Quotulatiousness

May 3, 2017

“Poverty, to be scenic, should be rural”

Filed under: Americas, Economics, Liberty — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Daniel Hannan on the contrast between rural and urban poverty, and the attitudes of Westerners:

When I was growing up in Lima in the 1970s, Western visitors were astonished by the shantytowns, the barriadas, as they were known, that ringed that grimy city. Why, they asked, did people leave the countryside to live in these squalid slums? Why swap the pure air of the Andes for traffic fumes and sewage?

It was a very First World question. No Peruvian ever asked why people were quitting villages that lacked electricity and clean water. The barriadas may have been ugly, but they were humming with enterprise. They offered work, access to schools and clinics, a power supply. They were, for most of their denizens, transitional, a staging post between mountain squalor and something better.

In time, I came to realize that Western nose-wrinkling at developed countries was more esthetic than sympathetic. As the Victorian novelist Anthony Trollope put it, “Poverty, to be scenic, should be rural.”

Western attitudes haven’t advanced much since then. My kids’ geography homework is full of stories about evil Western corporations exploiting poor women in Vietnam or wherever. Now, you and I would not want to work in a Vietnamese sweatshop. But we have not spent our lives bending our backs in rice paddies.

Employees of foreign-owned companies in Vietnam earn 210 percent of the average wage. The readiness of that country to open itself to trade and investment has brought huge benefits to the Vietnamese, including those on the lowest incomes. Over 19 years, the West struggled to defeat totalitarian socialism in Vietnam, and failed. Three decades of trade have achieved what 60,000 American lives and over a trillion dollars in today’s prices in military spending failed to achieve: the end of Communism.

Developing countries which open their markets eliminate poverty more quickly than those which don’t. Compare Vietnam to Myanmar, or Colombia to Venezuela, or Bangladesh to Pakistan. A study of developing states since 1980 showed that those which had joined the global trading system enjoyed annual growth at an average of 5 percent, as against 1.5 percent for those which hadn’t.

Reforming Canada’s parliament

Filed under: Cancon, Politics — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

In the National Post, Andrew Coyne pours scorn on the “reforms” being put forward by Justin Trudeau’s government and suggests some alternatives that might help make the institution more democratic and less like the Prime Minister’s personal court, by scaling back the power of the PM and other party leaders in the house:

What would a package of reforms look like that was genuinely intended to make the government more accountable to Parliament? It would start, reasonably enough, by reducing the powers of the government over Parliament. Rather than allow government to decide when debate had gone on long enough, for example, it would assign that power to the Speaker — as the Speaker, in the best of the government’s current proposals, would be empowered to divide omnibus bills into separate parts, to be voted on separately. (Perhaps it will be applied to the current such exercise, the budget bill.)

Rather than give the government sole power to decide when to prorogue the House, it would make such decisions subject to a vote of the Commons, with a supermajority required to ensure bipartisan support. (The current proposal is merely that the government should be required to declare its reasons.) A similar constraint might be imposed on its power to dissolve the House. We might also place limits on the confidence convention, under which the government can designate any bill it likes as a confidence measure — the gun at the head by which governments ultimately ensure compliance.

I say government, but of course I mean the prime minister, whose control over any government is near absolute. So a genuine reform plan would also reduce some of his personal prerogatives, beginning with the number and range of offices that are his sole purview to appoint, to be doled out as rewards for obedience: notably, it would halve the size of the cabinet, and with it the number of parliamentary secretaries assigned to each minister.

It would likewise seek to reduce the powers of party leaders over ordinary MPs: by restoring the convention that leaders are elected by caucus, and removable by them; by eliminating the power of the leader (or “designate”) to veto the nominations of party candidates, in favour perhaps of a vote of the caucus or riding association presidents. MPs thus liberated, it would be possible to have more genuinely free votes — on everything. (There would still be confidence votes, of course, but MPs are capable of deciding for themselves whether a matter is worth the fall of the government; MPs who go back on a platform promise can likewise answer to their constituents, not the party whip.)

