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Gallup ask small businesses about their hiring practices.
Nearly as many reported hiring fewer than needed as reported hiring as many as needed.
Note the question asked was as needed. From an economists perspective this is as if the firm is saying that if deliberately did not continue hiring until marginal revenue produce equaled the wage rate. There were workers, there was work, profit could have been made. They decided not to make it.
The question is of course why?
Gallup asks that as well
The top two answers are consistent with standard Aggregate Demand stories.
The first is a New Keynesian story that employers can’t sell all the product that they want at existing prices.
The second is a more monetarist flavored story that real cash balances are two low.
The third is a structural reason. Not the right employee mix. Note that this is a Mismatch story. Not recalculation.
The fourth is harder to interpret. It could be regulatory uncertainty: Is the new health care law going to cost me too much.
It could be a sticky-wages story: I can’t just take away my employee’s health care at the drop of hat. If health care costs are rising that is forcing real wage increases on me.
It could be a Austrian story. The relative demand for health care is rising implying that I should reduce resource use in my area to free up resources for the health sector but the price signals are screwed up health care, making this unclear to business owners.
Lastly Gallup asks a question that reveals why Aggregate Demand might cause the natural churn of the economy to bubble up into recession.
41% of those hiring say they did so to replace an employee who left. Employees quitting is part of the natural economic churn. No problem there The problem is that the employers didn’t all hire up to the point that they needed. Meaning that our natural churn spilled over into excess unemployment.
We really want to to see the crosstabs here but with 41% hiring to replace a lost employee and 42% saying they hired less than they needed, it seems reasonable that many employers did not replace all lost employees even if they needed them.
The story that makes sense to me is that employees left for some reason – could be fired, dead, quit, laid off when recession hit, whatever. Employers could profitably replace those employees if they were sure they could sell all their merchandise at existing prices.
They are not sure, and so they have hired only a few employees.
Now this could be an entirely real story. It could be that small businesses completely misinterpreted the real economy and so now are readjusting. They have to wait to see if demand is really there or not before committing resources.
The question is why did this happen to so many employers at once.
This is where I think Bob Murphy and his Sushi story have an advantage. He says the Fed confused everyone and that is why so many businessmen are confused at once.
The problem with that story is that it depends on some workers have very low or zero marginal product during the transition. It seems to me that this is akin to saying these workers are needed.
However, the survey here suggests that there were workers who were needed but not hired.
To me this points to an Aggregate Demand story where a sudden drop of in sales leads many owners at once having more inventory than they can sell at current prices and reluctant to hire unless that inventory starts moving again.
Unconscionable no doubt, but not default.
Contra to Neal Wolin, if bondholders needed sign that under no state of affairs will any credit losses on US bonds ever be allowed, then prioritizing debt payments over the men and women who have shed blood for their country would do it.
If seniors across America start having their chemo cancelled so that Arab Sheik’s get their bond payments on time then US creditworthiness will go through the roof.
Its already sky high of course, but a wealthy powerful government that is willing to see its weakest citizens lose care before it allows its creditors to miss a single payment would be the most credit worthy entity imaginable.
Economics is not a morality play.
I should begin by saying that these are the simple thoughts of one individual. I claim to be an expert on nothing Egyptian or even a consummate observer of current events.
From the vey beginning the Green revolution in Iran seemed like something I could get behind. There was a clear reformist camp with solid credentials and the backing of some Ayatollahs. Whether or not we in the West consider the Ayatollahs a legitimate source of political power, they are learned and respected men in Iran and their voice is the voice of the meritocratic elite, such as it is.
On the other hand Egypt looks more to me like a mass uprising. A mob without clear leadership and without an agenda that has the endorsement of some significant segment of the ruling class.
When such uprising occur its not a stretch to imagine that popular sentiment will get the better of cooler heads, that there will be lashing out at enemies perceived and real and that in the end there will be waves of destructive violence culminating in a return to simple autocracy.
That people often consent to autocracy and that all autocracy is not called tyranny is something Americans too easily dismiss in their zeal for democracy. Chaos is a real possibility and while the War of All Against All is unlikely the War of Faction Against Faction can go on without end.
Thus the self-serving state can, with the implicit consent of the governed, extract such huge sums from from the people, can build itself lavish palaces and create a gilded class, simply because the alternative is so bad. Without some state, any state, to put an end to the violence, normal life cannot possibly go on.
