Reminder on Adam Smith and Businessmen

“The interest of the dealers, however, in any particular branch of trade or manufactures, is always in some respects different from, and even opposite to, that of the public. To widen the market and to narrow the competition, is always the interest of the dealers. To widen the market may frequently be agreeable enough to the interest of the public; but to narrow the competition must always be against it, and can serve only to enable the dealers, by raising their profits above what they naturally would be, to levy, for their own benefit, an absurd tax upon the rest of their fellow-citizens. The proposal of any new law or regulation of commerce which comes from this order, ought always to be listened to with great precaution, and ought never to be adopted till after having been long and carefully examined, not only with the most scrupulous, but with the most suspicious attention. It comes from an order of men, whose interest is never exactly the same with that of the public, who have generally an interest to deceive and even to oppress the public, and who accordingly have, upon many occasions, both deceived and oppressed it.”
— Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations (1776).

James Mill’s 1808 Commerce Defended and Today’s Protectionism

James Mill (1773–1836) was a Scottish economist, philosopher, and journalist. He was the father of an even more famous figure of the 19th century, economist and philosopher John Stuart Mill. Like other classical economists, James was a defender of free trade. His 1808 pamphlet Commerce Defended answers many of today’s arguments for protectionism.
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The Wealth of Nations and Free Trade

Adam Smith’s famous book The Wealth of Nations (1776) developed economic and moral arguments against “the mercantile system” or protectionism. The relevant chapters are among the best of the book and there is much to be learned from them.
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Trump: The Role of the Establishment

There is something funny about the establishment’s dismay at Donald Trump’s election victory. It is not so much the disruption of their suspicious comfort and contentment. We still don’t know how disrupted they will be, because we don’t know what Mr. Trump’s policies will be. Judging from the financial markets’ salivating at new stimulus expenditures, they may not be disrupted much. Continue reading

The Progress of Statistical Justice

In Steven Spielberg’s movie “The Minority Report” (with Tom Cruise) and in the original 1956 science-fiction novel by Philip K. Dick, mutants called “precogs” can predict future crimes – “precrimes” – so that their authors can be arrested in advance. “In our society,” says the head of the precrime police, “we have no major crimes. But we have a detention camp full of would-be criminals.”

This is not only science fiction. Continue reading

Don’t Waste Your Vote

If someone tells you that he doesn’t want to “waste his vote” and will thus vote strategically for the least bad candidate with a chance of winning, tell him the following. He should also make sure that his least bad candidate only wins by a small majority. If he thinks that C is the only good candidate but that only A and B have a decent chance of winning and that A is the least bad, he wants to make sure that A wins with only a small margin.

Now, if he can make his preferred (or least disliked) candidate win because of his own vote, surely he can also make him win by only 10 votes. This is what is called voting strategically.

An Interpretation of the American Political Mess

For several decades, the political establishment told Americans that the government is nice and can give them what they want. They did get much from government, but (not surprisingly) also paid much. And ordinary people got their preferences crushed and their lifestyles scorned or controlled by political correctness, the war on smokers and rednecks, and countless regulations. Life became more politicized and conflictual. No wonder that so many people are angry.
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