I recently wrote that I am not fond of the tone of some comments but the costs of moderating comments is too high. Cameron Murray comments:
Nice to hear your view about how a highly regulated environment can improve quality. I wonder how many readers catch the irony.
Here at the ‘commenting free market’ we are finding outcomes most people don’t like, and looking at models of regulation that work.
The real world comes with all sorts of people too – perhaps regulation can provide beneficial outcomes more often than you think.
My house is a highly regulated environment. There is central planning. I don’t expect food to show up. I have to go to the grocery. I replace light bulbs that have burned out. I don’t expect them to replace themselves. I wash my clothes. I don’t expect them to wash themselves. We have lots of rules in my house. People eat together rather than whenever they want to. I sometimes ask my children to turn down the TV. There is a lot of sharing and egalitarianism in my house. That is not ironic given my views on public policy. Public policy and private policy are different and should be. There are important distinctions between a public and private environment. The incentives and tradeoffs and returns from regulation and planning are very different.
This blog belong to Don Boudreaux and me. The comment section has a publicness to it. But we are in charge of it to some extent. We can delete comments. We can ban people. We can set rules. We sometimes choose to do these things and sometimes do not. It would be bizarre to argue that we are inconsistent because we follow the conventions of grammar or civility in this private environment in ways that we would not want police to enforce in a public environment via the state.
Paul Krugman explains why he believes (his verb) in Keynesian economics.
A correspondent asks a good question: what evidence makes me believe that Keynesian economics is broadly right, given the relative absence of experience with large fiscal stimulus programs?
I’d answer that question with several points.
First, we’re talking about a model, not just a prediction about the impact of spending increases. So you can ask about the ancillary predictions of that model as opposed to rival models. Anti-Keynesians assured us that budget deficits would send interest rates soaring; Keynesian analysis said they’d stay low as long as the economy remained far from full employment. Guess who was right?
Krugman is a superb polemicist. He takes a single argument of anti-Keynesians and uses it to show us that Keynesian claims beyond the effects of stimulus spending are probably right. Does Krugman really believe that you can’t have high interest rates when there is high unemployment. The stagflation of the 1970s when there was high unemployment with high interest rates is one reason Keynesian went into disrepute.
Also, there are some features of the approach that can be tested separately. Keynesianism isn’t just about sticky prices, but it does generally assume sticky prices — and there is overwhelming evidence, from a variety of sources, that prices are indeed sticky.
This is an even better piece of polemicism than the first one. Keynesian models assume sticky prices, prices are sticky, therefore? Therefore what? Therefore Keynesian models have somewhat realistic assumptions. That isn’t the most convincing selling point.
Also also: there’s plenty of evidence that monetary policy can move output and employment — and it’s very hard to devise a model in which that is true that doesn’t also say that fiscal policy can be effective, especially when you’re up against the zero lower bound.
Yes, there is plenty of evidence that monetary policy can have real effects. So why isn’t there plenty of evidence of fiscal policy having real effects? He has to say that in the models (whose? which ones? All of them?) that presume monetary policy works, so does fiscal policy.
So his first point is that the model works well–it has correct implications in general, its assumptions (well one of them anyway) are realistic and if monetary policy works, fiscal policy should too.
Second, while we don’t have a lot of postwar experience with fiscal stimulus, we do have a lot of experience with anti-stimulus, that is, austerity — and that turns out to be reliably contractionary. Again, it’s hard to think of a model in which austerity is contractionary but stimulus isn’t expansionary.
Finally, there is evidence from fiscal expansions in the 1930s, which actually did lead to economic expansion too.
Mainly I’d stress the first point. We have a model of the way the world works, and the world does indeed seem to work that way. And an implication of that model is that fiscal stimulus will work under conditions like those we face now. If interest rates had soared, if the rise in base money had led to rising GDP and/or soaring prices despite the zero lower bound, I would have sat down to reconsider what I thought I knew about macroeconomics. In fact, however, my preferred model has passed the test of events with flying colors, while the other guys’ models have been totally wrong.
