What if Matt Yglesias had been born in 1955?

My dad was born in 1921, so naturally he was fairly liberal.  I was born in 1955, and my politics were shaped by the 1970s.  So I became a right-winger.  Admittedly, I’m something of a right-wing liberal, but I’ve always been vaguely affiliated with the right.  When I read this recent post by Yglesias, I had a sudden feeling of deja vu:

I still think there’s a deeply problematic solipsism in most of this reporting. Apple makes lots of stuff that lots of Americans own and therefore it’s possible to make people feel a kind of psychic chain of guilt when they hear about bad conditions in the factories building the components. But this is a bit like the South By Southwest human hotspots problem, what Apple stands accused of is complicity in the misery of Chinese workers but its real crime often seems to be exposing our delicate western sensibilities to the misery.

You don’t read articles about working conditions in factories making socks destined for export to Kazakhstan, and you don’t read articles about working conditions on the rice farms that people eagerly leave to go toil in the sock factory. That rice and those socks are invisible to us and so too are the workers. What we need to see and hear about are bad conditions wherever they may be, not just the ones that provide the appealing news hook. When you read something bad about a Foxconn factory and then see that thousands of people line up for the chance of a job at one of them, that really ought to make you wonder. What were those guys doing the day before they decided to stand in line? How did that look? If you want to understand the depths of poverty that exist in the world, you can’t just look under the streetlamp.

Great stuff, and indeed this sort of critique of progressives is basically what made me a right-winger.  Liberals (in the American sense) seemed so illogical during the 1970s, so naive.  I suppose my younger readers are now shaking their heads in disbelief:  “Everyone knows the conservatives are the stupid party, and always have been.”  They’d point to global warming denial, creationism, irrational fears of hyperinflation, or claims that “the military isn’t that expensive,” and hence a good way to employ the youth of America.

Yes, I know all that, but everyone is shaped by what was happening when they were young.  I recall:

1.  Progressive hostility to the hard truths of cost/benefit analysis.

2.  Hysteria over chemicals in food, even though science didn’t back them up.

3.  Denial of the role of money in inflation and support for crack-pot solutions such as wage price controls (Yes, I know about Nixon, I’m talking intellectuals now.)

4.  Denial of the disincentive effects of welfare programs.

5.  Soft on communism.  By that I don’t mean pro-communist, I mean anti-anti-communist.  When I was young calling someone an “anti-communist” was basically an insult in liberal company.  If you called Mao or Castro a brutal tyrant you were viewed as an embarrassment; as something of a something of a McCarthyite.  Chilean economic policies were viewed as evil.  Now the Chilean socialists have adopted them.

6.  Denial that punishment deters crime.

And I could go on and on.  It seemed to me that liberals weren’t willing to engage in clear, hard-headed, logical thinking.

I can already anticipate all the push back I’ll get in the comment section.  I do realize than in any decade there are good and bad points to both sides.  Lots of them.  So I’m sure you can find many exceptions to my generalities.  I’m just giving you my gut impression, FWIW.

Some might argue that even if Yglesias was born in the 1950s he would have become a lefty.  That he has an especially compassionate heart.  I doubt that (recall that Breitbart tweet).  I think he is very well-intentioned, but so am I and the other right-wingers I know.   But he doesn’t strike me as someone with a typical progressive personality.  They don’t write posts as dispassionate as the one I just quoted (and I could cite other recent Yglesias posts in the “neoliberal” vein.)  Rather I think he affiliated with the left because he’s younger than me, and the left seemed the more rational worldview when he came of age.

PS.  I have a theory that everyone actually lives about one decade (or maybe 15 years); during the others they are just tourists passing through.  Coppola seemed incapable of making a non-masterpiece during the 1970s, and couldn’t click in any of the other decades.  For me 1970s pop stars like Elvis Costello and Graham Parker are towering figures; for 1960s or 1990s people, they’re just minor footnotes.  You had to be there to understand.

PPS.  Think the 70s were mindless disco?  Check out the lyrics to “Man out of Time.”


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114 Responses to “What if Matt Yglesias had been born in 1955?”

  1. Gravatar of Lars Christensen Lars Christensen
    17. March 2012 at 08:54

    Scott, you are just a bleeding heart libertarian – and that is certainly not bad. By way I hate that American use the term “liberal” to mean “left-wing” – somebody who favours big government. When your dad was born a “liberal” in the US would be considered as somebody socially progressive, but certainly not somebody who were in favour of big government and government intervention. Rather the liberals of the 1920s was strongly against big government.

    By the way in today’s political discussion in the US classical liberals and libertarian should find it hard to agree with anything that conservatives favour: Wars, the war on drugs, mixing politics and religion AND most importantly BIG GOVERNMENT!

    So-called “progressive” and “liberals” unfortunately is not much better…

  2. Gravatar of Eric G Eric G
    17. March 2012 at 09:22

    I do think that a lot of what liberals believed in the 70s and 80s were proven to be wrong, well most of it. The examples you list off are correct except the last one in regards to the death penalty (we learned that no conclusive study shows it deters people from killing in college). They were also wrong about the relation between inflation and employment.

    However, conservatives took things too far. Tax cuts only cause deficits, they don’t create millions of jobs and it doesn’t trickle down to the poor. Not helping the homeless costs more than housing and feeding them ($35,000-150,000 per person depending on the location) not to mention most homeless people I see are mentally handicapped. My dad just got dementia and it turns out he needs to be in a nursing home, thankfully government and my family can (barely) help him. Republicans would probably want people like him to beg for money in the streets, and they would be wrong.

    Progressives are right about health care, broadly speaking. We now know as a matter of fact that a single-payer health care system like the one they have in France would create budget surpluses and cost much less than the system we have now. It’s a paradox that government owned insurance would cost less, thus be “smaller government.” We also know that other non-single payer systems lead to less spending per gdp, so that would work too.

    However, by and large, liberals have now turned to methods to help the poor and middle class by capitalist-economic means. Krugman argues that we should use fiscal policy to stimulate the economy, you argue that monetary stimulus is better. It’s both forms of government intervention, but the goal is to return to a state of economy that doesn’t need the government’s help by increasing growth.

    There’s still the argument of “big government” vs “small government” but it’s meaningless. What is big? Is it defined by debt, deficits, government workers, intrusion into our private lives, or what? A single-payer system costs less than what we have now and would create surpluses, but it’s an encroachment into a few people’s businesses. Private corporations have huge bureaucracies, and that seems to be fine with libertarians but governments are big if there are too many bureaucrats. George Bush and the Neocons had their unitary theory of the Presidency and wanted him to have even more power than the constitution has given the office, but is a dictatorship small government since only 1 office is making all the decisions? If it’s all big government than what’s small government? Somalia? I digress…

  3. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    17. March 2012 at 09:26

    Lars, You said;

    “When your dad was born a “liberal” in the US would be considered as somebody socially progressive, but certainly not somebody who were in favour of big government and government intervention.”

    That may have been true when he was born, but in America it was not true when he came of age in the late 1930s–FDR had redefined the term to mean slightly socialist.

    Today I’d make the following bad joke.

    Liberals favor big government.
    Liberals favour small government.

    I agree with the thrust of your comments.

  4. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    17. March 2012 at 09:33

    Eric, My point 6 wasn’t about the death penalty, but I’d note that there is never a “conclusive study” in the social sciences, you can certainly find studies that show it deters crime, and my hunch is those studies are right.

    You said;

    “Progressives are right about health care, broadly speaking. We now know as a matter of fact that a single-payer health care system like the one they have in France would create budget surpluses and cost much less than the system we have now.”

    France has a budget surplus? I didn’t know that? I’ll tell you who has a budget surplus; Singapore. They spend less than 2% of GDP on government paid for health care, and have universal coverage and longer life expectancies than the French. So we now know the HSAs (a conservative idea) are the way to go.)

    I didn’t realize that liberals had learned how to help the homeless. When I visit big cities dominated by the Democratic Party, I don’t sense any magical solutions to homelessness.

  5. Gravatar of Patrick R. Sullivan Patrick R. Sullivan
    17. March 2012 at 09:36

    ‘Rather I think he affiliated with the left because he’s younger than me, and the left seemed the more rational worldview when he came of age.’

    Rationality probably had nothing to do with it, almost certainly it was intellectual fashion. Young people like to be hip.

    I was young in the 70s. I voted for McGovern in 72, but for Ford in 76. What changed was that I lived in England and NYC in the intervening years. THAT was rationality overcoming fashion.

  6. Gravatar of Patrick R. Sullivan Patrick R. Sullivan
    17. March 2012 at 09:39

    France doesn’t have single payer (except for very basic health care) health care either. In many ways France’s system is like ours, and has many of the same financial problems.

  7. Gravatar of Eric G Eric G
    17. March 2012 at 09:48

    Hi, Scott

    I meant to say if the US had a single-payer system and paid the same per person as they do in France then the US would have a budget surplus. They pay 8% of GDP and we pay 16%. It will still increase even though we have the conservative Heritage Foundation’s health care system, you know it as Obamacare or Romneycare.

    As for Singapore, is it a good example to use a city’s health care system? Maybe…

    You’re right about liberals not helping the homeless, it’s an idea that became popular government circles and in the general public’s mind since the 1980s. Yet, in our liberal city of Boston we didn’t take the homeless and put them in other places a la Republican Giuliani in NYC. However, I do remember Romney reducing the budget in Massachusetts by cutting the funds for helping mentally disabled though.

    Lastly, I should put the caveat: By liberal I mean Liberal thinkers or as the Obama administration calls it the “professional left”

  8. Gravatar of Eric G Eric G
    17. March 2012 at 09:54

    Likewise, if France had the Heritage Foundation’s health care system, their budget deficits would explode.

  9. Gravatar of Aaron Aaron
    17. March 2012 at 09:55

    That Yglesias post you’re enamored of is basically a recapitulation of a Krugman column from the 90s: http://www.slate.com/articles/business/the_dismal_science/1997/03/in_praise_of_cheap_labor.html

  10. Gravatar of Alan K Alan K
    17. March 2012 at 09:55

    Many Millenials (myself included)can’t even fathom supporting “conservative” (read: Republican) candidates because we had our formative political years under GWB. Yglesias may not be “typically” progressive, but I think he’s representative of much of the younger progressive generation. Liberals from the Seventies strike me as being very touchy-feely and New Age-y, but Millenial liberals love science (or pseudo-science), are suspicious of politics with religious connotations, and demand a polished entertainment product to connect with their politics.

    However, I think the biggest difference between young liberals today and our predecessors is that no young liberal expects to receive Social Security. It may even be true that no young liberal wants to receive SS benefits. That must shape how a generation feels about welfare programs and cost/benefit analysis.

  11. Gravatar of Patrick R. Sullivan Patrick R. Sullivan
    17. March 2012 at 09:58

    Eric, one of the reasons we pay 16% of GDP for medical care is government spending on it; Medicare, Medicaid mostly. Then there are all those Canadians coming down here to get care they’re denied by their ‘free’ system.

    As for the homeless, that’s another problem caused by our government. Most of those people would have been institutionalized prior to the 70s, but progressives thought they’d be better off on their own.

  12. Gravatar of Eric G Eric G
    17. March 2012 at 10:00

    Patrick,
    1) France does have a single-payer system

    2) Medicare and Medicaid costs grow much slower than private health care costs. Private costs are the problem.

    3) Progressives didn’t cut funding for them, Reagan did so he could spend money on the military to execute illegal wars in South America.

