TPP and the Law of Unintended Consequences

Once upon a time, free-trade agreements were about just that: free trade. You abolish your tariffs and import restrictions, I’ll abolish mine. Trade increases, countries specialize in what they’re best equipped to do, efficiency increases, price levels drop, everybody wins.

Then environmentalists began honking about exporting pollution and demanded what amounted to imposing First World regulation on Third World countries who – in general – wanted the jobs and the economic stimulus from trade more than they wanted to make environmentalists happy. But the priorities of poor brown people didn’t matter to rich white environmentalists who already had theirs, and the environmentalists had political clout in the First World, so they won. Free-trade agreements started to include “environmental safeguards”.

Next, the labor unions, frightened because foreign workers might compete down domestic wages, began honking about abusive Third World labor conditions about which they didn’t really give a damn. They won, and “free trade” agreements began to include yet more impositions of First World pet causes on Third World countries. The precedent firmed up: free trade agreements were no longer to be about “free” trade, but rather about managing trade in the interests of wealthy First Worlders.

Today there’s a great deal of angst going on in the tech community about the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Its detractors charge that a “free-trade” agreement has been hijacked by big-business interests that are using it to impose draconian intellectual-property rules on the entire world, criminalize fair use, obstruct open-source software, and rent-seek at the expense of developing countries.

These charges are, of course, entirely correct. So here’s my question: What the hell else did you expect to happen? Where were you idiots when the environmentalists and the unions were corrupting the process and the entire concept of “free trade”?

The TPP is a horrible agreement. It’s toxic. It’s a dog’s breakfast. But if you stood meekly by while the precedents were being set, or – worse – actually approved of imposing rich-world regulation on poor countries, you are partly to blame.

The thing about creating political machinery to fuck with free markets is this: you never get to be the last person to control it. No matter how worthy you think your cause is, part of the cost of your behavior is what will be done with it by the next pressure group. And the one after that. And after that.

The equilibrium is that political regulatory capability is hijacked by for the use of the pressure group with the strongest incentives to exploit it. Which generally means, in Theodore Roosevelt’s timeless phrase, “malefactors of great wealth”. The abuses in the TPP were on rails, completely foreseeable, from the first time “environmental standards” got written into a trade agreement.

That’s why it will get you nowhere to object to the specifics of the TPP unless you recognize that the entire context in which it evolved is corrupt. If you want trade agreements to stop being about regulatory carve-outs, you have to stop tolerating that corruption and get back to genuinely free trade. No exemptions, no exceptions, no sweeteners for favored constituencies, no sops to putatively noble causes.

It’s fine to care about exporting pollution and child labor and such things, but the right way to fix that is by market pressure – fair trade labeling, naming and shaming offenders, that sort of thing. If you let the politicians in they’ll do what they always do: go to the highest bidder and rig the market in its favor. And then you will get screwed.

Application of this principle to domestic policy is left as an easy exercise for the reader.

94 thoughts on “TPP and the Law of Unintended Consequences

  1. The answer to as to why this abomination (TPP) has occurred is that it is a reflection of the current mean caliber of our population. For nearly half a century now, unprecedented affluence and abundance have inexorably eroded the evolutionary gauntlet that imbued us with the rationality skill set and work ethic that made us a great people. We have become a nation of coddled malcontents that have been conditioned to believe that the gravy train will run on forever, no matter how stupidly we behave. I believe that history will eventually show that we passed the de Tocqueville tipping point sometime during the past decade or so.

    You can abrogate a bad trade deal, but you can’t fix stupid with a speech.

  2. You have interesting thoughts as always. There is, however, a different interpretation of e.g. environmental constraints on a trade agreement: “I want to buy cheap things, but I don’t want to pay a rainforest to get it.”

    The side effects of an agreement are a valid consideration, both environmentally and precedetally, and indeed it is a slippery slope. I suspect the best way (not a utopian good way, but only the best we can do) is simply not engage in trade when we don’t like the practices.

    The problem is that these decisions are going to be made differently by those at different Maslow levels, whether you examine those levels at an international or personal level.

  3. ESR: I still think it’s worth passing, since the dog’s breakfast beats the status quo, but yeah, these things have gotten a bit crazy.

    Russ: Not always. Remember, politicians are generally averse to free trade, and look for excuses to stick it to foreigners. Unilateral free trade is economically superior to no free trade, but inferior to joint free trade, and in practice the only way to get joint free trade is to withhold what they want until you get what you want.

  4. I remember someone (possibly LaRouche himself, possibly just someone on his side) saying that free trade is simple, if the treaty is hundreds of pages long it isn’t about free trade.

  5. The equilibrium is that political regulatory capability is hijacked by for the use of the pressure group with the strongest incentives to exploit it. Which generally means, in Theodore Roosevelt’s timeless phrase, “malefactors of great wealth”. The abuses in the TPP were on rails, completely foreseeable, from the first time “environmental standards” got written into a trade agreement.

    Regulations also tend to end up hijacked by the groups with the most political power, which is why trying to use regulations to help the poor almost always fails. Intellectual Property is a good international example of this, as those lobbying for increased IP restrictions have both the incentive to seek regulatory protections and the political power to get governments to listen.

  6. >”I want to buy cheap things, but I don’t want to pay a rainforest to get it.”

    Fine, don’t do that, then. Support organizations that do sustainability auditing and offer certification for good behavior. Those too can be corrupted, in principle. but because more than one of them are competing for reputation (without which their brand is worthless) they check each other.

  7. If you care about the environment or labor, what you don’t want is “free trade.” What you want is wage- and environmental-parity tariffs, which eliminate the economic incentive for companies to shift manufacturing and jobs to countries where they can employ slave labor and spew poisons into the air, water, and ground with impunity.

  8. > What you want is wage- and environmental-parity tariffs

    Which will be corrupted into monopoly rent-seeking devices within a nanosecond and lose their intended function a nanosecond later.

  9. The thing about creating political machinery to fuck with free markets is this: you never get to be the last person to control it.

    This applies to all political machinery. The Mensheviks are always surprised by the Bolsheviks.

  10. > Application of this principle to domestic policy is left as an easy exercise for the reader.

    The principle also applies to computer security, as in Apple’s recent refusal to help unlock the bomber’s iPhone.

    Great post, this explains so well what I think is the central tenet of conservatism. A right-wing agenda is not really conservative, it is the same as a left-wing agenda, just with a different agenda; a desire to change in a different direction. “To conserve” = “To NOT change”, precisely because actions always have unintended consequences, so we need to think a lot longer and harder before we try to change things.

  11. “I want to buy cheap things, but I don’t want to pay a rainforest to get it.”

    But if the rainforest isn’t your property then you don’t have standing to object to it being destroyed (didn’t someone just have this argument about mountaintop coal mining in the last thread?)

  12. While this is all true description of the political mechanism & dynamics of trade agreements, the analysis about why/how it is happened is in error exactly because it ignores the mechanisms and dynamics of how regulations are created in a democracy.

