Periscope Depth

I am not afraid to keep on living

An observation:

I intend to “boycott” the Beijing Summer Olympics, in the same way I “boycotted” the 2006 Turin Winter Olympics, the 2004 Athens Olympics, the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics, and the 2000 Sydney Olympics, and the 1998 Nagano Olympics, and NASCAR racing, and most professional basketball, and all hockey on the professional level, and Pirates/Brewers games, and strongman competitions unless it’s Saturday afternoon and I’ve got nothing to do for at least four hours and really there’s nothing else good on, not Shawshank, not Trading Places, nothing.

To be serious for a moment (but just one): were the Olympics that much of a ratings draw that we can call any form of boycott meaningful? Beijing sits twelve hours ahead of the East Coast of the U.S. – their early games will start just as you’re finishing dinner, the late games will end just as the clubs let out. Would anyone in the U.S. really have had the fortitude to watch the Olympics live in the absence of a boycott? Or were you just going to get your Olympiad coverage from CNN and ESPN recaps, which you’re going to do anyway – thus making any form of boycott silly?

Then again, China remains perhaps one of the most despicable tyrannies in the modern world, except (to paraphrase Churchill) for all the others. So I suppose a mild objection to a nation’s censorship trumps none at all.

A quandary:

Free exchange is pretty objectively good, if you know the theory behind it. If you have something I want and I have something you want, a trade profits both of us even if no one creates anything new. In fact, no one can come up with a better way to make as many people as wealthy as possible than by allowing them to trade freely with each other. Just as pointing out gaps in the fossil record does not discredit evolution, pointing out the side effects of profitable behavior – pollution, monopoly, etc – does not discredit free trade.

Corporate behavior is pretty objectively bad, if you know the history behind it. Even the best corporations engage in rent-seeking and bureaucratic makework, with communication stifled through so many layers that success becomes an accident and incompetence becomes assured. And the worst among them bungle, cheat and get away with it. That’s not counting the ones that used to hire Pinkertons to shoot strikers, either.

The quandary: explain the (apparent) contradiction between the obvious benefits of free trade and the obvious failings of the modern corporation. Serious responses will be answered seriously; frivolous responses, frivolously. Show your work.

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