  13. Gravatar of Patrick R. Sullivan Patrick R. Sullivan
    17. March 2012 at 10:02

    Scott, Elvis Costello isn’t going to make anyone forget Gus Kahn, Ira Gershwin…or even his wife’s favorite, Peggy Lee.

    There is a funny rant by one of the characters in Whit Stillman’s ‘The Last Days of Disco’ against Disney’s ‘Lady and the Tramp’, because it glamorizes bad boys. But, Peg had something with;

    He’s a tramp
    But I love him
    Breaks a new heart
    Ev’ry day
    He’s a tramp
    They adore him
    And I only hope
    He’ll stay that way
    He’s a tramp
    He’s a scoundrel
    He’s a rounder
    He’s a cad
    He’s a tramp
    But I love him
    Yes, and even I
    Have got it pretty bad
    You can never tell
    When he’ll show up
    He gives you
    Plenty of trouble
    I guess he’s just a
    No ‘count pup
    But I wish that he
    Were double
    He’s a tramp
    He’s a rover
    And there’s nothing
    More to say
    If he’s a tramp
    He’s a good one
    And I wish that I
    Could travel his way

  14. Gravatar of Patrick R. Sullivan Patrick R. Sullivan
    17. March 2012 at 10:03

    Eric G,

    You’ve got it bad
    And that ain’t good

  15. Gravatar of Patrick R. Sullivan Patrick R. Sullivan
    17. March 2012 at 10:21

    Let’s hear from a Frenchman;

    http://theamericanscene.com/2009/11/10/a-superficial-comparative-look-at-healthcare-systems

    ———-quote———
    The French healthcare system is actually mostly employer-based (a criticism often leveled at the US system). I get coverage through my school (students pay a fee to one of several public, but competitive firms that provide coverage for students) and, because I’m under 25, through my parents. As an entrepreneur, once I get married, I will get coverage through my wife.

    The French healthcare system hasn’t always been universal. The CMU, our version of Medicare-for-all, actually came into force in 2000. Between Hillarycare and LBJ-era proposals, an alternate universe where Americans got universal healthcare before Frenchmen is a not-outlandish-at-all proposition.

    The French healthcare system is actually quite free market, or at least competitive. There are private hospital chains listed on the French stockmarket, just as in the US, and unlike many other European countries. A publicly-run, tax-financed insurance scheme provides basic coverage to everyone, but most workers and their families (and retirees with savings) get top-ups through private, employer-provided insurance. You can buy insurance outside of your employer, too. Insurers (public and private) compete, private hospitals compete, doctors (not yet pharmacists) compete.

    It is all very regulated, often haphazardly so, but then again that’s also true of the US system.
    ————endquote———-

    And, it’s also headed for financial trouble due to demographics.

  16. Gravatar of Luis H Arroyo Luis H Arroyo
    17. March 2012 at 10:25

    I never understood why MY has got so much audience among economist. My fault surely. What amaze me is to see that in America liberal are just the “progres” in Spain (and Europe). That “el Pais” is so similar to NYT. All that “uniform ism” -not about ideas, just cliches- is very interesting but it also could be a problem to face pain decisions – as reducing public debt.
    I’m conservatism, in the sense of Oakshott, that there are some invisible lines that is bad to come through, and the reason has limited capacity to indentify with precision where they are. I’m conservatism in the sense that I don’t believe human nature is perfect and that society corrupt it.

  17. Gravatar of Shane Shane
    17. March 2012 at 11:33

    How does your argument explain Krugman? He was born in ’53. Yglesias 2012 is more similar to Krugman 1999 than Krugman is today.

    I’m around Yglesias’s age and I remember the time when the Republicans were the more rational party. I had libertarian sympathies growing up, but I always distrusted the Republicans more than the Democrats. Something about their rationality seemed disingenuous. Bush showed that this was the case. Their use of rationality was totally unprincipled, and they would discard it in favor of appeals to fear when that became more convenient.

    People my age and of my temperament saw the Republicans going all-in on irrationality as an opportunity to claim reason for the progressive left. Krugman, who had been part of the first wave of reforming the left in a more rational direction, seemed to think it was more important to sound the warning bell about the right’s mendacity, which he had experienced in a more visceral way. So arguably being born in the ’50s would make someone with Yglesias’s temperament into a more partisan leftist/progressive, as he might see his role more as an elder Statesman, a Cato warning of a threat to the Republic from the purveyors of false reason.

    Incidentally, I don’t think I’d call you a right-wing liberal but rather a left libertarian or left neoliberal. The former implies to me someone who sees liberal policies as a means to right wing ends that are valuable in themselves–enforcing property rights, ending entitlements, eliminating environmental restrictions, etc.–what you call the “dogmatic” libertarian position. What I like about your blog is that you seem to see neoliberal policies as a means to more traditional lefty goals–equality, fairness, transparency in government and policy, shared prosperity. Most libertarians stopped caring about the negative income tax once they felt they no longer needed to compete to offer an alternative to the welfare state–just eliminate the thing. You, on the other hand, favor a minimum wage (through subsidies, obviously, not price controls) of $15/hr. I don’t even see most Democrats advocating for that.

  18. Gravatar of cthorm cthorm
    17. March 2012 at 11:52

    Matt is 4 1/2 years older than me. His political formative years were probably 1996-2002 (age 15-21), while mine were 2001-2007. I’m not sure how strongly either period would push someone toward right-leaning or left-leaning. I think personality has a lot to do with the way you interpret the events going on around you.

    For me, I saw a growing divide between right and left over multiculturalism, especially after 9/11 and the peaked power of the religious right.

    The Bush administration’s preference for big government, despite the GOP being the ‘party of small government’, quashed any affinity I had on a party basis.

    The continued human sacrifice that is the drug war also played a big role. I was raised in one of the biggest evangelical congregations in the country, and I knew literally no one who thought cannabis should still be illegal. Obviously the left has long been critical of the drug war, if not in a hurry to get rid of it. But the bloodletting still continues, with no justification.

    I’ve also seen startling groupthink on both left and right about scientific issues. Both sides are terrible. The left has for years insisted on brickbatting dissenters on AGW, in true totalitarian style, despite the fact that it’s far from obvious that the right policy is conservation/carbon taxes/energy subsidies. The left is also atrociously irrational on the use of GM crops. The right (at least the religious right) is downright batty about evolution and the place of religion in society.

  19. Gravatar of Greg Ransom Greg Ransom
    17. March 2012 at 11:56

    Scott, I’m always surprised that you describe yourself as a racist and anti-semite and general bigot, i.e. as a right winger.

    “Right winger” rose to prominence in the language as a word invented by Stalinists and fellow-travelers to describe anti-semitic National Socialists and Southern racists — and as a guilt by association label for anyone opposed by these leftists. It’s used today to identify bigots of all kinds, homophobes, anti-women, misogymists, and white racists. I.e. David Duke is a right winger. The guys who killed Shepard and the guys who dragged and killed the man behind a truck are right wingers. Et tu, Scott?

    That’s how the language is uses in America, and use is meaning.

    I’m not sure why you label yourself a right winger unless you are in fact a right winger, i.e. an anti-semite and racist and general bigot.

  20. Gravatar of Jason Jason
    17. March 2012 at 12:43

    I don’t know about the “crazy” economic ideas. I still don’t trust you guys have it down, much less had it down the 1970s.

    The reason price controls don’t work is actually fairly complicated. Again, there’s the apocryphal Wittgenstein point, to paraphrase: Weren’t people idiots to think the Sun went around the Earth? But what would it have looked like if it had?

    The reason the heliocentric model works is complicated and has to do with specific principles of physics that conspire to make us able to sit on the surface of the Earth and not realize we’re shooting off at 1000 mph to the east. (It also took hundreds of years to regain the accuracy of the Ptolemaic model.) For price controls, supply and demand conspire to create deadweight loss. But that still requires me to trust a theory when at the time in the 1970s a major school of thought on the subject rejected the use of math.

  21. Gravatar of TylerG TylerG
    17. March 2012 at 13:15

    My worldview as a right-wing liberal was largely shaped by classic works of contemporary intellectuals for each side. For the most part, the classic works of the most famous right-wing intellectuals tended to make arguments in concrete chains of logic or reasoning (I think of Freedom & Capitalism or The Road to Serfdom). Where as, contemporary left-wing intellectuals made arguments that were largely appeals to emotion and intuition.

    I’m obviously not saying right-wingers overall are more logical than progressives, but as the highest levels of discourse I find that this tends to be the case.

    Great post. I for one wouldn’t mind seeing more like these if you want breaks from discussing monetary policy.

  22. Gravatar of Socialist_AK-47 Socialist_AK-47
    17. March 2012 at 13:43

    I was born in ’73 so my political views were largely shaped by the Reagan years. To me, liberal was just another word for communist and I loved movies like Rocky IV and Red Dawn.

    I remember telling my dad how it was a dead certainty that Clinton would destroy the country by raising taxes on “job creators”. When that didn’t happen, I first had my doubts about economic libertarianism/conservatism. It wasn’t until the utter failure of the tax cuts of GW Bush to bring about a strong recovery from the recession that I finally had to admit to myself that I could no longer be a conservative.

    I started reading Krugman, Daily Kos,etc. and found that there was actually a strong case for economic leftism as practiced in places like Denmark and Norway.

    I cast my first vote for a Democrat in 2008 for President Obama. I honestly couldn’t imagine ever voting for another Republican.

  23. Gravatar of Becky Hargrove Becky Hargrove
    17. March 2012 at 13:51

    The theory about actually living one decade or fifteen years is hard to pin down, for me. Each decade has just been incredibly different from the other. The liberal years started in my late twenties, living in California, and I did not become libertarian until starting a bookstore in Florida about ten years later. At first I did not recognize it as libertarian, I just thought that I was becoming more conservative. (Born in 54)

  24. Gravatar of Rajat Rajat
    17. March 2012 at 13:59

    Great post, Scott. I especially like the idea that we all only actually live one decade or so. I think it’s a bit more than that; about from the ages of 10 to 30. You don’t understand a lot of things when you are 10, but if you are a curious sort of person, you go back later and read stuff that helps you put it into perspective. I was born in 1972, so for me, it was 1982-2002, a time of unprecedented economic reform in Australia. But it was also a period when the Australia Labor Party were mostly in power, so most of my contemporaries are Labor voters. America in the 1990s also had some economic reforms under Clinton, so maybe that’s why Matt and many 20-30 somethings are ‘liberals’ as you call them. My point is that it seems to be more who is in power and how charismatic they are rather than what is happening in the economy that matters. After all, why else wouldn’t liberals see – after the positive experience of Clinton’s welfare reform – that thing like increasing unemployment benefits would lead to problems?

  25. Gravatar of Major_Freedom Major_Freedom
    17. March 2012 at 14:08

    Speaking of Apple, did anyone know that they recently became so large in terms of market cap, that they are now larger than all other retailers in the US combined?

  26. Gravatar of Patrick R. Sullivan Patrick R. Sullivan
    17. March 2012 at 14:48

    ‘It wasn’t until the utter failure of the tax cuts of GW Bush to bring about a strong recovery from the recession that I finally had to admit to myself that I could no longer be a conservative.’

    What did the failure of Obama’s stimulus spending do for you?

  27. Gravatar of Socialist_AK-47 Socialist_AK-47
    17. March 2012 at 14:52

    ‘What did the failure of Obama’s stimulus spending do for you?’

