Stringing words together to describe policies that are intended to achieve desirable outcomes is easy. But verbal and written expressions are not self-fulfilling. If the reality to which such expressions refer is significantly more complex than the words imply, attempts to put the words into practice typically result, not in success, but in trouble.
Article by Donald J. Boudreaux from AIER.
Consider, for example, the common claim that the U.S. government should arrange for the American economy to repatriate the supply chains for critical goods. The idea, of course, is that if we Americans were no longer dependent on foreigners to supply us with key medical supplies and vital military materiel, we’d be safer during pandemics and wartime.
While easy to say, the reality behind these words is a dense thicket of complexities.
For starters, which particular goods are critical for national security or health-care security? You might think that this question can easily be answered by identifying the goods that are currently used by the military or by hospitals. Yet almost all goods have substitutes. Goods in use today enjoy this status in part because they can be acquired at lower costs than can their substitutes.
Looking at national security, consider the fact that there are more than 3,500 different grades of steel. Whatever grade of steel is now used by, say, the private producer, BAE Systems, to construct the outer shell of M1A2 Abrams battle tanks has that distinction in part because of its availability. But another term for “its availability” is “its cost.” If this grade of steel were less available – that is, if it were more costly – chances are high that some other grade of steel would instead now be in common use for this purpose and, thus, be identified as a type of steel that is ‘critically important’ for national defense.
So if tariffs are used to restrict the importation of the types of steel currently used in tank construction, the availability of such steel types in the U.S. will shrink – that is, their costs will rise. Tank producers will thus, at least in some cases, switch to substitutes that are less costly than are the newly tariff-ladened ‘critically important’ types of steel. Tariffs on critically important grades of steel might well result in such steel being proven to be not so critically important after all. Some other types of steel – formerly not identified as critically important – will instead be used.
In short, whether or not some good is ‘critical’ to national defense (or to health care, or to food security, or to infrastructure, or to you-name-the-desired-state-of-affairs) is not exclusively a question of that good’s physical properties. Nor is it a question exclusively of the extent of its current use for national-defense purposes. Whether or not some good is ‘critical’ to national defense is also a question of economics, not the least of which is this: What is the current cost of using that good compared to the cost of using one or more different goods that can achieve similar outcomes? And in all cases this cost will be higher or lower depending on how scant or abundant are available supplies of that good relative to available supplies of other goods.
A tempting ‘solution’ to the problem of identifying which goods are ‘critical’ to national defense is to include in the classification of ‘critical’ all obvious substitutes of the goods currently used for purposes of national defense. In the case of steel, for example, simply declare all steel to be strategically important.
But steel itself has substitutes, such as aluminum and, potentially, carbon fiber. So the ‘critical’ classification can logically be extended to include all metals and other substances that can potentially substitute for steel.
Again, there is no engineering answer to the question of which goods are ‘critical’ to national defense. And once the inescapable economic properties of this question are taken into account, there are, in most cases, no obvious and objective criteria that allow some goods and services to be classified as ‘critical’ while others are not so classified.
The challenge of devising some practical means of distinguishing ‘critical’ from not-critical goods and services looms large. First, the imprecision – the ‘non-objectiveness’ – of the criteria for making such distinctions means that all such distinctions will require judgment calls on the part of government officials. But government officials, being incessantly under pressure from special-interest groups, will be tempted to make such distinctions in an overly inclusive manner. Goods and services with no real claim to being critical for national defense will be wrongly classified as critical.
Several years ago I encountered a small piece of evidence in support of the claim that politicians are shameless in using national security as an excuse for special-interest privileges. I was present at a speech in which Sen. Marco Rubio – who represents Florida – defended sugar and other crop subsidies with the assertion that these subsidies are essential if America is to enjoy “food security.” And “food security” is essential, so the Senator assured his audience, to America’s ability to resist foreign military threats.
The audience applauded.
