Jan 242022

This post is snippets of an informal conversation with Mr K, which I’m posting while on vacation. I don’t necessarily endorse any of these views, and may oppose some of them. I won’t be around to respond to comments for a couple weeks.


the choice of whether or not to engage in the trade will itself influence the conditions of the trade. Maybe not for any given trade in isolation, but long term it is the case.

this mistake was in fact the central point of classical liberal economics. The whole purpose of this theory was to serve as a rationalisation to oppose the trade privileges of the landed gentry such as for example the corn laws.
Basically, this mistake largely blinds economists to concerns about how various forms of trade lead to long term appreciation or depreciation of the productivity and mental health of the people affected by the trade. They consider the impact on economic output and satisfied preferences, but not on human capital.
They judge labour by its productivity but not by how it contributes to building up or breaking down the labourer’s character. They typically (albeit not universally) consider helicopter money / income guarantees superior to artificial job creation because they have basically the outlook of nobles who have no shortage of passions and hobbies to attend to.
Anybody with any experience administering a group will understand the importance of making people feel useful, which is getting increasingly difficult since real productivity is Pareto distributed in the population, and technological advancements are causing the alpha of that distribution to increase.
Also, in terms of political reality, you simply cannot get around the labour question. If political economists will not address it, you can be damn sure others will, often with much worse results, such as the artificial creation of jobs that actually break down people’s moral character and sense of usefulness rather than building it up.
The labour problem [or labour question] is the problem of providing meaningful employment to your population; employment which develops their character and virtues.
Right now, a substantial portion of the population is tied up in unproductive jobs that they themselves consider useless and find demotivating. These people would be better off as artisans – let us say tailors just as an example – and a clever political economist would be able to make it happen by placing calculated restrictions on trade of mass produced clothing while removing the useless jobs that were created to fill the vacuum.
Since these same people were previously working in unproductive jobs, the overall economic output is not lowered, but now people are wearing bespoke clothing and people who were previously feeling useless now feel like they’re contributing real value.

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