The Dream Ticket


She hasn’t asked me, but I know who Hilary Clinton should choose as a running mate.

She should choose Jeb Bush. Then she should immediately issue this statement:

There’s a lot that Governor Bush and I disagree on. But we agree without reservation on the one thing that matters above all else this year, namely: Donald Trump must never be president of the United States. That matters more than any of our differences.

In the next few weeks, we’ll be issuing a package of policy proposals that represent compromises between my views and Governor Bush’s. None of these proposals will be exactly what either of us would have written on our own, and none of them will fully satisfy either my supporters or his. But we are confident that all reasonable adults will agree that, taken as a package, our proposals are infinitely superior to subjecting our futures to the whims of a sociopathic narcissist.

We will not attempt to deny or disguise our fundamental disagreements. Within the administration there will be lively debates. Governor Bush will always have a seat at the table and I’ll listen to his arguments — and then, as President, I will make the final calls. But I pledge to you that when I make those calls, I will be bound by the spirit of the policy package we will soon release.

Two years from now and four years from now, there will be national elections again. Governor Bush and I expect to be active in those elections, campaigning for very different candidates and making our cases to the American people for our very different visions. But we intend to speak to the American people as adults, and make our cases based on reasoned analysis, not base appeals to emotion.

We realize that many Americans — indeed, most Americans — will be dissatisfied with this ticket. There will be plenty of opportunities for you to express that dissatisfaction. If you prefer my philosophy to Governor Bush’s, then vote for us, and vote for the congressional candidates who you think will support my philosophy. If you prefer Governor Bush’s to mine, then vote for us, and vote for the congressional candidates who you think will support his philosophy. But for the sake of everything that matters in this election, do not vote for Donald Trump.

Here in the United States, we have enjoyed levels of freedom and prosperity so extraordinary that sometimes we have to be reminded not to take them for granted. Freedom and prosperity are fragile things, and can vanish in an instant. Governor Bush and I frequently disagree on how best to preserve our freedom and prosperity, but we fully agree that they are threatened as never before by Donald Trump.

One more thing: I will not be debating Donald Trump. His performance in the Republican primary debates confirms that he has no interest in anything that could reasonably be called a debate. As far as I can tell, all he wants is an audience for his temper tantrums. I will not help him procure that audience.

But issues should be debated, and presidential campaigns are the right time to debate them. Therefore Governor Bush and I are scheduling three debates, where I will make the case for a Democratic congress and he will make the case for a Republican congress. We aim to show the American people what a reasoned debate can look like, to be honest about our differences, and to show the American people that those differences pale beside the imperative need to rescue our republic from a vandal with the intellectual, emotional and moral sensibilities of a three year old.

Join us.

Almost all the Republicans I know are desperately trying to convince themselves that it’s okay to vote for Hilary this year, but just can’t quite make the leap. (And those who have made the leap tend to leap back every time they hear her speak.) The Clinton/Bush ticket would, I expect, pull in just about all of those Republicans. That should be good enough for a landslide.

Share/Save

128 Responses to “The Dream Ticket”


  1. 1 1 Jan Mikkelsen

    My guess is this will make it really easy for Trump. “Lyin’ Hillary” and “Low Energy Jeb” on the one ticket?

  2. 2 2 Advo

    In other circumstances I might agree with that idea, but in this case Hilary might get indicted/become disabled/die (possibly even prior to the election), and then we’d have a GOP president, a GOP senate, and a GOP Congress held hostage by the tea party.
    A fairly horrible prospect if you’re a liberal.

  3. 3 3 Advo

    To elaborate:
    From the viewpoint of the Democrats, the big advantage of Trump as an opponent is that the GOP is likely to suffer substantial losses down-ticket.
    If Hillary picks Bush as a running mate, this pick would likely discourage Democratic turnout (especially among the Sanders faction). It would also increase the turnout among GOP voters, who would otherwise stay home but would now vote for the Clinton/Bush ticket – and for GOP congressional and Senate candidates.

    As a result, president Hillary Clinton would be faced with a GOP Senate and a tea-party Congress.
    Gridlock would ensue and endless investigations.
    This kind of government dysfunction represents a default win for the GOP as the anti-government party.

    Hillary might win the election in a landslide, but it would be a pyrrhic victory.

  4. 4 4 blink

    Wonderful scenario — I would absolutely love to see this carried out!! The debate policy is a nice additional touch.

    I fear your last line belies why it will not happen however: The combined ticket would indeed be a landslide. Why should Hillary give up anything more than absolutely necessary to secure a plurality of votes (ok, majority of electoral votes)? I fear that her personal incentives are not aligned strongly enough with the “public good” component of this ticket, more so if she is overly optimistic about her chances against Trump.

  5. 5 5 Doctor Memory

    That should be good enough for a landslide.

    …except for the parts where [A] the entire left flank (or possibly a plurality) of the Democratic Party decides to stay home and/or vote for Jill Stein, and [B] Donald Trump takes 0.0001 seconds to remind the country that Jeb Bush is the guy who he plastered without breaking a sweat in the primaries, and this is supposed to peel off republican voters how?

    I think you are seriously misunderestimating how toxic the Bush name is, still, in Democratic circles. HRC could hypothetically get away with a “national unity” ticket, but sadly I think that the only person who could have fit the bill without completely fracturing the Democrats is currently running for VP on the Libertarian ticket.

  6. 6 6 Harold

    “A national unity government, government of national unity, or national union government is a broad coalition government consisting of all parties (or all major parties) in the legislature, usually formed during a time of war or other national emergency.”

    I guess the possibility of Trump could be a national emergency.

  7. 7 7 Trent Steele

    An interesting idea, but Bush lost badly in the primaries for good reasons. Remember “America.”? Or “Please clap”?

    If you’d said Mitt Romney, I’d be more on board with your plan.

  8. 8 8 Sub Specie Æternitatis

    I’d be very relieved to see that.

    But what is Hillary’s motivation? She stands a very good chance of being elected President as is, winning a friendly Senate and perhaps even House. Then she’d be in a position to implement the progressive agenda unencumbered by an ideologically different quasi-co-President.

    Why would she forfeit that alternative which must be to her far preferable?

    The only way I could see this happening is in the unlikely case that Trump develops a clear and consistent polling lead and this is Hillary’s only shot at the Presidency.

  9. 9 9 David Pinto

    Or you could just vote for the Johnson/Weld ticket, two Republicans fiscally conservative and socially liberal. Maybe what the Republicans should do at the convention is endorse Johnson/Weld.

  10. 10 10 nobody.really

    1. Delightful! I especially love the debate idea.

    Bush will always have a seat at the table and I’ll listen to his arguments — and then, as President, I will make the final calls.

    I’m guessing “but I’m the decider” wouldn’t set the right tone?

    Alas, Advo identifies some major downsides to this plan. Let me suggest some others.

    2. Many people have pondered if Trump’s rise would signal the rupturing of the Republican Party. If Jeb were to expressly throw in his lot with Hillary, that would seem to seal the deal. Now, maybe that would be a good thing, and we could see something better arise in its place. I’ve previously speculated that the brand “Republican” would need to be retired in order to let conservatives disassociate themselves with its racists tinge. Maybe this would be the chance.

    But here’s the problem: We may disagree with Trump, and may be able to dismiss him. But his followers remain. And to the extent that we simply treat Trump merely as an enemy that must be opposed, rather than a spokesman for a sizable constituency, we don’t solve the problems; we sweep them under the rug. (No, that’s not a reference to anyone’s hair.)

    Some will argue that realpolitik requires this kind of ruthlessness. But I would argue that realpolitik requires a greater ruthlessness: We need to keep the populist factions divided. And Landsburg’s proposal–to unite the educated/comfortable segments of the population in open hostility to the struggling rabble–would do the opposite. If we wanted to create a formula to generate our own home-grown ISIS, this might just be it.

    Instead, we need to take a page from the old handbook of the dominant class, and keep the lower classes in conflict with each other. Keep people fighting over the symbols that divide them–flag pins, tiny crosses, etc.–rather than uniting over their common circumstances.

    A pretty picture? No. Just prettier than the alternative.

    3. Finally, democracies benefit from stability. Anyone inclined to shoot a president knows that there’s a pretty similar guy, called the vice president, standing in the wings. This does much to reduce the incentive to pursue policy change in that manner.

    Pre-Obama, Chris Rock had a monologue about how no presidential candidate would ever name a black man as his vice president because it would create too much incentive to kill the president. “Hell, *I’d* do it. And then I’d tell his momma.”

    Now ponder the dynamics that would arise with a Democratic President and a Republican Vice President. Not exactly a formula for stability.

    (But if we assume that the real social divisions are between the educated elites and the rabble, then arguably it would be more dangerous for Hillary to name Bernie, or for Trump to name Bush, then for Hillary to name Bush. The world is changing; it’s hard to keep up….)
    from the same party stands in the wings, which does much to reduce the incentive to pursue that policy. Except under Landsburg’s proposal.

  11. 11 11 Advo

    Nobody.really:
    <<<<Instead, we need to take a page from the old handbook of the dominant class, and keep the lower classes in conflict with each other. Keep people fighting over the symbols that divide them–flag pins, tiny crosses, etc.–rather than uniting over their common circumstances.

    A pretty picture? No. Just prettier than the alternative.<<<<

    Is it? Really? I suggest that this alternative might be CANADA, except with better weather.
    That wouldn't be so bad, would it?
    You are of course right about the fact that diving the lower classes in the US along lines of ethnicity/race/religion has always been the winning play of interested parties such as employers and politicians; it is what has kept the US from developing truly effective, broad-based unions and socialist(-lite) movements unlike ALL (right? counterexamples welcome!) other developed countries did in the 19th and 20th century. Anyone who has studied the history of the US union movement will know just how much racial and ethnical divisions have historically hampered it.

    When you get right down to it – without slavery's persistent legacy of racial animus in the South, the US would have a much stronger welfare state, very much in line with Europe and Canada.

    Anyone who doubts that should present a good alternative reason why the US is the only developed country in the world where the majority of the (white) working class reliable votes for a party that wants to cut their services and raise their taxes to finance tax cuts for billionaires; it is certainly not because they follow Landesburg's ideas about the growth benefits of promoting capital accumulation.

  12. 12 12 Sub Specie Æternitatis

    Anyone who doubts that should present a good alternative reason why the US is the only developed country in the world where the majority of the (white) working class reliable votes for a party that wants to cut their services and raise their taxes to finance tax cuts for billionaires[.]

    One can dream. In reality, sadly, the white working class reliably votes for a party which increases welfare spending. Admittedly, they claim the opposite and the other party promises to do the same, but even more, and is so ideologically committed to spending more on anything at all that it will even go to the bat for what they themselves call corporate welfare, if the first party threatens to cut it, so I see your point.

  13. 13 13 Sub Specie Æternitatis

    @advo:11: Also note that Canada today ranks ahead of the US in the economic freedom rankings (which heavily weigh free trade) of both the Cato Institute http://www.cato.org/economic-freedom-world (#9 v. #16) and the Heritage Foundation http://www.heritage.org/index/ranking (#6 v. #11).

    So, if you want Canadian results, you’ll have to on net go more Capitalist. No fair just picking an individual Canadian policy, like socialized health care, and pretending that just adopting that would deliver Canadian results in the US.

  14. 14 14 Advo

    @SSA:
    Note that I didn’t say anything about a trend towards less capitalism – I said “stronger welfare state”.
    The welfare state and capitalism aren’t nearly as much at odds as most people appear to think, although in practice you often see a certain correlation between more welfare state and a weakening of capitalism in other respects, in particular through labor market (over-)regulation.
    Conversly, so-called “pro-business policies” – policies that benefit businesses – tend to be much more anti-capitalist (or at least, anti-competitive) than the supporters of the party championing such policies realize or like to admit.

  15. 15 15 Sub Specie Æternitatis

    @Advo:14

    I don’t disagree very much with either point.

    While I have certain moral scruples against any form of redistribution, if it were to be done, it would best be done by a simple tax and direct cash benefits to the poor. Modern experience seems to confirm that a capitalist society can tolerate a fair amount of that before the serious adverse consequences sit in.

    As for “pro-business policies,” you’ll find a great deal of agreement with right-wing thinkers. You should hear the gnashing of teeth among that crowd whenever a politician thinks he can win favor by touting himself as “pro-business.” We are not pro-business. We are pro-market-competition: If that works out to the advantage of any particular business, good; if not, good too.

  16. 16 16 nobody.really

    A pretty picture? No. Just prettier than the alternative.

    Is it? Really? I suggest that this alternative might be CANADA, except with better weather.
    That wouldn’t be so bad, would it?

    Have you tried poutine? Consider carefully….

    In reality, sadly, the white working class reliably votes for a party which increases welfare spending.

    How could anyone in the US draw such a conclusion? Consider: Which states are dominated by the white working class? The South, plus some industrial and farming Midwest (e.g., Kansas). Which states have fully implemented Obamacare, the latest expansion of welfare spending? New England/New York, plus the West Coast.

    The single most important observation anyone could draw about politics in the US is that people overwhelmingly vote contrary to their economic self-interest. Rich states vote for more welfare; poor states reject it. Compassion is a superior good: The richer you are, the more you are inclined to buy—and vice versa.

    And why? Advo hints at the answer: European nations developed class consciousness, while the US generally didn’t. It wasn’t because we lacked social stratification; rather, it was that we had EXTRA stratification. From their beginnings in the New World, white working-class people always had someone to look down on–black working-class people–and always had an interest in maintaining a semblance of hierarchy. They never saw it in their interest to identify with and unite with their fellow workers; they always wanted to identify with the upper classes.

    We observe this dynamic at work in the actions of Joe the Plumber, remonstrating about how Obama’s progressive policies would hurt his financial interests—when an actual analysis of those policies, and of Joe’s actual economic circumstances, could only lead to the opposite conclusion.

    That said, I still have anxieties about the rise of the proletariat. Populism is the politics of shared grievance. And grievance is not a great frame of mind for fashioning constructive public policy.

    More specifically, as I’ve previously remarked, I sense that many people would like to see white working-class people restored to the status they enjoyed in the 1950s-1970s. And I just don’t see any constructive way to get there. So I fear that populist politicians would be tempted to sacrifice ever more sane public policies (free-ish trade; embrace of multiculturalism) on the altar of pursuing a hopeless objective.

    In Average is Over, Tyler Cowen forecasts a world of enormous productivity—driven by a few geniuses and a lot of automation—and enormous surplus labor. As far as I can tell, the best-case scenario will involve designing public policy to maximize wealth and then distributing that wealth. But this policy will do nothing to meet people’ status needs.

    What does meet people’s status needs—the need to feel as if you have some role to play in the larger context? ISIS.

    So here’s a challenge to those who poo-poo religion: The savior of the West may well be Jesus Christ, or some reasonable facsimile thereof. Someone who provides a message the assures otherwise idle people that they really do have a purpose in some divine plan, that God knows them and watches them and values them (and judges them). We need a message at least as compelling as ISIS’s.

