Memories of the Carter Adminstration

I think it’s fair to say that modern American progressive thought is obsessed with two issues:

1.  The need to defeat GOP obstructionism, so that progressive reforms can be enacted.

2.  The need for higher income tax rates on the rich.

If this is the agenda then California is the ideal.  The GOP is dead and the Dems have dictatorial control.   They just raised their top rate to 13.3%, and they are determined to build a “high speed rail” line from LA to San Francisco.  (The scare quotes reflect the fact that the Chinese would laugh at the “high speed” claim.)

Today I saw a list of the best governed states in America.  California came in 50th out of 50.  In fairness, this ranking was based on 2012 figures, and doesn’t account for California’s recent success in producing a “balanced budget.”  (Scare quotes again—here’s why.)  But next recession their fiscal regime, which is more leveraged to stock market gains than the average hedge fund, will once again collapse like a house of cards.  They have America’s highest taxes on the rich and the following outcomes:

The Golden State was also among the worst states in the nation for educational attainment, health coverage, and unemployment.

Even worse, this policy failure occurred in a state that in many ways is extremely “lucky.”  California has some of the most delightful weather and beautiful scenery in the world.  It is very rich in oil resources. They are able to attract highly productive people to this environment despite high tax rates.  Imagine how California would be doing if they had Texas weather and scenery.

I sympathize with some of the complaints of modern progressives.  Yes, the filibuster is (was?) a bad idea. Yes, the modern GOP has regressed significantly from the Reagan era.  But I think the long period of conservative dominance, and then policy deadlock, has led many progressives to underestimate the difficulties of enacting a liberal vision in a polyglot society of 320 million people.  They have forgotten what caused the conservative resurgence in 1980.  It’s really, really hard to make a big and activist government work.  No one else has made an activist government work in a country so large. And based on the results from California and New York, it also seems difficult to implement in large states.

It’s too bad that JFK died 50 years ago today.  Not for Kennedy himself—no one could dream of having a more perfect life—but for modern liberalism.  It would have been instructive for liberals to see Kennedy fail during his second term, as almost all presidents do.  (And BTW, I believe Kennedy was a reasonably good president.)

PS.  Just to be fair and balanced, here’s an excellent post from Lorenzo showing that conservatives have their own set of problems.

PPS.  Here’s the NYT endorsing the Senate’s filibuster vote:

In a 52-to-48 vote that substantially altered the balance of power in Washington, the Senate changed its most infuriating rule and effectively ended the filibuster on executive and judicial appointments.  . . .

This vote was long overdue.

And here’s what the NYT said in 2005:

A decade ago, this page expressed support for tactics that would have gone even further than the “nuclear option” in eliminating the power of the filibuster. At the time, we had vivid memories of the difficulty that Senate Republicans had given much of Bill Clinton’s early agenda. But we were still wrong. To see the filibuster fully, it’s obviously a good idea to have to live on both sides of it. We hope acknowledging our own error may remind some wavering Republican senators that someday they, too, will be on the other side and in need of all the protections the Senate rules can provide.

That’s right.  During the Clinton Administration the NYT opposed the filibuster. When Bush took over they realized they’d made a horrible mistake, and that the filibuster actually was a wise policy.  No, it was more than a wise policy:

But its existence goes to the center of the peculiar but effective form of government America cherishes.

And now that the Dems are back in power the NYT recognizes that they were right all along, and that their 2005 apology was misguided.

This is why it’s often said that unless you adopt H.L. Mencken’s cynicism, politics will immediately take 15 points off your IQ.  (And we all know people at the Times who have suffered that sad fate.)  There are actually people in New York City, highly intelligent people, who think the Times is a reasonably objective paper.  I’m not kidding.

PPPS.  I won’t have much time for blogging between now and the end of the year. I have some older posts that I’ll put up, but will probably be slow in responding to comments.  I have some traveling ahead.