    The problem is not that people short-sightedly decided to stand meekly by, or need to be taught to consider slippery slope consequences, or need to be educated or improved in any way. That’s a pre-public choice economics viewpoint that I call “folk activism”, which is deeply intuitive because it’s how things actually worked in forager tribes of 150. Unfortunately, it does not at all apply to large modern democracies.

    From the public choice economist’s point of view, the incentives of democracy are to create exactly the types of regulations you are objecting to – ones that harm dispersed interests (many people harmed a little) to benefit concentrated interests (small pressure groups who get large benefits). It’s the expected behavior of our political system, and it’s not going to change unless our political OS gets a thorough rewrite. (Alpha/beta tested by volunteers in many places for many years first of course, not looking for a revolution because “revolution is the hell of it.”)

    The surprising thing that needs explanation & merits investigation is when regulations are passed that *don’t* fit this model. Otherwise it’s like pointing out that an internal combustion engine produces waste heat. And suggesting we need more pluck and enthusiasm for efficiency to stop it from doing so. The only thing that will reduce waste heat is to design a more efficient engine.

    The important question, and the meta-cause to rally support for, is: where/how can we start a dev branch for governance?

  13. >The thing about creating political machinery to fuck with free markets is this: you never get to be the last person to control it.

    Suppose you get your way and we get a completely free market. What stops it becoming a non-free market?

    So you have a principle that if your political ideology demands the existence of a state of affairs that is unstable and turns into another state of affairs, then that ideology is a bad one. It’s up to you, then, to argue why your desired state of affairs would be stable.

    >The thing about creating political machinery to fuck with free markets

    Thing is, it’s any political machinery at all, including political machinery to enforce free markets.

  14. But if the rainforest isn’t your property then you don’t have standing to object to it being destroyed (didn’t someone just have this argument about mountaintop coal mining in the last thread?)

    One of the things I secretly love is reading HOA disputes in the community newspaper, usually of the form “Person A made change B to their property in violation of rule C”. I especially love the free-spirited types that would never subject themselves to the authoritarian restrictions of a HOA, then, when neighbor A makes a change that impacts their property values, wants to all of a sudden adopt those HOA rules.

    All that food and goods people consume and the power that runs all these computers comes from somewhere, and the process of getting it to you is not pretty. I have generations of relatives that were coal miners the old fashioned way and it was dirty and, especially, dangerous work. We need power. We want power cheap so the poor don’t freeze in the winter. We want the process of producing power to be safe so those that have to do the dirty work don’t die. We came up with a method of getting coal that was affordable and didn’t lead to people getting buried alive very often, albeit at the cost of being ugly. Most Socialist countries have made the same choice, although the worker’s paradises tend to still have a lot more workers buried alive.

    There are plenty of stories from those that have been to Africa about lions. Farmers would direct hunters to local lions suitable for hunting. This was good for the hunters; they got their lion. It was good for the farmers; even though they lost some animals to the lions, the pay from the hunters made up for it. It was good for the lions in general; the hunters wanted good trophies, so the farmers spared females and cubs, and even let them feed on their livestock. Then, environmentalists came along and got hunting banned. And the farmers then would quietly kill of all the lions when nobody was paying attention, and everyone was poorer as a result. And I remember this from decades ago. What happened recently? Cecil the lion gets killed, outrage results from well meaning idiots, hunting banned, and, predictably: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2016/02/23/cecil-the-lion-zimbabwe-200-lions-overpopulation_n_9297298.html

  15. @Alsadius: the dog’s breakfast beats the status quo

    I’m not so sure. But then I wasn’t so sure about past “free trade” agreements either, for the reasons esr gives.

  16. Suppose you get your way and we get a completely free market. What stops it becoming a non-free market?

    What stops it from becoming a non-free market is the political will not to interfere in the market. It’s the same thing that prevents a society with civil rights from becoming a society without civil rights.

    Disclaimer: I am not an ancap. It’s possible to have a free market without most of the civil rights we take for granted (the right to property being the biggest necessity). There are a number of authoritarian states which still largely respect the free market, and, in general, the population isn’t starving or dying trying to escape. Singapore is probably the most widely cited example.

  17. > “I want to buy cheap things, but I don’t want to pay a rainforest to get it.”

    Then support organizations that label the source of wood, for example. Those do exist (URL lost not bookmarked), and are better solution i.e. marking (or not having mark) and shaming…

    But enforcing worse than First World laws on Third World countries is intellectually lazier.

  18. ESR: There seems to be an error in comment posting order. Your post from 11:54 is above mine from 11:42, and it’s not a clock error, since yours was definitely posted after mine. You may wish to investigate.

  19. Conservatism is not necessarily “to NOT change”. It involves careful changing. Or changing only carefully.
    Ran across this some time ago, and copied it. The last phrase is prescient. Note also the reference to change “which is inevitable”.

    “In a progressive country change is a constant, and the great question is not whether you should resist change which is inevitable, but whether that change should be carried out in deference to the manners, the customs, the laws and the traditions of a people, or whether it should be carried out in deference to abstract principles, and arbitrary and general doctrines.

    Benjamin Disreali, speech Edinburgh, 1867

    Of course the enviro-weenies and their ilk have no desire to give any deference to anyone and generally carry on, believing in abstract principles and arbitrary and general doctrines…

  20. So, Dyspeptic Curmudgeon, you’re not necessarily on-board with today’s Most Pressing Social Problem, the horrible, traditional injustice of Bathroom Discrimination? Are you implying there might be unintended consequences to letting men into women’s restrooms?

  21. Dyspeptic Curmudgeon on 2016-04-12 at 16:11:56 said:

    Conservatism is not necessarily “to NOT change”. It involves careful changing. Or changing only carefully.

    This reminds me of a good comment I came across on this very blog once:
    ralph phelan said (Wednesday, November 12, 2003 @ 02:03:32)

    If I’m a conservative it’s in an engineering sense:
    “If it aint broke, don’t fix it.”
    “Be very sure before you do anything you can’t undo.”
    “Don’t randomly futz with things you don’t fully understand.”
    “Make one change at a time.”
    Etc.

    Great quote; wish I could remember the thread.

  22. This is the real world.

    Even a totally ‘free trade’ agreement is going to need conditions, because predatory practices exist and because national security is a real thing (so there are going to be things you just don’t want to trade or competitive advantage away).

    But yes the built in graft-potential enhancing mechanisms get tiresome.

  23. >But the priorities of poor brown people didn’t matter to rich white environmentalists who already had theirs, and the environmentalists had political clout in the First World, so they won. Free-trade agreements started to include “environmental safeguards”.

    But the brown folk share some of the blame for agreeing to it. I can’t imagine their profit from these deals outweighs the risk, yet here we are.

    So legitimized-coercion-imposed free trade isn’t free and isn’t about trade.

    It’s enough to make me wonder if there’s something to the unity of evil. If every bureaucracy ended up harming its stated cause, then we should institute a bureaucracy of death, maiming, disease, and whipping cute puppies. However, much like the NSDAP had few problems being nationalist and socialist and holding votes, I can’t imagine the bureaucracy of sadism would suffer much in the way of perverse setbacks. The IRS seems to have little issue with providing revenues to the IRS.

