There’s some really good stuff on the Big Truck lately.
First, we have James K. on the conflict between neoliberalism (which he defines as “free markets, high taxes, big welfare state”) and the status quo of left-progressivism:
- Neoliberalism and the Left (League of Ordinary Gentlemen)
He identifies the merits and necessity of labour unions as the major bone of contention, and writes:
I’ve written in previous posts of my lack of interest in unions, it’s not that I hate them so much as doubt their ability to do a lot of good any more. I see the primary benefit of unions being allocating monopoly rents from owners to workers, and as markets have grown more competitive over time that power is becoming less useful. Furthermore it would appear the patterns of comparative advantage in the US are moving away from labour-intensive manufacturing to very capital-intensive manufacturing, a natural process but one that is decimating the industries that were the heart of the union movement. Ultimately I believe the death of unions over the past few decades to be an organic phenomenon, and one that can’t be stopped without doing substantial damage to the American economy.
This reminds me of something Ryan Avent wrote a while ago:
In industrializing nations, industry has traditionally absorbed the bulk of these displaced workers, but there too firms have labored tirelessly to automate, automate, automate. Where they can’t automate, they routinize, the better to later automate. This sounds horribly dehumanizing and generally terrible, but it’s how the world got rich — by moving workers from wretched jobs to merely crappy jobs, then kicking them out of the crappy jobs and forcing them to find merely cruddy jobs, then kicking them out of the cruddy jobs and forcing them to find merely unpleasant jobs.
I’ve had some idle speculation on unions bouncing around the back of my head for a while now; maybe I’ll actually write it out.
Next, we have the best moral justification* for Facebook yet penned:
- Trusting the online community (Andrew Sullivan)
A Facebook user who uses the site multiple times per day is 43% more likely than other Internet users and more than three times as likely as non-Internet users to feel that most people can be trusted.
Why is this good news? Trade is built on trust. Commerce is built on trade. Prosperity is built on commerce. And widespread sustained happiness, sanctimonious pop songs notwithstanding, is built on prosperity. This result is an indication that we might be developing new, decentralized, bottom-up institutions of trust — ones that don’t depend upon a vengeful deity or state punishing dishonesty. (Of course, I’m interpreting this anecdote purely in terms of my favourite narrative.)
Finally, Tyler Cowen writes about means-testing, and about other people writing about means-testing:
- Means testing is a marginal tax increase (Marginal Revolution)
Two things about this discussion strike me as curious:
- No-one quite gets around to mentioning the elephant in the room. Krugman writes that:
What we need is actual control of health costs. Means-testing of Medicare is just a badly designed, unfair form of taxation.
but I struggle to see how means-testing Medicare isn’t health-care spending control.
- Describing something as a “tax” has become almost content-free, now, much like Jimmy Carter calling me a racist. All it means in common discourse is that you don’t like it, and it has something to do with money.
I’ve been meaning to complain about the argument that axing tax subsidies is “raising taxes”; maybe I’ll do that in the near future, too.
* Not that Facebook needs any justification, moral or otherwise, beyond “Fuck you, that’s why”.