Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Equal Time for Stupid Democrats

I just want to take a moment to call out the Democrats on Iraq, because they're not any smarter when it comes to making logical arguments about their positions on Iraq than those other guys. Every time a democrat argues that we should get out because we should have never gone in to begin with s/he is making the same fallacy in judgement as the Republicans who say we should stay there because we did decide to go. The decision to have gone in the first place is a foregone conclusion, and all of these twits need to learn from the past without re-arguing it. No decision about how best to proceed should be based on anything other than weighing the present and future gains to our National and global security against the marginal consequences and costs of those proposals.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Iraq and the Sunk-Cost Trap

Just a quickie today. I'm calling out Mike Huckabee and half of the Republican field for falling into what anyone with an undergraduate business degree knows to be a "sunk cost trap." Regardless of how you weigh the costs and benefits of various alternatives to how we should move forward in Iraq, it is a disservice to our troops to stay the course simply because we decided to go in the first place. To me, continuing a policy (whether that policy is good, bad or ugly) on the basis of events already behind us is a sad mistake in how to move forward in an optimal fashion.

The argument I'm calling out is the "honor" argument, which basically stakes the claim that changing course, redeploying, etc. is not an option because so many service men and women have already made the ultimate sacrifice. What bigger disservice could we do to their memory than to not learn from their sacrifice? Would it not be appropriate to allocate the lives of the men and women who carry the flag behind the fallen in a way that best serves our National Interest instead of squandering their service to a failed policy? In otherwords, the lives lost, are sadly and tragically already lost-- they are a "sunk cost" that can never be recovered. Let's ensure that any additional loss in life maximizes the benefit of security obtained from those future casualties.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Poverty and Immigration

This week, Washington Post columnist Robert Samuelson set forth the claim that the United States is Importing Poverty. In it, he argues that immigration has increased poverty in the U.S. because the hispanics who disproportionately migrate here also happen to fall disproportionally below the poverty line. A number of critics could easily read this article to mean that we should cut off immigration, but that would just be another way to lie with statistics.

I would pose the question this way: What impact does immigration have on (1) The immigrants who come here; (2) Those currently at or near the poverty line in the U.S., and; (3) Those living in poverty in Mexico.

The first group are almost unambiguously better off. Otherwise, why give up the life you lead in Mexico, Guatemala, or elsewhere? Although immigrants often earn less and work harder than their native cohort in the U.S., they are glad to be "exploited" in this sense so that they can use some of their repatriated savings to purchase land or improve the lives of their families in their home country.

The third group is also usually better off. For the most part, the emigration of moderately-skilled hispanics to the United Statess, along with the FDI attracted by the relative abundance of unskilled labor, has tended to increase wages. And that's before accounting for the impact of repatriated wealth from emigrant family members.

The tricky middle is the second group. There is some evidence that immigration has worsened wages in the labor market for the least-skilled and least-experienced U.S. natives. But, at the same time immigration has tended to leave all other groups' welfare unchanged or improved.

To me, the argument comes down to how, not if we show concern for those who are poor. I would argue that if we are concerned with poverty, we should not just be concerned with the absolute headcount below some artificial poverty line, but also with the severity of the poverty that those folks live in. In addition, if our intentions are altruistic (and not just "us against them"), we should be concerned with those living in the most abject of poverty conditions, not just those living here, and the most poor folks out there are generally living outside our (increasingly gated) borders. I would only weigh those small losses to our own citizens against the huge gains to those who would come here and not treat them as One Fifth of One American.