01
Jun
10

All linky, no thinky

Sorry folks; I have no giveashit for blogging these past few days.  Something about drafting my dissertation and searching for that One Last Piece that’ll make it complete (not to mention finding an external examiner).

But you didn’t come here to read my mewling excuses.  You came hear to read Incisive Commentary.  So here’s some incisive commentary:

Who’re you calling crazy?

One of the more pleasant things to drop out of the Rand Paul/Civil Rights Act kerfuffle was a small spate of articles questioning the notion that libertarian crazy is any crazier than mainstream crazy.  When you consider that most politicians believe that minimum-wage laws create jobs — or at least act as if they do — the usual libertarian tropes start to seem awfully sane.

If returning to the gold standard is unthinkable, is it not just as extreme that President Obama claims an unchecked power to assassinate, without due process, any American living abroad whom he designates as an enemy combatant? Or that Joe Lieberman wants to strip Americans of their citizenship not when they are convicted of terrorist activities, but upon their being accused and designated as enemy combatants? In domestic politics, policy experts scoff at ethanol subsidies, the home-mortgage-interest tax deduction, and rent control, but the mainstream politicians who advocate those policies are treated as perfectly serious people.

Last night, the crazy, hateful, fringe lunatic Ron Paul voted to repeal the Clinton-era Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy (or, more accurately, he voted to allow the Pentagon to repeal it if and when it chooses to) — while 26 normal, sane, upstanding, mainstream House Democrats voted to retain that bigoted policy.  Paul explained today that he changed his mind on DADT because gay constituents of his who were forced out of the military convinced him of the policy’s wrongness — how insane and evil he is!

Dumping a cooler of haterade on Paul Krugman

Well, not really.  But:

Taken together, this pair of outstanding posts by Scott Sumner and Reihan Salam seems to me a pretty decisive rebuttal to Krugman’s preferred narrative about the relationship between economic policy and American growth.

So what is Krugman saying here?  You might think; “Isn’t it obvious?  He’s saying that Fox implemented free market reforms and they failed.”  If so, you underestimate the subtlety of Mr. Krugman.  He didn’t say that Fox implemented any free market reforms at all.  He said he was a firm believer in free markets.  And who could dispute the proposition that mere belief in free markets, if not actually implemented, does not produce economic miracles?  How dare you assume he claimed Fox implemented such policies!

Best argument against means-testing Social Security I’ve yet seen

The problem is that means testing old-age benefits is effectively an enormous tax on saving.  Say that saving enough to provide $100,000 a year in income results in a 100% loss of benefits.  With a maximum benefit of something under $30K a year, that’s a 30% tax on my hundred thousand, on top of the income taxes I’ll already pay.  Losing Medicare is a potentially even steeper tax.  Call it 50%, total, plus maybe 20% income tax.  Why bother?

Note that means-testing is only a tax on savings if you expect those benefits to be there in the first place.  It’d be like telling me that if I save up enough to provide $100k/yr in income the government won’t give me a unicorn.  I can express my dismay in pixels:

OMG ONOZ has been a bit overused lately

Equality is not impartiality

The second thing worth noting is that, while liberals find inequality across race and gender classes invidious, many seem to find nothing wrong with an inequality between the enlightened few and the great unwashed. Large swaths of the knowledge class seem almost wistful about the idea of a dictatorship of the professional elite to oversee the lumpen proletariat.

Hence the English professor who thinks he knows where insurance rates should be set. Hence the architect who has the answer to energy policy. Hence the journalist who thinks he should write the rules for stockbrokers. Hence Woody Allen, musing that it would be good if Barack Obama “could be a dictator for a few years because he could do a lot of good things quickly.” Hence Thomas Friedman contending in The New York Times that one-party autocracy can “have great advantages,” when it is “led by a reasonably enlightened group of people.”

Hence the editorialist writing about the “knowledge class” as if it’s a monolithic whole rather than a fractious collection of individualists.  Smug arrogant self-righteousness is a defining characteristic of paternalism in much the same way as “not divisible by two” is a defining characteristic of odd numbers, but “some paternalists are well-educated; therefore, the well-educated are all paternalists” is blatantly fallacious.  Oops, was that too educated and elitist?

Still, there’s much to amuse and a number of good points in Hinkle’s article.  Give it a read.

“Well, peer review doesn’t mean it’s right

Pop quiz: am I mimicking an anti-vaxxer, a climate skeptic, or a Keynesian true-believer?  No points for guessing.

We began by examining how the average firm in a chairman’s state was impacted by his ascension. The idea was that this would provide a lower bound on the benefits from being politically connected. It was an enormous surprise, at least to us, to learn that the average firm in the chairman’s state did not benefit at all from the increase in spending. Indeed, the firms significantly cut physical and R&D spending, reduce employment, and experience lower sales.

Take that with a pillar of salt, but take it nonetheless.

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