If I were defending Keynesian economics I guess I’d go with the first point, too. Because the empirical evidence he cites in his second point is very mixed. Krugman cites the studies that supports his view (as we all tend to do.) He leaves out the post-WW II expansion that followed huge cuts in government spending where the Keynesian predictions were totally wrong. He leaves out the stagflation of the 1970s. He leaves out all the studies that find a small multiplier (Barro and Redick, Ramey (who will be a guest on EconTalk in the next two weeks) and work by Alesina that shows that contractions in government spending (the austerity Krugman refers to) actually encourage economic growth.
The evidence for the Keynesian worldview is very mixed. Most economists come down in favor or against it because of their prior ideological beliefs. Krugman is a Keynesian because he wants bigger government. I’m an anti-Keynesian because I want smaller government. Both of us can find evidence for our worldviews. Whose evidence is better? I’m not sure it’s a meaningful question. My empirical points about Keynesianism won’t convince Krugman. His point don’t convince me. I am not saying that we will never get any kind of decisive evidence on the question. I’m saying it sure isn’t here now.
Here’s a letter to the New York Times Book Review:
Sheri Berman relates that Corey Robin defines conservatism as “an inherently elitist and hierarchical ideology, whose essence is the defense of elite privileges against challenges from below” (“The Conservative as Elitist,” Oct. 9). Ms. Berman rightly ridicules this straw-man definition of conservatism, pointing out that it describes the ideology neither of Edmund Burke nor of Sarah Palin.
True. But that Mr. Robin’s description is a sham is best revealed by the fact that much of what today is called “conservatism” (and much of what Mr. Robin loathes) was originally in Britain and America, and is still in many non-English-speaking countries, called liberalism. It’s a philosophy that champions the right of individuals – regardless of rank or creed or color – to be free of the choking grip of enforced traditionalism, free of the stupidity of superstition (including the hyper-lethal superstition that is nationalism), and free of the arbitrary will of their ‘betters.’
Classical liberals (and many “conservatives”) champion free markets and private property rights, therefore, not to defend “elite privileges against challenges from below” but out of a sincere conviction that markets and property are necessary for maximum possible freedom and for astonishing material abundance – both of which, were Mr. Robin to get his way, would be crushed by the unbearable weight of what he elsewhere Orwellianly describes as the “far greater, and more robust, freedom of choice” served up as diktats, decrees, favors, extractions, and sanctions issued by the ever-oh-so-well-intentioned state.
Donald J. Boudreaux
Don recently discussed commenters who annoy readers and the virtues of ignoring them. Here are my two cents.
As many of you know, I host the EconTalk podcasts. The comments there are generally thoughtful and polite even when negative. The main reason is that they are moderated. If you are rude or crude or off-topic your comment doesn’t get posted. If you persist, you get warned and then banned. The system works very well. It is also very time intensive for the moderator.
Neither Don nor I have the time to provide that service here. And I’m not sure we’d want to. But the bottom line is that we don’t have moderation. As a result, we get comments of highly varying quality. I’ve learned much from you out there and often enjoy reading your reactions.
What I don’t enjoy are the mud-slinging contests where you call each other names. I understand the urge. But I wish you wouldn’t indulge the urge. I think it’s not nice and it degrades the site. A recent first-time visitor remarked with some surprise at how boorish and uncivilized the comments are here. I’m sure it wasn’t a reference to all of the comments. Many of you have thoughtful insights and add much to the value of the blog. But boorish and uncivilized comments send a signal to the world that people who believe in freedom are boorish and uncivilized. It also reflects poorly on Don and me. Yes, there are thousands of readers who never comment. But what does it say about us that some of the ones who do comment, are not so nice?
So my preference is that people treat other readers with decency even when those others are wrong and indecent. I think that’s the right way to treat people you disagree with. Why stoop to their level? Yes, trolls are incredibly frustrating. Ignore them. When trolls go trolling here, I often try to jump in first with a comment of “Don’t feed the troll.” Please don’t. Non-trolls who hold different opinions from your own should be treated respectfully even if you do not respect them.