All that having been said perhaps, unknown to me, there is some real consensus among the Egyptian elite about how to move to a democratic government or perhaps somehow Washington can force such a consensus. Without that, however, its seems likely that the best case scenario is for one autocrat to be traded for another and the worst is open violence between factions.
Freddie has been complaining about the Atlantic and other media organization’s coverage of higher education, in particular he thinks they’re too quick to blame the institutions. In contrast, he presents this quote from Tyler Cowen:
“In contrast to earlier in the twentieth century, who today is the marginal student thrown into the college environment? It is someone who cannot write a clear English sentence, perhaps cannot read well, and cannot perform all the functions of basic arithmetic. About one third of the college students today will drop out, a marked rise since the 1960s, when the figure was only one in five. At the two hundred schools with the worst graduation rates, only 26 percent of the students will finish. The typical individual in these schools– much less the marginal individual– is someone who struggled in high school and never was properly prepared. It also may be the student who, whatever his or her underlying talent level may be, comes from a broken and possibly tragic home environment and simply is not ready to take advantage of college.
Educating many of these students is possible, it is desirable, and we should do more of it, but it is not like grabbing low-hanging fruit. It’s a long, tough slog with difficult obstacles along the way and highly uncertain returns.”
This, he rightly says, is “sober, it is measured, and it is self-limiting”, therefore he claims it would never be published by the Atlantic. I think Tyler’s point is an important one, and I think Freddie is correct to praise Tyler, but I’m not sure the Atlantic deserves the ire he directs at it. In fact one of the first stories that came to my mind when I read this blog post from Freddie is an excellent story from the Atlantic called “In the Basement of the Ivory Tower”. I didn’t go searching for a single story to disprove Freddie, it’s just that when I think about the plight of the marginal college student and his or her educator, I think of this story.
Here is one typical passage that conveys an honest, sober, appraisal that of the type I think Freddie is looking for:
The colleges and the students and I are bobbing up and down in a great wave of societal forces—social optimism on a large scale, the sense of college as both a universal right and a need, financial necessity on the part of the colleges and the students alike, the desire to maintain high academic standards while admitting marginal students—that have coalesced into a mini-tsunami of difficulty. No one has drawn up the flowchart and seen that, although more-widespread college admission is a bonanza for the colleges and nice for the students and makes the entire United States of America feel rather pleased with itself, there is one point of irreconcilable conflict in the system, and that is the moment when the adjunct instructor, who by the nature of his job teaches the worst students, must ink the F on that first writing assignment.
The professor’s portrait of the students is a sympathetic one, almost heartbreakingly, which in turn lets you empathize with the professor. The story even demonstrates self-awareness of the criticisms Freddie is making, seen here in the author’s struggle over whether to fail a middle aged woman who returned to school to better herself but was clearly not capable of college level work:
I thought briefly of passing Ms. L., of slipping her the old gentlewoman’s C-minus. But I couldn’t do it. It wouldn’t be fair to the other students. By passing Ms. L., I would be eroding the standards of the school for which I worked. Besides, I nurse a healthy ration of paranoia. What if she were a plant from The New York Times doing a story on the declining standards of the nation’s colleges? In my mind’s eye, the front page of a newspaper spun madly, as in old movies, coming to rest to reveal a damning headline:
THIS IS A C?
Illiterate Mess Garners ‘Average’ Grade
Adjunct Says Student ‘Needed’ to Pass, ‘Tried Hard’
This story acknowledges the difficulties higher education institutions face when it comes to marginal students, and it recognizes the friction between this challenge and the American ideal of college education, an ideal the author himself holds. Importantly, yet dishearteningly, he doesn’t provide any easy answers. I know Freddie is working on a wider critique of the Atlantic, but I think this piece fits pretty squarely with what he’s looking for.
Earlier I expressed my fear that a growing economy would cause the Fed to back off its aggressive policy. Bernanke says don’t worry.
In sum, although economic growth will probably increase this year, we expect the unemployment rate to remain stubbornly above, and inflation to remain persistently below, the levels that Federal Reserve policymakers have judged to be consistent over the longer term with our mandate from the Congress to foster maximum employment and price stability. Under such conditions, the Federal Reserve would typically ease monetary policy by reducing the target for its short-term policy interest rate, the federal funds rate. However, the target range for the funds rate has been near zero since December 2008, and the Federal Reserve has indicated that economic conditions are likely to warrant an exceptionally low target rate for an extended period. As a result, for the past two years we have been using alternative tools to provide additional monetary accommodation.
