Monday, March 22, 2010

Whoda thunk?

Haiti unable to feed itself.

Decades of inexpensive imports — especially rice from the U.S. — punctuated with abundant aid in various crises have destroyed local agriculture and left impoverished countries such as Haiti unable to feed themselves.


Wow. Sure didn't see that coming.

55 Comments:

Blogger Harry Eagar said...

So, how were they doing before the 528 programs got going?

You might want to look at Madagascar, where rice production is keeping up with population growth, for now. The crash, which is coming, will be terrible.

You might also want to look at the Greek islands.

It's true that agricultural investment has been underdone, but it's not so simple. First you have to expropriate the landlords.

March 22, 2010 10:58 AM  
Blogger Peter said...

Harry, it's expropriate the land, not the landlords. Not to worry, though, it's a mistake any busy socialist planner might easily make.

How about you look at Madagascar and I'll look at the Greek Islands, ok?

March 23, 2010 7:25 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Let's not forget taxpayer subsidized crop prices, which require dumping the excess agricultural product somewhere.

Why not as food "aid"?

March 23, 2010 8:40 AM  
Blogger erp said...

Peter, what Harry can't understand is until they can mandate that ability, energy, intelligence, courage, charisma, good looks, etc. must be exactly the same for everyone, there'll always be another landlord coming along and when they do make us all "equal," brute force will rule the day the way it does in the animal kingdom.

O Brave New Socialist World.

March 23, 2010 9:37 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

I hesitate to wade into this within the limits of blog comments, but here's a first cut.

PL 528 has come in for a lot of abuse, some of it deserved, some not.

You don' have to go overseas, just look at our South to see how the choice of initial concept forces subsequent events, willynilly.

The first, as I suggested, is whether to farm on latifundia or to hand over the land to small tillers.

Recall that at the time that decision had to be made, in the years after World War II, population in almost every country was about to increase by 300-400% or more.

If you chose latifundia and efficiency (as measured by labor inputs), then you chase millions (in aggregate billions) off the land, in countries where there is no non-agricultural work for them.

This is what the US did in the South, except that we had cities and work for the displaced farmers.

If you chose social, rather than economic efficiency, you could hope to ease the problem of a population of unemployables, but your production costs will be above world levels. Without protection, your local farmers will be driven out by imports, so you end up as badly off as if you had chosen latifundia, and be unable to feed yourself to boot.

There are not a lot of examples of nations that successfully navigated this tightrope, and two of the few, Taiwan and S. Korea, expropriated the landlords.

Such are the dilemmas of the free market, and I haven't mentioned such issues as technology transfer, infrastructure investment etc. etc.

March 25, 2010 12:41 PM  
Blogger Bret said...

Harry Eagar wrote: "If you chose latifundia and efficiency (as measured by labor inputs), then you chase millions (in aggregate billions) off the land, in countries where there is no non-agricultural work for them."

The king of obscure historical economics strikes again. Latifundia? I hadn't heard that Roman era term used before to describe more modern agriculture organization. You apparently mean big, efficient corporate farms. Fine.

But never mind the 4th word. You lost me at the first three words of that paragraph: "If you chose". Who's "you"? It certainly wasn't me - I wasn't alive. Whose decision was it exactly?

And "you chase" people off the land? Is that the same "you" that "chose" "Latifundia" above? Or someone else.

Then the last part of that paragraph puts the cart before the horse. Of course "there is no non-agricultural work for" anybody if everybody is working on the farms. First people have to leave (or be "chased" off) the farms and then they can start doing "non-agricultural" work. Work requires people to be available to do it.

Just to reiterate a common refrain in the post-Judd alliance. Nobody here thinks markets are perfect so finding an episode here and there where markets didn't provide (in your opinion) ideal outcomes means nothing. Also, if the "you" above is the government, it seems that no matter how that "you" chose, the outcome was still not so hot (though I thoroughly disagree with the "small tiller" analysis as well), so the government couldn't do any better apparently.

March 25, 2010 2:37 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Latifundia is perhaps a term of art, it's commonly used by agricultural historians to refer to large operations staffed by serfs with (most often) absentee owners.