    Or, if you don’t think the God message will have lasting appeal in the educated, secular West, then how ‘bout the need to rally in the face of a common enemy? See Chris Hedges’s 2002 book War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning. After all, even ISIS’s grievances will seem petty compared to the need to join with our fellow man in defending Earth against an alien invasion! And who knows? Maybe someday the story will become true, and we’ll have gotten a head start on building our defenses. But in the meantime people will have a new-found purpose. And when they receive their government checks, they’ll know that they’re not being paid for nothing; rather, they’re brave heroes contributing to the planet’s defenses, and they’re filling their hours with training exercises and night watches and whathaveyou.

    Proverbs 29:18—Without hope, the people perish. If government won’t give people cause for hope, be assured, private actors will rush to fill the void—often with bad outcomes. If it’s government’s job to maintain society, perhaps it’s government’s job to create a compelling civic religion—not because we like it, but because we like the alternatives even less.

  17. 17 17 Advo

    The problem with the right in the US is that it tends to reject any policy that improves competition by limiting businesses’ freedom of action; typical examples would be anti-trust enforcement, information disclosure requirements, standardized price disclosure, licensing requirements, prohibition of abusive business practices, prohibition of anti-competitive behavior etc.

    Much (most?) of what is called “consumer protection” legislation has the effect of improving market transparency and increasing competition.

    All of the above are to some degree opposed by some/much/most of right.

  18. 18 18 Advo

    nobody.really:
    <<<In Average is Over, Tyler Cowen forecasts a world of enormous productivity—driven by a few geniuses and a lot of automation<<<

    I haven't read that book, but I don't believe in that scenario.
    The only way to actually create surplus labor is to drive the market wage down to such a degree that it no longer covers, as Krugman put it in a slightly different context, "feeding and stabling".
    I don't see that happening unless we develop true AI.
    And IF we develop true AI, then all our problem will likely be over.

    Unfortunately, it is much easier to develop an AI without ethics than to develop an AI with precisely the code of ethics we need to prevent it from killing us all.
    Imagine creating a super-intelligent, psychopathic being, which is wired into the internet. That is what the first AI is likely going to be.

    "The AI does not hate you, nor does it love you, but you are made out of atoms which it can use for something else."

  19. 19 19 Sub Specie Æternitatis

    @advo:

    I find it conceivable that due to some market failure, the outcome in some situation could be improved by increased regulation. Genuine, economically rational anti-trust directed against vertical collusion is a plausible example of such. And you will find substantial support (also opposition, based on further counter-arguments) for that form of anti-trust law.

    However, most business regulation is not justified by any careful analysis of market failure, followed by a rejection after careful consideration of all more market-friendly policies. Rather economics is rarely even cited as a consideration; rather the justification offered is something along the lines of “them-bad, you-victim, we-beat-them-up, now-you-safe, thank-us!”

    The reality of such regulation is rather different. In most cases, it is not competition-enhancing, but competition-limiting. That is the point for the forces pushing the regulation, usually the industry being regulated. For a recent amusing example: the reclassification of catfish as meat and the attendant new stricter regulations, at the behest of the catfish industry. http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/food-matters/sorry-pescatarians-congress-says-catfish-are-now-effectively-meat-and-what-this-means-for-biodiversity/

    Similarly, for licensure. When I was a practising anti-trust lawyer, I never once met a member of that bar who wouldn’t break out into laughter at the notion that the restrictions on legal practice, ruthlessly enforced by the ABA, serve consumer protection, rather than industry protectionist reasons.

  20. 20 20 Floccina

    Why not Kasich. To much family baggage for Bush.

  21. 21 21 Floccina

    Johnson/Weld is pretty good ticket, I would not expect more.

  22. 22 22 Advo

    @SSA,
    with regard to licensing, consider the following statement:

    “I’ll go to that unlicensed brain surgeon, he’s really cheap.”

    If we were, for example, to abolish medical licensing, the average price paid for simple, low-end procedures (e.g. dental cleaning, simple procedures) would go down substantially, while the price for things like brain surgery would likely get more expensive.

    While licensing is certainly not infrequently abused to restrict competition, it serves a valuable function by proving that the licensee has a certain minimum level of training and competence. In the absence of such proof, the licensee has to find some other way to demonstrate that, which will probably involve much higher expense and/or will not be as trusted by consumers. Licensing thus serves to promote market transparency.

    The fact that the US political system these days runs on a kind of informal auction-based funding system where policy is sold off to the highest bidder is a separate issue.

  23. 23 23 Will A

    @ nobody.really #16
    “The single most important observation anyone could draw about politics in the US is that people overwhelmingly vote contrary to their economic self-interest. Rich states vote for more welfare; poor states reject it.”

    I’m really not lying when I say that I make above the median income in this rich state.

    I tend to think that having a safety social net is good for my state to have in case I become unemployed; all of my stupid investments go sour; an earthquake destroys my house and/or I find myself without health insurance.

    If so, can you please give me the income level in a Blue/Rich State at which a person shouldn’t support politicians who support Obamacare/some sort of national insurance?

    It would be good to know if I am voting in my economic self-interest.

  24. 24 24 Will A

    @ nobody.really #16

    Conversely, can you please give me the income level in a Red/Poor State below which a person should support Obamacare/some sort of national insurance?

    Thanks.

  25. 25 25 nobody.really

    I’m really not lying when I say that I make above the median income in this rich state.

    I tend to think that having a safety social net is good for my state to have in case I become unemployed; all of my stupid investments go sour; an earthquake destroys my house and/or I find myself without health insurance.

    [C]an you please give me the income level in a Blue/Rich State at which a person shouldn’t support politicians who support Obamacare/some sort of national insurance?
    * * *
    Conversely, can you please give me the income level in a Red/Poor State below which a person should support Obamacare/some sort of national insurance?

    Thank you for this testimonial in support of my thesis.

    It might be amusing to try to identify the median income level at which people switch from electing pro-Obamacare politicians to electing anti-Obamacare politicians. But that’s not really the point. The point is rather reflected in your comments.

    Maybe you’re right that Obamacare is so valuable that even rich people should find it cost-effective. Fair enough; I shouldn’t assume a zero-sum analysis.

    But if you hold this view, how do you explain the fact that people living in states with lower median incomes than yours vote for politicians that reject Obamacare? States that could, with very modest investments, expand the number of federal Medicare dollars flowing in that would more than offset the modest state contribution? If voters in rich states find this to be in their self-interest, why wouldn’t voters in poor ones?

  26. 26 26 Sub Specie Æternitatis

    @advo:

    Your justification for medical licensure illustrates the very reason it is unnecessary.

    You are right, nobody ever said “I’ll go to that unlicensed brain surgeon, he’s really cheap.” But neither has anybody ever said “I’ll go to that minimally qualified brain surgeon who has obtained just enough credentials that he wouldn’t be violating the law by operating.”

    To the contrary, for high-end services consumers will look far beyond the minimal legal requirements; they will search out the very best surgeon they can obtain which sets a much higher bar than merely being a licensed M.D. I certainly did when my daughter required even routine brain surgery. Hence, requiring licensure has no effect.

    Conversely, in simple cases (in your examples, dental cleaning, simple procedures) where an inexpensive unlicensed alternative would be something many people would consider, the licensure requirement is binding and results in higher prices to consumers.

    In short, licensure requirements are justified based on cases where it would have no effect, while being effective in exactly those cases where they are harmful. It is no wonder that political advocates and legal enforcers of these requirements are not the consumers who allegedly need to be protected from unscrupulous practitioners, but the lobby of the practitioners against whom this requirement is alleged directed.

    Also, I do not understand your argument that abolishing a legal licensure requirement would make, e.g., brain surgery more expensive. In so far as consumers want brain surgeons who have passed certain exams, there is nothing that would prevent doctors from taking them voluntarily. Nothing would need to change.

    To the contrary, I suspect that abolishing licensure would make brain surgery at least marginally cheaper. Not because suddenly a lot of people who couldn’t get licensed as doctors would be performing brain surgery, but because freeing up the supply of doctors who currently perform services which don’t require a full medical examination would–presumably through several layers of skill/credentials–increase supply for services which require such training and thereby lower prices.

  27. 27 27 Will A

    @ nobody.really #25

    My testimonial doesn’t support your thesis at all. Your thesis is that people in both rich and poor states vote against their economic self interest.

    My testimonial would support the thesis that people in rich states don’t vote against their economic self interest. Of course my testimonial isn’t very rigorous. “Well Will A’s testimonial settles it”.

    As it relates to poorer states, maybe people in poorer states have less to lose than people in richer states and so aren’t worried about having a larger safety net. If you can live on close to minimum wage is a poor state, maybe you don’t see the need for a larger safety net.

    Maybe towns are less economically segregated in poor states than they are in rich states and so maybe people in poor states know more people who are well off and think that they could be well off also if they worked hard enough and when they make it, they don’t want their taxes going to pay for the higher safety net people in rich states want.

    Or maybe not. Maybe they are dumb white trash hillbillies.

    On the flip side, a study recently found that poorer people in very blue cities are healthier and this wasn’t necessarily because of better access to health services. In fact, they couldn’t say why this is the case.

    So it is possible that the poor voting for national health care are voting against their interest because money could be better spent else where.

    I would think that you would have numbers for a statement like:
    “The single most important observation anyone could draw about politics in the US is that people overwhelmingly vote contrary to their economic self-interest. Rich states vote for more welfare; poor states reject it.”

  28. 28 28 Roger

    This is a great idea. It would complete the re-alignment of the parties that Trump has initiated, alienate all the Sanders supporters, and elect Trump. Too bad Clinton will not follow your advice.

  29. 29 29 Harold

    “So here’s a challenge to those who poo-poo religion: The savior of the West may well be Jesus Christ, or some reasonable facsimile thereof.”
    I believe that religion, whilst clearly not truthful, nevertheless is necessary for the development of stable large societies. The ubiquity of religion in all large societies illustrates this. It allows societal “group selection” to overcome the tendency of self-interested individuals to take over the group. It may be possible that once a large society is established religion can be dispensed with. This is currently being tested.

  30. 30 30 Will A

    Here are some messages as compelling as ISIS’s:

    And Israel joined himself unto Baalpeor: and the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel. And the LORD said unto Moses, ‘Take all the heads of the people and hang them up before the LORD against the sun, that the fierce anger of the LORD may be turned away from Israel.’
    (Numbers 25:3-4)

    I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.
    (1 Timothy 2:12)

    And Moses said unto them, Have ye saved all the women alive? Behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against the Lord in the matter of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the Lord. Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him. But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.
    (Numbers 31:15-18)

  31. 31 31 nobody.really

    I would think that you would have numbers for a statement like:

    “The single most important observation anyone could draw about politics in the US is that people overwhelmingly vote contrary to their economic self-interest. Rich states vote for more welfare; poor states reject it.”

    1. I was responding to the statement, “In reality, sadly, the white working class reliably votes for a party which increases welfare spending.” So if any statement warrants documentation, arguably it was that one.

    2. The evidence about rich states and poor states are most easily seen in the Obamacare issue, but you could also check out Sarah K. Bruch’s and Marcia K. Myers’s “How Safe are the Safety Nets? Understanding Variation in State Safety Net Provisions,” Stanford University, October 2013. I haven’t found it on the web, however.

    3. That said, the behavior of rich and poor states may not reflect the behavior of rich and poor individuals. The Pew Research Center published Politics of Financial Insecurity, which documents that poor people actually do vote for greater social safety net spending—at least, the few who actually vote. But most don’t.

    In contrast, multiple sources note the fact that relatively poor people oppose social safety net spending:

    New York Times: Why poor areas vote for politicians who want to slash the safety net.

    The Federalist: Why Poor Locales Vote For People Who Promise To Slash Welfare/

    Huffington Post: Why Does the (White) Lower Middle Class Vote Republican?

    CNN Money: Why poor people still aren’t voting.

    Washington Monthly: White Resentment of Welfare Is More Than Just About Racism Now.

    Forward Progressives: Five Reasons Why Poor People Vote for Republicans.

    So, collecting ideas from various sources, an emerging thesis may be that the white working class does NOT reliably vote for a party which increases welfare spending—not because they don’t support increased spending, but because they don’t reliably vote. And who are more likely to vote—including poor whites who do NOT receive social safety net benefits—are also more likely to oppose social safety nets.

  32. 32 32 Will A

    @ nobody.really #31

    Your emerging thesis seems more appropriate (to me at least). Just being potentially overly critical, I might rephrase the last part:
    “are also more likely to oppose social safety nets.”
    as
    “are also more likely to oppose programs perceived as social safety nets.”

    I think many white working class voters don’t see social security or medicare as safety net/welfare programs because they “pay into” them.

  33. 33 33 Sub Specie Æternitatis

    @nobody.really:31

    I was responding to the statement, “In reality, sadly, the white working class reliably votes for a party which increases welfare spending.” So if any statement warrants documentation, arguably it was that one.

    As I was the original author of that statement, which I thought so uncontroversially obvious as to not need support, let me respond offer the data.

    The biggest federal welfare program is Medicaid. It was expanded from $206.2 billion in 2000, to $351.9 billion in 2008, to $557.6 billion in 2016. Adjusting these nominal figures for inflation and calculating the geometric means we get a real growth rate of 4.35% for the Bush years and 4.42% for the Obama years.

    Another major federal welfare program is food stamps. It was expanded from $17.1 billion in 2000, to $37.6 billion in 2008, to $74.0 billion in 2015. Adjusting these nominal figures for inflation and calculating the geometric means we get a real growth rate of 10.4% for the Bush years and 10.1% for the first seven Obama years.

    Pick almost any welfare program and you’ll see consistent real growth almost every year, regardless of administration.

    So to get back to my original statement, it was admittedly a little underhanded for its veracity did not depend on the more contestable question which party is favored by the working class.

  34. 34 34 Advo

    @SSA 26
    <<<Also, I do not understand your argument that abolishing a legal licensure requirement would make, e.g., brain surgery more expensive. <<<

    I never considered the idea of keeping the existing licensing system, but making it optional. That might work. I think you'd find that most medical practitioners which aren't involved with "routine maintenance" (e.g. dental cleaning) in such situations would still obtain a license to remain competitive.
    A better alternative in my view would be to have a more graduated and relaxed government licensing scheme.

    The complete absence of official licensing and oversight would create a very different situation. Currently, if you buy/use a product or engage with a service provider, you can assume that it meets minimum safety standards; that the service is rendered with a certain minimum competence. In the absence of such licensing and oversight you cannot assume that.
    This has the following consequences:

    1. Established and reputable providers gain a big advantage over new entrants.

    2. New market entrants have to prove their safety and reliability, which involves (at minimum) substantial marketing and other costs. In many cases it will not even be possible to do so cost-effectively.
    In other words, for many businesses/professions, a lack of licensing might result in INCREASING barriers to market entry, rather than decreasing them.