69 Responses to “Memories of the Carter Adminstration”

  1. Gravatar of JG JG
    22. November 2013 at 10:35

    There is an open space in the human heart-a void that seeks fulfillment and a hunger that longs for satisfaction. For the progressive this longing looks to the future. A brave new world is envisioned, an ideology is espoused and an action plan that brooks no dissent is put into place.

    For the conservative that same longing is not for a brave new world, but for a serene, old world. The progressive yearns for utopia. The conservative mourns for Eden. The progressive works for a revolution. The conservative seeks a resolution. The progressive destroys the past to build the future. The conservative restores the past to build the future.

    The driving motivation for the progressive is a gnawing unhappiness he wishes to placate by fabricating an untried recipe for happiness, while the conservative longs for a tried and true happiness he has lost and wishes to rediscover. This longing for a good that is gone or a bliss that can be faintly remembered is the beating heart of conservatism and the motor of its creativity.

    The nostalgia of the conservative is more than a reverence for past wisdom or an immature desire to return to the comfort of the nursery. It is more than the antiquarian’s interest in the artifacts of a bygone age. It is instead an intense bittersweet emotion that lifts and unlocks the heart and motivates creative and positive change.

  2. Gravatar of Saturos Saturos
    22. November 2013 at 10:43

    Saturosnotes: “… we all know people at the Times…” = Paul Krugman.

  3. Gravatar of foosion foosion
    22. November 2013 at 10:51

    How they determined the best run states is far from clear. The methodology section of the linked article just lists sources of data. Anything which finds North Dakota better than California seems dubious.

    A focus on higher taxes on the rich is a mistake. The better focus is the ways the govt acts to favor the rich on a pre-tax level. For example, a patent system which shifts vast amounts to the best off at the expense of everyone else (btw, there are much better ways to finance drug research, we had lots of books before perpetual copyrights, etc.), too big to fail guarantees which subsidize the best off, trade and forex policies which increase competition for most workers while shielding many of the best off, policy implemented by tax deduction (which gives more benefit to those with the highest incomes), etc., etc.

  4. Gravatar of jknarr jknarr
    22. November 2013 at 11:10

    When economic activity is abundant — such as 1950-1970 — tripartite political consensus is easy (individual-collective-oligarch).

    When the pie is stagnant, then there is heightened tripartite warfare over ownership of the economic surplus. The oligarchs are clearly winning, by setting the individuals against the collective, and collectives against individuals.

    Polarized conflict and stalemate is the inevitable pre-crisis landscape — and one that we have seen many times in the US — such as before the revolutionary war, civil war, and great depression.

    The ultimate denouement has been delayed — as it always is — as US politics are yet to recognize the common citizen-oligarch conflict, and instead are led to focus on trivial differences. Divide and conquer, full stop.

    There is a reasonable individual-collective consensus out there — the freedom agenda, and eliminating oligarch welfare. They will never raise more than 20% of NGDP via taxation, regardless of where they set marginal rates. The question is how it is spent, and how many resources we can free up resources by eliminating corporate welfare and state-sponsored barriers to economic entry. Liberalism, in the most classic sense, is very popular.

    I’m optimistic that we’ll get to a citizen/oligarch framing of the debate, but we were talking about technology adoption rates and AD earlier — AD determines the shape and timing of technology.

    There will be an AD boom after the current “ancien regime” crumbles — although the timing is very much in question — and it will arrive with a shocking US resurgence and revitalization.

    The problem is that the oligarchs will have “locked in” certain institutions — such as the political surveillance state, and its cousin: financial debt surveillance — just like typewriters locked in QWERTY for computers. This will be a suboptimal equilibrium for most, except for the one-world global oligarchy.

  5. Gravatar of Kevin Donoghue Kevin Donoghue
    22. November 2013 at 11:18

    “How they determined the best run states is far from clear.”

    Hey, they “considered data from a number of sources, including Standard & Poor’s”, if that’s not scientific, what is?

  6. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    22. November 2013 at 11:30

    foosion, I just grabbed the ranking at random, but whether they are 48th or 50th doesn’t much matter, I think everyone agrees the state is a mess in fiscal terms and quality of services.