From an ag economist's point of view, there are no important differences between a classical-era wheat farm in Sicily and a 20th c. sugar farm in Brazil.

There can, of course, be places where non-farm employment is available. I already cited the US in the '30s, and Switzerland is another example.

The transition from a subsistence farm economy to a mixed or fully industrialized economy has been difficult in every instance I know of, but it is one thing to manage it with a stable or slowly growing population, quite something else when population is growing 4%/yr.

In England, the displacement problem was bad in the 18th c., worse in the 19th for that reason.

When I say, 'choose,' the choser is whoever is in political or military control at the time. In Taiwan around 1950, the Kuomintang give rice bonds to landowners and turned the farms over to the people who worked them.

The landowners objected, but the Chiang generals gave them a choice: take the bonds or be shot.

In most places, the landowners also owned the military and it was the peasants who were shot.

Yuh pays yer money and yuh takes yer cherce.

Free market fantasies are not much help in deciding what to do.

March 25, 2010 5:21 PM  
Blogger Bret said...

Ahhh. Those with the guns choose. Yes, unfortunately, that's usually how it works. However, per Weberian definition of government (the entity with the monopoly authority on violence), basically you're saying that government decides and therefore the free market obviously has nothing to do with the hardships you're mentioning.

The point of a free market is that no single entity decides such things, but rather, millions of actors make distributed decisions.

March 25, 2010 8:41 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Well, in a place like, say Venezuela, not millions. A few dozen perhaps.

If the people with the economic power also control the guns, then economic power rules.

As I understand it, the free market does not really give everyone a vote. It is not as if the sharecropper with an income of $100 a year and Metropolitan Life Insurance Company (the other sharer in this example) have equal influence.

March 25, 2010 9:38 PM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

"As I understand it, the free market does not really give everyone a vote."

You still don't understand the point of free markets. This objection only makes since if you presuppose collectivism, so that "a vote" is needed in order to decide how one spends his time, labor, and money. The point of the free market is to make the vote as unnecessary as possible. So that, naturally, the share cropper doesn't have the same influence as MetLife over the sharecropper's spending decisions, the sharecropper has more.

March 25, 2010 10:12 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

A sharecropper with income of $100 (this is a real example, by the way) does not have any control over spending decisions. He spends everything on food.

He doesn't even get to decide where to buy the food. He is required to buy from the company store.

I didn't say they should have equal votes. I said votes.

March 26, 2010 10:11 AM  
Blogger Bret said...

Harry,

So let's see. Massive civil war with associated destruction of infrastructure, political upheaval, docile population (apparently not willing to migrate elsewhere), government and population condoning intimidation and terror, etc.

And you're holding the resulting situation as an indictment of the free market?

There has to be a free market before you can blame the free market.

March 26, 2010 11:00 AM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

"He is required to buy from the company store."

Once again, not a free market. You seem to consider anything with the form of a free market as such. Do you also think that Ba'athist Iraq was a democracy because it had elections?

March 26, 2010 11:55 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Harry:

Don't forget to steer clear of the "lump of labor" fallacy.

Also, it surpasses my imagination to figure out how a country transitions from whichever autocratic/serfdom economy characterized it to a free market without problems along the way.

We had ours too. The transition from an agricultural to industrial workforce meant there was, for some time, a significant surplus of labor.

From that, some concluded that unions (which is the short way to say "rent seeking cartel) were necessary.

Instead of being nearly complete deadweights.

March 26, 2010 1:53 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Well, then, where is this free market I keep hearing about?

Bret, whether they were willing to migrate or not, there were laws to prevent them.

Chide me for citing obscure agricultural historians, but facts is still facts. (In this case, Pete Daniel, not really all that obscure.)

March 27, 2010 11:35 AM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

An excellent example would be the computer industry, from roughly 1970 until the mid 1990s. Video games and computer graphics continue to be nearly free markets.

March 27, 2010 4:55 PM  
Blogger Bret said...

Harry Eagar wrote: Well, then, where is this free market I keep hearing about?"

Because of meddling fools, free markets rarely have a chance to exist. Generally, the best we can do is "free-ish" markets.

March 28, 2010 9:39 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Oh, Darpa had nothing to do with it then? There was no 5th gen subsidy in Japan?

