URLs du Jour

2019-05-23

[Amazon Link]

  • Mark J. Perry, at AEI, does some anti-mythologizing of Big Business: Only 52 US companies have been on the Fortune 500 since 1955, thanks to the creative destruction that fuels economic prosperity. Much data, names are dropped, and here's the bottom line:

    As consumers, we should appreciate the fact that we are the ultimate beneficiaries of the Schumpeterian creative destruction that drives the dynamism of the market economy and results in a constant churning of the firms who are ultimately fighting to attract as many of our dollar votes as possible. The 500 top winners of that competitive battle in any given year are the firms in the Fortune 500, ranked not by their profits, assets or number of employees, but by what is ultimately most important in a market economy: the dollar votes (sales revenues) cast by consumers — the “kings and queens” who rule supreme in the marketplace.

    Emphasis in original. Next time someone tells you that the game is rigged in favor of big business, show them this article and ask why big businesses don't "rig" things to assure their immortality?


  • In Pun Salad's occasional "Of Course She Does" Department, Reason's Peter Suderman reports: Kamala Harris Wants to Force Companies to Report Pay Data to the Federal Government—and Fine Them If They Don’t Offer Equal Pay. Hey, what could go wrong with that? Well, among other things:

    There are plenty of things that could go wrong with a plan like this: For one, it might end up backfiring if firms responded to the threat of fines by avoiding hiring women for certain types of jobs. Overt discrimination would be prohibited, but with incentives to discriminate in place, and the threat of penalties looming, some firms would probably find a way, at least at the margins. It could also encourage firms to outsource jobs that might have gone to women, in order to keep them out of the reporting data.

    … and much more at the link. But (generally speaking) putting the inner workings of your biz under the eye (and thumb) of Federal bureaucrats who don't really care much about it sounds like a bad idea.


  • At Marginal Revolution, Alex Tabarrok discusses One of the Greatest Environmental Crimes of the 20th Century. Quoting a Pacific Standard article:

    It was one of the fastest decimations of an animal population in world history—and it had happened almost entirely in secret. The Soviet Union was a party to the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling, a 1946 treaty that limited countries to a set quota of whales each year. By the time a ban on commercial whaling went into effect, in 1986, the Soviets had reported killing a total of 2,710 humpback whales in the Southern Hemisphere. In fact, the country’s fleets had killed nearly 18 times that many, along with thousands of unreported whales of other species. It had been an elaborate and audacious deception: Soviet captains had disguised ships, tampered with scientific data, and misled international authorities for decades. In the estimation of the marine biologists Yulia Ivashchenko, Phillip Clapham, and Robert Brownell, it was “arguably one of the greatest environmental crimes of the 20th century.”

    Whoa. In other words, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, without all the space and time travel stuff. But (as it turns out) all that slaughter was literally without purpose.

    The Soviet whalers, Berzin wrote, had been sent forth to kill whales for little reason other than to say they had killed them. They were motivated by an obligation to satisfy obscure line items in the five-year plans that drove the Soviet economy, which had been set with little regard for the Soviet Union’s actual demand for whale products. “Whalers knew that no matter what, the plan must be met!” Berzin wrote. The Sovetskaya Rossiya seemed to contain in microcosm everything Berzin believed to be wrong about the Soviet system: its irrationality, its brutality, its inclination toward crime.

    Sure, we're told: socialism will do a lot better next time.


  • Also on that topic, Bryan Caplan muses on the use and abuse of the S-word: "Socialism": The Provocative Equivocation.

    The socialists are back, but is it a big deal?  It’s tempting to say that it’s purely rhetorical.  Modern socialists don’t want to emulate the Soviet Union.  To them, socialism just means “Sweden,” right?  Even if their admiration for Sweden is unjustified, we’ve long known that the Western world contains millions of people who want their countries to be like Sweden.  Why should we care if Sweden-fans rebrand themselves as “socialists”?

    My instinctive objection is that even using the term “socialism” is an affront to the many millions of living victims of Soviet-style totalitarian regimes.  Talking about “socialism” understandably horrifies them.  Since there are plenty of palatable synonyms for Swedish-type policies (starting even “Swedenism”!), selecting this particular label seems a breach of civility.

    If this seems paranoid, what would you say about a new movement of self-styled “national socialists”?  Even if their policy positions were moderate, this brand needlessly terrifies lots of folks who have already suffered enough.

    The civility issue aside, Bryan notes that a lot of self-billed "socialists" are high on criticism, weak on clearly defining their actual proposals.


  • The always-sensible Veronique de Rugy writes that Trump’s Immigration Plan Could Use Some Work.

    Last week, the Trump administration released the outline of an immigration plan meant to reshape how and which people are allowed into the United States. The plan would prioritize merit-based immigration and high-skilled labor over those who already have family here. Far from comprehensive or sufficient, it's a modest improvement over the administration's previous restrictive pushes.

    The plan's centerpiece is a shift toward a "merit" system very similar to those in place in Australia and Canada. The reform would boost skill-based immigration from 12% to 57%, while decreasing family-based and lottery-based immigration by 50%. This is great news for employers in the market for high-skilled workers. Indeed, the cap for H-1B visas (for temporary, skilled workers) and employment-based green cards has not increased for many years, while the U.S. workforce has grown by 38 million since these programs' inception.

    So what needs work? There's no resolution for the so-called "Dreamers". And (Veronique thinks) there needs to be more low-skill immigration too. I'm skeptical on that last point, but I'm willing to be convinced.