  7. Gravatar of Robert H. Robert H.
    22. November 2013 at 11:36

    I don’t think people claiming the Times is objective are claiming that its editorials are objective. The whole point of the editorial page is that it’s where reporters, pundits, and the editorial board get subjective. I think the claim is that its straight reporting is non-biased in tone, subject matter, and content. You fight that claim by pointing to bias in the straight reporting. Quoting an editorial to prove a paper is biased is like quoting the sports section to prove that it is obsessed with football.

    Now quoting Times editorials to argue that the editorial board is stupid and its opinions are hypocritical is fair game, and good job doing that.

    Anyways, are Cali educational outcomes crap regardless of demographic adjustments? I know that here in Texas our education system only looks good if you adjust for our proportionally greater numbers of low-achieving demographics, IE our average Latino student does well compared to the national average for Latinos, but our greater number of Latinos makes the average student generally do worse compared to the national average for students generally. Do those adjustments also help California’s educational outcomes?

  8. Gravatar of Dan W. Dan W.
    22. November 2013 at 12:22


    Good comments and while I am not persuaded by your monetary prescriptions I appreciate your efforts to try. This is a quality blog and credit goes to you and the time you spend here.

    Having grown up in New York state and sworn never to relive its winter climate I can attest that California is uniquely blessed by its geography. The Golden state, except for its politics, is golden and it can commit many more policy errors than other states in the union. I do not particularly want to live there now but I understand why through most of the 20th century it was all that it was made out to be.

  9. Gravatar of Patrick R. Sullivan Patrick R. Sullivan
    22. November 2013 at 12:30

    The filibuster makes it difficult for the Senate to pass a law. That’s a good thing.

  10. Gravatar of Steve Steve
    22. November 2013 at 12:30

    At least Republicans just picked up 9 of the 15 Senate votes they will need to repeal Obamacare.

  11. Gravatar of Kinanik Kinanik
    22. November 2013 at 12:30

    How much of the problem is Progressivism, and how much is it simply a lack of competition combined with a huge state making oversight more difficult?

  12. Gravatar of Steve Steve
    22. November 2013 at 12:58

    “Yes, the filibuster is (was?) a bad idea.”

    The problem is that the executive branch has become far too powerful. Democrats and Republicans agree on that.

    Perhaps a solution would be to apportion judicial and regulatory appointments based on senate seats, rather than give all the power to the sitting president?

    It would be like a possession arrow / jump ball in basketball, instead of forcing the players to wrestle on the floor over a tie-up.

  13. Gravatar of Adam Adam
    22. November 2013 at 14:06

    I think it’s fair to say that Scott doesn’t necessarily have a great handle on what “progressives” obsess about.

    There are a few people out there who advocate for higher taxes on the rich for their own sake — Robert Reich, for example, sees higher taxes on the rich as a policy response to growing income inequity — and there is certainly some underlying sympathy for those positions.

    But one of the main things that distinguishes “progressives” or liberals from people who identify themselves as conservative is that, generally, progressives do not see the level of taxation as itself a policy goal. Instead there are things to be achieved, and taxes that are needed to pay for them.

    Aside from Pigouvian taxes, I’ve never really felt that a tax was “too low” as a matter of tax policy. They certainly can be too high, but ultimately, the reason to raise tax rates on high incomes back to rates that are slightly closer to historical levels is the need for more revenue and nothing else. If there is even a need for more revenue. It is generally conservative and moderates who have lately been screaming about deficits (i.e., a problem a sane person would view as a need for more revenue, even if they believe there are easy spending cuts that can be implemented).

  14. Gravatar of Hypocrisy thy name is Democrat Hypocrisy thy name is Democrat
    22. November 2013 at 14:37

    “progressives do not see the level of taxation as itself a policy goal. Instead there are things to be achieved, and taxes that are needed to pay for them.”