    Make me realize even more what an absolute genius Paul Krugman is.

  28. Gravatar of dtoh dtoh
    17. March 2012 at 15:03

    It’s easy to admit you were stupid when you were young. If like those born prior to circa 1952, you were under the influence of the dominant liberal political culture beyond your youth, it suddenly becomes much harder to admit you were idiot even when you got to be 30.

    EricG – Don’t get me started on health care. You are wrong in so many ways.

  29. Gravatar of Jon Jon
    17. March 2012 at 15:48

    Well before you put down CAGW as a conservative sin; I have to say that Lindzen’s recent presentation at the British House of Commons really gave me some pause. Definitely check it out; there is an archive of the presentation at the Telegraph.

    http://i.telegraph.co.uk/multimedia/archive/02148/RSL-HouseOfCommons_2148505a.pdf

  30. Gravatar of Morgan Warstler Morgan Warstler
    17. March 2012 at 16:43

    If you don’t understand what Matt came from, what his dad is about, his mom, it doesn’t make sense.

    He is just a libertarian, he’s just got indoctrinated by folks with awful big chips on their shoulders.

    Matt (or any egghead) would be fixed much quicker if he started his own company.

    Like Starship Troopers, where only the soldiers get to vote, when it comes to political-philosophy, we should only really listen to folks that spend time owning for profit companies…. serving consumers, sifting through labor and putting up with government.

    Everything else really isn’t living. And everyone else’s opinions have to be taken with a grain of salt.

  31. Gravatar of Rob Rob
    17. March 2012 at 17:04

    Does it matter what people believed 40 year ago? These seem like biases that you should try to identify in yourself and cast off. If the republican party is crazy now, then you should say so and not consider yourself one and it shouldn’t really matter who was right or wrong 40 years ago.

  32. Gravatar of Morgan Warstler Morgan Warstler
    17. March 2012 at 18:12

    A real progressive would want public employees to be paid like they were in 1980, every extra dollar that flows to a public employee is a dollar taken out of a poor person’s mouth.

    With $500B per year to spend on safety net, and public employees just being back where they were in 1998 (with inflation)…

    That’s a world ALL real progressives MUST be willing to trade for.

    But they aren’t.

    The truth is that progressives use the idea of the poor to enrich themselves: the non-business middle and upper class. they are the real parasites.

    We owe the progressives no respect, we should fire them, exclude them, speak against them in private conversations – and sooner than later technology will gut them.

    Lawyers, teachers, and bureaucrats are as screwed in the future as journalists are today…. the only ones that survive will work as hard as Matty does.

    And that’s really all that matters, because MOST of them won’t make it…. and that’s a good thing.

  33. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    17. March 2012 at 19:21

    Patrick, Yes, mugged by reality.

    Eric, You said;

    “However, I do remember Romney reducing the budget in Massachusetts by cutting the funds for helping mentally disabled though.”

    I’m guessing you are kind of young. You may not realize that in Massachusetts the GOP has ABSOLUTELY NO POLITICAL POWER. Whatever happens here happens because the Dems want it to happen. It doesn’t matter who is governor–90% of the statehouse is Democratic.

    Aaron, Yes, that was a golden oldie I’ve linked to before. Now Krugman never does those kind of sensible right wing posts.

    Alan K, Thanks for that info–it sounds plausible.

    Patrick, Did you know that Whit Stillman is back–he has a new film coming out.

    Thanks for the info on French health care, especially for profit hospitals. Their fashionable anti-capitalism was always a bit of a pose–it’s evil neoliberal Britain that has socialized medicine.

    Luis, Because they like the way he thinks.

    Shane, I don’t claim to explain everyone. I define liberal as someone with “utilitarian values” and right wing liberal as someone who thinks capitalism is the best way to achieve utilitarian values.

    Cthorm, Good point.

    Greg, You said:

    “Scott, I’m always surprised that you describe yourself as a racist and anti-semite and general bigot, i.e. as a right winger.”

    Gee, I wish I had studied philosophy so that I would have acquired your razor sharp logic.

    Jason, Not quite sure I follow.

    TylerG, Thanks.

    Socialist, One year ago the Heritage Foundation rated Denmark more capitalist than America. That’s debatable, but surely it’s model isn’t “left wing.” Krugman would be horrified by the privatized firehouses in Denmark, or the universal voucher system in Sweden, or the zero inheritance taxes in Sweden.

    Becky, Well, everyone is different.

    Rajat, I should explain that I don’t count age 10 or 12 because one is too young to know what’s going on in the society around you. But it’s my highly subjective take on things, and my life wasn’t “normal.”

    Jon, You’ll have to summarize it for me.

    Rob, You said;

    “If the Republican party is crazy now, then you should say so and not consider yourself one”

    The Republican party is crazy and I don’t consider myself one. Are you happy now?

  34. Gravatar of Jon Jon
    17. March 2012 at 20:15

    Jon, You’ll have to summarize it for me:

    Those aspects of GW which are well understood and cited as such are not alarming. Those aspects which are not considered well understood–despite thirty years of intense research funding–are essential to any catastrophic conclusion.

    Lindzen has the following two slides near the beginning. Then presents why he feels the direct measurement from satellites of the forcing/feedback effects of CO2 and clouds exclude the possibility catastrophic warming.

    Here are two statements that are completely agreed on by the
    IPCC. It is crucial to be aware of their implications.
    - A doubling of CO2, by itself, contributes only about 1C to greenhouse warming. All models project more warming, because, within models, there are positive feedbacks from water vapor and clouds, and these feedbacks are considered by the IPCC to be uncertain.
    - 2. If one assumes all warming over the past century is due to anthropogenic greenhouse forcing, then the derived sensitivity of the climate to a doubling of CO2 is less than 1C. The higher sensitivity of existing models is made consistent with observed warming by invoking unknown additional negative forcings from aerosols and solar variability as arbitrary adjustments.

    Given the above, the notion that alarming warming is ‘settled
    science’ should be offensive to any sentient individual


    - Carbon Dioxide has been increasing
    - There is a greenhouse effect
    - There has been a doubling of equivalent CO2 over the past 150 years
    - There has very probably been about 0.8 C warming in the past 150 years
    - Increasing CO2 alone should cause some warming
    [ None of those points are ] controversial among serious climate scientists.
    Unfortunately, denial of the facts [above], has made the public presentation of the science by those promoting alarm much easier. They merely have to defend the trivially true points on the left; declare that it is only a matter of well known physics; and relegate the real basis for alarm to a peripheral footnote – even as they slyly acknowledge that this basis is subject to great uncertainty.

  35. Gravatar of Joe2 Joe2
    17. March 2012 at 21:27

    Matt Yglesias lost me with his gleeful twit over the death over the death of Andrew Breitbart. What a heartless thing to do and it shows the dark side of the modern western left these days.

  36. Gravatar of Beckett Beckett
    17. March 2012 at 22:15

    Excellent post as always. I only take issue with the idea that people only live in one decade, with artists as examples. Counterfactual: Radiohead, and Haruki Murakami. Both have been incredibly creative and successful in multiple decades, and have generated many masterpieces over that span of time.

  37. Gravatar of Matt Waters Matt Waters
    17. March 2012 at 23:47

    Interesting point of view. I’m roughly the same age as MY and so I have the same general experience that Conservatives have been the crazy ones. I was a pretty diehard Republican up until around 2008, voting for Bush and other Republicans. The reactions to the high unemployment since then have been crazyness on the same level as, say, liberals supporting wage/price controls and not saying money had anything to do with inflation. Those views make about as much sense as, say, the view that Obamacare was the cause of high unemployment.

    It’s simply unfortunate that the crazy, illogical views on monetary policy will likely lose my generation mostly to more liberal views on everything, not just on monetary policy. My generation is at risk for molding similar views as the Greatest Generation who saw the Great Depression and then the government effectiveness of World War II and thus supported much more government intervention in everything.

  38. Gravatar of anon/portly anon/portly
    18. March 2012 at 00:07

    Terry Teachout blogged on this yesterday:

    http://www.artsjournal.com/aboutlastnight/2012/03/tt_about_mike_daisey_and_steve.html

    Teachout links to this, which might even be more interesting:

    http://www.edrants.com/mike-daisey-lies-on-this-american-life-theaters-wont-cancel-performances-or-issue-refunds/

    Teachout on Whit Stillman:

    http://www.artsjournal.com/aboutlastnight/2012/02/tt_what_goes_around_1.html

  39. Gravatar of Steven Flaeck Steven Flaeck
    18. March 2012 at 00:20

    Yeah, but doesn’t Singapore also use price controls rather a lot? Singapore’s economic model seems pretty straightforward: trading enterprises are lightly regulated, everything else (down to chewing gum) is heavily regulated.

  40. Gravatar of Liberal Roman Liberal Roman
    18. March 2012 at 00:51

    Matt Yglesias is not a liberal. His most recent book is a libertarian manifesto with regard to land use policies. A manifesto that I wholeheartedly agree with.

    If I was to describe Yglesias’ viewpoints, it would be: markets are awesome and we should employ them as much as possible to distribute and utilize our scarce resources. Except markets don’t work for healthcare or controlling pollution. And we also need a strong safety net to make sure no one is super poor.

  41. Gravatar of Rob Rob
    18. March 2012 at 02:11

    Fair enough.

  42. Gravatar of StatsGuy StatsGuy
    18. March 2012 at 04:32

    Just so you know, one of the more damning pieces against foxconn was retracted.

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-03-18/apple-foxconn-report-retracted-by-this-american-life-.html

  43. Gravatar of StatsGuy StatsGuy
    18. March 2012 at 04:35

    Also, with regard to China, we are going to see substantial changes as their economy reorients to internal consumption – one of the most important “consumption” items is environmental cleanliness.

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-03-15/chinese-fish-for-meaning-in-u-s-carp-rampage-adam-minter.html

    Entertaining article from an economists viewpoint.

  44. Gravatar of StatsGuy StatsGuy
    18. March 2012 at 04:44

    Some comments:

    “Hysteria over chemicals in food, even though science didn’t back them up.”

    That’s hard to say – recall the DDT in bald eagles issue, which was eventually partially debunked (decades later) – but the evidence appeared quite stronger in the 1970s, until additional explanations like lead poisoning, shooting, and electrocution emerged.

    Even so, much of this suspicion is because of a lack of evidence of safety – the question being who should bear the burden of proof for low probability events when the potential harm exceeds the future asset base of the manufacturer. Consider a classic case – asbestos. We know a few things about asbestos:

    1) Asbestos companies KNEW it was toxic, and suppressed this information.

    2) Asbestos companies went bankrupt to escape liability.

    All in all, the food scare of the 1970s may have been an overreaction, but the federal govt. response was an undereaction, so in balance we’re better off that the hysteria happened – nothing seems to move in a democracy without a bit of hysteria.

  45. Gravatar of StatsGuy StatsGuy
    18. March 2012 at 04:53

    “Progressive hostility to the hard truths of cost/benefit analysis.”

    I am very hostile to cost/benefit analysis. Or, let me rephrase – I am hostile to the mockery of cost/benefit analysis that certain interest groups use to justify failed regulation.

    Specifically, I’m hostile to an assumed 7% REAL discount rate. If I could earn 7% REAL risk adjusted return on any investment, I would borrow money to invest more. Notably, this also uses CURRENT prices – so if I wanted to value the remaining water in the ogillala aquifer 20 years from now, I’d value it at 23% of its current real value. Even though the value of the water has increased, not declined, over time. THAT’s MORONIC.