    This means in principle evil is experimentally testable.

  24. Greg on 2016-04-12 at 18:13:12 said:
    > Even a totally ‘free trade’ agreement is going to need conditions, because predatory practices exist

    The great cartels, artificial monopolies, &c. of history were all either fictional or failed. There is only one predatory practice that has ever been effective.

    It is called government.

  25. And Iran wants to buy some UGM-133’s from Lockheed Martin, for testing and evaluation. They need them for fisheries protection. ;)

    The fact that there might be some capabilities you want to preserve locally requires a moderately complex argument with a number of built-in assumptions that could be questioned.

    The fact that there are some *products* (and technologies, but that’s more indirect and so less obvious) that you simply wouldn’t want to sell to certain customers – which is totally contradictory to free trade, but totally in agreement with common sense and a wish to live – is a much simpler argument that most people ought to get.

  26. But the brown folk share some of the blame for agreeing to it. I can’t imagine their profit from these deals outweighs the risk, yet here we are.

    In most cases, as with the environmental agreements, the people running the governments (and therefore signing the agreement) benefit, often in the form of generous subsidies to be funneled into their offshore accounts.

    A massive disconnect between the fortune of the people running the government and the fortune of the people of the country as a whole is a sign that things are going to get much worse.

  27. Even a totally ‘free trade’ agreement is going to need conditions, because predatory practices exist

    It is called government.

    Actually government is what is being talked about here. At least I hope so, as Cree is correct about the legendary cartels.

    But Greg is still wrong about free trade needing caveats due to other governments. Anything you do to “make it fair” it equivalent to saying “Stop pissing in the soup or I’ll piss in it too!”. Now, in theory you could threaten to do something as a bluff to get the other side to stop fucking around (this is what Trump’s stated plan is, even if he doesn’t understand that it is a terrible thing to go through with). But this solution is a clear nuclear option: if you press the button you have already completely failed regardless of what happens next. The only reason to press the button is to prove that your bluffs should be taken seriously.

    As far as protectionism for military reasons… I admit that I don’t have a good answer. There are potential answers, but I don’t know enough to give a clear solution. But any form of protectionism presupposes the ability to force people to do your bidding; something for which you had better have a damn good justification.

  28. Government as thug, cartel, mafia and violent actor is what we have. So in the present day, if your ‘solution’ doesn’t reduce government and government involvement then you are pissing in the wind. Because the current balance between beneficial private exchanges and the parasitic nefarious actors is far, far overwhelmed by systemic and group maleficence of government with diminishing few supposed associated government benefits. We’re out of balance, where government is the tyrant.

  29. One of the longest-lasting free trade deals was between William I and his cousin Alan Rufus. During the Conquest, Alan persuaded William to grant all of Alan’s tenants and employees of the Honour of Richmond freedom from tolls, customs charges and numerous other transit fees across England.

    Astonishingly this agreement remained in force for over 570 years, as legal cases over the centuries demonstrate: the latest of these of which I’ve read occurred in 1641, during the reign of Charles I.

  30. My impression is that “free trade” agreements have always been about regulatory capture by entrenched interests on both sides of whichever border. Didn’t a bunch of the early ones have clauses about banning unions (in countries where that was viable)?

    I could be wrong. It’s been a while.

    Still, could you side some examples of pro-union or pro-environmental clauses in FTAs?

  31. There are devils in the TPP’s details, this guy found 50 issues with the thing that were all pretty nasty… as one example:

    http://www.michaelgeist.ca/2016/02/the-trouble-with-the-tpp-day-28-privacy-risks-from-the-source-code-rules/

    “Where were you idiots when the environmentalists and the unions were corrupting the process and the entire concept of “free trade”?”

    I hadn’t been born yet, I think. Stuff pitched as “Free trade deals” have been around for thousands of years, some enforced at the point of a gun. I don’t think free trade has ever existed, and that anyone with an information, force or financial asymmetry usually has tried to exploit their advantages whenever possible.

  32. @Greg:

    The fact that there are some *products* (and technologies, but that’s more indirect and so less obvious) that you simply wouldn’t want to sell to certain customers –

    Even protectionism to maintain military advantage can go too far. If you try to maintain too many technologies as military secrets, you end up with a bunch of defense contractors with a significant fraction of their expertise tied up in technologies that they only have one customer for. Without being able to sell to civilian or foreign markets, they have to recoup R&D costs over a smaller number of units sold, which drives up the unit price. I’m fairly certain that this dynamic is responsible for many of the problems with defense procurement in the US.

  33. Yes sometimes in life one has to apply judgement, not fall back on absolute, pure, inarguable rules.

  34. >But Greg is still wrong about free trade needing caveats due to other governments. Anything you do to “make it fair” it equivalent to saying “Stop pissing in the soup or I’ll piss in it too!”. Now, in theory you could threaten to do something as a bluff to get the other side to stop fucking around (this is what Trump’s stated plan is, even if he doesn’t understand that it is a terrible thing to go through with). But this solution is a clear nuclear option: if you press the button you have already completely failed regardless of what happens next. The only reason to press the button is to prove that your bluffs should be taken seriously.

    Suspect you have some issues on game theoretic grounds. What’s the best course to take against someone who always cooperates and never retaliates?

    Um, if you push the button, you’re, by definition not bluffing.

    The reason to press the button is so the next potential trading partner who is weighing the pros and cons of cheating knows you have a history of being willing to *push* *the* *button*.

    But hey, feel free to maintain your ideological purity and set yourself up as someone who will never compromise on either his principles or his insistence on being cheated/abused/a sucker. (Not sure that’s what you meant.)

  35. @Tsar of the show –

    *Thank you* for mentioning this post. I hadn’t read it before, and need to study it in detail.

    @esr –

    Expect. Incoming….

  36. Another example of Western hypocrisy is that “First World” powers are trying desperately to get India to amend, dilute or get rid of its “compulsory licensing” in Patent Law so that western pharmas can benefit a lot from high prices for essential drugs.

    I hope the Indian government stands firm on compulsory licensing and other fair IP laws which protect freedom and also the interests of the public.

  37. Ugh, I guess I missed the whole story, but if American corporations think they can enforce IP in China, well, lol. They may legislate IP but they will never enforce it. It is absolutely not in their interest to do so. The West’s only advantage is in information, like knowledge, know-how, patent, IP, content and so on, this is a goldmine, and pretty much everybody non-West has it in their interest to try to loot that goldmine by basically disregarding any IP restrictions, simply not enforcing the law. Russia is the same – VKontakte is largely about an extremely convenient, Facebook-like way of pirating music and movies, Yandisk is another pirate heaven and more or less explicitly made to be so and so on. In Russia’s case, I think violating IP, piracy is almost seen as a patriotic act of sticking it to the West, basically encouraged by their platforms. Not so sure about China but would not be surprised.

    They aren’t naive. They know that agreements worth only as much as the will and means to enforce them.