    3. As a result of this great decrease in market transparency, customers are faced with large information problems. They can default to the "established and reputable" providers, which have huge pricing power or they can try to research and screen cheaper entrants without reputation (which involves substantial costs and may not even be possible). Caveat emptor is EXPENSIVE.
    In this context, also consider just how many people fail at something as simple as screening their emails for phishing attempts. Ignoring the large cost this involves, how effective do you suppose most people are in doing such research and screening?

    In a libertarian world, you will have to be an expert on finance, medicine, law, chemistry, engineering, architecture, etc. because there it isn't the government job to protect you from incompetent doctors, one-sided contracts, carcinogenic food and ineffective medicine, shoddy construction work, unsafe cars, or drywall that emits toxic fumes.

    You can also just roll the dice and hope for the best, which historically appears to have been the standard approach of most people, e.g.:

    http://www.keepyourchildsafe.org/syndicated-content-article-the-medicine-worked-fine-until-his-jaw-came-off.html

    A good example would be the old patent medicine industry prior to the empowerment of the FDA in the 30s. In the 30s, the US didn’t really have a pharmaceutical industry, it had a patent medicine industry, which was overwhelmingly fraudulent. That’s where the expression “snake oil” came from, only it turns out that it wasn’t even snake oil, it was mineral oil mixed with meat juice.
    The FDA largely did away with all that. Unfortunately, the US decided to deregulate the herbal supplement industry. Lo and behold, the patent medicine industry is back, with many billions in sales of fraudulent products, tens of thousands of emergency room visits attributed to weight loss supplements and god only knows how many cases of liver damage and death, the vast majority of which will never be traced to their true cause.

    Removing oversight from the dietary supplement industry hasn’t improved access to dietary supplements for rational consumers; it has instead created a situation where a rational consumer cannot buy dietary supplements except perhaps from the most reputable and trustworthy providers (and even that’s a dicey proposition), because there’s no way of knowing what that product you’re buying actually contains or will do to you.

  35. 35 35 Advo

    To put it in econo-speech:
    The lack of regulation and oversight in the dietary supplement market makes that market very opaque and inefficient.
    You can’t just go and buy dietary supplements and expect 1. to get the value you are promised and 2. that you will not suffer injury.
    If you (as a consumer) want to make a truly educated purchasing decision, you would have to have the products lab-tested yourself. The costs resulting from the information problems far outstrip the costs of the supplements themselves.

    THIS – the cost of information – is what’s always missing in the libertarian calculation.
    Economics without information costs is about as realistics as physics without friction and gravity.

  36. 36 36 nobody.really

    I was responding to the statement, “In reality, sadly, the white working class reliably votes for a party which increases welfare spending.” So if any statement warrants documentation, arguably it was that one.

    [F]ood stamps …. was expanded from $17.1 billion in 2000, to $37.6 billion in 2008, to $74.0 billion in 2015. Adjusting these nominal figures for inflation and calculating the geometric means we get a real growth rate of 10.4% for the Bush years and 10.1% for the first seven Obama years.

    Pick almost any welfare program and you’ll see consistent real growth almost every year, regardless of administration.

    Clever. But there’s still the question of whether we could say that the white working class reliably votes for anything, given their spotty voting habits.

    And as a side note, it’s debatable whether food stamps is a welfare program. How much did the Department of Human Services budget for food stamps last year? Nothing—because the program isn’t part of the DHS budget. Rather, it’s in the Dept. of Agriculture. That’s right: Food stamps is a program for promoting agriculture. The fact that the food gets targeted to poor people was merely a way to get more votes for the program.

    It’s noteworthy that when the Ag. budget got squeezed, the first thing the Republican Congress proposed to eliminate from the budget was food stamps. After all, that aspect of the Ag. Budget was deemed a superfluous component of a serious, business-oriented bill.

  37. 37 37 Sub Specie Æternitatis

    @Advo

    You are right that there are certain products (e.g., medicines) and services (e.g., law) which are both (1) very difficult to assess for many consumers and (2) potentially very harmful if provided at sub-par quality or otherwise inappropriately.

    So, if the only alternatives were total government control and caveat emptor, you might have a case. Fortunately, they are not.

    Even if mandatory licensure and regulation were abolished, there is nothing that prevents providers of such services from voluntarily obtaining and then advertising their approval from expert governmental or private agencies (with fraudulent claims of approval of course being severely punished, both civilly and criminally).

    So for example, if the current FDA regime is optimal and seen as such by consumers, making it voluntary won’t change anything: Consumers will refuse to purchase non-FDA approved drugs because they are too dangerous and thereby compel manufacturers to submit to FDA approval as forcefully as the law previously had.

    More likely, most patients will take FDA approval as presumptively correct, but will consider taking non-approved drugs if they (or their doctors) have studied the evidence sufficiently to be convinced that the FDA is wrong in a particular case.

    As for the scourge of snake oil, herbal supplements, homeopathy, etc., I’ll agree that they are mostly fraudulent and if effective at all only because of the placebo effect. But then the placebo effect is worth something and not harmful to anybody.

    This seems a small harm compared to the death toll of the FDA. The FDA by denial and delay has since the end of WWII probably killed more Americans than all war and terrorism combined. The FDA delay (compared to many drug agencies in other advanced countries) in the approval of a single class of drugs, beta-blockers, almost certainly murdered more Americans than war and terrorism have in this century. Yet how many have even heard of this particular FDA massacre?

  38. 38 38 Advo

    You are right that there are certain products (e.g., medicines) and services (e.g., law) which are both (1) very difficult to assess for many consumers and (2) potentially very harmful if provided at sub-par quality or otherwise inappropriately.

    Actually, most products you use can injure or kill you. Your toaster, TV and refrigerator can burn down your house. Your house fall down on your head or emit toxic fumes or asbestos fibres.
    Your chair can collapse.
    Thanks to the power of modern technology and in particularly chemistry, there’s a gazillion possible product defects and quite a few of them are dangerous.
    It always amazes me how little many manufacturers seem to care if they are injuring their customers.

  39. 39 39 Advo

    <<
    Consumers will refuse to purchase non-FDA approved drugs because they are too dangerous and thereby compel manufacturers to submit to FDA approval as forcefully as the law previously had.
    <<

    You're ignoring the information problem again. How will consumers know that products are too dangerous?

    <<<The FDA delay (compared to many drug agencies in other advanced countries) in the approval of a single class of drugs, beta-blockers, almost certainly murdered more Americans than war and terrorism have in this century.<<<

    You don't have too look that far to see FDA-carnage. The modern FDA got its power through the 1938 Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act in the aftermath of the Elixir Sulfanilamide disaster.
    Sulfa drugs were the first class of antibiotics, today largely forgotten. They didn't dissolve very well, but antifreeze worked.
    So of course a US manufacturer sold a sweet, rasberry flavored sulfa/antifreeze formulation for children. Over a hundred people died, horribly, but it could have been many more.

    This lead to an outcry and to the passage of the aformentioned law.
    As its first act, the FDA delayed the introduction of sulfapyridine in the US, the first chemotherapeuthical agent for the treatment of pneumonia. Granted, it had pretty toxic side effects, and the available serum therapy was safe and effective (but probably unaffordable of many/most). Nevertheless, this very first FDA action and the delay it caused probably killed more people than the Elixir Sulfanilamide disaster.

    Yes, the FDA has killed LOTS of people. But that's completely beside the point, because without the FDA or something like it we wouldn't have a pharmaceutical industry to begin with. We'd have a patent medicine industry.
    Yes, the FDA should be doing things differently. We could, for example, allow drugs on the markets much earlier during clinical trials (subject to monitoring of the people who take them). That could even provide much better data. We definitely should be much more permissive with human trials for fatal diseases (e.g. Alzheimer's).

    But if you were to just abolish the FDA, the consumer would end up with lots of possible choices and no reliable data to base his decision on. Worthless.

  40. 40 40 Advo

    Or, to put it differently: Without the FDA and similar regulatory bodies, betablockers likely would never have been developed at all.

  41. 41 41 Sub Specie Æternitatis

    @advo:

    You’re ignoring the information problem again. How will consumers know that products are too dangerous?

    Just look for the FDA label on the box. That shouldn’t be too hard for anybody and will allow anybody to take only FDA approved drugs.

    Sulfa drugs were the first class of antibiotics, today largely forgotten.

    I most certainly have not forgotten about Sulfa drugs and their origin, because I owe my existence to those circumstances. But that is a semi-amusing tale told at length elsewhere. http://specieaeternitatis.blogspot.com/2015/10/fortuitous-coincidences.html

  42. 42 42 Advo

    <<<Just look for the FDA label on the box. That shouldn’t be too hard for anybody and will allow anybody to take only FDA approved drugs.<<<

    Yes, but that's not really good information. On what do people base their decision to take any specific non-FDA drug? We have that situation now with the dietary supplements. People are taking them without knowing what they're doing and we don't know what the long-term (or really even the short-term) consequences are, because it's not being monitored.

    <<http://specieaeternitatis.blogspot.com/2015/10/fortuitous-coincidences.html<&lt;

    That is an interesting story. I suppose you have read "The Demon und the Microscope"?

    And how do you do the "quote" thing while posting?

  43. 43 43 iceman

    Great discussion. Haven’t yet seen anyone mention Consumer Reports? Underwriters Laboratories? Those are market solutions “in a libertarian world” where it turns out you’re not so on your own after all. Conversely, “the FDA needs to do things better” is pure hope over experience. Two great things about economics is it has to account for all costs and benefits, and it has to deal with incentives as root causes. In this case the bureaucratic incentive is and will always be skewed toward preventing the risk that may possibly someday be realized, versus the benefits that might have been – i.e. the seen versus the unseen. Seriously how many more times do we have to hear every new administration say they’re going to “reinvent govt”, make it work better / smarter / more ethically etc.? We would all be much better served if those who believe in larger govt would simply acknowledge that there is a direct correlation with graft / corruption / stifling or incompetent bureaucracy and factor those costs-of-doing-business into all of their plans upfront.

  44. 44 44 Sub Specie Æternitatis

    That is an interesting story. I suppose you have read “The Demon und[er] the Microscope”?

    I have not, but on this recommendation I just bought the audio book.

    And how do you do the “quote” thing while posting?

    As nobody.really recently taught me, the trick is to surround the quoted paragraph by html-style blockquote tags.

    I’ll try to describe this more explicitly, but who knows what the rendering engine will do to the description?

    Before each block quote, insert “”

    At the end, insert “”

  45. 45 45 Advo

    The problem with “consumer reports” et al is that it has never been sufficient.
    No solution has ever anywhere in the world emerged to the patent medicine fraud industry. I suggest that this is because it’s impossible for a free market solution to emerge.

    <<In this case the bureaucratic incentive is and will always be skewed toward preventing the risk that may possibly someday be realized, versus the benefits that might have been – i.e. the seen versus the unseen.<<

    If the FDA delays approval for something that is very beneficial, the costs of that delay are quite visible.

  46. 46 46 Advo

    Before each block quote, insert “”

    At the end, insert “”

    I see. It would be very useful if SL could write a post about formatting and link to it on the right, or something.

  47. 47 47 Advo

    I have not, but on this recommendation I just bought the audio book.

    On the topic of (audio) books – I just recently installed the app @Voice on my S7. You can use it to have your phone read articles and other texts to you in surprisingly high quality. It’s extremely convenient. You can queue up as many articles as you like.

  48. 48 48 Dave

    What’s wrong? Was it not enough for you to have Obama give in on tax cuts, (and on the environment, on gun control, on deportation, on endless war in Afghanistan, on austerity, on Social Security, and even on the minimum wage)?

    Now you want to choose the Democrats Vice President as well?

    Just because your party selected a lunatic does not mean you get to pick the Clinton’s running mate. The GOP has already indicated that they will impeach Hillary on day one, no matter what. She would be better off if she stopped giving in to their absurd demands and started fighting back.

    I hope she picks Rachel Maddow as her running mate. Let’s see your impeachment hearings now.

  49. 49 49 Sub Specie Æternitatis

    @Dave:
    Was it not enough for you to have Obama give in on tax cuts,

    Obama gave in on taxes? Today, thanks in part to Obama, the top marginal tax rate (~43%) is more than half again as high as it was 30 years ago (28% after TEFRA ’86). What would Obama *not* giving in have involved? Promising to hold his breath until the rate goes to 100%? Just sending out rampaging hordes of IRS agents to collect whatever they can get their hands on, the law be damned?

    and on the environment,

    Obama has done everything the law permitted, and more, to beat up on all those evil polluters. As a consequence, coal production in the US has declined from 1.2 million tons in 2008 to 0.9 million tons in 2015. What more do you want? Ordering the US army to blow up the remaining coal mines?

    on gun control,

    The Obama has consistently argued that the Second Amendment guarantees no individual right, that even if it did no extant regulation (including total bans) violate it, and appointed judges who have generally upheld these views. Given the massive resistance to Heller et al. in the lower federal courts, this campaign will most likely succeed within the next few years in effectively reading the Second Amendment out of the Constitution.

    on deportation,

    What deportations? As a practical matter the only way to get deported is to commit a serious crime or to be stupid enough to admit to the authorities that you only entered the country recently. Even then, it is not at all certain that you will be deported. The Obama administration has codified and executed these policies (e.g., in DAPA and DACA). You may disagree with whether that is a good thing, but not that it happened.

    on endless war in Afghanistan,

    The Obama administration has allowed large parts of Afghanistan to fall back into the hands of the Taliban and undertakes no serious measure to end that state. Short of unilateral withdrawal and turning the country back over to the people who ran in 2003 (which on net may or may not be a good idea), what more could he have done?

    on austerity, on Social Security,

    Between 2008 and 2016, total US federal spending on domestic social programs (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, etc.) grew from $1.9 trillion to $2.9 trillion (nominal, over a period in which the GDP deflator was ~10%). If you think this is austerity, one hesitates what you would consider to be generous increases.

    Obviously, I would have preferred most of these aggregates to have moved in the opposite direction you desired. But I sincerely envy the steadfast ideological purity the leaders of your party so consistently display. I wish there was anybody on my side who was as dedicated and ruthless (if perhaps, with a somewhat higher regard for the law and truth than yours).

  50. 50 50 Zazooba

    Excellent post Steve. Very thought provoking.

    Coming up with a new angle on this election is quite difficult, and so this post is quite a feat.

  51. 51 51 Zazooba

    Why is this post so interesting?

    I think because it succinctly and concretely makes you confront the question of exactly what is the difference between Hillary’s Democrat Party and Bush’s wing of the Republican Party? Why, exactly, would a Hillary/Jeb ticket be unreasonable? Or, from the Republican perspective, what, exactly, is the purpose of the Bush-wing of the Republican Party?

  52. 52 52 nobody.really

    Was it not enough for you to have Obama give in on tax cuts…?

    Obama gave in on taxes? Today, thanks in part to Obama, the top marginal tax rate (~43%) is more than half again as high as it was 30 years ago (28% after TEFRA ’86). What would Obama *not* giving in have involved…? Just sending out rampaging hordes of IRS agents to collect whatever they can get their hands on, the law be damned?

