Benjamin Studebaker

Yet Another Attempt to Make the World a Better Place by Writing Things

Tag: Robots

Who is Right about Free Trade? Barack Obama vs. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren

In recent weeks, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is back in the news. TPP aims to lower barriers to trade among the United States and a variety of other nations including rich countries like Japan, Canada, and Australia and developing countries like Chile, Peru, Vietnam, and Malaysia. US Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has come out strongly against TPP, as has senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders (D-VT). President Barack Obama continues to support TPP–he recently succeeded in having the agreement fast-tracked by the senate and will likely replicate that success in the house. Once TPP is fast-tracked, congress cannot debate the treaty’s contents or make amendments to it. Is TPP good for the United States? Who is right?

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A Serious Policy Analysis of House of Cards’ “America Works” Program

I am a huge fan of Netflix’s House of Cards, which stars Kevin Spacey as Frank Underwood, a ruthless political anti-hero. Here’s the trailer, if you haven’t seen it. It’s really good:

I launched into the 3rd season yesterday and was fascinated by Underwood’s “America Works” proposal. Very minor spoilers here–Underwood plans to eliminate or restructure America’s entitlement programs, using the money saved to create 10 million jobs, which will apparently cost $500 billion. Now, this is a television show. There are no CBO reports to look at, no detailed policy analyses or public policy research, but I want to dig into this and take the opportunity to explore some of the issues with entitlement programs.

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Reshoring: China vs. The Robots

There’s a bit of a disconnect between international relations theory people and economic theory people. It is rare that a single person finds himself facile with both disciplines and this tends to introduce blind spots in thinking. One of the biggest blind spots concerns the future role of manufacturing in geopolitics. Many people believe that cheap wages in places like China will ensure a strong US-China trading relationship and reduce the chance of future security competition. They think China will rise peacefully. These people are missing an important economic trend–the decreasing relevancy of the US-China wage gap and the inevitability of “reshoring”, the relocation of manufacturing back into the rich countries from whence it came.

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Robot Doctors and Internet Professors

A few days ago, I wrote a piece on the American healthcare and higher education systems, noting that they both suffer from rising costs because the consequences of failing to obtain these services are very dire. I argued that while it is quite unfair to deny healthcare or education to people on the basis of their economic background, there are limits to the supply of these services available–limited numbers of hospital beds, doctors, professors, and university places. Consequently, I claimed it made sense for the state to ration access to these services, ensuring that poor people who can make splendid use of them have access by denying access to those who cannot derive the same benefits. It makes little sense to give a university place to a 95-year old over a poor 20-year old, or to attempt to prolong the poor-quality life of a 95-year old at the expense of saving a poor 5-year old. However, it was suggested to me that this argument might rest on a false assumption–namely, that the supply of college education and healthcare might not be supply constrained, or, at the very least, might soon cease to be. I’d like to consider this objection in further detail.

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