Here’s another way to see it. Most people already know how to belittle people who they disagree with. What is harder and more valuable is to respond thoughtfully or not at all when others say something that you see is stupid. Help the other readers including others who do not comment how to see the mistakes in someone else’s argument. Give them some intellectual ammunition. That’s the highest level of comment that many of you provide here. Let’s have more of that, please.
Here’s a letter to the Baltimore Sun:
Where to begin to address the Everest of errors that is Peter Morici’s argument that the U.S. trade deficit plays a large role in keeping the U.S. unemployment rate high (“China currency bill: America fights back,” Oct. 11)?
One could note that Prof. Morici seems inexcusably unaware that, save for the relatively few dollars hoarded by foreigners, every dollar in the U.S. trade deficit in fact does return as demand for U.S. output. Dollars that foreigners don’t spend buying U.S. exports are dollars that foreigners invest in America. That each of these dollars – returning on the capital-account instead of on the current-account (and, therefore, creating a “trade deficit”) – returns as demand expressed through investments rather than as demand for U.S. exports is irrelevant, as least as far as effects on employment go. Even dollars that foreigners invest in U.S Treasuries are spent by Uncle Sam and, hence, become active demand that Prof. Morici inexplicably insists is destroyed.
Or one could look at relevant data, as economist Dan Griswold does. From a study published earlier this year, Mr. Griswold concludes that “since 1980, the U.S. economy has grown more than three times faster during periods when the trade deficit was expanding as a share of GDP compared to periods when it was contracting. Stock market appreciation, manufacturing output, and job growth were all significantly more robust during periods of expanding imports and trade deficits.”
Donald J. Boudreaux
UPDATE: See also Frank Stephenson’s response to Morici’s truly dreadful op-ed.
Andrew Bolt – Wednesday, October 12, 11 (02:55 pm)
Julia Gillard promised at the last election that “there will be no carbon tax under the government I lead”. This morning:
The government’s carbon tax package was passed 74 votes to 72, with applause from the government benches as legislation was passed with the support of independents Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott, and Greens MP Adam Bandt.
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott makes a promise even more definite:
But Mr Abbott said he was more determined than ever to axe the carbon price if he became prime minister.
“We will repeal this tax, we will dismantle the bureaucracy associated with it,” Mr Abbott said.
“I am giving you the most definite commitment any politician can give that this tax will go. This is a pledge in blood this tax will go...”
If Abbott is elected. he’ll have no option but to repeal the tax, no matter what that will cost.
At the very moment the climate change bills passed the House of Representatives this morning, Kevin Rudd had two choices.
Bolt out the door at the rear of the chamber, right next to where he was sitting with a group of backbenchers, or make the long and conspicuous walk to the despatch box to join his ministerial colleagues congratulating the Prime Minister on rare but significant victory.
...the optics of jubilant politicians is terrible politics: triumphalism at the trashing of a pledge. Away from Canberra, in the real world, the television pictures will only antagonise voters.
Andrew Bolt – Wednesday, October 12, 11 (01:22 pm)
Andrew Bolt – Wednesday, October 12, 11 (01:07 pm)
On our MTR 1377 show today:
- carbon tax day
- Sophie Mirabella gets herself thrown out of Parliament just when her vote could be needed most.
- We talk to Transport Minister Anthony Albanese on whether Labor will exploit Mirabella’s absence to push through its boat people legislation. He also says union leaders calling for passengers to avoid Qantas must cool it.
- Tony Abbott’s blood promise.
And much more. Listen here.
Regarding our conversation with Albanese:
JULIA Gillard has decided against taking advantage of a Liberal MP’s 24 hour expulsion from the House of Representatives to fast-track Labor’s migration amendments because she doesn’t want the government to look sneaky.
Andrew Bolt – Wednesday, October 12, 11 (11:47 am)
Labor MP Graham Perrett made two decisions in the past 48 hours. One was to vote for the carbon dioxide tax and the other was to threaten to quit if Kevin Rudd replaced Julia Gillard.
Wrong on both counts, according to a ReachTEL survey of 850 voters in his marginal seat of Moreton:
Oh, and he’d be swept out with a 5.2 per cent swing, if an election were held now.