    You have to be joking… most progressives see their OWN level of taxation as a policy goal. How many Democratic voters saw their taxes rise to fund Obamacare (and how many since have bemoaned the fact that they actually *are* paying for it)?

    The problem is that they don’t apply that same concern to others. We’re lucky if a Democrat is smart enough to recognize that there is an inflection point on the Laffer curve. Many (I’d wager most) imagine that 75% or 90% marginal tax rates on the rich is an acceptable (and perhaps desirable) arrangement… even though 28% is too much of their own income.

    But the real kicker… is that they vote for things they find emotionally rewarding (i.e. social or economy policy)… then they force someone else to bear the cost. Getting a benefit at no cost is selfishness pure and simple… the same selfishness they accuse Republicans of exhibiting.

  15. Gravatar of Chris Chris
    22. November 2013 at 15:12

    “The GOP is dead and the Dems have dictatorial control.”

    I wouldn’t really say this is true, Scott. Legislative districts (both federal districts and state-level) are so horribly gerrymandered that 90-95% of the seats are guaranteed to go to one party or the other (~25 of the 80 guaranteed R and ~50 guaranteed D). The remaining five seats are the “swing” seats.

    Because of proposition 13 requiring 2/3 approval for ANY bill of any importance, this essentially means that those five seats are where all of the power lies. With that, the power has swung back and forth between R and D several times over the last ten years.

    The real issue with California is populism and the out-of-control proposition system, which ends up with similar results to what you outline.

  16. Gravatar of Michael Michael
    22. November 2013 at 16:10

    Off topic, I just listned to your Cato presentation. It was outstanding!

    I don’t think it’s easy to pack your whole story, or even the gist of it, into 15 minutes but you pulled it off nicely.

  17. Gravatar of TravisV TravisV
    22. November 2013 at 17:37


    Where can I listen to the Cato presentation?

  18. Gravatar of TravisV TravisV
    22. November 2013 at 17:37


    Do you actually have any empirical disagreements with Prof. Sumner? I’m not sure you do. Like Major_Freedom, I think your disagreement is mainly philosophical.

  19. Gravatar of Michael Michael
    22. November 2013 at 18:34


    Scott was on panel 2.

  20. Gravatar of wufwugy wufwugy
    22. November 2013 at 19:08

    It’s hard to not call the GOP obstructionist when they refused to participate in healthcare reform, and to this day still have provided no reformative ideas on the issue. There are few things I would love as much as an effective Republican Party, but that party would be busy passing a whole lot of awesome bills, not stalling everything and anything because a few decades ago they made the egregious mistake of giving a voice to evangelical extremism

  21. Gravatar of Benjamin Cole Benjamin Cole
    22. November 2013 at 22:54

    “Imagine how California would be doing if they had Texas weather and scenery.”–Scott Sumner.

    Think Louisiana.

    I hate to say it, as a native Californian, but the state is in terribly managed, and the large counties and cities not much better.

    Simple size may be much of the problem. Many businesses say they enjoy working in smaller cities such as Pasadena, or Carson, Whittier etc.

    In the medium-sized city of Glendale new Los Angeles, police response time is 90 seconds. In L.A. it may be the next day.

    Government and large size do not go together. That applies to the Defense Department too.

  22. Gravatar of ChargerCarl ChargerCarl
    23. November 2013 at 00:53

    Steve the senate filibuster still exists for bills. It was only repealed for presidential appointments

  23. Gravatar of MikeF MikeF
    23. November 2013 at 01:45

    “In the medium-sized city of Glendale new Los Angeles, police response time is 90 seconds. In L.A. it may be the next day.

    Government and large size do not go together. That applies to the Defense Department too.”

    I see that growing trend, as government takes on more and more and power gets more centralized, the basic services from the government that we expect get worse and worse. Like most big organization there are big problems…but they are much worse in the government. As someone who has worked on many government contracts it is always amazing on how little technical knowledge there is within our government agencies. Everything that requires any technical knowledge is subcontracted out. The hiring and promotion is all political. I have seen recent college grads go from congressional interns to senior program managers on programs they know nothing about and armed with a liberal arts degree probably never will. The Obamacare website is exposing this to the nation but the problems run much deeper….

