There were two economics reports, and you won’t believe what happened next (shocking!)

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James Hanley

James Hanley is a two-bit college professor who'd rather be canoeing.

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216 Responses

  1. Avatar Snarky McSnarksnark says:

    I have no particular stake in Piketty’s thesis, but I do know that his book has had crosshairs painted on it since the moment it was published. I don’t have the fortitude to actually read it, but if that’s the best his critics have come up with, it seems pretty weak tea.

    The last point, in particular, doesn’t seem very impressive. The concentration of wealth may have declined in the 2000s, but there’s not another capitalist country in the world that has undertaken more explicitly the goal of reducing wealth inequalty.

    My understanding of other people’s understanding of Piketty, is that he postulated that it’s the natural inclination of post-industrial capitalism to tend toward greater concentrations of wealth, unless countered by public policy.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Snarky McSnarksnark says:

      My understanding of other people’s understanding of Piketty, is that he postulated that it’s the natural inclination of post-industrial capitalism to tend toward greater concentrations of wealth, unless countered by public policy.

      Thanks for that. Now I have an understanding of your understanding of other people’s understanding of Piketty.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Snarky McSnarksnark says:

      I don’t think most people have read Capital in the 21st century in full and this includes his supporters and detractors.

      You are basically right in your analysis but I think Piketty admits that his solutions are probably unworkable at the moment. He basically thinks that the post-War period of a vast and stable middle-class was an exception and not the rule and is trying to figure out why. He might be right but the social and political problem is that the vast and stable middle-class of the post-War era is known to large sections of the Western world and it is the only thing they know. You will probably see a lot of anger if you basically tell most people that they will live more marginal and less comfortable existences.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Snarky McSnarksnark says:

      Snark,

      Who says that’s the “best” his detractors have come up with? It’s just the latest. But mishandling the data on which you based your conclusions is a fundamental error. I suspect this will lead others to look at his data from other countries.

      And of course a work this big and ambitious, with a new and and hugely important (if correct) central claim (about the returns to capital) comes with cross-hairs. That’s how the knowledge game works. No field as a whole is just supposed to accept a new big hypothesis, but to challenge it to see if it stands up. It’s not about his work being amenable to liberals (outside the popular press anyway), but about him making a bold and groundbreaking claim, and arguing that his data supports it. Skeptics–of which there will be legion for any bold and groundbreaking claim–will immediately begin digging into that data, to see if it holds up. If it does, so much the better for Piketty’s argument–his claims will be vindicated by others; if not, so much the worse for his argument–he can join Pons and Fleischmann at the Commiseration Bar and Grill.Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Snarky McSnarksnark says:

      I obviously didn’t deem it worth my time to attempt Piketty directly. But I’ll throw in with Snark that from what I read about the thesis, I always doubted that it really so clearly supported the overall liberal narrative on inequality enough for them to act like it was basically the perfect summation and proof thereof. It seemed a bit oblique to it to me.Report

      • Here’s the cliff note version so you don’t need to read it. As James said we will now see a long and appropriate vetting of the data. http://pikettyexplained.blogspot.com/Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

        Thanks. Totally agreed on the appropriateness of the vetting. As I said, I do feel like I’ve gotten the gist from outside reading & listening (I do a lot of podcasts; I listened to at least one of him explaining his thesis to a lay audience). If my understanding is nevertheless off (I haven’t reviewed it in some months), I feel like that’s okay because I actually think the popular impact of this book has been massively oversold, while the academic impact is necessarily in its earliest stages of formation as we are seeing. The U.S. had a big conversation about inequality before it was published (in English), then seemed to move on, and I’m not really aware that the book as revived or advanced it much here or abroad, though I could be wrong.

        The one thing I’d say about the vetting is that it’s appropriate to the vet the vetting as well. There was the flap over data in the Reinhart-Rogoff debt paper a year back or so, and neither those pointing out and saying the (a possible) error mattered, nor those saying it didn’t matter were doing anything that wasn’t prima facie perfectly procedurally appropriate within the knowledge production process James talks about. (Of course any of them may have been making specific procedural or substantive errors in their arguments depending on their arguments, but, again, prima facie neither pointing out errors in analysis nor arguing that there is little or no significance to them, or that they’re not errors, is inappropriate.)Report

    • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Snarky McSnarksnark says:

      The data collection is regarded as the book’s strong point. Most of the criticism has been focused on the theory.

      I have no particular stake in Piketty’s thesis, but I do know that his book has had crosshairs painted on it since the moment it was published.