Andrew Bolt – Wednesday, October 12, 11 (11:16 am)
The Chief Scientist doesn’t know how ill-informed and hypocritical his words sound:
He also attacked “entertainers” in the media who had the privilege of an audience but not the responsibility to go with it.
“For many in the media and politics and for the plethora of so-called commentators, undermining science is becoming an increasingly popular pastime,” he said. “We see regularly the contempt directed towards scientists and their findings, especially when they say something that some do not want to hear,” he said.
As one of those “entertainers” in the media, here’s a video of me paying very great respect indeed to three scientists who do agree with Chubb on one thing - that scientists like them are indeed treated with contempt, but not by the people Chubb means:
In fact, one of those scientists has advice for Chubb himself.
(Thanks to reader Steve.)
Andrew Bolt – Wednesday, October 12, 11 (11:08 am)
ABC radio’s Sydney presenter Deborah Cameron is surely beyond parody:
DEBORAH CAMERON:Yesterday though there was one of the House of Representatives members said that she had received some kind of threat from a constituent whom she named in parliament and you wonder whether or not Mr Abbott’s florid language, using words like ‘pledge in blood’ and so on, does raise again this question of whether there’s a pandering to extremism here with some of this very florid language. Now, what do you think, Alison?
I don’t think so, I don’t think Tony Abbott is pandering to extremism and I don’t think that you can really associate Tony Abbott with a death threat that was mentioned yesterday in the lower house. No doubt though that there has been a lot of heat in this debate. You may be able to criticise Tony Abbott for not doing more to try and tone down the political temperature but I don’t think you can really draw a link between Tony Abbott saying ‘pledge in blood that I will rescind it’ and a death threat that was made to a Labor MP.
Andrew Bolt – Wednesday, October 12, 11 (09:12 am)
Liberal MP George Christensen last night showed Parliament the 4500 submissions that a government-dominated committee on the carbon dioxide tax refused to accept:
As someone who sat on the Joint Select Committee on Australia’s Clean Energy Future Legislation, I know that there is a groundswell of support for our proposition and against this carbon tax proposal by the government.
I have with me a rather weighty document. It is all of the submissions given to the carbon tax inquiry, but that were knocked back by the carbon tax inquiry. Some 4½ thousand people who sought to have their say were simply ruled as correspondents only.
The committee responsible:
Ms Anna Burke MP (Chair), Australian Labor Party, Member for Chisholm (Vic)
Senator Christine Milne (Deputy Chair), Australian Greens, Senator for Tasmania
Mr Adam Bandt MP, Australian Greens, Member for Melbourne (Vic)
Senator Simon Birmingham, Liberal Party of Australia, Senator for South Australia
Mr Darren Cheeseman MP, Australian Labor Party, Member for Corangamite (Vic)
Mr George Christensen MP, The Nationals, Member for Dawson (Qld)
Senator Mathias Cormann, Liberal Party of Australia, Senator for Western Australia
Mrs Joanna Gash MP, Liberal Party of Australia, Member for Gilmore (NSW)
Mr Ed Husic MP, Australian Labor Party, Member for Chifley (NSW)
Senator Louise Pratt, Australian Labor Party, Senator for Western Australia
Mr Bernie Ripoll MP, Australian Labor Party, Member for Oxley (Qld)
Mr Tony Smith MP, Liberal Party of Australia, Member for Casey (Vic)
Senator Anne Urquhart, Australian Labor Party, Senator for Tasmania
Mr Tony Windsor MP, Independent, Member for New England (NSW)
Andrew Bolt – Wednesday, October 12, 11 (06:12 am)
I’ve never seen a custody battle as pathetic and destructive as the one now being fought over a 14-year-old boy in Bali.
And, as with so many custody brawls, this ego wrestle between Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Foreign Affairs Minister Kevin Rudd risks hurting the very child they claim to care for.
What a farce it’s been since a Lake Macquarie schoolboy was pinched in Bali last week, allegedly for carrying $25 worth of marijuana.