    Do a google search on West Texas Price of Water

    Then there’s the issue of how intangibles are valued – newer methods are better (paired tradeoff analysis), but these methods are still subject to horrible biases.

    Then there’s the issue of legal restrictions on cost benefit analysis, like the restriction that a human life is valued at about 3 million (regardless of age or productivity). So if emissions kill an 80 year old, that’s the same as killing a 15 year old…

    The implementation of cost benefit analysis is so politicized that a major usage is to create a thin veneer of impartiality for heavily biased decisions.

  46. Gravatar of StatsGuy StatsGuy
    18. March 2012 at 04:59

    BTW, you should add some conservative biases too:

    1) Denial that poor whites are the primary beneficiaries of welfare

    2) Denial that conservative southern states are the primary beneficiaries of federal transfers

    3) Denial that the drug war has been a colossal failure

    4) Denial that military expenditures are mostly non-productive

    5) Denial that Iraq never had WMD

    6) Denial that pollution is harmful at all – for example, our beloved cost-benefit analysis has shown conclusively that particulate emissions from coal plants massively outweighs the value of keeping old plants running – and yet, the conservatives continued to rail against EPA shutdowns of older plants.

    I think each party is so full of lies that any given generation grows up in opposition to the party in power. Although, I would note that the conservatives today seem slightly more full of lies than their liberal counterparts.

  47. Gravatar of StatsGuy StatsGuy
    18. March 2012 at 05:02

    Reading this whole post, I was immediately reminded of this other post by andrew gelman – who summarizes much of what I find annoying about the self-proclaimed superiority of “economic thinking”.

    http://andrewgelman.com/2012/03/economics-now-freudian-psychology-in-the-1950s-more-on-the-incoherence-of-economics-exceptionalism/

    OK, my comment tirade is over…

  48. Gravatar of Eric G Eric G
    18. March 2012 at 05:12

    Scott, the governor has line-time veto power over the budget in Massachusetts.

    Everybody else, it seems to me that a lot of your political preferences were heavily influenced by what politicians and their respective parties said and did. I think that’s the worse thing you could do since these 2 parties don’t represent the values they promote. Scott here doesn’t espouse a view that most Republican politicians support publicly and most Democrats don’t favor the stimulus policies of Paul Krugman.

    As for what liberals believe, it’s true that many of them still practice what Dean Baker calls “Loser Liberalism” i.e. higher taxes and redistribution (broadly speaking). He proposes public policies that use the market to redistribute and with limited tax increases by the use of regulations that redistributes money.

    He also supports Scott’s monetary theory, at least broadly speaking, while people like Krugman only hint at supporting it (if you read Krugman’s blog he always advocates for more Fed help, it’s just drowned out by a lot more advocacy of fiscal stimulus). Actually, as Scott pointed out in earlier blogs other liberal thinkers supported more Fed policy while many conservative thinkers wanted monetary money to tight (further tighten?).

    Lastly, as it pertains to health care. I don’t really care if it’s a single-payer system or one with HSAs really. The only thing that should matter is drastically bringing down costs (without shifting them) and providing high-quality health care to everybody.

  49. Gravatar of Kevin Donoghue Kevin Donoghue
    18. March 2012 at 05:36

    From Wikipedia:

    “Matthew Yglesias’s father Rafael Yglesias is a screenwriter and novelist and the son of novelists Jose Yglesias, of Cuban and Spanish descent, and Helen Bassine Yglesias, daughter of Jewish Polish immigrants.”

    “Krugman is the son of David and Anita Krugman and the grandson of Jewish immigrants from Brest-Litovsk.”

    If I knew nothing else at all about them but these snippets of information, I’d certainly take an even-money bet against them being Republicans. Ethnicity is a better predictor of political leanings than date of birth.

  50. Gravatar of mbk mbk
    18. March 2012 at 05:43

    Scott, it’s eerie sometimes how you have the same kind of meta-theories on how the world works as I do. I don’t always agree with you but we seem to use the same heuristic. In fact I suspect where we disagree may just be due to some key experiences you or I either had or didn’t have.

  51. Gravatar of Morgan Warstler Morgan Warstler
    18. March 2012 at 06:55

    Kevin,

    Who they come from matters a great deal, but with enough velocity (or outright repulsion) anyone can pull away.

    I’m 60/40 Matty’s is one of repulsion.

    Roman, that’s juts because he doesn’t yet understand healthcare and environment.

    On healthcare, the left hasn’t come to terms with expecting the poor and lower middle class to receive less technically advanced care.

    Once they FULLY accept that, they will want a super free market system in place because over the long term that speed the technical innovation.

    There is no way in hell the poor and lower middle class won’t actually get less, so they should adopt the mindset and overnight become libertarian.

    Only the hardcode social-technocrats that seek to decide who lives and dies 9who gets the best stuff) sans based on who can afford what are fighting this.

    —–

    On the environment, there’s plenty to be said effluent fees becoming a major source of revenue, but for that to happen, it requires a major overhaul of the tax code, one that brings businessmen to the fold.

    Matty’s major stumbling block is actually public employees.

    It is THE major form of funding that much of the progressive left lives on.

    He doesn’t have the stones to really go after them full throated, even though as I correctly note, any REAL progressive focused truly on the bottom level of society, would want the delivery mechanisms of their aid, from grocery stores, to education, to healthcare, to barbershops and nail salons, to housing policy to be run with BRUTAL free market efficiency.

    Again, if he just spent some time starting and running his own business (and he certainly will give it a shot), the scales will fall from his eyes quick split.

  52. Gravatar of W. Peden W. Peden
    18. March 2012 at 06:56

    On healthcare: are there any politicians in the US who advocate something like Milton Friedman’s middle-way solution of having a single-payer system for catastrophic healthcare (where it’s not going to be practical for individuals and families to have their own preparations) and a reformed free-market (i.e. with distortions like tax incentives and trade restrictions taken out) for everything else?

  53. Gravatar of Patrick R. Sullivan Patrick R. Sullivan
    18. March 2012 at 08:32

    Thanks for the info on the new Whit Stillman movie. There are certainly some things that look familiar in;

    http://www.sonyclassics.com/damselsindistress/

    Eric G, you forgot to take a stand on motherhood and apple pie.

  54. Gravatar of Mike Sax Mike Sax
    18. March 2012 at 08:46

    Louis Arroya you said:

    ” I’m conservatism in the sense that I don’t believe human nature is perfect and that society corrupt it.”

    I don’t believe that either and I’m a liberal.

    Tyler G you said:

    “I’m obviously not saying right-wingers overall are more logical than progressives, but as the highest levels of discourse I find that this tends to be the case.”

    Have you listened to Santorum or Romney lately? Or Rick Perry? How about Sarah Palin? Is Rick Santorum declaring that birth control is “just wrong: an example of this superior logic?

    Even Ann Coulter was saying how there’s more charlatans in the Republican party than the Democrats.

    I’ve got to believe you only say something like that out of Right wing bias.

  55. Gravatar of Shane Shane
    18. March 2012 at 09:22

    I think what is confusing about the “right-wing liberal” tag is that most people use right and left as labels for defining values, not for specifying the means to achieving those values. In the American tradition, liberal basically means left, not free-market as it does in the European tradition. You are probably the only self-identified right-winger in America who holds utilitarian values, if we define those as promoting the “greatest good for the greatest number”–the definition first proposed by the founder of utilitarianism, Francis Hutcheson, teacher of Adam Smith and father of the Scottish Enlightenment.

    If you don’t want to confuse Americans, I think it might be better to use a label like “market liberal”–after all, it resonates well with “market monetarist.” Brad DeLong calls himself a “left neoliberal,” which is what I think Yglesias would call himself. Some “liberaltarians” call themselves “left libertarians.” Perhaps “market liberal” is a good way to indicate the subtle differences between you and people like DeLong or Yglesias, on the one hand, and “bleeding heart libertarians,” on the other.

    But calling yourself “right-wing liberal” will just confuse Americans. Of course, maybe that’s precisely what you are aiming for. :)

  56. Gravatar of Patrick R. Sullivan Patrick R. Sullivan
    18. March 2012 at 09:36

    ‘Have you listened to Santorum or Romney lately? Or Rick Perry? How about Sarah Palin? Is Rick Santorum declaring that birth control is “just wrong: an example of this superior logic?’

    Have you ever listened to Barack Obama; ‘Profits eat up overhead.’? Nancy Pelosi; ‘We have to pass the law to find out what’s in it.’? Harry Reid, ‘Taxes are voluntary.’?

    At least Palin has heard of the QTM.

  57. Gravatar of Jim Glass Jim Glass
    18. March 2012 at 09:48

    5) Denial that Iraq never had WMD

    Others who will deny that:

    The survivors of Halabja.

    Iranian soldiers who survived the Iraq-Iran war.

  58. Gravatar of TylerG TylerG
    18. March 2012 at 10:58

    Mike Sax,

    I don’t consider hack pundits or cheesy politicians to be at the pinnacle of smart intellectual discourse. Apparently you do. When I refer to the classic works of contemporary intellectuals (the part you didn’t quote) I’m talking about guys like FA Hayek, Milton Friedman, John Rawls, Noam Chomsky, etc.

    The fact that you think people Ann Coulter and Rick Santorum are the best minds that other side has to offer says a lot about your opinions and simplistic worldview.

  59. Gravatar of Greg Ransom Greg Ransom
    18. March 2012 at 11:07

    Scott –

    Hayek never described himself as a right winger. Neither did Milton Friedman.

    Ludwig Mises never described himself as a right winger. And neither does Thomas Sowell. Etc., Etc.

    A person doesn’t require the skill set of a trained philosopher to know the history of these words or to be aware of how they are used today.

    Just sayin’.

  60. Gravatar of Mike Sandifer Mike Sandifer
    18. March 2012 at 11:07

    Scott,

    I still love your blog, but you are painting with a very broad brush lately.

    To address your points I contend with:

    3. “Denial of the role of money in inflation and support for crack-pot solutions such as wage price controls (Yes, I know about Nixon, I’m talking intellectuals now.)”

    There’ve always been legions of crackpot conservatives too, as you know well having studied the 1930s. In fact, it seems there are always legions of crackpots in economics, whether conservative, liberal, or otherwise. You, Krugman, Delong, and others are often going on about how little economists know, even today and I believe you.

    5. “Soft on communism. By that I don’t mean pro-communist, I mean anti-anti-communist. When I was young calling someone an “anti-communist” was basically an insult in liberal company. If you called Mao or Castro a brutal tyrant you were viewed as an embarrassment; as something of a something of a McCarthyite. Chilean economic policies were viewed as evil. Now the Chilean socialists have adopted them.”

    Was this somehow worse than actual McCarthyism and throwing around terms like “pinko” and “lefty”? I have no idea what conservative economists were writing between 55 and early 80s, but I’m becoming increasingly aware of some of what’s been written since, and it certainly isn’t all great.

    6. Denial that punishment deters crime.

    Economists don’t really understand punishment and when they speak on the issue, psychologists who know anything about behavioral analysis cringe. Merely noting a suppressive effect on reported crime in the aggregate correlated with greater punishment doesn’t begin to get at the questions of importance, such as the nature of the punishment that must be applied or whether alternatives to punishment are superior. When one considers, for example, that a large portion of criminals physiologically test as being relatively insensitive to punishment, it suggests a problem with that approach. This is especially true in the light of comparisons with countries such as Norway, with less punitive criminal justice systems, but vastly lower crime rates.