  38. @Civilis

    Re: lions. This isn’t just unintended consequences or stupidity. It is the virtue-signalling game – trying to show how good you are by demanding to ban hunting or crapping on hunters – and I am starting to realize that the most ironic thing in the world is that basically good is evil. In the sense of wanting to do stuff that looks and feels good causes the most harm _predictably_ and not only as an occasional unintended consequence, uninformed choice but basically always. That doing stuff that looks and feels good hardly even accidentally has good outcomes. I think if Gates fixes malaria in Africa, he will create overpopulation and war/genocide.

    I do not 100% know the mechanism why good looking intents are so disastrous, and why are simple selfish acts are often so beneficial for others as an unintended good consequence, but I am intent on working it out.

    But until that “good is evil” as a metapolitical slogan would look cool on a t-shirt.

  39. @Greg

    Ok, let me map out the potential situations, first without and then with a trade war. I’ll use the US and Chieena (as Trump would say) as examples:

    US free trade, Chieena free trade: All is good, wealth for everyone!

    US free trade, Chieena exports, but blocks imports: The US gets stuff, Chieena gets money that they refuse to use. Because of this the individuals who import the stuff have to pay (for which they get the goods, nothing different here), but from a macro perspective Chineea just gave the US a ton of free stuff. US wins, Chieena shoots themselves in the foot while thinking they r so smrts. Everyone loses compared to what could have been, the smart ones still gain.

    US blocks trade, Chieena blocks trade: The US decides that the best solution to the other guy executing shotgun based foot surgery is to shoot themselves in the foot as well. People in the US have to burn scarce resources making things they are inefficient at making. The US economy suffers. People in Chieena are still as screwed as they were before, except now they can’t even purchase investments in the US. Everyone loses because everyone is a moron.

    US threatens to block trade, Chieena backs off: Everyone gets the benefits of trade (well if they don’t do a “free” trade TPP style thing, which is exactly what they will do). But the US just pointed a gun at it population’s feet, not a very good ethical position to be in even though it turned out well.

    US threatens to block trade, Chieena doesn’t back off, trade constipation ensues: Everyone loses, everyone is a moron.

    A trade war is like a hostage situation where instead of trying to kill the kidnapper (possibly injuring the hostage in doing so) the police deliberately kill the hostage.

  40. FooQuuxman:

    While I agree that’s the way it works in abstract, I think there are edge cases where the logic breaks down. I could be wrong about this, which is why I want someone to logic check my examples.

    We both agree to the general case, where Absurdistan dumps widgets on the US market, undercutting US widget producers, who change their factories over to producing gadgets. Absurdistan gets US currency, US consumers get cheaper widgets, US manufacturers make money selling gadgets. If the cheap supply of foreign dumped widgets stops, domestic widget production resumes.

    The edge case(s) where I see a problem come when there’s an economic cost to changing over to account for dumped resources. As a purely theoretical example, if a large oil producing state dumps oil on the international market long enough where it drives US oil producers out of business, the US consumers would benefit in the short run from cheap oil, admittedly. But were the oil producing state to then substantially cut production, it takes a lot of time to bring back that lost domestic oil production, time during which the economy collapses. (I’m trying to think if there is any similar example to oil where the commodity itself is both uniquely valuable and production requires capabilities which require substantial time to build.)

  41. if a large oil producing state dumps oil on the international market long enough where it drives US oil producers out of business

    First: If they were a previously trustworthy state that goes bad, yeah, it’ll suck, somewhat. Economics is hard if you can’t tell the future. But in the more likely case where they are known to be bad actors the hostile state is simply creating jobs for speculators and traders. Speculators buy oil at the cheap price and store it while the cartel is being nice, if the cartel starts playing around they gets undercut by stored oil. Traders buy oil from countries not embargoed and sell it to the embargoed countries (this happened during the oil embargo). The net effect of the speculators is to raise the price of oil until the probability of cartelism is included in the market price. Both statists and libertarians grossly underestimate the market’s ability to adapt.

    Second: This objection rests on mixing up short and long term effects. Cheap resources in the “short term” allows you to create wealth that makes it easier to deal with expensive resources later.

    And if the situation is that supply cutoff really does lead directly to death of that society, and no one did any kind of development on substitutes, and no one did any speculation to mitigate the effects, and no one is able to adapt…… Well, I have to call Darwin Award on that society, government couldn’t really have helped.

  42. FooQuuxman: thanks for the answer! Like I said, I’m purely speculating as to whether these sorts of edge cases exist. I still haven’t come up with anything besides oil where I think this logic can be even theoretically applied at the current point in time.

  43. > Conservatism is not necessarily “to NOT change”. It involves careful changing. Or changing only carefully.

    Yes exactly, I overstated to highlight the contrast with a primary objective of ‘progress’.

  44. @Jon Brase
    > Even protectionism to maintain military advantage can go too far.

    The US Military is the biggest purchaser of arms in the world. One fairly simple solution to this problem is that when the government contracts, for example, with Lockheed Martin to design and build the F22 that they include a rule in their contract limiting which of their competitors can buy the plane. This is pretty common practice in commercial contracts where one customer puts up the NRE money.

    And for the same reason — you don’t want your competitors to take advantage of your NRE to stay more competitive with you, whether the competition is commercial or military.

    Similarly much of the fundamental research into, for example, nuclear energy and rocketry, was created by US government funded research, and consequently if companies want to use that research they can do so under appropriately restrictive licenses.

  45. @ESR You missed my point. I am also individualistic, so your idea of individual decisions is more emotionally and philosophically satisfying to me as well.

    The problem with political constraints that you’re pointing out is that the tyranny of the minority is ripe for abuse and will be abused. I agree.

    The problem with the individual choice is the tragedy of the commons. In effect, everyone is playing a giant prisoners dilemma. It is not popular to observe that the majority of people are less intelligent than the top 10%. The corollary is that they make less intelligent decisions. Thus, having a few intelligent decision makers “should” result in better decisions. (Except, of course, for the issue of abuse.)

    However, even in a utopia, you’re now back at a tyranny of the minority. As a fan of freedom, I’m not a fan of such situation.

    I don’t see a good path, just to different ones that are both bad. Given my individual freedom bias (the rationalization I’ll leave for another time) I tend to believe the lesser evil is allowing individual choice, but I recognize it doesn’t solve the tragedy of the commons.

  46. Dewey Sasser,

    If you are concerned with the Tragedy of the Commons, I encourage you to read Nobel-Prize-winning economist Elinor Ostrom’s 1992 book, “Governing the Commons”. Regulation by a Leviathan state is often the worst possible solution, even where privatization would fail as well. Alternatives exist.

  47. @Greg

    There is another edge case that I forgot about, or rather, The Mother Of All Edge Cases. For any given *soluble* problem someone is going to come up with a solution eventually, it may not be a great solution but it is something. But that non-perfection means that there will be people who reject the solution, because it isn’t perfect. Unfortunately the way you perfect solutions is to try them out, over and over again, until those working on the problem have explored enough of the problem space to find the best available solution. Or until time passes and the problem sorts itself out, whatever.

