In Which I Dissect One Harvard Professor’s Tabloid Cover Story (…At Length)

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Ethan Gach

I write about comics, video games and American politics. I fear death above all things. Just below that is waking up in the morning to go to work. You can follow me on Twitter at @ethangach or at my blog, gamingvulture.tumblr.com. And though my opinions aren’t for hire, my virtue is.

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73 Responses

  1. Avatar NewDealer says:

    I think the best take on Niall Fergusson’s article involves two factors. One is not related to the Professor and that is that Tina Brown has basically decided that the best way to revive Newsweek is by trolling. This is not completely her fault but the current nature of the beast in web publishing. I remember hearing that on-line journalism is no longer about getting people to read a whole issue but makes money via having one or two articles clicked on a lot and passed around the web. The best way to get clicks seems to be via contrarianism and being agent provocatuers. We say don’t feed the trolls but it seems like umbrage provides some kind of narcotic high and people like being outraged and being able to write screeds in the comments about why the author of a post is simply wrong.

    While responding to the professor is necessary it also adds fuel to the fire and I bet Tina Brown is not upset one bit about the controversy. Neither is Niall Fergusson probably.

    The second part involves understand Niall’s real target audience who are not fellow academics (everyone denouncing him does so while lauding his pre-hack work like his history of the Rothschilds), Newsweek readers, or the general public.

    http://www.esquire.com/blogs/culture/niall-ferguson-newsweek-cover-11914269

    http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2012/08/dishonesty-is-the-seventh-killer-app/261352/

    http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/08/the-age-of-niallism-ferguson-and-the-post-fact-world/261395/

    Ferguson seems to make most of his income from the speaker’s circuit. According to what I’ve read, he resigned from Harvard Business School (but not Harvard itself) so he can do more speeches without having to do pesky things like teach classes. His article was really aimed at surprisingly eggshelled Masters of the Universe* who want to be patted on the head and given a cookie and are willing to pay top dollar to do so.

    *I am very fascinated about how eggshelled many executive and Wall Street, and John Galt wannabe types are. They are wildly economically successful and still seem to basically wanted to be given milk and cookies and a kiss on the head from mommy. They have absolutely no concept of why people who are struggling or lost their jobs would be angry at them.Report

  2. Avatar George Turner says:

    The faults by omission in Fergusson’s article may not be entirely of his own chosing. Newsweek wouldn’t want to publish an article that makes a powerful, persuasive, and airtight argument against re-electing Obama.

    A bumper-sticker would’ve worked just as well but wouldn’t have kept people reading. I’d suggest, “In 2008 you voted to prove you weren’t a racist. In 2012 vote to prove you’re not an idiot.”Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to George Turner says:

      In 2012 vote to prove you’re not an idiot.”

      Sorry, but none of the parties has given me that option, and my state doesn’t allow write-in candidates.Report

      • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to James Hanley says:

        Sounds like your first course of action is to tackle your own state’s voting laws.Report

        • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

          The issue is the nature of the presidency today, based in mass appeal. I would prefer we move back to a more party-centered candidate selection system. To do that we would in fact need to work at the state level to get rid of primaries. That’s just not likely to happen, because the public thinks it is their right to determine the party’s nominees (a pernicious bit of nonsense). But if it could happen, at least in theory, the first difficulty is getting one state to give up its primary. As it currently stands, the primary system is probably a Nash equilibrium. I think the only prospect would be a federal constitutional amendment. That doesn’t actually have any real prospects right now, but at least it doesn’t have the Nash EQ problem working against it.Report

    • Avatar Loviatar in reply to George Turner says:

      @George Turner,

      You know how you can tell you’re a racist or at least a bigot, when you write stuff like this.

      “In 2008 you voted to prove you weren’t a racist. In 2012 vote to prove you’re not an idiot.”

      I guess in George’s world voting for Obama has nothing to do with him being a better candidate or with the fact that the previous president from the opposite party is in the top 5 of worst Presidents ever. No its all about him being black and the 69,456,897 who voted for him did so to prove their not racist.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Loviatar says:

        Not all of them, but I will publicly admit to being one of them who did, at least in part.