      Conversely much of the praise it’s received has been for telling people what they want to hear.Report

  2. My impression is that few of Piketty’s supporters nor detractors have read the book. The big thesis is that the return on capital is usually larger than overall economic growth. All the rest is interesting details but a distraction really. The return on capital does seem to be 3-5% and growth does seem to be lower than that and the rest is high school math. But his return and growth claims are empirical so it’s good people are looking at the data. But I agree about crosshairs and weak tea. It subjectively gives Piketty more cred.Report

    • Avatar Lyle in reply to Peter Shirley says:

      To generate one data point to support it. The return on the S&P 500 in the US from 1871 to 2013 inflation adjusted and annualized is 6.86. I doubt that the growth rate of the US economy in that period averaged as much.Report

    • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Peter Shirley says:

      The return on capital does seem to be 3-5% and growth does seem to be lower than that and the rest is high school math.

      No, it’s not just high-school math, and this is why the strong form of the r > g thesis is simply wrong: It assumes that people simply reinvest 100% of their returns, spending nothing and bequeathing it to their descendants generation after generation in perpetuity. In the real world, people often use their returns to buy stuff, donate to charity, or pay taxes, so 100% of returns don’t get reinvested in perpetuity.

      Furthermore, capital accumulation has the effect of increasing returns to labor (because labor and capital are complementary) and lowering returns to capital (diminishing marginal returns). Which is to say, we should wish Piketty’s thesis were correct, because it would mean higher wages.

      There’s also the fact that most of the recent increase in intranational income inequality comes from increases in wage inequality, not from increases in investment income. That is, r > g doesn’t actually explain most of the increase in intranational income inequality. Nor does it explain the awkward fact that global income inequality is decreasing.

      I haven’t read the book, so maybe in the book itself Piketty qualifies his claims enough that he’s not vulnerable to these criticisms. But in that case, his claim is much weaker than it’s being portrayed to be by the name-droppers and sympathetic media accounts.Report

      • Avatar Peter Shirley in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        Good point. I should have said net r. My mistake : piketty does make that very clear. It’s also one reason he looks at the 1800s as that was a good case study of net r.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        How do you know that income inequality is decreasing, on the international scale? How is that measured? How much of the income is coming from Child Labor? How about the underground economy in general? (Multinational corps not paying into Mexican welfare count as underground, one supposes,d o they not?)Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        In the real world, people often use their returns to buy stuff, donate to charity, or pay taxes, so 100% of returns don’t get reinvested in perpetuity.

        The only way that would seem to be an objection to Piketty is if capital does it *more* than labor.

        If everyone, people who make money from capital and people who make money from labor, all use X% of their income instead of reinvesting it, all that’s going to do is slow the process down, not correct the imbalance.

        Furthermore, capital accumulation has the effect of increasing returns to labor (because labor and capital are complementary) and lowering returns to capital (diminishing marginal returns).

        No. Neither of those are true.

        Also you don’t seem to know what ‘labor and capital are complementary’ means. Labor and capital are complementary in the sense of how a company makes money. They are the factors of production. That says nothing about the economy as a whole, and it doesn’t even say what you’re implying it says about a company! If two things are complementary, that means they *work well together*, not that increasing one will magically increase the other.

        If you want to argue the claim that capital accumulation has the effect of increasing returns to labor, please actually make that argument.

        As for the second part: We have a pretend financial economy of *1.2 quadrillion dollars*. Exactly what point are those ‘diminishing marginal returns’ supposed to kick in? When we hit one hundred times the GDP?Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        @davidtc The relationship between capital-to-labor ratio and wages is described in pretty much any basic macroeconomics textbook. Capital and labor each make the other more productive, so as the capital to labor ratio rises, wages tend to rise and interest rates tend to fall.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        If two things are complementary, that means they *work well together*, not that increasing one will magically increase the other.

        That’s not what economists mean by complementarity, David TC. This is one of those terms that has a technical meaning within the profession that does not precisely map onto the common usage.

        For example, coffee and creamer are complementary–if the price of coffee declines, so people buy more coffee, there’s likely to be a corresponding increase in the purchase of creamer.

        Coffee and creamer do work well together, but so do bacon and eggs, and a decline in the price of bacon probably doesn’t increase the purchase of eggs in the way that a decline in the price of coffee increases purchases of creamer.

        I know I’m flogging this relentlessly, but a person actually needs to put some effort into knowing these things in order to talk knowledgeably about them.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        @james-hanley
        If two things are complimentary in economics, and one of them goes up, demand for the other will go up, because those two things work well together. I admit I could have explained that a touch more, but I do know what it means.

        But Brandon jumped from ‘they are complimentary’ to ‘capital causes increased *returns* to labor’. Capital might (or might not, see below) cause *increased demand* for labor, but increased demand for labor does not automatically result in ‘increased returns to the people supplying labor’. (The labor market is *extremely* weird and laggy.)

