Free Markets

President Donald Trump revived his tough talk on the North American Free Trade Agreement Tuesday, warning Canada it must stop protecting its dairy farmers from US competition.

Canada’s trade policy, after all, manages dairy production through a quota system (which is anathema in itself to a free market, but that’s mostly a Canadian domestic problem), and it seriously impedes foreign competition with tariffs designed for the task.

Circularly, Canada controls dairy prices by matching them to “average” production costs, and then controls production by setting allowed quotas.  With prices thus under government control, Canada sets tariffs to achieve prices for imports of foreign dairy products that aren’t competitive.

Obamacare

As The Wall Street Journal rightly pointed out, regarding the failed Obamacare repeal and replacement effort and the failing renewed discussions between the House Republican Conference and the Freedom Caucus of No,

The fury…suggests that some Freedom Caucus opposition is more cynical than sincere. Do its members want to appear to negotiate in good faith but insist on changes that centrists can’t accept, so they can then accuse centrists of killing the reform revival?

And

…perhaps there’s still hope for health-care reform. But first Republicans have to decide if they can accept progress that is short of perfection. If they can’t, then they’ll blow their best, and maybe only, shot at repealing and replacing a failing entitlement.

Trade Barriers

Since the meeting between PRC President Xi Jinping and President Donald Trump is a matter of concern these days, and the trade negotiations that are part of that meeting also are a matter of concern, herewith a concern of my own.

Maybe this is the right time for the two leaders to cut a deal to slash Chinese trade barriers.

The three biggest PRC trade barriers are these:

  • the PRC’s demand for government backdoors into American foundational software used by companies wanting to do business in the PRC

Contrasts

As the Trump administration begins to shape its policy on drugs, tension is growing between a treatment-focused approach, embodied in a new commission on opioids headed by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and the aggressive prosecution of drug crimes promised by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

There need there be no tension because there is no contradiction.  The two approaches—nail hard those who prey on the vulnerable and the addicted—and working to free the addicted from the controls of their addiction (“free from the controls” because an addict never loses his addiction; he can only reach a point where he can say reliably, “not today.”  That’s where current medical technology has us) rather than simply jailing them, too, potentiate each other.

Another Assault on US Intellectual Property

Beijing has proposed requiring cloud-computing services providers to turn over essentially all ownership and operations to Chinese partners and could result in the transfer of valuable US intellectual property, according to the letter, viewed by The Wall Street Journal.

Not “could result”—technology theft transfer is the point of the requirement.  This comes against the backdrop of the People’s Republic of China’s ongoing technology requirements.

China already places restrictions on investing for foreign cloud providers operating in the country under rules passed in the last two years…including forced collaboration with rivals and technology transfer.

Is the PRC market really worth these losses?

House Freedom Caucus of No

Yesterday, the membership of the House Freedom Caucus of No forced the American Health Care Act, the first stage of a three-stage Obamacare repeal and replace program offered by the majority of the House Republican Conference, to be withdrawn from the day’s backup vote (recall that these No-ers already had forced a delay from Thursday’s vote over their demand to have their way or there could be no Act), and so there will be no AHCA.

Delays

The House Republicans were forced to cancel yesterday’s scheduled American Health Care Act vote.  The Freedom Caucus, the Caucus of No, couldn’t be satisfied.  Congressmen like Jim Jordan (R, OH) and Caucus of No Chairman Mark Meadows (R, NC) refused late compromises, all the while insisting by implication from their refusals that constituents of other Congressmen, for instance Tom Cole (R, OK), worked for them and not that Cole worked for his Oklahoma constituents—and that those Oklahoma constituents might have different imperatives than those Congressmen of the Caucus.  So, no compromise from the No-ers.

Obamacare Replacement

One aspect of the plan on offer in the House is this:

…whether it includes enough reform to arrest the current death spiral in the individual insurance market.

Notably, the bill includes a new 10-year $100 billion “stability fund” that allows states to start to repair their individual insurance markets. Before ObamaCare, it wasn’t inevitable that costs would increase by 25% on average this year, or that nearly a third of US counties would become single-insurer monopolies. With better policy choices, states can make coverage cheaper and more attractive for consumers and coax insurers back into the market, and the stability fund is a powerful tool.

A Thought on Free Trade

…which I’ll assume for this post is structured between participant nations as fair trade, since it’s possible to have free and unfair trade, and it’s unfair trade that should be anathema.  Not all free trade is unfair; the parameters of any trade agreement, parameters that make the trade fair or unfair, are matters of mutual agreement (or perhaps not so mutual in the case of unfairness) among those participants.

Don Boudreaux triggered my thought with his piece in US News & World Report.

Internet of Things

…and default passwords.  Default passwords are foolish in any device, but here’s a particularly failing example.  A laundromat in Colorado had a security camera connected to the Internet (as is typical of security cameras), and it began hosting a particularly malicious bit of malware.

Bill Knapp, owner of Security Solutions LLC, whose firm installed the laundromat’s surveillance system, which included the security camera:

One of the hardest parts of this business is that everyone loses their passwords[.]