But even if political pressures were miraculously to disappear, government officials would remain ignorant of most of the detailed bits of knowledge about how resources are, and potentially can be, used. And so any errors these officials make in distinguishing ‘critical’ from not-critical goods and services will result in resources being used more wastefully than otherwise. Because wasteful uses of resources means slower economic growth – and because slower economic growth means reduced ability over time to maintain and improve military and pandemic preparedness – the use by government officials of powers to protect particular producers on grounds of national security or health security could well undermine such security over time.
The reality of these problems with granting to government officials the power to use tariffs and subsidies to repatriate supply chains for ‘critical’ goods does not prove that government efforts in some cases to better secure supplies of ‘critical’ goods are unjustified. Yet the reality of these problems should counsel us to be much more skeptical than we are whenever someone justifies tariffs and subsidies by asserting national-security or health-security implications. In some cases such assertions might – might – be sincere and plausible, but in most cases they will be neither.
‘The Purge’ by Big Tech targets conservatives, including us
Just when we thought the Covid-19 lockdowns were ending and our ability to stay afloat was improving, censorship reared its ugly head.
For the last few months, NOQ Report, Conservative Playbook, and the American Conservative Movement have appealed to our readers for assistance in staying afloat through Covid-19 lockdowns. The downturn in the economy has limited our ability to generate proper ad revenue just as our traffic was skyrocketing. We had our first sustained stretch of three months with over a million visitors in November, December, and January, but February saw a dip.
It wasn’t just the shortened month. We expected that. We also expected the continuation of dropping traffic from “woke” Big Tech companies like Google, Facebook, and Twitter, but it has actually been much worse than anticipated. Our Twitter account was banned. Both of our YouTube accounts were banned. Facebook “fact-checks” everything we post. Spotify canceled us. Medium canceled us. Apple canceled us. Why? Because we believe in the truth prevailing, and that means we will continue to discuss “taboo” topics.
The 2020 presidential election was stolen. You can’t say that on Big Tech platforms without risking cancellation, but we’d rather get cancelled for telling the truth rather than staying around to repeat mainstream media’s lies. They have been covering it up since before the election and they’ve convinced the vast majority of conservative news outlets that they will be harmed if they continue to discuss voter fraud. We refuse to back down. The truth is the truth.
The lies associated with Covid-19 are only slightly more prevalent than the suppression of valid scientific information that runs counter to the prescribed narrative. We should be allowed to ask questions about the vaccines, for example, as there is ample evidence for concern. One does not have to be an “anti-vaxxer” in order to want answers about vaccines that are still considered experimental and that have a track record in a short period of time of having side-effects, including death. One of our stories about the Johnson & Johnson “vaccine” causing blood clots was “fact-checked” and removed one day before the government hit the brakes on it. These questions and news items are not allowed on Big Tech which is just another reason we are getting canceled.
There are more topics that they refuse to allow. In turn, we refuse to stop discussing them. This is why we desperately need your help. The best way NOQ, CP, and ACM readers can help is to donate. Our Giving Fuel page makes it easy to donate one-time or monthly. Alternatively, you can donate through PayPal as well. We are pacing to be short by about $3700 per month in order to maintain operations.
The second way to help is to become a partner. We’ve strongly considered seeking angel investors in the past but because we were paying the bills, it didn’t seem necessary. Now, we’re struggling to pay the bills. We had 5,657,724 sessions on our website from November, 2020, through February, 2021. Our intention is to elevate that to higher levels this year by focusing on a strategy that relies on free speech rather than being beholden to progressive Big Tech companies.
During that four-month stretch, Twitter and Facebook accounted for about 20% of our traffic. We are actively working on operating as if that traffic is zero, replacing it with platforms that operate more freely such as Gab, Parler, and others. While we were never as dependent on Big Tech as most conservative sites, we’d like to be completely free from them. That doesn’t mean we will block them, but we refuse to be beholden to companies that absolutely despise us simply because of our political ideology.
We’re heading in the right direction and we believe we’re ready talk to patriotic investors who want to not only “get in on the action” but more importantly who want to help America hear the truth. Interested investors should contact me directly with the contact button above.
As the world spirals towards radical progressivism, the need for truthful journalism has never been greater. But in these times, we need as many conservative media voices as possible. Please help keep NOQ Report going.