I ran across this tweet and I was struck by the one entry in the thread where Noah Smith says supply and demand do not apply to labor markets. It does not have a place in the discussion, but it is an example of something the managerial class types believe, in spite of everything we know about the world. Noah Smith, from what I gather, is one of the new breed of libertarians, who embrace central planning and the custodial state. I’m not a reader so I may be misjudging him, but I really don’t care all that much either.
What struck me is how common it is to hear economists and pseudo-economists make the claim that the laws of supply and demand do not apply to labor markets. In fact, they regularly argue that the axioms of their field don’t apply to all sorts of things that cause trouble for the orthodoxy. In that twitter post, it appears that some Progressives are now saying it is bad idea to build more housing in their favorite cities, because that will magically make housing more expensive. It’s nonsense, but how long before some economist offers a supporting study?
It is easy to pick on economists for stuff like this, because they deserve it. The managerial class is shot through with guys toting economics degrees, offering up statistical justifications for their favorite policy. Today the libertarian economist Tyler Cowen argues for more currency manipulation, which one would think is something libertarian economists would oppose. They routinely argue against manipulating the supply of goods and services, but for some magical reason it is good for the state to control the supply of money.
I’ve often compared economics to astrology because it is almost as empirically sound as astrology and it holds a similar place in the ruling class today as astrology did in the olden thymes. The rulers today bring in the court economists to read their figures and predict the possible futures. In the olden thymes the court astrologer was brought into to read the stars and tell the king what the omens meant. In both cases the ruler was simply looking for confirmation so that’s what he got from his trusted magician.
It’s not just the economists. Security experts are always on our televisions telling us about the need for government surveillance of the public. After all, it is a dangerous world out there and if we’re going to invite the world into your towns, we have to have cameras on every corner. If that bit of thinking is not crazy enough, none of them ever talk about what happens when someone we don’t like gets that massive data trove collected by the surveillance state. They just pretend that can’t happen, even though it always happens.
An axiom of data collection is that the easier it is to collect, the harder it is to protect. An axiom of life is that anything worth stealing, gets stolen. For a long time, liberals argued against the state collecting data on citizens for exactly this reason. If they can get it, they will misuse it and then someone will steal it. But, all the alleged experts on these issues tell us that the NSA is an exception so no one will ever steal this stuff or misuse it. One has to wonder how many times we have secret data stolen before they stop insisting it can’t be stolen.
If you have been reading this blog for a while, you will know I have walked through the impossibility of open borders, self-government and individual liberty working together. If we do away with citizenship via open borders, there is no reason for anyone to have loyalty to the government. Things like patriotism and national loyalty stop making sense in a world of open borders. That means the state cannot rely on people “doing their duty” as they no longer have a duty to the state. How else will they get people to obey the rules?
The open borders types never bother to explain how their new borderless society will work or what would happen if it turns out to be something other than paradise. When anyone bothers to ask them, they respond like it is obvious, but to date no one has tried to explain how a world without borders could possible work. The best they can muster is something about “who we are” which is ridiculous in a world without borders, as there is no “we” for us to be. It’s madness dressed up as morality.
Guys like Steve Sailer think all of this is deliberate. The people at the top not only understand the factual realities, they understand the implications of their preferred polices. They know the currency manipulation we see cannot last. They know open borders is doomed to failure. They know the surveillance state cannot work. They are just cashing in while they can. Wealthy interests pay them to keep the lie going as long as possible. It’s not a ridiculous possibility. To get to the top of the power structure, you have to be pretty clever, but also spectacularly devious and dishonest too.
Alternatively, they could see everything everyone else sees, but they have no answer for how to square all of these circles. Building more housing in major cities is what is needed, but the entrenched interests see no advantage and they have prominent spots in the managerial class. Running a surveillance state is a terrible idea, but no one knows how to put the genie back in the bottle so they just make peace with it as best they can. The libertarian economist knows the truth about policies like open borders, but he likes his job at the university too.
Sometimes, societies evolve down a dead end. Study the French Revolution and you begin to see that it was not so much a revolution as a collapse. The old order had reached a point where reform was impossible. The cost of maintaining it exceeded the benefits so it broke apart in big chunks like a building falling over in an earthquake. Perhaps that’s the issue faced by America. The current arrangements are unsustainable, but the cost of reform seems prohibitive, so all efforts are put into keeping the plates spinning, not matter how absurd.
There’s another possibility and that is our betters have been gripped by some sort of collective madness. This used to be the reason people gave for why the Germans went nuts and backed Hitler. Germany was the most advanced and sophisticated culture on earth and then within one generation it veered into barbarism. That’s not an answer that explains much, but to date no one has ever explained why the Germans turned to Nazism. Similarly, there’s no good explanation for why our rulers indulge in the madness we see on a regular basis now.