You are browsing the archive for 2014 November 21.

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Inequality and Envy

November 21, 2014 in Economics

By Deepak Lal

Deepak Lal

In September, my wife and I toured Indo-China. After seeing the glories of the partially restored Hindu temples of Angkor Wat, we cruised down past the lush fields of the reversed Mekong River from Siem Reap to Saigon, making various stops — including at Phnom Penh - on the way. There was one striking feature of the Cambodians we met who could speak English: they were about the same age as my daughter, born in 1980. I had seen a similar phenomenon when I first visited China in 1985 as a guest of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences: the age distribution of the Chinese academics was bipolar. They were either very young (just out of graduate school) or else the very old, and had returned from the pig farms they had been sent to during the Cultural Revolution, when the intermediate generation had all become uneducated Red Guards.

On our stops we visited the chilling museums of the Golgotha of skulls left by the Khmer Rouge and the notorious secret prison and extermination centre at the Tuol Sleng Museum of Genocide, where the archives of the torture and murder of about 14,000 educated Cambodians are graphically presented. Ben Kiernan (in The Pol Pot Regime) details how Pol Pot’s regime emptied the cities, abolished money, put everyone to work in the fields, separated families, fed the workers gruel in communal halls to meet unrealistic targets of exporting rice, smashed the skulls of educated professionals and intellectuals (to equalise human capital or “status inequalities” — see below), and forced mass marriages with the disabled and “ugly” (a la Amartya Sen’s “capabilities approach” to equality). This was the ultimate socialist Utopia: an indentured agrarian state where all inequalities, including those inherited, had been abolished. The regime could rightly claim in a secret document in 1975 that “compared with the revolutions in China, Korea and Vietnam, we are 30 years ahead of them”.

No free society can eliminate inequality.”

Whilst drifting down the Mekong and visiting the remains of this socialist nightmare, I was also slowly ploughing through the latest livre du jour, Thomas Piketty’s neo-Marxist tome Capital in the 21st Century, with a tremendous sense of dejà vu. For in the mid- and late 1970s, when there had been a great surge of interest in questions of income and wealth distribution, I wrote two review articles: “Distribution and Development” (World Development …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Bad Laws Lead to Bad Executive Orders

November 21, 2014 in Economics

By Alex Nowrasteh

Alex Nowrasteh

Governing by executive order is no way to run an immigration policy, let alone an entire government. But the resort to unilateral action does not happen in a vacuum; it is borne out of poorly written, arbitrary and confusing laws. The GOP-controlled Congress should respond to Obama’s executive order by passing a bill that simplifies the immigration system.

Our immigration laws are “second only to the Internal Revenue Code in complexity,” according to California Associate Justice Harry E. Hull Jr. Like the income tax code, our immigration laws contain numerous provisions for the president to exercise arbitrary power, inflict cruel punishments for minor offenses and limit legal immigration with quota numbers seemingly picked by a random number generator.

Rampant unlawful immigration is the result of this legal mess.

Rather than charging directly at Obama’s executive order, Republicans should circle behind him and offer their own reform package.”

Any set of laws this muddled and confused begs for one of two resolutions. The first is for the president to issue an executive order on dubious constitutional grounds to provide temporary relief for problems caused by a fundamentally broken system. The second resolution is for Congress to change those terrible laws and make them work so they don’t attract executive orders like honey attracts flies.

If Congress simply passed constructive and conservative immigration reform, it could effectively nullify the president’s executive action, guarantee that immigration reform will adhere to free-market principles and remove the future possibilities for executive overreaches on immigration. Only a simplification and liberalization of these laws will eliminate the unauthorized immigration mess that is prompting Obama’s executive order.

Immigration reform should reduce unlawful immigration by creating a functional guest worker visa program so workers can enter the country lawfully rather than having to sneak in as they currently do. A guest worker visa program in the 1950s decreased illegal immigration by 90 percent and it can do so again. Allowing more lawful immigration would allow the government to actually regulate who can and cannot enter.

Reform should also remove the arbitrary penalties that prevent some immigrants from earning green cards. All immigrants who are not security or health threats but who are closely related or married to Americans should be able to earn green cards through the current legal system regardless of whether they were here unlawfully. This would allow millions of current unlawful immigrants to use the legal system …read more

Source: OP-EDS