McCloskey’s straight dope

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McCloskey makes the case against well intentioned liberalism.

Unions raised wages for plumbers and auto workers but reduced wages for the non-unionized. Minimum wages protected union jobs but made the poor unemployable. Building codes sometimes kept buildings from falling or burning down but always gave steady work to well-connected carpenters and electricians and made housing more expensive for the poor. Zoning and planning permission has protected rich landlords rather than helping the poor. Rent control makes the poor and the mentally ill unhousable, because no one will build inexpensive housing when it is forced by law to be expensive. The sane and the already-rich get the rent-controlled apartments and the fancy townhouses in once-poor neighborhoods.

The importation of socialism into the Third World, even in the relatively non-violent form of Congress-Party Fabian-Gandhism, unintentionally stifled growth, enriched large industrialists, and kept the people poor. Malthusian theories hatched in the West were put into practice by India and especially China, resulting in millions of missing girls. The capitalist-sponsored Green Revolution of dwarf hybrids was opposed by green politicians the world around, but has made places like India self-sufficient in grains. State power in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa has been used to tax the majority of farmers in aid of the president’s cousins and a minority of urban bureaucrats.


  1. Are some of these policies those advocated by so-called liberals.

    John Howard boasted about Australia having the highest minimum wages in the Western world during the 2007 election!

    About time you were back!!!!

    1. Work kidnapped me. Sorry :)

      No one has a monopoly on good policy. DM writes well, and is worth reading for that reason, if nothing else.

      Sent from my iPad

  2. I am not against what has been written ( in fact I quite support it)just the thought it is all the fault of those darned liberals.

    1. Evidence supports your view of politics: there are some cross country empirical studies that suggest political stripe matters very little – leaders seem to follow policy fads at around the same time regardless of their party-politics.

      That is not the same thing as saying that the supporting theory has broad support. I think the theorists are who DM is aiming up.

      Sent from my iPad

  3. I do not think it is policy fads but what the populous believes is ‘right’.

    rent controls, industry protection, etc is something economists rail about but has a lot of popular support.

    It takes a firm politician to change policy. it happens but not a lot.

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