  24. Gravatar of Daniel Daniel
    23. November 2013 at 03:22

    Proposition 13 created a strong filibuster for the Republican minority. That was in 1978. That’s 35 years of filibustered government.

    And that procyclical tax structure you cite — was designed that way by the California legislature to avoid Prop 13’s property tax restrictions.

    In other words, Scott, California’s fiscal problems are evidence _for_ the danger of legislative obstructions. The things you hate in CA are there because Prop 13 gave the Republicans in CA a strong filibuster!

    Having said that, I’m sure there’s good evidence we should be afraid of triumphant liberal legislatures.

    Maybe something in Massachusetts or Oregon? Those are the two most (self-identified population percent) liberal states.

    Go find something crazy in MA or OR, Scott. Then we’ll have something worth blaming on power-mad progressives.

    (For the record, I think the real progressive agenda is “make America more like the Nordic countries”. But I assume you’re right that higher taxes at the top would be involved.)

  25. Gravatar of Morgan Warstler Morgan Warstler
    23. November 2013 at 06:22


    Pls go out and cheer GI / CYB to every conservative your know:

    We don’t need A LOT of good laws, just a few.

  26. Gravatar of Morgan Warstler Morgan Warstler
    23. November 2013 at 07:02

    Folks if you haven’t watched Scott give the Cato speech, go watch it:

    Scott, don’t qualify your voice to “this is what conservatives should know”

    Just take off your shoe and bang it on the table and say:



    – and congrats dude, you FINALLY made the my argument that NGDPLT is a HARD CAP

    When the car companies asked for special treatment, the other sectors would have screamed it would hurt them.

    Can you pls just say out loud in a couple of posts, that the same thing would happen when govt. tried to grow and give public employees raises?

    It’s right there. you are thru the looking glass. There is nothing you can say that will attract the CATO crowd more.

  27. Gravatar of Morgan Warstler Morgan Warstler
    23. November 2013 at 07:07



    “It’s a lot easier to say no to giving public employees raises….”

    Can you all tell Scott, DeKrugman’s brain will explode if this meme gets into the wild?

  28. Gravatar of Philo Philo
    23. November 2013 at 07:27

    You greatly exaggerated in writing that “no one could dream of having a more perfect life” than JFK had. Among the many aspects of Kennedy’s life that were negative from his point of view, the outstanding one is its brevity.

  29. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    23. November 2013 at 10:23

    Robert, Yes, ‘objective’ was the wrong term. I meant something more like honest.

    Don’t know about the demographics.

    Dan, I hope to be out there in 4 years.

    Kinanik, A huge state is part of it, but recall that progressives favor hugeness, they oppose decentralization (vouchers, states rights, devolving medicaid to states, etc.)

    Adam, I assure you I read plenty of progressives and I run across “tax the rich” about every 15 minutes.

    Chris, There is nothing stopping the Dems from passing their wish list right now–they have 2/3 control.

    Thanks Michael.

    Ben, Very good point.

    Daniel, Nice try, but prop 13 doesn’t explain all the money wasted by the government in California, nor does it explain a 13.3% top rate. Nor does it explain the high speed rail boondoggle.

    The constitution does not allow progressive income taxes in Massachusetts. The (liberal) voters voted to abolish rent control statewide a few years ago. They voted against allowing a progressive income tax a few years ago. Is that what you think makes Massachusetts more successful than California?

    I do agree that prop 13 is bad tax policy. And that the GOP is also dysfunctional.

    Philo, You of all people should see that that’s what made it perfect. He had arguably the most successful life of any American during the 20th century. (In terms of public esteem, which is what most people care about–put aside what you think of his politics.) Then he goes out right on top, before the long painful slide that ALWAYS hits successful politicians. He lived as long as the average American lived in 1900, and way better.

