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Yelling Fire in a Crowded European Theater and Locking the Doors

December 5, 2011

This strange philosophy is beginning to dawn on some all star commentators on the left.  It used to be that in the case of a fire, you should make your way for the exits in the front and rear of the auditorium. But now some are beginning to question the incentives of that sage philosophy of the multiplex.  Now they fear–who will fight the fire if everyone leaves the building? Ahhhh, we must lock the doors! That will encourage everyone to stay and save the theater….

In an article entitled “What Can Save the Euro” Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz writes:

Moreover, free labor mobility means that individuals can choose whether to pay their parents’ debts: young Irish can simply escape repaying the foolish bank-bailout obligations assumed by their government by leaving the country. Of course, migration is supposed to be good, as it reallocates labor to where its return is highest. But this kind of migration actually undermines productivity.

Which means, what, we should ban migration? If my actual brother takes out loans he can’t repay, I’m not on the hook. But if a whole flapjack generation piles on the debt, then I am responsible? What’s the moral logic there?

And then we have the usually dashing Michael Lewis, who whines in a satirical put on:

As a first, small step we propose to bestow, annually, an award to the Upper One who has best exhibited to the wider population his willingness and ability to have nothing at all to do with them. As the recipient of the first Incline Award — so named for the residents of Incline Village, Nevada, many of whom have bravely fled California state taxes — we propose Jeff Bezos.

His private rocket ship may have exploded before it reached outer space. But before it did, it sent back to Earth the message we hope to convey:

We’re outta here!

The author of Boomerang and the Big Short should know that the fiscal dynamite sitting under an insolvent Greece and California was not put there by people who left the country and state. He’s confusing effects with causes. People left because they saw the troubles ahead. They’d only be idiots to stick around.

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5 Comments
  1. Z. Caceres permalink
    December 6, 2011 12:57 am

    Anthony de Jasay has called the final, logical resting place of the interventionist state “Down on the Plantation”. I’m sure you understand his point…people are paid with goods ‘in kind’ (like vouchers for healthcare or food stamps) and, of course, prevented from escaping.

  2. Abelard Lindsey permalink
    December 6, 2011 1:33 am

    Stiglitz is an academian. Most academians are parasites.

  3. happyjuggler0 permalink
    December 6, 2011 9:33 pm

    Perhaps a more apt analogy is a train heading towards a washed out bridge. Several passengers beg the train conductor to stop the train. He refuses, saying it would be immoral to stop the train since several passengers depend on the train to get to the other side of the chasm.

    The same few passengers again beg the conductor to stop the train before it is too late. This time he calls for a vote, asking the passengers, “Do you want me to stop this train, or keep going to the other side?”. The vote is lopsided against stopping the train.

    The same few passengers complain that getting to the other side is not an option, and that if the conductor prefers a vote over doing the right thing, then he has a moral duty to properly present the choices to the passengers.

    The conductor refuses to do so, saying “this train has been going on this route since the 1930’s, and the addition to this train has been going on this route since the 60’s. It is absurd to think it won’t keep on going. You folks must be stupid or evil to try to make this train stop when clearly some passengers depend on it getting to the other side of the chasm.”.

    The same few passengers size up their options, and jump off the train at the last minute after some more futile arguing. Later in the day the NY Times interviews them about their ordeal, then runs a headline in tomorrows paper called, “1% of passengers desert train, causing it to plummet into a chasm, killing the 99% of passengers who faithfully fulfilled their social contract to stay the course. Women and minorities hit worst”.

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