    But the objectors don’t like that, and by all that is sacred they are going to do something about it! So they go to the one entity that is able to (almost, for a limited time) completely ignore economic conditions, individual’s preferences, and even reality itself. And that can enforce it’s ignorance on the entire population long enough to prevent the solution from being implemented in time.

    That entity is of course government.

    ESR grew up in the shadow of WWII, and the meat grinder that was The Holocaust. The driving idea that shapes his politics is: “How do we stop the death trains from running?”.

    I grew up in the shadow of apparent (though not actual) technological stagnation *cough* spaceflight *cough* and luddist environmentalism. The driving idea that shapes my politics is: “How do we prevent anyone from murdering the future?”.

  48. John D. Bell on 2016-04-13 at 00:21:17 said:

    @Tsar of the show –
    *Thank you* for mentioning this post. I hadn’t read it before, and need to study it in detail.

    You’re welcome! I’m just glad I was able to find it again.

  49. >We both agree to the general case, where Absurdistan dumps widgets on the US market, undercutting US widget producers, who change their factories over to producing gadgets. Absurdistan gets US currency, US consumers get cheaper widgets, US manufacturers make money selling gadgets. If the cheap supply of foreign dumped widgets stops, domestic widget production resumes.

    That’s pretty much it.

    Neglects costs and disruptions to US widget producers, their investors, their employees…. Is not one of approximately 2 legitimate purposes of gov’t to protect citizens from harm (*especially* from a foreign actor)? Just a thought.

    Not a given that US domestic widget production is able to resume, barriers to entry of various forms exist.

  50. > ESR grew up…

    I grew up in the Dubya administration. The driving idea that shapes my politics is “How do we get the reactionaries to stop screwing up the country?”

  51. Ooh, this game looks like fun.
    I never grew up, and hope I never will. The driving idea that shapes my politics is “Why have working hours stopped getting shorter?”

  52. http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=7123#comment-1705333

    >Absurdistan dumps widgets on the US market,

    To be ‘dump’ rather than ‘sell’ would mean pricing below cost. For this to be sustainable, Absurdistan has to subsidize widgets. Meaning Absurdistan is taking wealth from Absurdistese and giving it to Americans for free. This is of course just mean to Americans, who should protest loudly if they know what’s good for them.

    >But were the oil producing state to then substantially cut production

    Of course Venezuela/Arabia can do this because they’re evil foreigners (but I repeat myself) who exist to perpetrate evil on Americans. It’s not like Venezuelans are people who can become accustomed to and dependent on the revenues or anything.

    There’s really nothing to stop them.. Nothing stops DC from simply nuking Austin and getting it over with, either. Much as the Kims have nuked Seoul on two occasions, because ‘fuck it.’

    >time during which the economy collapses

    Oil of course has no substitutes. If the price rises, everyone just goes ‘whelp’ and commits hara-kiri or seppuku, to taste.

    http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=7123#comment-1705476

    >Is not one of approximately 2 legitimate purposes of gov’t to protect citizens from harm (*especially* from a foreign actor)? Just a thought.

    As we’ve established, foreigners are evil by definition, and cackle madly while planning to cut off their nose to spite their face.

    When half or more of the Absurdistan widget-makers lose their jobs to discomfit American widget-buyers, they chalk it up as a net win, worth it to stick it to the ‘white devil.’ Ironic, them calling Americans devils, eh?

  53. Of course Venezuela/Arabia can do this because they’re evil foreigners (but I repeat myself) who exist to perpetrate evil on Americans. It’s not like Venezuelans are people who can become accustomed to and dependent on the revenues or anything.

    It’s not like we’re seeing a variation of this right now, aimed at the Russian government instead of the US public, or anything.

    And the sudden stopping of oil production might not be voluntary. Wars, revolutions, and natural disasters happen sometimes.

    Oil of course has no substitutes. If the price rises, everyone just goes ‘whelp’ and commits hara-kiri or seppuku, to taste.

    The question is not, ‘is there a substitute’, but ‘how fast can the economy be retooled, and is there the political will to do it’? Politicians also aren’t above pricing essential goods that have become more expensive below replacement cost to get voters happy regardless of what this means to the ability to restock said goods.

  54. >@Alrenous:
    >*snort* Sometimes I really wish this site had a ‘+1’ button. That was brilliant snark.

    It’s also short sighted stupidity.

  55. If dumping (or effectively equivalent practices) is purely a counterproductive (to the dumper) transfer of wealth from dumper to dumpee, you need to look at the effects of foreign aid, most especially food aid.

    Tl;Dr; version: we give poor countries free shit, and it wrecks their economies. We give them free food, and some of the smartest people in those countries beg us to ‘please fucking stop, you’re killing us’.

    http://www.spiegel.de/international/spiegel/spiegel-interview-with-african-economics-expert-for-god-s-sake-please-stop-the-aid-a-363663.html

    How is this possible? Your arguments suggest exactly the opposite should be the case. Perhaps shutting down and restarting entire industries, major sectors of your economy, are more disruptive than you allow for?

    But hey, you got some cool snark.

  56. @Civilis
    > It’s not like we’re seeing a variation of this right now, aimed at the Russian government instead of the US public, or anything.

    I presume you are talking about oil prices. I don’t think you are right. Simply speaking alternatives to regular oil have been in development for years and are really coming on tap now. Fracking and tar sands in particular, plus extensive new discoveries in the USA. You will notice that oil has been bouncing around $30 per barrel, which coincidentally is the price at which these technologies become viable.
    Saudi Arabia tried to squeeze the world oil market for every dollar it could, and the exact mechanisms that economists predict — the development of alternatives — is exactly what we have. The situation with oil prices is not Saudi Arabia wielding their power over the world, on the contrary, it is them gasping to try to keep control as alternatives are ripping control away from OPEC.

    > The question is not, ‘is there a substitute’, but ‘how fast can the economy be retooled, and is there the political will to do it’?

    I’m not sure what politics has to do with it. Leave greedy capitalists alone and they will do it themselves. But one other thing worth mentioning is that the futures market is extremely good at bringing the future into the present. Again, these evil capitalists up to their Wall Street shenanigans accidentally making the world a better place.

  57. PapayaSF on 2016-04-12 at 16:35:25 said:
    “So, Dyspeptic Curmudgeon, you’re not necessarily on-board with today’s Most Pressing Social Problem, the horrible, traditional injustice of Bathroom Discrimination? Are you implying there might be unintended consequences to letting men into women’s restrooms?:
    “You can infer whatever you please but don’t toy with my implications.” I think that was Tallulah Bankhead in one of the ‘Road’ movies with Bob Hope…

    I thought that it was clear that abstract principles might involve unintended consequences where those princplies conflict with tradition and custom. It may be regarded as a social failing that the usage of tar and feathers has fallen into desuetude instead of being a vibrant expression of disagreement with rampant virtue signalling or even virtue pageantry.
    Maybe “I find it difficult to express with appropriate moderation my disagreement with the proposition..”* needs to be replaced with “Take this!”
    * (Kudos but no prizes for identification of the quote.:

  58. Careful with “intelligence” arguments. I’m surely a zillion times as bright as Donald Trump in quantum physics, yet he is obviously a much cleverer political operator than I.