        I never thought Obama was a good candidate for president. Not nearly enough experience; knew nothing about economic or foreign policy. Had a vision of prosperity as being primarily driven by government rather than the private sector.

        Give him a couple of terms in the Senate, and may be. All along I thought he might actually be the guy the Dems were dreaming of…not because he was black, but because he was eloquent and appeared somewhat more sincere in his religious beliefs than, say, Bill Clinton (not that I wouldn’t prefer a publicly acknowledge agnostic myself, but for appealing to the general public, that’s not a great strategy). But I thought he might be the guy a few years down the road, not in ’08. And I still think he entered the race just to get his feet wet, without actually expecting to win it, and I think he would have been better off had he not won, but showed himself as a strong second or third place candidate, primed for a future run.

        And I preferred McCain…at first. Then he became increasingly Bush-like, and then of course he chose Palin as his running mate, and at that point I could no longer in good conscience consider voting for him.

        I would have voted Libertarian, but they gave us Bob Barr, whom I loathe. And Constitution Party and their ilk are just off the board for me.

        So I went to the polls in ’08 uncertain of whether I would even check the box for president. I mean I literally went into the polling place unsure whether I would bother to vote in that particular race. Ultimately I did, and voted for Obama, in part because I thought he was the least worst candidate (faint praise intended), but as much or more so because I never wanted to wonder if my reason for withholding the vote had something to do with racism. I don’t think it would have, but I’m happier knowing that in fact I did vote to break the color barrier. A tiny thing that had no effect on the election’s outcome, but that had some small but significant effect on my self-knowledge.

        I never expected to like an Obama presidency, and I haven’t. I don’t intend to vote for him again, but neither do I intend to vote for Romney, and it looks like the Libertarians bungled their paperwork so that Johnson won’t be on the ticket in my state. So once again I’ll go down to the polls wondering if I should bother casting a vote for president, and if I do it will be for Obama, just to reinforce that I’m not a “well, I gave the black guy a chance” type person. But, well, I did give “that guy” a chance, and as I expected, I haven’t like it much.Report

        • Avatar Loviatar in reply to James Hanley says:

          So after reading through everything, the reasons you voted for Obama are in order of your personal priority

          1.) McCain became increasingly Bush-like
          2.) McCain chose Palin as his running mate
          3.) Libertarian gave us Bob Barr, whom you loathe
          4.) Constitution Party and their ilk are just off the board for me
          5.) Obama was the least worst candidate

          and finally you also

          6.) voted for Obama to help break the color barrier and that had some small but significant effect on my self-knowledge.

          I think we can honestly say you’re not a closet racist/bigot, but just to make sure I would run out and pickup some Public Enemy or Wu-Tang.

          ===============

          Its not about whether you voted for Obama based upon race, it whether its the only reason you voted for Obama. Forget about all the other reasons you listed, in Georges and his ilks mind the only reason Obama is president is because he is black.Report

          • Avatar MFarmer in reply to Loviatar says:

            Yes, there is no other option but to vote for Obama. Too funny.Report

            • Avatar MFarmer in reply to MFarmer says:

              I’m not worried the slightest bit that someone will think I’m a racist when I don’t vote for Obama. Obama’s being black is about as important to my decision to not vote for him as avoiding a poisonous snake becuase it’s black.Report

              • Avatar James H. in reply to MFarmer says:

                MFarmer,

                It wan’t reall about what others thought. It was about what I could know with certainty in my dotage. What others think? Well, others are awfully quick to come to conclusions, aren’t they (even when we are the others, in relation to still more others), so I agree that wouldn’t be a real good reason.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater in reply to James Hanley says:

          the Libertarians bungled their paperwork

          Huh? It’s a bad sign when libertarians can’t even get contracts right. 🙂Report

      • Avatar George Turner in reply to Loviatar says:

        L0vitar, that’s an actual bumper sticker circulated for the 2010 elections.

