The Broader Effects of Trade and Tech

Quite a few people consciously favor “free markets, but not free migration.”  When questioned, many explain that unlike free markets in goods, free markets in labor have “broad social effects.”  At this point, I have to suppress my urge to exclaim, “Are you out of your minds?”  They’re right, of course, that free migration has broad social effects.  They’re crazy, however, to imagine that free markets in goods lack these effects.  Indeed, at least within the observed range, ordinary market forces have changed society far more than immigration.

Start with international trade.  If the U.S. were a closed economy, manufacturing would still have shrunk, but it would remain a major source of employment.  The Rust Belt would be doing far better – and less eager for a populist political savior.  Opioid and alcohol use among the working class would likely be considerably lower.  Families would be more stable.  College attendance and the college premium would have risen more modestly.  More speculatively, church attendance would be higher, and nerd culture less dominant.

The broader effects of international trade are however dwarfed by the broader effects of all the technological progress that market forces unleash.  I remember life before the Internet.  When I was a teenager, I was almost completely intellectually isolated.  Overcoming boredom was a constant challenge.  There were no cyberbullies; we had real bullies instead.  When I wanted to publicly speak my mind, I wrote letters to the newspaper.  I had zero friends outside the U.S.  My parents and I were routinely out of contact for hours at a time.  I still feel young, but I remember a world that most EconLog readers would find primitive.

Nor is the Internet an isolated example.  The automobile has broad social effects.  So did household appliances.  So did modern contraception.  Obviously.

The pro-market, anti-migration thinkers could demur, “Yes, we all know that.  Our real complaint is that the broader effects of immigration are generally bad, while the broader effects of international trade and technological progress are generally good.”  But if that’s the real complaint, I say we’re entitled to a careful accounting of these broader social effects.  Who has even bothered to compile lists of these broader effects, much less try to measure them?

If no one is doing the math, why would anyone think that broad social changes are benign?  By the power of hindsight bias!  Once a major social change happens, people just get used to it, with little doubt about whether the change was in fact a net positive.

Immigration is, of course, the main exception.  We can’t imagine going back to a world without the Internet, automobiles, or contraception.  It doesn’t ultimately matter whether their broad social effects are good or bad; we just have to live them them, because turning back the clock would require draconian tyranny.  We can, however, imagine going back to a world with near-zero immigration, so fretting about the broader effects of immigration has great appeal.  Wouldn’t that require draconian tyranny, too?  Well, since the victims aren’t fellow citizens, no.

My personal view is that the broad social effects of international trade, technological progress, and immigration are all, on balance, positive.  For immigration, I’ve done my homework; for trade and tech, however, I’m only guessing.  What’s clear, however, is that broader social effects are ubiquitous.  Selectively invoking “broader effects” may be rhetorically effective, but it does not make you wise.

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“You Don’t Like Cops”

The people around me know I don’t put up with bullies, thieves, molesters, thugs, or any archators. Yet, they choose to characterize this as “You don’t like cops“. Really? That’s what they get from that? That’s what they focus on?

They’re right. I don’t like cops.

Not because they are cops, but because they are bullies and thieves and molesters and thugs and otherwise nothing but archators. Even if they very rarely do something helpful. There is no such thing as a “good cop”– no good person can be a cop. Not because they are a cop, but because of what the “job” requires. In the exact same way that there can’t be a good rapist.

I don’t make exceptions to disliking bullies, thieves, molesters, thugs, or any other archators just because it’s part of the “job” they choose to carry out.

To abbreviate this as “You don’t like cops” is to miss the entire point.

The only reason I can see that this would be the focal point is that those around me make an exception for behavior they would otherwise recognize as bad, as long as it is carried out by a cop (or other government employee). Things they wouldn’t tolerate anyone else doing, they justify when done by a goon wearing a badge. That’s kinda pathetic.

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Robin Grille: Natural Born Bullies (15m)

This episode features an audio essay written by psychologist Robin Grille in 2007, which comprises Chapter 24 of Everything Voluntary: From Politics to Parenting, edited by Skyler J. Collins and published in 2012. He explores the origins of bullying. Purchase books by Robin Grille on Amazon here.

