Friday, December 30, 2011
Wednesday, December 28, 2011
I doubt that libertarianism will be advanced by any campaign for national office. I suspect that the best way to advance libertarianism is not to compete for government office but to compete against government. Earn a living to support your family. Contribute to institutions, such as private schools, that compete with important government institutions. Vote against incumbents, but otherwise stay aloof from political campaigns.
I think there's an essay to be written about why any accusation of a racial offense is so often reduced to "Are you a racist?" It would be as if my wife "You forgot to check Samori's homework" and I responded, "I'm not a bad father."
Tuesday, December 27, 2011
Between 1984 and 2009, the median net worth of a member of the House more than doubled, according to the analysis of financial disclosures, from $280,000 to $725,000 in inflation-adjusted 2009 dollars, excluding home equity.
Over the same period, the wealth of an American family has declined slightly, with the comparable median figure sliding from $20,600 to $20,500, according to the Panel Study of Income Dynamics from the University of Michigan.
The Ron Paul phenomenon reminds me of the old America First movement, with Misesian 100 percent reserve banking theory on top. He is making (one version of) libertarianism much more popular by allying it with nationalist and also states’ rights memes. That includes his stances on immigration, NAFTA, China, devolution of powers, and "The Constitution." Even when the policy recommendations stay libertarian, I fear that the wrong emotions will have the staying power. Evaluating a politician is not just about policy positions; for instance personally I am skeptical of most forms of gun control but I worry when a candidate so emphasizes a pro-gun stance.Many libertarians see the Paul candidacy as their chance to have an impact and they may well be right. There is also no one else for them to support. But, raw milk or not, I am not myself tempted to take a stance this year in favor of any of the candidates, Paul included. Liberty is lacking in the United States but I’d like to see it more closely bundled with reasonableness, moderation, and yes pragmatism; I am looking to advance on all fronts at the same time. Call me fussy if you wish.I fear that Ron Paul is so taken with his own ideas that he is unable to see how or when his views might ever be wrong; it is in that sense I consider him insufficiently intellectual. (Admittedly all the other candidates are too open to whatever is politically popular at the moment.) Openness also means ability to improvise, which is a critical leadership quality; many of the challenges of the presidency are the surprises, 9/11 being one example of many.The America Firsters, by the way, were right about many things, but they were very wrong about a few very big things, such as World War II and the civil rights movement. They also suffered a virtually total eclipse for decades. I don’t see nationalist and states’ rights memes as a path toward a future with more human liberty.Ron Paul is changing the ideological landscape of American politics and the fabric of modern classical liberalism. No matter what your point of view, I recommend that you take the Ron Paul phenomenon very seriously indeed.
What we’re looking at is a world of depressed demand, where government securities look like a good buy everywhere except in countries that either don’t have their own currency or have large debts in foreign currency, making them vulnerable to self-fulfilling panic. It’s a world in which deficit obsession is mad, bad, and dangerous.
Monday, December 26, 2011
Dean Baker co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research took some time out of his holiday to talk about his newest book The End of Loser Liberalism which you can download for free online.
You can download his most recent book, The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive for free on the CEPR website.
Friday, December 23, 2011
The last thing Republicans want is for their public policy positions to be on the front pages of the papers...
Though most House Republicans still want a yearlong deal, Kingston said that it was time for the party to move forward. “This takes the whole thing off the front page and that’s a good thing,” he said.
Monday, December 19, 2011
Sunday, December 11, 2011
Friday, December 9, 2011
A study by Fairleigh Dickenson University researchers has found that frequent viewers of Fox Cable News are worse informed than people who watch no news at all!
It is not that Republicans (more likely to watch Fox) are less informed. The researchers took that possible source of bias into account in their finding. No, it is watching Fox itself that makes people more ignorant.
The discrepancy showed up in a question on whether the Egyptian protests last February managed to unseat Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. Among respondents over all, 21% said that the movement had failed, and 26% said they just don’t know! I don’t know whether it is more unsettling that a fifth of Americans may think Mubarak is still president of Egypt or that a fourth of Americans has no idea whether he is or not!
