The age of ideological uncertainty, continued

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Will

Will writes from Washington, D.C. (well, Arlington, Virginia). You can reach him at willblogcorrespondence at gmail dot com.

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  1. Avatar Dave
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    says:

    Bruce Bartlett could be a better source for that, especially his new book.Report

  2. Avatar E.D. Kain
    Ignored
    says:

    The question I have about the stimulus is not whether it is effective at creating short-term growth, or stopping the economy from bottoming out. It’s whether this will amount to an economic turn-around or whether it is in fact smoke and mirrors – a short-lived illusion which will dissipate as soon as stimulus dollars run out. I’m not sure.Report

  3. Avatar Koz
    Ignored
    says:

    First of all, the Democrats in Congress and liberals in general never internalized or intended to hold themselves accountable for any kind of Keynesian theory, it was just a convenient crutch to justify what they wanted to do anyway, increase government spending. In particular, Kyle is right to complain that the actual stimulus package they passed was your typical Washington pork-slopping and logrolling. Steve Sailer exposed the Administration’s “shovel ready” deceits more than once.

    Because liberals have more or less chosen to remain blissful in their economic ignorance, they have refused to consider what seems to be the most likely source of our economic problems. Ie, the short term aggregate demand deficit is much less important the perception of long term welfare state sclerosis.

    This, in turn, illustrates a key benefit of voting Republican. Of course, we hope that our elected representatives advocate for smart policies and repudiate dumb ones, but it goes deeper than that. There’s a very strong tendency that people who vote Republican intend to earn their own living whereas Democratic voters want somebody else to provide for them. An economy where most capable adults do not intend to earn their own living is not likely to be sustainable. No one knows that better than our creditors and would-be equityholders. As much as people are uncomfortable with it, there’s a very profound way that the real recovery will start when we can collectively suck it up, quit making excuses, vote Republican, and take our chances in life.Report

    • Avatar North in reply to Koz
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      says:

      And where, Koz, does the last 8 years fit into this theory of republican fiscal probity? For that matter I’m rather vague of memory so I’m not recalling the times that the right-wingers have gored their own government subsidies like agriculture or defense. Hell do the republicans even have an economic policy right now? If they do they certainly haven’t been saying what it is outside of supply sider voodoo. If there were any party that you could say contains constituents who intend to earn their own living it’d be the Libertarians. The republicans are economically not much different from the democrats now days more is the pity. They moved left and the Democrats move right now they’re all sponging around in the mushy middle.Report

      • Avatar Koz in reply to North
        Ignored
        says:

        And where, Koz, does the last 8 years fit into this theory of republican fiscal probity?”

        It doesn’t.

        “Hell do the republicans even have an economic policy right now?”

        Yes. We oppose the health care bill, the stimulus package(s), car company bailouts, cap-and-trade, and card check.

        Any more questions?Report

        • Avatar North in reply to Koz
          Ignored
          says:

          Please note that the republicans that do exist voted for both the stimulus package(s) and the car company bailouts along with the wall street bailouts.

          “It doesn’t.”
          So essentially the republican party you’re advocating on behalf of doesn’t exist?Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to North
            Ignored
            says:

            So essentially the republican party you’re advocating on behalf of doesn’t exist?

            This is why they make third parties. If you’re going to be squawking about how awesome your party is and how everything would be better if only your guys were in office, it’s best to be saying this about guys who didn’t out-keystone cop the keystone cops 4 years ago when they had, in their sweaty little hands, the keys to the Senate, House, and White House.Report

          • Avatar Koz in reply to North
            Ignored
            says:

            “Please note that the republicans that do exist voted for both the stimulus package(s) and the car company bailouts along with the wall street bailouts.”

            No, no, no. Check the tape and see who voted for what. Car company bailouts, cap and trade, the health care bill, the stimulus package, even the original TARP were largely or wholly Demo initiatives.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Koz
      Ignored
      says:

      People who vote for party X are virtuous while people who vote for party Y are venial, you say?

      Koz, Freddie. Freddie, Koz.Report

      • Avatar Koz in reply to Jaybird
        Ignored
        says:

        And one more thing: the idea that people ought to be responsible for earning their own living is IMO what’s behind the affection for Sarah Palin from the conservative base.

        Because Sarah Palin got married and had children, and Todd Palin had the ability to support their family, Sarah Palin had the means and ties in the community to join the PTA and become mayor of Wasilla, which is how she got into politics in the first place. This is in stark contrast to most of our political establishment who seem to make a career out of feeding at the public trough from high school onward. We may not be able to do much about that but we still don’t like it.

        And it doesn’t matter if Sarah Palin never runs for public office again or isn’t really very bright. In fact, the stupider she is the more we are indirectly rebuked for not having been able to accomplish what she has.

        A lot of us on the Right like to make fun of President Obama as Hopey McChangepants and all the rest of it. It’s all good fun but in our mockery we shouldn’t lose the fact we have real hope to offer the American people and we are the only ones who do. The return to prosperity and limited government is a winnable game and we intend to win it.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Koz
          Ignored
          says:

          Would you like to hear the problem with that theory?

