Around the blogs

* Joshua Gans on the joys of random reading.

* Steve Levitt on why soccer players don’t aim their penalty kicks at the middle of the goal as often as they should.

* Progressives Jason Furman and Barbara Ehrenreich debate whether Wal-Mart is good for the poor.

* Mark Thoma gives you the juicy bits from Richard Freeman’s latest paper on immigration. Here’s a snippet:

The policy debate over globalization in the past decade has largely bypassed the international mobility of labor. Restrict trade and cries of protectionism resound. Suggest linking labor standards to trade and it’s protectionism in disguise. Limit capital flows and the International Monetary Fund is on your back. But restrict people flows? That’s just an accepted exercise of national sovereignty! 

Richard was my one of my labour economics professors, and is perhaps the most wide-ranging economist I know (he also happens to be in Canberra at present, which is rather nice). 

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17 Responses to Around the blogs

  1. derrida derider says:

    Yep, I’m looking forward to his talk at the ANU next Friday.

  2. Patrick says:

    Um, I hope he’s smarter than you make him out to be. Speaking as someone who is very very pro-free migration, I find the analogy terrible.

    First one correct, second one correct, third one correctly (based on solid empirical evidence and reason, I believe?), fourth one, er, any of the others ever blow anyone up?

    Seriously, though, I agree, entirely and wholeheartedly, with the end, and that it is in Australia’s overwhelming self-interest to promote more immigration with less (or no) government ‘picking winners’. But the blatantly obvious engagement of a country’s sovereignty in this matter seems to make this a pretty poor way to go about making that argument, to me at least.

    I’d love to be corrected…

  3. Sinclair Davidson says:

    ‘But the blatantly obvious engagement of a country’s sovereignty in this matter seems to make this a pretty poor way to go about making that argument, to me at least.’

    Sorry, Patrick. I’m not following what wrong here. Could you expand on this point – I’m not having a go at you.

  4. As a diasporan I agree with Richard Freeman.

    I think it goes further too, because of increasing labor flows we need to update the definition of a citizen to one that is under a government’s jurisdiction, rather than privileges of birth.

    The nation-state is under pressure because it is becoming an impediment and source of inefficiency under globalisation.

  5. Ben says:

    Cameron, you’ve got to be joking.

    The one time cause of leftists everywhere – a world without borders. I can here little children singing to the strains of John Lennon’s “Imagine”.

    “Imagine there’s no countries, and no religion too”.

    Well, now its taken up by the libertarians and econo-rationalists.

    A cell without a cell membrane carefully regulating the flow of inputs and outputs CEASES TO BE. A human individual carefully controls what enters and exits his/her body – it could not be any other way (hat tip Dr Geoff Davies – ANU).

    To cast off borders and deregulate the flow of people between places is to cast of the last vestiges of the nation state – and resign ourselves to rule by the mega-corporations. The nation state ain’t perfect but it is an embodiment of our common aspirations and culture and you undermine it at your peril. Perhaps to watch the Socceroos and cheer as they fight valiantly is to throw our weight behind the idea of Australia. If we are to be more than a set of map co-ordinates on Google Earth, then the idea of Australia – the nation – has to mean something more than geography.

    Cameron the diasporan line is a cop out. Loyalty to no-one but one’s self. Grow up – and learn to be just a little inefficient – it might feel kinda nice.

  6. Ben says:

    Sorry “here” should read “hear” – oops.

  7. The one time cause of leftists everywhere

    I invoke Inigo Montoya on that line.

    Well, now its taken up by the libertarians and econo-rationalists.

    It comes from liberterianism and can be traced into the writings of Kant on cosmopolitanism.

    To cast off borders and deregulate the flow of people between places is to cast of the last vestiges of the nation state – and resign ourselves to rule by the mega-corporations.

    ?

    It creates the ultimate citizen. Anyone under the jurisdiction of a government is a fully qualified citizen. It is a very pure form of government without impediments like accidents of birth and privileges of submission.

    Cameron the diasporan line is a cop out. Loyalty to no-one but one’s self. Grow up – and learn to be just a little inefficient – it might feel kinda nice.

    heh. That is on my house in the US.

    Denying natural rights to an individual that is predicated on an accident of birth is repugnant. Nation-states excel at it unfortunately.

  8. derrida derider says:

    As a sort of left-libertarian, I’m with Cameron. Atavistic tribalism (a product of evolution, not modern rationality), expressed as nationalism, has been a source of endless woe. None of this denies that we shouldn’t take some pleasure in the characteristics of our country and countrymen – just acknowledge that others have things we should take pleasure in too. Keep tribalism for the sports field, not public policy.

    “The proletariat has no country” said Marx, but he also famously noted in the Communist Manifesto that neither do the bourgeoisie.

  9. Sacha says:

    Nation states are just artificial human entities – the real entity is the Earth itself.

  10. Ben says:

    Many of you remember that this blog was not long ago entitled “Imagining Australia”. Perhaps it can now be renamed it “Imagining No Australia” 🙂

    Sacha you are closest to the mark here.