    Yes, most liberals also fail to understand punishment, but at least they’re more open-minded when it comes to alternatives.

  61. Gravatar of StatsGuy StatsGuy
    18. March 2012 at 11:10

    @ Jim Glass

    … The five-hour attack began early in the evening of March 16, 1988 …

    You are off by over a decade.

    Or perhaps you meant to argue that Iraq was the instigator of 9/11 (another justification for the war), and therefore justified a diversion of 5X the military firepower that was deployed in afghanistan at the time to a country that had never directly threatened the US, nor was capable of weaponizing anthrax or uranium (as the Bush admin claimed)?

    Or maybe you thought that it was the US duty to invade in 2003 to punish a dictator that had been ignored for 15 years, even AFTER the US chose not to further prosecute Hussein after repelling the invasion of Kuwait?

    Or perhaps you thought it was the US duty to police the world, and that Hussein was a more appropriate target than Sudan, which at the time was brutally killing tens of thousands of Christian refugees?

    Actually, I’m not at all sure what you think. Perhaps you could explain further?

  62. Gravatar of Mike Sandifer Mike Sandifer
    18. March 2012 at 11:21

    Scott,

    The most remarkable bias I see in the above really concerns how you characterize yourself. You simply aren’t conservative. I don’t know what conservative used to mean to you, but whatever the case, the “conservative” movement left you behind, probably starting in the 80s. You might not be a Democrat, but what decent person wants to be?

    Your libertarian streak doesn’t change a thing. The liberal movement is very diverse and the fact that most in the movement are economically illiterate and irrationally fear things like GMOs, food irradiation, and nuclear energy needn’t matter. Every broad movement has such characteristics.

    Nor should it matter that many liberals might favor too much government intervention. This is also true of every other US movement, other than the libertarian movement, but that movement seems to have gotten more extreme in recent decades.

    The real problem with liberals is one all movements share, and that’s ignorance of the masses and a lack of skills related to rigorous thinking. This is a problem of education more than some ensconced ideology, as liberals might be slow to get some messages, but have come a long way over the past 30+ years in terms of supporting things like neoliberal reforms. Do you see such flexibility in any other movements?

  63. Gravatar of Jim Glass Jim Glass
    18. March 2012 at 14:08

    @ Jim Glass

    …The five-hour attack began early in the evening of March 16, 1988…

    You are off by over a decade.

    I don’t understand. Do you mean Wikipedia is off by over a decade in its dating of the Halabja poison gas attack “a genocidal massacre against the Kurdish people that took place on March 16, 1988″, and its dating of the Iraqi gas attacks against the Iranian military in the Iraq-Iran war?

    I don’t think it is, but feel free to tell us the correct decade that they occurred in, if so.

    Or perhaps you meant to argue that Iraq was the instigator of 9/11…

    Statsguy, please, some credit. If I meant to say Iraq was the instigator of 9/11, I would have said “Iraq was the instigator of 9/11″. OK?

    What I said was that the victims of the poison gas Iraq used against civilians at Halabja and against Iranian soldiers in that war would join in denying that “Iraq never had WMD” — because that is what I meant to say.

    … you thought that it was the US duty to invade in 2003 to punish a dictator that had been ignored for 15 years … that Hussein was a more appropriate target than Sudan … you thought it was the US duty to police the world

    Gee whiz. For a thread about how partisans emotionally exercise denial and angrily jump to project bogus opinions upon others, who’s giving us an object lesson example?

    Actually, I’m not at all sure what you think.

    So you admit now that your little personal rant at me was totally unjustified (except as an example of the larger topic of discussion)?

    Well, what I actually think is that you should have said: “Sorry, when I said ‘Iraq never had WMD’ I didn’t mean ‘never’…”, which would have been the end of it (or if you wished, a precursor to a calm, *friendly*, factually accurate discussion).

    I also think the psycho-dynamics of partisanship prevented you from saying such a thing. Partisanship is addicting, literally, via endorphins. This is your brain on politics.

    The very interesting thing about this brain chemistry is that the endorphin reward to partisanship is delivered *not* when refuting the lies and illogic of the other side, but when blinding oneself to the lies and illogic of one’s own side.

    How is that not interesting? From either a current political events or evolutionary theory point of view. Or when considering where wars come from.

  64. Gravatar of Lorenzo from Oz Lorenzo from Oz
    18. March 2012 at 15:27

    American political labels are so amusing. ‘Liberal’ means politically cross-dressing social democrat. ‘Conservative’ usually incorporates large slabs of classical liberalism. ‘Libertarian’ means classical liberal with the complexity button turned off. While being Republican or Democrat means you get to accuse your opponents of “not getting” the American Revolution, and both be correct.

    Meanwhile, ‘right wing’ and ‘left wing’ mean less and less the further we get away from the cycle of politics originating in the French Revolution (which was always problematic in transferring to the Anglosphere anyway). After all, Edmund Burke was a liberal (a very prudential liberal, but a liberal nonetheless; he was a Whig, not a Tory, and he and Adam Smith basically agreed on matters economic: so if Smith was a liberal, so was Burke).

  65. Gravatar of Browsing Catharsis – 03.18.12 « Increasing Marginal Utility Browsing Catharsis – 03.18.12 « Increasing Marginal Utility
    18. March 2012 at 15:39

    [...] How insane leftists used to be. [...]

  66. Gravatar of Mike Sax Mike Sax
    18. March 2012 at 15:55

    Tyler you don’t know me nearly well enought to proclaim that I have a simplistic worldview. All I’m saying is that the politiicans for the American Righ’s Republican party are particularly cheesy.

    I’ll say this too-even if you don’t see politiicians as the American vanguard, they are the policy makers which in a sense make them more important than Hayek or Chomsky.

    I certainly wouldn’t consider Hayek on a higher level than say Keynes. They had a debate in the 30s and Hayek was pretty much finshed as a marcoeconomist after that.

    It’s his work as a microeconomist that people look at in retrospect.

    I had thought you were Tyler Cowen-which made me at least a little excited even if you had insuolted me-”Tyler Cowen insults me!” turns out it’s just Tyler G. Oh well.

  67. Gravatar of Mike Sax Mike Sax
    18. March 2012 at 15:58

    Scott maybe the reason Krugman doesn’t write “smart Right wing posts” anymore is he doesn’t believe what he wrote anymore. People do change their views.

  68. Gravatar of StatsGuy StatsGuy
    18. March 2012 at 16:00

    @Jim

    I had thought it obvious that when I said that Iraq never had WMD, it was in reference to the run-up to the 2003 invasion. I’m sorry – I will be more literal next time. The CIA’s own weapons inspection concluded there were no WMD present 18 months after the invasion. This was in direct refutation of its 2002 report used to justify the invasion, which heavily focused on weaponized anthrax and nuclear armaments:

    https://www.cia.gov/library/reports/general-reports-1/iraq_wmd/Iraq_Oct_2002.htm

    So yes, you are certainly correct that it’s a matter of public record that Iraq deployed chemical weapons against the Kurds and Iran.

  69. Gravatar of Mike Sax Mike Sax
    18. March 2012 at 16:02

    Scott the one thing I don’t get is why so-caled libertarians are so relentlessly prolife. Even you’ve said nothng about that here which makes me suspect you’re “prolife” too.

    I know that’s an inference but in my experience it’s usually right.

    I don’t know how anyone can support the bills like Bob McDonald in Virginia and claim to be “libertarian.”

    For me the fact that so many do prove that libertarians don’t love liberty as much as they say they do.

  70. Gravatar of Shane Shane
    18. March 2012 at 16:03

    Lorenzo,

    I think you are dead right about Burke. His liberalism is blindingly obvious if you actually read him. (Shameless self-promotion: have an article coming on this very topic in the August 2012 issue of _Studies in English Literature_. Sorry, couldn’t resist)

    :)

    I do think, however, that each age invents its own versions of the left right distinction and it is not entirely meaningless beyond the French Revolution. Most people in the US use left and right as labels for divergent systems of values. Often liberal and conservative are substituted for these terms. Unless you have a sense of the instincts of each group–caring about utilitarian/universal values v. caring about the good of one’s own insular group (Dr. Sumner’s definition of the liberal/conservative split in his article on neoliberal cultural values, and I think a good one) it’s hard to make sense of US politics (or really any politics).

    For example, “anarcho-capitalists” (i.e. right anarchists) like Rothbard are often quite similar to European libertarians (i.e. left anarchists) in their conception of the role of the state, but they are so different in their values that they couldn’t be further from each other. The same is true with the split between “liberaltarians” and the corporatist libertarians of AEI and Heritage (e.g. Stephen Moore). Ultimately, the split between conservatives and liberals in the American sense of those terms is really a dispute over values, not over policy–they are both well within the liberal tradition and essentially favor a limited state with a capitalist economy. Indeed, I would argue that so-called “conservatives” are really better described as the right flank of the liberal tradition, not as people who favor preserving the old order.

  71. Gravatar of anon/portly anon/portly
    18. March 2012 at 16:22

    It seems to me the original post is really interesting but the commenters are missing the point.

    For example, Statsguy (who generally writes better comments than I do) says:

    “BTW, you should add some conservative biases too: 1) Denial that poor whites are the primary beneficiaries of welfare [etc]”

    But the OP implicitly says something like,”yeah, you can come up with all kinds of right-wing idiocy in the current milieu, and it may look to you like the left is 5X or 10X smarter, but it isn’t always like this.”

    So listing a bunch of things where the right gets it wrong seems to me to misread the OP, which concedes that you can do that. And in general it seems like most of the commenters are just going back and forth making the usual points for their side and against the other side. But the more interesting point is that there really is an ebb and flow to these things, neither side is right all the time or wrong all the time.

    I think #5 in the OP is the one that really resonates with me. In the 70′s, after Vietnam, I think there was a lot of skepticism with the idea that our side (the West) was better and their side (the Communist countries) was worse, so you would hear all kinds of “moral equivalence” arguments. In one of my (suburban Seattle) high school social studies classes, we actually got the full-blown “they don’t want democracy – that’s not their thing” argument. (To satisfy those who insist there must always be a counter-example, there was also a biology teacher who showed weird Creationist films).

    I think for a lot of people, their real beef was with America itself, and they just weren’t all that interested in how people really lived under Communism – Castro and Mao were cool because they were symbols of resistance to Uncle Sam and consumerism and so on. Which strikes me as very much the mindset of someone like Mike Daisey – it doesn’t really matter what the truth is about Chinese factory workers, because ultimately their welfare isn’t his true concern.

  72. Gravatar of TylerG TylerG
    18. March 2012 at 16:29

    Mike Sax,

    You wanting to rail on silly GOP politicians I could care less for has nothing to do with my first comment. Politicians don’t shape my worldview, innovative intellectuals and thinkers do, regardless of their ability to influence policy. But I wouldn’t expect anything less from someone with a blog called ‘Diary of a Republican Hater’ – funny that you accuse me of bias.

    Yes, you mistaking me for Tyler Cowen is probably another indication that you don’t carefully read comments. However, I’m surprised you don’t consider him an egregious right-wing maniac too.

  73. Gravatar of John John
    18. March 2012 at 16:37

    It seemed to me that liberals weren’t willing to engage in clear, hard-headed, logical thinking.

    Lots of us realized such and realized that the solution to that problem would be to become a clear, hard-headed, logical thinking liberal.