          2002-2006.

          For four years, you guys had a majority in the House, the Senate, and you had a president who wouldn’t veto friggin’ *ANYTHING*. Well, except for a stem cell funding bill.

          When given the keys to the country, the Republicans did not act like people who, and let me quote you here, “have real hope to offer the American people” let alone that they “are the only ones who do”.

          The Republicans acted like Southern Baptist versions of Democrats when it came to fiscal responsibility. They were indistinguishable from Democrats when it came to being beholden to lobbyists. They had no respect for the concept of the 10th Amendment in the legislative branch and active contempt for it in the executive.

          The argument you are giving is one that would have been very interesting in 1999. I may even have said something to the effect of “it’s worth exploring, let’s see what these so-called ‘grownups’ can do!”

          But you know what? The Republicans had the government. All of it.

          And they were indistinguishable from democrats. From the hair on their heads to their toenails to their inability to keep their appetites in check.

          Your argument is blind to the fact that “we just did that” and, you know what? If you were aware of the fact that “we just did that”, I don’t know how you could look at 2002-2006 and then go on to say what you said.

          If its performance art, however, lemme give you a hand. You are brilliant.Report

          • Avatar North in reply to Jaybird
            Ignored
            says:

            One diff from Dem’s Jay. The Democrats generally pay for their spending with taxes. The 2002-2006 republicans borrowed all the money they spent. Actually they borrowed MORE than they spent since they raised spending AND cut taxes. Oh and they also restricted trade, see the steel tarrifs. The modern Dems haven’t done any of that yet (though they may, idiocy is bipartisan).Report

            • Avatar Jaybird in reply to North
              Ignored
              says:

              I don’t remember the whole tax/spend thing from the last time we had Democrats with the House/Senate/White House.

              There was 1992-1994, but that election had some seriously weird dynamics thanks to HRP and HRC’s HCR did a good job of making sure that we had some quality gridlock for the next long while (and the tech boom did a great job of increasing revenues to the point where not even Congress was able to spend all of the money that came in for one or two years… which isn’t the same thing as “balancing the budget”, of course).

              Prior to that, we’d have to go back to Carter?

              I will say that Democrats do a great job of making sure that taxes are high enough to pay for more of their guns and butter purchases… but they still spend money like fourth wives.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                I won’t quibble with that Jay. I suppose the question is whether it would be considered worse to borrow the money and spend it or to tax the money and spend it? Obviously we would agree that where practical it would be preferable to not spend it at all but we’re talking least worsts here.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to North
                Ignored
                says:

                If we’re talking least worsts, I’d go with a Republican House, balanced Senate, and Democratic Executive.

                If that isn’t an option (and is it one?), I’m going to have to go with something like “I broke my heart compromising, I gave it up, I’ve not been happier.”Report

              • Avatar greginak in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                why do prefer that particular mix of house, senate and prez?Report

              • Avatar Kyle in reply to greginak
                Ignored
                says:

                because the 90’s were awesome and the (N)aughts were not?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to greginak
                Ignored
                says:

                That particular mixture resulted in the closest to “paying bills” that we’ve had since, who? Eisenhower?Report

              • Avatar Koz in reply to North
                Ignored
                says:

                “I suppose the question is whether it would be considered worse to borrow the money and spend it or to tax the money and spend it? Obviously we would agree that where practical it would be preferable to not spend it at all but we’re talking least worsts here.”

                This is a relevant consideration some of the time, even most of the time, but right now seems to me to be kind of silly. Clearly you should be able to see that there is a level of spending that is plainly unsustainable no matter whether the funding for it is taxed or borrowed.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Koz
                Ignored
                says:

                Let’s assume that the government has no idea how to cut spending (shall we look at history to see whether it even comprehends such a thing?).

                Then what?Report

              • Avatar Koz in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                Well for now we s***can the health care bill, the car company bailouts, the stimulus packages, cap-and-trade, and blank checks for Fannie and Freddie. Geez, which party is likely to do that?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                Can we blame Dubya for half of those?

                If we can blame Dubya for half of those, can we come to the conclusion that it’s pretty Bipartisan?Report

              • Avatar Koz in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                “Can we blame Dubya for half of those?”

                No. I don’t even which half you’d want to put on W anyway, the car company bailouts are a real stretch.

                More important than that, W is a rancher in Texas now, you can get over it any time now.

                There was once a profound bit of knowledge credited to (I can’t believe I’m actually writing this) Rickey Henderson. Somebody asked him if he studied the pitcher’s move to first on tape before games. He said “No, I don’t care about the pitcher’s move to first. I study the pitcher’s move home.” We can blame W (or lots of other parties) for various and sundry failures. But there’s only one party with a track record of success on any big-ticket item over the last 30 years or so. And, it also happens that’s the only party with any credibility to move us forward out of where we are now.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                Let’s say we not look back 30 years but just look back, oh, 10.