March 28, 2010 10:30 AM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

DARPA had very little to do with it, correct. Eventually DARPA gave up and went to the civilian markets because the government just couldn't keep up.

The "5th Generation" project in Japan was dismal yet expensive failure. Almost epic, in fact. One could call it a text book example of how socialism suppresses innovation.

March 28, 2010 11:52 AM  
Blogger erp said...

DARPA? Isn't that the outfit that started the whole "Lost" saga?

March 28, 2010 12:14 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

As for DARPA, that's not the way I recall it. I was there, sort of. About a dozen computer Ph.Ds invited me out ot see this new thing called Mosaic.

After about half an hour, they were able to get the opening page to partially show up. Ah, those were the days.

I know, of course, that the 5th gen failed, but it wasn't the result of a stifling of innovation.

Of course, if you are going to cite private work, you'll have to explain some of its equally spectacular failures, eg, at the FBI. Or the Hawaii Department of Health.

March 29, 2010 9:45 AM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

"As for DARPA, that's not the way I recall it. I was there, sort of. About a dozen computer Ph.Ds invited me out see this new thing called Mosaic."

I am confident you don't. However, your personal memory is not determinative. Mosaic, of course, became the industry giant via private investment, not DARPA. Otherwise it would have remained a lab toy.

"I know, of course, that the 5th gen failed, but it wasn't the result of a stifling of innovation."

If you knew the 5th generation project failed, then why did you cite it? Were you trying to imply that DARPA was a failure as well?

And yes, the project wasn't the result of stifling of innovation, it was the stifling. All that money spent for very little, when it might well have funded far more innovation had it been left in private hands (to fund something like, say, Netscape).

"Of course, if you are going to cite private work, you'll have to explain some of its equally spectacular failures, eg, at the FBI. Or the Hawaii Department of Health."

I wasn't aware that the FBI and the Hawaii Department of Health were private sector organizations. Or is it once again, if there is any private sector involved in a project, any failure is the fault of that private sector element? Could I use this same criteria to excuse corporate management?

March 29, 2010 12:21 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Netscape was private? News to me. The US circuit court of appeals decided it was stolen from, as I recall, Stanford, but it may possibly have been Xerox PARC. Been a while since I looked that up.

In any event, not something for the private sector to crow about, any more than dBase III was, after the courts canceled its patent for theft and destroyed Broderbund along with it.

The vendors on the FBI and DOH contracts were private businesses. The FBI contract ran into billions. I don't recall how many, but many. The private vendors took the money and didn't deliver.

And it is strange to argue that a failure of an innovation is a stifling of innovation. Private industry has been chasing the innovative holy grail of fuel cells (to take one example among many) for as long as I can remember, with very modest success.

March 29, 2010 6:07 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Private industry has been chasing the innovative holy grail of fuel cells (to take one example among many) for as long as I can remember, with very modest success.

Which means what? (Other than that it is a very difficult problem, that is.)

March 29, 2010 8:55 PM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

"Netscape was private? News to me."

I am glad to have made you more informed.

"The vendors on the FBI and DOH contracts were private businesses. The FBI contract ran into billions. I don't recall how many, but many. The private vendors took the money and didn't deliver."

The employees of corporate management are private sector too. So when they take company money and don't deliver, is corporate management absolved the same way you absolve the FBI and DOH management? I am just trying to figure out what standard you are using here, other than "only the private sector is ever at fault". Was it the private vendors who ruined the weatherization effort?

On the other hand, why do you view this as a problem? You shrugged off the $850 billion of the failed "stimulus" package as no big deal. So what's a few billion wasted by the FBI or DOH? Oh, right -- no private sector involved, therefore no fault.

"And it is strange to argue that a failure of an innovation is a stifling of innovation."

Yes it would be. Since that is not what I am claiming it's a moot point. Why did you bring up the 5th Generation Project in the first place?

March 30, 2010 10:44 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

I don't recall shrugging off the $850B stimulus package. I am not aware that it has 'failed.' The macroeconomists all seem to think the economy is growing again.

As I recall, what I said was that nobody knows how to reflate a busted economy. I think I'll stick with that.

March 30, 2010 2:02 PM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

Source.