    If Obama hadn’t “given in,” tax rates would have climbed sooner. They would have risen as a result of the expiration of the Bush tax cuts—cuts that the Bush Administration insisted be made temporary, so that the Congressional Budget Office scoring of the bill would show that it wouldn’t explode the deficit, based on the theory that tax rates would resume their previous levels.

    Instead, Obama granted a further extension of these tax cuts as part of his stimulus plan (which the Republicans fought tooth and nail). And then Obama further extended the tax cuts for the lower brackets as part of the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012.

    But what’s your beef? Since Obama was elected the average tax rates for the highest income-income taxpayers (top 0.1% and 0.01%) has almost never been lower; the effective corporate tax rates has never been lower; and the share of GDP paid to government in taxes has declined to the lowest level since the end of WWII.

    And the “rampaging hordes of IRS agents”? Employment at the IRS has declined 28% since it’s peak,and declined 10% during the Obama Administration, even as the population (and the GDP) has risen. If your goal is to cheat on your taxes, you’ve never been less likely to get audited than today.

    on deportation…?

    What deportations? As a practical matter the only way to get deported is to commit a serious crime or to be stupid enough to admit to the authorities that you only entered the country recently. Even then, it is not at all certain that you will be deported. The Obama administration has codified and executed these policies (e.g., in DAPA and DACA). You may disagree with whether that is a good thing, but not that it happened.

    Those assertions notwithstanding, the Obama Administration has set the record for numbers of deportations, even as the net number of new illegal immigrants has declined to almost nothing. You may disagree with whether that is a good thing, but not that it happened.

    on Social Security…?

    Between 2008 and 2016, total US federal spending on domestic social programs (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, etc.) grew from $1.9 trillion to $2.9 trillion (nominal, over a period in which the GDP deflator was ~10%). If you think this is austerity, one hesitates what you would consider to be generous increases.

    Obviously, I would have preferred most of these aggregates to have moved in the opposite direction you desired.

    Ooo, since 2008, federal spending on social programs grew by $1 trillion. And under the Obama Administration, US GDP grew by more than $3 trillion, and now reaches $18 trillion.

    And seriously, you would have preferred that the US default on its promises to the growing numbers of Social Security recipients? These numbers are going to climb as the nation ages, pretty much regardless of who is in the White House.

    And who knows? Maybe austerity would have been a better course for Obama to have pursued after the housing crash. It has proven to be a disastrous policy pretty much everywhere else it’s been implemented, but I’m thrilled by your embrace of American Exceptionalism.

  53. 53 53 Advo

    As a consequence, coal production in the US has declined from 1.2 million tons in 2008 to 0.9 million tons in 2015.

    The biggest reason for coal’s decline (by far) is also the main complaint from environmentalists about Obama – FRACKING.
    The price of natural gas has fallen by approximately 60% since 2007 and the result is that the fuel price per mw/h in many cases and over long periods has been lower for NG than for coal.

    https://btuanalytics.com/coal-to-gas-switching-in-2016/

    (this report doesn’t even take into account the higher efficiency of NG per MMBTU).

    Coal currently compares very unfavorably against NG for purposes of electricity generation.
    Capex is about 3 times as high, fuel costs are higher and you can’t ramp coal plants up and down as flexibly as you can combined cycle NG.
    The anti-coal policies of Obama may have hurt coal, but certainly not as much as the fact that due to cheap NG, it’s often better to idle existing coal plants (regardless of the sunk capex) than to run them.

  54. 54 54 Advo

    @nobody.really:
    Insofar as deportations are concerned, I looked into those statistics a while ago and I came away with the impression that it’s difficult or even impossible to say how exactly the trend in deportations has actually developed over recent years.

  55. 55 55 Advo

    To give another example of the problems of market intransparency:
    My attempts at buying private pension insurance in Germany.
    While these pensions products are highly regulated, what they are lacking are effective disclosure requirements with regard to their costs.
    Their regulation is mostly concerned with making sure that you don’t end up in a situation where all the money’s gone.

    About a dozen years ago, I spent several hundred hours educating myself and researching – or rather, trying to research – various products.
    The information I needed to evaluate the true costs of these plans wasn’t available. The insurance companies didn’t provide it, their salesmen didn’t have it, and they usually had a hard time understanding what I was even talking about.
    After I had spent the equivalent of tens of thousands of dollars in time on researching the issue, I came away with the vague impression that with most plans, thirty years from now you’d probably be lucky to get your money back, inflation-adjusted, even after accounting for the various government subsidies.
    Anyone who’s relying on private pension insurance in Germany will probably end up like the Chileans.
    But really, that opinion is based on scant evidence, and for all I know there could have been very good pension plans on offer. It was just not possible to find them because the market was so opaque.
    And so I wasted an incredible amount of money and got nothing for it.
    Here as in the dietary supplement market, in the absence of government-enforced market transparency, the rational consumer is left with only one rational choice: not to buy.

  56. 56 56 Josh

    I like this idea. Remember Bush was the only republican candidate who said in a live debate that he wanted to make it easier for more immigrants to come here. He was probably hurt by that statement but it’s a statement I agree with and I’m sure most Latinos agree with. Trump had made as the cornerstone of his campaign the destruction of free trade pacts and making immigration even tougher than it is now and possibly removing people from the US. This will be be for our economy. Yes, Clinton please pick Jeb as your running mate and I will vote for you.

  57. 57 57 iceman

    Dave 48 – it’s not a ‘real’ proposal, it’s called a thought experiment about political strategy. You should try it, it can be fun and maybe add years to your life. What you do is take off the partisan shades and adopt a simple ground rule that both sides are playing the same game and neither is inherently morally superior to the other (e.g. each would employ the same tactics depending on the circumstances). However sometimes one side does play the game better. So when someone does something clever, even if you find it reprehensible, you can at least smile and say “well played”.

  58. 58 58 Richard R

    Maybe you should email her your idea.

  59. 59 59 Jonathan Kariv

    Of course if Trump does this http://www.dothanfirst.com/news/corker-trumps-best-vp-would-be-trumps-daughter Hilary might not need to. (Posted purely for the laugh factor I have no idea how this would actually pay out given how “on it’s head” the whole election seems to be).

  60. 60 60 nobody.really

    Off-topic: What should the Republican Establishment do?

    I’ve opined that it’s all well and good for columnist/philosophers to distance themselves from Trump. But people who desire to lead the GOP in the future, I argue, would be better off to maintain a public posture of party loyalty and go down with the ship—so as to be better positioned to captain the ship when it is finally raised.

    On the other hand, Jonathan Chait politely characterizes this strategy as playing with plutonium.

  61. 61 61 Sub Specie Æternitatis

    @nobody.really:52

    If Obama hadn’t “given in,” tax rates would have climbed sooner.

    Ah, if I we ever have a President who is on balance in favor of economic liberty (a doubtful proposition, admittedly), I hope all his concessions and defeats will be of the type where he completely gets his way eventually, rather than immediately. A few more such defeats, and there shall be nothing more to achieve.

    Cuts that the Bush Administration insisted be made temporary, so that the Congressional Budget Office scoring of the bill would show that it wouldn’t explode the deficit, based on the theory that tax rates would resume their previous levels.

    No, the Bush administration sought to make the tax cuts permanent. Summersetting them was a concession to Sen. McCain, other weak sister GOP senators, and “moderate” Democrats whose support was needed to pass them.

    By the way, an underappreciated benefit of being a progressive is that whenever you need to factually support a point, you’ll have your basic research ready-made by Wikipedia. If you are on the other side, you’ll need to go to original sources.

    Those assertions notwithstanding, the Obama Administration has set the record for numbers of deportations, even as the net number of new illegal immigrants has declined to almost nothing. You may disagree with whether that is a good thing, but not that it happened.

    Record numbers? Last year at your source (2014) listed 315,000 deportations. Since the adoption of administrative amnesty for about half of the population (DAPA and DACA), this number has doubtlessly fallen even further. The last year for which the previous administration was responsible showed 358,000. Finally, note that according to reports, the border patrol has been instructed to list attempted unlawful entrants, which previously were not reported as deportations, as “border removal” (a category accounting 70,000 listed deportations in the most recent year).

    And seriously, you would have preferred that the US default on its promises to the growing numbers of Social Security recipients?

    Promises? What promises? Surely not in the sense of contractual right, which the Supreme Court has denied. Flemming v. Nestor, 363 U.S. 603 (1960). Cutting social security is no more a violation of a promise than hiking taxes after a previous administration had cut them (even if it promised not to raise them again).

    And who knows? Maybe austerity would have been a better course for Obama to have pursued after the housing crash. It has proven to be a disastrous policy pretty much everywhere else it’s been implemented, but I’m thrilled by your embrace of American Exceptionalism.

    Britain which has cut government spending by 13% of GDP between 2009 and 2016? Canada which cut government spending by 15% of GDP in the 90s? Iceland? Pretty much any country which has actually tried austerity? American Exceptionalism is the refusal even to consider austerity.

    @advo:53
    You are quite right that cheap natural gas has been a major weight on coal. And if environmentalists had managed to convinced the Obama administration that it had the unilaterally authority to stop fracking, coal would not have dropped as steeply (though one doubts that environmentalists would have been ecstatic at the marginal increase in CO2 commissions which that would have entailed).

    However, beyond the effect of fracking, I can assure you that my clients have told me that they have shut down coal plants which otherwise would have been viable but for Obama administration regulations such as MACT. That these regulations were ultimately found illegal hardly troubled the administration. It is not as if the operators of these plants would find it economical to restart them or could obtain any legal relief for the costs the administration’s illegal regulations caused it.

  62. 62 62 nobody.really

    Sub Specie Æternitatis @61:

    Cuts that the Bush Administration insisted be made temporary, so that the Congressional Budget Office scoring of the bill would show that it wouldn’t explode the deficit, based on the theory that tax rates would resume their previous levels.

    No, the Bush administration sought to make the tax cuts permanent. Summersetting them was a concession to Sen. McCain, other weak sister GOP senators, and “moderate” Democrats whose support was needed to pass them.

    Fair enough; for whatever reasons, Bush signs a tax law that expressly called for increasing the tax rates on a date certain. Obama did not invent those tax increases any more than Obama created the deadline for withdrawing troops from Iraq. These were deadlines created before Obama ever took the oath of office.

    [T]he Obama Administration has set the record for numbers of deportations….

    Record numbers? Last year at your source (2014) listed 315,000 deportations. Since the adoption of administrative amnesty for about half of the population (DAPA and DACA), this number has doubtlessly fallen even further. The last year for which the previous administration was responsible showed 358,000.

    Ok….

    So if the Obama Administration did not set the record for deportations, which administration did?

    [A]n underappreciated benefit of being a progressive is that whenever you need to factually support a point, you’ll have your basic research ready-made by Wikipedia. If you are on the other side, you’ll need to go to original sources.

    Really? You think so?

    You understand how Wikipedia works, no? Anybody can create or modify an article on pretty much any topic. They just have to take the initiative to do it, and then do a sufficiently good job to evade deletion by the volunteer editors.

    So, any theories on why the people who take the initiative to contribute to this public information source would be disproportionately inclined to progressivism? Or does the bias arise among those who volunteer to serve as editors?

  63. 63 63 Advo

    SSA:
    By the way, an underappreciated benefit of being a progressive is that whenever you need to factually support a point, you’ll have your basic research ready-made by Wikipedia.

    I think what you meant to say is: “Reality has a well-known liberal bias”

    :)

  64. 64 64 Advo

    SSA,
    you might try out conservapedia, which was expressly created to provide a counterweight to wikipedia:

    http://www.conservapedia.com/Main_Page

  65. 65 65 Advo

    nobody.really:
    So, any theories on why the people who take the initiative to contribute to this public information source would be disproportionately inclined to progressivism?

    If I was a conservative, I would say: “an obvious theory would be that while intelligent conservative are out in the world making money and being successful, while intelligent liberals live in their parents’ Basement and have a lot of time on their hands while they’re waiting for their guild’s raid to begin.”

  66. 66 66 Sub Specie Æternitatis

    @Advo:63-64:

    Very funny. :) I was aware of covservapedia.com, but what I want is not an extremely faint Wikipedia mirror image, but a collection of the surface of all human knowledge which hasn’t been cleansed of anything which might hurt the political amour-propre of modern Western progressives.

  67. 67 67 Advo

    The problem with conservapedia is that, the initiator of the site being a young-earth creationist, it’s often very difficult to tell which writings on that website are the actual work of conservatives and which are performance art from liberal trolls.

    They’re entertaining in either case.

  68. 68 68 Sub Specie Æternitatis

    @nobody.really-64:

    So if the Obama Administration did not set the record for deportations, which administration did?

    Not counting previously uncounted “border removals” as deportations, the previous administration did. Counting them, the current administration did early on (though it currently is deporting far smaller numbers than the previous administration did). But this is hardly proof of increasingly vigorous enforcment of the immigration laws; given growing populations, constant policies, et ceteribus paribus, one would expect new records for deportations to be achieved every year. Even with some noise added to a general trend, one would expect every 8-year administration to set at least one new record.

    Consider the hypothetical in which the Obama administration had left every single Bush tax policy untouched. Due to economic growth and inflation, it would nevertheless set numerous annual records for total tax collections. In that hypothetical, would you consider the argument that “Record money extracted from citizens => Obama is an unusually brutal taxer” to be particularly cogent or convincing?

    You understand how Wikipedia works, no? Anybody can create or modify an article on pretty much any topic. They just have to take the initiative to do it, and then do a sufficiently good job to evade deletion by the volunteer editors.

    Indeed I do and occasionally edit and correct non-political Wikipedia pages which happen to fall within an area in which I have some expertise.

    However, based on others’ experiences, I would never be so foolish as to waste my time editing any page with political valence. The volunteer editors of Wikipedia are widely known (1) to delete even indisputably true and documented facts which discomfit progressives’ world view as “irrelevant,” (2) failing that, dramatically reducing the exposition of these facts because of “overemphasis”, or (3) failing that, rewrite such exposition to be as tenuous, vague, and unconvincing as possible.

  69. 69 69 nobody.really

    So if the Obama Administration did not set the record for deportations, which administration did?

    Not counting previously uncounted “border removals” as deportations, the previous administration did. Counting them, the current administration did early on (though it currently is deporting far smaller numbers than the previous administration did).

    Any evidence of this?

    According to DHS’s Table 39 (Aliens Removed or Returned, FYs 1892 to 2014), removals (“compulsory and confirmed movement of an inadmissible or deportable alien out of the United States based on an order of removal”) peaked in FY 2012. True, the growth of these figures reflect the choice of the Obama Administration to put more border crossers thought administrative procedures that will subject them to administrative or criminal sanctions if they return; prior administrations chose to permit a larger share of apprehended border crossers to simply return to Mexico of their own volition, and thus evade any sanctions. Apparently you don’t value that distinction–but that’s a reflection of your values, not the data.