The first statement is very important. Low inflation and high unemployment are the key variables not growth. As long as inflation is low and unemployment is high we keep on the accelerator. No implicit acceptance of a 4% growth ceiling.
A wide range of market indicators supports the view that the Federal Reserve’s securities purchases have been effective at easing financial conditions. For example, since August, when we announced our policy of reinvesting maturing securities and signaled we were considering more purchases, equity prices have risen significantly, volatility in the equity market has fallen, corporate bond spreads have narrowed, and inflation compensation as measured in the market for inflation-indexed securities has risen from low to more normal levels. Yields on 5- to 10-year Treasury securities initially declined markedly as markets priced in prospective Fed purchases; these yields subsequently rose, however, as investors became more optimistic about economic growth and as traders scaled back their expectations of future securities purchases. All of these developments are what one would expect to see when monetary policy becomes more accommodative, whether through conventional or less conventional means. Interestingly, these developments are also remarkably similar to those that occurred during the earlier episode of policy easing, notably in the months following our March 2009 announcement of a significant expansion in securities purchases. The fact that financial markets responded in very similar ways to each of these policy actions lends credence to the view that these actions had the expected effects on markets and are thereby providing significant support to job creation and the economy.
Here Bernanke says that QE2 worked just like lowering the Funds rate would. Importantly it drove up inflation expectations, meaning that people are treating it like looser monetary policy.
Put that together and it means that as long as inflation is low and unemployment high Quantitative Easing will continue.
In response to this chart
Kevin Drum says
Sadly, neither Glasner, Sumner, nor Krugman explain in terms someone like me can understand why this correlation implies that aggregate demand is what’s behind our economic woes. I feel a bit like a dummy, since they seem to expect this to be obvious, but hopefully someone out there in the econ blogosphere will take pity and explain this in laymen’s terms.
So, I’ll attempt to do this Socraticly, so as to reveal the that Kevin is not a dummy and indeed already knows why this is true. I’ll put my assumed responses in brackets.
Do you believe that the stock market will go up if people think the economy is better in the future and fall if people think it is worse?
Do you believe that when the Fed decides to print more money that people will expect more inflation?
Do you further believe that it was the Fed’s public announcement of the fact that it intended to print money that led people to expect more inflation.
And doesn’t the chart show us that when those inflation expectations rose the stock market rose?
So adding that to your previous beliefs can we say:
When the Fed decided to print more money thus causing people to expect inflation the economy’s outlook got better signified by an improvement in the stock market.
Do you further believe that printing money simply causes people to try to buy more stuff, but doesn’t change the economy’s fundamental ability to produce stuff.
So you believe that when the Fed decided to increase the amount of stuff people tried to buy the economy’s outlook got better.
Then you believe that the economy was bad because people weren’t trying to buy enough stuff.
Isn’t this just another way of saying this was a problem of Aggregate Demand and not Supply?
Arnold Kling says that I am being obtuse. Maybe, but I need help seeing how.
It seems like a key component in the play is this
Act Two (the bust): It turns out that these dishes do not have enduring appeal. All four men are unemployed, and economic activity is down.
Perhaps, I should rephrase my confusion another way.
Why would we assume economic activity is down?
The play describes churn or creative destruction. This happens all of the time. Indeed, even during periods of booming Nominal GDP.
To try to stick with Arnold paradigm and reduce my obtuseness, I would say that there are thousands of patterns of trade being established everyday. Many of them are not sustainable. However, normally we observe that as the unsustainable ones die they are replaced by new ones.
All of us, I think, agree that this is why some unemployment always exists, as workers transition between various patterns of trade.
Not to go to far a stray, but students often ask why I or other economists describe 300K people new claims for unemployment insurance a week, as a booming economy.
Wouldn’t that imply that 15 Million people are being laid off every year. My response is that this is the natural rate of job loss and that it is made up for by job creation. By natural rate, I think I am describing the process of Act Two.