  74. Gravatar of W. Peden W. Peden
    18. March 2012 at 16:47

    John,

    Well-put.

  75. Gravatar of Mike Sax Mike Sax
    18. March 2012 at 17:05

    Tylger G why should I not want to rail on them? They’re running for President. They support your ideas.

    Again I also told you that Hayek is not the intllecutal heavyweithg that you claim.

    So my blog is called diary of a Republican Hater got a problem with that? If you admit they’re silly and that you think they’re silly why do you have a problem? Guess you lack a sense o fhumor.

    Meanwhile your claim that innovative thinkers are mostly on the Right is still a howler. Hayek is not on the Level of Keynes.

    Friedman while on a higher level than Hayek has some questions too as you learn even from reading David Glasner’s Uneasy Money.

    You say politiicans don’t matter like “innovative thinkers” but what you ignore is that the politicians are the ones who set policy. The actual poliices are set by the silly politiicans. That’s why I want as few silly GOP poliiticans as possible setting policy that we alll have to live by.

    Tyler, your tired attmept to attack me pe3rsonally doesn’t make you any more wrong.

  76. Gravatar of Mike Sax Mike Sax
    18. March 2012 at 17:11

    I mean less wrong. LOL

  77. Gravatar of Morgan Warstler Morgan Warstler
    18. March 2012 at 17:15

    I’ll just second the notion that Mike Sax doesn’t read comments very well.

    He’s got a few shallowly drawn character sketches and everything has to fit into those.

  78. Gravatar of Mike Sax Mike Sax
    18. March 2012 at 17:40

    So Morgan now you’retrying to pile on. As there is nothing specific in your claim I can’t respond to it. What Tyler had said was that “I’m obviously not saying right-wingers overall are more logical than progressives, but as the highest levels of discourse I find that this tends to be the case.”

    I’m quoting something specific. Ironically your vague shot is a “shallowly drawn characther sketch” that everything flows from.

    Like it or not Tyler;s wrong in his claim that “at the hihgest level of discourse” conservatives are more logical than progressives.

    His examples speak for themselves. I mean nobody can claim that Hayek was at a higher level of discourse than Keynes or Sraffa who buried him.

    Morgan if you got nothing better than “yeah me too” why don’t you stay out of it?

    If your going to make such sweeping claims have someting to back it up with. I know your hero Breitbart never did this but this is what any menaingful discussion requires.

  79. Gravatar of TylerG TylerG
    18. March 2012 at 18:18

    Mike Sax,

    Again, the fact that you think the current GOP ‘support my ideas’ speaks volumes about your ignorance on views other than your own.

    I’m not going to bother attempting to explain the valuable contributions Hayek brought to economics and the broader social sciences. That would be a waste of my time since you clearly are not open to that notion.

    BTW, I disagree that the left gets exclusive ownership of Keynes. Yes, Keynesian theory helped justify the welfare state and various government intervention, but he was still a big proponent of free trade. He would not have been in good company with intellectuals like Noam Chomsky and the plethora of other left-wing anti-markets figures. Friedman and Hayek, for example, disagreed on some things but not nearly to the same extent.

    I’m sorry Scott and most commentators here don’t spend all their energy raving about how solely idiotic the GOP is like you would prefer. Maybe you would feel more at home commenting over at Krugman’s blog.

    This is my last response on the matter so that I don’t further validate your trolling.

  80. Gravatar of Mike Sax Mike Sax
    18. March 2012 at 18:50

    So Tyler that’s the best you can do huh? Playing the trolling card? You can’t handle what I say so it’s “trolling?”

    While you claim that I have no understanding of views other than my own you show such presumptuous ignorance of what my views are that I can only assume you’re projecting.

    I’m not “closeminded” about Hayek. I may well have read more of him than you have. I think that in his later stuff like “On the Road to Serfdom” and “The Errors of Socialsim” he defintely says stuff of interest.

    If you had read my comments rather than simply see what y ou want to see you would have seen me say that he did good work as a microeconomist but that he was a failure as a macroeconmist.

    That’s not just me talking are you aware of the fact that at Friedman’s Chicago School he wasn’t even allowed in the economics department? Everyone forgets that now but Friedman wasn’t enamorued of his marcoeconomic work either.

    So me saying this is not becuase I’m not open to it. If you want to convince me that he was a great macroeconomist then make your case. Give me examples. Don’t focus on me and your chidish Rush Limbaugh like assumptions about who I am.

    I agree that Keynes was for free trade. Where have I said I’m not-again you claim that I don’t understand other people’s views and you totally make a false assumption about me. I never said a word about trade for or against here so you can’t possibly know I’m against it-which I’m not Neither is Krugman or Galbraith

    I don’t need Scott to bash Republicans all the time. I do read Krugman. I’m happy reading both of them. You just made a foolish statement that you can’t back up so now your playing all kinds of tortured games of deflection.

    Maybe you don’t want me here at the Money Illusion but I have many readers here who do read Diary of a Repubican Hater and enjoy it.

    Unlike you I don’t have to only read blogs I agree with 100% which is why I can read Scott and Krugman but you can’t read Krugman.

    You say you have no truck for the current GOP. I’m sure you’re voting for Obama.

  81. Gravatar of Lorenzo from Oz Lorenzo from Oz
    19. March 2012 at 01:24

    Shane. My favourite book on Burke is Conor Cruise O’Brien’s intellectual biography. Naturally, one Anglophile Irishmen might understand another.

    There is also much in what you say about the left-right distinction. I do, however, think that there was a cycle of Western politics that went from 1789 to 1989/91 and is now closed: placing environmentalism or jihadism, for example, in the dominant framing of those two centuries does not work.

    Jihadism exists outside the framework of Western politics entirely, no matter what elements it may have scavenged from it, while modern environmentalism picks up on both the romantic revolt against the Enlightenment and the leavings of the radical Enlightenment. Either way, it sits poorly with the triumphant sceptical Enlightenment traditions of the Anglosphere. (Using the distinction between radical and sceptical Enlightenment’s sketched by David Gress,)

    Add in transnationalism — whose most dramatic recent achievement is the Eurozone: the burning building without exits, as William Hague presciently described it but whose appeal is very broad to academics, NGOs, bureaucrats, judges and others attracted to power and status without responsibility — and the framing gets very murky.

  82. Gravatar of Daug Daug
    19. March 2012 at 05:08

    Scott, that song’s from ’82!
    (go ’80s!)

  83. Gravatar of J.V. Dubois J.V. Dubois
    19. March 2012 at 05:17

    I can name a few sins of libertarians myself:

    1) Externality denialism: this is actually at the core of libertarian movement. Existence of externalities means that there might be some space for government intervention. If you as libertarian admit this, then this must lead all way down the slippery slope to communism. Therefore, the first rule is that “Externalities cannot exist”. If you have to admit that they exist then the second rule is that you say that “externalities are not a problem”. Not at all. And now quickly “doublethink” back to the first rule sooner than this dangerous thought can growth roots in the rational part of the brain. What doublethink?

    2) Identification of private property as axiomatic law of nature and principal human right: you all know this situation when while discussing rational cost/benefit analysis of taxation (sic) he other party screams “Taxes are theft, theft is immoral and thus taxation is immoral. No discussion”

    3) Individuals always know what is the best for them. The only possible discussion is when this cognitive faculties of individuals miraculously appear. Most libertarians think that they appear somewhere between conception and age of 21 years. Individual freedom is absolute. There are no cognitive biases, or states of mind that impede free will. Otherwise it would be just the foot in a door of paternalistic government. First rule is “Cognitive biases do not exist” Second rule …

    4) “Spontaneous is moral”. Spontaneousis the word of the day. What is created spontaneously (by free markets) that is moral. It has to be as it reflects free will of individuals. I consider this paradox as one of the greatest mysteries of libertarianism. If you are truly libertarian, how can you be politically active at all? Does not arrangement (economical or political) of things at any moment express the sum of individual choices of billions of people? Are not states and governments the same result of spontaneous order that survived the tests of millenia old “free market” fight for rare resources on Earth? Who are you to defy the laws of social evolution, to dictate what is the best way people should organize themselves, to decide what is “right”? Surely you as individual cannot have all the information that individual agents have to decide that what is good governance for you is as good for anyone else?

  84. Gravatar of Major_Freedom Major_Freedom
    19. March 2012 at 05:33

    J.V. Dubois:

    1) No denial. Just protection of private property rights.

    2) “Gains” and “losses” are, to the libertarian, specific to the individual. There cannot be “gains” to taxation other than to those individuals who tax and those individuals they give the tax money to. There cannot be “losses” from taxation other than to those individuals who are taxed and those who receive fewer tax dollars than they pay. Libertarians hold that “social gains” and “social losses” are incoherent concepts, because one cannot compare and contrast inter-subjective utilities. There is no such thing as “the greater good”. All good and all bad are specific to individuals only. Moreover, and to turn your own logic against you, the tax advocate who screams “Taxation is not theft, hence taxation is not immoral. Only social gains and losses are important. No discussion.”, does not address the axiomatic foundations of private property rights.

    3) Libertarians do not necessarily hold that the individual always knows what’s best for them. Only that the individual has the right to be free to do what they want for themselves. There is a difference.

    4) The concept of “spontaneous outcomes” is has both descriptive and normative bases. Descriptively, it refers to how society is not planned by any one individual. Normatively, it refers passively to the morality of all actions and outcomes that are based on respect for property rights. Furthermore, you arrogate yourself into being all-wise in claiming to know what are the correct social “laws of nature”. Libertarians aren’t trying to impose their morality on others. They are just saying the individual has the right to decide their own lives for themselves without imposing it on others.

    Serious question: Have you ever in your life read a libertarian book, essay, or article?

  85. Gravatar of Major_Freedom Major_Freedom
    19. March 2012 at 05:44

    Oh and J.V., about externalities that allegedly “make space” for government intervention, perhaps in your zeal to defend and justify the state to act you missed the fact that state intervention itself contains negative externalities. When you ask that the state act to “stop/reduce pollution in this particular river” say, it is inevitable that the state externalizes the costs of its own actions onto those individuals NOT related to that river, namely other taxpayers. The state is not just hired by the property rights violations victims to stop the aggressors. No, the state taxes everyone to finance whatever it is you want them to do. That is a negative externality.

    Or, to give a more obvious example, the state externalizes the costs of “saving the financial sector” onto millions of taxpayers and holders of US dollars. Then there are corporate subsidies, labor welfare programs, regulations, and especially war. The state is a negative externality creating institution par excellence.

    Nobody who claims to be concerned with negative externalities can at the same time be a pro-state intervention advocate.

    Negative externalities can only be minimized/eliminated with the very institution you decry: Absolute individual private property rights. Only then will the costs of an individual’s actions be maximally/fully incurred by the individual actor themselves, and not imposed on others.

  86. Gravatar of Morgan Warstler Morgan Warstler
    19. March 2012 at 06:14

    Sax, I have told you on many occasions you don’t read carefully.

  87. Gravatar of Mike Sax Mike Sax
    19. March 2012 at 06:17

    Major you are right that there can be negative externalities of goverhment as well but you leap much too quickly in declaring-with considerable “zeal”-that:

    “Nobody who claims to be concerned with negative externalities can at the same time be a pro-state intervention advocate.”