    In contrast, if you look at which administration had the most removals PLUS voluntary returns, that would be Bill Clinton’s in FY 2000 (Oct. 1, 1999-Sept. 30, 2000). That figure climbed monotonically from FY 1989-2000, and has declined monotonically ever since. Go figure.

    But this is hardly proof of increasingly vigorous enforcement of the immigration laws; given growing populations, constant policies, et ceteribus paribus, one would expect new records for deportations to be achieved every year.

    …Why?

    Consider the hypothetical in which the Obama administration had left every single Bush tax policy untouched. Due to economic growth and inflation, it would nevertheless set numerous annual records for total tax collections. In that hypothetical, would you consider the argument that “Record money extracted from citizens => Obama is an unusually brutal taxer” to be particularly cogent or convincing?blockquote>

    Well, no—but primarily due to the failure of the ceteris paribus assumptions you rely upon. First, it’s unclear to me how much a president’s administrative actions influences tax receipts relative to variables such as changes in GDP.

    Second, it’s unclear to me that a president’s administrative actions influence tax receipts as much as changes in tax statutes. And as we’ve already discussed, if Obama had simply maintained the tax laws as they existed when he arrived in office I would most certainly expect him to have collected more taxes—because the tax laws as they existed called for the expiration of the Bush tax cuts during Obama’s term in office.

    Third, even the powers that a president has to administer tax collections will be limited if Congress chooses to hamstring the agency. In a fit a pique over alleged partisan bias at the IRS, Congress has effectively imposed a hiring freeze for most of the Obama Administration. That agency is really hurting—especially for computer talent—and audits are at an 11-year low. Tax cheats really owe the Republicans a debt of gratitude.

    THAT SAID, assuming we could stipulate to enough ceteris paribus assumptions, sure, I’d expect tax receipts to grow with population and perhaps inflation (though many brackets are indexed to inflation), regardless of which administration was in power.

    Which is precisely why I find your conclusions about deportations unpersuasive. Yes, we might indeed expect deportations to track the number of illegal immigrants in the US. And the number of illegal immigrants in the US peaked during the Bush Administration..

    Moreover, the number of new illegal immigrants—who we might expect to be especially easy to find—has collapsed. In particular, the number of undocumented Mexican immigrants crossing the border has reached a 50-year low.

    So, precisely because all else is NOT equal, and driving variables are declining, I fail to understand why you would expect deportation levels to trend upward. Pardon my French, but ceteris non paribus.

  70. 70 70 nobody.really

    I would never be so foolish as to waste my time editing any page with political valence. The volunteer editors of Wikipedia are widely known (1) to delete even indisputably true and documented facts which discomfit progressives’ world view as “irrelevant,” (2) failing that, dramatically reducing the exposition of these facts because of “overemphasis”, or (3) failing that, rewrite such exposition to be as tenuous, vague, and unconvincing as possible.

    Could be; I haven’t done a lot on Wikipedia, either.

    But why would these people have a progressive bias? We’re talking about an anarchic-ish computer thing, so I’d have guessed that they’d skew libertarian. But maybe these people are disproportionately young, and that biases the distribution to the left?

    Or maybe the skew is path-dependent: A few initial participants were progressives, and this influenced the recruitment of later participants?

    Any other theories?

  71. 71 71 Sub Specie Æternitatis

    @nobody.really:69

    But why would these people have a progressive bias? We’re talking about an anarchic-ish computer thing, so I’d have guessed that they’d skew libertarian.

    There was an era in which libertarians were massively over-represented among those who were building the ‘net and its various related tools. That was certainly the case when I first got involved with these things in the 80s and early 90s. But that is not the way it has been for a long time.

    These days it seems to me that most of the major projects and companies are run and majority-staffed by people who are fairly standard-issue progressives (in so far as they have any time for politics at all) favoring regulation of everything except themselves. “Free Market for Me, But Not for Thee.” (Not that a lot of these people aren’t still highly intelligent, productive, entertaining, and, in some cases, my friends).

    Or maybe the skew is path-dependent: A few initial participants were progressives, and this influenced the recruitment of later participants?

    There is definitely a sort of path-dependency here. Once at least all the outspoken members of an organisation are progressives, it seems likely to be trapped in that state. Allowing anybody who does not share that viewpoint into the organization, regardless of their other merits, seems like almost religious violation, the countenancing of open, sheer, unmitigated evil.

    The reverse does not seem to hold, at least to the same degree. The lone progressives in an intellectual enterprise of some sort dominated by outspoken non-progressives, can expect to be told countless times a day that he is wrong or be challenged to debate, but not to be shunned as an evil person.

    This difference in dispositions and the resulting roach motel for organizations may be a partially explanation of O’Sullivan’s Dictum: “Any organization not explicitly right-wing will over time become explicitly left-wing.”

  72. 72 72 Ken B

    Zazooba thinks this an excellent post. I think it one of the silliest in this blog’s history. Its premise is that the voters who chose Trump do not deserve even a rebuttal, only a dismissal. That Landsburg cannot see that this is precisely the attitude fueling Trump’s rise is sad. I agree withRoger that this would vindicate and boost Trump. Me, I’m for debate, not a members-only agreement to exclude dissenters.

  73. 73 73 Sub Specie Æternitatis

    @Ken B:

    Is there no standard of intelligence, knowledge, and honesty any politician who falls below is just not worth taking seriously any more?

    Let me illustrate by a tiny, but entirely sufficient, example from yesterday’s paper. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/wp/2016/07/07/trump-meets-with-hill-republicans-as-controversy-over-star-of-david-tweet-continues At a meeting with GOP members of Congress, Trump was asked what he would do to restore Article I powers. He responded: “I want to protect Article I, Article II, Article XII.”

    Article I defines the powers of Congress and many feel that over the decades the overreach of executive agencies has diminished the prerogatives of Congress, so this is reasonable question to ask a would-be President. Article II defines the powers of the Presidency, so it would be somewhat surprising if a President did not protect it. There is no Article XII.

    From Trump’s response we can conclude:

    1. Trump does not know the content of the Constitution and probably has never read it. This ignorance alone should be disqualifying.

    2. Worse than that, rather than responding as an honestly ignorant person would–e.g., “I’m sorry what do you mean by Article I powers?”–Trump decided to brazen it out and pretend to know what he was talking about.

    3. Worse than that, he so fundamentally misjudged his audience that he thought he could avoid admitting ignorance by using BS, when there was no chance whatsoever that such an elementary error would have gone unnoticed.

    This is not the behavior of someone who could be entrusted the powers of the Presidency. It is not the behavior of any responsible adult. It is the behavior of a none-too-bright twelve-year-old boy.

    What more does Trump need to do to disqualify himself in your eyes? Drool in public? Wet his pants?

  74. 74 74 Advo

    However, based on others’ experiences, I would never be so foolish as to waste my time editing any page with political valence. The volunteer editors of Wikipedia are widely known

    That may be true, of course, but on the other hand in my experience the second biggest mistake conservatives tend to make is to believe uncritically what other conservatives tell them (who’ve heard it from some other conservative who read it on powerlineblog, or somewhere).

  75. 75 75 Ken B

    SSA 74
    Article 12 applies to the 51st through 57th states.

    You could, in debate, ask Trump what he would defend about that article. If he misspoke for amendment 12 and expatriated upon the selection of electors that would become immediately apparent, and your gotcha shown up as just that. If he rambled about how it protects the status of eminent domain I think you’d show him up.

    I agree my proposal blunts the power of your objection of if Trump just misspoke. I see that as a feature. My proposal would more effectively expose him if he was just faking. Also I think a feature.

    So: my approach is good for him if you are tendentiously seizing on petty errors and appealing to prejudice, and worse for him if he’s a windbag. Seems right.

  76. 76 76 Ken B

    SSA 73
    I did not answer your question about honesty. Since I am leaning towards Clinton I can only say that apparently the answer is no, there probably is no minimal standard of honesty which I think necessary.

  77. 77 77 Advo

    Is there no standard of intelligence, knowledge, and honesty any politician who falls below is just not worth taking seriously any more?

    Let me try to elaborate on this from my perspective from the center(left). Yes, Trump is deeply ignorant and his policy proposals (or rather: “policy” proposals) are disconnected from reality and potentially disastrous.
    But then I look at Cruz, the GOP runner-up, and he wants to reintroduce the gold standard and repeal all financial sector legislation that was passed after 2008/2009:
    https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/113/s20/text

    Can you honestly say, with a straight face, that Trump’s policies (whatever they may be) are likely to produce worse results than THAT?
    Cruz might be something of an outlier among the GOP insofar as the gold standard is concerned, but the deregulation of Wall Street and the complete refusal to acknowledge the lessons of 2008/2009 (not to mention the pre-New Deal era) is very much consistent with the GOP mainstream and the various GOP tax and budget plans with their dynamic scoring, magic asterisks and voodoo economics aren’t based in reality either.

    In terms of honesty, all the GOP front runners (especially also Cruz) had disastrous scores from the fact checking websites and I found a strong correlation between poll success and untruthfulness:

    http://boards.fool.com/gop-truthfulness-vs-poll-success-31992566.aspx

    From my viewpoint, blatant racism aside, Trump isn’t that special. His major policy ideas are quite different from those of other GOP politicians, but to me they don’t appear any more irrational than Cruz’s abovementioned ideas. Cruz isn’t any more honest, and while he’s certainly more learned and intelligent than Trump, given the irrationality of his advocated policies, it doesn’t appear that this has any practical benefits insofar as governing is concerned.

  78. 78 78 Ken B

    “My friends I offer High Popalorum. If that is not to your taste, my running mate offers Low Popahirum. Together we offer something for everyone. Except the hicks.”

  79. 79 79 Sub Specie Æternitatis

    @Ken B:75-76

    I am–to put it mildly–not a big admirer of Prez. Obama, but I thought the 57-state flub is one of the weaker attacks on him. He was giving an extemporaneous campaign speech offering the usual presidential candidate pablum about “having campaigned in a 50 states,” when in mid-sentence he suddenly remembered that he had not campaigned in three states and attempted to correct it to “47 states.” This came out as “57 states.” Anybody who read that statement would have no reason to assume that Obama would lack the knowledge most 6-year-olds have.

    As for giving Trump a mulligan, ordinarily I’d say no. After these reports, surely staffers must have drilled him on the number of articles in the Constitution and he wouldn’t make that mistake again. On the other hand, with Trump I am not so sure that would happen because of the following incidents during the primaries. See http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/trumps-terrifying-nuke-answer-at-the-debate-should-end-his-campaign-but-it-wont-20151216

    Huge Hewitt once asked Trump a question about the nuclear triad during a radio interview. As anybody who knows anything about US nuclear defense policy (and I hardly know more than anything) the nuclear triad refers to the three different, independent means by which the US can deliver nuclear payloads.

    But Trump didn’t know that and rather than admitting his (somewhat excusable, at the time) ignorance started blathering about the relations between Iran, North Korea, and Pakistan, apparently guessing that the term refers to the countries the US is most concerned are developing or proliferating nuclear weapons.

    Then, at a debate a few months later, Hewitt ask Trump the same question again. And Trump again tried to filibuster. Hewitt pressed him to be specific “Of the three legs of the triad, though, do you have a priority?” Trump’s response, in full, was:

    I think – I think, for me, nuclear is just the power, the devastation is very important to me.

    What can we conclude? Trump is (1) ignorant, (2) vain enough to try to hide his ignorance, and (3) insufficiently interested to make even a minimal effort to cure this ignorance, even if it will lead to further embarassment.

  80. 80 80 Advo

    @SSA:
    Here are Cruz’ views on the monetary system.
    I’m curious if this meets your minimum requirement for economic literacy and basic logical thinking in a politician:

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2016/02/07/cruz-still-pitching-for-libertarian-votes-has-a-lot-to-say-about-eminent-domain-and-sound-money/

    “One of the problems is the volatility of the dollar,” he said. “You know, if you look at the policies of the Fed – I’m an original co-sponsor of Ron Paul’s audit the Fed bill, and I am very concerned about the policies of the Fed, because what we’ve seen is a rapidly careening dollar, where you have a strong dollar, then a weak dollar, then a strong dollar, then a weak dollar. What you see is commodity prices shoot up and shoot down, shoot up and shoot down, and it causes enormous dislocation. When commodity prices go up, what happens is everyone runs into a sector, they get jobs, and when the prices fall they’re out of work. And my view is that we don’t want a strong dollar or a weak dollar. We want a stable dollar.”
    ….
    “Look, a dollar is a unit of measurement,” he said. “It is the measure by which we assess: What is more valuable, a television or an automobile? The way we assess that is using the dollar to measure the comparative value. You know, think about it in a different context, think of the unit of measurement of time – an hour. Now, do you want a long hour or a short hour? As a practical matter, we want an hour to be 60 minutes, every time, over and over again. We want a stable hour, because it’s a unit of measurement. Money is the same thing – it’s a unit of measurement. So the reason why we see these rapid oscillations in commodities markets, it’s because of unstable currencies. And it’s why I think we should look at going toward rules-based monetary supply, ideally tied to gold, so you have stability. And I think that would improve the lives of a great many working people.”

    I’m not entirely sure, but it seems like he wants to abolish the commodity cycle by tying the dollar to gold, and in his mind, that somehow makes sense.

  81. 81 81 Sub Specie Æternitatis

    @advo: 77

    Cruz, the GOP runner-up, and he wants to reintroduce the gold standard and repeal all financial sector legislation that was passed after 2008/2009: https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/113/s20/text Can you honestly say, with a straight face, that Trump’s policies (whatever they may be) are likely to produce worse results than THAT?

    As far as repeal of Dodd-Frank is concerned, I’ll go further than that. It would not only produce better results than Trump’s policies, but better results than the policies advocated by any of the other candidates. My only concern is why stop at 2008/2009? There is a lot more nonsense to repeal from earlier years, from CRA to SarbOx.

    In fact, I’m somewhat surprised to see anybody who is not an interested party still defend Dodd-Frank as an intelligent, measured, and efficient response to the risk of financial contagion, rather than the usual let-no-crisis-go-to-waste pre-existing wish-list of a political faction.

    As for the gold standard, I am not an advocate. Not because the gold standard has definitely proven worse than the current regime of essentially boundless Fed discretion, but because we can do better than either. While my views on any macro issue are less certain than in micro, I tend to support a Sumnerian NGDPLT policy. Combine that with a liquid market in NGDP futures, and you can send the FOMC on permanent vacation.

    Cruz isn’t any more honest, and while he’s certainly more learned and intelligent than Trump …

    Saying that Cruz is more learned and intelligent than Trump is like saying that a mountain is taller than a dog dropping in the street. Indisputably true, but it somehow fails to capture the magnitude of the difference. For reasons I have elaborated elsewhere (including these pages), I believe that Cruz is probably the most intelligent—in the sense the readers and commenters of this blog would understand that term—and best-educated presidential candidate in decades and possibly longer.

    As for Cruz’s honesty, there is clearly a ceiling. Nobody can hope for any success in politics while being completely honest. Yet, by the standard of politicians, I consider Cruz to be unusually honest and principled. See, e.g., his open opposition to ethanol subsidies in Iowa.

