Bryan Caplan  

My Anti-Globalization Stereotype

What I'm Reading... Richman Link...
I thought this comment was interesting:
Bryan Caplan's rejection is based entirely on his own stereotype of 'anti-globalization types.' The fact is that many of the college-age students who join such rallies and events are there because they perceive big business and big government ganging up on the small and powerless. Unfortunately they all too often walk away believing that the problem is market exchange when in fact the problem is expropriation of existing property rights and barriers to competition.
I wish this were true, but it contradicts a ton of public opinion data.  The reason why students "all too often walk away believing that the problem is market exchange" is that they showed up with that belief.  What makes me so sure?  Because a supermajority of Americans hold this belief, even people who wouldn't be caught dead at an anti-globalization rally.  Take a look at the survey questions I discuss in my book, or the questions that Steve Miller and I analyze in the General Social Survey.  Or just try arguing with anyone who hasn't studied economics - I've done my share.  Even when big business and big government are nowhere to be seen - for example, person-to-person sale of human organs - free markets do not meet with public approval. 

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COMMENTS (5 to date)
Daniel Kuehn writes:

I'm not sure human organ markets are the right way to prove your point. Just because people don't think everything can legitimately be treated as a commodity doesn't mean they're against the market.

I look at prostitution the same way. I personally think there are good, market-based reasons for legalizing prostitution. But I can understand why people would disagree - and I generally don't assume that they're "anti-market", I assume it has more to do with the fact that they don't think sex should be a commodity.

Ryan writes:


Whether or not one thinks sex is a commodity has little bearing on whether or not it trades in the marketplace as a commodity. The moral positions often do end up being anti-market because they make the utilitarian claim that the negative externalities (e.g., disease, crime) will be minimized through regulation vs. the free market.

Snorri Godhi writes:

Ryan: I think that Daniel has a point: distrusting the market's ability to improve economic welfare is not the same as objecting to one particular market transaction due to non-economic considerations. That holds even when you and I might think that the "non-economic" considerations are best put into an economic framework.

Meanwhile I have been trying to resolve my cognitive dissonance in distrusting the political views of academics, while also having to accept Bryan Caplan's findings. Not having read his book, all what I can come up with is this:
Yes, less educated people have an anti-market bias; but they have a redeeming feature: they have an even stronger anti-government bias.
OTOH academic economists do not distrust the market, but they have no reason to distrust government, because the theorems of welfare economics do not say that government cannot allocate resources efficiently.

Of course, Austrians, Masonomists, public-choice theorists, economists 2.0, etc. can give good reasons to distrust government. So don't take this personally, Bryan.

Nathan Smith writes:

Here's a question: Is opposition to slavery an anti-market position? To be anti-slavery is to be against the buying and selling of something, namely people. If I own myself, shouldn't it follow that I have the right to sell myself into slavery?

I think people worry, rightly or wrongly, that organ markets are somehow akin to slave markets, involving the buying and selling of people, or parts of them.

Nick writes:

@Nathan Smith,

Selling yourself into voluntary slavery, here we call it "getting a job"

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