                Does the picture change drastically enough to allow someone to come to an earlier conclusion?

                I still can’t believe how much damage the Republicans were willing to allow Dumbya (whoops! typo!) to allow both the country and the Republican Brand for no reason other than “he’s not a democrat”.

                Congrats, turd blossom, you’ve got yourself a decade that you have to apologize for when you want to argue for Republican responsibility.Report

              • Avatar Koz in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                “I still can’t believe how much damage the Republicans were willing to allow Dumbya (whoops! typo!) to allow both the country and the Republican Brand for no reason other than “he’s not a democrat”.”

                W is a rancher in Texas. You can get over it any day now.

                “Let’s say we not look back 30 years but just look back, oh, 10.

                Ok, what big-ticket successes have the Demo’s delivered in the last ten years? I certainly can’t think of any.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                Let’s look back 10 and ask ourselves if we wouldn’t have been happier had Gore been elected and had he decided to invade Iraq.

                Man, wouldn’t that have been *AWESOME*???

                We still could have abandoned our troops mid-mission while giving speeches about “nation-building”.Report

              • Avatar Koz in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                Forgive me for not quite getting what you’re trying to say here, but I think it’s fair to say that you’re not offering an example of a big Demo success sometime in the last ten years.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Koz
                Ignored
                says:

                I’m saying that I can’t tell the difference between the two parties.

                And you saying “no, this one is totally better” sounds like the other guys when they say “no, this one is totally better”.Report

              • Avatar Koz in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                “I’m saying that I can’t tell the difference between the two parties.”

                That’s great, but you’re changing the subject. So for the record, are you willing to stipulate that only the GOP has any track record of success on a big-ticket policy/governance item over the last 30 years (or 10 years)? If not can you offer an example to the contrary?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                I’m saying that neither really has a decent track record but the particular balance of gridlock that we had going on from 1994 through 1998 wasn’t that bad, all things considered.

                I’m hoping for another situation like that one.Report

              • Avatar Koz in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                JHC on a stick, can you get it together? Is there any circumstance in our common collective memory where you can say, “Thank god we had the Demo’s (or liberals) around because when they were in power they did X.” Where X is a real substantive benefit to America or the American people, not a dinky thing, not exclusively a procedural or political change, and not something where they were just following suit to public opinion. Is there anything you can offer as an example or can we agree that there aren’t any?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                No, Koz. I can’t. Neither can I think of a time when I was Praising Zeus because the Republicans were in office.

                The only time that any god’s names passed my lips tended to be some variant of “Holy Buddha’s Nuts, These Politics Are Bullshit!”

                You are so used to arguing against people who see things as a binary that you cannot comprehend that there are parties other than “Republican” or “Democrat”.Report

              • Avatar Koz in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                “No, Koz. I can’t.”

                It always looks easy after you do it.Report

          • Avatar Koz in reply to Jaybird
            Ignored
            says:

            When given the keys to the country, the Republicans did not act like people who, and let me quote you here, “have real hope to offer the American people” let alone that they “are the only ones who do”.”

            I think you’re missing some important context here. There’s been a lot of energy, kind of associated with dissident conservatives, about rebuilding the Right so we don’t have to deal with distasteful people like Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck or whoever. See

            http://trueslant.com/conorfriedersdorf/2009/10/27/the-many-projects-of-american-conservatives/

            and chase a few links for thousands and thousands of words of back and forth. I don’t have any particular quibble with anybody’s point, but the whole thing has an air of navel-gazing at the expense of real engagement from people who have checked out of trying to participate in the American economy.

            I wrote before that “…the return to prosperity and limited government is a winnable game” and I still believe that. But it’s not a slam dunk or a matter of “vote Republican and wake me up in eighteen months”. If we do it right it’s actually going to be a lot more fun than that. But, supporting Republicans gives us the chance to succeed where the status quo doesn’t.Report

    • Avatar Dave in reply to Koz
      Ignored
      says:

      This, in turn, illustrates a key benefit of voting Republican. Of course, we hope that our elected representatives advocate for smart policies and repudiate dumb ones, but it goes deeper than that. There’s a very strong tendency that people who vote Republican intend to earn their own living whereas Democratic voters want somebody else to provide for them. An economy where most capable adults do not intend to earn their own living is not likely to be sustainable. No one knows that better than our creditors and would-be equityholders. As much as people are uncomfortable with it, there’s a very profound way that the real recovery will start when we can collectively suck it up, quit making excuses, vote Republican, and take our chances in life.

      Are you some kind of pull string toy? Pardon my bluntness:

      – Republicans are ignorant when it comes to economics. John “The Fundamentals of the Economy are Strong” McCain didn’t get it. The Fannie/Freddie/CRA caused the financial crisis crowd have their heads shoved so far up their asses they need windows in their stomachs. Their crude free market fundamentalism and “do nothingism” is far more obnoxious than any crude Keynsianism I’ve seen from liberals because at least the liberals I know who can debate economics don’t repeat the same thing after you respond to them. Also, you must have forgotten all about the party’s stellar track record towards limited government and free markets under Bush II.

