeks, you’ve seen shortages.  In grocery stores, you’ve see empty shelves.  Online, you’ve seen long waits. If you know econ 101, there’s an obvious explanation: price-gouging laws.  When supply falls, the market’s normal reaction is to raise prices.  Government’s reaction, however, is to paint the market’s normal reaction as vicious exploitation – and order prices to stay flat despite reduced supply.  Shortages inevitably result. While this story has great merit, you don’t have to look closely to realize that it’s not the full story of shortages.  Why not? 

The True CPI Just Jumped

I recently voiced fear of coming inflation.  Yet on reflection, high inflation is already here.  While measured inflation remains low, I’ve been arguing for years that CPI bias heavily distorts official measures.  My point has always been that official measures of inflation are too high, because official measures fail to properly account for rising quality and variety of goods.  In the last month, however, all this has suddenly reversed.  Due to the coronavirus, official measures of inflation are now much too low.