A bare majority of 53% gave the correct answer that Mubarak was overthrown.
But Fox Cable News viewers were less likely by a full 18 points to get the right answer than people who said they never watched the news at all!
(I’ll bet some of the latter watch Comedy Central’s Daily Show with Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert’s Colbert Report, which are in fact better at informing the public on news than Fox, since they not only cover issues but also teach audiences to be skeptical of political spin in the news).
Fox viewers were also 6% less likely than others to know that the uprising in Syria has not yet succeeded in unseating president Bashar al-Assad.
The best informed consumers of news media were those who listen to National Public Radio or read a daily newspaper such as the New York Times or USA Today.
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
“Democratic” does not simply equate to pro-Western. If you tell people: “We have oppressed proponents of your historical religion for decades to create dictatorships for the sake of better relations with the West and Israel, and now we want you to choose your own government”, what else would people do than repudiate the pattern of the old dictatorships? And wouldn’t that repudiation more likely take the form of voting for well known and established parties that stood against the dictatorships, rather than for new parties with young faces that stand for such vague things as “secularism and liberalism?”So let us start from the fact that an Islamist majority was always logically to be expected from free elections in Arab countries, and show no disappointment on that score. The crucial issue regarding the new regimes in Tunisia and Egypt is not that they are Islamist, but how will they act? How will they act toward other non-Islamist parties, and non-Islamic groups in society? How oppressive will they be toward women? How effective will they be on economic policy and science and technology? How will they manage popular hostility toward Israel? These are the issues that will determine the risks and success of these regimes.So what can we realistically expect?
Saturday, December 3, 2011
Yesterday Paul Ryan released a very serious looking report entitled: “A deeper look at inequality.” Ryan’s effort — a rebuttal to that recent CBO report on growing inequality that got so much attention — was applauded by conservatives as an important contribution to the debate.Since Ryan has a widespread reputation as a serious fiscal thinker, I thought I’d ask Tim Smeeding, an expert on inequality at the University of Wisconsin, to evaluate his report.Smeeding’s verdict: Ryan’s effort is only “half serious,” fails to prove its argument about inequality, and doesn’t offer any policy prescriptions that would fix the problem as Ryan himself defines it.Smeeding focused on several core Ryan arguments that are central to his overall case. First, Ryan claims critics are wrong to push for tax hikes on the rich, arguing the tax system has grown more progressive in recent years. “The share of the federal tax burden borne by the top 1 percent increased dramatically,” Ryan writes.But Smeeding says this is a typical fallacy committed by those who oppose progressive taxation. Even if it’s true that the tax burden of top earners has gone up, that’s because their incomes have gone up, and have in fact gone up at a faster rate than their tax rate, meaning they now pay a smaller percentage of their overall income in taxes.“At the very top, income doubled or tripled in the time period he’s talking about. Of course their taxes went up,” Smeeding says. “But their taxes increased by much less than their share of total income. Their after tax income grew by more than their pre-tax income.”Ryan claims the real problem exacerbating inequality is not income disparity, but the lack of mobility of those at the bottom. Smeeding agrees with Ryan that mobility is key. But Ryan then argues that rather than try to promote equality through redistributive taxation, we should instead “promote upward mobility, increase broadly shared economic growth, and ensure that more and more Americans are able to freely earn their success.”Smeeding, however, rejects this as a false choice. He says we can simultaneously make the tax system more progressive while also pursuing policies that enhance mobility. Indeed, Smeeding argues that those goals are two sides of the same policy coin — they are linked. The goal of raising taxes on the rich isn’t merely to promote equality by redistributing wealth. Rather, it’s about generating more revenue to invest in policies that enhance the mobility Ryan hopes to achieve.Smeeding adds that there are no policy prescriptions in Ryan’s report that would actually enhance mobility.“How do you increase mobility at the bottom? You provide low income families the tools to compete in a 21st Century economy,” Smeeding says. “Create revenue to invest in the mobility of kids from poorer backgrounds — improve early childhood education, improve schools, improve chances of success, lower the cost of college. He misses the whole point about mobility, which is about increasing educational and economic opportunity.”