      – An economy where most capable adults do not intend to earn their own way? I think that’s a bit of a stretch.

      – While I am no Democrat and tend not to support their policies, the Dems I know, even those who may not fit the liberal caricature you would like them to, are independent, provide for themselves and their families and tend to bust their asses at what they do and can run circles around you on this subject.

      Seriously, do you really believe your sales pitch is going to get anyone to vote Republican? All you are doing is showing me why you and the rest of those idiots deserve their stay in the wilderness.Report

      • Avatar Koz in reply to Dave
        Ignored
        says:

        “Their crude free market fundamentalism and “do nothingism” is far more obnoxious than any crude Keynsianism I’ve seen from liberals because at least the liberals I know who can debate economics don’t repeat the same thing after you respond to them.”

        Maybe you and I have corresponded before, but if so I don’t recall it.

        In any case, repeating oneself is a humorless chore. Unfortunately it is sometimes a necessary one, especially in circumstances like these where liberals will be obtuse to the consequences of their beliefs and actions until there is no other alternative.Report

        • Avatar Kyle in reply to Koz
          Ignored
          says:

          I have to agree with Dave here, less hyperbole, more reality.

          If you were trying to make the point that certain aspects of the liberal base intend to vote themselves wealth, I’d totally agree. I also agree that you can’t really do that in any kind of sustainable, good governance way. However, I also think they’re completely dwarfed by the GOP’s corporate allies whose sole purpose in life is to build wealth through regulatory capture or government privatization. (paging e.d.)Report

          • Avatar Dave in reply to Kyle
            Ignored
            says:

            Kyle,

            If I recall, Wall Street, probably the mother of all corporate allies, donates more to the Democrats (or it least did when they figured out who was going to win the 2008 election).

            I’m not so sure that the big-business/GOP categorization is as clean-cut as it may have been at one time.Report

            • Avatar Koz in reply to Dave
              Ignored
              says:

              “However, I also think they’re completely dwarfed by the GOP’s corporate allies whose sole purpose in life is to build wealth through regulatory capture or government privatization.”

              I think Dave’s right on this one. Corporate America has it’s faults but very little of it has gov’t subsidies or regulatory capture as a raison d’etre. And, the part of it that does is pretty bipartisan or even leans Democratic.Report

            • Avatar Kyle in reply to Dave
              Ignored
              says:

              Sorry, I wasn’t as clear as I should’ve been, I didn’t mean GOP + Big Business. I meant (with some hyperbole) to refer to their private sector allies (a handful of companies) who live off of contracting work, especially defense contracts.Report

              • Avatar Koz in reply to Kyle
                Ignored
                says:

                Well, I can sympathize with your distaste for defense contractors, who we can suspect of living too high off the hog on government money. But as a matter of scale, it strains credibility to think that we’re projected to run up $10 trillion or some horrendous amount in new debt over the next ten years because of runaway defense contractors.

                I don’t think we get into problems as big as we have without a significant part of our culture being involved and to get a handle on those problems we need to look at that level.Report

              • Avatar Kyle in reply to Koz
                Ignored
                says:

                With more specificity – the part of the liberal base I think does intend to vote themselves wealth are the public employee unions, nobody else really makes money off of government intervention in the same way. Structurally, I think it’s problematic but there’s the chance that public support will swing the other way and the “vote” will fail.

                On the flip side, we don’t really vote on contracting, especially defence contracts and companies have become much more savvy about marshalling public support for [insert system here]. So while I don’t see it as an engine of fiscal doom, I do see it as comparatively worse because of the lack of accountability. There also isn’t really a political mechanism for scaling back spending.Report

              • Avatar Koz in reply to Kyle
                Ignored
                says:

                “With more specificity – the part of the liberal base I think does intend to vote themselves wealth are the public employee unions, nobody else really makes money off of government intervention in the same way.”

                Two points here. First of all, it’s not quite a matter of voting oneself rich. It’s more a matter of being able to avoid the slings and arrows of participating in the private sector. Second, I think you’re underestimating the number of people who are beneficiaries of the welfare state by restricting them to unionized public employees (which frankly is a huge problem). There’s also civil service employees and contractors (the majority of which are not working on defense programs) and program beneficiaries.

                All of these groups are able to command a larger and larger portion of our economy without earning it in the private sector. Ultimately we are going to need some significant reform to break the rachet.Report

          • Avatar Koz in reply to Kyle
            Ignored
            says:

            A couple things to mention here. First, it’s not exactly that liberals try to vote themselves rich, though I’m sure that does happen sometimes. It’s a tad more subtle than that.

            Ie, there’s a strong tendency among a sort of people who find themselves reflexively in opposition to Tea Partiers (liberals, dissident conservatives, some apolitical folks) to want to check out of earning a real living in the private sector. I’m sure they’d rather be rich than poor, but they really want is to avoid the psychological blows that come with being uncertain about their ability to earn a living.

