Monday, December 26, 2011

Are local people the master race?

Forgive the post title's accusatory tone, but after reading this classic Bryan Caplan piece titled "Are Low-Skilled Americans the Master Race?" I can't stop myself from drawing the same comparison.

Localists claim that shifting production and purchases to inefficient local sources will make the community richer as part of a zero-sum game, where one group takes wealth from another. What they don't fill in is why the local people deserve to prosper at the expense of others. As Caplan writes:

OK, suppose you could give American high school dropouts an 8% raise by deporting every man, woman, and child from Latin America back to their home countries. Would that be the right thing to do?
Clearly not.

I don't think my opponents are inspired by racism, but it is true that the people they aim to help will typically be members of their own race, while the people they intend to harm will often be from another race.

Occasionally you do see localists arguing their strategy is a positive-sum game (it's not) but the majority of the time localists claim that the local people need to be the ones profiting, not outsiders.

This parasitic philosophy should be right at home with the people who ignore tragedies because they occur in non-English speaking countries.


  1. I would love to see data on selective localism. I want to know if Americans are more likely to welcome trade with Australia and Canada than they are with Brazil or South Korea.

    Since my first focus is always language I would assume Americans (and Canadians and Britons) would be happier trading with other English speakers than with non-Anglophone nations. Unfortunately, I have no data to look over and no clue where to find it.

  2. This is what ultimately drives me away from localism. It's provincial.

    For Hortensio, geography plays a larger role with Mexico and Canada being our largest trade partners. I think that's been true for a long time for most places.

  3. I'm with you on this, but this part:

    I don't think my opponents are inspired by racism, but it is true that the people they aim to help will typically be members of their own race, while the people they intend to harm will often be from another race.

    this part sounds an awful lot like the GOP. I'm not for them or the localists, but at least the localists tend to keep their racial biases confined to economics.

  4. Mr. H, there's a difference in world views you should consider.

    In your view, the GOP policies harm the blacks and Latinos. In their view, the policies help the blacks (not so much the Latinos, since they want to mail them to impoverished nations, but that's the same bigger issue this whole post is about). So right or wrong, they think what they are doing is good for everyone.

    The hyper-protectionist localists are purposely trying to help the people they like at the expense of the people they don't. It's on purpose.

  5. I really can't buy most of these charges of racism. If you recall, the Irish and to a lesser extent Italians were discriminated against on par with Blacks (in many cases) in the early part of this century.

    When my paternal grandfather came over from Erin people wouldn't rent to him or hire him simply on account of his irishness. He was as white as the driven snow.

    It wasn't really racism, it was more that those immigrants were doing work for subtantially less than the "natives".

    "I see trespassers, Irish harps. Do a job for a nickel what a nigger does for a dime and a white man used to get a quarter for."

    Now the quote itself is from a movie, but if you take a look at some of the political speeches given in New York back a hundred years ago, you see that this was indeed the feeling.

    Not everything, probably not most things, that aren't done to directly benefit minorities are racist, sometimes it just comes down to new people willing to work for less.

  6. So it wasn't racism because the racial discrimination against races had factors other than race involved in the racial discrimination. Got it.

  7. Nate, what you are describing is racism.

    This idea of a unified "white" race wasn't the way people looked at it then. The racists saw themselves as members of an in-group defined by blood. In the case you brought up, you had the Germanic Brits in close proximity to the Celtic Irish and Scots. The prejudices against them were in terms of blood, not just national boundaries. However, the nationalism was popular too.

    The idea of "white people" from Ireland, Sweden or France being a unified race is a modern concept.

  8. No, no, Michael. Don't you see? Systems of thought and ways of thinking must be wholly influential to everybody. Always.

    Conservative Michael, I know that it was racism as we define it today. Which means pretty much everything. I simply think that since most groups are skeptical of other groups, that it doesn't always follow that race itself is the issue.

    I don't count mere exclusion and resentment, even when they lead to violence, to be the same thing as feeling another racial group is inferior simply because of their race.

    I don't call it racism when one groups behavior, in many cases the willingness to sell their labor cheap, is a significant part of the calculation.

    Of course if you are a liberal like other Michael, it doesn't fit into the narrative that has been spun around the idea that race itself should automatically be assumed to be the issue.