March 30, 2010 7:12 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

$3MnokaoiMy old post seems to say that I didn't know whether the stimulus would work or not but that it would be cheap compared to other adventures.

I'll stick with that. I'm still pretty much expecting a double dip, because of the commercial real estate crash and -- perhaps -- more Greeces. Who knows?

As for why I brought up the 5th gen, because it was a notable attempt at investing in technology. Not my definition of stifling innovation.

Comments are hardly adequate for recapping the history of technology -- it took Singer 5 volumes, each as big as the Bible just to outline it up to 1900 -- but I'll note that while free market ideologues assert, without evidence, that government interference stifles innovation, historians of technology say the opposite.

The history of the reeve-block, for example, demonstrates the opposite. Most historians of technology consider it one of the most important advances in the Machine Age.

March 31, 2010 10:44 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Hmmmm:

'March 31 (Bloomberg) -- The time and money invested in genomic cancer studies has yielded only “modest” advances and is diverting funds from time-tested approaches for understanding disease, a leading gene scientist said.

'Ten years after the first survey of the human genome, the project’s payoff is getting mixed reviews. Francis Collins, former head of the National Human Genome Research Institute, praises the wealth of genetic data produced. J. Craig Venter, who led the private sequencing push, and Robert Weinberg, who discovered the first human cancer-causing gene, said information gained from genomic research doesn’t justify the cost. Their views are published today in editorials in the journal Nature.'

March 31, 2010 1:03 PM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

You brought up a massively expensive government sponsored project that failed to innovate as an example of government sponsored innovation?

I provided you with evidence, as a free market type, you simply either (1) ignored it or (2) defined it away. One might note the long term history of innovation being fastest in nations with freer markets (e.g. Middles Ages Europe vs. China) but, just like Tsarist Russia was a wide open free market, I am sure you have some re-labeling that waves it away.

Still, that leaves the bigger question: why do you even care if innovation is stifled?

After all, people don't eat in the long run, they eat every day. And innovation is something that only pays off in the long run. When I claim the superiority of the free market is in the long term benefits, you through that quote at me. Why not in this case?

P.S. Your cite of the genomic research is once again completely opaque -- I doubt any of the gang here has the slightest idea what point you are trying to make with it.

March 31, 2010 7:20 PM  
Blogger erp said...

- I doubt any of the gang here has the slightest idea what point you are trying to make with it.

You got that right.

March 31, 2010 7:34 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

You didn't see Venter's comment? He wasn't working for or even with the government. Rather against, if anything.

I'm not arguing against innovation. I'm just pointing out that all economic historians agree that many of the most important innovations were produced by government subsidies, prizes or direction, sometimes in the recognition that the work would not pay off in the short run and so would never occur if profit were the driver.

The history of the Harpers Ferry arsenal in the years leading up to the Civil War is one.

The history of the reeve-block is another.

The development of the block-making machine at Portsmouth Naval Dockyard was done under the stimulus of pressing need, but the development of machine methods for substitution of parts at Harpers Ferry was done with a clear vision that success would pay off later, much later.

I understand that free market ideologues think these things cannot happen, but people who really trace development think otherwise.

As Singer points out several times in the 'History of Technology,' for some reason geography is the most obvious predictor of innovation: Most innovations came from southwest Asia-northeast Europe, without any reference to what form of government existed in any political subdivision, or how that changed over time, until the coming if Islam, when all innovation stopped.

So much with Singer. He does not say, but it is true, that the Islamic governments were at least as market-oriented as any that preceded them.

March 31, 2010 11:01 PM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

"You didn't see Venter's comment?"

I did. One person thinks that one specific project wasn't cost effective. And so ...? It happens all the time. Your point continues to elude me.

"I'm not arguing against innovation"

I didn't say you were. In fact, my question was exactly the opposite -- why are you arguing in favor of it? Why do you see it as a problem if it is sacrificed in exchange for other social goals you find desirable, such as (according to you) fewer economic crashes?

"I understand that free market ideologues think these things cannot happen"

No free market type argues that such things cannot happen. Can you cite a single example? Keep in mind "stifle" is not a synonymn for "eliminate".

I would also note that "prizes" are things that many free market types favor, as they are goal directed rather than interventionist.

