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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Tyler Cowen cuts to the chase

Will Latin America stay underpopulated for another century?
Think of how many people live in Asia, and how few, relatively speaking, live in Latin America.

Latin America has (mostly) beautiful weather, lots of natural resources, and attractive cultural amenities. Mock the living standard all you wish but even Bolivia has higher per capita income than the much better publicized “Asian tiger” Vietnam. The region simply isn’t that poor by global standards.

Crime is a problem but likely will fall, due to aging, better policing, and perhaps lead removal.

What does a Coasian bargain between parts of Asia and Latin America look like? Will many Chinese and Indians end up in Ecuador and Honduras?

I would bet no, but still I wonder. Often we overvalue the permanence of the status quo and the region has seen some major inward migrations in times past.
Now, silly me, I thought the threshold question would have been, do Central and South Americans think their countries are "under-populated" and need more Asian immigrants? I'd have thought Central and South Americans are the people whose opinions would matter most on this issue. But since American economists in suburban college towns are so smart, they’re already way ahead of those plodding Latinos and have answered it for them. How long are you Latinos who fought for your own independent governments going to loll about enjoying those abundant natural resources, great climate and rich Catholic culture when there are millions of Asians who could move in?

I bet this sort of presumption goes over real well in Central and South America when American economists like Paul Romer travel south and try to negotiate tax and regulatory-exempt zones for their wealthy tech-entrepeneur friends. (The Honduran Supreme Court recently struck down Romer's scheme, apparently possessed by the crazy idea that the people's sovereign can't just give away their territory.) Speaking of which, the last idealistic American who tried to establish a commercial utopia in the Southern Americas was William Walker, who was executed by a Honduran firing squad in 1860. Middle-aged academic economists from the US should be careful while they're traipsing around Central and South America with their bold visions for the future. Land disputes down there can get pretty complicated, and sometimes violent.

3 comments:

Visibilium said...

It's not surprising that the Supreme Court of an economically backward shithole like Honduras would rule against something like a free trade zone because it wouldn't fit into the prevailing legal structure.

Your criticism of Romer in this instance is misplaced, but I agree with your larger point that Lockean types should focus not only on the elegance and persuasiveness of their arguments, but also their deftness in administering raw physical force to buttress the freedoms they seek to establish.

The world has changed too much since Walker's day. In our humourless age, most Western countries have criminalized the kind of adventurism for which guys like Walker lived and died. Young men (Walker was 36 when he was executed; Byron was 36 when he died fighting for Greek independence.) need an outlet for their adventurous instincts. Otherwise--perish the thought--they may begin mowing down soft targets, like schoolchildren.

The Anti-Gnostic said...

The Honduran court simply noted the obvious. Since the Honduran government maintains it is the functioning sovereign over Honduran territory, then it must perforce act like it. The government can no more give away its people's country any more than it can invite the Chinese government to run the show. Otherwise, the State is not the State and it has abdicated rule.

As to your second point, if Lockean types have tactical energy to spare, then they need to organize like Golden Dawn and Hezbollah, without the mistake of having a political wing. They can clean criminal scum out of blighted neighborhoods, organize mutual aid and defense, and patrol ranch property in the Southwest. It's silly to weep over Honduras while the US federal government plans its massive gun grab and swamps the country with newly-minted voters from decidedly un-Lockean cultures.

IanH said...

Steve Sailer actually wrote about this a while ago.

http://isteve.blogspot.com/2012/09/charter-city-setback-who-could-have.html