    My wife can’t do math, but she’s street smart and a clever investor, and unlike Trump, her investments don’t go bust.

    So, who’s more intelligent than whom?

  59. “and I am starting to realize that the most ironic thing in the world is that basically good is evil. In the sense of wanting to do stuff that looks and feels good causes the most harm”

    The old saying is that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

  60. I’d be more impressed with objections (by Americans) to various TPP provisions if any of the objections were to provisions not already part of existing agreements that already bind the US.

    “Oh no, people will be able to go to a trade tribunal instead of a domestic court for investor-state dispute settlement! Just like they’ve been able to do for the last two decades under NAFTA!”

    “Oh, no, there are all sorts of IP protection rules! Indistinguishable from the ones adopted a decade ago in the US-Australia trade agreement!”

    And so on.

  61. I’d be more impressed with objections (by Americans) to various TPP provisions if any of the objections were to provisions not already part of existing agreements that already bind the US.

    Oh, we know the USA trade rules have been fucking insane for some time. Our objection has been that the USA is using political and economic pressure to make these rules the standard in many countries where such insanity hasn’t set in yet. Can you say “hegemony”?

  62. @Steven:

    Oh, no, there are all sorts of IP protection rules! Indistinguishable from the ones adopted a decade ago in the US-Australia trade agreement!

    The objection I have is that every new treaty we become signatory to makes it harder to back out of the existing treaties and dismantle the laws implementing them. (My slogan on IP is “Burn Berne”, which is to say the convention, not the city. :-) ).

  63. @EMF

    > The driving idea that shapes my politics is “How do we get the reactionaries to stop screwing up the country?”

    If Dubya had any reactionary bone in him, he would have installed a king in Iraq. And no, this is not an absurd idea, given how Saudis are a US ally, they could have easily lent a prince to Iraq. It does not have to be a direct US operation, come on, the CIA has more smarts than than that and could have easily done that through the guise of the Saudis. So it is not something that would be weird in the region. And I am pretty sure a king who successfully declares himself above the Sunni-Shiite divide (that is the whole point of monarchy: not one-party rule like in a dictatorship but a rule from above all parties) could have stopped the bloodshed. The civil war was a result of democracy i.e. tribalism and that gave raise to the ISIS. Typical outcome of democracy in places with crap for civic traditions.

    Dubya was an older strain of progressive. Look up Woodrow Wilson with all his ideas about exporting democracy. Dubya pretty much believed in that. While the internal stuff like racial profiling on airports reminds one of another famous progressive leftist, Roosevelt and him interning Japanese-Americans.

    You see, the core problem is that ALL progressivism is destructive. I won’t argue that Dubya’s stuff was destructive, because it was progressive. The problem is, being under the influence of the all-progressive intellectual class the only solution you and most young people see is to double down and heap more progressivism onto it. More democracy, more equality and so on. It is perfectly correct that most conservatism sucks because most conservatism is just older kinds of progressivism. But trying a newer kind is just doing the same thing over and more radically expecting better results, which is pretty insane. Instead the correct thing would be to think entirely outside the progressive box – old and new.

    I am not an optimist, I don’t think the US could internally really exit the progressive logic, but perhaps externally could. US reactionarism in foreign policy would entail stopping interfering with the world. Stopping both “conservative” interference like military bases and wars, all troops home, and “liberal” interference like foreign aid and generally pouring money into the third world, pressuring governments that don’t seem “democratic” (liberal) enough (Poland etc.) and so on. Stopping all that. Full withdrawal. Trade only. Swiss-style foreign policy.

    For starters, that would undermine the ISIS. Peter Turchin’s Cliodynamics mathemathical model demonstrates that it is conflict that leads to the formation of strong states and empires. Hence the only way to really undermine the ISIS is either to fully destroy them or fully withdraw but nothing in between, no drawn-out fighting, that only strengthens them. http://peterturchin.com/blog/2016/03/31/the-new-caliphate-part-v-the-third-option/

    The lack of foreign conflict would of course undermine certain elements of the US state as well. This may be a good or bad thing. I actually suspect it would undermine precisely those elements you dislike most. (Pentagon?)

    Anyway, that would be reactionary. Exporting democracy with bombers is Wilsonian progressive.

  64. Only tangentially relevant, but I’ve just read a blog post about how markets themselves could be owned as property. (Well, they already are, see EBay.) This really seems to solve the problem how regulation sometimes seems like a good or necessary idea but usually it is far overdone. If it is not only about for-profit businesses competing on a market, but the markets are *themselves* for-profit businesses that compete with other markets, of course the market owners can regulate them. Why couldn’t they. And they have an incentive to figure out how to regulate them well. http://freenortherner.com/2016/04/10/owned-markets/ the way I interpret it is that e.g. EBay and AliBaba.com competes for vendors, they charge rent to vendors, what they deliver to vendors is customers, but in order to have the largest number of most well off customers, of course they sometimes have to regulate vendors and not let them screw over too gullible customers or generally just not let them do stuff many customers would find objectionable. While long-term self-interest of the vendors would automatically dictate that, there are plenty of short-termists betting on human stupidity and owned markets can police and regulate that without any sort of a problem. In other words, it solves the problem that markets are in themselves mean a problem of the commons. Owned, not common markets can only deliver the most customers to their vendors if they kick out the bad vendors and they may as well kick out some bad customers as well. I find it pretty ingenious, as I always found that not all market regulations are bad, I am not really naive in that sense, I have seen plenty of scammy businesses that would make a used car dealer blush, and it is a good way to deal with that.

    Basically this sends the message to less-libertarian people that if you think you saw some regulations that were pretty good, you aren’t wrong. Occasionally they get them right, no question about that, who likes mercury in their milk, the real challenge is setting up a mechanism that gets them *usually* right, and the mechanism for that is that markets themselves should be privately owned, for-profit, and competing.

  65. @ TheDividualist

    I think you are viewing the problem too narrowly (as dysfunction brought on by the action of a cabal of bad actors in powerful positions). That is the symptom. The disease is the systemic dysfunction of the base population. Tyranny flourishes in the soil of sheeple. And when you don’t know how to fight anymore, surrender is only option.

    And for the benefit of EMF, whining is not a fighting skill.

  66. >For starters, that would undermine the ISIS. Peter Turchin’s Cliodynamics mathemathical model demonstrates that it is conflict that leads to the formation of strong states and empires. Hence the only way to really undermine the ISIS is either to fully destroy them or fully withdraw but nothing in between, no drawn-out fighting, that only strengthens them. http://peterturchin.com/blog/2016/03/31/the-new-caliphate-part-v-the-third-option/

    Follow through *all* the implications. Apparently the existence of Israel really IS the greatest threat to world peace and stability. (It’s effectively a Western outpost, that guantees the existence and continuation in the region of what he describes as a ‘metaethnic frontier’.)

    His thesis seems to be, whatever the cost, it’s imperative that *we* don’t want to get *them* riled up. I have numerous objections to that.

