31 Mar 2016


Potpourri 48 Comments

==> Doug French has a somber article that incidentally mentions his battle with cancer.

==> Wow! Listen to Roger Stone talk with Lew Rockwell about the Bush family.

==> This Autor et al. paper has been getting a lot of attention. It apparently shows that US trade with China was bad for the US. I searched the paper and the word “consumer” appears exactly once, in the abstract, when the authors explain that the conventional argument for free trade says consumers benefit. I’m not saying the authors themselves say anything wrong, but if someone says, “Trade with China was bad for lots of Americans…” (someone like this guy, for example) and relies on this paper, well, you need more than that. The paper doesn’t even attempt to compare benefits to consumers with losses to (some) workers.

==> Ed Feser is a very thoughtful guy, so I look forward to reading his critique of libertarianism (haven’t yet).

48 Responses to “Potpourri”

  1. Daniel Kuehn says:

    I have not read it, but I see the Autor paper billed two ways:

    1. The gross costs are bigger than we had previously thought, and
    2. The net benefits are actually negative.

    You seem to be advocating the latter view and that would be surprising but it seems next to impossible for a guy as smart as Autor to argue that while only mentioning consumers in passing. I’m curious how others read it. Certainly nothing in the abstract appears to claim the net benefits are negative.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Daniel, I didn’t say Autor et al. said anything wrong. I said Noah Smith (I linked to him) claimed way more than that paper could bear. Here’s what Noah said, linking to that paper:

      “Trade with China has been great for rich Americans, but it’s been a disaster for much of the working class.”

      Surely to determine if something is a disaster, you need to at least consider the benefits, wouldn’t you think?

      • Mark Thomson says:

        “a disaster for much of the working class” – of whom there are none in China of course.

      • Daniel Kuehn says:

        Cool. I only said “seems to” because of your second sentence where you said that it shows it was bad for the U.S., and I wasn’t sure how far into the #2 territory that meant you were.

        Yes, looking at a sub-group alone of course doesn’t make it a gross cost. You can have net effects for sub-groups and if you’re looking at net effects on the working class you need benefits for them too.

        • Bob Murphy says:

          Yep DK I could’ve been clearer. I didn’t listen to the EconTalk thing so I don’t know if Autor himself is saying that this type of research proves what guys like Noah Smith are claiming it proves.

  2. E. Harding says:

    Your response to that Autor paper is the best I’ve read so far. Even better than Sumner’s.

  3. Grane Peer says:

    Shortly after completing his bamboo fence a frigate comes ashore to look for fresh water and provisions. He tells the sailors to leave for he has rightly homesteaded this land and put a fence around all he owns. The sailors respect his claim and throw him into his bamboo coral where the man inside strangles the newly arrived trespasser.

  4. OFelixCulpa says:

    Bob, Feser is quite a writer and storyteller. I hope you write some sort of response. He seems to think that without a particular version of self-ownership, anything remotely libertarian falls apart. It seems like he is missing something. Please tell us what you think of his critique.

  5. Josiah says:

    Roger Stone is not a credible person.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Can you give an example or two?

      • Mark Thomson says:

        “What’s interesting is the inroads that Trump could make among traditional Democratic voters”

        Pay no attention to his average unfavorability rating of 63% http://huff.to/1UGoLjd

        “Trump stands for economic opportunity, prosperity, success for you and your family. He’s made himself rich. Now he wants to make you rich and your country rich.”

        And there’s no truth at all to the scurrilous rumors that he wants to commit war crimes, eviscerate the 1st Amendment or use tariffs to punish unpatriotic consumers who choose to buy products made in China.

        • Major.Freedom says:

          This is not a defense of Stone or Trump, but none of your responses even address what is in the quotes.

  6. Josiah says:

    Stone’s Wikipedia page (which is a quite entertaining read) contains a bunch of examples

    • mooeep says:

      what lacks credibility is not Roger Stone but the Wikipedia entry. Most of the sources cited are form the New York Times, New York observer, New Yorker and the likes.

      • Josiah says:

        Most of it is from Stone himself. If you read this profile you can hear many of those stories and more directly from him.

        The idea that Stone is a professional liar is not controversial. He’s proud of it!

        • Bob Murphy says:

          Wait, Josiah, Stone has somewhere said that he lies for money?

          • Bob Murphy says:

            I guess I see what you’re saying Josiah, given the Wikipedia entry. I think Stone would high-five you for taking a truth and bending it a lot in order to discredit your opponent in a way that won’t get you in huge trouble.

            • Josiah says:

              I don’t see how I’ve bent the truth, but I take it from your comment you concede Stone is not a credible source.

              • Bob Murphy says:

                Now you’re just showing off Josiah.

