Keeping up with the FITs, 2/4
Russ Roberts challenges Moshe Koppel; Noah Smith thinks that free day care costs nothing; Freddie deBoer on COVID fears; Eric Kaufmann on culture-war polling; Robert Wright hearts international law
I have found Moshe Koppel really interesting. See especially my post on Loyalty and Particularism. Russ Roberts and Koppel have a great conversation. If we were still scoring Fantasy Intellectual Teams, Russ would probably set a single-game record for Devil’s Advocate points. Koppel would earn some steel-manning points.
Koppel argues for a sort of libertarian conservatism. Tradition is good because its rules and norms have shown an ability survive. We can improve on tradition through innovation, but the process should be experimental and decentralized, rather than government-dictated.
In other words, universal pre-K is probably just universal day care. So the best option, policy-wise, is probably to make day care free but not compulsory. That will give parents the choice of whether to put in the time tutoring the kids at home, or accept a potentially slightly worse education in exchange for a second income for the family.
I think he is making a really fundamental error here. His argument seems to confuse “free” with “zero cost.”
Suppose that day care is worth $20,000 a year per child, whether I provide it or I hire a child care worker. If I can earn $25,000 in the market, and I don’t get any additional utility or disutility from staying home, then I can hire a day care provider and go to work. There is no need to subsidize day care for me.
If I can only earn $15,000 in the market, then I should stay home and provide day care instead. But Noah wants me to enjoy “free” day care, in which case I will go to work. That seems to confuse “free” with “no cost.” My “free” day care will cost taxpayers $20,000, which is less than the value that society puts on my labor.
In reality, there are tax distortions at work. If I provide day care myself, my labor is not taxed. That skews my decision toward staying home. I can see trying to get rid of the tax distortion. But providing “free” day care is not the way to do it.
Freddie deBoer sees a similarity between fears of the virus and the fears promulgated after 9/11.
It’s not just the serial overreactions, the threatening intensity, the constant reference to dramatically worse events supposedly yet to come. It’s the feeling of mandatory panic, the insistence that anyone who does not allow the crisis to dominate their internal life is somehow guilty of causing it, the desire to blame a disaster on people who are thought to not take it seriously enough. This self-impressed doomsaying reminds me so much of the people who constantly said, after 9/11, that al Qaeda was all around us, that the big attack was yet to come, that sleeper cells planned to nuke shopping malls…. 9/11, too, produced a type of proud Cassandra, haughty and contemptuous, who simply lived to let the rest of us know that the rest of us just aren’t serious enough, who believed that the crisis meant that every single moment of our lives was now a character test, one that we failed if we did exist in a permanent state of anxiety and fear.
I would add that one common element is the strengthening of government and loss of freedom.
The chart below (Figure 32 in the report) shows that people who report having attended diversity training are significantly more worried about losing their jobs or reputations for present or past speech than people who have not had this training, even when controlling for partisanship and demographics. They also feel less free to share their political views on questions like immigration or transgenderism. Alongside evidence that diversity training has a negative effect on intergroup relations at work and no impact on discrimination, this heightening of threat perceptions suggests that current forms of diversity training are counterproductive.
Pointer from FAIR. Most of the article is about larger political effects of the social justice movement. Kaufmann argues that the movement’s cancel-culture tactics are dividing Democrats, particularly along the age dimension, with younger Democrats in support of cancel culture and older Democrats opposed. But it is uniting Republicans in opposition. Hence, Kauffman concludes that this particular culture war is hurting Democrats.
For the social justice movement, I don’t think that’s much of a problem. Their impact on the culture, including the government bureaucracy, is sufficient that they can afford to lose an election or two.
Robert Wright says that the United States and Russia should re-affirm the UN Charter.
It would involve referenda that allowed the inhabitants of various disputed areas in Russia’s general vicinity to decide their status. And, notably, all the areas Lieven named (Kosovo, South Ossetia, Abkhazia, the Donbass, and Crimea) are in dispute because of interventions by either the US or Russia that were either arguably or clearly violations of international law. (All four of the Russian interventions have come since Putin’s 2007 Munich speech—and, perhaps more significantly, all have come since NATO’s 2008 Bush-engineered promise of eventual membership for Ukraine and Georgia. Prior to that promise, post-Cold-War Russia had been much better behaved, by the lights of the UN Charter, than America.)
The problem with interpreting international law as requiring strict non-interventionism is that it means leaving dictators free to oppress their people. The “responsibility to protect” is an empty phrase in the absence of an international body to back it up. Not that I want to see an all-powerful international government.
I think the problem with interventionism is that it often turns out badly. Examples like Vietnam, Iraq, Syria, and Libya show that we are not very good at bringing liberal order to such countries.
But Wright makes it sound as though non-interventionism will help lead us toward a higher moral order in the world. If that is what he believes, then I disagree. But in the case of Ukraine, I would agree with his dovish position. I think we make the world safer by backing away from a big confrontation with Russia rather than choosing the Ukraine as a place to make a stand