        According to the Clintons (or rumors about their opinion on the matter), if not for whites wanting absolution for racism, Hillary probably would’ve been the nominee. If I and other conservatives were really racist, sexist, bigots, we’d be backing Obama 100% because no conceivable Republican candidate could accomplish as much to keep women and minorities poor and unemployed.Report

    • Avatar greginak in reply to George Turner says:

      To prove you are not a racist we’ll need to see proof of voting for O, plus three signed statements from official minority persons stating you are hip and down with it and proof of owning at least one Eddie Murphy, Richard Pryor or “urban music” cd. Proof can be sent to the Federal Citizens Information Center, Pueblo, Kenya with your reparations check.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to George Turner says:

      The fiendish liberal media! Even when they publish a hit piece against a liberal, it’s really part of their hidden agenda.Report

    • Avatar BrianM in reply to George Turner says:

      George Turner: You should be aware that Newsweek has publicly admitted that they do no fact-checking on their articles, with some gobbledeegook about trusting their authors. They published what Ferguson gave them. Your conspiracy theory is not plausible.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to BrianM says:

        Well, it’s plausible on the assumption that Tina Brown is not ignorant of the widely-known fact that Niall Fergusson is a drooling idiot when it comes to anything not directly within his lane of academic expertise (at least measured in relation to the number of words he is willing to produce on such topics), and that she felt fairly confident that he would produce an argument that did more to undermine its own case than to advance it. In that sense, I honestly think Roger could be onto something.Report

      • Avatar Plinko in reply to BrianM says:

        Almost no one fact checks. I am not sure how this idea came about that most journalism is practiced with fact-checkers acting as some kind of safety net – but very little fact-checking is done except at a few of the prestige mags, of which Newsweek is not a member.

        That fact is completely irrelevant to Mr. Turner’s theory, however. As much as very little is fact-checked, it’s still meticulously managed.
        The idea that an essay gets on the cover of Newsweek without it being exactly what it’s editorial leadership wants to sell is ridiculous.Report

  3. Avatar Roger says:

    Ethan,

    Would you have preferred Fergusson attack Obama by mentioning that he loathes him and finds him a cynical, cultivated hipstertarian?

    Ferguson may or may not have missed in his critique, but at least the discussion is aiming at outcomes rather than character.Report

    • Avatar E.C. Gach in reply to Roger says:

      Outcomes? What outcomes?Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to E.C. Gach says:

        Things like jobs, growth rate, Social security disability rolls, deficit, spending, government dependency rate, projected spending on health care, and this is just on the first page.Report

        • Avatar MFarmer in reply to Roger says:

          Well, yes, there are these outcomes, but what outcomes that aren’t Bush’s fault?Report

        • Avatar E.C. Gach in reply to Roger says:

          None of those things does he tie to the President’s policies.

          He literally just says, these are the stats, look who’s in the Oval Office. So he’s not discussing outcomes (i.e. things that happened as a result of something else), but rather things that have happened in the past, and then, sans any actual chains of reasoning (those pesky things known as arguments), says the President is the cause, the one responsible, and the person who needs to be voted out of office.Report

          • Avatar Roger in reply to E.C. Gach says:

            Ethan,

            I won’t argue for or against Niall’s rhetorical skills, but I will posit that it is not unreasonable for people to assume that the president would establish a playing field conducive to economic growth that is vastly superior to the results actually attained. In other words, many of the things he did focus on can be viewed as interfering with the economy, and many of the things he should have done were never tried. I could give my list, and others can give theirs, and we can all agree to disagree with particulars. The point is that the President is responsible for deciding upon and implementing an agenda that is conducive to our welfare.

            If the majority of Americans view his results as bad, that is his report card. “The buck stops here.” I’d give him an F as per below. I think many Americans disagree with me. All good. That is how democracy works.Report

            • Avatar E.C. Gach in reply to Roger says:

              In other words you’re unwilling to justify your opinions to others?

              “I will posit that it is not unreasonable for people to assume that the president would establish a playing field conducive to economic growth that is vastly superior to the results actually attained. In other words, many of the things he did focus on can be viewed as interfering with the economy, and many of the things he should have done were never tried.”

              Do you actually have an argument for demonstrating that this is the case? Or are you just supposing that it’s possible? If so, I agree, it is part of the realm of possibilities.

              Having an opinion without the support of reasoning and evidence is actually the exact opposite of reasonable.Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to E.C. Gach says:

                Which opinion are you talking about? My opinion that most people in a democracy hold the president accountable to establish or maintain the atmosphere for economic prosperity? Who do you think should be accountable? Over his term, the President chooses what to work on, what to introduce, what not to introduce, what to hype, what to bury. He sets the tone and agenda for his term.

