Monday, March 27, 2006

Globalization For Hipsters

From Hit and Run, I've come across this very interesting 2003 Reason interview of George Mason economist Tyler Cowen. Seeing as I just lost $20 to a friend on a bet against George Mason, a school which (as they point out at H&R) boasts a long libertarian pedigree, a mention of the article seems in order (apologies for the formatting - my browser is acting up):

http://www.reason.com/0308/cr.ng.really.shtml

Among the many dubious theoretical and empirical bones of contention held by opponents of free trade and globalization, one especially useful for its ambiguity is the complaint that the global growth of capitalism homogenizes all cultures, thereby eviscerating the very idea of culture itself. As the argument runs, global trade, monopolized (naturally) by American corporations, subverts human diversity, forcibly and 'world-historically' gathering up every nation of earth into a Starbucksian new world order in which local custom and tradition is efficiently annihilated. If my characterization of the argument sounds unfairly cartoonish, you probably haven't heard Naomi Klein speak. While I've read some of his other writings, I haven't read this book. His insight about culture's fascinating way of remaining an actually different thing from commerce is as solid as the economics of comparative advantage - an idea equally crucial in understanding globalization's economic component and its cultural component. Trade has the opposite effect on culture than what perennial protesters of the "No Label" variety assert. Few economists would strongly disagree that free trade naturally induces a given country to invest its social energy into producing what it can produce more and better than another country - regardless of that other country's absolute advantage over them economically, socially, or politically. In other words, trade promotes and sustains that which is singular and special in a country's economic system (comparatively speaking). What is different about the exchange of cultural goods? If Singapore is evidence that free trade is a good thing economically, then Bob Marley is evidence that it does wonders for the flourishing of cultural diversity.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Bill O'Reilly, Stalinist

Chalk it up to an early St. Patrick's Day shindig. On last Wednesday's taping, Fox's answer to Lou "Dey Took Ar Jobs" Dobbs invited Cato polymath Dan Griswold for another few rounds on immigration policy. Things were plodding along. O'Reilly once again refuted Griswold's case with the breathtaking analytical argument that "we gotta do something about this", his sermon responsibly tempered in rhetoric ("the hordes", for future viewers, referring to 'those people'). Griswold diligently faked respect, clinging to frivolous points about basic economic truth and the political process and the rule of law. Whatever that all means. It was almost over, and then came this:

O'REILLY: "And unless you put stringent...(inaudible)...And you go to any country in the world, and you watch how they do it, it's doable. Nobody gets into North Korea...(inaudible)....alright? They watch that border. They seal that border so that you don't get in there. And the same thing in Bosnia, and the same thing in those chaotic Bal...Bal..."

Balkans. Yes, THE Balkans. I'm giving myself dandruff scratching my head as to why, if "any country in the world" has adopted a more "doable" immigration policy than ours, O'Reilly came off the top of his head with the world's most brutal police state as an enviable case. It could be that O'Reilly loathes foreign illegals slightly more than Stalinism. I guess it is these particular immigrants who make for a perfect national security panic, because after all, 11 of the 13 9/11 hijackers...oh, nevermind, wrong glib retort. What I meant was, dey took ar jobs. But I think he deserves the benefit of the doubt on this, so that I'll assume instead that Bill O'Reilly simply hasn't the faintest idea of what he thinks should be done about immigration policy - beyond his clear endorsement of ''something".

I wonder if Cato wouldn't be better served by a simple public-relations overhaul. From here on, standard-bearing intellectuals like Griswold ( for neophytes, that's under "pinheads" in the O'Reilly glossary) ought to try to belch more in public, lead off with a trite insult in any debate, and always, always, contrast the United States to North Korea when the former's policies are somehow disagreeable.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Historical Mash-Up

"Security trumps everything else in this country. If you don't have security, you don't have anything."
- Sen. Richard Shelby, today, celebrating the non-resolution of the Dubai port non-controversy

"Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."
- Benjamin Franklin, to the Pennsylvania Assembly, 1755