    You jump to this conclusion way to quickly. Take your example of

    “When you ask that the state act to “stop/reduce pollution in this particular river” say, it is inevitable that the state externalizes the costs of its own actions onto those individuals NOT related to that river, namely other taxpayers. The state is not just hired by the property rights violations victims to stop the aggressors. No, the state taxes everyone to finance whatever it is you want them to do. That is a negative externality”

    Frist of all you don’t measure the degree of something being a negative externality. If someone’s taxes go up by a few dollars is tha treally euqivanlent or even worse than say a parituclar area having generations of children being born with birth defects?

    There’s a case to be made that during Britian’s industrial erevolution the working class became permanently vicitm of stunted growth and health.

    In addition you ignore the fact that often the very same taxpayers suffering the negative externality of slightly higher taxes is are the same people who are reaping the benefit of eliminating the negative externality of toxic pollution. I supset most people would choose paying $50 or 100 more a year in taxes to guarantee the helath of their children and grandchildren.

    Your belief in the ability of some pure libertarian state of things to protect against all negative externality is naive and without basis.

    In reality negative externalities exist in any course of action we take, it’s a balancing act. In some cases government intervention is called for. I don’t see why anyone who admits this is omehow guilty of anymore excessive zeal than someone like yourself who instists in absolutiist dogmatic fashion that it is never called for.

  88. Gravatar of Mike Sax Mike Sax
    19. March 2012 at 06:24

    Morgan that doesn’t make you right. I was talking about something specific with good old Tyler G. You pile on making some categorical claim about what I “always” do with no examples are substantion.

    I’m sure you think this is true of all liberals which sounds like a shallowly drawn charachter sketch to me.

    It’s allright Morgan. Hey I like you anyway. Not even lying.

  89. Gravatar of J.V. Dubois J.V. Dubois
    19. March 2012 at 06:41

    Major:

    1) Long story short, you claim that externalities are not a problem. It is like saying that curing some particular illness “inevitably” leads to death by some other means therefore it does not make sense to cure anything.

    2) Yes, this is just another example of how libertariansim deconstructs everything and especially wealth to “individuals”. In all examples it is as if people accumulate property on some isolated islands like Robinsons, where everything they have or not have is just the result of their individual effort. Once you claim that something is “yours” then suddenly everything else does not matter.

    The problem is that it is all “ex-post” justification. I was born as a lucky child of a billionaire, thus I have right to what is mine. It is just how nature and god arranged things, you all have to get over it. My private property is my divine right. But one can come to completely different conclusions if one thinks differently, this is not just the only way there is. Just take Rawlsian original position for instance. Suddenly some form of social and economical rearrangement are viewed as just even if they “impede” they can be viewed as unjust in a narrow sense.

    I always like to think about capitalism and free markets as about the game of chance with positive returns. Imagine that you and your 100 friends can play roulette where you have 51% probability to win. You have just one attempt and you have to bet all your wealth. Individually people would shy from such thing as they are risk averse. However collectively they can reap great rewards if they divide risk among themselves. Suddenly taking your rightful winning and distributing it among your friends can be justified, even if you claim that it is you individually who made the bet.

    3) Strange. Then how come that you claim that collective outcome of such biased individuals (AKA free market) is always superior to other organizational forms?

    4) Hypothetical question: what if outcome of spontaneous organization would be tyranny? Would you fight for people’s right to choose it?

    Another question, as example there was millenia old tradition of debt slavery. What do you think about contractual regulation by governmnet that recognizes unalienable human rights that cannot be subject to any contract even with your consent? If you approve it, who gave government the authority to pass it as law possibly against the will of some people?

  90. Gravatar of Morgan Warstler Morgan Warstler
    19. March 2012 at 07:17

    No Mike, I think you sometimes, often enough it occurs to me, do not read carefully.

    There are liberals and conservatives I’m sure do this more than you, but you do it.

    When arguing with an opponent, careful examination of their point, and moreover being able to cast their thinking the way they actually think about it – is crucial.

    When you can make their argument as well as they can, you’ve walked in the other guys shoes.

  91. Gravatar of Shane Shane
    19. March 2012 at 07:47

    I second your praise of O’Brien’s reading of Burke–one of the most insightful. Have you read his intro to the Penguin _Reflections_? It’s the argument of _The Great Melody_ collapsed into about 80 amazing pages. (Incidentally, I was just reading the speech about the American colonies with my class today, and I can’t believe that anyone would see that text as justifying the American position. It seems a masterwork of that Burkean ironic vein that O’Brien outlines. But maybe that’s just me).

    It’s interesting that you choose environmentalism and Jihadism. My brain, currently wading through the murky waters of the _Phenomenology of Spirit_, can’t help but see those both as reactions to modernity and hence included moments of it. Indeed, I’m inclined to see them as the left and right wings of the sundry reactions against modernity.

    But of course we don’t always have to be totalizing dialecticians. I take your point that perhaps they just are outside that framework, rather than truly antithetical to it in any simplistic way that would allow for a moment of sublation.

  92. Gravatar of Patrick R. Sullivan Patrick R. Sullivan
    19. March 2012 at 08:57

    ‘I had thought it obvious that when I said that Iraq never had WMD, it was in reference to the run-up to the 2003 invasion. I’m sorry – I will be more literal next time.’

    I think (or hope) you meant ‘more precise’. However, Joseph Wilson believed, not only that Saddam had them, but was sure to use them. We know this because he predicted it in a piece for the San Jose Mercury News on October 13, 2002. And Wilson had been acting ambassador to Iraq at one time.

  93. Gravatar of Mike Sax Mike Sax
    19. March 2012 at 09:27

    Morgan again you provide not a single example of me not giving an accurate reading of the opponents argument. Though I admit that there are some arguments that don’t deserve much respect like those who still argue that black people are racially inferior for example. Or yes, that Obama was born in Kenya.

    You have no examples of me doing this-none.

    Lar Christensen disagrees with you-here he read my post and admitted I do get it at least on the question at ahnd.

    http://marketmonetarist.com/2012/01/31/christensens-postmodernist-mind-fuck/

    You say I don’t walk in the other guy’s shoes, I feel that’s not at all true. For the most part it’s conservative Republicans who distort arguments wildly for partisan advantage.

    Hey I walked enough in your shoes to say I like you and enjoy what I find as your often off the wall analysis. I’ve clearly done more walking in your shoes than you have in mine.

  94. Gravatar of Benny Lava Benny Lava
    19. March 2012 at 09:28

    StatsGuy,

    I hate to interject in this silly argument, but poison gas is not a WMD. You were trolled right there.

    On the whole this discussion only proves that people base their arguments on feelings rather than facts, both right and left.

  95. Gravatar of Morgan Warstler Morgan Warstler
    19. March 2012 at 11:34

    Sax, this is from when you thought I was some kind of bible thumper:

    http://www.themoneyillusion.com/?p=12429

  96. Gravatar of Mike Sax Mike Sax
    19. March 2012 at 13:08

    Ok Morgan I remember that, but whether you are or not you vote for the party of Bible thumpers. As I am someone who is not a Bible thumper I don’t know how you can support the party of peity, and ending birth control. I mean the GOP takes the Bible out at any excuse.

    Then again I think I read your blog once and you spoke about a “Christian macroeconomics” or something like it

  97. Gravatar of Jim Glass Jim Glass
    19. March 2012 at 16:48

    I hate to interject in this silly argument, but poison gas is not a WMD. You were trolled right there.

    While WMDs are not defined in the Bible, they certainly *do* include poison gas, chemicals and biologicals in the popular mind.

    Who better reflects the popular mind than Wikipedia?: “A weapon of mass destruction (WMD) is a weapon that can kill and bring significant harm to a large number of humans (and other life forms) … Coined in reference to aerial bombing with chemical explosives, it has come to distinguish large-scale weaponry of other technologies, such as chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear….”

    Of course there has to be a “mass” element, a thimbleful will not do. Are the UNSCOM-documented “19,000 litres of botulinum toxin; 8,000 litres of anthrax”, etc., sufficiently “mass”? It’s all so subjective.

    On the whole this discussion only proves that people base their arguments on feelings rather than facts, both right and left.

    Yes, very true, changing definitions for rhetorical and emotional convenience as they go along.

    Yet things really are subjective.

    The conventional bombing of Tokyo in one night killed deca-thousands more people (maybe 50,000 more) than the bombing of Nagasaki. Does that mean that nuke wasn’t a WMD, while conventional bombs were?

    One thing I actually do believe is that “WMD” really doesn’t have much meaning except in politics. And WMD is to Iraq what, say, the Trust Fund is to Social Security — hugely over-politicized by *both* political sides when they think it to their advantage via over-simplified argument, *far* out of proportion to the true important fundamental issues of the matter, which go correspondingly under-considered.

  98. Gravatar of Nostalgia Ain’t What It Used to Be Nostalgia Ain’t What It Used to Be
    19. March 2012 at 17:25

    [...] Scott Sumner is nostalgic, too, but in his case it’s for the days when it was progressives who were stupid: Yes, I know all that, but everyone is shaped by what was happening when they were young. I recall: [...]

  99. Gravatar of StatsGuy StatsGuy
    20. March 2012 at 05:36

    @ anon

    “just weren’t all that interested in how people really lived under Communism – Castro and Mao were cool because they were symbols of resistance to Uncle Sam and consumerism and so on.”

    Sadly very true – many of the arguments we toss back and forth are really masked facades to argue about deeper issues (race, north/south, class, faith, culture). Which is sad, because many of these issues really are important. It’s like a Pirandello play, where the characters are never talking about what they’re talking about.

  100. Gravatar of StatsGuy StatsGuy
    20. March 2012 at 05:50

    “Scott Sumner is nostalgic, too, but in his case it’s for the days when it was progressives who were stupid:”

    ROFL. Yes, true. And true to John’s comment:

    “Lots of us realized such and realized that the solution to that problem would be to become a clear, hard-headed, logical thinking liberal.”

    However, even though progressives have added clarity and discipline, there is still a strong element to a sort of self-censoring on the progressive side. Progressives avoid possibly true arguments because they desperately don’t want them to be true, a fact that conservatives call political correctness. Whether or not you believe there is a link between race and intelligence, that is not even a legitimate argument to have in public. Whether or not you believe Islam is an inherently intolerant religion (whatever that means), even having the argument marks one as persona non-grata. The impact of these (and other) arguments being true has such profound effects on the sustainability of our institutions (social services, immigration, the ability to choose how many children one can have) that we simply refuse to even have the argument. The environmental debate is a perfect example, even though it SHOULD be one of the few areas where pragmatic cost/benefit based solutions are eminently possible.

    P.S. Be careful buying any coastline property, or any businesses dependent on coastal communities.

  101. Gravatar of Majorajam Majorajam
    20. March 2012 at 06:37

    This is a great post. A world without memory doomed to chase its tail for all time. It’s a comically tragic insight, and apropos, given what’s going on in the political sphere (the Roberts court as blowback from the Warren court, busily engineering blowback from the left. The drive to eliminate the government’s role as insurer and criminalize abortion as blowback from the shifts to those policy, and based largely on the lack of public understanding or recollection of the circumstances that led to the status quo in the first place. Etc.).

    I especially like the piece about living one decade and experiencing the others (with the caveat that that decade doesn’t always fall nicely between the markers). My father spent a fifth of the time in California that he spent in Wisconsin, but is a Badgers/Packers/Brewers/Bucks fan for all time.

    My only quibble would be the assertion that liberals don’t do dispassionate analysis. I’d argue that they do, actually, at least modern liberals, and to a fault (I’ve little doubt, for example, that Paul Krugman would endorse Yglesias’s sentiments there). That could be because dispassionate analysis favors them at this stage in the game, and that in rhetoric the ends tend to solve for the means.