    I do not consider Politifact to be a more reliable measure of honesty than the New York Times editorial page. Looking at samples from its judgments confirms this. Cruz is rated as Pants-On-Fire for a true statement about what Trump has previously said on the basis that Trump has also said the opposite; by that standard no policy opinion could be attributed to Trump at all without being “Pants-on-Fire.” Conversely, when Hillary Clinton makes statements as bizarre as “toy guns are more strictly regulated than real guns” or “I have now put out all of my emails”, Politifact bends itself out of shape to rate it as half true.

  82. 82 82 Advo

    I believe that Cruz is probably the most intelligent—in the sense the readers and commenters of this blog would understand that term—and best-educated presidential candidate in decades and possibly longer.

    Could you give me some kind of link to where he has given any evidence of that? Because what I’ve read from him so far seems more like his bizarre statements which I pasted above, indicating an absolute lack of economic literacy and logical thinking.

  83. 83 83 Sub Specie Æternitatis

    @advo:80

    So Cruz “think[s] we should look at going toward rules-based monetary supply … so you have stability.” That is position endorsed by many leading economists as well as non-leading, non-economists, like myself.

    As for the gold standard, mentioned as an ideal, I would not endorse it, though some intelligent people, including professors of economics occasionally commenting here, do. But even so, being wrong on that issue of judgment outside his area of expertise, hardly compares to indisputable errors of basic, verifiable fact that Trump commits on a daily basis.

  84. 84 84 Sub Specie Æternitatis

    @advo:82

    Let me give a quick summary of the evidence. I do not claim that every item is conclusive, but in combination, the case for Cruz’s high intelligence is pretty definitive.

    1. Cruz, coming from modest circumstances, graduated with high honors from Princeton University, one of the more demanding schools in the US.

    2. Cruz graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School, indicating that he was among the top 10% of one of the most selective law schools in the country. While there professors with little sympathy for Cruz’s open ideological views spoke admiringly of his intelligence. Prof. Dershowitz called him “off-the-charts brilliant.” Prof. Tribe, how has taught con law to a generation of future leading lawyers, said that Cruz may have been the best student he ever had.

    3. Cruz was selected as a law clerk for the Chief Justice of the United States. This is a distinction sought by virtually intellectually ambitious U.S. lawyers, but only achieved by four every year.

    4. As a lawyer, Cruz practiced appellate litigation, widely agreed to be the most intellectual and academic part of the law, and excelled by winning a number of significant appellate and Supreme Court cases, including as Texas SG.

    5. While I have never met Cruz, our social circles sufficiently overlap that I have heard many friends, colleagues, and acquaintances who do know him personally express their views of him. Half of them think he is a jerk. All of them think that he is brilliant.

    6. Finally, I point you to this article, previously linked in these pages, offering the assessment of a Texas reporter who knows him well, but is not ideologically sympathetic. http://www.texasmonthly.com/politics/the-top-10-things-you-need-to-know-about-ted-cruz/

    All of it is worth reading, but this paragraph most directly addresses the issue:

    I’m not ideological about intelligence. In my view, it comes in many forms and none of them have a moral valence. So when I say that Cruz is smarter than us, I don’t mean it to imply a value judgment or even a contrast with other politicians. What I mean is that Cruz has the particular form of intelligence that is universally recognized as such, and he has it in abundance. This is just how it is. I feel no need to deny it, and I see no purpose to doing so.

  85. 85 85 Ken B

    SSA
    My point is precisely the weakness of the 57 complaint. But at least we know he said it. Do we have anything other than a comment from a GOP senator? So it is hard to tell if it was a similar flub. Harder still when you refuse to talk.

  86. 86 86 Advo

    @SSA,
    that is hearsay and circumstantial evidence. I don’t trust the assessment of third parties AT ALL. The last fifteen years have caused me to become kind of cynical.
    Have you actually ever read/heard any sophisticated analysis/reasoning from him on any policy matter, or do you just happen to like the policies he advocates?

    But even so, being wrong on that issue of judgment outside his area of expertise…

    Well that’s the problem, isn’t it. Economics is absolutely not Cruz’ area of expertise. But being a lawyer isn’t an excuse for economic illiteracy, especially if you’re running for president.
    You’re expected to have a minimum understanding of major economic issues, and where you don’t understand things, you should defer to the experts, unless you have a really good reason not to.
    With regard to monetary system Cruz’ doesn’t know what he’s talking about and he doesn’t defer to the experts.
    It’s not like the question of the gold standard is super complicated, or as if there’s a lack of consensus among experts.
    Any rational, reasonably intelligent person who educates himself about the issue should fairly quickly arrive at the conclusion that it’s a bad idea.
    Cruz obviously spent a great deal of time educating himself and thinking about the monetary system, and the result is the above rant, which lacks any logic or coherence. It’s so bad it’s not even wrong.
    At least I HOPE that Cruz has spent a great deal of time thinking about it. Imagine Cruz publicly advocating the overthrow of the country’s monetary system without giving the issue much thought.
    That would be even worse, wouldn’t it.

    And FINALLY, we want a president to approach new questions with an open mind and analyze them objectively. Cruz defaulted to an ideological position without any logical support. That’s not a very good sign for what his policies as a president would be like.

    In summary, Cruz’ nonsensical comments show the following:

    1. He lacks basic macroeconomic literacy. That, in itself, is pretty bad for a presidential candidate.
    2. He doesn’t understand his limitations, otherwise he would defer to the experts. He obviously thinks that the above comments represent some profound wisdom, when they’re really just comical.*
    3. Cruz lacks the ability to think critically about unfamiliar issues. He tried with the gold standard and defaulted to the ideological position, backed up by no coherent reasoning whatsoever.

    That is my view on Cruz’ intellectual qualities, based on this very significant piece of primary evidence. I’m sure he’s smart in many ways, but he appears to have very glaring intellectual defects that make him unsuited as president. You are certainly intellectually superior to him, for example.

    The whole thing, really, could be summarized thusly: “How would an incredibly smart, educated and rational man arrive at these conclusions with regard to the gold standard?”
    Answer: “He wouldn’t.”

    *I’m pretty sure I’ve said some stupid things on the internet, but probably nothing THAT incoherent, at least not on any issue that I’ve thought long and hard about. And I like to think that if I was running for president, I’d make sure not to embarrass myself like that in public.

  87. 87 87 Ken B

    Shorter 86:
    Trust No-one. Experts excepted.

  88. 88 88 Advo

    Trust No-one. Experts excepted.

    Well yes, kind of :)

  89. 89 89 Sub Specie Æternitatis

    @advo

    In so far as I understand your position, it is that a passive, positive reference to the gold standard proves a person a dolt beyond redemption, regardless of any other evidence and reject all the evidence I offered to the contrary as worthless hearsay.

    That is a high intellectual standard, given that even some intelligent, well-educated professional economists still endorse the gold standard. But far be it from me to condemn anybody for having rigorous intellectual standards.

    But what does that say about politicians, like Ms. Clinton, who endorse minimum-wage or rent-control laws? Surely the economic case against price controls is vastly stronger and simpler than the case against the gold standard.

    As for my personal experience of Sen. Cruz’s brilliance, I cannot offer much for I do not know him personally and rarely watch political debates aimed at the general public because they tend to be aimed at a level were over-simplification and even dishonesty are practically mandatory.

    However, I have heard or read legal arguments delivered by Cruz to appellate bodies. These are not pre-scripted courtroom histrionics aimed at swaying an ignorant and emotional jury. Rather they are earnest attempts to convince other highly intelligent lawyers (i.e., the judges) of whatever legal proposition is necessary for one’s client to prevail. These sort of arguments are a high test for intelligence because while some intelligent people may not be eloquent enough for this task, it is impossible to perform without substantial brain power. And in those instance, I will aver that Cruz has exhibited an enviable degree of skill, admired not only by me but by lawyers across the political spectrum and regardless of whether they agree with his point.

    In fact, I would argue that the highest test of a lawyer’s skill is not to convincingly demonstrate a point of black-letter law, but to make even the most preposterous position seem plausible to an intelligent, well-informed, and open-minded audience. In that sense, I consider Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France perhaps the finest legal brief I’ve ever read.

    You are certainly intellectually superior to him, for example.

    You are too kind. I wouldn’t claim that you are intellectually superior to Cruz, but it is clear that you are a great deal more intelligent than you consider Cruz to be. Being able to argue with you, without resorting to name-calling or insult, has been a pleasure.

  90. 90 90 Ken B

    @89 Burke’s Reflections are the gold standard.

  91. 91 91 Sub Specie Æternitatis

    @89 It is, but it does well to remember that its central thesis–that while the English people had a perfect right to overthrow their French-influenced king, the French people had no right to overthrow their own king for the same reasons–is untenable. Burke’s genius is that he can make this seem a plausible proposition.

    This is surely what Macaulay meant when he wrote:

    [I]t is not difficult to perceive that [Burke's] hostility to the French Revolution principally arose from the vexation which he felt at having all his old political associations disturbed, at seeing the well-known landmarks of states obliterated, and the names and distinctions with which the history of Europe had been filled for ages at once swept away. He felt like an antiquary whose shield had been scoured, or a connoisseur who found his Titian retouched.

    But, however he came by an opinion, he had no sooner got it than he did his best to make out a legitimate title to it. His reason, like a spirit in the service of an enchanter, though spell-bound, was still mighty. It did whatever work his passions and his imagination might impose. But it did that work, however arduous, with marvellous dexterity and vigour.

    His course was not determined by argument; but he could defend the wildest course by arguments more plausible than those by which common men support opinions which they have adopted after the fullest deliberation. Reason has scarcely ever displayed, even in those well constituted minds of which she occupies the throne, so much power and energy as in the lowest offices of that imperial servitude.

  92. 92 92 Bob Murphy

    Steve,

    I haven’t read all the comments yet, so sorry if this is covering old ground…

    (1) Are you mostly writing this as an ironic piece, sort of, “I’m not saying they *should* do this, but it would work, so why aren’t they? Makes you go hmmm…” ? Or, do you really wish they would do this because you would vastly prefer Clinton/Bush to Trump?

    If the latter, why? Scott Sumner feels the same way, and I am at a loss to see why. Is it minimizing mean-square-destruction?

    (2) I think if Hillary and Jeb were on the same ticket, Trump would quite plausibly tell people, “See folks? There’s no Dem vs. Rep. It’s the elites versus you. Let’s make America great again, they clearly don’t want me to upset their plans to screw you over.”

  93. 93 93 Ken B

    Bob Murphy and I agree perfectly on point 2, which I put more caustically in 58. I don’t see how you defeat Trump by vindicating him. I have several friends quite upset over Brexit, who lament that the Leave side won only because of the EU’s meddling incompetence and demand to control immigration. “My opponents only won because they proven right” is an odd complaint.

  94. 94 94 Henri Hein

    @Advo, #80 + followups:

    To me it sounds like you got it backwards. Cruz may be as crazy as you say, but those of his quotes you gave us in #80 displays a rare understanding of what money is. One of the three functions of money is as a unit of account. You don’t have to take my word for it; look it up on Wikipedia or The Economist’s lexicon. (http://www.economist.com/economics-a-to-z/m) Cruz demonstrates a better understanding of at least that aspect of money than any other political candidate I can think of. For the record, I am also against the gold standard, but as SSA points out, there are enough economists supporting it that you cannot dismiss them all as crackpots.

  95. 95 95 Advo

    Cruz may be as crazy as you say, but those of his quotes you gave us in #80 displays a rare understanding of what money is.

    I understand very well the basic functions of money. I don’t know if I would say that I understand money as such, despite the fact that I’ve been studying the issue for over a decade. But then I’ve gotten the impression during that time that most economists don’t understand it, either. Not really. Thinking about the more complex questions of money and the money supply has a way of twisting your brain into a pretzel.

    The problem with Cruz’ statement is not his recounting, as you say, of the basic functions of money according to wikipedia.
    The problem is that:

    1. He appears to think that a gold standard would get rid of the commodity cycle and/or commodity price fluctuations, which it most certainly would not
    2. He appears to think that this would even be desirable

    As to 1.:
    (A) When the US had a gold standard, the long-term commodity cycle existed and of course you also had shorter term price volatility. Cruz doesn’t know economic/financial market history. If he did, he’d probably be less gung-ho with regard to financial deregulation.

    (B) Even disregarding historic experience, there’s absolutely no reason to assume that a gold-back currency would put an end or even ameliorate the commodity cycle and/or price fluctuations. These are driven by supply and demand. The fact that the gold price is currently substantially correlated with other commodities is completely irrelevant in this context; upon introduction of the gold standard, this correlation would cease immediately.
    Cruz apparently doesn’t understand basic concepts of price, supply and demand, or at least he’s incapable of applying them in this context.

    To put it differently: anyone can read wikipedia, the questions is what you do with the knowledge. In the case of Cruz and the gold standard, he’s been unable to integrate what he read and apply it to the problem in a coherent fashion. He appears to lack the very basics of economic understanding, and worse, he doesn’t appear to be aware of that or care.

    As to 2.:
    Imagine commodity prices would, indeed, stabilize in terms of a gold-backed dollar. Then you’d necessarily have the prices of other goods that are currently stable in terms of the paper dollar start to fluctuate (supply, demand, price etc.)

    Would that be an improvement?

    SSA points out, there are enough economists supporting it that you cannot dismiss them all as crackpots.

    I am not aware of any economist of any prominence who supports the gold standard. As far as I know, it’s just the Austrians and, more recently, Greenspan who thinks a gold standard is a good idea. But then Greenspan has always been an idiot.

    I believe SSA was referring exclusively to rule-based monetary policy, expressly not the gold standard.

  96. 96 96 Advo

    Imagine Prof. Landsburg would ask a new first-year econ student, or for that matter a college freshman minoring in economics, to look into the question of the gold standard and present his findings the next day.
    The student comes back the next day and holds a presentation similar in content to Cruz’ ramblings, if perhaps with a little more eloquence.
    Does anybody believe that Landsburg would say: “Wow, that guy’s presidential material!”?

    Cruz doesn’t know jack s+++ about economics. But he has a plan to completely overhaul the economic policy of the US. Oh yes, he has a plan. God help us all if he ever gets to implement it.

  97. 97 97 Sub Specie Æternitatis

    @Bob Murphy:

    Good thing you are here. Even in your absence, you have come up in the comments on this post.

  98. 98 98 Steve Landsburg

    Bob Murphy (#92):

    1) Yes, I would *VASTLY* prefer Clinton/Bush to Trump,for a variety of reasons. Key among them is, as you put it “minimizing mean square destruction”. Trump, if elected, is probably Berlusconi but plausibly Mussolini.

    2) Another reason: With Trump in the White House, I think the most plausible scenario is that nobody in power opposes him from the right. The Republicans crumble and fall into line; the Democrats are delighted with his anti-trade pro-regulation pro-tax statism. With Hilary in the White House, there will be congressional opposition and, thank God, probable deadlock.