        @brandon-berg
        Capital and labor each make the other more productive, so as the capital to labor ratio rises, wages tend to rise and interest rates tend to fall.

        You just said they make each other more productive…so as the capital to labor ratio *rises* (aka, as the business has more capital or *less* labor) wages tend to rise. What? And why would a business hiring less people result in wages tending to rise?

        Brandon, let me address the point I think you were trying to make: Within a specific company, labor and capital are often complementary. If capital goes up, for example, if there are more machines, you need more people to run them. Or if a company has a bunch of money it’s just sitting on, it should hire some people to *do something.

        So, in theory, as more capital gets out there, the economy will want to hire more people to do things. And this higher demand for labor will increase wages. This is, I think, what you were trying to get across, and it’s a reasonable theory.

        So let me list my objections:

        One, the theory that capital and labor are complimentary is just a theory, and capital and labor are *also* sometimes substitutionary. Sometimes, instead of buying more machines, a company replaces their machines with automated machines, and labor demand goes down. Or they will move their factory to somewhere with the same amount of, but cheaper, labor. People can’t just *assert* that handing businesses capital will result in higher labor demand as some sort of platonic ideal.

        Two, ‘adding capital adds labor demand’ is because the company can produce more goods and services with a combination of both added…which means it works for individual corporation making, for example, baseball caps, but might not work across the economy as a whole, because the economy does not actually *want* twice as many baseball caps produced. Production might be constrained by capital and labor, but ‘demand for product’ is also rather relevant there. (I’m not entirely sure about how important this is, so would be willing to change my mind if people argue.)

        Three, even if more capital results in higher labor demand, which then results in higher wages, this does not mean that wages will go up enough to provide a *counterbalance* to what Piketty has apparently discovered. In fact, if what Piketty discovered is true, we know they don’t go up that much. That’s literally what the data says.

        But more importantly:
        Brandom, you seems to be posing this is as a hypothetical question. ‘What would happen if a bunch of capital just appeared?’. The problem is, we are not just describing things in the future. Piketty’s theory also describes *the past*. We *already* have an economy that slowly shifted from labor to capital, because capital had a higher ROI. That already happened.

        And what happened? The money ended up chasing itself in a 1.2 *quadrillion* financial market in this country while wages remained steady or went down. It ended up concentrating itself in the hands of very very wealthy people.

        This is probably because the rich *already* figured out Piketty’s point…if capital produces better ROI than labor, why exactly would a company spend on labor, or even fixed capital, instead of just *investing* it? But, of course, they can’t invest it in other companies that produce things, because *those companies* would rather spend money on investment than labor also.

        Solution: Invent a bunch of nonsense in the financial market and start massively trading that, until the nonsense market *completely dwarfs* the actual ‘produce goods and services via labor’ market.

        Piketty’s theory explains a good deal more about our recent history than people think.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        DavidTC,

        Went and googled it, then figured out a way to wedge your words in, eh? This isn’t the first time you’ve bungled the basic concepts. It’s clear economics isn’t a topic you know, but if you keep looking things up when called on your mistakes, someday you might have a decent grasp of it.Report

      • If two things are complimentary in economics, and one of them goes up, demand for the other will go up, because those two things work well together. I admit I could have explained that a touch more, but I do know what it means.

        In the real, non-economist world, “complimentary” means “free.” As in, “there’s no such thing as a complimentary lunch.” However, I suppose I could go to McDonalds and buy a big mac, with a complementary soda because, well, I usually don’t buy soda if I’m not already buying a burger.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        *sigh* James, I do know what complementary means in economics.

        Brandon was using them as if an increase in one thing results in an increase in another. Whereas in actuality, an increase in one results *in an increase in demand* for the other. Society does not magically get more creamer if people buy more coffee!

        As I said, I’d like for him to *explain* the process by which he thinks capital accumulation has the effect of increasing returns to labor. I could *see* a chain of logic there (Which I addressed in my next post), but I’ve really tried to cut back on trying to *guess* people’s logic, so I gave him the chance to state it first, in case I was guessing wrong.

        Actually, you know what? I’d like *you* to justify Brandon’s statement of:

        Furthermore, capital accumulation has the effect of increasing returns to labor (because labor and capital are complementary)

        Please explain how labor and capital being complementary means that labor gets *increasing returns* if there’s more capital. What part of ‘complementary’ means that?

        You will notice that in his next post he goes rather off the rails by talking about how wages go up as capital-to-labor *ratio* rises, which is basically saying the *exact opposite* of them being complementary. (Or, at least, the exact opposite of what he said easier, but I’m still a little baffled as to what ‘wages’ or ‘returns to labor’ have to to with any of this. Labor and capital are complementary for *production*. That doesn’t, in itself, say anything about wages.)