  67. Dubya was an older strain of progressive. Look up Woodrow Wilson with all his ideas about exporting democracy. Dubya pretty much believed in that. While the internal stuff like racial profiling on airports reminds one of another famous progressive leftist, Roosevelt and him interning Japanese-Americans.

    Walter Russell Mead’s four schools of foreign policy are, roughly:
    Wilsonian: US acts as part of a larger body of international law aimed at building a progressive world order.
    Hamiltonian: US should be a great power on the international stage not subordinate to foreign interests.
    Jacksonian: US should act externally only in self defense or defense of close allies
    Jeffersonian: US should avoid wars and foreign entanglements completely
    (It’s a simplistic model, but it does have some usefulness).

    Traditionally, the reactionary or conservative sides have been Jacksonian and Hamiltonian and the revolutionary or progressive sides have been Jeffersonian and Wilsonian, though this is not always the case.

    Any US foreign policy, which is the product of a number of government actors and interest groups, is going to end up as a combination of some of those four traditions. Our response to 9/11 had a distinct Jacksonian component (we got hurt, make sure the people that did it can’t do it again) in addition to the internal conflict between the Hamiltonian influences (screw the UN; we need our presence felt in the Middle East) and Wilsonian influences (try to work through the UN, and make sure there’s no humanitarian crisis). Having this type of combination is not unusual: World War 2 was run largely on Jacksonian lines (win the war, as hard as possible), but the post war went Wilsonian (build the UN, Marshall plan, etc.), but the Afghanistan/Iraq conflict, instead of being Jacksonian then Hamiltonian or Wilsonian, suffered from trying to be all three at once in conflict while stirring up the Jeffersonians on the left and right in opposition.

    It might not be obvious to someone that was 5 when 9/11 happened and 12 when Bush left office, but the political situation at the time was not as cut-and-dried as subsequent, often self-serving rationalizations have made it seem. President Clinton had signed into law legislation calling for regime change in Iraq, had bombed Iraq because it was helping Al Queda, and there were a substantial number of pro-war Democrats.

  68. http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=7123#comment-1705500

    >But hey, you got some cool snark.

    Thanks! I am pretty cool. …but what snark? I’m totally serious.

    >We give them free food, and some of the smartest people in those countries beg us to ‘please fucking stop,

    Yes, a coercive bureaucracy giving (not selling) other people’s food to another, even more corrupt coercive bureaucracy, is exactly like a subsidized firm selling their products directly to the average consumer.

    Regularly, you’ll normal firms take responsibility for supplying a demand, and then capriciously stop doing so. This is why free trade causes industries in both countries to fail, handily explaining why Canada, England, Australia and America must rely on subsistence farming.

    http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=7123#comment-1705496

    >‘how fast can the economy be retooled, and is there the political will to do it’? Politicians also aren’t above pricing essential goods that have become more expensive below replacement cost to get voters happy regardless of what this means to the ability to restock said goods

    Indeed. The economy is quite incapable of re-tooling itself without Washington’s help. Where would firms be without politicians to tell them what to price their goods at?

  69. Indeed. The economy is quite incapable of re-tooling itself without Washington’s help. Where would firms be without politicians to tell them what to price their goods at?

    Where would politicians be without voters demanding free stuff? Recognizing that if the price of a commodity goes up substantially the electorate is likely to demand legislative relief even though said relief makes the situation worse is not the same as thinking it’s a good thing to do.

    Likewise, recognizing that real world economies aren’t as neat as those in theories and trying to make sure the difference isn’t going to affect anything is something reasonable people should do.

    We don’t live in a perfect world and politicians and voters are stupid and don’t understand economics or the difference between theory and practice. Pointing this out shouldn’t be controversial.

    (My sarcasm detector was damaged when a faulty laser printer exploded years ago, so I don’t always get snark, especially, multi-layered snark, and the print format makes it even worse.)

  70. >Likewise, recognizing that real world economies aren’t as neat as those in theories and trying to make sure the difference isn’t going to affect anything is something reasonable people should do.

    Kind of my point. In theory there’s no difference between theory and practice, but in practice there is.

    Some folks blithely ignore the disruption and damage a foreign ‘free trade’ partner can do to your own economy through simple shenanigans, because while some areas will be damaged other areas will experience a (small) benefit, and anyway in the long run the shenanigans will hurt, on net, the other guy worse.

    In theory the damage/disruption will sort itself out painlessly and efficiently. In the real world, not so much. Best to avoid giving the economically ignorant (some of whom may be suffering real, if temporary, hardship) the chance to make things worse. Do you really *need* unrestricted free trade with someone willing to deliberately hurt your economy?

    Also, history and game theoretical studies both have shown us that it is not unknown to have actors willing to make themselves poorer, if in so doing they can make you poorer too. It’s a real part of human nature.

    I’m a supporter of free trade, but I also attempt to be a realist when it comes to human nature. ‘Free trade no matter what’, with the assumption (based on theory) that any shenanigans will be self-limiting and any local negative effects will be easily self-correcting, is mistaken based on unrealistically optimistic assumptions.

    Free trade with certain conditions, at the least that free trade may cease in the presence of shenanigans, that you will not let some party deliberately disrupt your economy (even at a certain cost to his own)… Would seem to be a reasonable protection of your own people, from the unreasonable.

  71. >Yes, a coercive bureaucracy giving (not selling) other people’s food to another, even more corrupt coercive bureaucracy, is exactly like a subsidized firm selling their products directly to the average consumer.

    In practical terms, yes it’s effectively dumping.

  72. @Greg
    > Some folks blithely ignore the disruption and damage a foreign ‘free trade’ partner can do to your own economy through simple shenanigans,

    No doubt. Can you demonstrate that such shenanigans are qualitatively different than the normal competition between actors within a national economy? If they are largely the same why should they be treated differently?

    No sensible free trade advocate would say that free trade produces an optimum solution, however they would say that allowing the government to interfere in the economy is both insane, because governments are too stupid and too blunt an instrument to do so, and also the slippery slope toward socialist hell.

  73. Dyspeptic Curmudgeon,
    The point is, if it ain’t busted, don’t shjsfjyfsjkbajk bhgfkjhsfjgyzsfjgf!

    Inactivist,
    Yup, got it.

  74. > Apparently the existence of Israel really IS the greatest threat to world peace and stability. (It’s effectively a Western outpost, that guantees the existence and continuation in the region of what he describes as a ‘metaethnic frontier’.)

    Israel, having been founded by the Ashkenazim, is indeed a Western outpost. (The Jews who lived under Muslim rule, accepting dhimmi status and paying the jizya, were fine, because they posed no threat to Islam’s power. Then these EuroJews came along and stuck the Star of David on their flag, proudly proclaiming they aren’t bowing down before anyone but YHVH, and that just can’t be allowed.)

    The incredible success it has had, in sharp contrast to neighboring Arab/Muslim states, is one of the two greatest insults to Dar-al-Islam, which is why it’s the Little Satan. It is arguably worse than the Great Satan (USA) simply due to proximity. If you could talk to the leaders of ISIS and tell them they can pick any two cities on earth for them to nuke, I think it would be Tel Aviv and NYC. If you threw in a third, I’m not sure it would be Washington. I think it would be a tossup between Las Vegas and Los Angeles, which have to be worse than Sodom and Gommorah by their lights.