    Sure there is a sense in which you are right, I do realize it was a personal tragedy too. But since you are a philosopher surely you can see the sense in which I am right?

  30. Gravatar of Paul Zrimsek Paul Zrimsek
    23. November 2013 at 10:46

    Like wufwugy, I would like nothing better than to see those guys on the other side of the aisle suddenly stop being against the things I’m in favor of. But for one reason or another, I’ve never been able to think of this as something I’m entitled to demand.

  31. Gravatar of TravisV TravisV
    23. November 2013 at 11:20

    Prof. Sumner,

    Will the future of the U.S. as a whole look more like California or Denmark?

    P.S.: California has more political veto points than Denmark, right? Could that explain the difference? Therfore, shouldn’t we abolish our entire multi-branch system and adopt a parliamentary one?

  32. Gravatar of Bob Murphy Bob Murphy
    23. November 2013 at 12:55

    That’s beautiful with the quotes from the NYT, Scott. Did you come up with those or are you relying on someone else?

  33. Gravatar of The NYT on Filibusters, and a Note on Methodological Individualism The NYT on Filibusters, and a Note on Methodological Individualism
    23. November 2013 at 13:26

    […] Sumner has a hilarious analysis of the New York Times’ views on filibusters over the years. Here’s Scott (and I’m […]

  34. Gravatar of Joshinca Joshinca
    23. November 2013 at 14:00

    JG-“For the progressive this longing looks to the future. A brave new world is envisioned, ”

    Well that explains progressives’s obsession with choo-choo trains, and defense of 19th century programs like the post office and Bismark’s welfare state.

  35. Gravatar of Daniel Daniel
    23. November 2013 at 15:56

    Scott, I want to get the causation right. If MA and OR don’t have California’s problems, then the cause of California’s problems is probably not just “liberals are too dominant”. But it might not be Prop 13 either.

    If not prop 13 and not liberalism, what else might be why California has gotten more screwed up than MA or OR?

    It’s nice that MA got rid of rent control. As Yglesias points out, progressives could do a lot for people with the right kinds of deregulation. We could have fewer building height limits, fewer restrictions on what medicine can be done by nurses instead of doctors, etc.

    Pity that’s the kind of deregulation that appeals neither to the traditional GOP nor traditional Democratic politicians.

    But if MA can repeal rent control, maybe the traditional politicians don’t rule our policies forever.

  36. Gravatar of Floccina Floccina
    23. November 2013 at 18:41

    Good weather and geography can make up for a lot of bad government.

  37. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    24. November 2013 at 00:33

    travis, I think we all know the answer. (Not Denmark)

    Bob, Drudge.

    Daniel, California is too big, that’s one major problem. Maybe the biggest problem. Also Massachusetts does not allow progressive taxes, if we did you can be sure the legislature would enact them. Of course things are far from perfect here, we have overly expensive housing, for instance, which hurts low income people.

  38. Gravatar of Saturos Saturos
    24. November 2013 at 07:20

    Mankiw’s dovishness is wavering: . Also, some interesting analysis from Goldman Sachs:

  39. Gravatar of Saturos Saturos
    24. November 2013 at 07:37

    OMG even the Economist has basically come out in favour of this minimum income bullshit:

  40. Gravatar of Morgan Warstler Morgan Warstler
    24. November 2013 at 07:57

    Saturos, that’s WHY we ALL should grab GI / CYB and run down field loudly demanding it.

    Costs less than current welfare, drops unemployment to nil, lets us stop QE now.

    It is a moral imperative to constantly loudly remind everyone that unemployment right now is caused by bad policy, not “tight money”

    Looser money can help solve it, but right now without loosening money and without spending more / taxing more, etc we can have no unemployment and far better off happier poor.

  41. Gravatar of Benny Lava Benny Lava
    24. November 2013 at 08:02

    Why do you think America is a polyglot nation?

  42. Gravatar of Morgan Warstler Morgan Warstler
    24. November 2013 at 08:35

    Benny where do you live?

