Elizabeth Warren, Harvard law professor and former Obama administration regulator (for consumer protection), is modern liberalism incarnate. As she seeks the Senate seat Democrats held for 57 years before 2010, when Republican Scott Brown impertinently won it, she clarifies the liberal project and the stakes of contemporary politics.
The project is to dilute the concept of individualism, thereby refuting respect for the individual’s zone of sovereignty. The regulatory state, liberalism’s instrument, constantly tries to contract that zone — for the individual’s own good, it says.
It gets better. Read the whole thing.
In this article in the October 2011 issue of the Wiley-Blackwell journal from the Institute of Economic Affairs, Economic Affairs, I ask – and attempt to answer – the question that is its title: “Do Subsidies Justify Retaliatory Protectionism?” Here’s the abstract:
A theoretical case can be made to justify trade protectionism on the ground that foreign governments are subsidising export industries. This case is based on overall international welfare grounds. However, the country receiving the subsidised products benefits from the subsidies. Furthermore, imposing retaliatory protectionist measures risks encouraging rent-seeking behaviour. In practice, it is impossible to define exactly what behaviour does and does not amount to the grant of subsidies by the government of an exporting country.
As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been collecting stuff on kids and their economic well-being. Here are a couple of figures that provide an intersection of a number of points I’ve tried to stress a lot in recent weeks.
It’s just a simple plot of real median income for families with kids, 1989-2010, followed by two bars showing the trough to peak of income growth in the two recovery periods.
The difference between how middle-income families fared in these two periods is really quite remarkable. I mean, when it comes to income growth, there are always lots of moving parts, but at first blush, if you’re a middle-income family with kids, you might want to keep these pictures in your mind when listening to the economic agendas of those who would be President.
That is, it’s hard to take seriously those who claim that “supply-side” tax cuts, as in the Bush years—large breaks tilted toward the top that are supposed to trickle down to the middle—will deliver for the middle class, compared to the more progressive tax regime of the Clinton years. It’s even harder to imagine how “shuddering the EPA” will make the difference.
There were important, real differences between these periods: the job market was much tighter in the former decade, job growth was about four times as fast on an annualized basis—importantly, the 1990s recovery lasted longer than that of the 2000s, in part because the only way for many families to get ahead amidst the flat income growth of the latter period was through cheap, easy credit. (In other words, there’s a linkage here between flat middle class incomes, the debt bubble, and the big crash.)
And then there’s a graph showing that the median family income fell between 1989 and 1992, grew steadily between 1992 and 2000, then fell or slumped between 2000 and 2010.
Aha! Trickle-down doesn’t work! When Republicans are in power, the middle class suffers! Democrats with high tax rates are good for the middle class!
There is a name for this kind of thinking: post hoc, ergo propter hoc–after this, therefore because of this. Understanding that this is a fallacy, that more than one thing is happening in the world is part of the economic way of thinking. Bernstein mentions this (“there are lots of moving parts”) but he keeps going anyway.
He also wants to sell this idea that we’re going to hear incessantly for the next 13 months that the middle class had to borrow a lot of money because they weren’t getting richer. This is a convenient story that removes any responsibility for the crisis from those who relentlessly encouraged government policies that encouraged debt artificially.
Another way to understand Bernstein’s mistake is remember that correlation is not causation.
I have an even better argument against tax cuts for the rich. According to Bernstein’s logic, they don’t even work for the rich.
If you look at the mean income for the top 20% of all families, it also shrinks between 1989 and 1992, grows between 1992 and 2000 and falls between 2000 and 2010. So those tax cuts for the rich didn’t even help the rich. Kind of ruins the class warfare story, doesn’t it? (I hope to get some graphs up on this in a later post.) The same results hold for the top 5%. Data are here–use the numbers corrected for inflation.
Maybe, just maybe, other factors than tax policy explain our financial well-being.
In my twitter feed, some of the same people who mindlessly bash the super-rich are praising Steve Jobs. It’s important to make distinctions.
Andrew Bolt – Friday, October 07, 11 (05:37 am)
It’s actually a bit freaky:
Steve Jobs has been mourned around the world through the very devices he conceived: People held up pictures of candles on their iPads, reviewed his life on Macintosh computers and tapped out tributes on iPhones.
One day after his death, two days after Apple introduced the latest incarnation of a touch-screen phone that touched pop culture, sadness and admiration poured out - not for a rock star, not for a religious figure, but for an American corporate executive.
“He was a genius,” Rosario Hidalgo said outside an Apple Store on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, while her daughter, 21-month-old Carlotta, used an iPhone to play an app that teaches children to match animal sounds to animal pictures.
Gavin Dunaway tries to resist the deification of Steve Jobs, with only partial success:
The deification of Jobs drove me nuts, symbolic of a disturbing trend of idolization driven by omnipresent media. The cult of Mac and the Apple worshippers still freak me out – it’s just technology, folks. Steve Jobs was a man — a brilliant man that led a company full of brilliant souls back from the dead to rule the field of consumer electronics.
Disagree if you must, but the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad are the standard models for their device fields. Sure, other digital music players, smartphones and tablet computers existed before, but Jobs & crew revolutionized the user interface/user experience. It wasn’t surprising as they did the same thing for personal computers with the Mac OS. Much of the functionality was there for such devices, only using them delivered migraines. That was Jobs’ true genius — fantastic insight into UX configuration.