        I think it’s pretty clear, between me and Brandon, which one of use don’t know the meaning of ‘complementary’.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        Truly, David, you consistently give the impression of not understanding the economic terms you use.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        @davidtc I don’t know what you think I meant, but what I actually meant by “complementary” is exactly what you said: that an increase in capital leads to an increase in demand for labor. Holding supply fixed (and there’s no particular reason to expect an increase in capital to cause an increase in the supply of labor), this should lead in an increase in returns to labor, i.e. wages. More capital => greater demand for labor => higher wages.

        You can tell a story where demand has an absolute limit and we reach a point where demand for labor drops off a cliff, but history isn’t on your side. People have been predicting this since the big-L Luddites, and the exact opposite keeps happening.

        Note also that foreign investment tends to raise wages in the country where the investments are made.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        talking about how wages go up as capital-to-labor *ratio* rises, which is basically saying the *exact opposite* of them being complementary.

        No, it’s the same as them being complements, because complementary things rise and fall together. Assuming a fixed labor pool (at least in the short term), increased demand for labor must push up wages. Think, for example, of all the capital investment in North Dakota right now and the effect on wages there. Assuming a slack or expanding labor pool, it will at least mean more laboreres being hired, which is still an increased return to labor.

        I think it’s pretty clear, between me and Brandon, which one of use don’t know the meaning of ‘complementary’.

        Crystal clear.

        The bigger question is whether capital and labor are really complements or substitutes. I think the casual general public view is that they’re substitutes. Economists mostly treat them as complements, and they seem to be, mostly, but may not be in all cases.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        @james
        Assuming a fixed labor pool (at least in the short term), increased demand for labor must push up wages. …Assuming a slack or expanding labor pool, it will at least mean more laboreres being hired, which is still an increased return to labor.

        Assuming a fixed labor pool is a rather silly conceit, especially in a country with the unemployment we have and the current facts of off-shoring and immigration. And if more labor is hired (Or if existing employees are worked more.), the capital-to-labor ratio would then be *falling*, not rising.

        So what Brandon was saying was that the ratio *corrected* itself, and if the imbalance was towards capital, it would correct itself by hiring more labor or paying more wages.

        The bigger question is whether capital and labor are really complements or substitutes.

        You mean the exact objection I raised earlier? My other two objections, in case you want to get around to discussing them, are:

        a) Demand is not magically 100% elastic. If you went and doubled Coke’s capital, Coke might build twice as many factories and hire twice as many people, because it thinks it can sell that much Coke by taking customers from Pepsi. But if you double the entire capital of the entire soft drink industry, soft-drink demand does not magically appear. (And if it did it would be at the expense of other drinks.) So if you double the capital of the *economy*, you can’t just automatically double the supply…the economy is pretty well supplied in most things and does not need the supply doubled.

        I.e., the ‘capital and labor are complimentary’ theory might not actually scale to *the entire economy*. That theory assumes the company can use their added capital towards production, so will need more labor. But if they can’t reasonably make more stuff (Because they can’t sell it), they obviously won’t need more labor.

        Capital can only grow so much faster than the economy before it runs out of plausible things to hire people for.

        Brandon appears to objects to this objection, so I’ll address him later when I get more time, but, like I said, this objection seems a bit shaky to me also, or at least I haven’t phrased it exactly correctly. It might be more an issue of capital ‘pulling ahead’ for short periods of time, which is also what I think he thinks also with his ‘capital driving the economy’…but I think capital ‘being ahead’ of labor is, in a way, part of the cause of what Piketty found.

        b) There is no evidence that rising labor is enough to counter Piketty anyway. Now that I’ve had more time to think about it, this might be due to the confusion as to what is being talked about in that ‘capital and labor are complimentary’. That is a production-center theory about how businesses behave, and it does not apply to, for example, home loans.

        In fact, finance, an industry without matching labor, is the industry that has turned into a giant 1.2 quadrillion cloud hovering over the productive economy. And we just had real estate explode in size then fall apart. Is it a coincidence as to how much of our capital seems to end up in places without much labor involvement?

        And, on top of my three objections, there’s a more important thing:

        *This should have been happening all along*. We are not talking about things in a hypothetical future when a bunch of capital appears out of thin air. If more capital, on average, resulted in the same amount of additional spending on labor, Piketty’s data wouldn’t exist!

        We can’t dispute observations with theories, especially theories that are already somewhat vague and only apply in specific circumstances, like ‘capital and labor are complimentary’.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        @davidtc

        You really just ought to admit that you do not understand these topics to the extent that you think that you do. There is no shame in that. There are lots of topics and lots of situations – most, in fact – where the best thing for me to do is talk less and listen more and ask more questions than make definitive statements.

