Category Archives: Social policy

The Continuing Depopulation of Detroit

Detroit is getting the same treatment as Latvia and Ireland, and we are already seeing similar results in Greece, with most people who have good foreign job prospects taking a hike. But while Latvia and Ireland stabilized at much lower levels of output and have started to recover from their, Detroit, like Greece, looks like a failed state. And this is perversely seen as acceptable in America.

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‘National Competitiveness: A Crowbar for Corporate and Financial Interests

We’ve regularly derided the notion of “national competitiveness” as a an inevitable accompaniment to the oversold notion of “free trade”. Economists are aware of, yet choose to ignore, the Lipsey-Lancaster theorem, which says when an idealized state cannot be attained, moving closer to it may not be an improvement; it can often produce worse outcomes. You need to evaluate the “second best” options specifically and not go on faith.

But economists and policy makers treat “free trade” as an article of faith, and with that comes the idea that countries must compete to find customers overseas. There is too little consideration of the fallacy of expecting countries to be competitive and by implication, seek to be exporters. It is impossible for all countries to be net exporters. Moreover, countries are often better served to design their policies primarily for the benefit of domestic workers and markets, and to promote export-oriented programs only to the extent that they do not undermine conditions at home, or will clearly produce a net benefit.

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Can Voter Choice Technology Succeed Where Arab Spring Failed?

Yves here. As much as technology offers great promise as a way to create new routes for organizing, consensus-building, and decision-making, I’m not optimistic about the prospects for democracy in societies with no democratic traditions. Nevertheless, voter choice technology does seem more promising and lower cost than US adventurism as a way to try to build democratic muscles in the Middle East.

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The Retirement Crisis

This interview, with Teresa Ghilarducci, who the Wall Street Journal called “the most dangerous woman in America,” discusses how and why pensions are under stress, and what can be done to fix them. While she agrees that the retirement crisis is real, she also argues that it is eminently fixable, particularly since there really is no free lunch. The alternative, of widespread poverty among the aged, also imposes costs on government and society.

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