  43. Gravatar of Saturos Saturos
    24. November 2013 at 09:21

    Is this the best possible carbon policy?

    Morgan, why would a guaranteed income drop unemployment to nil???

  44. Gravatar of Morgan Warstler Morgan Warstler
    24. November 2013 at 09:35

    Saturos read the plan!

  45. Gravatar of Becky Hargrove Becky Hargrove
    24. November 2013 at 10:39

    The Economist article seemed to be noting the arguments, more than actually coming out in favor of minimum incomes.

  46. Gravatar of Morgan Warstler Morgan Warstler
    24. November 2013 at 12:30

    The quickest way to move the argument is to say SURE, but…

    Forcing the left to either support the counterplan CYB or argue against it (which weakens their case for GI), is optimal debate strategy.

  47. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    24. November 2013 at 12:38

    Saturos, They may favor it, but that article certainly did not endorse it. In any case, there is zero chance that the Dems could ever agree to that sort of plan, too many government workers would lose their jobs.

    Benny, Because we are a mixture of many different ethnic groups.

  48. Gravatar of JohnB JohnB
    24. November 2013 at 12:48


    I totally agree with you about California’s government but to be fair I also think that their results in educational attainment and healthcare are due to immigration and ethnic diversity. The correlation between ethnic diversity and diversity of economic outcomes is one of the most interesting things I’ve learned from your blog, so don’t forget about it to make a point about politics.

  49. Gravatar of Joe2 Joe2
    24. November 2013 at 18:03


    Lorenzo suggests that conservatives were responsible for holding back on slavery.

    So was Linclon a democrat?

  50. Gravatar of Aidan Aidan
    24. November 2013 at 20:15

    Is the point supposed to be that liberal governance is bad for educational attainment and health coverage? Because the state most often compared with California is Texas, which ranks worst in the nation in both categories.

  51. Gravatar of Lorenzo from Oz Lorenzo from Oz
    24. November 2013 at 21:50

    Thanks for the plug! (I have been moving house, so internet connection has been erratic.)

    Travis V: The Kingdom of Denmark has a population of about 5.6m, overwhelmingly ethnic Danes in a small country. The State of California has 38m people of many different ethnicities in a much larger, and more geographically diverse, area. It is simply a harder governance problem and the more the state tries to do, the more it is a problem.

  52. Gravatar of Gordon Gordon
    24. November 2013 at 22:38

    “California is too big, that’s one major problem.”

    Unfortunately, there’s no clean way to split it. People in the SF Bay Area will occasionally express the wish that northern California was a separate state from southern California. But then many of the counties outside of the Bay Area say they have no wish to be part of a new state if it means that it contains the Bay Area.

    One big problem with the proposition process here is that many of the voters don’t understand the meaning of the statements on propositions to sell bonds to fund major projects or social programs. The propositions will state that there is no provision to raise taxes. Voters don’t realize that simply means no specific mechanism has been stated on how to repay the bonds. Over the years, voters kept passing bond measure after bond measure. It’s only the last 2 general elections did voters show wariness in passing new bond measures.

  53. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    25. November 2013 at 01:23

    JohnB, Agreed, but I was talking about quality of governance not economic inequality.

    Joe2, No, and I can’t imagine what bearing that has on Loranzo’s post. Lincoln was not a conservative.

    Aidan, Actually that’s not accurate, but even if it was it wouldn’t address the point of my post, which is that California has very bad goverance. Taxes has relatively good goverance, which is why so many people move their despite the hot humid weather.

    Gordon, California should study how Switzerland does it.

  54. Gravatar of TravisV TravisV
    25. November 2013 at 07:59

    Prof. Sumner,

    How do you interpret this data? Doesn’t it conflict with your views?

    “When the unemployment rate was below 6%, stocks delivered a real annualized return of 3.19%. Below 4%, stocks have been nearly flat.

    But when the unemployment rate was over 6%, the real return jumped to 14.68%.”

