Plumb Lines

February 15, 2011

Idealistic Consensus

Filed under: Uncategorized — David Schaengold @ 10:57 am

I’d be interested to hear the Plumb Liners’ views on the six topics of idealistic consensus Scott Sumner presents:

1. The huge rise in occupational licensing.

2. The huge rise in people incarcerated in the war on drugs, and also the scandalous reluctance of doctors to prescribe adequate pain medication (also due to the war on drugs.)

3. The need for more legal immigration.

4. The need to replace taxes on capital with progressive consumption taxes.

5. Local zoning rules that prevent dense development.

6. Tax exemptions for mortgage interest and health insurance

His argument for why these issues aren’t discussed seems persuasive, but then, I agree with him about all six points. In most of these cases, the parties benefiting from these policies are doing so at the expense of the general public. Many arise from simple misunderstandings among the public about macroeconomics.

Immigration is different from the others, however, because the harms of immigration really are general and public. They are merely harms dismissed as irrelevant or irrational by idealistic intellectuals, who tend to believe that cultural goods are unreal or at least can never be rationally preferred to economic well-being. Of course, the general public doesn’t seem to realize how much richer the United States would be if we allowed ten times as many immigrants to enter legally as we currently do. Perhaps if they did they’d be as eager as their pointy-headed fellow citizens to throw ope the gates of El Paso.

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2 Comments »

  1. My own thoughts on the matter:

    “The huge rise in occupational licensing.”

    I tend to agree, especially in areas (haircuts, etc.) where equipment regulations (clean scissors, etc.) and the market (better haircuts from X than Y) would take care of the problems. I am less inclined to view licensing negatively where potential damage could result from misapplication of techniques (massage therapy, social work, law, etc). Definitely, requiring schooling / licensing prior to taking on an occupation increases barriers to entry for all concerned, making such occupations elite and more difficult for the less wealthy to engage.

    “The huge rise in people incarcerated in the war on drugs, and also the scandalous reluctance of doctors to prescribe adequate pain medication (also due to the war on drugs.)”

    I am not sure how the reluctance of doctors to prescribe adequate pain medication plays in, but the high imprisonment rate of people using / selling drugs is something of concern, particularly if the drugs are not those known to cause physical harm upon one use, or even many uses.

    “The need for more legal immigration.”

    I agree with this, but then, if industry and politicians collude to ignore the problem because all of their needs are met by illegal immigration, where is the impetus to fix it?

    “The need to replace taxes on capital with progressive consumption taxes.”

    Agreed.

    Comment by Jonathan — February 15, 2011 @ 11:17 am

  2. I haven’t read anything about the problem of under-prescribing pain-killers. Is this as big of an issue as Sumner suggests, or is this just a sentimental cause of bloggers filled with nostalgia for their pot-smoking days?

    Comment by Matthew Schmitz — February 16, 2011 @ 10:37 am


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