        And when you say something like this, I would say that this is one of those topics for you.

        Assuming a fixed labor pool is a rather silly conceit, especially in a country with the unemployment we have and the current facts of off-shoring and immigration.

        That is the very first thing that you said in your comment and it is wrong. The overall unemployment rate or the amount of immigration or off-shoring have no necessary impact on the short run pool of labor in a particular labor market. They might have an effect, if the work in question is undifferentiated enough, but they don’t have to have an effect.

        As an example, let’s say that my wife and I want to go out Saturday night, but we cannot find a babysitter. All of the babysitters that we normally work with are booked or otherwise unavailable. That means that I am facing a shortage of qualified labor. I may widen my search, but I am only going to widen it by so much. I am not going to leave my kid with someone that I don’t have direct experience with or who does not come with a reference from someone that I know and trust. I am not going to put up an ad on Craigslist. I am not going down to Home Depot to try and hire a day laborer. I am not going to set up Skype and try to hire some guy in a call center in India to watch my kid remotely.

        In the long run, I can try to expand the pool of people who I would hire to babysit, but in the short run, which is what @james-hanley said, the amount of labor available is fixed. In fact, that is the definition of the short run labor supply.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        DavidTC,

        No, you don’t know, and the bluster does you no credit.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        Do economists talk about them as complements at all? Is the term ‘complementary’ used in that general way? Or is the term pretty much reserved for discussion of “complementary goods”?

        “Labor and capital are complementary.” Has any economist ever said that, intending to use the term complementary in the exact way his professional jargon uses it?Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        @chris I found those same two pages, too.

        It also looks to me like economists do routinely consider whether labor and capital (or technology) are complementary (i.e. whether technology increases the marginal product of labor), using the term in that specific way as well, though not always concluding the relationship is necessarily or always complementary.

        http://economics.mit.edu/files/8994Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        @j-r
        That is the very first thing that you said in your comment and it is wrong. The overall unemployment rate or the amount of immigration or off-shoring have no necessary impact on the short run pool of labor in a particular labor market. They might have an effect, if the work in question is undifferentiated enough, but they don’t have to have an effect.

        You are entirely correct about what happens in the short term.

        However, what we are talking about in this thread (and I know it’s been a long time because James derailed it) was Brandon arguing against Piketty (Or against conclusions others had reached from him) by talking about how increased capital would increase labor gains.

        We were talking about increased capital for the *entire economy* over decades. Or, at least, that’s what *I* was talking about. (James is talking about whether or I know anything.) There is clearly not a fixed labor pool there.

        And all this is moot, anyway, as this is part of James’ derailment about whether I know the meaning of the word ‘complementary’ or not, and my slight confusion as to what Brandon meant by ‘as the capital to labor ratio rises, wages tend to rise and interest rates tend to fall.’ He meant, ‘after the capital to labor ratio rises, the ratio then attempts to return to normal, which either works or causes wages tend to rise or both’, which I *entirely agree* with.

        At least…in the short-term localized sense. I just refuse to extend that to the entire economy, or at least refuse to do it without some evidence.

        This disagreement, of course, is what we should *actually* be having a discussion about. James could even join in, he independently pointed out my objection about how ‘capital and labor are complements’ is just a general rule-of-thumb theory and sometimes they’re more like substitutes.

        But the idea of having an actual discussion about actual economic topics is apparently a pipe dream.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        Just the other day Dave was asking me for examples of this.Report

      • Avatar Dave in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        @chris

        Are you referring to people telling other people what they don’t know about a certain topic?Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        I assume, Chris, that you pointed him to some of your responses to others in the various racism discussions?Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        If you want to believe I do the same thing, that’s fine.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        Remember Brooke?Report

      • Let’s please not rehash old and better-forgotten battles.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        “Let’s please not rehash old and better-forgotten battles.”

        New here, eh?Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        @will-truman

        Sorry, friend, but I’m at the WTF? stage now. All of this sounds to me like a couple guys complaining because of a bad case of butthurt.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        And that car you drive is a real piece of shit.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        Why are economic issues being posted here if the expects in economics will not talk about them, and the people who are not experts get called stupid and dismissed on those grounds if their definitions and terms are not letter perfect?

        Nice try, but that’s not what happened.

        You should go back and read your own comments. Heck, look at the way you started this comment.

        Your problem is that you want to come out swinging at everyone who doesn’t share your ideological priors, but then you end up getting slapped down. And now you’re complaining that everyone is hurting your feelings.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        it’s pretty clear at this point that James H. does not want to discuss Piketty, which makes it *very* strange that he made an article on it.

