URLs du Jour

2019-12-21

  • At National Review, in an "NRPLUS" article, I don't know what that means, Ramesh Ponnuru has Four Tests for Impeachment.

    Advocates of a president’s removal from office by Congress should have to climb over four walls to reach their objective. First, they should have to show that the facts they allege are true. Second, they should show that the fact pattern amounts to an abuse of power or dereliction of duty by the president. Third, they should show that this abuse or dereliction is impeachable. And fourth, they should show that it is prudent for Congress to remove the president for this impeachable offense: that it would produce more good than evil.

    If the advocates can scale all four walls, then a majority of the House and a supermajority of the Senate ought to remove the president. If any of the obstacles proves insurmountable, the president should be allowed to serve out his term in office. In the current controversy over President Trump’s conduct toward Ukraine, it just so happens that each successive wall is higher than the previous one.

    Ramesh proceeds to leap over all four walls. Pretty easily.


  • In the Washington Post, Megan McArdle notes Unintended Consequences on the left coast: California law AB5 aimed at Uber and Lyft is hurting freelance writers.

    In September, the left-leaning media website Vox.com ran a triumphant headline about a bill that had just passed the California legislature: “Gig workers’ win in California is a victory for workers everywhere.” Assembly Bill 5, or AB5, would go into effect on Jan. 1, essentially making the gig economy illegal in the state.

    AB5 forbids businesses to use contractors unless the companies can pass a stringent requirement known as the “ABC test.” It’s designed to ensure that all workers are classified as employees unless they perform their work independent of supervision, have an established business doing the same sort of work for multiple customers and are doing work that isn’t part of the company’s core business. Meeting one or two of these requirements isn’t enough; you must meet all three.

    What is the sound of the other shoe dropping? Vox announced it was "laying off hundreds of freelancers in California".

    What's the best word to describe this attitude: "We thought the law was fine, because it only hurt people we don't care about. But then it turned out it hurt people we do care about." Some kind of combination of arrogance and stupidity?


  • David Henderson looks at the new US/Mexico/Canada (USMCA) trade deal, and considers it to be NAFTA 0.0.

    In some small ways, USMCA is better than NAFTA. But in the main ways in which it differs, it’s worse. Of course, to judge any policy, you need a few criteria. My main criterion for trade agreements, which I share with the vast majority of economists, is: does the agreement move towards, or away from, free trade? On net, the USMCA is a move away.

    But why is free trade my main criterion? For one ethical reason, one economic reason, and one national security reason. The ethical reason is that people should be allowed to trade with each other, even when there is a border separating them, unless there are very strong reasons against allowing such trade. Just as people in New York are allowed to trade across various state borders with people in California, people in the United States should be allowed to trade with people in Mexico.

    The economic reason for allowing trade is that trade makes both parties better off; if it didn’t do so, they wouldn’t trade. Opening of trade encourages people to engage in production for which they have a comparative advantage. Just as it would be inefficient for even a middling-quality lawyer to do his own legal research instead of hiring a paralegal, it is inefficient for someone in the United States to produce a given-quality product at a cost that exceeds the cost for a foreign producer.

    In the 18th century, the national security reason for allowing free trade was articulated succinctly by a French philosopher whom many signers of the Declaration of Independence read: Baron de Montesquieu, who wrote, “Peace is the natural effect of trade.” He then gave his reason: “Two nations who traffic with each other become reciprocally dependent; for if one has an interest in buying, the other has an interest in selling: and thus their union is founded on their mutual necessities.” In this century, two economists who examined a large number of trading nations, produced evidence for his view. Solomon W. Polachek and Carlos Seiglie of Rutgers University wrote, “[T]rading nations cooperate more and fight less. A doubling of trade leads to a 20% diminution of belligerence.”

    Click through for details. See also: USMCA is tainted by special-interest side deals by Tim Worstall at the Washington Examiner. Getting to the nub of the matter:

    The only reasonable or fair trade deal is the one I've continually proposed for my native Britain as it leaves the European Union, here lightly adapted for U.S. usage:

    1. There will be no tariff or nontariff barriers on imports into the U.S.
    2. Imports will be regulated in exactly the same manner as domestic production.
    3. You can do what you like.
    4. That’s it.

    Everything else, and anything else, is just someone trying to use politics to take a bite out of consumers' backsides. That might be the aim of politics, to wax fat at the expense of another, but it isn't the point of economics, nor is it fair or righteous.

    Indeed.


  • Continuing on that theme, my local paper, Foster's Daily Democrat, notes the special pleading of a local business who wants an easier time taking a bite out of the backsides of consumers of their product: Novel Iron Works joins fight for fair trade practices. If you've ever driven through NH on I-95 you might have noticed Novel's structures to the east as you zip through Greenland. The occasion was a visit from our Governor Sununu. The refrain was old and tired protectionist agitprop:

    What [CEO Hollie] Noveletsky said is happening is twofold. She said the countries are “dumping” steel into America at grossly under market prices. She said they can do this because they are receiving subsidies from their countries. Decisions are expected in February from the U.S. Department of Commerce, and in March from the International Trade Commission on the damages being done to companies like Novel and others across the country, and on ways to remedy the situation.

    Noveletsky said they are losing ground to unfair trade practices coming into the country from China, Mexico and Canada. She said the effects are being felt on their company, but also on their employees. Noveletsky said Novel employs an average of 120 workers at its facilities. She said there are about 700 iron workers in the state who are threatened by what is happening, and 115,000 nationwide.

    […]

    “I grew up here and have seen those giant beams my entire life,” Sununu said. “This is finally my chance to check it out. I tend to focus on business and infrastructure, and I get criticized for that. I am proud of that. I believe that if we can bring relief to our businesses, we are providing opportunity for our families. I think our job is to get out of your way. Live free or die, right?”

    But that "live free" doesn't mean free trade.


  • Which brings us to a pictoral comment from Michael Ramirez.

    [Protectionism]

    Hey, isn't that Governor Sununu about to fly into… ZAP!