    3) Yes, I’m sure that a Clinton/Bush ticket will fire up the Trump voters as you say, but I don’t see where it brings in any *new* Trump voters. At the same time, it gives the vast army of anti-Trump Republicans psychological cover for voting for a Democrat. So I think it locks up the election for Clinton.

    In short: I’m saying that this would be both good strategy for Clinton and very good for the country. (Where “very good”, of course, is relative to the realistic alternatives, not to anything I’d design.)

  99. 99 99 Henri Hein

    I don’t know if I would say that I understand money as such, despite the fact that I’ve been studying the issue for over a decade. But then I’ve gotten the impression during that time that most economists don’t understand it, either. Not really. Thinking about the more complex questions of money and the money supply has a way of twisting your brain into a pretzel.

    I’m with you there. I heard someone say that monetary theory is like quantum mechanics: if you claim to understand it, you probably don’t. That’s how I think about it.

    You might be right about the gold standard. I may just have gotten the wrong impression from reading too much Jeffrey Hummel lately. (I should clarify that I don’t actually know Hummel supports the gold standard, but he certainly expends verbiage to convince us it’s not as bad as it’s generally made out to be).

  100. 100 100 Sub Specie Æternitatis

    I heard someone say that monetary theory is like quantum mechanics: if you claim to understand it, you probably don’t. That’s how I think about it.

    I don’t think that’s true. Quantum mechanics isn’t easy, particularly if you find it hard to let go of the notion that at a bottom, everything must be little balls bouncing around kinda like the macroscopic ones you are familiar with.

    But once you accept that at bottom it is just a mathematical game which can be sometimes lengthy process produce numbers you can compare to the real world and to which the only reliably guide is its own internal logic rather than your intuition about the way macroscopic objects usually behave, it is not that hard to learn.

    And, importantly, everybody who has learned QM agrees with everybody else who has learned QM about the results to be expected in all common situations. Macroeconomists wish they were so lucky.

  101. 101 101 Bob Murphy

    BTW why are you guys spelling it “Hilary”? It’s Hilary Swank, and Hilary Duff, but it’s Hillary Clinton.

  102. 102 102 Ken B

    I must object to 98 para 1. Mussolini was a murderer, who incited violence against his opponents. The comparison is invidious. It is especially objectionable considering the violence we have seen against Trump supporters, but not by them.

  103. 103 103 Advo

    @SSA 84:

    You are too kind. I wouldn’t claim that you are intellectually superior to Cruz, but it is clear that you are a great deal more intelligent than you consider Cruz to be. Being able to argue with you, without resorting to name-calling or insult, has been a pleasure.

    Thank you :)
    And let me return that compliment. It is a rare pleasure to have such a discussion with someone. The best thing, to be honest, is that there’s so many obviously irrelevant counterarguments you DON’T make. Usually I have to explain my arguments in extremely fine detail…and even then, it hardly ever sticks…
    You tend think a few steps ahead, and you make valid counterpoints I hadn’t thought of. I’m so unused to that :)
    It’s not only you, of course, this blog and this forum are something of a rarity on the internet.

    But what does that say about politicians, like Ms. Clinton, who endorse minimum-wage or rent-control laws? Surely the economic case against price controls is vastly stronger and simpler than the case against the gold standard.

    1. As to rent-control, I’ve googled for Clinton and “rent-control” and had absolutely no luck finding anything. Only one vague allusion on some blog somewhere. Do you know what she said in that regard specifically?
    While rent-control is generally deeply stupid, there is at least one form that makes sense – you can limit rent increases on new leases after year 1 for a few years, so that a tenant has the certainty that the rent on his new lease won’t suddenly start going up by double digits after year 1. This very limited form of rent-control improves market transparency.

    2. As to the minimum wage, I AM A GREAT FAN OF IT. Within reason, of course. Minimum wage laws appear to have only negligible impact on employment and I believe that they substantially add to overall utility, i.e. the costs they inflict on the employer are lower than the benefit they bring to the employee. A lot of the wage gain is actually a free lunch. Also, raising the minimum wage drives productivity improvements.
    Here’s a good study on the topic:

    http://cepr.net/documents/publications/min-wage-2013-02.pdf

    3. What Hillary thinks or knows about economics is far less important than what Cruz thinks and knows about economics.
    Why? Because Hillary doesn’t want to fundamentally overturn economic policy in the US, whereas Cruz does.
    Here’s Hillary’s economic plan:

    https://www.hillaryclinton.com/issues/plan-raise-american-incomes/

    I think you’ll agree that none of these policy proposals will melt down the US economy. It’s all tinkering around the edges, and so Hillary’s economic expertise or lack thereof isn’t THAT important.

    But what about Cruz? He wants to abolish various government departments outright and comprehensively deregulate the economy. But as we discussed above at the example of the pharmaceutical industry and the patent industry, deregulation doesn’t necessarily lead to good outcomes (to put it mildly). And if Cruz doesn’t know what he’s doing, you can bet that things will go badly.

    The most important example is, of course, financial deregulation.
    Cruz wants to deregulate Wall Street and prevent any bailouts. From historic experience, the typical outcome of financial deregulation is a financial meltdown. For details, read Reinhart/Rogoff “This Time is Different”.
    I’m sure you could carefully deregulate Wall Street – or rather, regulate it differently than how it is currently regulated. I’m partial to the idea of attaching personal liability to the executives of financial institutions, for example. I’m sure you have your own ideas, you wouldn’t just deregulate and see what happens…right? Before you tell me that’s exactly what you would like to do, please read Reinhart/Rogoff and see what you think then.

    Cruz doesn’t understand economic history, and he doesn’t understand economics. It’s not only the thing with the gold standard, it’s also the simple fact that he hasn’t given any indication that he understands the grave risks involved with financial sector deregulation and he hasn’t said anything about what kind of regulatory regime he would put in place of the existing one. I guess he wouldn’t replace it with anything.
    At least that’s what you have to assume. You can’t just HOPE that he has a clue and a plan, because if you’re wrong, then the likely outcome will be cumulative losses in economic output in the tens of trillions of dollars over the next twenty years.
    That’s not hyperbole, that’s merely saying that this time will not be different.

    I’m sure Cruz is a brilliant lawyer, but he obviously doesn’t know economics and he appears to be incapable of learning it due to his ideological conviction (fanaticism).

  104. 104 104 Advo

    To elaborate on rent control:
    Rent control (or, as it is preferably called in this context, “rent regulation”) can be beneficial if you set the price cap AT OR ABOVE the market rent.
    But what sense would that make?
    It works like this:
    Once the tenant has moved in, he has incurred substantial sunk costs. Looking for an apartment is time-intensive and annoying. Moving is expensive. In many ways, moving is also somewhat traumatic if you’re used to your home.
    An unscrupulous landlord can leverage your “sunk costs” and your emotional attachment to raise the rent above market level.
    Of course it’s possible to impose contractual limits on rent increases. But that has two problems: 1. it may not be done even if it makes sense 2. this will prevent the rent from adjusting in line with the market.

    A government-imposed cap on rent increases in line with the development of the overall market can thus lead to a better outcome by preventing abuses while allowing market price adjustments.

  105. 105 105 nobody.really

    Why would people on this libertarian-ish web site identify Clinton/Bush as the dream ticket—when you could be voting Libertarian: Johnson/Weld!

    Come on, say it with me: “Feel the Johnson!

    (…you know you want to.…)

  106. 106 106 iceman

    Advo – “A government-imposed cap on rent increases in line with the development of the overall market”

    My circularity alarm is going off. The more binding your cap is, the more it will shape the “market” trend.
    To say nothing of the trust you’re placing in bureaucrats to make all of the idiosyncratic adjustments for particular properties.
    Sure moving is no fun, but at some point we have to treat people like adults…or the argument for the paternalistic state becomes self-fulfilling.

    This ties in with the main problem I see with your general faith in regulation (see #45): comparing alleged real-world failings of ‘markets’ (people) with an idealized vision of govt. (people). Often this seems based on what I call the fallacy of omniscience, strangely used by people who tend to dismiss the ideas of objective truth and perfect information in other areas.

    I’m generally a big fan of informing people…and then letting them make choices.
    It would be great if regulations could go further and prevent problems ex ante, but all-knowing, objective (e.g. non-captured) regulators are the analogue of the hyper-rational homo economicus.
    If our knowledge is constantly evolving (often flip-flopping, even in seemingly mundane areas like nutrition), who’s to say for sure that someone can’t benefit from something? (As I think SSA mentioned, even psychological benefits have utility.)
    Meanwhile admitting fallibility means we need to consider the potential for the air of authority to create a false sense of security (this applies to financial markets in spades as well).

    Fraud isn’t a market failure either, it’s a crime, and as with pollution, the optimum level is probably not zero – which isn’t achievable anyway with or without regulations.
    And if (as is my guess) regulators are usually reacting to events, the legal system does that too…so is the advantage of regulations that they reduce friction costs? If this is equivalent to saying they indemnify companies (“hey I was in compliance”), that may be a perverse incentive.
    And we’ve already discussed the risk-averse bureaucratic incentive – I would think much more often the benefits aren’t crystal clear and, perhaps more importantly, visible to the public.
    And…I gotta go, enjoying this thread

  107. 107 107 Advo

    Iceman:
    My circularity alarm is going off. The more binding your cap is, the more it will shape the “market” trend.
    To say nothing of the trust you’re placing in bureaucrats to make all of the idiosyncratic adjustments for particular properties.

    I don’t suppose I expressed myself clearly: The idea is to establish the average market rent per sqm for the year for a certain area based on new rental contracts and subtract the average market rent for the previous year. You can do some quality adjustments e.g. for the age of the units.
    This % difference would then limit increases on existing leases.
    No cap is imposed on new leases.
    I’m not really very engaged with this concept, I haven’t looked into this topic too much. My point was that there are forms of rent control which are at least defensible and not a priori idiotic like the first generation rent control mechanisms which in their effect often resembled a slow-motion carpet bombing of an area.

    Often this seems based on what I call the fallacy of omniscience, strangely used by people who tend to dismiss the ideas of objective truth and perfect information in other areas.

    I’m generally a big fan of informing people…and then letting them make choices.

    It’s not so much that I believe that the government is omniscient in absolute terms, it’s that it tends to be so much better informed than the average consumer, and that for a consumer, the cost of becoming informed is very often prohibitive.
    A good example is Landsburg’s lifeboats for the Titanic post from a few years ago (it dealt with the question whether or not the expense of having sufficient lifeboats to carry all passengers was worth it). If you look at the numbers, you’ll find that the cost a prospective passenger incurs when he even just THINKS about whether or not he would prefer a lifeboat or a lower ticket price is MUCH higher than the (pro-rated) cost of the actual lifeboat (even ignoring the fact that Landsburg drastically underestimated just how well creosote/carbolineum preserve wood).

    http://www.thebigquestions.com/2012/04/16/lifeboats-on-the-titanic/

    And this is just one tiny little problem. Consider the complexity of the modern economy and just how many of such problems you’d potentially be faced with on a daily basis in a libertarian economy, or even in a substantially deregulated economy a lá Cruz.

    It would be great if regulations could go further and prevent problems ex ante, but all-knowing, objective (e.g. non-captured) regulators are the analogue of the hyper-rational homo economicus.

    I suppose if the biggest failing of conservatives is their underestimation/ignorance of information problems, the liberals’ failing is ignoring (in their policy ideas) the issue of regulatory capture.
    That said, I’d argue that the problem of regulatory capture, as it presents itself in the US, is largely due to the system of campaign financing, which amounts to institutionalized corruption, as well as the anti-government crusade of the right wing, which seems to be designed to demoralize and wreck all government institutions, then put them to work for the GOP’s donor base. The GOP establishment seems to regard regulatory capture as a positive policy goal, rather than as a problem to be avoided.
    I don’t think that most other developed nations face anywhere near the level of problems with regard to this issue that you find in the US.

  108. 108 108 Advo

    In the presence of systemic regulatory capture such as you face in the US, deregulation isn’t a panacea, because of course this deregulation will then go very much the way special interests want, so you potentially end up with a substantially worse regulatory regimen than you had in the first place.

  109. 109 109 Advo

    Texas governor Abbott self-mutilates to avoid Trump convention; is that cowardice or bravery?

    http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2016/07/13/texas-gov-abbott-to-miss-republican-convention-after-suffering-severe-burns.html

  110. 110 110 iceman

    Dark humor…105 was funny tho

    “[Govt] tends to be so much better informed than the average consumer…consider the complexity of the modern economy”

    Isn’t this the thinking that led people to believe input-output tables could supersede the price system? The point there is that not even a team of learned experts (whose other incentives and motivations we’ll assume are pure and objective) can hope to process the information contained in the hundreds / thousands / millions of interactions (views, opinions, expectations, knowledge of unique circumstances) that constitute a price? Part of this may be that there is no “average” consumer.
    I would argue in this context greater complexity only makes the task more futile for the bureaucrats.
    However, again where they can play a helpful role by adding information to the process, by all means…

    Interestingly, speaking of the Titanic this appears to be an excellent example of the false sense of regulatory security I mentioned, as someone posted:
    “Yet the Titanic was fully compliant with all marine laws. The British Board of Trade required all vessels above 10,000 metric
    tonnes (11,023 U.S. tons) to carry 16 lifeboats. The White Star Line ensured that the Titanic exceeded the requirements by four
    boats. But the ship was 46,328 tonnes. The Board of Trade hadn’t updated its regulations for nearly 20 years.”
    Perhaps beside your point but as some alluded to, what I think the premise of that post was missing was that it was reasonably expected that the ship would be travelling in areas where marine traffic was sufficient that everyone was effectively guaranteed a seat on a lifeboat.

  111. 111 111 Advo

    Isn’t this the thinking that led people to believe input-output tables could supersede the price system? The point there is that not even a team of learned experts (whose other incentives and motivations we’ll assume are pure and objective) can hope to process the information contained in the hundreds / thousands / millions of interactions (views, opinions, expectations, knowledge of unique circumstances) that constitute a price? Part of this may be that there is no “average” consumer.

    The Titanic lifeboat information problem is kind of the opposite of the social calculation problem.
    In the social calculation problem, the government seeks to supersede the guy with the information, the seller. In the Titanic information problem, the government seeks to supersede the buyer, i.e. the guy who doesn’t have the information.
    In the former case, the government is less effective/efficient because it is at an information disadvantage; in the latter case, the government is at an information advantage, because it has means to get the information that the buyer doesn’t have, and of course if a multitude of buyers has to procure and process the same information that’s much less efficient than if the government does it once.
    You are of course right that in some cases the buyer will have some information that the government doesn’t have.
    In the Titanic example the only scenario where that would be the case is if the buyer was suicidal, I guess, or possibly a fish or a walrus or something. (This may sound really silly, but is intended to illuminate the point you alluded to).
    I understand that the one-size-fits-all approach that government must necessarily take in many circumstances can lead to substantial inefficiences.
    But I believe that this kind of thing is a small price to pay, because I am fairly certain that the economy overall would be far smaller and we’d all be much poorer without the existing comprehensive regulatory regime freeing us from the gigantic information costs we would otherwise incur.