        I wrote about people reviewing his data. That’s not at all the same thing as wanting to talk about Piketty’s thesis in general.

        But blog discussion threads rarely stick to just what the author is interested in, so if you want to talk about Piketty more broadly than I want to, I have no objection. It’s just not the conversation I happen to be interested in.Report

    • @dave @chris

      What’s the delineation on that? Someone says, “You don’t know the meaning of the terms you’re using,” that’s pretty clearly an example, yes? Someone says, “That’s wrong.” That seems like a disagreement to me. There has to be room for that, right? Or is the issue also trying to recognize ahead of time when someone has you out-credentialed and you should’t say that, either?Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Michael Drew says:

        The latter, though I think there’s an ideological component in addition to the credential one.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Michael Drew says:

        What do credentials matter if a person can demonstrate they know what they’re talking about?

        The problem is when people say things that are demonstrably incorrect, and then are butthurt because someone points it out.

        Read Chris talking to Brooke here. Notice how patient and gentle he is with her errors, and how his comments are completely lacking anything remotely smacking of ideology.Report

      • I don’t fully follow either part of your response, Chris. Do we agree that the first example is paradigmatic? Is it an example of saying what someone doesn’t know about a subject to simply say someone’s wrong about some particular thing? Is it an example only if the person himself is wrong about the other person being wrong, or in any case not informed enough to know he’s right? Or is it equally an example of telling someone what he doesn’t know about a subject to say someone’s wrong when they are?

        For my part, I don’t feel like saying someone is wrong about something is telling them what they don’t know about a subject. It’s telling them that some one thing they think they know about it is wrong. Telling them what they don’t know about a subject happens when you move from addressing the specific point they’re (wrongly) making to an assessment of their level of knowledge in the subject generally. Hence, telling them about all that (what) they don’t know, implying it’s a lot.Report

      • …Oh yeah, and the ideological component. I’m not sure what you mean by that.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Michael Drew says:

        And who gave you that shirt, Jackson Pollock?Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to Michael Drew says:

        In this conversation, you might as well just go ahead and identify the statements that you are talking about. Trying to have this conversation in the abstract is not likely to get you anywhere.

        If someone is consistently misusing terms of art, but is still making a coherent argument, I’d never call that person out (I might make a clarifying point). The problem comes when someone is taking terms that have specific meanings and using those terms on the exact wrong way as support for a convoluted and partly self-contradictory argument. Forget about credentials. Credentials don’t matter. This is the internet, where nobody knows that you’re a dog. What matters is that you can discuss the topic at hand with a modicum of understanding. It also does not help when that person is also trying to call other people out for getting things wrong.

        If this were a conversation about global warming and someone kept saying, “how can there by global warming when it’s so cold today?” I don’t think many people would hesitate to call that person out.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Michael Drew says:

        James, yeah, like I said, if you want to think that’s the same thing, that’s fine. Hell, if you see it as the same thing and don’t like me doing it, maybe that will help you stop.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Michael Drew says:

        Michael, the conversation with Dave started in the EMH thread. Here’s how it went: James K used the EMH to explain our failure to foresee the 2008 financial crisis. I said (snarikly) that it was ironic to evoke the EMH to explain the 2008 crisis. James K and James H, without asking what I meant, simply said, “You think this because you don’t understand economics.” It’s probably worth noting that by the end of that conversation, James H was basically agreeing with my broader point, and agreeing that there were experts who held my more specific one, as an illustration that the “you don’t understand economics” was reflexive.

        The conversation with David here might not be a perfectly clean example, but that was not the first time either of the James’ has accused people of not understanding economics reflexively (Brandon and particularly Roger are worse… hell, Brandon basically accuses Piketty of not understanding the area of economics that is his primary area of research). My point, in the previous thread, was simply that this is a common rhetorical tact by the libertarian/free market-oriented commenters here (though it’s pretty common among self-identified libertarians everywhere), and Dave asked me for examples. That it only took a couple days to get another is, I believe, pretty good evidence that I wasn’t being hyperbolic.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to Michael Drew says:

        @chris

        You are not being hyperbolic, but you are certainly being selective.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Michael Drew says:

        @j-r , Oh, I recognize that. I made the original statement, in the other thread, in a sentence which also acknowledged this blog’s general leftward trend. And I think because of that trend, there are shortcuts that the leftish types take as well. Hell, some of those may be of the same general species as the “You don’t know economics” response (which, again, is not unique to the libertarian/free market types here). And I was responding to a specific instance of this particular rhetorical device, which I generally find annoying.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

        @chris

        Thanks fr the history. I was thinking of asking, but more inclined to let it go roughly for the reasons @j-r suggests.