Jim Hamilton has a nice breakdown on all the positive signs for US growth. I even have a new presentation I am giving titled “Don’t Be Lulled into Fall Sense of Despair” that basically argues that if things go as planned the US economy will be growing steadily and so will profits and tax revenues.
All that having been said my worry is that this will cause the Fed to back off of its aggressive stimulus policy. The Fed should stay the course with QE2 and consider QE3.
As I have mentioned before, we are conditioned to think of 3 – 4% growth as strong. However, that is in a world where there are few slack resources. This is not our world. Our world has plenty of idle resources.
6% growth is not unrealistic. I urge the Fed to push towards that goal. High profits and growing government revenues are great but we need to put people back to work.
The Mankiw Rule for example doesn’t call for raising the funds rate above zero until the (unemployment rate – core inflation) rate drops below 6. Right now we are still above 7.5
Indeed here is what the Mankiw Rule says the Fed Funds rate should be
We are still deep into negative territory meaning that we need additional monetary stimulus above and beyond a zero interest rate.
As a side note, I would love to claim that QE2 is behind this increased growth but that is premature. The timing is right on, but we need more evidence before we can claim intellectual victory.
Act One (the boom): Bao and Leroy have opened a restaurant, as have Esteban and Marcel, serving curried baked beans and Pupusas in mushroom-wine sauce, respectively. There is a lot optimism and economic activity.
Act Two (the bust): It turns out that these dishes do not have enduring appeal. All four men are unemployed, and economic activity is down.
Act Three (the recovery): Bao and Marcel have joined forces and opened a successful restaurant serving French Vietnamese cusine. Leroy and Esteban have opened a successful Tex-Mex restaurant.
If you are attached to the standard macroeconomic paradigm of aggregate supply and demand, then this play can serve as an illustration. Nominal GDP is much higher in acts one and three than in act two.
Except that NGDP is not lower or higher in any of the acts based on the story that Arnold laid out.
Our characters are presumably using money. This money comes from somewhere and so reduces other spending. When they go out of business they stop spending money, freeing it for use elsewhere.
Changes in NGDP are about changes in the total amount of money spent. Not who spends it.
Money or financial assets generally are core to aggregate supply and demand story. Its why Scott Sumner insists that the Fed tightened money in 2008. Its why I insist that the collapse of Lehman and the run in the money markets represented a fall in privately created money (liquidity). Its why in either case the collapse in the price of stocks and the soaring price of Treasury Bills was a key moment.
Adam has commented on the slippery slope to paternalism more than once. I offer a simple method for monitoring.
Go to Google news, type in “new regulation” in full quotes.
With in seconds I found this
Last month the city council in South Los Angeles, California passed a regulation banning new fast food restaurants from opening in the area. The new regulation is part of a public health effort to combat the high rate of obesity, heart disease and diabetes which plagues the poverty stricken region. The county’s health department reports 30% of residents are obese, which is double the rate seen in wealthier parts of the city.
The regulation would not affect existing fast-food restaurants, nor those set to open in strip malls. Small mom and pop establishments as well as casual sit down restaurants would still be allowed to get permits. The ban is aimed at stand-alone fast-food joints, of which there are nearly 1000 in the 30 square miles covered by the regulation.
Now admittedly this is just using paternalism to justify rent seeking. Ordering a Caesar Wrap from a new Chick-fil-A is now impossible, but ordering Ribs and Mashed potatoes from Mom and Pop is fine. Nonetheless.
I posted a link to Bryan Caplan’s paper on Behavioral Economics and the Welfare State. Many of the comments I got from economists were predictable:
- Where is the formal model and existence proofs?
- Where is the data analysis?
- How is this a paper?
- Do you mean to tell me this is publishable?
I too was shocked initially by these features or lack thereof. However, that’s part of what made the paper compelling.
Some papers get a wonderful data set, perform magnificent identification and get a result that really changes your mind about something you care about. Most don’t.
Most are cases that are of very narrow interest or do a 90% good job at the ID but leave enough doors open that you are not really sure if the result is meaningful or not.
On the other hand, one could as Bryan and his co-author did, attack an important question, string together some non-obvious points and in my case leave the reader thinking about whether he or she should reexamine an import view.
The profession should rightly celebrate the first kind of paper. However, what about the relative worth of the second and the third?
I submit that bringing up arguments that use the economic way of thinking matter. This is true even if the argument is not definitive, has no mathematical proof behind it and marshals no data.
