The EU’s Thousands of Senseless Tariffs Simply Serve to Punish the Poor

My report A Trade Policy for a Brexited Britain, published by the Institute of Economic Affairs last month, had a short section on EU tariffs. I gave the example of how in October last year EU tariffs on orange imports were quintupled from 3.2 percent to 16 percent. This example has been challenged by some on the Remain side, who have suggested that I got my facts wrong.

In fact, the source was Dan Lewis, a leading authority on EU tariffs, who wrote on precisely that subject on BrexitCentral last November: “New 16% import tariffs on oranges show why we must leave the Customs Union”. This example illustrates classic EU tariff policy in action. A bunch of producers elsewhere in the EU—in this case Spain—complained about competition from South African orange exporters and lobbied to increase tariffs. They got their way and the net result as it affected the UK was to increase the cost of orange imports to the UK. Lewis also provided some links (here and here) to the Spanish producers’ lobbying efforts and to one of the tariff schedules on his database.

You Can’t Go Home Again, but . . .

A melancholy saying reminds us that you can’t go home again. I know I can’t. My parents have been dead for decades, and my brother Bill, my only sibling, died three years ago. Moreover, the house in which we lived when I was growing up in the late 1950s and early 1960s has been wiped from the face of the earth. Only a few old timers might recall that on a certain spot of now-bare ground once stood the house in which Jess Higgs and his family flourished some sixty years ago.

Yet, if you cannot go home again, it may happen that home can come to you, as it has come to me in a heart-warming way since my emigration to Mexico two years ago. Here in Mexico I live in a remote place with very limited local availability of groceries and other ordinary consumer goods. Fortunately, however, three times each week Lucio, an enterprising fellow from Bacalar, a town a hundred miles away, comes to my gate with his pickup loaded with fresh produce, eggs, pastries, tortillas, and other goods. (If we ask him to bring something he would not ordinarily bring, he brings it on a later trip.) Among the goods I routinely buy from him are cantaloupes, and often the label on the melons indicates that they were produced by Pappas Family Farms of Mendota, California.

National Idolatry and Constitution Day

By federal statute, September 17 is designated as a holy day in the American civic religion. On that day in 1787, the delegates to the Philadelphia Convention affixed their signatures to the document that they had created and that governs us today. The website encourages public demonstrations of love for the Constitution and features a picture of smiling and diverse citizens waving American flags and looking up as if a god is about to descend.

Exactly what we are supposed to celebrate is not clear. A national debt above $20 trillion? A president and Congress with few, if any, limits on their power? A Supreme Court that dares to hold that the antediluvian definition of marriage is unconstitutional?

Is Trump Destroying the GOP?

Of all the concerns raised about President Donald Trump and his behavior in the Oval Office, perhaps one of the more sobering one is the way he and his allies have elevated a minority position within the GOP to a dominant policy agenda at the national level.

Throughout his primary campaign, Trump spoke to his base by consistently harping on populist policy proposals such slowing or stopping immigration by building a wall along the Mexican border, repealing Obamacare, renegotiating or pulling out of NAFTA, and lowering corporate taxes. He also leveraged his business background to legitimize a bold, no holds barred approach to governing the country without any critical thought to how top-down business management approaches might undermine democratic institutions.

While these agenda items consume public debate today, however, they represented a minority position within the Republican Party when he began his candidacy in 2016. In fact, Trump remained a minority candidate within the GOP up until the last month of the primaries.

Compounding California’s Student Preparation Problem

California State University officials want more undergraduates to earn their degrees and do so more quickly. Yet their “solution” could compound the more fundamental problem that too many students are graduating without being prepared.

CSU Chancellor Timothy P. White issued an executive order last month that changes policies affecting entering freshmen’s knowledge assessments and course placements. One change is allowing remedial English and math classes to count as credit-bearing courses toward a degree. To help avoid remedial courses altogether CSU plans to use multiple measures to determine course placements not just scores on tests taken during students’ junior or senior years of high school. These measures will include high school course grades and GPAs.

Yet these changes are risky, as Thomas D. Elias explains in The Orange County Register.

The 23-campus California State University system knows it must somehow speed up graduation beyond today’s pace, which sees just 19 percent of entering freshmen graduate within four years. The low rate is at least partly because more than a third of frosh need some remedial work. ...