            My point (one of them) is that we can sympathize with that point of view but we can’t endorse it. The ability to earn one’s living is much more valuable now, personally and societally, than it was say five or fifteen years ago. Moreover, and I think this is worth some emphasis, even though it is more difficult now than at any time in my adult lifetime, it can be done, and we should be, collectively, concentrating our energies toward doing it.

            Finally, like anybody else I can get carried away in a fit of rhetorical excess. But the part about Republicans wanting to earn their own living (and everything else on this thread IIRC) is not at all meant to be hyperbolic.

            That actually leads to a very important point. Our psyches have a hard time dealing with the comprehensiveness of the failures of liberalism. Let’s talk about something we probably don’t care about as much, like Windows Vista by Microsoft. We understand that it was a technological failure and a marketing failure, but somewhere under the hood we expect that its threadhandling capabilities were actually significantly better than XP, or that its bios design was improved, or something. It’s difficult to comprehend a complicated system like Vista to be a total failure from soup to nuts, because we wonder how it could have gotten as far as it did.

            Back to liberalism, I’m framing my thoughts on this with a few premises that shouldn’t be controversial (though they might be). First, that liberalism is a fairly well-defined philosophy of governance that is much narrower than the actions of any particular liberal. Second, that this philosophy is supposed to work for the public benefit and can be judged in those terms. Ancillary to that, we can consider the possibility that liberalism can simply leave the public arena. Finally we can consider some time frame relevant to our lives, say 1975 onwards. Given all these things, it’s my assertion that liberals have nothing to hand their hat on to claim that they accomplished something important, as liberals, for the public benefit.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Koz
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              says:

              Koz, you completely misunderstand the progressive mindset.

              They aren’t even thinking about being rich. Not even close. Money has *NOTHING* to do with it.

              It’s all about *MORALITY*. Think about gay marriage for a second and why you would (I presume you would) vote against it.

              THAT IS EXACTLY WHY THEY VOTE THE WAY THAT THEY DO.

              It’s because they are fundamentally “moral” people fighting a “moral” battle against “immoral” or, at least, “ignorant” people who don’t understand the difference between right and wrong and wish to impose Truth upon less enlightened people.

              This is not even close to a system of “governance”.

              It’s a moral argument.Report

              • Avatar Koz in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                “They aren’t even thinking about being rich. Not even close. Money has *NOTHING* to do with it.

                It’s all about *MORALITY*.”

                I think this line of argument might have some merit, but I think you have to refine it a little. A substantial part of the psychological foundation of modern liberalism is a particular moral stance about money. That is, “we” can and in many cases ought to assert collective control over the property stock in the economy and direct it to socially beneficial ends. Eg, the US Congress can pass a health care bill and whoever is taxed to pay for it can “afford” it anyway.

                So, I think you are correct that modern liberalism rests on particular moral assertions, but I don’t think it’s right to conclude that therefore they have nothing to do with money.Report

            • Avatar greginak in reply to Koz
              Ignored
              says:

              well yeah, if liberals could vote themselves into being rich by lets see…huge tax cuts for the richest and cutting the estate tax i’m sure we would go for that. Pure comedy gold Koz, when R’s enrich people its pure and noble and not voting themselves more money.

              I’m glad it is only L’s that are condescending, but i’m lost for the term for saying people of a certain ideology don’t want to work or whatever or are afraid of the real.

              Maybe that was to snarky, Koz that is reprehensible BS. People of all beliefs from liberal to conservative , live, suffer, struggle and survive through all sorts of the worst things in life. Saying one ideology has a corner on working hard or whatever you are saying is just slanderous. Are you saying L’s don’t build business, struggle threw college, fight our wars????Report

              • Avatar Koz in reply to greginak
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                says:

                Maybe if you could quote the words of mine that you are responding to, I could follow you a little better.Report

              • Avatar greginak in reply to Koz
                Ignored
                says:

                “Ie, there’s a strong tendency among a sort of people who find themselves reflexively in opposition to Tea Partiers (liberals, dissident conservatives, some apolitical folks) to want to check out of earning a real living in the private sector. I’m sure they’d rather be rich than poor, but they really want is to avoid the psychological blows that come with being uncertain about their ability to earn a living.”

                people you don’t agree with can’t handle all that big bad life can handle. Plus you are , it sounds like, using some strawman that L’s want to make everybody have a job or not have to earn a living. sorry , not true. Still this is the classic condescending, i know con’s love that word, attitude towards others, assuming that we just aren’t as virtuous as you.

                “First, it’s not exactly that liberals try to vote themselves rich, though I’m sure that does happen sometimes. It’s a tad more subtle than that.”
                compared to tax cuts focused on the rich and the estate tax cuts, liberals haven’t done squat about voting them selves rich.

