Richard Posner, Keynesian

Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

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7 Responses

  1. greginak says:

    This reads to me less like you are agnostic about stimulus then you think it is good but are unsure about the implementation. It’s not really news that this country has deferred maintenance on a lot of public infrastructure for decades which would/can/is a good place to start spending stimulus money.

    I remember the seen/unseen post. I can see the power of the argument but I left me unimpressed. It , while a reasonable idea to keep in mind, ultimately avoids the question about whether to spend money on a project, by raising an unanswerable implication that something we can’t see/know/analyze might be harmed. Well I might be killing innocent fairy elves on my drive to work in the morning, so does that mean I get to stay home from work. It is reasonable to raise the idea of unintended consequences but not to the point of ignoring or appreciating the direct, intended positive consequences of something. And of course everything has unintended consequences and unseen affects.

    If people wanting spending to go down it can. People often blame the government for spending on things that people want. That’s democracy. While many of us would love to decrease the defense budget, many , many people want to spend that money. Okay I am being a bit flip, cutting spending can be hard what with the immense corruption and influence of ACORN the military industrial complex. But projects/spending can have sunset provisions, etc.

    It’s sort of funny the only people who ever raise the idea of government doing everything for us or save us from all our problems, are critics of government who raise those ideas. However those are strawmen. I haven’t’ heard, nor do I personally believe as an official liberal, that government can do everything for us. that it isn’t in the secret plans I have seen. You can do better then that silly argument ED.Report

    • E.D. Kain in reply to greginak says:

      Well that’s not really what I’m saying, is it? My point is that there is too much faith – not incontrovertable or all-consuming faith, but simply too much faith – in the capacity of government to solve problems. Especially the federal government. Likewise, there is too much antipathy on the right toward any and every government measure. It leads us down this road of never being able to discuss implementation because one ideology thinks that anything is better than nothing, and the other believes that nothing is better than anything, and too few people discuss how to go about it (this is true with health care as well – that’s why good health care bills like Wyden/Bennett get so little momentum).Report

      • greginak in reply to E.D. Kain says:

        I’m not sure how what your saying is different from what I said you said. But I will say again how people love to criticize government for what people in democracy vote for. Americans want a lot of things and they often vote to get them and then whine about having to pay for them. Or a slight variant, they whine about the evil government because other people voted for the government to do things they don’t like ( see tea baggers). Most things a lot of us agree are a waste have many people who think is just nifty. That is not the governments fault.Report

        • North in reply to greginak says:

          Maybe Greginak, but a lot of things that government does are things that help just a few people a lot and hurt all of us just a little. So when you try and cut it you get one group who howls really loud and the vast majority who benefit from it benefit only mildly and so aren’t exercised enough to bother standing up for themselves.Report

  2. Steven Donegal says:

    Shorter Posner: Don’t just stand there; do something. Which is frankly why I haven’t been all that bothered by the bailouts and stimulus. There is certainly a lot of wasted money and, with hindsight and without having to take political considerations into account, I’m sure you and I could sit down and design a program that would work equally as well and waste less money. But that isn’t the real problem, which is, as you point out, when to stop. Lord Keynes may have lived at a time when sober people ran the government and could be counted on to act in a reasonable manner. We do not live in such times and the danger over the intermediate period is that Congress and the Fed won’t stop, at least until they have created an even bigger inflationary mess. My guess is that 2011 and 2012 are going to be very interesting (in the Chinese curse sense of the word) years.Report

  3. North says:

    Good post E.D. I’m with you on your concerns about Keynes. Government definitly loves spending money in a chrisis but they hate saving money in a boom. The problem is that when the times are good no one wants to rock the boat and government fears that their tax raising or spending cutting will be scapegoated as the cause of the eventual down turn.

    Still it’s good to keep in mind that one way or another the markets make sure the debt does get paid. Off the top of my head I can think of three obvious examples.
    -Government controls spending, raises taxes and pays off outstanding debt. Think Canada during the 90’s which required a lot of fiscal discipline and pretty much eviscerating the Canadian military (the lack of credible opposition parties also helped a lot).
    -Only controlling spending to keep it below GDP. Example is the Clinton terms with Republicans in congress running about. Much easier to do but produces effects a lot less dramatic than the Canadian example (where the paid down debt was compounded on by economic growth).

    And finally, if you don’t do either…
    -Inflate your way out of debt. Our old friend stagflation comes to mind or post World War 1 Germany. Inflation really is a kind of huge regressive tax on everyone.

    Anyhow one way or another the spending gets paid for.Report