    The libertarians amongst us need to provide their alternative mechanism for joinging together and making group decisions. The UN ain’t up to scratch at this point and anarchy or feudalism (or corporate feudalism) would seem poor alternative to nation states.

    Cameron – I was feeling a little belicose last night. Sorry for going on the attack. I am concerned though about discussions of rights without responsibilities.

  11. alternative mechanism for joinging together and making group decisions.

    The nation-state is fine for making group decisions, but it has its limitations and is leaking around the edges. The diaspora and refugees are the two areas placing it under most stress.

    The nation-state creates camps under executive decree off-shore, while it disenfranchises the diaspora, effectively leaving them politically stateless unless they can get citizenship in the nation they are working in.

    They are nation-state afflictions of the same kind which leave an individual who is not a citizen without rights against executive decree.

    I am concerned though about discussions of rights without responsibilities.

    Rights stop government from doing something; specifically tyranny and arbitrary government. They dont endow responsibilities on the individual, they place a sphere of liberty that the government cannot interfere with.

  12. Hans van Leeuwen says:

    It’s been a while for me, but if memory serves: isn’t the basic economic model that proves the gains from free trade based on an assumption that labor, like capital, is mobile? Without that assumption, does the model still hold?

    A separate point: I’m not opposed to greater immigration to advanced economies, but it doesn’t seem to help developing economies much. They lose doctors, nurses, engineers, entrepreurs, university teachers, etc.. and all they get back is remittances. Doesn’t seem a very good deal to me.

  13. Ben says:

    Hans,

    I think you’ll find the Ricardo idea of comparative advantage (which underpins free trade policies assumes capital is NOT mobile between nations and it makes no mention of people between nations. It also assumes there is full employment in trading countries. For these reasons the model is of limited relevance in the modern world despite its widespread abusive application by governments and international bodies.

    You are no doubt right about the hollowing out of the skilled and the intellectual classes in immigrant source countries. Its easier (more “efficient”?) to steal trained people than train them up yourself.

  14. Andrew Leigh says:

    Ben, you’re right that this was the way Ricardo modelled it. Fortunately, some work in the ensuing two centuries has helped fill in the gaps.

  15. Patrick says:

    all they get back is remittances – all?

    I think immigration is a real problem, and I’d love to see an intelligent suggestion on how to handle it. Personally I think we should let anyone come, subject only to a character check and house them in sorting camps for about 6 months whilst they make sure and we teach them some English and a little about Australia, our laws, our history and society.

    After that, we come to the first dillemma, which is do we let them go like any other provisional permanent residence visa holder, or do we try and funnel them into country areas, and make some effort to stimulate the employment opportunities they will need? Do we situate these sorting camps in those places in the first place?

    Do we give them, eg, a 7,500AUD FEEHELP loan?

    But I think these are serious questions not to be answered by resort to, in Ben’s words, ‘rights without responsibilities’.

  16. Ben says:

    Derrida,

    >”Atavistic tribalism (a product of evolution, not modern rationality), expressed as nationalism, has been a source of endless woe.”

    You are right. It has also been a source of joy and pride. It has helped maintain cultural traditions and been a means of providing shelter and basic rights to citizens. Many protections and rights have flowed from the very existence of nation states. Rationality was a fine development. But to deny our social impulses is as foolish as denying our need for interaction with the natural world. Can’t escape from our very essence, but we can temper our most violent and destructive urges (when at our best).

    >”None of this denies that we shouldn’t take some pleasure in the characteristics of our country and countrymen – just acknowledge that others have things we should take pleasure in too. Keep tribalism for the sports field, not public policy.”

    As things stand at present, the nation state is one of few forms of social organisation that allow for public policy to even be discussed.

    Patrick,

    >”do we let them go like any other provisional permanent residence visa holder, or do we try and funnel them into country areas, and make some effort to stimulate the employment opportunities they will need?”

    Is it fair to insist on migrants living in rural areas when we have not yet figured out how to stem the flow of our own countrymen/women away from these areas? (if his is indeed desirable).

  17. Ben says:

    Andrew L,

    >”Ben, you’re right that this was the way Ricardo modelled it. Fortunately, some work in the ensuing two centuries has helped fill in the gaps. ”

    Clearly the models have been extended and it appears that capital immobility is not an absolute necessity for comparative advantage. I think theoretical modelling is not always the best way to look at these complex issues. Perhaps we shoud focus on real world examples of trade liberalisation’s application over the past couple of decades. (Although as you know I’m not particularly happy with GDP alone as a progress indicator).

    Vandana Shiva and the Monthly Review both put my case well.

    http://www.globalpolicy.org/globaliz/define/2005/0510polar.htm

    http://www.monthlyreview.org/0406hart-landsberg.htm

    Have fun overseas. It’ll be nice to get to slow the pace of your travel a little and particularly to share it with Gwen this time round.

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