"that the Islamic governments were at least as market-oriented as any that preceded them."

I don't think that anyone except you believes that. I find it on par with your similar claim about Tsarist Russia.

April 01, 2010 7:31 AM  
Blogger erp said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

April 01, 2010 7:56 AM  
Blogger erp said...

I deleted the previous comment because I’d picked up Harry's southwest Asia and northeast Europe. My eyes saw that, but my brain interpreted it correctly, I think, as southeast Asia (China) and northwest Europe (England, France, Germany).

If that's not correct, then I truly have no idea what Harry's comment was about.

Here’s the previous comment:

Harry, I'm beginning to doubt my comprehensive reading skill. You say in your last comment that most innovation came from northern Europe and southern Asia. The reason for this is unknown. I have my own idea about that, but okay fair enough.

Then, you go on to say that all innovation stopped with the coming of Islam? Stopped where? Islam was born in the Middle East far from the stated centers of innovation, so how could it have affected it. This is confusing enough, but when you say Islamic governments were at least as market-oriented as any that preceded them, you lost me.

Those who preceded Islam, were Jews and Arabs, famous throughout the ancient world as the great merchants who boldly blazed the trade routes that brought goods from the far corners of the world to their bazaars. That sounds like innovation to me and parenthetically were the inspiration for the great explorers who set out to discover a sea route to the Indies which led to the discovery of the new world.

For their boldness in setting out into the unknown, those traders deserve our thanks.

April 01, 2010 8:50 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Take it up with Charles Singer, erp. Innovation started early, things like metal, glass, writing, soap, stuff like that. Before there even were either Arabs or Jews.

Samuel Noah Kramer wrote a book, for example, about the innovations of the Sumerians.

Gotta start somewhere.

Innovation is mysterious, but there is no reason to think that it correlates highly with free markets. No economic historian that I am aware of thinks it does.

April 01, 2010 9:14 AM  
Blogger erp said...

I like the old adage that necessity is the mother of invention (innovation) and that human ingenuity will prosper if given half a chance. Repressive societies discourage it and free ones encourage it.

I have no beef with Singer. Your inclusion of Islam in the argument naturally led me to believe you were talking about the time Mohammed got his working orders from Allah, not 5000 BC.

My mistake.

April 01, 2010 9:43 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

My read is that while Islam was friendly to merchants, it was and is unfriendly to free intellectuals, whence come the innovators.

I could be wrong. Innovation is mysterious. Mere necessity would not seem to be important, or Haiti would be the most innovative place on earth.

Speaking of Haiti, an interview on NPR about Juarez produced this statement: the North American Free Trade Agreement has destroyed peasant agriculture in Mexico.

That's not a subject I have looked into lately, but it would be what I had expected.

But, hey, why worry? There are lawns in Orange County that need mowing, and if $7.35 an hour is more than a clipped lawn is worth, a starving Mexican wetback will probably do it for $2.

Sweet for us, no?

(BTW, for the last couple weeks, my first attempt to enter a password on Google Account is always rejected, then no problem. Anybody else notice this?)

April 01, 2010 12:02 PM  
Blogger erp said...

Harry, please explain how NAFTA destroyed Mexican agriculture. Free trade means that cheaper-to-grow Mexican produce should/could/would find ready buyers both in the U.S. and Canada.

I don’t understand your remark about Mexicans cutting grass for $2.00. What decade are you talking? I wish there were some wetbacks around here who would work for $7.25/hr. I pay $20/hr for yard work and the same for house cleaning.

Obviously, you know Mexicans have been coming here since long before NAFTA -- ditto starvation in Haiti which had the misfortune to be a cruelly administered French colony, followed by cruelly repressive dictators who stole everything including millions/billions in foreign aid and every tree. One only need look at the difference between Haiti and the other half of Hispanola, the Dominican Republic, to see why Haitians are starving. NAFTA had nothing to do with it.

Necessity is only one part of the innovation equation, equally important is opportunity -- sadly lacking in Haiti.

Re: Google. Haven’t noticed any problems with passwords.

April 01, 2010 2:28 PM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

Islam forbids interest on loans. That's not merchant friendly. I would have to look it up, but there are other provisions that, for instance, make corporations more difficult. The theocratic nature is also anti-free market. Or you could simply listen to modern Islamic mullahs about the subject.