Let me give a more timely example. We are now engaged in a debate over the nature of recessions and how the government should respond. There are obviously lots of models and empirical studies, none of them perfect.
However, more than any other analysis the baby-sitting coop story made me a confident Keynesian. Before then I could parrot the New Keynesian models and understood that this was more or less what a smart economist was supposed to say.
However, I didn’t know how to counter the logic of Laizze Faire except to say, “well there are sticky prices and an Euler equation and so the household will adjust consumption . . . “ This is compelling to virtually no one – not even, on a deep level, to myself.
When it really came down to it, I would have been left with “Great Depression! Want it to happen again? No? Then we need to spend more money or cut taxes! Why? Because I am very smart and I have a whiteboard. Do you have a whiteboard?”
However, a simple story about baby-sitting and it all fell into place. Paul Krugman has retold the story many times. Its about a baby-sitting co-op that uses scrip to track how many times a couple has sat for other members of the co-op and thus how many times someone should sit for them.
Because of some mismanagement in the handling of scrip the co-op at one point went into recession. There weren’t any fewer people who could babysit and there weren’t any fewer opportunities for couples to go out. The real baby-sitting economy hadn’t changed.
Bad policies by the co-op leaders reduced the number of scrip per couple. And, for lack of scrip no one went out. And because no one went out, no one sat. And because no one sat, no one got any scrip. And, since no one got any scrip, no one could go out . . .
Excess demand for financial assets led to a collapse in the demand for real good and services. Something that seemed extremely complicated was elucidated by a simple story.
Years ago that story was printed in an economics journal. I read it in the Slate.com archives.
As I have mentioned before I started warning of a Japanese style scenario in early 2008, not because of a formal model, but because of that baby-sitting story.
You see, the investment banks were like a baby-sitting couple who by borrowing and lending script and carefully tracking dining out patterns with fancy computer models had assured everyone that any couple, at any time, could find a baby-sitter whether they had physical scrip or not. Just come to us, and we’ll make it happen. No scrip down as it were.
That system was about to collapse and when that happened the demand for physical scrip was going to skyrocket. If you believed the original baby-sitting story that meant a recession of epic proportions. We were going to need a lot more scrip and the Fed didn’t seem to get that.
Nor, I should mention, did may people familiar with mainstream macro-economics. Its not that you couldn’t have gotten that result out of the math models. Its that you wouldn’t have known where to look.
You would have thought about wealth effects and the distributional impact of housing. Willem Buiter, a very smart man, insisted there would be no recession because the decline in the price of houses made homeowners poorer but homebuyers richer. This does somewhere between little and nothing to the representative agents Euler equation. However, Buiter failed to consider the simple lesson of the baby-sitting economy.
Buiter, forgot about scrip.
I don’t know how I missed this paper by Bryan Caplan and Scott Beaulier. Basically Bryan an his co-author give a behavioral economics defense of the “culture of poverty” argument. They argue that if we take the conclusions of behavioral economics seriously then we have to admit the strong possibility that aid to the poor can make the poor worse off.
I recommend that as many people read this and post or comment on their thoughts. Its antithetical to my core worldview, one the authors correctly dub as neoclassical. I haven’t decided yet whether or in what way to revise my thinking in light of it.
It may not be as big of a deal to others but because I take behavioral claims seriously and my beliefs rested so heavily on the neoclassical framework, it’s a big deal to me.
Kevin Drum pushes back
The healthcare front is harder to judge. I agree with Tyler that we waste a lot of money on healthcare, but at the same time, I think a lot of people seriously underrate the value of modern improvements in healthcare. It’s not just vaccines, antibiotics, sterilization and anesthesia. Hip replacements really, truly improve your life quality, far more than a better car does. Ditto for antidepressants, blood pressure meds, cancer treatments, arthritis medication, and much more. The fact that we waste lots of money on useless end-of-life treatments doesn’t make this other stuff any less real.
Matt Yglesias cosigns
I think that’s spot on. The consumer surplus involved in successful medical treatments is gigantic. Indeed, I would say that’s probably a good start at an explanation for whythere’s so much waste. But from a policy point of view this is why I often find myself moored between the impulse to “control costs” and the impulse to “expand access.” What I really want to do is promote good health and there are an awful lot of things we could do to do that at very low cost.