                “Finally we can consider some time frame relevant to our lives, say 1975 onwards.”
                Whats funny about this one in the New Deal coaltion ran out of steam in the late 80’s and Con’s have been trying to unwind, unsuccsessfully, since then. so yes L’s haven’t have major successes since then because there were relatively few major projects , accept health care reform, and have mostly been stopping R’s from dismantling the systems that led this country threw its greatest growth in wealth.

                “First, that liberalism is a fairly well-defined philosophy of governance …”
                um actually no, liberalism in America is committed to the free market, just with a social safety net and regulations to correct the failures of the free market.Report

              • Avatar Koz in reply to greginak
                Ignored
                says:

                “um actually no, liberalism in America is committed to the free market, just with a social safety net and regulations to correct the failures of the free market.”

                Great, let’s start here. This is a typical example of having to peel away several layers of the onion before really being able to get at the comprehensiveness of liberalism’s failures.

                First of all, this is completely out of context to the point of my quote. That is, liberalism as an ism is more compact than the actions of some particular liberal. For example, you can’t say (as some try) that liberalism is great because Bill Clinton signed the welfare reform bill in 1996. For as anybody who was paying attention back then knows, Clinton signed that bill (after having vetoed it twice) at insistence of the voters and against the wishes of the prominent liberals of the time. Therefore, we ought to give credit to liberals for things they have accomplished because they were liberals, and that nobody else would have plausibly accomplished. By that standard, the accomplishments of liberalism are very very thin.

                Second, most of the welfare state, especially the relatively recent additions to it, have little or nothing to do with the safety net. Student loans, agricultural price supports, Fannie and Freddie, the NEA, Title IX, NSF, most of Social Security or Medicare for that matter, do nothing for helping the poor and aren’t really intended to. This is actually a significant, relatively unremarked change from the 80s to the 90s. I remember that during the time Reagan was President most of the welfare state was directed to the middle class, but there was still the pretense that government intervention in the economy was about helping the poor. A few years later, the pretense disappeared.

                Finally, liberals may claim to favor the “free market” in this or that circumstance but they have little or no respect for private property independent of their designs to direct it toward their social ambitions. We really don’t need examples of this but if we did the health care will do. Liberals, accountable apparently only to the themselves, can and should take whatever they need out of the private economy to make sure they can give free health care services to whoever they think needs or deserves them. Listen to Ed Schultz speaking to a health care rally in Colorado, he says it as clearly as you can.

                And this all assumes that the programs that are supposed to help the poor end up doing that, which is very questionable in its own right. It’s actually very difficult to talk about liberalism in America without giving it too much credit. We just have to do as best as we can until we lose patience.Report

              • Avatar greginak in reply to Koz
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                says:

                You like to make sweeping statements about the failure of liberalism but the modern liberal movement started with FDR and the New Deal and was ascendant until Reagan. Saying liberalism was a failure is essentially saying the years from the 30’s until Reagan were a failure. Except they obviously weren’t, in terms of the growth of wealth and standard of living in the US.

                As i remember Clinton finally signed the bill after he felt he had stopped the R’s from the worst of their draconian cuts. I wouldn’t state Clinton’s welfare reform as a major accomplishment. That said part of the impetus and furor over welfare on the R side was due to year of demonetization and outright lies like welfare queens driving Cadillacs.

                Just because L’s don’t favor the maximalist view of the free market that C’s do does not mean we aren’t for it. That is black and white thinking. L’s believe taxes are how we fund government, just about everybody does.

                The social safety net is aimed at a lot of people because a lot of people need it at times. I don’t recall L’s ever saying they weren’t for helping “the poor.” The problem “the poor” have is they have less access to the levers of power ( money) so they get less from the gov, while those that can buy a pol get plenty of service. Much of modern con thought seems intent on defending why “the poor” are unworthy and we should just cut taxes more for the rich. You actually won’t get an argument from me that the D’s have moved away from trying to develop programs that help the poor since they are to often bought by moneyed interests and they are also fighting just to protect what is already there.Report

              • Avatar Koz in reply to Koz
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                says:

                You like to make sweeping statements about the failure of liberalism but the modern liberal movement started with FDR and the New Deal and was ascendant until Reagan. Saying liberalism was a failure is essentially saying the years from the 30’s until Reagan were a failure.

                No not at all. Just like I mentioned in the other post, I’m not enamored of liberalism from 1933 to 1975 either but arguing about it is a distraction. We may have to get to that at some point, but for now it’s easy to conclude that liberalism has been a failure for 25, 30, 40 years or whatever because there’s nothing to put on the plus side of the ledger.

                Among other things, we should note that the psychological relationship between the welfare state and the middle class is much different now. Back in the day, the benefits of the welfare state were understood to be for the relief of dire poverty. This is why you had to give otherwise unemployed people “jobs” like digging a hole and filling it back in again. If you tried to just hand them a check, they wouldn’t take it, even if they desparately needed the money. This mentality was a substantial bulwark against random government bloat that we don’t have anymore. Therefore we have to look at what liberalism has delivered for us in contemporary social circumstances.Report

              • Avatar Koz in reply to greginak
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                says:

                “Plus you are , it sounds like, using some strawman that L’s want to make everybody have a job or not have to earn a living.”