                Or are you talking about my opinion that the president in question has indeed made a mess of the situation? If so, I think I have been more forthright in my critique than anyone else in this thread, and I did it without calling him a poopoo head. See below.Report

    • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Roger says:

      Yes, honestly. That might have led to an interesting discussion of cultural attitudes, and why people don’t like Obama.
      (I don’t find him a hipster. he reads batman, for goodness sakes!)Report

  4. Avatar Roger says:

    1.       Create jobs and lay a foundation for growth

    2.      Rebuild the country’s infrastructure

    3.      Restore science to its rightful place and use it to make health care more efficient

    4.      Remake schools and colleges to meet current economic needs

    I’d give the president an F on number 1, a B on number 2, a D on number 3, and an D on number 4. How about other’s scores?

    The F is because I believe his actions actually made things worse, by inserting uncertainty and increasing the costs of hiring and entrepreneurial activity. He took a bad set of cards and made them worse. I think he used the stimulus to boost infrastructure, as long as his cronies were on the receiving side.  He has guaranteed health care will be less efficient moving forward. I can’t see how he has done anything helpful on number 4. Report

    • Avatar E.C. Gach in reply to Roger says:

      “The F is because I believe his actions actually made things worse, by inserting uncertainty and increasing the costs of hiring and entrepreneurial activity.”
      How did his actions lead to more uncertainty and less entrepreneurial activity?

      “I think he used the stimulus to boost infrastructure, as long as his cronies were on the receiving side.” Do you have evidence of this, because not even Niall is willing to tread here?

      “He has guaranteed health care will be less efficient moving forward.”
      Again, how?Report

      • Avatar Dave S. in reply to E.C. Gach says:

        Requests for evidence to back up their assertions will only produce more assertions, or if you’re lucky, an ad hominem. They are reading off of a script, or perhaps scripture would be more appropriate.Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to E.C. Gach says:

        I think he made things worse by creating uncertainty over tax rates, by adding to the costs and uncertainty of hiring and employing people via his healthcare fiasco, by his attraction to crony capitalism and attempting to establish winners and losers in the market via political fiat, and by his failure to address entitlement reform. In addition I could go on for hours on things that he could have done to reduce bureaucracy, red tape, over regulation, trade barriers, patent abuses, corporate subsidies, environmentalist obstruction, and so on. In general I see Obama as believing in an anti free enterprise paradigm. He doesn’t get what drives prosperity, and his instincts are all counterproductive. If he had said and done nothing, he would have done much better.

        On the infrastructure stimulus, I see a major portion of the money going to Obama supporters. To favored businesses, unions, government employees, Democratic states and localities and so on. It was a case of partisan redistribution as far as I am concerned. Who do you think got the money?

        As for health care, I see the problems in the US today as A) a disconnect between the person paying and the one receiving the benefit. This is absolutely guaranteed to screw up costs. Economics 101. B) The combination of a market perverted with a transfer program. By combining them we are perverting both. And C) excessive use of top own master planning for something that should be deregulated and decentralized. I see Obama Care as making everything bad about health care WORSE. It is the antithesis of a solution.Report

        • Avatar Roger in reply to Roger says:

          What do you think Dave?Report

          • Avatar Dave S. in reply to Roger says:

            I think giving someone four minutes to respond is ungenerous.

            My observation on scripture was unclear and I regret that. By “scripture” I mean a set of phrases and talking points repeated uncritically in place of thoughtful debate, and which produce knowing nods and recognition among the “faithful.” (Stay with me Roger!) Examples include but are not limited to “crony capitalism,” “political fiat” and “healthcare fiasco.” Kindly note that I did not write “Scripture,” which would indeed have introduced an ad hominem element. Ad hominems are fun but not productive.

            Your whole first paragraph is scripture, and tax uncertainty has been dealt with downthread.

            Regarding the stimulus, here’s who got the money. It does appear from the summary map that blue states got more funding (it is not broken down into tax/infrastructure but let’s use it as an overview, OK?). However, those same states have larger populations and a larger concentration of urban areas/older highways/other INFRASTRUCTURE so it seems reasonable that those states would get more funding than, say, Montana.