Softwood lumber, again

Filed under: Business, Cancon, Economics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Last week, Megan McArdle provided a quick look at the son of the bride of the revenge of the softwood lumber dispute monster:

According to American lumber producers, this is because of the nefarious subsidies the Canadian government has granted to its timber producers. In America, most softwood timbering takes place on private land, and the lumber is priced to recover the full cost of owning and maintaining many acres of trees. In Canada, forest resources tend to be owned by the government, which sets “stumpage fees” (the cost for cutting down a tree, which used to be assessed per stump and is now usually assessed by board feet or cubic meters [PDF]).

The American producers complain that these fees are set too low, providing an unfair subsidy for Canadian timber, especially because British Columbia (which has a lot of timberland) bans the export of Canadian logs, so that American lumber mills are unable to get in on this sweet, sweet deal.

For variety, American producers occasionally also complain that Canada is “dumping” (basically meaning that a country is selling goods in a foreign market below the price at home. Since this is — except in rare cases such as pharmaceuticals — a stupid business practice, accusations of dumping tend to exceed actual instances by a healthy margin.)

[…]

The history of litigation on this is long, rich and arcane. Since the 1980s, the U.S. and Canada have been locked in a cycle whereby the U.S. complains that Canadian softwood lumber is too darn cheap, complaints are filed with various entities, and eventually both sides decide it’s easier to come to some sort of settlement rather than subject everyone to another endless hearing on the minutiae of the lumber industry. Then an agreement expires, American lumber producers say “Now’s our chance, guys! We’re going over the top!” and the magical cycle of birth and death, conflict and resolution, begins once again in the forest lands.

When trade bodies get around to ruling, those rulings are often mixed: “Yeah, okay, maybe there’s some subsidy in there somewhere, but you Americans are wildly overreacting, so cool it with the huge tariffs.” Which was basically my take on the dispute in 2004, when I last covered it. Research does not reveal any good reason to revise that view, especially because Canadian stumpage has evolved somewhat over the years. British Columbia now uses auctions [PDF] in its coastal forest areas, which should tend to drive the price of stumpage there to par with the world market.

We should also note that any subsidy, however bad for American softwood lumber producers, is actually good for the vast majority of Americans who do not work in forestry. This morning, people were throwing wild numbers around about how much a tariff would increase the price of a house or a box spring. I’d take those numbers with a hefty dose of salt, but undoubtedly, they will drive the price of softwood lumber products up somewhat, which means less money in the pocket of you, The Modern American Consumer. So even if American timber producers were completely right and their tariff were warranted, the American consumer would suffer.

Understanding and Choosing Antique Router Planes

Filed under: Technology — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 10 Mar 2017

Bill Anderson teaches all about antique router planes and how to choose the best planes. See best brands on my blog post: http://woodandshop.com/understanding-choosing-antique-router-planes

QotD: “Patrick Macnee was a Serious Feminist”

Filed under: Britain, Media, Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Patrick Macnee

  • Refused to model Steed after James Bond because Bond “uses women like battering rams”
  • Embraced the concept of a female partner after being cast opposite a male one for a season
  • Listened when Honor Blackman began telling him about gender inequality
  • Didn’t think that being saved by a woman in any way injured his character’s masculinity
  • Consistently gave the women credit for the success of the show
  • Recognized that the male producers were chauvinists, and blamed himself for not doing more about it
  • Stood up for Linda Thorson when the producers tried to bully her (and was apparently terrifyingly angry about it)
  • Was literally the only person on that show that Diana Rigg never said a bad word about
  • Consistently talked about being raised by women and viewing women as equal to men

Lauren H. Brooks, “Patrick Macnee was a Serious Feminist”, Kinkiness … and Patrick Mcnee, 2017-04-21.

Powered by WordPress