  75. > No sensible free trade advocate would say that free trade produces an optimum solution

    That’s because we know better than to speak of such “solutions” in the first place. There are none. For a solution to exist, there must be a set of criteria upon which we can measure “good/bad”, as a scalar. We know that rather than “solutions”, there are tradeoffs. The more aggressively you try to optimize for one dimension of your “goodness” measure, the more you drive down another. If you try to assign some linear function to each dimension, you have set up the conditions for Gresham’s Law to drive one or more such dimensions out of circulation.

    The closest I’ll come is to say free trade allows each player to decide for himself how to evaluate each dimension of “goodness”, and choose what he thinks is optimal. Every alternative to free trade involves someone forcing their idea of “optimal” on others.

  76. Based on past history (do you have any idea how many times Muslim warlords have destroyed the Kaaba?), ISIS might lob a nuke at Mecca.

  77. > ISIS might lob a nuke at Mecca.
    For bonus points, they might try to launch it from where they could try to blame Israel for it.

  78. I’m confused as to why you think progressives meddling in trade agreements was necessary to get other meddling. Basic public choice theory: concentrated benefits win over diffuse public benefit, whether or not that has happened before. Big business is not stupid, and sees these benefits, and would have without the environmental and trade-unions also sticking their fingers in the pie.

  79. >I’m confused as to why you think progressives meddling in trade agreements was necessary to get other meddling

    Strictly speaking it wasn’t necessary. But it is a historical fact that progressives put that kind of rider in play.

  80. > Strictly speaking it wasn’t necessary. But it is a historical fact that progressives put that kind of rider in play.

    Sure, but did that create the “machinery to fuck with free markets”? It seems to me that it already existed – to the extent that a free market in trade between parties located in different nation-states has ever existed at all, it comes pre-fucked-with by the fact that said nation-states have a sovereign right to arbitrarily forbid entry of goods from foreign markets (whether they should from the standpoint of libertarian theory, it’s indisputable that always have for as long as modern states have existed), and the only “machinery” is the fact that any commitment not to do so is a negotiated treaty rather than an inalienable right to commerce.

    You can’t blame any one provision of the treaty for the fact that there had to be a treaty. There is no free market in trade between different nations, and there never has been.

  81. >Sure, but did that create the “machinery to fuck with free markets”?

    You need to learn more history.

    After WWII there was a hard-won consensus against protecting domestic producers with tariffs, because the major players remembered the role of tariffs in making the Great Depression great. It wan’t perfect, there were exceptions like the European CAP and various Japanese import bans, but it was pretty good.

    That consensus largely inhibited the additional use of pre-existing political machinery to fuck with free markets in international trade. The power was there, but for a blessed few decades the will was largely not.

    Then various politicians discovered that they could pay off traditionally protectionist groups and virtue-signal at the same time by pretending to care about environmental issues and exploitation of third-world workers.

    This reopened the door that had been shut with such difficulty. Capture of the process by the special interests with the most money was the inevitable result. Hello, TPP.

  82. >No doubt. Can you demonstrate that such shenanigans are qualitatively different than the normal competition between actors within a national economy? If they are largely the same why should they be treated differently?

    Um, do I need to explain the purpose of a nation-state? Why is the US (in theory these days) obligated to defend and further the well-being and interests of US citizens and legally resident aliens, but not others?

    If the shenanigans are actionable, if the occur domestically within the US there is something called ‘law enforcement’. (In a sane world) We can’t apply domestic law enforcement to the actions of foreign entities, but we can refuse to interact with them.

  83. >Israel, having been founded by the Ashkenazim, is indeed a Western outpost. (The Jews who lived under Muslim rule, accepting dhimmi status and paying the jizya, were fine, because they posed no threat to Islam’s power. Then these EuroJews came along and stuck the Star of David on their flag, proudly proclaiming they aren’t bowing down before anyone but YHVH, and that just can’t be allowed.)

    Yes yes, but don’t respond to me, respond to the theory I was myself reacting to. And pointing out an interesting (feature, not bug?) consequence of said theory.

    >The incredible success it has had, in sharp contrast to neighboring Arab/Muslim states, is one of the two greatest insults to Dar-al-Islam, which is why it’s the Little Satan. It is arguably worse than the Great Satan (USA) simply due to proximity. If you could talk to the leaders of ISIS and tell them they can pick any two cities on earth for them to nuke, I think it would be Tel Aviv and NYC. If you threw in a third, I’m not sure it would be Washington. I think it would be a tossup between Las Vegas and Los Angeles, which have to be worse than Sodom and Gommorah by their lights.

    Yes. But that theory I was responding to (the one that’s always going on about metaethnic frontiers) is weirdly assymetrical in its assumptions of who is provoking, and who shouldn’t be provoking, whom.

    Tl;Dr; Western outposts bad, they provoke the local non-West. (Reading between the lines, one gets the impression that ‘the West’ is an outpost.)

  84. Pingback: A very good point about Trans-Pacific Trade « Samizdata

  85. @Greg

    I think that theory is more elegant than that – it does not contain a who provokes whom element, it simply says friction zones breed strong leaders / states – yes, one possible outcome of that model is that they breed a strong leader / state *in Israel*! It’s pretty much possible on both sides.

    Who provokes whom is sort of a moot point because it suggest some sort of a cosmic justice or “blame” element or something of that sort i.e. that moral culpability questions are somehow relevant to predicting outcomes. They aren’t. To predict what becomes a friction zone, well, every border between cultures that dislike each other is a good candidate.

  86. “Then environmentalists began honking about exporting pollution and demanded what amounted to imposing First World regulation on Third World countries who – in general – wanted the jobs and the economic stimulus from trade more than they wanted to make environmentalists happy. But the priorities of poor brown people didn’t matter to rich white environmentalists who already had theirs, and the environmentalists had political clout in the First World, so they won. Free-trade agreements started to include “environmental safeguards”.”

    Your patronizing view toward these “poor brown people” would be sensible if their numbers were smaller than ours. Rather, their numbers are much larger, and their pollution is already much larger. China’s *increase* in carbon emissions since 2000 is considerably more than the entire carbon emissions of the United States and it remains on a steep trajectory upward.

    As an autistic person with no need to virtue-signal my sympathy for “poor brown people”, I can frankly report that they are the biggest source of the problem, pollution-wise. Areas dominated by those groups constitute most of the pollution and all of the growth in pollution.

  87. Um, Dan? Eric was being sarcastic when he said “poor brown people”. You can tell because he immediately contrasts that with “rich white environmentalists who already had theirs”. The real villain in this sentence are the environmentalists, not Eric.

    Yes, they pollute more. That’s because they’re poor. Fastest way we can get them to stop polluting is to make them wealthy with free trade. Then they’ll demand clean air and water, all on their own.

    And I don’t give a shit about you being autistic. This isn’t the oppression olympics, you know.

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