We’ve had Rudd rushing our ambassador in Jakarta over to Bali to handle what’s usually the job of a mere consular official, and then holding a fanfare of a press conference to declare this was the “number one priority” for his staff there, adding: “I have kids.”
Then we got Gillard, unfortunately childless at this critical point, nevertheless trumping her smirking stalker by announcing she’d actually got the boy on the phone to let him know she’s on his side.
What next? Will Defence Minister Stephen Smith, another leadership hopeful, beat them both by sending in the SAS?
Meanwhile, every expert with half a brain and an ounce of concern for the boy rather than their own popularity is trying to tell both Rudd and Gillard to put a sock in it.
This isn’t the time for showboating. This is an issue that needs to be talked down, not amped up for the applause of the nation’s xenophobes, slavering to hear more about the savagery of foreigners to our north.
What a prostitution of our foreign affairs priorities and a pandering to prejudice.
Let’s recap. Last week the 14-year-old, on holidays in Bali with his family, was arrested by police as he came out of a massage shop.
Andrew Bolt – Wednesday, October 12, 11 (06:10 am)
LIBYA may yet turn out to be one of the worst own-goals in Western diplomacy.
It may also make Barack Obama’s premature Nobel Peace Prize seem the biggest joke in the order’s history.
In March, the United Nations Security Council voted to approve bombing raids on Libya “to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack”.
Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi seemed at that time to be on the brink of crushing a revolt against him, and was threatening a bloodbath in the rebels’ hold-out city of Benghazi.
Well, if protecting civilian lives was the aim, the result was a failure. NATO bombing raids helped the rebels to fight back and kick out Gaddafi, but seven months later the fighting still continues, and it’s now the civilians of the Gaddafi stronghold of Sirte who are dying.
But in fact the UN resolution seems just a cover for the real aim of Obama and his allies in Europe—and of our own Foreign Affairs Minister Kevin Rudd.
There was heady talk back then of the “Arab Spring” of protests allegedly bringing democracy to Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen, and, it was dreamed, to Libya, too.
And, success. Gaddafi is gone, although no one is sure where he is and who exactly is replacing him.
The most powerful military leader now in the Libyan capital is Abdul-Aziz Belhadj, an Islamist who was captured by the CIA in Malaysia soon after the September 11 attacks, and then sent to jail in Libya after interrogation.
Now head of the Tripoli Military Council, he once ran the rebel Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, arms of which had ties to al-Qaida.
Back then he declared he’d fight “all the deviant groups that call for democracy”, although now he says he does want democracy and opposes Islamist terror attacks on civilians.
Maybe, but one of his closest allies - and probably the most influential cleric in Libya - is the Islamist scholar Ali Sallabi, who has now returned to Libya after years of exile with what’s said to be the generous support of rich Qatar.
Last month on the Al Jazeera network, Sallabi denounced the Western-backed head of Libya’s new National Transitional Council, economist Mahmoud Jibril, and his allies as “extreme secularists” who were leading the country into “a new era of tyranny” that could be “worse than Gaddafi”.
Andrew Bolt – Wednesday, October 12, 11 (06:03 am)
Hansen can’t really explain it:
Climate sceptics are winning the argument with the public over global warming, the world’s most celebrated climate scientist, James Hansen of NASA, said in London yesterday…
Part of the problem, he said, was that the climate sceptic lobby employed communications professionals, whereas “scientists are just barely competent at communicating with the public and don’t have the wherewithal to do it.”
Surely Hansen is kidding himself. Take Australia: where are the Sceptic Commissioners to match the government-funding Climate Commissioners, Tim Flannery, Will Steffen and others. Which sceptic here commands the lavish funding that’s dispensed by alarmist Ove-Heogh-Guldberg and his team:
The CRTR Project ... has funding of more than $20 million in cash and $70 million in-kind support, including from the Global Environment Facility, the World Bank and UQ. The four regions reflect the distribution of coral reefs throughout the world.
Maybe, just maybe, the sceptics are winning because their arguments are better.
Just a guess.
(Via Watts Up With That.)
Andrew Bolt – Wednesday, October 12, 11 (05:59 am)
I don’t think Phoenix Jones will survive the ridicule after running from a girl with a handbag.
