Timmy elsewhere

Quite how this came about is a little odd but as I’ve said, I’ve now a weekly column in Iran.

The latest issue they’ve an interview with Ha Joon Chang. And a piece by me telling everyone why Chang’s wrong. He gets the cover photo of course, because he’s famous. But we do get mentioned on the cover.

chang

No, you’ll just have to trust me when I say that the Farsi does say “Tim Worstall says it’s all crap”. Well, roughly at least.

 

“In historical detail Chang can find some successes from planned direction of the economy, most certainly. But what doesn’t get mentioned is that absolutely every country, including all the newly freed colonies, tried the same thing in the post-1945 period. Just about everywhere failed at doing it too. It is true that Posco is a large Korean steel company. It’s also true that Africa is littered with the rusting hulks of failed attempts. As the saying goes even the blind monkey occasionally finds a banana so if 150 odd countries try to plan their way to riches we cannot then claim that three or four managing the achievement shows this is the right way to do it. ”

“We’re even told that:

“So unless we invent an advanced machine that can transport people into different countries to provide different services and then return them home, you are not going to export a lot of services.”

This article is being written in Bohemia. This is thus an import into Iran of a Czech services export. Has Dr. Chang never heard of the internet? The way that American X-Rays are being diagnosed by radiologists in India? We are just exploring how to use this startling technology which changes the import and export of services in as important a manner as the steamship changed goods trade.”

“But even if the economics does not convince you then perhaps this will. Chang’s views on that planning of the economy are entirely incompatible with any form of liberal political order. Inconsistent with even basic freedom and liberty. He makes it quite clear in other writings that his sort of planning only works in an illiberal, authoritarian, state. For the planners must have the power to not only stop people from doing certain activities, they must also be able to force them to bend to the will of the plan. It is not hyperbole nor exaggeration to state that most of his favoured examples were semi-fascist military dictatorships when they had the political power to force people to follow the plan. And let’s face it that’s not an appealing prospect for Iran or anywhere else for that matter.”

8 thoughts on “Timmy elsewhere”

  1. “He makes it quite clear in other writings that his sort of planning only works in an illiberal, authoritarian, state. ”

    I’m not sure that’s quite the zinger it could be given the audience.

  2. Iran has a sizeable educated/liberal middle class. I think we can assume the fundies and the peasants won’t be reading the magazine.

  3. “So unless we invent an advanced machine that can transport people into different countries to provide different services and then return them home, you are not going to export a lot of services.”
    Uh? Ignoring the internet, what about the airliner? I can think about one particular industry which largely consists of service providers flying places to provide services, then flying home again. And I’d’ve thought the Chang assole himself would have been invited to lecture on his nonsense in a country not the one he’s living in. (Although I can quite understand if he doesn’t regard himself as providing a service. Since he isn’t.) But, otherwise, it just depends on the value of the service relative to the cost of travel & whether the result’s competitive with domestic providers.

  4. @Ciaran
    @BiG

    Unfortunately – though this is admittedly anecdata – the middle-class liberals from Iran that I’ve met (quite a few, by the way) are almost all liberals in the US English sense of the word, as in leftards.

    So belief in planned economy bollocks among the educated might still be very common.

  5. Bloke in Germany in Belgium

    @cynic,

    In a fundamental (sorry) debate on something like Iran we need those left liberals on our side.

    Both they and us need to give up on the black and white thinking many of us indulge in.

  6. As always the crucial question to ask is “how do *I* get to make decisions on what people do?” All too often the answer is “oh no, *we* make those decisions”.

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