I’ve mentioned my dovishness before, which includes not only opposing military strikes but most sanctions on regimes which I regard as generally more harmful to subjects than rulers. I’m particularly not a fan of the neoconservatives and their predecessors among “Scoop Jackson Democrats”. On the other hand I’m also a big fan of “exit” (as opposed to “voice” or “loyalty”) and anti-fan of communism. Those two preferences collide in the case of the Jackson-Vanick amendment. Sasha Volokh has often poured salt on that intellectual wound by writing about its relevance for the emigration of his own family. Now he reveals that the waivers conditional on emigration weren’t applied to the Soviet Union until 1990. Chalk up another one for irrelevance of policy.
UPDATE: I recommend reading Ilya Somin’s response. I have some points in response to him in turn. He writes that “the Soviets, of course, did not know [the amendment called for fully free emigration] in advance”. Did they not bother reading the actual law? Regarding the ethics of restricting trade with socialist nations, he writes that all property in those states has been stolen by the government and so there is nothing inherently unlibertarian about restricting trade in such “stolen” property and hence we must consider the effects on a case-by-case basis. At this I wonder if Somin has read many left-libertarian (or even just leftist) critiques of the current distribution of property/authority in “capitalist” nations and how much of it (including the very land we live on) is stolen. Kevin Carson uses the phrase “subsidy of history“. Furthermore, it was not the case that the Soviet Union was some sort of ideal communist society in which the citizenry could not purchase for themselves anything at all. Restricting trade however, would bring it closer to the level of North Korea. The second-best course of action seems to me still the same as it would be in a first-best world.

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