Interesting column from Bruce Bartlett. I honestly haven’t made up my mind where I stand on the stimulus. There are many competing theories on how best to implement stimulus. Monetary policy? Fiscal policy? Should federal dollars be used to shore up state and local governments? What strings will be attached? Maybe we should just keep cutting taxes until nobody pays them anymore….
Bartlett basically says that just doing nothing – the Austrian approach, if you will – in the face of an economic recession which is partly the fault of the government is a very bad idea. Were it solely a failure of the market, things might be different.
So often I find that I wade in deeper than my knowledge and/or research into a given subject should reasonably permit. When it comes to the economics of the stimulus I find myself woefully incapable of sorting it all out. My only comfort is in the fact that so many economists seem to disagree with one another about so many different things. It’s hard to say who’s right, if any of them are.
Then again, at the start of our little health care adventure I knew a great deal less about the issues surrounding that debate, and blogging was one way I could work through the many competing theories, ideas, problems, models, etc. I’m not a great deal more informed than I was which is a good thing, though I still can’t quite decide what the best way forward will be. Certainly I hope whatever passes is a glorious success, though I’m mightily skeptical that it will be.
In his Normblog profile earlier this year, Matt Yglesias advised new and beginning bloggers:
Specialize! I’m a generalist, but that’d be hard to pull off in the more mature blogosphere of 2009. Focus on something, and be great at it.
And maybe that’s good advice. Health care reform is such a deep, complicated topic that I’m sure I could continue writing almost exclusively about it. Or I could change gears and get into the education debate, something I’m fond of arguing. Or any number of other things that could probably grip my attention for a good long while.
But I like being a generalist, even if that means I’m inexpert at many of the things I try to discuss. Sometimes this means I’ll put my foot in my mouth or flip-flop, or make egregious factual errors or find myself wincing at something I wrote just the other day. But I’d rather be wrong and learn from it than be right all the time, or convince myself that I’m right all the time. Blogging is as much a personal exploration into the myriad contradictions of the world as it is a platform of opinions. And sure enough, as you tread into the contradictions of the world, you begin uncovering the contradictions within yourself.
I have a penchant for latching on to an idea or a cause and really running with it and then (sooner or) later, when I find myself bumping up against the inevitable inconsistencies of whatever it is (localism, for instance) I have to usher myself back down to earth. This is why I’ve warned against certainty and argued in favor of doubt, and then utterly eschewed that very advice. There is usually a great deal of wisdom in caution. And perhaps it is my own natural willingness or propensity to be overly enthusiastic about so many things which in turn propels me the other direction, toward a more conservative disposition. I’m not sure. I only know that life is full of revelations, and often as not they come in successions, the later ones checking and limiting their predecessors. Perhaps that is how wisdom is cultivated – or one way it is cultivated.
I don’t know. I’m only 28 and not terribly wise yet.
In any case, sometimes I am overcome with the sense that I should retire altogether from this naked, contradiction-inspiring medium until I have better shored up my beliefs and my knowledge, until I have armor or a bigger gun. But then I remember that it’s better to be forced out in the open, to debate and to lose, to change your mind over and over again, because it means you’re trying, searching, resisting the temptation to settle down and let your intellect become barnacled, tepid, your ideology and ideas soft and comfortable.
Beyond that I just really enjoy writing and learning, so bear with me….
See also Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry on free markets and government intervention. He makes a lot of very, very good points, though I think it’s always important – should always be at the back of our minds – that there are things seen and things unseen when it comes to the consequences of meddling, well-intentioned or no. I can’t honestly say that any effort or intervention by the government will be bad. I say that sometimes but – I shouldn’t. I think you just have to be careful. Government is pulled by the strings of the powerful, and where the powerful lead it is not always what we are told.
That being said, at some point the human factor comes into play, and compromises do need to be made – even bad ones. I share Freddie’s concern that no meaningful health care reform will pass both because I worry about the long-term costs, but also because I sincerely worry about the uninsured, about my own future and the futures of those I love should we become uninsured. Whatever its merits the system we have now is not fair, not by any standard. We can do better.