Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Recognize the Author?

Ever seen this?

Of the tendencies that are harmful to sound economics, the most seductive, and in my opinion the most poisonous, is to focus on questions of distribution. In this very minute, a child is being born to an American family and another child, equally valued by God, is being born to a family in India. The resources of all kinds that will be at the disposal of this new American will be on the order of 15 times the resources available to his Indian brother. This seems to us a terrible wrong, justifying direct corrective action, and perhaps some actions of this kind can and should be taken. But of the vast increase in the well-being of hundreds of millions of people that has occurred in the 200-year course of the industrial revolution to date, virtually none of it can be attributed to the direct redistribution of resources from rich to poor. The potential for improving the lives of poor people by finding different ways of distributing current production is nothing compared to the apparently limitless potential of increasing production.

That would be Robert Lucas, The Industrial Revolution: Past and Future, 2004. (Nod to Neanderbill for the cite).

I just finished reading Joyce Appleby's The Relentless Revolution, a history of capitalism. After the first 100 pages, I thought it was one of the best books I had ever seen on the subject. After 150 pages, and from then on, I wanted to through it against the wall. Prof. Appleby has some overt Marxist assumptions, with some stubborn libertarianism underneath them. So she firmly believes that capitalism is necessary for wealth to develop. But then she favors statism and powerful labor unions.

She really makes an effort to be "fair" to statist regimes. For example, on p. 267, Prof. Appleby says, "The USSR startled the world [in the Revolution]. During the seventy-two years, of its existence, the USSR repeatedly affronted the Western world with its flaunting of its indifference to property rights and free enterprise."

Um...Ma'am, excuse me, but the USSR also affronted the Western world with its murder of millions of its citizens and the denial of basic human rights and political freedoms to the wretched population of an area that was nearly 1/5 of the entire habitable land surface of the world.

Still, an interesting book. Her discussion of the direction of China and India are both detailed and insightful, though again she shies away from any kind of critique of the repressive anti-labor policies of the Chinese, after having bludgeoned (with some cause, of course) the repressive anti-union thuggery of the US in the first half of the 20th century.

Worth reading.

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