Press statement, originally posted at cei.org.
On news today that the US Trade Representative will delay new tariffs on some consumer items until Dec. 15, as well as exclude some products from tariffs. Competitive Enterprise Institute Senior Fellow Ryan Youngand Vice President for Strategy Iain Murray pointed to the tacit admission that consumers are, in fact, burdened by tariffs, contrary to what the Trump administration has maintained.
Senior Fellow Ryan Young said:
“The decision to delay new tariffs on Chinese-made toys, smartphones, laptops, and other popular holiday gifts is a tacit admission that consumers pay for tariffs, not Chinese producers. The administration has been saying otherwise, but it is good to see that they do not believe their own words. Several rounds of China tariffs have so far failed to encourage the Chinese government to make needed reforms. Beijing has instead consistently retaliated with its own trade barriers, hurting the U.S. economy as well as their own. Tariffs do not work. It is time to scrap them in favor of more effective policies. Engaging the WTO dispute resolution process is one such policy and one where the U.S. has an 85 percent success rate. Rejoining the Trans-Pacific Partnership would add to international pressure on Beijing to rein in its illiberal policies. At the very least, Congress needs to take back the tariff-making authority it delegated away to the president back in the 1960s and 1970s.”
Vice President for Strategy Iain Murray said:
“The administration appears to have decided that Christmas is a health, safety, or national security issue, using powers meant for those purposes to delay tariffs on the sort of products Americans like to gift each other on that holiday. At least that recognizes that these tariffs would have been a de facto tax on holiday shopping. The decision also underlines how the administration is abusing power granted it by Congress – power Congress should reclaim urgently.”
Related report: Common Myths and Facts about Trade
O. Henry – Complete Short Stories
Henry was known for his surprise plot twists, as well as a wry, gentle sense of humor. In one typical aside, he describes a character as “cursing talentedly.” In the food-focused “Cupid a la Carte,” one character describes another as “weak as a vegetarian cat.” His short sketches of avuncular, detached goodwill make him a bit like his generation’s Garrison Keillor, both for good and for bad. He’s good-natured and a little droll, and makes a lot of his day’s equivalent of dad jokes. This collection of his short stories, some famous and some not, is a bit of literary comfort food.
Frans de Waal – Our Inner Ape: A Leading Primatologist Explains Why We Are Who We Are
De Waal is the world’s most famous expert on bonobos, who along with chimpanzees are humanity’s closest relatives. Here, he shows how observing primate behavior can shed light on human behavior. This book takes an informal, almost chatty tone, with de Waal often writing in the first person about his personal experiences with both apes and with humans. Even though our species branched apart a good 6 or 7 million years ago, we still have very much in common with chimps and especially bonobos. Our resemblance is more than physical. It is also cultural. Moreover, the two are often intertwined.
Chimps form complex alliances in the same way humans do, forming 2-against-1 relationships where possible, and scheming to divide enemies where so they don’t put up a united front. In a 2-against-1, don’t be the 1. As de Waal points out, human diplomacy follows similar strategies, just on a global scale. Nation-states play the same roles as individual chimps.
De Waal also offers some insight on biology and anatomy, especially sexual dimorphism. Species with drastically different male-to-female size ratios tend to have male-dominant cultures. Similarly, testicle size is related to promiscuity. Gorillas and human cultures tend towards monogamy, and this manifests itself in smaller testicles. Promiscuous chimps and bonobos have more competition, so they have larger testicles to produce more sperm. These dynamics show up in their behavior. Male chimps will often commit infanticide when they know the child is not theirs. Females intentionally confuse matters by having several possible fathers. This strategy changes male behavior, saving young lives.
De Waal goes off the rails toward the end, when he makes it uncomfortably clear that his expertise does not extend to economics or public policy. Here, the discussion is on par with a Facebook or Twitter political rant, lacking of command of either emotions or facts. That awkwardness can be safely skipped. The rest of the book is excellent.
Via Politico‘s Morning Trade newsletter: “A new analysis of Trump’s USMCA shows that more than half of the text is identical to the Trans-Pacific Partnership,which Trump withdrew from on his third day in office.”
The study is “How Much of the Transpacific Partnership is in the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement?,” by Wolfgang Alschner and Rama Panford-Walsh, both of the University of Ottawa.
Isaac Asimov – The Stars, Like Dust
Not the most graceful fiction, nor are the characters well developed. But the story gets better if one knows a little backstory first. This is the first novel of a three-part series written early in Asimov’s career. It was something of a prequel to his Foundation series, Asimov’s best-known fiction. The story of The Stars, Like Dust is loosely based on the history of the Golden Horde, a Mongol faction led by Batu Khan, grandson of Genghis Khan; the larger Foundation series is loosely modeled on the Roman Empire’s decline. It is filled with infighting and intrigue. That said, the surprise plot twist in the end firmly establishes this book as a product of mid-20th century America. This book is better as a slice of mid-20th-century American culture than as a serious work of science fiction. Perhaps not coincidentally, Asimov called this book his least favorite novel.
Jonathan Swift – Gulliver’s Travels
The classic satire holds up well. In the first of four parts, Gulliver visits the Lilliputians. Besides the obvious lessons about cultural differences, there is also some amusing ribaldry, as when Gulliver gets into legal trouble for putting out a Lilliputian fire by urinating on it, and flooding the tiny town as a result.
In part two he sees the opposite side of the coin with the Brobdingnagians, a race of giants, though mercifully minus the peeing. In part three he bounces around among several different nations, giving Swift the opportunity to poke fun at philosophers and other elites, and for some reason Japan, possibly because it is an actual place. Part four gives us the word “yahoo,” which gives Swift ample opportunity to make fun of ordinary people’s prejudices and habits. When Gulliver is briefly home between adventures, the casual dismissiveness with which he treats his wife and children is an early example of shock value humor. Gulliver barely acknowledges their existence beyond conceiving a new child on each return. Nobody is spared, and nobody is a saint, which is likely the source of Swift’s enduring appeal.
Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan – Comet
The first edition of this lavishly illustrated book coincided with Halley’s comet’s 1986 appearance, and the second edition was timed for 1994’s Hale-Bopp comet. A further 20 years of observation—not to mention landing freaking satellites on comets and returning samples to Earth—make some of the science here dated. But Sagan and Druyan’s book contains their trademark accessibility and sense of wonder, which will never be obsolete.