3-12-16 Hodepodge

Saturday, March 12, 2016

A Good Example of Comparative Advantage

In a discussion of outsourcing in the chemical industries, Derek Lowe discusses comparative advantage:

And that takes us right into a discussion of free trade, comparative advantage, and so on, which this election year is an especially fraught subject. Most of the candidates, in both parties, seem to be trying to out-do each other in their disdain for trade agreements of all sorts -- and if you can find that your opponent has actually voted for one of these things, well now. I think that some of this is noise for the voters, but not all of it is, by any means. It would not be politically prudent, especially this year, to try to deliver a lecture on David Ricardo, but I continue to think that international trade is a big part of what's lifted untold millions of people out of poverty worldwide. It's also why I think that (for example) one particular candidate's pledge to "make" Apple produce all parts of its iPhones in the US instead of overseas is nonsense on a pogo stick. (Other candidates are not immune to nonsense, either). Where the US excels is coming up with iPhones, not in screwing their parts together. And if you want to bring all those manufacturing jobs "back" to the US, you're asking for it to be a much poorer country, and that's not even taking into account the continuing rise of robotic labor and assembly that's remaking the whole manufacturing sector. Labor competition can be painful, but lack of it is eventually even more so. [bold added]
I like the bolded example because it's easy to remember and lends itself quite nicely to a discussion of the intellectual aspects of work, which I almost never hear brought up in such discussions. That said, the example does need elaboration: Even if, say, we could screw the parts together better, the time, capital, and expertise are better spent on other things.

Weekend Reading

"If you tie confidence to feelings alone, you're prone to distortion -- in either direction." -- Michael Hurd, in "Self-Confidence/Self-Esteem ... More Than a Feeling" at The Delaware Wave

"... Our basic survival requires that we all need to think and reason. " -- Michael Hurd, in "Governments, Rights Should Be Religion-Neutral" at Newsmax

"The fact that our patent system has been so successful should make us think twice before making even small changes, and we should be extremely wary of sweeping changes like those proposed in the Innovation Act." -- Adam Mossoff and Devlin Hartline, in "No Consensus That Broad Patent ‘Reform’ Is Necessary or Helpful " at The Hill

A Little Pride, Please

I ran into an article in the tech press about alternatives to Google Drive for Linux that highlights a competitor's sniping about Dropbox, the one I use, for being "hostile to privacy." I just encrypt anything I place in my account that I don't want publicly available. It isn't hard.

It's fine to grow the Linux user base by making things convenient, but I think its promoters should encourage self-reliance among these users and the computer-using public in general.

-- CAV

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