5-21-16 Hodgepodge

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Business, Not Charity, Helping the Poor

David Harsanyi writes about the latest leftist apoplexy about non-unionized "sweat shops" run to produce a line of celebrity-branded clothes. Harsanyi, after helping the reader -- with an assist by Paul Krugman of all people -- put such shops "into proper context," he notes the following:

[I]f you want to help the world's impoverished, you should probably buy Beyoncé's products. The more demand there is for tight-fitting, overpriced celebrity clothing lines, the more factories Sri Lankans will have to work in. As those workers have more choices, salaries will rise and so will the quality of life. This competition will impel employers to increase productivity and, if Sri Lanka doesn't revert to its old ways, the economy will grow. The children of these workers will turn to white-collar professions. And before you know it, factories will be taken over by automatons and the Sri Lankan middle class will grumble about how the Indonesians are stealing their jobs.
This brings to mind the following quote, from a Harry Binswanger column late last year:
There is another, and truly amazing, proof that the altruist-collectivists, contrary to their claims, have no concern whatever with the fate of the poor: the story of India and China. The quickest and largest-scale betterment of the poor in all of history came to these 2 billion people once they moved away from socialism toward capitalism.

What do we hear from the Left about this unprecedented improvement in the lot of the most vulnerable? Nothing. They are not mystified by it, embarrassed by it, or deterred by it. They simply refuse to look at it. It's a monumental evasion.
The left evades the cumulative results of semicapitalist improvements, in those instances they don't succeed in stopping them dead in their tracks, as they try to do in cases like Sri Lanka.

Weekend Reading

"Thoughtful action, even in the simplest day-to-day endeavors, comes before self-esteem -- not the other way around." -- Michael Hurd, in "What Confidence Really Means" at The Delaware Wave

"The issue of first impressions is related to the issue of judgmentalism, i.e., the elevation of emotions above the facts when evaluating someone." -- Michael Hurd, in "The Benefits and Hazards of First Impressions" at The Delaware Coast Press

A Term I Like ... For the Moment

Via Word Spy comes a term that could describe whole categories of cultural phenomena today, mostly emanating from the left:
mathwash -- v. To use mathematics, logic, or a similar rational argument to make something inherently subjective appear to be objective. [format edits]
I wouldn't define it quite this way, but the idea, of giving a patina of rational credibility to an irrational idea, is clear.

So why do I anticipate disliking this clever neologism some time soon? Because I fully expect some mathwasher to be among the first to use the term to smear an opponent for offering a truly rational counterargument to his pseudoscientific drivel.

-- CAV


Anonymous said...

Hi Gus,
A related term, coined by Philip Mirowski, and used in his 1989 book More Heat Than Light, is physics envy.

It was his label for economists who are envious of physicists and therefore attempt to import the concepts and methods of physics into a discipline for which they were not designed and are invalid. Both Mises and Hayek and Austrians all the way back to Menger, railed against this tendency but the term itself is of fairly recent vintage.

Watkins and Brook, in their latest book Equal is Unfair point out the opposite effects of leftist non-evasion; what the military would characterize as 'active-stupid'.

“U.S. senator Tom Harkin proposed banning imports from countries that employed children in sweatshops. In response a factory in Bangladesh laid off 50,000 children. What was their next best alternative? According to the British charity Oxfam, a large number of them became prostitutes.”

(See http://www.econlib.org/library/Columns/y2008/Powellsweatshops.html for additional references)

Watkins, Don; Brook, Yaron. Equal Is Unfair: America's Misguided Fight Against Income Inequality (p. 64). St. Martin's Press. Kindle Edition.

I remember reading the Economist during the Kathie Lee Gifford Sweatshop Flap. They pointed out the same outcomes to that particular instance of Leftist 'active-stupid' as does OxFam, above.

On reflection, I think that the military term is probably too kind to the Leftist. I believe that 'Active-Evil' is more appropriate. One can no longer, in justice, extend the term 'Unintended Consequences' to actions that have been demonstrated, time and again, to have the same evil outcomes. Nor will I grant them the insanity defense (if insanity is to be defined as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results).

At a certain point it becomes obvious that mistakes of this magnitude are not made innocently.

c. andrew

Gus Van Horn said...


I'd heard of the term, "physics envy" before, but had forgotten it. It is indeed quite similar.

And I'd have to agree that "active-evil" is likely a correct description of much anti-"sweatshop" animus.