        @j-r

        I agree that on some given question, credentials don’t come into it. “You’re using that term wrong!”/”You’re wrong about that contention!”/”No I’m not!” etc. That’s just an argument.

        However, when you turn the corner into the general assessment of a person’s learning in an area, credentials very much come into it. If you make that turn and you have no credentials from which to say it, I’m not going to take you seriously, precisely because that is an assessment that pretends to some degree of authoritativeness – a position to judge a person’s overall knowledge in an area. So it requires being in a position of some minimal kind of authority. To do that with no credentials in the area at all is unserious pretension. And if it turns out you’re trying to do that as someone with no credentials in an area *to someone with credentials*, you’ve shown yourself a knave. But you’re knave there exactly because of the other person’s credentials (of which you may be unaware, which is why you just avoid making that turn.) James recently recounted an example of this he endured. So credentials do matter when handing down that kind of general assessment of someone’s learning an an area.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Michael Drew says:

        Michael, the ideological component is that part of libertarianism/free marketism is believing that the economic facts of the matter are a certain way, that this is established fact (or very near to it), and that anyone who thinks differently doesn’t understand economics for that reason. The result is that anyone who disagrees with folks who hold those ideologies is automatically assumed to do so out of ignorance, not out of, say, knowledgeable disagreement about the facts.

        Now, it may be that they feel this way because most people who disagree with them don’t understand economics, which is almost certainly true, but that’s not always the correct baseline from which to make inferences. That is, most people don’t understand economics, because most people don’t understand most things. However, there are more than a few people who are not llibertarians/free market types understand economics.Report

        • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Chris says:

          @chris

          I don’t like that attitude much, either, but isn’t it ultimately just a species of thinking you’re right about something and someone else is wrong? If they really think they’re right and you really think they’re wrong, ultimately you pretty much have to think there is some system of beliefs getting them to the belief in question that either they have that is mistaken, or that is correct that they lack. That’s pretty much what we believe when we believe someone is wrong.

          My issue is not with believing that; it’t with moving from arguments about why the specific belief is wrong, which is telling them that something they think is wrong, to talking about – asserting – their general ignorance in a subject – telling them what they don’t know about it. or in any case, to me that is where I think your useful framing (just stated – “telling them what they don’t know”) kicks in. I think that’s unnecessarily insulting in almost all cases. Others don’t care because, dammit, they’re so incensed that people are making contentions from a position of what they view as extreme ignorance. They want to be able to stop dealing with the contentions and instead move to the person making them.

          We may differ on what our issues with that are. I think maybe your issue, as you’ve said, is the actual belief – to be more precise, the certainty – that their set of beliefs is right and that if the other person’s set of beliefs departs from them, then they’re ignorant of the facts. (Often this is done in terms of the demonstration of knowledge of the jargon of some established academic discipline, which makes turning around and dismissing the significance of credentialism in this kind of exchange strange to say the least). I share this concern to a degree, but it’s not my primary concern, because ultimately there will be situations where people are making contains from a place of real ignorance, and people burdened with sets of unavoidable facts will have to contend with their contentions. My main concern is that the “telling them what they don’t know about a subject” tack is just disrespectful to the point of incivility unless you have been pushed to the very limit of your own ability to maintain civility. (And if that limit is a very constricted perimeter, the more poorly that speaks for you.) I just don’t support going that route because I think it’s rude as hell.

          …But then I lack the credentials to tell anyone what they don’t know about just about anything, so maybe I would feel that way…;)Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Michael Drew says:

        “You’re using that term wrong!”/”You’re wrong about that contention!”/”No I’m not!” etc. That’s just an argument.

        No, it isn’t.Report

        • You’re right, Mike; those are substantive contentions that are routine matters of subsequent argument. My error.

          But they’re not examples, IMO, of “telling someone what they don’t now about a subject,” or of a rhetorical move that we should or really can draw any kind of line of propriety around. Those kinds of contentions pretty much have to be in bounds. You have to be able to argue about whether terminology is being used correctly; you have to be able to argue about whether contentions are right or wrong.

          OTOH, telling someone how generally ignorant he is of a subject is an example of telling him what he doesn’t know about a subject. It’s not a necessary part of discourse, and though we don’t necessarily have to draw a line around it as unwanted, I certainly would have no problem if we did.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Michael Drew says:

        Now, it may be that they feel this way because most people who disagree with them don’t understand economics, which is almost certainly true,

        As is the fact that most people who agree with them don’t understand economics.Report

      • Avatar Dave in reply to Michael Drew says:

        Holy shit do I have a headache now.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Michael Drew says:

        Dave, you’re welcome. 😉Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to Michael Drew says:

        I do not disagree with any of this. This happens and it happens a lot. If you get into a conversation about national security, it is not unlikely that a conservative will try to argue that non-conservative national security opinions are naive and unserious. If you get into a conversation about poverty, it is not unlikely that a progressive will try to argue that non-progressive anti poverty interventions are untenable and insufficiently attentive to the needs of the poor. When I get into conversations here about race or gender, it is not uncommon for someone to try and tell me that I don’t understand feminist/multiculturalist/identity studies theories.

