Saturday, November 26, 2016

Not to praise, but to bury Castro

Adam, one of my co-bloggers at Revealed Preferences has a fitting obituary for Fidel Castro.
"By any reasonable standard, Castro was a disaster for his country. He leaves behind an impoverished land virtually devoid of freedom, where the most banal opening constitutes a major reform. His party won praise for Cuba’s education system, even as it imposed strict censorship, banned private libraries and cut its people off from the world. It won accolades for a healthcare system in which infant mortality is reduced by aborting “substandard” fetuses and doctors are rented to foreign governments like chattel. Castro’s recklessness came close to triggering global nuclear war. His destruction of Cuba’s economy left people on the brink of starvation when Soviet aid collapsed. Many Cubans preferred to float through shark-infested waters on precarious rafts rather than endure his socialist paradise. And not once did Castro give Cubans an opportunity to choose a path different from the one he imposed on them.
"But while his plaudits were thoroughly undeserved, the intense hatred he received from some quarters was bizarre. Obviously, it’s normal that his victims and their families would despise him. But how did the ruler of a small country with only modest strategic importance become the great bogeyman of the conservative movement? By the undemanding standards of dictatorships, his was not an unusually harsh one. Never mind Hitler, Stalin or Mao; he was not even a Saddam or a Pol Pot. Why did his tyranny merit so much attention?"
Read the whole thing here.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Much of the right abandoned trade long ago

Over at Revealed Preferences, I suggest that the right abandoning trade shouldn't be so surprising to globalist conservatives. After all, support for trade on the right has been brittle for some time, and there's been no demand that it be deepened within their ranks. 
Either trade is always positive sum and worthy of support, or it is not and it should be analysed and managed. The former leads us (and nearly all economists) toward a presumption in favour of free trade, while down the latter path lies a presumption of protectionism. There are many examples that could have warned conservatives they were on that protectionist path...
Again: either trade is positive sum, or it is not. Conservatives and progressives have together hollowed out the support for trade that would have explained to them whymarkets are effective, and a trading world is a freer, richer, and more peaceful one.
You can read the rest here

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Bridging gulfs

Over at Revealed Preferences, I share some of my thoughts on the importance of civil discourse, how conservative political parties and left-wing crusaders are making things worse, and how we might start to make them better instead.
It’s true that Republican candidates were able to win elections by focus grouping their statements so that they don’t scare away voters who are worried about immigration, trade, or the many other changes ongoing in a great society. But by failing to spend the resources to engage those voters and supporting their fears, the party has found itself floundering when it comes to explaining the limits of what American governments can do, actual facts on the ground about immigration, and an economic understanding of trade now that those fears have become worse. 
Likewise in Canada, Kellie Leitch might be able to win votes, and Ezra Levant might be able to scrape together subscribers, by playing to the worst fears of the populist wing of the electorate. They are helping to congeal those who share those fears into a distinct, separate voting bloc of people who aren’t questioned (lest their votes be risked) and whose fears are elevated, rather than engaged (lest they disappear, along with the motivation to stick with the candidate). 
An alternative is to engage fearful people. As Ilhan Omar points out in the podcast, people are allowed to be afraid – but how we react to that fear matters. Political fortress building isolates valid concerns from correction and refinement by facts, experience, and different perspectives. This is why progressives who immediately write off those same concerns as deplorable are just as culpable for the faltering pillar of societal tolerance as the conservatives who refuse to listen to the ‘MSM’. The left fears Donald Trump and what his victory today might mean. The right fears ‘social justice warriors’ who want to rewrite society. Neither talks across the gulf between them. Both contribute to the problem.
Read the whole post here.

Monday, October 24, 2016

What we mean by democracy

At Revealed Preferences, I've shared some thoughts on a more useful way to think about democracy.
When election season is upon us, there’s a lot of talk about democracy, but more specifically, there’s a lot of talk about voting: Voting as the way that people direct the government’s actions. The elevation of a person or party to power as the way in which the goals and priorities of a society are set. Voting as the most basic and critical political participation.
But people who see voting as the most important way that society is directed, think of voting as the primary duty of a citizen, or think that it’s the best (maybe the only!) way to change the world are wrong. Voting is easy to understand and that makes it easy to prioritize and focus on. Voting is the shiny, round, red cherry on top of the democratic cupcake. But it’s not the cupcake.
>>>Read more.