The problem with giving academic credit for remedial classes that essentially provide students with knowledge or skills they should have picked up in high school is that it threatens to dumb down degrees from Cal State campuses from the North Coast to San Diego.

Review: The Hitman’s Bodyguard and the Ethics of Assassination

The Hitman’s Bodyguard is an action/drama that would normally be considered standard fare for the summer season. Yet this movie does more than careen through dead bodies and extended vehicle chases. The story is driven by the relationship between the core characters and turns on a serious question of ethics and forgiveness. At the same time, the film verges on a parody of its genre. This combination seems to have befuddled many movie critics but not audiences.

Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Life) plays Michael Bryce, a AAA-rated executive bodyguard. This moniker alone is the first clue that much of this movie is tongue in cheek—part spoof, more drama, and mostly action. Bryce falls from grace when one of his high-profile clients, a billionaire Asian arms dealer, is assassinated on one of his very lucrative assignments. As a consequence, Bryce is relegated to the dregs of bodyguard gigs–protecting drug-addicted CEOs so they can testify against their suppliers.

Samuel L. Jackson (Pulp Fiction, Django Unchained, Hateful Eight) plays Darius Kincaid, a notorious assassin with over one hundred kills to his credit, and an arch nemesis of Bryce. When Kincaid agrees to testify against Vladislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman of the Harry Potter series, The Dark Knight Trilogy, The Darkest Hour), the blood-thirsty tyrant ruling Belarus, Bryce ends up being the only one Interpol agent Amelia Roussel (Elodie Yung from Gods of Egypt, The Girl With a Dragon Tattoo, District 13: Ultimatum) trusts to deliver Kincaid to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands.

$13 Billion in the School Supplies “Poorhouse”

This summer Tulsa Public Schools third-grade teacher Teresa Danks made national headlines when she decided to panhandle for school supplies. Sick of spending as much as $2,000 of her $35,000 salary each year on the school supplies her classes needed, Danks decided to beg for supplies instead.

Dubbed the “Panhandling Teacher,” Danks received over $50 in mere minutes begging on the street corner. Danks’ Go Fund Me page has since raised close to $30,000 while donations continue to pour into her school. The response has been so overwhelming that Danks is now helping teachers from other schools fundraise.

But Danks isn’t the only teacher who’s taken extraordinary steps to get ordinary classroom items. According to ABC News’ Katie Kindelan:

Teachers at 76 percent of public schools in America have posted projects on [], and requests worth up to $50 million have been fulfilled in 2017 alone...Of the 900,000 requests from teachers, more than half are for books and basic classroom supplies, according to the website.

Of course, as almost any parent can tell you, school supplies lists these days are anything but “basic.”

Transcending Government — Consensual Governance and New Technology

“Any useful statement about the future should at first seem ridiculous.” –Jim Dator

Humans are three-dimensional animals. They require physical space to live, work, and play. Over thousands of years, humans built physical communities of different shapes, sizes, and compositions to accommodate their three-dimensional existence.

But increasingly, humans are also building virtual communities that rival, and sometimes exceed, the scale of physical communities. These social networks are becoming more complex, connected, and useful to humans, consuming more of our time and energy.

Hurricane Haikus

Price gouging sounds bad

Stupid laws make it a crime

Shortage continues


Houses at high risk

Subsidized flood insurance

What would you expect?


Storm’s victims galore

Government to the rescue

Mixed blessing at best

How NYU Can Learn from China

When I studied in London last year as part of my university’s exchange program, I experienced first-hand the inefficiencies of monopolies propped up by central authorities. The “central authority” I speak of is not, perhaps, what you are thinking of: the UK government, or worse, the ‘notorious’ European Union. Rather, I use the term to describe my own university, which in many ways operates like a state. I was inspired to write this blog post after reading China’s Great Migration, by Bradley M. Gardner, because of the parallels I saw between the Chinese government’s control over its economy and my university’s control over housing.

I go to New York University, which is known in New York for being egregiously expensive. At NYU’s London campus, the story is the same. In particular, housing costs turn a high tuition bill into a monumental cost of attendance. But it doesn’t have to be this way. NYU is much smaller than a state, but its housing woes reflect the problems caused by governments that limit economic competition and enforce state-run monopolies; it can learn from these experiences.