Now you really can’t look at or use any (quality) portable MP3 player, smartphone or tablet without recognizing its roots in Apple products — and by extension, Jobs…
With Steve Jobs’ death, we’ve lost a beacon in the disorienting world of technological innovation, a visionary who made constantly evolving digital tools accessible to the masses. For better or worse, Apple’s innovations empowered consumers with the connectivity that had long been the stuff of science fiction.
It’s astonishing that Jobs, himself a very private person, is felt to have such an intimate connection with millions of people whose only interaction actually with him is to buy one of his gizmos.
I wonder what’s created this bond? I suspect one part of it is the almost intuitive way that his most memorable products - the iPhone and iPad - work. That intuitivity suggests that the products, and Jobs, “get” you, and they also make you more in command of technology that can seem otherwise utterly bewildering. Just the other night, I tried to play something on my too-long dormant stereo for a guest and couldn’t remember which of the nearly 40 buttons on the handset would play the bit of the machine I wanted.
Jobs would never made such a clumsy design flaw. He understood. He was on your side. He put you more in control.
And he could preach this message of self-creation and empowerment brilliantly, and especially to those who imagine themselves as geeks and nerds - not socially adept:
Yet this Jobs worship reminds me of his famous 1984 advertisement announcing the arrival of the Apple Macintosh - and a genuine challenge to IBM. Except, of course, it’s now Jobs up on that screen:
Andrew Bolt – Friday, October 07, 11 (05:31 am)
The good news for Julia Gillard is that the reporting of Graham Richardson’s comments is relatively brief, as if of little account:
JULIA Gillard has dismissed the latest speculation about her leadership as insider gossip.
Fending off questions about former ALP powerbroker Graham Richardson’s claim on his Sky TV program that Victorian MP Alan Griffin was ringing around for Kevin Rudd, she said, ‘’I’ll let the ex-Labor politicians and the commentators all chatter about that.’’
Neither Mr Griffin nor Senator Mark Bishop, also named by Mr Richardson as a Rudd promoter, commented publicly. Mr Griffin has denied to associates that he has been doing a ring-around.
The Rudd camp does not want to stir the leadership at this point; it believes the polls will remain bad for Ms Gillard, which will build the former PM’s support in caucus.
The bad news is that the reporting is brief because Richardson’s assessment - and the low-level plotting - is now a common-place. Still, if there’s space now left over for other messages…
Andrew Bolt – Friday, October 07, 11 (04:55 am)
What the High Court has ruled, I believe, is that identity trumps biology:
The transsexuals, whose identities remain anonymous, are now eligible for birth certificates declaring they are men, even though they have not undergone surgery to remove their uterus and ovaries, or penis-construction surgery, known as phalloplasty…
The pair told the tribunal they had identified as male from a young age and were diagnosed with ``gender dysphoria’’ or a desire to possess the body of the opposite sex.
A similar instance where an originally biological definition is being replaced with a social one :
The Government is considering the option of “parent 1” and “parent 2”, in addition to mother and father, on Australian passport application forms.
Gay rights groups applauded the potential for gender-neutral forms when a new electronic passport application system is introduced, but family groups expressed concern…
The UK will make a similar change by December after pressure from gay lobby groups.
The US this year dropped mother and father from passport applications.
There is a third instance, in my opinion, but one now too legally risky to discuss.
Andrew Bolt – Friday, October 07, 11 (04:51 am)
I’d be nervous if I were Clubs Australia:
THE Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, will not pledge to unwind restrictions the Labor government may place on poker machines, despite the Coalition being in lock-step with the clubs and hotel industries in their fight against the proposal…
‘’Please don’t try to put me on the spot for something that hasn’t happened,’’ he said yesterday under repeated questioning.
‘’We haven’t seen the legislation, we don’t know the mechanics of how it’s supposed to work, it hasn’t gone through our formal Liberal Party and Coalition processes.
‘’I don’t think it’s going to happen.’’
Mr Abbott’s refusal to commit to unwinding reforms, should they proceed, has raised speculation he is trying to stay on side with the Tasmanian independent MP, Andrew Wilkie, in the event Mr Wilkie decides to abandon the government.
Andrew Bolt – Friday, October 07, 11 (04:43 am)
Yes, there is much one could say about my argument and whether this spread from the Green Left Weekly rebuts it, but that could now be in breach of the Racial Discrimination Act, as interpreted in last month’s finding.
So no comments, either.
Andrew Bolt – Friday, October 07, 11 (04:33 am)
Much as I am suspicious of the institutionaling of what’s too often a particular ideological caste, it’s important that we don’t denigrate the symbols of what is meant to unite. So this small reversal of what’s been a dangerous “democratisation” is welcome:
Premier Barry O’Farrell will today announce that he will reverse the decision of former Premier Bob Carr in 1996 to have the governor live outside the residence on Macquarie St, arguing “a lot of people believe the governor should live at Government House, that’s what it was built for.”
Mr O’Farrell said he has been speaking for months to Ms Bashir about her returning to the residence and she and her husband, Sir Nicholas Shehadie, are set to move into the grounds before Christmas, living in an adjoining chalet before a proper refurbishment can be done to make government House a permanent residence.
But the public will also still be allowed access to Government House, the Premier will announce, to quell fears that a return of the governor’s office to the historic residence could stop tens of thousands of people from visiting the living monument.