Wednesday, April 7, 2010

They can have my Chinese cell phone when they tear it from my cold, dead hands-free bluetooth device!

How people think is often way more interesting than what they think.

I visited a site called the Hayek Cafe recently. It’s run by a guy named Don Boudreaux, who seems to get off on defending free trade with inane analogies. Here’s an example from an open letter to Lou Dobbs:

A few years ago I bought your book Exporting America. Have you bought my book, Globalization? If not …, was I made worse off by my purchase? Were you the only party to gain from that trade? Should I be concerned about the trade deficit that I now have with you? Were you practicing “unfair” trade? Was I “exporting” a part of myself – a part never to be regained unless and until you buy my book?

This bilateral, one-trade “deficit,” of course, teaches nothing about how a massive, aggregate global deficit might affect a country. I had the temerity to make that point in a couple of other threads on the blog, unleashing a firestorm of angry bullying by the faithful. The high point was this:

Buddy, poor man. You still stand in your room throwing shit at the walls hoping something will stick.

Like I pointed out to JohnK, talking to you is like bouncing a ball against a wall.

Absolutely nothing in all your diatribe, er...debate, addresses the one single point both Scott and I make, which is all your efforts, ideas, and actions (you personally Kramer) have one basic thrust, and that thrust is to remove my liberty, my freedom, and to harm me in the long run. And, you do it all in total disregard to the harm you do me, as long as it seems to mitigate your neighbor's burden of bad choices.

Pay close attention to the word seems, Kramer, because you have no evidence at all that my choice harms your neighbor.

What you do have is evidence that your neighbor's choices have hurt himself.

It is bullshit, Kramer, total bullshit.

You're wrong, you're a statist, aka socialist, a collectivist at heart, and like most of your ilk you seem completely terrified by the concept of freedom.

Like most collectivist you can not give one single good rational logical reason why vidyohs in Texas should part with his wealth to keep Kramer's kinfolks in Michigan (or where ever) alive and healthy. I do not know your kin, I do not care about your kin, I did not bring them into the world, and I probably will never have the occasion to escort them out of this world, I seriously doubt I will ever see the people you are so concerned about, and I resent you and your ideas about redistribution of my wealth. Just as I resent those same ideas as they were presented by Marx, Lennin [sic], Mao, Fidel, et. al.

And, I will not bounce my ball against the wall of Kramer, no more on this topic.

Can it be more clear on where we stand in relation to each other?

This rant came after a whole lot of posting on my part to the effect that tariffs would be in our mutual self-interest, not that we should do something to help those strangers that Vidyohs was so pathologically proud of not caring about. (I knew better than to preach mere compassion in the house of the self-reliant, where the only love is tough love.) But no matter how hard I tried to argue that we were shooting ourselves in the foot, all I got back was venom and stupidity.

The theme running through these rants is that access to cheap Chinese goods is the apotheosis of liberty. It’s all binary to them. A 10% tariff, chattel slavery, just a difference of degree, except that they see no differences of degree. Buying that cell phone is an exercise of a God-given right to control the fruits of their labor, associate with whom they want, and so on. It’s all very bumper-sticker.

These are real people, with real, for lack of a better word, opinions. And I admit, they fascinate me. I simply cannot imagine what it is like to see the world through Vidyohs’s eyes. The rage, the identification of disagreement with enmity. The pettiness. How does anyone come to boast about how callous he is? We’re not talking Keyser Söze here. This is just a pathetic little man living in Texas and raging at the machine (unless it’s from China). And there seem to be so many of them.

I think they all see themselves as elephants, as in “’It’s every man for himself,’ said the elephant as he danced among the chickens.” They don’t realize that they need the eggs. Many don’t even realize that at least some protectionists are claiming that they need the eggs. To them, the protectionists just want to save the chickens because they care about chickens. Others do understand the claim, but they don’t buy it.

Some of the illogic was stunning. I said in one post that if our trading partners have a comparative advantage in cheap labor, they will have a comparative advantage in labor-intensive manufacturing, and we will have a comparative advantage in capital-intensive manufacturing. That bombshell provoked this non-sequitur:

This is the first unrealistic assumption. The businesses of the world do not divide neatly into two categories: the labor intensive versus the capital intensive. There is, rather, a continuum of labor/capital mix with businesses distributed all along it.

That’s all this fellow needed to move on to his real bugbear:

Nor do you take into account the on-going war our Federal and State governments have waged over the last 70+ years against American businesses. The Code of Federal Regulations, which indexes administrative rules, is 161,117 pages long and composes 226 volumes. The great bulk of that regulatory burden rests on the shoulders of America’s businesses. Who can say how much employment has been destroyed -- or run overseas -- by that onslaught of regulation?

Your model ignores all that.

Yeah, who can say? This mess is FDR’s fault.

Of course, empty blue barrels make as much noise as empty red ones, as any visitor to the Daily Kos during the Bush years can attest. Is Al Franken a nicer person than Rush Limbaugh? They’re really the same kind of person, wishing their political opponents personal ill where intellectual argument fails them. Or so it seems to me.


  1. LJK: I too have jousted with the minions at Cafe Hayek regarding China's abuse of "free trade" and my preference for currency and wage tariffs. On my blog I once wrote regarding the dismal state of manufacturing employment as a counter since Prof. Bourdeau pointed to the dollar value of manufacturing as proof of its health.

    The "free traders" on Cafe Hayek are, as you aptly pointed out, just empty red barrels with no more value than their empty blue barrel counterparts. In fact, I have copied out one of your arguments (from Cafe Hayek) in favor of currency/wage tariffs and will post it on my site. I thought it was one of the most cogent arguments I've seen.

    As "RedSt8r" I am generally in favor of international trade and market oriented economies. I am old enough and wise enough to know neither can ever be "free" as in "free trade" and "free markets". Frustratingly the knee jerkers on Cafe Hayek never seem to grasp that a truly "free market" will eventually (and rapidly) devolve into anarchy and then monopoly.

    In the same vein modern "free trade" with our vast international transportation systems has devolved into sacrificing the standard of living for our working class in order to improve the standard for the cheapest peasant labor available in the world. And that of the tenured professors of course.

    I commend your arguments. As you noted, the Cafe Hayek minions will quickly resort to personal vitriol when you disagree with one of their pet notions. As do the blue's on other blogs. I actually think the blue's get more vicious faster than the red's but that's only my opinion.

    I enjoy your blog. Thanks.

  2. Red -

    Thanks for the comment and the attaboy. If you come back, I hope you'll introduce yourself (real name, etc.).


Comments are moderated and will be posted if approved. This blog is for real people. Please use your real full name. Disagreement is welcome; disagreeableness, not so much.