Linkfest 2017-05-26

Gavin de Becker, who became famous because of Oprah, has expanded his celebrity security business to a whole terminal at LAX. de Becker is the kind of guy who strikes me as a secret crimethinker, but he is very, very clever about it

Marion Maréchal-Le Pen is resigning from the French parliment. I found her vastly more interesting than her aunt.

This article quotes Edward Luttwak's succinct description of globalization:

“It enriches industrializing poor countries, impoverishes the semi-affluent majority in rich countries, and greatly adds to the incomes of the top 1 percent on both sides who are managing the arbitrage.”

Which is good, but then gives a summary of how this supposedly works that is total bullshit:

Baldwin’s argument is that information and communications technology has changed trade in its very essence. We have had “globalization,” in the sense of far-flung trade, for centuries now. The United States has been putting all its diplomatic and military muscle behind it since Congress passed the Reciprocal Trade Agreements Act of 1934. But around 1990, the cost of sharing information at a distance fell dramatically. Workers on complex projects no longer had to cluster in the same factory, mill town, or even country. Other factors entered in. Tariffs fell. The rise of “Global English” as a common language of business reduced the cost of moving information (albeit at an exorbitant cost in culture). “Containerization” (the use of standard-sized shipping containers across road, rail, and sea transport) made packing and shipping predictable and helped break the world’s powerful longshoremen’s unions. Active “pro-business” political reforms did the rest.
But computers were the key. Once a complex manufacturing process could be supervised from afar, it could be broken up into the simplest constituent tasks, and those could be done almost anywhere. Why not do them in those economies that paid workers a pittance? Far-flung “global value chains” replaced assembly lines.

No one does this. You buy the services of engineers, managers, and factories in China and other countries that all work the traditional way. There has been no magic revolution in how things get made, there are just more places that can make things now.

To be fair to Caldwell, he does eventually get around to this, but I still find the description misleading:

Since tasks get offshored one by one, rival manufacturers, capable of coordinating similar operations, do not arise locally to bid up wages. But this does not erode altogether the logic that causes industrial agglomeration. Once underway, offshoring tends to produce more offshoring. The most efficient configuration is still to reassemble the entire operation elsewhere.

...

In the work of Thomas Friedman and other boosters you find value chains described as kaleidoscopic, complex, operating in a dozen different countries. Those are rare. There is less to “global value chains” than meets the eye. Most of them, Baldwin shows, are actually regional value chains. As noted, they exist on the periphery of the United States, Europe, or Japan. In this, offshoring resembles the elaborate international transactions that Florentine bankers under the Medicis engaged in for the sole purpose of avoiding church strictures on moneylending. Their purpose is not to seek value in the earth’s far corners but to get across the border to where the customs, expectations, and regulations that arose in the industrial age regarding compensation of the workforce don’t apply.

People who aren't involved in this kind of work frequently underestimate the frictions of working with people who aren't close to you. 

I'm done ranting. Overall, this is a good article.

I tend to be of the opinion this is worth doing even if it isn't economically viable, but I think the green-eyeshade men should have their say.

I am not really interested in the model proposed by the author of this image, just this striking image.

Yet another reminder I still don't understand macroeconomics, but this is an interesting argument that looks at the assumptions of the models that we are all better off with free trade.

A nice tribute to the success of Timothy Zahn's Thrawn.

I just love a good image, and this is a great one. Why does Germany dominate the EU? Just look at the image.

People are mad for a reason.

Ross Douthat's appreciative take on The Handmaid's Tale, and the weird way in which we have ended up embracing many of the hypothetical horribles of Atwood's religious dystopia in a secular way.

This 2004 Atlantic magazine article was linked in Ross' take on The Handmaid's Tale, but it was worth its own header. It is a commonplace of the immigration restriction argument that large scale-immigration benefits upper-middle class white Americans at the expense of everyone else, but this article focuses on the way in which feminism made peace with a class[and ethnicity]-based division of labor.

This seems like a vindication of Greg Cochran's contention that the placebo effect is really just getting better.

Some great tidbits here on Greg's family.