URLs du Jour

2017-04-08

■ I gotta say, I am so far liking Chapter 27 of Proverbs quite a bit. Here's 27:3:

Stone is heavy and sand a burden, but a fool's provocation is heavier than both.

Evocative and true. The only imaginable way to improve it would be to make it rhyme:

Stone is heavy
And sand a burden
But the jerk who irks you
Needs avertin'

There, I fixed it.

■ Deirdre N. McCloskey debunks the Excuses for Statism, and for Staying Poor.

The formula for an economy to get rich nowadays is as easy as H2O.

It is: Follow China and India. Containing four out of every ten humans, the two gradually gave up on central planning, China after 1978, India after 1991. They gave up the socialism imposed by Nehru and Mao, imitated later by Castro and Chavez, first imposed by Lenin and Stalin, first imagined in the nineteenth century by Saint-Simon and Marx and Luxemburg. For decades after World War II the economies of China and India had been run so badly that as late as the 1970s they looked hopeless. Not anymore. Before their takeoff years they were growing miserably, in inflation-corrected terms at 1 percent per year per capita, 2 in a good year. After the partial freeing of markets they started growing at 7 to 12 percent.

It's not that tough, but as McCloskey shows, excuses and detours abound.

■ I've come to believe that one major problem (in addition to the ones McCloskey cites) is the seductive metaphor. For example: "trade war". Econ prof Don Boudreaux replies to a correspondent who refers to his "naïve willingness to unilaterally disarm us in our trade war with China.”: Just Shoot Me.

With respect, what you (and many others) call a trade war is quite the opposite of war.  It’s peaceful trade.  And through such trade we Americans are made better off the less we export in exchange for what we import.  So to the extent that the Ex-Im Bank succeeds in its mission to artificially increase American exports, it makes us worse off by arranging for us to sacrifice for the imports we receive an unnecessarily larger amount of exports.  Put differently, the Ex-Im Bank obliges us to work harder to maintain and improve our standard of living.  How are we enriched by such an outcome?  In what universe is such an outcome a victory rather than a defeat?

I don't want to go all Sapir-Whorf on you, but it sometimes seems that addiction to a faulty metaphor can rewire one's brain, the metaphor becoming more "real" than reality.

■ Veronique de Rugy asks the musical question: Is the Sky the Limit for the Debt Ceiling?

When the national debt ceiling's suspension was automatically lifted March 15, yet another countdown commenced. Congress will be compelled to raise the government's borrowing limit again before April 28 and fund the government. Meanwhile, the Congressional Budget Office released yet another report showing that our debt crisis may be here sooner than later and be bigger than ever.

Addressing these budget deadlines should be done with the CBO's warning in mind. It goes something like this: The government's overspending has produced a lot of debt, and it's adding debt at a pace faster than the economy is growing—so it will only get worse.

That's the challenge. My elected representative, however, is much more concerned with retweeting stuff like this…

■ Egg on my face department. Yesterday, I said "life comes at you pretty fast" was a "Ferris Bueller meme". I should have checked first. According to knowyourmeme.com, it's really derived from an old series of Nationwide Insurance commercials.

What Ferris said instead was "Life moves pretty fast." And added: "If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."

Maybe some variation on that will show up in our Proverbs.