              • Josiah says:


                Apology accepted.

        • Tel says:

          Most of it is from Stone himself. If you read this profile you can hear many of those stories and more directly from him.

          I followed your link to Matt Labash and found one continuous stream of abuse, none of it from Stone himself, not even referenced to anything Stone wrote, nor to any particular interview. It’s just an off the shelf hatchet job.

          For example, I searched out the quote “I’m here. Who needs to be spun?” and found a few variations on the same article by Labash, and one other article where he cites Labash, but no one seems to know where it happened, when it happened, who saw it first hand. No source, total hearsay… Labash could just have easily made it up.

          For sake of efficiency I will presume the rest of your material isn’t worth the effort.

          • Josiah says:


            Let me see if I understand you. In the profile I linked to, Labash interviews Stone and reports various things that Stone said to him (including the “Who wants to be spun?” line). And your question is what is Labash’s source for Stone’s statements? Huh?

            Also, while I suppose it’s a matter of interpretation, to me the profile doesn’t read like “a stream of abuse.” On the contrary, I got the impression reading the profile that Labash likes Roger Stone (and not just because the profile includes the line “I like Roger Stone”).

            • Tel says:

              My idea of an interview seems a little bit different to yours. I think along the lines of the interviewer says something, maybe asks a question… then the person being interviewed answers and you end up with some sort of transcript of a conversation. Audio is often nice, but just text is good enough.

              Possibly Labash might have based the article on one or more interviews, there’s no particular reason to conclude that, but I couldn’t rule it out. He could have based it on a lot of things *shrug*.

              After searching a bit more, Stone seems to find Labash somewhat humorous, and I guess they get along, so this offers some hint that an interview could have perhaps happened.


              Labash has a way of getting into his subject’s head and seeing things from their point of view. After weeks of his peppering you with questions and matching you drink for drink (I cheated replacing waters for vodkas) you almost come to trust him. Almost. In my case, I held his children in a warehouse outside of DC and released them only when the issue was on the newsstands.

              This still provides no way of knowing how much of that can “from Stone himself” and reading Stone’s response does not shed any light on that. I guess it’s all some kind of in joke.

              • Craw says:

                Josiah presumably thinks The Autobiography of Alice B Toklas is reliable, because it’s an autobiography.

              • Josiah says:


                If you think about it, you’ll realize that there can only be a transcript of an interview if it’s recorded (which most interviews aren’t).

                How do you think that profiles typically work? (Surely this can’t be the first you’ve ever read) When a writer says “I was having lunch with Mr. X and he said ‘blah blah'” do you typically think “Gee, I wonder how the writer knows Mr. X said that. He can’t have talked to him because there’s no transcript. So it’s a mystery”?

              • Josiah says:

                What’s funny is that this hyper skepticism is being deployed to counter the claim that you shouldn’t trust what Roger Stone says. If you were to apply that standard to Stone himself… never mind, that’s just crazy talk.

              • Bob Murphy says:


                Just to make sure you understand what my position has been. You said Stone is a professional liar and is proud of that. Yet he didn’t say that in the link. He said something about a college campaign where he was duplicitous and is bragging about that. OK, that’s a far cry from him admitting that anything he wrote in a book about the Bush family is suspect.

                So my point was, you thinking the material at that link could be safely summarized as, “Stone is proud of being a professional liar” is exactly in line with the way Stone presumably carries himself, in your book. So that’s why he would congratulate you, and then when you pretended I was agreeing with you, I was saying he would high-five you even more for never backing down and sowing confusion in the audience.

                Last thing: The one thing at that link that really gave me pause, was that he used to be a consultant or something for Trump. I don’t recall him disclosing that in the LR interview and that’s rather pertinent, so I am now taking his remarks with more of a grain of salt because you sent that link. But it’s not for him saying he pulled a dirty trick in college.

              • Tel says:

                When a writer says “I was having lunch with Mr. X and he said ‘blah blah’”

                Labash never ever claimed to have sat down and had lunch with the guy.

                Did you actually read the article? That “Who wants to be spun?” quote supposedly happened on a bus somewhere, during 2000 after a Trump speech. No other reporter thought it was noteworthy at the time, so it’s a Labash recollection of something he heard in passing, 7 years before he wrote the article.

                That’s not an interview, OK? That’s a handwaving anecdote of highly questionable provenance. I shouldn’t have to explain the difference.

  7. Major.Freedom says:

    I never understood the attacks against free trade that pit “workers” against “consumers”.

    We’re all consumers. Since the whole purpose of work and production is to consumers, then we all benefit from the trade since we’d all consumers. And, as there is a need and desir to consume, there will always be a need and desire for labor.