  55. Gravatar of Benny Lava Benny Lava
    25. November 2013 at 08:53

    I haven’t see any evidence that a statistically significant number of second generation Americans are unable to speak English.

  56. Gravatar of TravisV TravisV
    25. November 2013 at 08:58

    Prof. Sumner,

    You really should criticize this new long article by Noah Smith and Miles Kimball:

    I admire those two guys, but this article is very misguided and confusing.

    Come on guys, it’s not that the EMH is wrong, it’s that humans are irrationally hostile to nominal wage cut……

  57. Gravatar of jknarr jknarr
    25. November 2013 at 09:01

    Fed profits, that’s what it’s all about. Lower rates, too.

  58. Gravatar of TravisV TravisV
    25. November 2013 at 09:37

    Krugman had a very interesting post here……

    “I’m always amazed at how many people doing economics “” or lots of other things “” are so rigid and humorless that they apparently can’t grasp the point or usefulness of slightly whimsical thought experiments.”

  59. Gravatar of ChargerCarl ChargerCarl
    25. November 2013 at 12:32

    Benny Lava, as someone who grew up in California and spent a lot of time with immigrants I’ve never once encountered (or even heard of)a second generation American who couldn’t speak English.

  60. Gravatar of Gordon Gordon
    25. November 2013 at 12:53

    “Gordon, California should study how Switzerland does it.”

    Hmmm… that’s an interesting idea. I assume you’re referring to the double majority system of voting for amendments. If such a system had existed several decades ago, I think many of the propositions that have created a mess in California still would have passed. But at least it would address the inequity in political power about which different areas of the state complain.

    To get such a system in place would likely require a proposition. But the politicians in Sacramento would be threatened by it just like they were threatened by a proposition to end gerrymandering. And they were able to defeat that proposition by scaring voters by stating that the proposition would result in a constitutional amendment. Voters here are so ignorant that they didn’t realize that there was nothing to fear from that. My cynicism is showing today because I’m a native of the state and I’ve seen too many things like the gerrymandering debacle.

  61. Gravatar of ChargerCarl ChargerCarl
    25. November 2013 at 21:02

    Steve Williamson has, I think, an interesting blog post:

  62. Gravatar of ChargerCarl ChargerCarl
    25. November 2013 at 21:06

    Wow just realized that post was a year old. nvm

  63. Gravatar of TravisV TravisV
    26. November 2013 at 08:00

    Mike Konczal just wrote a review that is very critical of Mirowski’s neoliberalism book……

  64. Gravatar of W. Peden W. Peden
    26. November 2013 at 09:01


    It’s hard to make Mirowski’s work look good, but Konczal does it by sheer power of comparison to the awful.

  65. Gravatar of Saturos Saturos
    26. November 2013 at 11:33

    Yichuan Wang makes the Europe-America comparison at Quartz:

  66. Gravatar of Saturos Saturos
    26. November 2013 at 11:46

    Scott will want to read this piece by Miles Kimball and Noah Smith on the Minneapolis Fed firings:

    as well as this James Bullard interview:

  67. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    26. November 2013 at 14:08

    Travis, Past performance is no guarantee . . .

    Benny, I agree.

    Gordon, California really needs to decentralize.

    Everyone, Thanks for the links. I’ll take a look when I get home.

  68. Gravatar of chris mahoney chris mahoney
    26. November 2013 at 19:18

    Clear-thinkers can go mad seeking to refute the reflexive marxist nonsense printed in the Times. A know a man whose wife cancelled his subscription because he would pop a gasket every morning. When the Times enjoyed a monopoly on the morning read, it was worth worrying about. Today, Drudge, Politico and RCP are more consequential. It is now possible to get emotional distance from Jill Abramson’s daily xerox of Jay Carney’s talking points.

  69. Gravatar of Sumner vs. Krugman on California | Last Men and OverMen Sumner vs. Krugman on California | Last Men and OverMen
    17. February 2017 at 07:27

    […] New York, it also seems difficult to implement in large states.”     California is considered the ‘worst governed state’ by Forbes Magazine […]

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