Andrew Bolt – Wednesday, October 12, 11 (05:44 am)
Chris Maxwell, the former President of Liberty Victoria, strikes me as having too much regard for one man’s “right” to drive a cab, and not enough regard for the right of every other cabbie to protect their business:
In a unanimous decision, three Court of Appeal judges dismissed an appeal by the Director of Public Transport against a VCAT ruling that allowed the man - known as XFJ - to be accredited as a cabbie.
XFJ repeatedly stabbed his wife in 1990 after being granted refugee status. A jury found him not guilty of murder by reason of insanity....
In their Court of Appeal judgment yesterday, justices Chris Maxwell, David Harper and Philip Mandie dismissed a further appeal (by the director).
“What counts decisively against the director’s argument ... is the sheer implausibility of the proposition that a decision to accredit one driver could have any material effect on public confidence in the taxi industry,” Justice Maxwell said.
“As both the director and the tribunal found, (XFJ) is technically competent and in good health and capable of meeting reasonable community expectations.”
It may well be the case that individual passengers, not knowing the man’s background, find he can get them from A to B. But it is surely also the case that “public confidence in the taxi industry” will indeed be affected by the knowledge that even people who have butchered their spouse in a fit of insanity could be driving your daughter home.
In our case, for instance, we already prefer to directly ring taxi drivers we know and trust to drive our eldest.
Andrew Bolt – Wednesday, October 12, 11 (05:23 am)
Former Treasury Secretary Ken Henry and the 14-year-old boy in Bali have something in common. Both are pawns in a brawl between Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard.
Henry is a distinguished public servant - a career Treasury officer who specialises in taxation. When his term as Treasury secretary expired, the government announced he would become a special adviser to the Prime Minister.
Not a single one of his tax recommendations has yet been implemented, so many, including me, assumed his role would be to bring these proposals to life - through legislation and through implementation, which is the much harder part of tax reform. But no, it turns out the Prime Minister wanted to keep him to advise her about Asia - an area where he has no previous specialisation.
The new report will consider “the current and likely future course of economic, political and strategic change in Asia"…
But what puzzles me is why the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAT), which employs specialists who have spent their whole lives studying Asia, and why its embassies, which have staff throughout Asia, could produce no one as qualified as Henry to do this work…
One explanation doing the Canberra rounds is that the Prime Minister wanted a senior public servant to head the inquiry but she didn’t want the Department of Foreign Affairs and its hyperactive minister anywhere near the process.
As special adviser, Henry will report to her. It will give her a chance to formulate her own Asia policy and bury the Rudd policy - which he announced as prime minister - of forming an Asian-Pacific Community.
It pains me to say it but it would not be the first time taxpayers’ money has been chewed up in ministerial rivalry and bureaucratic gamesmanship.
Andrew Bolt – Wednesday, October 12, 11 (05:09 am)
Imre Salusinzky wonders why:
HERE’S an odd thing - Kevin Rudd has not uttered the phrase “Julia Gillard” in more than a year (at least according to my researches using something called the internet).
Andrew Bolt – Tuesday, October 11, 11 (07:23 pm)
Purely hypothetical, Perrett says, now that he realises his threat actually increased the leadership instability he was trying to stop:
LABOR MP Graham Perrett has told everyone to stop worrying over a threat he’s made to quit his Brisbane seat and force a byelection should Julia Gillard be toppled as prime minister.
Mr Perrett, whose electorate of Moreton is the most marginal Labor seat in Queensland, insists it’s not a threat because there is no tussle over the leadership.
“It’s not a threat, there’s no coup - chill out, there’s nothing to worry about,” he told Network Ten today.
In fact, the safer a Prime Minister is, the more likely you’ll get a backbencher threatening to quit if they’re sacked.
So now he’s weakened Gillard, while also withdrawing the threat that could make a challenger think twice. Smart work.
Andrew Bolt – Tuesday, October 11, 11 (07:18 pm)
A senior Age journalist tweets a suggestion:
Woke to more leadership chatter. We really need to stop talking about Kevin.