                I’m sorta following you here, but I don’t think this part makes any sense.Report

              • Avatar Koz in reply to greginak
                Ignored
                says:

                “Whats funny about this one in the New Deal coaltion ran out of steam in the late 80’s and Con’s have been trying to unwind, unsuccsessfully, since then.”

                Unfortunately, no. We’d be in much better shape now if the GOP worked harder to unwind the welfare state when they were (either partially or completely) in power.

                But let’s go back to the time frame for a second. For this thread (and others) I am considering liberalism since 1975 or so for a few important reasons. First of all, for most of us the sixties and prior were before our adult lifetimes. Therefore, people who want relive liberalism’s glory days are usually talking about something that they have no direct experience with.

                Second, the New Deal was cultivated in much different historical circumstances than modern liberalism. We can judge the effects of federal government intervention in the economy much better than before. In particular, we can see how layers and layers of cumulative government interference are bad whereas starting from a clean slate like FDR did might work.

                Finally, I’m not enamored very much of liberalism from the New Deal through the Nixon Administration, but it’s much more plausible to argue that from that historical perspective that liberalism has been a net benefit for America. I would still disagree, but we would probably get distracted trying arguing about it. But on the flip side, it should be easy to agree that liberalism has been a comprehensive failure since since there has been nothing to put on the plus side of the ledger since then.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to Koz
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                says:

                Awfully convenient for you isn’t it. Liberalism is frozen at 1975, conservatism is frozen at roughly the same time. No Bush didn’t happen. No 1994-2008 didn’t happen. Lalalala didn’t happen didn’t happen didn’t happen (except 9/11, that happened, history goes 1994-9/11-present day, nothing inbetween).
                Problem is that for most of the country 1994-2008 did happen. You can crusade against 70’s Carter liberals all you like but they have changed and so have the conservatives.Report

              • Avatar greginak in reply to Koz
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                says:

                crimany Koz, that laughable. You want to ignore a part of history that doesn’t support your ideology with the excuse that is it ….I’m still trying to grasp your argument…because its to historical. based on your “argument” we certainly should never, ever discuss the civil war, ww2, the revolution and the constitution.Report

              • Avatar Koz in reply to Koz
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                says:

                “Liberalism is frozen at 1975, conservatism is frozen at roughly the same time.”

                No, no, no. Neither one is “frozen” at 1975, it’s just that only conservatism has accomplished anything since then. I am also not trying to discount any errors George W Bush (or Bush pere or Reagan) might have made.

                What I am saying is that liberalism hasn’t done anything useful since 1975 and whatever you think it did before then is probably wrong in the first place but more than that not very important.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to Koz
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                says:

                For a social conservative like you I suppose you would view it that way. Women, gays, blacks and other minorities would beg to differ. A lot. A hell of a lot.Report

              • Avatar Koz in reply to Koz
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                says:

                “…because its to historical. based on your “argument” we certainly should never, ever discuss the civil war, ww2, the revolution and the constitution.”

                Not at all, it’s a matter of context. Today, given a fiscal crisis in a mature welfare state, the response of contemporary liberals has been to further increase welfare state. We can’t simply say, hooray for the New Deal and hooray for the Great Society. We have to come to grips with the context where we already have a bunch of programs left over from the New Deal and the Great Society that have had profound financial and social consequences, leaving us in a completely different situation than if those programs never existed in the first place.Report

  4. Avatar Bob Cheeks
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    says:

    “There’s a very strong tendency that people who vote Republican intend to earn their own living whereas Democratic voters want somebody else to provide for them. An economy where most capable adults do not intend to earn their own living is not likely to be sustainable.”
    Koz, brilliant and succinct…rather says it all!Report

    • Avatar Dave in reply to Bob Cheeks
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      says:

      It’s awful.Report

    • Avatar Scott in reply to Bob Cheeks
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      says:

      California is a prime example of people that want it all but don’t want to pay for it.Report

      • Avatar Dave in reply to Scott
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        says:

        and your point?Report

        • Avatar Dave in reply to Dave
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          says:

          Oh right. Republicans can fix all that ills us.

          Oy vey.Report

          • Avatar Koz in reply to Dave
            Ignored
            says:

            I have no doubt that the Republicans will do a much better job than the Democrats but that was only part of my point. Whatever happens with the actual policies the political class enacts, if we’re going to have a recovery anytime soon the American people have a role to play as well. Some of that has nothing to do with politics and some of it does. For the benefit of all of us, we should hope that the American people give support to the Republican party and Republican candidates. In supporting Republicans, we signal to ourselves and anybody else who is watching that we intend to take charge of our own problems and fix them as best as we can instead of thinking there’s some pot of gold over the rainbow we can tax and make it all better.

