Intensifying International Competition

Judge Stephen Williams has provided an excellent description of some of the Hayekian advantages of international competition. Here I discus how sound legal policy can protect and intensify such competition. First, I want to suggest a few more points about the virtues of international competition.

1. Military Competition. As war has demanded ever better financing and technology, the connection between the flourishing of a nation’s citizens and its success in war has increased. Great Britain beat the continental powers in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in no small measure because her limited and democratic government gave lenders confidence that they would be repaid. As a result of the greater capacity to borrow Britain was able to muster greater military force in a crisis.

Today technological progress and military might are ever more connected: the robots conceived today will be the soldiers of tomorrow. The United States’ technological superiority is intimately connected to its open society and an educational system that favors creativity over rote learning. Authoritarian nations are at some disadvantage in replicating the decentralized structures that promote rapid technological progress.

This advantage for the West and the United States should make us wary of entering into agreements to limit the deployment of technologically advanced weapons like drones.

2. Competition from In-Migration of Firms and Individuals. The capacity of the United States to attract immigrants shows the relative power of its social norms. Indeed, its growth from a  relatively small nation of a few million people at the founding to the third most populous nation of the world is the most persuasive evidence of its greatness. And there is still a net flow of immigrants from almost every nation in the world. As Judge Williams notes, one danger of modern immigration is that some migrants may come for government benefits rather than the opportunity to work.  Although the vast majority of immigrants are not work-shy benefit seekers, our immigration policy should be structured to encourage those with skills to come and to discourage those who want to take advantage of our welfare state. Guest worker programs and awarding of citizenship only upon evidence of years of gainful employment are mechanisms to continue the virtuous cycle of immigration.

3. Intensifying Competition. In general, the greatest dangers to Hayekian international competition are attempts at the international level to impose requirements that interfere with the national discovery process for good social norms. As Ilya Somin and I have suggested, the process for creating customary international law is far inferior to the competitive process. It also has the disadvantage of imposing uniform norms that thwart experimentation. The United States should avoid signing most international human rights treaties because of similar dangers. Instead of acquiescing to substantive uniformity, the United States should instead promote international norms that intensify competition. These include freedom of speech to publicize conditions in other nations, freedom of trade to compete through the international exchange of goods and services, and certain migration freedoms to make it easier for individuals to choose the right pond.

John O. McGinnis

John O. McGinnis is the George C. Dix Professor in Constitutional Law at Northwestern University. His recent book, Accelerating Democracy was published by Princeton University Press in 2012. McGinnis is also the co-author with Mike Rappaport of Originalism and the Good Constitution published by Harvard University Press in 2013 . He is a graduate of Harvard College, Balliol College, Oxford, and Harvard Law School. He has published in leading law reviews, including the Harvard, Chicago, and Stanford Law Reviews and the Yale Law Journal, and in journals of opinion, including National Affairs and National Review.

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Comments

  1. nobody.really says

    The United States’ technological superiority is intimately connected to its open society and an educational system that favors creativity over rote learning. Authoritarian nations are at some disadvantage in replicating the decentralized structures that promote rapid technological progress.

    This advantage for the West and the United States should make us wary of entering into agreements to limit the deployment of technologically advanced weapons like drones.

    Hm.

    The libertarian in me is alarmed at the US’s ever-growing power of coercion. But maybe I’ve been thinking about this all wrong. Yes, my government threatens my autonomy. But other governments (and quasi-governments) threaten it more. And if there’s a structural relationship between military prowess and autonomy rights – basically, if we can count on the idea that the arch of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards autonomy – then arguably my autonomy interests are promoted when we throw fuel on the engines of war. In contrast, a misguided desire to constrain military innovation could permit the enemies of autonomy to catch up.

    Instead of singing “Ain’t gonna study war no more! Ain’t gonna study war no more!, maybe we need a new verse:

    I’m enrolled in War College now! I’m gonna help the Dow and the Tao…!

    • R Richard Schweitzer says

      Complementary suggestion:

      Now may be a time to review again the scholarship of Emmanuel Todd. In Particular:

      “After Empire: (The Decomposition of the American System)
      [2004]

      So far, right on target! Many forget that in 1976 he delineated the factors that would lead to the disintegration of the Soviet Union, which he then predicted. He works from human basics.

  2. gabe says

    ” The vast majority of immigrants are not work-shy benefit seekers, our immigration policy should be structured to encourage those with skills to come and to discourage those who want to take advantage of our welfare state. Guest worker programs and awarding of citizenship only upon evidence of years of gainful employment are mechanisms to continue the virtuous cycle of immigration.”

    This is a fair statement in so far as it addresses ONE aspect of immigration and our culture.
    The issue that many of us have with immigration is not an economic one (or at least not primarily so) but rather a cultural one. In the absence of cultural institutions and predispositions to “acculturate” new arrivals, as was common in my grandfathers day, it is dubious at best to argue that we will continue to strengthen our cultural inheritance when we are asked to change our ways in a manner that better befits the culture of the immigrants home. Far too often there is no history of ordered liberty, private property protections, religious freedom, speech, etc. – and consequently no corresponding behavior on the part of the new arrival. The insistence by some that we not only tolerate this but applaud it is rather disconcerting!

  3. R Richard Schweitzer says

    ” . . . immigration policy **should be** structured to . . .”

    But, why is it NOT?

    The answer to that question will lead to the **causes** of the symptoms of the disorders.

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