How Not to Be a Leader
umair haque


I admire your passion, but you show a mix of economic literacy and illiteracy. On the literate side, you properly point to the economic potential of immigrants as a net plus. It’s not just that. The law of comparative advantage almost guarantees that adding immigrants to our society will be a net benefit to the whole. On net. There will be some losers in any trade transaction. Policy-makers need to be sensitive to those who are displaced by immigrant labor.

On the negative side, you misunderstand what a public good is. Schools, roads, airports — these are not public goods. If someone consumes them, they are not available for someone else. A public good is one in which my enjoyment does not detract from anyone else’s use. National security is the most typical example, or rule of law. But I don’t think you are advocating putting more money into aircraft carriers and the criminal justice system.

Your examples — teacher salaries, clean air — may be good things. They may even have network effects that ripple through the entire economy. But they are not public goods. Even clean air costs something. And they seem to be tied to public-sector constituencies that are — for good or ill — tied to the Democratic party.

Finally, I think as a society we *should* set aside resources for the most vulnerable. That’s what makes us decent, caring people. But when folks feel like they can’t afford to — that everyone else is getting ahead, while they’re getting the shaft — then demagoguery is appealing. At least, it’s entertaining. If the whole system is corrupt, you might as well support someone who’s *honest* about his corruption. And entertaining. And appeals to national greatness. But it’s a misguided notion of greatness. As someone once said, “The greatest among you shall be the servant of all.”