            You can snark if you want to, but the example of California is completely compelling to anybody who’s paying attention. There’s no amount of wealth or money that’s enough to pay for that mentality.Report

            • Avatar North in reply to Koz
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              says:

              Err Koz, California is a bipartisan disaster in case you missed it. The desire for more government goodies there is of course vintage old school democrat but the permanently capped taxes and bullshit starve the beast nonsense is 100% republican.Report

              • Avatar Koz in reply to North
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                says:

                Ugh, no. California is a liberal disaster. There is a level of spending so large relative to the underlying economy to where it doesn’t make any difference whether that spending is funded by taxes or borrowing. And wherever that line is, California is well well past it.Report

              • Avatar Kyle in reply to Koz
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                says:

                California’s problems are more complex than “the liberals screwed it up.” If there’s a lesson to be extracted from our misery it’s that when people say, “we’ll fix our unsustainable problems at some point, because we’ll have to,” they don’t know what they’re talking about.Report

    • Avatar Koz in reply to Bob Cheeks
      Ignored
      says:

      “Koz, brilliant and succinct…rather says it all!”

      Great! At least I’ve got one fan.Report

  5. Avatar Dave
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    says:

    Was anyone going to bother commenting on the Posner piece? It’s quite good.Report

    • Avatar Kyle in reply to Dave
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      says:

      Good, though a bit lengthy. I guess the “Notable Tome of Eras Past Becomes Suddenly Relevant In New Crisis” feeling I got from the piece months ago is still basically it.

      The thing that strikes me as particularly interesting, however, is Keynes’ point about uncertainty, particularly as an argument for government action. I mean, it makes sense but doesn’t it also imply that setting up a domestic agenda that will have wide ramifications, particularly for the private sector, undermines that particular goal?Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Dave
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      says:

      My issue with Keynes (and, by extension, this article) is that he is only pointed to when we are in recession… and never when we are in the happy fun part of the business cycle. We get new and happy fun economists for that part. Then when the business cycle crashes for a while, people return to Keynes… why? Because, in the down part of the business cycle, he advises that we do what they would want to do.

      When we’re back up on top, Keynes is abandoned until he is needed once again.

      Is Keynes very interesting and insightful? Sure, I guess. He’s no Ludwig von Mises, of course… but the tendency of Keynes to be pulled out of the bookshelf whenever we are in recession but rarely when we are in boom sets off klaxons in my head.

      It seems like the general solution to anything, at any point in time, is for the government to get more money so that it can spend more money. In a recession, Keynes is the economist to go to if you want to hear someone say “in recessions, the government should spend money!”

      I’ve no doubt that when we are on our way back up, Keynes will be forgotten again and we’ll pull economists off the shelf who advise “when in boomtime, the government should spend more money!”Report

  6. Avatar Art Deco
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    says:

    I think the problem to which Koz is referring is not referred to properly as ‘liberalism’ but as the tendency of the political class to form patron-client relations, which is a function of the degree to which incomes are politically determined by regulation, taxation, and public expenditure. Although the phenomenon is bipartisan, it constitutes the essential modus operandi of the Democratic Party, but not the opposition. References to ‘the poor’ are rhetorical strategies used to confer benefits on favored constituency groups. Koz errs when he refers to these as ‘the welfare state’, as these tend not to have much to do with implementing an ethic of common provision. What has been so demoralizing in the last year or so is that confronted with a national crisis like no other in the last 70 years, the Democratic Party remained in default mode, adopting the principle that the interests of its clients must be served at all costs. (Clients being public employee unions and their members, the United Auto Workers, the casino banks, &c.). Also, given severe strain on the public fisc, the response of the Democratic Party has been to act to expand their clientele and not deal forthrightly with a national emergency. The response of the opposition has been an exercise in vacuity. The sad conclusion of all of this is one that we would not have reached in 1933 or 1941 or 1947: our political class is unfit to govern. Period.Report

    • Avatar Koz in reply to Art Deco
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      says:

      This is a very important response. Art is correct to note that liberalism and the transformation of the public into clients in some patron-client relationship aren’t exactly the same thing. But it’s close enough for government work for the reason that Art mentions: such transformation is the essential modus operandi for their team, but not for us.

      One quibble about “the poor”. My point was, the use of the poor as a rhetorical justification to dole out favors to constituencies is a bit dated. The modern welfare state (or whatever you wish to call it instead) is perfectly capable of doing its favor dispensing with such rhetorical justification.Report

      • Avatar Art Deco in reply to Koz
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        says:

        You neglect the bee hive like quality of the interaction between the press corps, the Democratic Party, and lobbies. In aggregate, a policy may render the economy marginally less pareto efficient while rendering it marginally less equalitarian as well. (Subsidized student loans would be an example). However crummy a policy may be, any amendment to public policy creates losers, however few they may be. These losers may have a compelling story or their story may be stretched and pulled to make it compelling. Propose to take their bon bon away, you can wager CBS News will be doing a feature story on them within a week.Report

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