  112. 112 112 nobody.really

    American Univerity’s Joseph Young comes out in favor of a Unity Ticket.

    [A] Unity Ticket is revolutionary in that it upends the standard operating procedures in Washington. But isn’t that what voters want? Isn’t that what America needs?

    After all, would Clinton/Kasich slow Washington down further? Would Clinton/Rice make the world more dangerous? For that matter, imagine for a moment a Clinton/Ryan ticket.

  113. 113 113 iceman

    111 – remind me again how we ever figure out what the price of an unregulated apple should be? Or maybe I shouldn’t buy any at any price because if my ship sinks tomorrow they’ll all just rot in my fridge. What to do? I can’t decide.

    Partly kidding – I agree there’s a case for regulation where there are large asymmetries with severe risks. But your rhetoric seems to over-generalize the case, and perhaps even overstate the benefits where regulation is justified.
    Food might actually be the best example I can think of: while the buyers can’t know if a restaurant is taking proper precautions, they do know the seller has a strong incentive to avoid an outbreak of food poisoning since reputational damage and/or lawsuits could destroy them.
    So maybe at best well-designed regulations prevent a single incident, since once something happens the information is out there for everyone to react to, regulators included.
    And from there it seems we’re in your social calculation mode — the seller likely has better knowledge of what are reasonable measures for their situation, defined as offering more risk reduction than they cost.
    In which case all the bureaucrat can add is mandating things that cost the seller — and therefore the buyers — more than they’re worth.
    I’d imagine the counter-argument would have to have something to do with the idea that there are sellers out there who want to start restaurants cheaply, roll the dice, walk away and start over somewhere else.
    Again I think this reflects a general under-appreciation of the role reputational value plays in market economies.

  114. 114 114 Advo

    Food might actually be the best example I can think of: while the buyers can’t know if a restaurant is taking proper precautions, they do know the seller has a strong incentive to avoid an outbreak of food poisoning since reputational damage and/or lawsuits could destroy them.

    Iceman, it seems to me that you haven’t spent a lot of time living in a developing nation. I live in the Philippines, and let me tell you, it doesn’t seem to work like that in practice. Why do you think the food and restaurant industries in the US got subjected to so much government oversight in the first place?
    I’ll elaborate some more on the topic later today.
    Here’s a video from when I used to live on Boracay:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AAbMK6FD7Ic

  115. 115 115 Advo

    Here’s how food safety works in reality:

    You develop food poisoning.
    How do you know who to sue? Was it the tap water? The restaurant you went to yesterday? This morning’s sausage? Yesterday’s yogurt? Did you just handle your food wrong?
    I have been sensitized to the problem of food safety since I moved to the Philippines and I realize now just how impossible it is to find out what caused a rash or diarrhea (the latter of which occur MUCH more frequently than in Europe).
    And that is relatively straight forward.
    Consider that there are a great many chemicals and substances that will cause damage only after prolonged exposure or years or decades after exposure.
    Imagine you get cancer. How do you know it was caused by the coloring in the sausage you used to eat frequently ten years ago? How do you know it wasn’t the fact that your favorite restaurant had a massive mold problem in its kitchen? Or that your drywall is exuding carcinogenic fumes?

    The reason why every single Western country has food safety regulation and supervision is not the employment of otherwise unemployed bureaucrats. The reason is that without government supervision and enforcement, food safety sucks.

    Just consider this simple question next time you’re in a restaurant:
    Given that you have no way of finding out, what kind of cooking oil is the restaurant probably going to use, heart-healthy extra virgin olive oil that costs two cents extra or cheap crap loaded with unhealthy transfats?

  116. 116 116 nobody.really

    The GOP finally crushes the #NeverTrump movement, and Trump has named a VP. As a result:

    • If you go to the GOP Convention, you will hear Trump/Pence sound.
    • In their more genteel moments, they may serve tea and Trump/Pence.
    • And since self-destruction seems to be the GOP’s dearest wish, come Election Day, come hell or high water, they will get the come-Trump/Pence they so richly deserve.

  117. 117 117 iceman

    I suppose it’ll cost a thruppence to go see Trump-Pence?

    Advo – I understand, what I meant was food safety is the best example I could think of for where regulation is justified. And yes I have more developed countries in mind. But here’s also how it generally works in the real world: A single person doesn’t come down with food poisoning, enough people do that we can often trace to common factors like they all ate at the same place. Even a huge chain like say Chipotle, which has been paying a steep price. And of course in underdeveloped countries lost jobs and higher prices from overly burdensome regulations are that much more costly to real people.

  118. 118 118 Advo

    Advo – I understand, what I meant was food safety is the best example I could think of for where regulation is justified.

    Ah. Because what you said sounded like the opposite.

    that we can often trace to common factors like they all ate at the same place.

    Who is this “we” who does the tracing?

    Here’s an even better example for information asymmetry – radiation from imaging. The patient doesn’t know and the service-provider doesn’t give a s+++.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/how-much-to-worry-about-the-radiation-from-ct-scans/2016/01/04/8dfb80cc-8a30-11e5-be39-0034bb576eee_story.html

    “There’s no standardization of how these exams get conducted,” Smith-Bindman said. “There’s no oversight and no one’s responsible for this.”

    Recently, she said, she spoke to a group of 300 radiology technologists and was “dumbfounded” by their questions. One asked her, “How do I pick a dose?” The technologist said she had devised her facility’s CT protocol, a job that is supposed to be performed by radiologists. Another said that in her hospital, “no one cares” about radiation doses.

  119. 119 119 nobody.really

    For your pre-convention reading pleasure, here’s an excerpt from ABC News’s ongoing series, DIVIDED AMERICA: To Some, Trump Is a Desperate Survival Bid:

    The population of Logan County [West Virginia] is … half what it was 50 years ago. [O]ne in five lives in poverty; few have college degrees. Drug abuse is rampant. [Men] die eight years younger than the average American man.

    Even cremations are up at the funeral home down the street. People can’t afford caskets anymore….

    The unemployment rate is 11 percent, compared to less than 5 percent nationwide. Many have given up working altogether: West Virginia is the only state in America where less than half of working-aged people work. More than 12 percent of Logan County residents collect Social Security disability checks, three times the national average.

    They gave up on their politicians — they elected both Republicans and Democrats and believe both failed them in favor of chasing campaign contributions from the class above them and votes from the one below, the neighbors they suspect would rather collect government welfare than get a job.

    Anxiety turned to despair…. And desperate people, throughout history, have turned to tough-talking populists….

    “[Trump] offers us hope … and hope’s the one thing we have left.”
    * * *
    “[N]ostalgia voters…” [see] an uneven recovery from the recession lined up with societal shifts — the election of the first non-white president, a rising minority population, the decreasing influence of Christian values. It left many in struggling, blue-collar communities across the country feeling deserted for the sake of progress someplace else.

    “Today, we’re not interested in the plan, we’re interested in the slogan…. When confidence falls, it’s all too complicated to understand an elaborate plan or an articulated policy. We don’t want to wait for the details; we don’t want to read the footnotes. Just give me a powerful headline.”
    * * *
    “I don’t know exactly what’s in [Trump’s] head, what his vision is for us…. But I know he has one and that’s what counts.”
    * * *
    People like Trump’s delivery, the rat-a-tat-tat of promises and insults so unscripted they figure he couldn’t have given it enough forethought to be pandering.
    * * *
    [These voters aren’t blind; they acknowledge Trump’s shortcomings, but are] willing to forgive because they believe the political machine left them with no other option.

  120. 120 120 iceman

    Pretty quiet out here.
    118 – sorry I was trying to say two things at once: food safety is the best case I can think of FOR regulation, AND even in that case the actual benefits are probably more modest than we might think. (Finding “tracers” is usually not a problem with an enterprising media…and lawyers…eventually govt officials.)

    The radiation thing seems like another valid example, although I’m guessing part of the reason it wouldn’t get more scrutiny is the actual level of risk – ironically, as assessed here by the FDA:

    “The probability for absorbed x-rays to induce cancer or heritable mutations leading to genetically associated diseases in offspring is thought to be very small for radiation doses of the magnitude that are associated with CT procedures…Under some rare circumstances of prolonged, high-dose exposure, x-rays can cause other adverse health effects…but at the exposure levels associated with most medical imaging procedures, including most CT procedures, these other adverse effects do not occur.”

    Perhaps you believe this is a case where the FDA is creating a false sense of security?

    Moreover my guess is the vast majority of people will likely never have a CT scan.
    So I guess I’m going to need more to persuade me the economy would be “far” smaller and we would all be “much” poorer without the existing comprehensive regulatory regime. Again it’s one thing to inform people (I’m generally a fan of that), but the main goal of much regulation appears to be reducing risk by PRECLUDING some economic activity. In that sense we can have stronger growth or less risk but perhaps best to strike the right balance rather than pretend we can have both.

  121. 121 121 iceman

    We need a new thread, nobody.really has been trying, I’ll try too:

    Today’s objectivity test: however you feel about Melania’s speech-lifting yesterday, did you feel the same about “Just Words” in 2008?

  122. 122 122 Advo

    So I guess I’m going to need more to persuade me the economy would be “far” smaller and we would all be “much” poorer without the existing comprehensive regulatory regime.

    A big problem – perhaps the biggest problem – of an unregulated economy is the financial markets, or rather the lack thereof.
    In countries where they are not heavily regulated and well-policed, capital markets are fraudulent and small – a similar phenomenon to the patent industry/dietary supplement sector.

    The lack of efficient capital markets alone would have condemned the US to 2nd or 3rd world status.

  123. 123 123 Advo

    Patent MEDICINE industry, obviously.

  124. 124 124 Advo

    Perhaps you believe this is a case where the FDA is creating a false sense of security?

    No. The risks of CT imaging ARE low.
    In the worst case, a CT scan will perhaps have a 1:500 chance of killing the patient (young woman, chest CT, high dosage).
    Mostly, the risk is much lower.
    HOWEVER, while the risks are relatively low, they are, on average, WAY higher than they should be, and that likely causes somewhere between a few thousand and a few tens of thousands of deaths per year.
    This is inefficient.

    I don’t think I’m properly communicating my larger point – this is about efficiency.
    This is one little bit of inefficiency. It is just an example for the kind of inefficient result you get in the absence of regulation.
    In the absence of government regulation, you would be exposed to a great deal more toxic chemicals not only through your food but through many of the products you daily come in contact with.
    Service providers would take advantage of you and many goods and services you bought would just be a crapshoot.

  125. 125 125 Advo

    @iceman:
    Basically, right-wingers make the mistake of looking at an example like the one with the CT scanners and see it as a unique problem, rather than as an example for a fundamental phenomenon which affects all economic activity.

    They make the same mistake when looking at financial crises, always looking for specific circumstances (in particular government policies) which shaped this or that particular crisis, failing (or not wanting) to understand that financial crises are an inevitable occurence in a competitive, dynamic financial system which has not been sufficiently hamstrung by the heavy hand of government (does that qualify as mixing metaphors?).

  126. 126 126 iceman

    I could agree with much of what you say, in theory – and in some cases, maybe govt regulators can actually provide just the right, efficient touch with their guiding hand.
    But a very good reason to take things case-by-case is that what proponents of govt seem to miss is that graft, corruption, coopting / creeping of missions, incentives skewed toward risk aversion, doing things for feel-good / sound-good reasons, and plain old incompetence / indifference are inherent and inevitable facets of the incentives that human bureaucrats face. All of that argues strongly against efficiency, which is not a word often used in association with govt, for good reason. At best unclear and seems like a tough case to make that regulations are a net plus for economic growth and efficiency. At the same time again it’s fine to say “but we need to protect people”. I also think you continue to under-estimate the role of reputational value in “free” commerce…”fool me once” is not a strategy that leads to a high stock price.

    BTW in my experience financial crises always have govt fingerprints all over them as well, but that’s a whole other topic.

  127. 127 127 Advo

    I also think you continue to under-estimate the role of reputational value in “free” commerce…”fool me once” is not a strategy that leads to a high stock price.

    Have you read “Reinventing the Bazaar”?
    It’s been a while since I read it, but I believe that it explains the limits of self-regulation quite well, or at least provides a lot of material showing those limits. I recall that it could have benefited from a bit more structure, but it was still a very good book.

    BTW in my experience financial crises always have govt fingerprints all over them as well,

    Of course they do.
    That is because the banks/shadow banks always seek to maximize their profits within the constraints of prevailing regulatory environment.
    And if that regulatory environment is insufficiently restrictive to prevent them from blowing themselves up, it will still substantially shape just how the banks go about it.
    In any industrialized economy, the government is intervening in every economic activity to some degree. It taxes, regulates liability, emissions, disclosure, it standardizes, builds or regulates infrastructure etc.
    Because of this, anything that goes wrong in the economy will have the government’s fingerprints on it somewhere, and if you want to, you can always conclude that the government caused the problem.
    Libertarians want to reach that conclusion very much and inevitably do.

    Many (you?)look at the specific way the financial sector blew itself up and conclude that, because that specific way was influenced by regulation and government intervention, that means regulation and other government intervention caused the banks to blow themselves up.
    That is not the case, however.
    The truth is that a dynamic and competitive banking system is ALWAYS evolving towards blow-up, as (during normal economic times) taking more risk leads to higher growth, and so the fools among the bankers have a competitive advantage until there are too many of them, which destabilizes the system and causes a blowup.

    This quasi-darwinian process, which works through organic growth of aggressive companies, promotion of greedy and myopic individuals through the hierarchy, adoption of greedy and myopic business plans and takeovers of conservative companies by more aggressive actors, is what drives the Financial Disaster Cycle.

  128. 128 128 iceman

    OK on to the whole other topic :)
    I confess it seems most times I dig a little deeper into “market” problems / failures I find govt fingerprints that made things worse, and sometimes were necessarily causal. Of course we have to be careful of finding what we’re looking for, and this applies to both sides: a more cynical (read: realistic) view of govt is that it’s in the business of needing problems to “fix”. You seem to have the opposite inclination to take a more charitable view of govt than of markets.
    Certainly the financial system is another case where most people would agree some regulation is necessary. And yet stepping back it sure seems like the risks have become more systemic over time; moral hazard grows with each bailout sowing the seeds for the next; easy money (in an endless quest for smoothing) has to flow somewhere; deposit insurance means no one cares where they put it. My reading of the S&L crisis is that it was rooted in anachronistic regulation (ceilings on deposit rates). Another interesting factoid I’ve read many times is that no Canadian banks went bust during the Depression, the main difference being they did not have our interstate banking restrictions.
    So to me it’s very much an open question which way our good regulatory intentions have led us on net over the long run.

    One thing I think everyone agrees on is IF we’re going to subsidize banks, we have to regulate them. The question is at what point should we go back and take a closer look at the IF part.

  1. 1 Steve Landsburg and I Disagree About Politics
Comments are currently closed.