Listen To This Episode (15m, mp3, 64kbps)

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Self-Defense, Children Cussing, Yoga Pants, Entitlements, & Freedom (22m) – Episode 273

Episode 273 has Skyler giving his commentary on the following topics: teaching children to defend themselves from bullies; allowing children to use cuss words; the emergence of yoga pants fashion; how entitlements are antithetical to liberty; the dumb phrase “freedom is not free”; and more.

Listen to Episode 273 (22m, mp3, 64kbps)

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How Hard Would It Be To Enslave You?

Do you believe you’re free?

Ask yourself how hard it would be for someone to enslave you – politically, emotionally, financially, physically, relationally, mentally.

Do you have debt? We may no longer have debtor’s prisons, but for all intents and purposes, you are one collection away from losing your choice.

Do you have compromised character? While you live a lie, you must beg for others to accept your version of reality (H/T to Ayn Rand). You have become their slave.

Do you give in to bullies or crowds? If you don’t stand up for yourself now, how long will you be able to resist when you face real pressure?

Do you work for someone else? How many paychecks away from dependence are you?

Do you spend wealth instead of investing it? Are you building a future of independence or a future dependent on continued luxury?

Are you borrowing someone else’s values and purpose? How will you stand for yourself in any relationship with others? You will be at the mercy of others.

Do you take things you haven’t earned? The bill from the benefactor comes due at some point.

Are you dependent? Will you keep what independence you do have when things get bad?

Are you unskilled? How will you be able to take care of yourself without turning to dependence?

Are you ignorant? How will you know you have been led astray if you cannot think and do not call on wisdom?

Are you shortsighted? You will not see the consequences that will leave you in chains.

These are all questions which come back to character. In the end – as great thinkers from the Romans to today have told us – it is what keeps us free.

“How hard would it be to enslave you” is the same question as “how virtuous are you, and how virtuous are you willing to be?”

Many of these are questions I ask myself. I hope they can be helpful to you.

Originally published at JamesWalpole.com.

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Stand Your Ground, But Don’t Start Trouble

There was a recent shooting, which is being promoted as a”stand your ground” incident, in Florida. It has turned into one of those “big things” on the internet, with people picking sides.

In some ways it seems like exactly the sort of thing anti-gun bigots warned would happen– trigger-happy bullies looking for a fight (because they can and because they feel confident they can win)… and finding one.

To others it seems a clear case of self-defense.

Personally, I’m torn.

Without more information I can’t come down definitively on either side. The information it would take to make this clear-cut either way is unlikely to ever find its way to me.

So, let me tell you what I see from both sides.

Yes, it looks like the guy who got shot initiated force– it seems clear he was the first to touch the other. But to me, it also looks like he was backing away and was no longer a threat when he was shot. “Stand your ground” wouldn’t apply if that’s the case. But maybe he was just staging for a charge. Or maybe he was de-escalating at the sight of the gun. I don’t know. Without knowing what each person was saying it’s not possible to know for certain what was going on.

It is known that the shooter first approached and exchanged angry words with the soon-to-be-dead guy’s girlfriend. (It is claimed that the shooter has a history of confrontations over handicap parking spaces, but who knows if this is true.) What did he say to the woman, and was he making a credible threat to initiate force? If so, then he’s the one who started it, even if he wasn’t the first to actually use physical force. You don’t have to wait until someone takes a swing at you to rightfully defend yourself if he’s telling you he’s going to swing at you.

How can you tell if a threat is credible or not?

Some random blowhard on the internet saying he’s going to come to your house and kill you, when he doesn’t know where you live, is hundreds of miles away, and has no real way to carry through with what he’s saying is not making a credible threat.

Someone in your face screaming that he is going to beat you (or your friend) to a bloody pulp is making a credible threat. He is clearly saying he intends to initiate force, and due to his proximity, he is able to carry through immediately. You have the right to believe him and to use force against him in that case, even before he actually touches you. The Zero Archation Principle isn’t a suicide pact.

Now, since I wasn’t there I don’t really know all that went on. Parking in the handicap space was a loser move, not because of the state’s permit system, but just for the human decency of healthy, capable people leaving the close spots for those who need them, blue paint or not. Getting bent out of shape because someone parked there without the “required” permit is also a loser move. After those two things, I can’t have much sympathy for either combatant, even before admitting I think fighting over such trivial things as a parking space is always a loser move.

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