April 01, 2010 7:44 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Harry:

You didn't see Venter's comment? He wasn't working for or even with the government. Rather against, if anything.

Let’s assume, for the moment, that the lack of innovation deriving from the human genome project pertains to eternity.

Remind me, how long, and how much, was the government sponsored sequencing project supposed to last and cost? It would probably be instructive to compare that with what Venter managed in both regards. Before considering whether Venter’s efforts, in what is apparently now certain to be a dead end forever, had any knock-on effects in disparate fields.

I'm just pointing out that all economic historians agree that many of the most important innovations were produced by government subsidies, prizes or direction, sometimes in the recognition that the work would not pay off in the short run and so would never occur if profit were the driver.

I cannot plead guilty to any close reading of economic history.

However.

The evolution of the automobile over the last thirty years should be instructive. I am willing to grant that in some areas — primarily crash survivability — some important innovation would not have happened without government intervention.

Fine. But the great bulk of innovation is due to nothing other than the pressures of the market. Try to sell a car with a carburetor, distributor, a body that rusts through in four years, or gets less than the high 20s for highway fuel mileage. One might as well try to flog Yugos for premium prices.

Additionally, one could assume the counterfactual. Let’s roll the clock back thirty years, and recapitulate British Leyland.

That would be a pointless exercise. I owned a BL product (a 1975 TR-6). It was distinguished in no meaningful particular from an MGA, which I also owned, twenty years its senior.

I don’t think innovation is the least mysterious. It is the result of a contest, to the victor of which goes the spoils. Competition and reward. Kill either, and the golden goose has Xs for eyes.

I’ll bet Haitian governments have managed to do both.

[erp doesn’t] understand your remark about Mexicans cutting grass for $2.00.

Nor do I. Taking that as true, it can only mean one of two things:

— $2/hr is better than they can get at home
— American homeowners are paying above the mark for labor obtained at gunpoint

BTW, for the last couple weeks, my first attempt to enter a password on Google Account …

Not that I have noticed, but I’ll start paying attention.

April 02, 2010 7:54 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

I agree the auto industry is instructive, although the English auto industry does feature some cultural quirks, like the Morgan.

I don't think carburetors are a very good exemplar, though. Fuel injection was available on European cars for a generation before US makers adopted it. Edwards Deming used the carburetor as an example of a technologically proficient industry that did not understand what business it was in (metering fuel, not making better and more innovative carburetors).

While Islam forbids/discourages interest, it provides workarounds that are no more complicated than a collateralized debt obligation. At the period when European trade was displacing Islamic trade in Asian goods, the Christians also forbade lending money at interest.

I am not up to speed on Mexican peasant agriculture, although I know about similar situations. Mexico was in trouble before NAFTA because, despite its revolutionary rhetoric, it never addressed its landlord problem.

It is all very well to tell an Iowa farmer and a Oaxaca farmer that 'You are competing dead even, have at it.' Real life says that the Mexican starves.

We have a lot of Mexican construction workers in the county now. The American workers, even, though erp would hardly believe it, are unhappy to be underbid by 70-80 percent.

Of course, the market would say to the Americans, just adjust. Why should you live with your families in single-family homes, when you could do like the Mexicans and leave your families in waterless hellholes and live with 20 other construction workers in an 800-square-foot cottage?

April 02, 2010 8:16 PM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

Wow, now the markets setting immigration policy and causing droughts! Is there no limit to their perfidy?

April 03, 2010 6:21 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

I am very surprised that you would think markets do NOT set immigration policy.

April 03, 2010 6:57 AM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

That's just my odd little habit of thinking that laws are set by governments. But if you think otherwise, then what do you see as something that is not determined by the market?

April 03, 2010 9:36 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Emigration from Germany in the 1840s (to escape conscription) or from Russia in 1890s (to escape pogroms).

Migration has proven resistant to legislation.

I am reading Thomas Barfield's 'Afghanistan.' He is an anthropologist of the old school, and refreshingly impervious to cant. One of the first things he points out is that rational choice theory won't get you far in Afghanistan.