Points well taken and I’ll both backpedal a bit and clarify a bit.
First, yes there are big quality of life improvements that don’t show up in our life expectancy data. Treating pain and emotional distress, of many different forms, is at least as important as extending life and our system has made great strides in doing that.
I want to completely concede that the treatment of pain has improved drastically and that has made a world of difference.
Second, I want to clarify about major breakthroughs. People talk about statins, beta-blockers, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, etc in the treatment of our two major killers, cardiovascular disease and cancer. However, the actual dent these things make in like expectancy is small.
Take statins, which are one of the major weapons in the fight against heart disease. Even the published results in JAMA suggest that the number of people who have to be on statins to prevent a single person from having a single coronary event is between 44 and 258.
However, real world results almost always are worse than trials, not all coronary events are fatal, and the prevention of a coronary event only extends life expectancy if the patient doesn’t die of something else in the mean time. Which makes our frontline weapon not that effective in actually extending life.
Contrast this to penicillin in the treatment of Scarlet Fever. The number to treat is basically one. See a case of Scarlet Fever, administer penicillin. Nearly a fifth of all the people who contract the disease would die from it with no treatment. With treatment almost no one does. The extension in life can be many decades if the disease in contracted in the teens or twenties.
Statins don’t do this. Beta-blockers don’t do this. Chemotherapy in the treatment of cancer doesn’t do this. And, keep in mind these are treatments. Much of our health care dollars are spent on diagnostics. For diagnostics to have any life extending value at all you have to find something, which usually you don’t.
Diagnostics are particularly vulnerable to my critique. People feel reassured when the doctor walks in and says “the MRI was clear.” However, the docs could rephrase this as “I just spent $2000 of your money and its going to make no difference in your health outcome whatsoever, yeah!”
I think I have complained about decision trees before, but people confuse changes in their information set with changes in the state of nature. That a diagnostic procedure comes back negative doesn’t make you healthy, it just reduces your uncertainty about a predetermined fact.
Whatever was true before is true now. We just have more information. Was that information worth $2000? That depends crucially on what we do with it. However, if what we do with it is usually nothing and sometimes to initiate a treatment which will only have an effect in 1 out of 50 cases, then we really have question what we are doing here.
First, David Henderson on Behavioral Economics. In an old post his says
We need to separate behavioral economics into two components: (1) their analysis of humans and the limits of rationality, much of which I agree with, and (2) their conclusion, on the basis of (1), that because humans aren’t totally rational, other not-totally-rational humans who will not bear the consequences of their mistakes should be given power over people’s lives. It’s this second part that’s so absurd
This is not so absurd. It may be a bad idea or hard to implement, but not absurd.
To say that humans don’t behave rationally – a strong statement that too many underappreciate – is not to say that rationality is impossible. For one, thing the primary objective of mathematics is to impose rationality upon grammar. That is, any properly constructed mathematical sentence must be rational. So, one only has to be fluent in and use the language of mathematics to know that all subsequent statements will be rational.
Again, such statements may not be correct – garbage in, garbage out as math teachers like to say – but they are rational.
The problem is of course, that we can’t form mathematical sentences that accurately describe phenomena that are of deep interest to us. So, we are left with approximations.
Anyway, that rationality is possible is the point and that rules should be set down which embrace this rationality is the goal. This is not absurd.
Second, Bryan Caplan on the Conscience of a Liberaltarian
For me, immigration restrictions are a moral mirror. I want to make non-libertarians stare into this mirror and see Dorian Gray looking back at them. You say you care about the poor? That everyone is equal? That all men are brothers? Then open borders – not forced charity for your well-fed countrymen – should be your overwhelming priority. Anyone who supports the welfare state on humanitarian grounds should favor open borders. And if that’s too demanding for you, it’s the welfare state you should compromise first.
I have to agree that vastly increased immigration is the primary humanitarian goal of liberaltarianism. I don’t think that one has to accept open borders, however. In the same way, a liberaltarian doesn’t have to accept the most extreme forms of redistribution possible.
In both cases maintenance of the liberal state and of the liberal project takes precedent over immediate goals of reducing human suffering. For this reason a liberaltarian could also favor war – which imposes enormous suffering - if it were necessary to defend the liberal state.
However, there is no denying it, allowing more people to move to America is the first and best goal in the struggle against human suffering.