    If anything is bad for workers, it isn’t free trade. There causes of worker malaise have nothing to do with free trade.

    This is not a defense of the “free trade” deals made by governments. The only way governments can participate in movements toward freer trade is to simply tear up and abolish existing laws that attack free trade. Free trade is not created by government decree.

    • Tel says:

      Workers are not a homogeneous lump. Different people do different jobs… some are affected by changes more than others (depending on the nature of the change).

      You don’t think any of the senior people in either key government jobs or corporate management are intending to open up their positions to foreign competition?

      • Major.Freedom says:

        But then the problem still isn’t free trade, it is the absence of it in the case of who we as consumers can choose to protect us from aggression.

        • Tel says:

          That’s one perspective, from one particular moral point of view.

          Problem is if someone is really, really good at the game of violence, they don’t need to worry about who “chooses” them to “protect” those poor innocents from aggression. The best guy always gets chosen… you see, he gets rid of your other choices… that’s what the whole business of protection is all about.

          As Roger Stone mentions, “At least the Mafia have a code of honour”.

          • Major-Freedom says:

            Intelligence trumps violence.

            What to are referring to as people who are “really good at violence” are only able to operate in such a sphere of perceived legitimacy because of a prior intellectual environment which does not even define their activity as violence.

            The idea is primary, Tel. When people believe and accept state violence as “keeping society together”, or “enforcing the law”, or “protecting the nation”, the rules are already set up to sanction the activity you referred to above and are presuming to be fundamental or primary, able to transcend any ideological convictions in the population.

            When certain activities are understood as criminal and violent, then it doesn’t matter how “good” anyone is at the game of violence. They will be perceived as criminals by enough people that they could not play the protection racket game to eliminate all competition.

            Tel, you just have a faith in the efficacy of violence that is actually enabled and made possible by a pre-existing ideology that legitimizes it. Change the ideology, and the violence ends. This is how the human race ascended from the total barbarism that plagued our earliest ancestors.

            States are not inevitable.

            Perhaps you have just become a little too cynical?

            • Craw says:

              Have you ever read The Triumph of Intelligence: Berlin In the Thirties, by William Shirer?

              • Major.Freedom says:

                No, but I found his Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, which detailed the fall of the Nazi violence, to be well written.

              • Craw says:

                It details quite well things you and Murphy consider crimes: lend lease, the US army and navy, all the battles fought against Hitler waged with public funds, etc. but it does not illustrate the triumph of intelligence within Germany, but the triumph of government force over it.

              • Major.Freedom says:

                But Nazism is no longer regarded intellectually as what it once was. Intelligence has kept the violence of Nazism from reappearing. Intelligence won in this case.

              • guest says:

                “… it does not illustrate the triumph of intelligence within Germany, but the triumph of government force over it.”

                Ron Paul Is a ‘Stooge for Hitler’?

                “A Paul presidency in 1940 would have meant a war with Germany, but not Japan. However, a President Paul in 1917 would not have encouraged U.S. entry into that conflagration. If he was successful, there would have been no need for any declaration of war against Germany, as there would have been no Adolph Hitler and his Nazis in charge. He would have been, instead, an unknown house painter. With a President Paul at the helm, there would have been no holocaust; no 50 million people perishing during this war; no dropping of atomic bombs on innocent civilians, women and children, to our eternal shame.”

                Rethinking the Good War

                “World War I was not our war. In a memo written at the end of World War II, Churchill wrote:

                “This war should never have come unless, under American and modernizing pressure, we had driven the Habsburgs out of Austria and the Hohenzollerns out of Germany. By making these vacuums we gave the opening for the Hitlerite monster to crawl out of its sewer onto the vacant thrones. No doubt these views are very unfashionable.”

                Stalin Killed Far More People Than Hitler

                “Almost equally disturbing, the US, Canada and Britain have never squarely faced the ugly fact that their close wartime ally, Stalin, was a far worse mass murderer than enemy Adolf Hitler. Or that Stalin’s biggest crime occurred in the 1930’s while Hitler’s were not fully understood until after World War II. Stalin’s terrible crimes were well known to Washington, Ottawa and London well before they got into bed with “Uncle Joe” Stalin. We allied with a great devil to fight a lesser one. This fact is rarely understood because our sense of World War II history remains heavily clouded by the propaganda of he victors.

                “Ever since, Hitler has been relentlessly demonized while Stalin has faded from our understanding. Germans still recoil at the mention of Hitler while in Russia nostalgia grows for Stalin and his era. Much of the evidence of Stalin’s crimes has turned to dust; none of the perpetrators were ever punished. After briefly seeing the light of day during the Gorbachev era, the Stalin-era files have been resealed.”