  102. Gravatar of Jim Jim
    20. March 2012 at 08:57

    Good post Scott Sumner.

    I would add that the Left, which owns the media, has done a superb job of both manipulating the language and bastardizing the “Right” message, making it appear silly and irrational.

    This is easier to do given the Right’s chosen spokes people, which is why they are so often called the Stupid party.

    BTW, I believe that means the gate is still wide open for a TV network from the right / traditional Liberal POV, which would steal viewers from all existing networks. Fox sensed the open market to the right, but has not in any way filled it with informed or rational discourse, which many self-named Progressives would find themselves attracted to. IOW, there is a place for Hazlitt in today’s media, and that place is very large.

  103. Gravatar of Peter K. Peter K.
    20. March 2012 at 09:02

    I’m a lefty-liberal who was born in 1970 and has mixed feelings about my parents generation, the baby boomers.

    Basically, Rush Limbaugh and Fox News pushed me to the left. Also I believe everyone should have equal opportunities and basic rights, something conservatives actively work against.

    What I would say to Yglesias is that Apple’s brand is different from rice growers and sock makers. Their brand is part of the reason the company is so profitable.

    I’m old enough to remember the Apple commercial from the 1984 Olympics which took it’s imagery from Orwell’s 1984. Foxconn shows that that imagery is a lie and it damages their brand.

  104. Gravatar of Robert P. Robert P.
    20. March 2012 at 10:45

    I’m a righty-liberarian who was born in 1970 and has mixed feelings about the baby boomers.

    I grew up at the end of the underground railroad and final resting place of Frederick Douglas, and the city is more segregated than it ever was with two distinct cities in one place. I’ve seen the failures of the underlying assumptions of the progressive policies. I grew up working in my father’s factory, and I studied economics at an ivy league university. I really do have an understanding of how the government creates a drag on the society. I supported Clinton early on but changed sides when the right came to power.

    As far as the Bush tax cuts, I remember having a conversation with a childhood friend’s Mom, who inherited the land under a mall, and she said that the $400 checks didn’t make a difference at all. I told her that they helped me a bunch because at the time I really needed the money. Oh well, tax cuts for the rich?

    I believe in six sigma and continuous improvement, and the right has been trying new ideas, which I haven’t seen from the left. All of the current ideas from the Democratic party are ideas from th 1970s.

    As far as compasion, I remember being stranded in rural Georgia due my old car. Who helped me out? Evangelicals. I live in New York now, and I would be walking. I guess I take it more personally when people from my own region say verifibly untrue statements about their polical opponents. It just feels so much like propaganda.

    As far as the sock makers, chip makers, etc. I don’t care. I’ve been to Eastern Europe and studied history. There are far worse things than working in a factory.

  105. Gravatar of Vivian Darkbloom Vivian Darkbloom
    20. March 2012 at 11:24

    “I hate to interject in this silly argument, but poison gas is not a WMD. You were trolled right there.”

    According to the American Society of International Law:

    “In security and foreign policy analyses, “weapons of mass destruction” is a term that generally encompasses nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, with radiological weapons occasionally included. Contemporary international legal analysis generally follows this conventional definition of WMD, even though neither treaty law nor customary international law contains an authoritative definition of WMD. The reason such a definition does not exist is that states have historically used international law to address each category of weapons within the WMD rubric. International law specifically on WMD is, thus, composed of three different sets of rules for each WMD technology. General rules of international law, such as international humanitarian law, also apply to WMD; [2] but these general principles were not developed specifically to address WMD.”

    http://www.asil.org/insigh97.cfm

    One of those conventions within the WMD rubric in international law is the “Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction”.

    But, hey, what do they know? And, I’m just trolling.

  106. Gravatar of Major_Freedom Major_Freedom
    20. March 2012 at 11:35

    Peter K:

    Also I believe everyone should have equal opportunities and basic rights, something conservatives actively work against.

    Why should everyone have equal opportunities, as opposed to freedom of opportunity?

    When you say “basic rights” of a person, do these “rights” require the effort, resources, and action of anyone other than the person in question? If they do, then it’s not a right, but a privilege, because a right cannot carry with it any obligation on others against their will, lest their rights be violated.

  107. Gravatar of Benjamin Cole Benjamin Cole
    20. March 2012 at 12:45

    Yeah, I was born in 1955 too. So much rings true in what Sumner says about liberals. They just don;t get the iconic side of the equation.

    Of course, if being conservative means supporting Bull Conner….

  108. Gravatar of Benjamin Cole Benjamin Cole
    20. March 2012 at 12:46

    “iconic” should read “economic”

  109. Gravatar of Benny Lava Benny Lava
    20. March 2012 at 15:39

    And Jim Glass quotes Wikipedia which only proves he is a troll. Haha.

  110. Gravatar of Mike Sandifer Mike Sandifer
    21. March 2012 at 19:39

    I think Scott’s a liberal, because he has values that liberals currently commonly share. His disagreements are on technical points that are extremely arcane for most other liberals.

    Conservatives today are simply different animals, even within the academic ranks.

  111. Gravatar of Mark A. Sadowski Mark A. Sadowski
    21. March 2012 at 20:00

    Wow, great post. Too bad there are already 110 comments.

    P.S. My dad was born in 1920. I was born in 1964 but my brother was born in 1954 so he and you probably have a lot more in common generationally.

  112. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    22. March 2012 at 16:36

    Beckett, Good point.

    Matt, I don’t see people having a high opinion of either government or business.

    anon/portly, Thanks for the links.

    Steven Flaeck, Most surveys rate it the second most free market economy on Earth. It has a lot of regulations, but then so does the US, and every other country I know.

    Liberal Roman, He sure seems liberal to me!

    Statsguy, I know far too much about China to have believed any of that nonsense. That stuff is for rich gullible liberals on the Upper East Side, who know nothing about what real life is like for most people.

    There are few people more clueless than anti-sweatshop crusaders.

    You said;

    “All in all, the food scare of the 1970s may have been an overreaction, but the federal govt. response was an undereaction, so in balance we’re better off that the hysteria happened – nothing seems to move in a democracy without a bit of hysteria.”

    You could probably defend global warming denialists on the same basis.

    I hope I reminded you of the Gelman post, not the views he was criticizing!

    Eric G, I’m opposed to high quality health care for everyone, or high quality cars for everyone. Unless by “high quality” you means as good as health are in the UK. Then yeah, I favor that for everyone.

    They can overrule any vetoes if they really want to. The GOP has almost no power here. Absolutely NOTHING changes when the Dems take over the Governor’s office.

    Kevin, Good point.

    mbk, Very interesting comment. I suspect you are right about how life experiences feed into the slight differences. For instance my view of deer hunters would probably have been different if I hadn’t known some very nice people who were deer hunters.

    Shane, I have a post defending the argument that liberals have always been utilitarians, whether left or right wing. When they supported eugenics, it was for utilitarian reasons.

    Jim Glass, Good point about Iraqi poison gas.

    Mike Sandifer, You are reacting emotionally, not logically. You said:

    “There’ve always been legions of crackpot conservatives too, as you know well having studied the 1930s.”

    They weren’t dominant when I was young. The crackpot liberals were. And as for McCarthyism, how old do you think I am? You are grasping for straws here, it was an embarrassing period for American liberalism, just as right now is an embarrassing periods for American conservatism.

    Lorenzo, Yes, everything about our politics is bizarre, and you forgot our practice of calling conservatives “Red”.

    Mike Sax, If that’s true I’d lose all respect for Krugman, as that would mean he’s a liar (he’s never distanced himself from the earlier stuff.) But I don’t believe you, I don’t think he’s a liar. I think he still believes that stuff.

    Most libertarians are not pro-life, and there are few people as “anti-life” as me. I’m for legalized abortion, assisted suicide, you name it.

    anon/portly, It’s always nice when someone sees what I’m getting at.

    Daug, Finally someone noticed! I was wondering how long it would take. And the other song is from 1991. :)

    But Costello and Parker will always be 1970s guys to me.

    JV Dubois, Good critique of libertarianism. Most libertarians are more dogmatic than I am–I’m a pragmatist.

    Majorajam. Thanks. You said;

    “My father spent a fifth of the time in California that he spent in Wisconsin, but is a Badgers/Packers/Brewers/Bucks fan for all time.”

    That describes me too, I’ve got both Badger and Bucks games taping right now.

    I agree Yglesias is dispassionate, Krugman slightly less so.

    Jim, That’s right, but Fox News also plays a role in that perception.

    Peter K. I strongly disagree. The anti-sweatshop crusaders don’t understand the basic principles of economics, and are doing real harm to the poor in developing countries. I’d suggest reading Krugman’s defense of sweatshops from the 1990s.

    Robert P. You said;

    “As far as the sock makers, chip makers, etc. I don’t care. I’ve been to Eastern Europe and studied history. There are far worse things than working in a factory.”

    Exactly. China’s market reforms have done far more for the welfare of the poor than all the socialist programs in the history of the world combined. It’s amazing that they think they have the moral upper hand.

    Mike Sandifer, Yes, I’m a right wing liberal.

    Thanks Mark.

  113. Gravatar of J.V. Dubois J.V. Dubois
    27. March 2012 at 03:32

    Wow, I am impressed that you took your time to response to all these posts. Maybe this thread is already dead, but I would like to post yet another comment on sweatshops.

    I know all the usual arguments regarding better treatment and all that, however there still is a large grain of truth for human rights movement. The topic is better explained here: http://jeffweintraub.blogspot.com/2011/01/adam-smith-on-poverty-progress-wages.html

    The point is – if you imagine that human labor (or human capital) could be easily reproduced – such as by allowing slavery and breeding of slaves for instance – there is no need for capitalism to deliver better living standards for all. It is mostly due to peculiar way how human labor is produced why modern generation is able to live a life of luxury.

    We can all imagine situations where capitalism will not deliver better living standards. If there would permanently exist tyrannies who legalized slavery and who would use violence or psychological manipulation to prevent labor from getting larger piece of the pie, than such system would be skewed. I now risk that I will look like some leftist crazie – but I can easily imagine such neofeudal world to form up even in a relatively close future. Given historical performance of various forms of government I even think that this is a “baseline” arrangement of things and that current system of rule by liberal democracies cannot by no means be considered as stable and “end of history” as envisioned by Fukuyama.

    All I want to say is that this is a real problem that needs to be addressed. Tyler Cowen once wrote that liberals have to be pragmatic. They have to decide on priorities of what is most dangerous threat of liberty – is it increase of taxes from 15 to 30% or possibility of terrorist attack by nuclear weapons? This is a similar topic – do we want to trade with tyrannies that adopt capitalism and free trade and economic freedom. We are too much relying on persuasive, soft powers of democracy to think that it will inevitably establish in any country which is open to trade. Now I think that we may see this theory to be put in test sooner than expected.

  114. Gravatar of W. Peden W. Peden
    27. March 2012 at 04:36

    J. V. Dubois,

    “who would use violence or psychological manipulation to prevent labor from getting larger piece of the pie.”

    That’s not leftist crazy talk at all. Incomes policies intended to suppress real wages were conventional wisdom just one generation ago. Usually, they were pursued through psychological manipulation (“social contracts”, “voluntary wage and price agreements” etc.) but sometimes they were pursued through the force of the law e.g. statutory incomes policies. Suppression of trade unions by states e.g. banning workers striking has also occured far too frequently in history.

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