            Regarding health care, I never took Econ 101 so I must recuse myself, but again I am getting a sense that this is scripture, with which there can be no truly productive discussion.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Roger says:

          “Uncertainty” strikes me is a blanket term covering any policy the “business class” doesn’t like and is positively correlated with policy proposals limiting profit maximization. Such “uncertainty” apparently paralyzes the business community independently of whether profits can still be made. So the meaning of “uncertainty” is actually pretty clear. And seems to me to be clearly euphemistic.Report

          • Funny, too, since corporate profits are at all time highs.Report

            • Avatar Roger in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

              It is of course being used as a blanket term. When employment costs and tax rates and regulation are uncertain due to regulation or economic conditions (which obviously self amplify each other), then it makes less sense to invest, hire, build, and REINVEST profits. Sorry if this violates your paradigm.Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to Roger says:

                Nob, this is another example of economically literate leftists using dumbed down arguments to pander to other readers when they know the full story on profits and economic cycles and the effects of investments on profit. I know you understand the real issues even better than me.Report

              • Avatar wardsmith in reply to Roger says:

                Nob won’t acknowledge INTERNATIONAL effects on corporate profits. A shame really, considering his background. Also instructive. A close examination of schedule K’s would prove to even the most slackish student where the profit /really/ originates. But that doesn’t fit into the paradigm so of course it must be ignored.Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to wardsmith says:

                Uncertainty in terms of international effects is probably as high as it’s ever been. Everything from the Euro Crisis to the slowing of growth in BRICs economies and the large supply chain disruptions that periodically pop up from natural disasters should, if anything be substantially more important than debates in the US over marginal tax rates.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Roger says:

                Roger: your argument makes no sense. On the one hand, corporate profits are at an all time high. On the other, you’re argument is that the lack of investment/re-investment is due to uncertainty regarding coroporate profitability (which is at an all time high).

                It seems to me you’re overstating you case here, and to your own detriment. It seems to me what you’re suggesting here reduces to the claim that policies which encourage investment will encourage investment. I don’t think anyone would disagree with that, or I’d hope not anyway. But it’s not very enlightening when talking about the specific effects of a specific policy in a specific context.Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to Stillwater says:

                Uncertainty does not refer to past profitability, but to future returns on investment. Investments are costs. When we pull back on investment, we reduce expenses and increase current period profits and cash.

                Nob orWardsmith, please correct me as necessary. I always hated accounting.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Roger says:

                Sure. And apparently any potential reduction on any potential return on investment renders the investment climate “uncertain”.

                I get that.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Roger says:

                … and now it makes more sense to steal??
                Regulation is DOWN, not up my friend.
                And I’m burnt because of it.

                But hell, you don’t have skin in the game…
                Talk to Blaise, he’ll set you straight.Report

        • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to Roger says:

          1. “Uncertainty over tax rates” is a bit rich, when we’re talking about marginal tax rates for individual earners, rather than corporate rates. The likelihood that this would create large systemic uncertainty is between 0 and nil.

          2. “Costs and uncertainty” based on ACA is a fiction, given that A. the majority of the provisions haven’t yet come into effect, B. most of them are rather prosaic in terms of employer requirements.

          3. Stimulus also included a massive payroll tax rebate, state budget aid. As for the “major portion of the money going to Obama supporters”…proof?
          (Then there’s the effect of the stimulus itself, which not only has CBO backing but also the likes of economists from Booth School, which is hardly a bastion of Keynesians.)

          As for the “anti free enterprise paradigm”, I’m not sure where the hell THIS comes from.

          This from a President who signed 3 free-trade agreements, has endorsed the Kaufmann Foundation’s Start-Up Act and done a lot to curb the worst excesses of large businesses taking advantage of smaller contract employers, well…

          Reality is a bit of a bitch, yeah.Report

          • Avatar Roger in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

            My apologies, I was not aware that the economic consensus was now that individual tax rates, capital gains taxes, and so forth had no effect on the economy. I’ll let everyone else know.