              • Tel says:

                No I’ve not read William Shirer, I have studied WWII pretty well.

                But Nazism is no longer regarded intellectually as what it once was. Intelligence has kept the violence of Nazism from reappearing. Intelligence won in this case.

                If you are talking about the actual Nazi Party that invaded Europe during WWII, they were defeated by superior force of violence. They were not defeated by exceptionally reasonable arguments, nor by merely asking nicely (those things were tried to begin with).

                You don’t somehow think that burning Dresden was a nice thing to do? Of course the allies were violent, they were fighting a bloody war. Both sides in that war pushed their intelligence to the limit for the purpose of superiority in a violent confrontation. The Nazi scientific and military advances were significant:

                * blitzkrieg attacks highly successful across Europe creating a new form of combined arms warfare never seen before.

                * tank chocolate: use of drugs to create a more effective warrior.

                * rockets and guided missiles, also early attempts at jet engine flight.

                * the invention of the assault rifle (Sturmgewehr) later copied and modified by the Russians to become the AK47 which in turn is the most widely copied and used military weapon on Earth.

                * infra red night vision (the Vampir).

                Of course the Allies also made massive advances in aircraft technology, radar, cryptology, bombing techniques, amphibious warfare, and of course military mass production.

                These were not knuckle dragging Neanderthals carrying stone clubs.

                Intelligence is utilized in all human endeavour, but especially for the humans whose life is on the line. Fighting is about thinking, if you want to win.

                If you are talking about Nazism as an abstract political philosophy, it seems to me it has largely been rendered obsolete by more advanced, more subtle forms of Fascism. But that’s a modern story I guess.

        • Bob Roddis says:

          1. The “problem” with free trade is that when the statists are rampaging around the world using their funny money and blowing up countries with real war and the drug (among other things), that is going to create a vast group of people (from what were already more primitive cultures) who would probably be willing to work for 50 cents a day. This is going to lower the average wage of the planet. Making those people poorer is going to make all of us poorer. And the reverse is also true.

          2. Ever notice how no one from our domestic statist enemies ever worries about the actual fate and living conditions of the people in other countries who are the actual victims of current U.S. war/drug/protectionist policy? Except for the Democrats who want them to all come to the USA to collect welfare and vote Democrat?

          Remember, we need the government to protect the poor, the minorities and the powerless. If they were safe within private property neighborhoods, they would all just die.

          • guest says:

            “2. Ever notice how no one from our domestic statist enemies ever worries about the actual fate and living conditions of the people in other countries who are the actual victims of current U.S. war/drug/protectionist policy?”

            From the Conservative perspective, it’s not that we don’t care about people in other countries, it’s that we, understandably, care more about our own people, given a choice between our pursuit of liberty and their pursuit of communism, sharia law, emigration to the US to collect welfare and fraudulently change the voter composition, etc.

            We don’t want to live like them, and we’d like to leave them alone (from one particular Conservative perspective), but since they won’t leave us alone we feel like we have to forcefully prevent them from advancing on our liberties.

            I realize that there are other reasons that neocons favor foreign interventions, but there are a great many Conservatives who only do so from a defensive point of view, and who, otherwise, really couldn’t care less whether other countries were free, slaves to a tyrannical governments, or even more free than us, so long as they left us alone.

            Those are the Conservatives that can be reached.

    • RPLong says:

      Right, and similarly when people make similar claims that pit “businesses” against “workers.” All of these are just shell terms for “human beings.” Double-counting abounds.

    • guest says:

      “Since the whole purpose of work and production is to consumers, then we all benefit from the trade since we’d all consumers.”

      I would say that free trade benefits some, but definitely not at the expense of others, since none of us are entitled to customers.

      That’s also consistent with Methodological Individualism in that only individuals can be benefitted.

      And, yeah, to say that production is not to consumers is to say that producers get to make claims on consumers’ spending.

      • Major.Freedom says:

        Greedy socialists like LK define the choice of A not to trade with B, as a case of B’s wealth being taken away.

        They view wealth as rightfully owned by “society”, and private property owners who use their wealth for their own profit to be violating some pact or duty that harms “society”.

        • guest says:

          I vaguely remember LK saying something to the effect of “It’s about all of us”.

          He sees consumers and workers as separate classes [My words, not his].

          Unfortunately, I’m too lazy to find it. But he’ll probably say it again, at some point.

  8. Samuel says:

    Roger Stone is always interesting to listen to on any subject with many great insider stories in American politics.

    • Craw says:

      You want interesting? Read the National Enquirer on alien abductions.

      • guest says:

        If you bury, at various depths, National Enquirers that contain stories about alien abductions, does that count as a Keynesian two-fer?

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