Is there a common error that you see continually repeated?
Many. Perhaps the worst – or the one that I find to be most annoying – is the assumption that the benefits of international trade are found in how much we export and the costs of such trade are found in how much we import. In fact, exports are an unambiguous cost and imports an unambiguous benefit. Exports are what we pay for imports.
Between President Obama and Gov. Romney, do you think one is more economically literate than the other?
Neither man gives much reason to believe that he is economically literate. Judging only by what they say, though, I give the edge to Romney. He’d likely earn a D- in my Intro econ class; Obama likely would earn an F.
I generally prefer GOP economic commentary to Democratic commentary, but (1) that preference is only slight, and (2) I never suspect that any such commentary reflects anything other than each party’s best effort to say that which it believes will win it most votes.
What would you do — or not do — to get us out of our current economic morass?
A believable, long-term commitment to lower marginal tax rates; repealing – or at least a pause in imposing more – burdensome regulations such as Dodd-Frank; and a significant toning-down of the rhetoric from Washington (especially today from the Oval Office) about how people who succeed (especially succeed spectacularly) in the private market are very likely to be free-loaders or otherwise gaming the system unjustly. (Much such cronyism does exist, and it is as shameful as it is harmful. Most of our economy, though, remains honest and industrious.)
What are some of the dumbest economic policies being proposed on the campaign trail?
Proposals to slap more taxes on Americans who buy Chinese-made goods and services. Dumb as dirt – but it seems to be a political winner.
Any plans to write another book? If so, about what?
My next book is tentatively titled “Cleaned by Capitalism.” Its theme is that the standard narrative about capitalism and pollution is mistaken. Contrary to making our world more polluted, capitalism has always, and does so still, make our world cleaner and less polluted. It does so in ways that go unnoticed. For example, the automobile has cleansed our streets of horse and oxen manure (and the attendant flies); the market distribution of antibiotics cleanses our bodies of deadly bacteria; inexpensive kitchen appliances and detergents enable us to keep our clothing cleaner – and to do so in a much less hazardous way – than was true 100 years ago. In countless ways, the personal environments inhabited by each denizen of modern capitalist society is immeasurably, astonishingly, and still increasingly cleaner and healthier than it was in the past.