            It is also good to learn that benefit costs and uncertainty are irrelevant to starting or expanding a business. I wish I knew this when I used to have to construct CBAs before investing in new endeavors. Wow! This is amazingly good news Nob.

            Yes Nob, you can also cite a handful of things Obama did not do wrong. Out of a trillion dollars, it would be really, really hard to spend it all poorly.

            Bitchiness is starting to be a reality on this site, yeah.Report

            • Avatar Roger in reply to Roger says:

              I need to tag out and attend to some other stuff for a while. I will try to return after surfing tomorrow.

              I gave my score and gave at least a half hearted attempt at justifying why I believe what I believe. Feel free to disagree. Better yet, why don’t some of you step up and give your scores?

              How would you guys rate Obama on these four agenda items?Report

            • Avatar wardsmith in reply to Roger says:

              It would be further instructive to determine the number of SubChapter S corps in this country, plus equivalent LLC’s. THOSE will pay as if they were individuals (because from a tax standpoint they ARE individuals). Likewise the recalcitrant student (Nob) will ignore the facts. Too bad, he could have been intelligent had he only taken off the partisan blinders.
              Hint: Over 300K SubS and LLC filers pay taxes on “incomes” in excess of $1M per year.Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to wardsmith says:

                I’m perfectly aware of the numbers of things like S-Corps and LLCs, not to mention where the job growth numbers come from in terms of firm age.

                I’m still not convinced that a few percentage points of marginal income tax rates would create any systemic effects of uncertainty.Report

            • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Roger says:

              yes, indeed, 0% tax rates have had a downright predictable effect on my desire to create new businesses. That is to say, it created a disincentive…Report

    • Avatar North in reply to Roger says:

      I don’t find the four items particularly useful but I’ll toss in my two cents.

      1. In as much as Obama has the ability to create jobs as President this rests mainly on his influence on the stimulus and I’d give him a D on policy. Obama wasted too much of the stimulus on tax credits and tax cuts which are pretty useless in a recessions like this one. Ideally much more of the stimulus should have been dedicated to actual spending; extending jobless benefits and most of it should have been dispersed to the states to allow them to maintain their own payrolls. It’s interesting to note that the economy under Obama has actually recovered significantly in terms of private sector jobs. The biggest driver of unemployment lately has been huge decreases in public employment (mostly by the states). That washes right up at the feet of his tax cut loaded stimulus.

      Politically I’d give Obama a C for idealism but an F for outcome. He thought if he preemptively gave the GOP what they wanted (tax cuts) without asking for anything in return that they’d sign onto his stimulus bill. The GOP pocketed what he offered then voted lock step against it and simply pretended that none of the concessions he gave them existed.

      2. I’d be less generous than you on infrastructure. I’d say C or C- again based mainly on the fact that much of Obama’s stimulus activity was focused on cutting taxes during a recession which left him much less to direct towards infrastructure spending. In his place I’d have wanted him to pony up much more money to make available to the states for bridge repair, road repair, waterworks repair and sanitation repair. All of those systems are old, getting older and could have used a ton of rebuilding. Would have been a good place for all those construction companies to get some work too.

      3. In that Obama hasn’t done any creationism or fully embraced supply side imaginary numbers I’d credit him with a C+ on “restoring science to its rightful place”. I’d drop it to a C if we’re lumping healthcare in here. Again Obama preemptively offered concessions to the right and again the right simply pocketed them and voted lockstep against his proposals. Idealistic yes, politically potentially a killer. What remains to be seen is if the GOP can actually sell the idea that all Obama’s concessions simply didn’t exist and that he’s a far left partisan. Obama’s personal ratings suggest that this isn’t necessarily working but the election will be the final arbiter. If Obama loses then Obamaism is going to be viewed as the most dewy eyed idiotic bit of post-partisanship in generations. If Obama wins then he may be able to get away with claims of being a 4th dimensional chess player. Personally I’m pessimistic.
      Policy wise PPACA is nothing to be in love with but it at least has the merits of having broken the status quos. With reform it could be made into a much better bill and if the right manages to simple repeal it en toto (unlikely) they’re going to have to offer up something else in its place so either way it gets points for having disrupted the previous mess. So C.

