Calling George Orwell

An op-ed in today’s New York Times encapsulates much of what can be so obnoxious about some academics. Here’s what Rochester economist Steven E. Landsburg has to say about what those in our society who win from globalization owe to the losers:

All economists know that when American jobs are outsourced, Americans as a group are net winners. What we lose through lower wages is more than offset by what we gain through lower prices. In other words, the winners can more than afford to compensate the losers. Does that mean they ought to? Does it create a moral mandate for the taxpayer-subsidized retraining programs proposed by Mr. McCain and Mr. Romney?

Um, no. Even if you’ve just lost your job, there’s something fundamentally churlish about blaming the very phenomenon that’s elevated you above the subsistence level since the day you were born.

I’m sure this will comfort the person now out of a job with a set of skills that no longer enable her to support herself. And by the way, thanks for the “Um, no”, professor.

You don’t have to be a Fabian socialist to recognize that members of a common society hold some moral obligations in common. At least Landsburg and everyone who is reading this blog better hope so.

To take only the most obvious example, how much money do you think the “winners from globalization” would make in the absence of US armed forces? All of the material delights that we enjoy ultimately require men to stand watch looking through Starlight Scopes on assault rifles, and die if necessary, to protect the commercial, law-bound society that provides these benefits. Would you do that for a group of people who happen to live within some lines on a map, but who essentially view you as a sucker for doing it?

Of course when some armed, determined adversaries decide to come to Professor Landsburg’s house to take it from him, I’m sure he can organize a delightful little faculty colloquium and talk them into stopping.