People there tend to make decisions based on what's considered better for the group rather than for themselves as individuals. Which is why I wrote at RtO that Kilcullen's advice to Obama would get us into trouble.

So it has.

April 04, 2010 5:35 AM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

Theft has proven resistant to legislation. Do you therefore believe government policies are irrelevant there, as well?

April 04, 2010 12:20 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

I would say that theft has not proven resistant to legislation. Your public library will have several books tracing the history of English domestic architecture.

Try looking at the pictures, not for style but for degree of fortification. It will show a steady decline.

April 06, 2010 5:10 AM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

You mean there is no longer any theft in the UK? That's news to me.

P.S. You might note that "resistant" is not the same as "immune".

P.P.S. One might also note that such fortifications were more about attacks, not theft. Their decline traces the increasing monopolization of organized violence by the central government.

P.P.P.S. Have you looked at, say, 10 Downing Street for fortifications? One could argue the change is a change of emphasis, as the technology of potential attacks changed. Or don't you use a network firewall at home?

April 06, 2010 6:35 AM  
Blogger erp said...

Harry, at what point in the history of the UK should we begin looking at changes in architecture?

In Ye Olde England, serfs had nothing worth stealing and lived in hovels. Lords lived in well fortified castles which discouraged stealing except by those able to storm the ramparts. Everyone else was more or less under the protection of some noble or left to marauding bands of thieves.

Moving on to the industrial age when cities became better organized and the middle class prospered, people lived in less fortified dwellings, established municipal services including a police force -- thieves were frowned upon and ordinary citizens didn't tolerate them. Punishment was harsh and quick.

Modern age man, became tolerant of the less fortunate, understood that an unhappy childhood was the reason for "acting out," so excused and pampered thieves and other law breakers. Gun ownership by private citizens was discouraged and laws were enacted to limit and control it.

Punishment was verboten and rehabilitation was the buzz word – protecting oneself and one’s property was a no-no and people who took action against those who forcefully entered their homes with the intent to do violence were sent to jail.

Those who “lost life’s lottery” and injured themselves accidently while committing a crime on one’s property were even able to sue homeowners for negligence and receive recompense through the courts.

Not surprisingly, crime flourished even though there were clear laws against stealing, mayhem and murder.

Neo-modern man got some smarts, armed themselves, put lots and lots of the bad guys in jail and so remarkably and inexplicably, crime went down and cities became reasonably safe.

Instead of the good guys protecting themselves by locking themselves into their homes, they locked up the bad guys instead.

Works for me.

April 06, 2010 8:42 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

'Some rob you with a six-gun, some with a fountain pen'

-- Woody Guthrie

Nobody said theft was extinguished. No historian would argue that theft has declined over the centuries, at least in civilized states.

April 07, 2010 7:33 PM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

Your view is that despite all the legislation over the centuries, theft has not been eliminated or even reduced, "theft has not proven resistant to legislation". I await with breathless anticipation your definition of "resistant" that satisfies both these constraints.

April 08, 2010 5:26 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Sorry, left out a not -- 'not declined.'

Even a Madoff's takings are minor compared to the kind of stuff that used to go on, not to mention that the end of slavery, serfdom and (mostly) debt peonage returns the most valuable property that most people possess, their labor, to themselves.

April 08, 2010 5:37 AM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

"the end of slavery, serfdom and (mostly) debt peonage returns the most valuable property that most people possess, their labor, to themselves."

How you can write that and yet think nothing of the government taking people's labor via taxes for massive gambles like the "stimulus" package utterly astounds me. Or once again, does the fact that it is done by government sanctify what would otherwise be offensive?

P.S. I see you have finally grasped my point about the analogy between immigration and theft -- while the government can't eliminate it entirely, government policies can certainly make a big difference. Therefore it's not "the market" that determines immigration levels.

April 09, 2010 7:00 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Therefore it's not "the market" that determines immigration levels.

Perhaps not "the" market, but certainly "a" market.

For a whole slew of reasons, the US is a more attractive deal than just about anywhere else on offer.

So, in that sense, the US is out-competing other countries for the residence decisions and aspirations of millions of people: market decisions affect immigration levels.

April 09, 2010 9:02 AM  

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