      4. I’d give Obama a C on this item too. His reforms, “race for the top” et all have, at least been better than the sad No Child Left Behind nonsense that came before it. I don’t have much to say on the matter because it’s not an issue I track closely.

      I’d add in a 5. Foreign Policy and on that one I’d give Obama an A-. Israel has been a bust for Obama but otherwise on foreign policy he’s done tolerably well. His only war excursion was Libya which a) he pulled off on the cheap (in treasure and blood) and b) seems to have worked out pretty well all in all. Obama’s adhered firmly to the timetables that got us out of Iraq, he’s cranked up the pressure on Iran but hasn’t invaded anywhere (thank God(ess?). It looks like he may get us out of Afghanistan too though not in any real hurry. Other than the drone question which he’s been very bad on from a civil rights angle (but very good on from a realpolitic and foreign policy angle – at least he’s not filling up Bushes Gitmo madhouse with torture victims).

      Now a question for you Roger, how would you grade Congress on this list? Seeing as Romney is pretty plausibly cast as being prostrate to his party as President I’d think this would be important to consider. Also it’d be good to have you actually speak to what the opposition has done and whether you approve of their policies and politics.Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to North says:

        North,

        I thought all your comments and scores were illuminating. I would give Congress a failing score on pretty much every dimension. They either did little or nothing to improve matters, or took actions which made things worse.

        On foreign policy, I would give Obama a bad score due to failure to pull us out of Afghanistan. I see no excuse for being there. I hoped for more from the left on this front.Report

        • Avatar North in reply to Roger says:

          You can see then why I’d be supporting Obama even if I weren’t a necessarily captive voter.

          Well on foreign policy I can see where you can be disapproving but I still find your support of Romney and his party confusing. There’s an ocean of difference between Romney/the GOP taking us into unfunded unncessary wars and Obama not cleaning up and ending the GOP’s wars fast enough.Report

          • Avatar Roger in reply to North says:

            I am in absolutely no way a fan of Romney or the Republicans. If it seems I only argue with Democrats, this is because there are not enough Republicans to have fun with. Tom gets enough flack from the others.

            Right now my wife and I are leaning toward “none of the above” in the next election.

            The right really screwed things up in the Middle East.Report

  5. It’s not as if Ferguson’s such a great historian as it is…(certainly not anytime recently)

    My favorite note was:
    http://yaleglobal.yale.edu/content/first-global-man

    The most obvious contribution Mann’s books make to the history of globalization is the often forgotten point that the New World was central to the story of global integration. His books will continue to challenge Eurocentric histories, such as Niall Ferguson’s recent Civilization: The West and the Rest, in which a half dozen Western “killer apps” do the handiwork of Europe’s ineluctable triumph over the rest, including the Americas. Mann reminds those who tend to think of the Americas as having remained essentially separate from the rest of the world until the United States emerged as a superpower that the hemispheres actually had a deep history of interaction. And he forcefully rebuts those, such as Ferguson, who tend to think that Europeans invented modernity on their own. Globalization was not a unique European creation; it could not have been possible without the resources that Native Americans had already figured out how to exploit before 1492.

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    • I’ve heard tell that none of his stuff has been very dense since his first book. I’d be curious to know how regularly he publishes in journals.Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to Ethan Gach says:

        I read a book he wrote quite a few years ago on the rise and fall of the British Empire. I thought it was great. A year or two ago I read a history of finance or money or something he did on my Kindle, and felt it was a waste of time. I wasn’t aware he was a right winger until now. He will probably no longer be on my list.Report

  6. Avatar greginak says:

    Just to add what the others have said about tax rates, if not knowing what will happen with tax rates handicaps business then we can never actually have a discuss taxes without hurting business. How in the hell can we run a country if the people or gov even considering the subject of taxes is so damaging??? The argument is that the polity in a democracy considering issues cripples business. Uncertainty is a euphemism for rich folk don’t like talk of raising taxes so shut up.Report

  7. Good post. Niall Ferguson has plenty of form for bad reasoning. Here’s something I wrote about something he wrote about 9/11, employing especially poor counter-factualism: http://stevesarson.blogspot.co.uk/2011/09/niall-ferguson-niall-schmurguson.htmlReport

  8. I misplaced that comma, there….Report

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