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12/30/2004

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Mike Huben

"A larger population may put more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, but it also provides a larger market for new technologies that help control the output of CO2 and other gases."

As we've seen in the past 60 years, a larger population has created enormously more nuclear waste, and also created a much larger market to help control the production of nuclear waste. But the nuclear waste problem is still largely unaddressed.

"In addition, a larger population also increases the number of potential inventors who might help solve warming and other challenges."

And the number of potential inventors of solutions to the nuclear waste problem has also increased greatly, but there still is no solution in sight to the growing problem of nuclear waste.

Hand waving about "larger" is all fine and good, but unless you can (a) show that one "larger" is larger than another "larger" and (b) show that there are no external obstacles in economics or politics, it sounds as if you're engaging in pollyanna speculation.

Palooka

Relying on technology to meet the needs of a expanding population has considerable historical and theoretical support, however, I am still worried about much of the third world, particularly in Africa. To rely on innovation to provide for expanding populations and other new challenges, there must be a functioning free market.

Nations with stable political structures and healthy free market forces can most likely adjust to any number of challenges through the development and implementation of new technologies. Nations that lack these requisite attributes, however, seem likely to continue to struggle.

Africa's agricultural productivity has decreased steadily the last 40 years. If we can always count on technology to save the day, why does Africa struggle so?

Mike Huben

How did Europe and those who escaped its clutches succeed in developing? Part of the answer seems exceptionless: By radically violating approved free market doctrine. That conclusion holds from England to the East Asian growth area today, surely including the United States, "the mother country and bastion of modern protectionism," economic historian Paul Bairoch observes in his recent study of myths concerning economic development. The most extraordinary of these, he concludes, is the belief that protectionism impedes growth: "It is difficult to find another case where the facts so contradict a dominant theory," a conclusion supported by many other studies... Putting the details aside, it seems fairly clear that one reason for the sharp divide between today's First and Third World is that much of the latter was subjected to "experiments" that rammed free market doctrine down their throats, while today's developed countries were able to resist such measures.
Noam Chomsky, "Old wine in new bottles: A bitter taste"

In Britain again, as elsewhere, industrial promotion also took the form of defense against outside competition. The later record of British commitment to free trade (more or less nid-nineteenth century to 1930) has tended to obscure the earlier and much longer practice of economic nationalism, whether by tariff protection or discriminatory shipping rules (navigation acts). Economic theorists have argued forcibly, even passionately, that such interferences with the market hurt everyone. The fact remains that history's strongest advocates of free trade -- Victorian Britain, post-World War II United States -- were strongly protectionist during their own growing stage. Don't do as I did; do as I can afford to do now. The advice does not always sit well.
David S. Landes, "The Wealth And Poverty Of Nations" pg. 265

Palooka

Commenter Mike Huben implies (quoting no other than Noam Chomsky!!!) that developing countries would be better served by protectionist policies. My question is simply, protect what? Most developing countries have underdeveloped internal markets to sell their goods. In the absence of free trade, they will receive little or no foreign investment, and lack the necessary domestic demand to maintain current employment levels.

I can, at times, have some sympathy for arguments that developed countries may be better off with limited protectionism (to slow structural changes), but arguing developing countries are actually hurt by free trade seems to me a difficult task.

Stephen Saul

There's a big storm on the web about the quality of Posner's writing, namely the blog about war on Dec. 5, '04.

I'm reminded of Henry Miller's "Advice to a Young Writer."
As a poet, my favorite excerpt is: "If you can't make words fuck, don't masturbate them! / When you speak of Cunt put hair on it! / Try to forget everything you learned in college."

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