        And yes, if you get into a conversation about economics, it is not unlikely that a libertarian will come along and tell you that you don’t understand economics.

        I mention all of this not to justify it by saying that other sides do it too. I am quite comfortable saying that, in general, this form of argumentation is not conducive to meaningful discussion and ought to be eschewed.

        Here comes the “but” … but, as I said above, specifics matter. I made some statements of this kind to @davidtc and I stand behind those statements. There are times when someone says, “I don’t buy the economics” or “I don’t buy your version of the economics” and that is fine. This was different. He was specifically trying to make an economic argument based on a faulty and imprecise understanding of specific economic concepts. If someone wants to argue that I was wrong in that specific case, I am happy to entertain the possibility. That, however, requires an argument that addresses what both he and I and others said and not just a general aversion to this type of argument.Report

      • This happens and it happens a lot. If you get into a conversation about national security, it is not unlikely that a conservative will try to argue that non-conservative national security opinions are naive and unserious. If you get into a conversation about poverty, it is not unlikely that a progressive will try to argue that non-progressive anti poverty interventions are untenable and insufficiently attentive to the needs of the poor. When I get into conversations here about race or gender, it is not uncommon for someone to try and tell me that I don’t understand feminist/multiculturalist/identity studies theories.

        But these three aren’t the same. Only the last is an example of telling you what you don’t know. The other things are statements about the defects of your position as a substantive position. It’s entirely possible for a conservative to tell you he thinks your position is naive even while not asserting that you’re fundamentally ignorant in the area. And what would be wrong with that? Policy arguments often come down to assessments of the quality of others’ judgement on particular topics, and for someone to tell you he thinks a position of yours is naive is just to say that he thinks your judgement on some matter isn’t the best. You probably think the same of him. Even if he says he thinks that of any non-conservative foreign policy position (an argument I’m not very familiar with being given in the abstract), ultimately he;s saying he thinks your judgement in the area is naive. For him to hold the positions he holds, he probably has to think that; for him he probably holds his positions out of a fear of being naive. But there’s no dismissal of your knowledge base against which you make you policy judgments in general assessment of your judgement, from a position of posed authority. Ultimately, it’s unlikely he’ll deny that it’s merely his own judgement that you are naive, and he’ll probably concede that you are at least in a position to hold a different judgement of yourself, even if he ultimately won’t be persuaded you are right about yourself.

        OTOH, if he were to say, “You demonstrate on the reg with your repeated misuse of jargon that you simply do not have the knowledge base from which to make judgments about foreign policy” (which, to be fair, I think a lot of military people do do with their myriad acronyms and whatnot, though they rarely make it explicit, but rather keep those dismissals in their own counsel, which is what I am asking of people), that would indeed be telling you what you don’t know, and essentially disqualifying you from engagement with him, or at least putting you at a lower level of qualification than him, to engage with him on that topic.

        And some people are totally okay with that! I’m not a fan.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Michael Drew says:

        Chris writes,
        James K and James H, without asking what I meant, simply said, “You think this because you don’t understand economics.”

        That’s not exactly how it went down. Notice Chris is doing that thing of using quotation marks for something that’s not actually a direct quotation, and that isn’t accurately descriptive of what was said.

        James K replied first:

        Your failure to understand the Efficient Market Hypothesis is not an indictment of the Efficient Market Hypothesis.

        That’s not a claim that Chris doesn’t understand any economics; it’s a claim that Chris got this one particular concept wrong.

        And here’s what I actually said.

        I’ve heard this frequently, and I can only wonder at what people think the efficient markets hypothesis is. It does not say markets work perfectly, and it definitely does not say market collapses could be predicted. This is the kind of thing that’s frustrating–the assured confidence while totally misunderstanding a concept.

        Like James K, I did not accuse Chris of not understanding any economics, just of misunderstanding this concept.

        So why does Chris misrepresent us?

        It’s probably worth noting that by the end of that conversation, James H was basically agreeing with my broader point, and agreeing that there were experts who held my more specific one

        And here Chris cleverly rewrites history, making it sound as though I came around to his point. But at no point did I ever claim any more than that the EMH had nothing to do with the 2008 crash, and that his claim that even the weak form of EMH was “dead.” I’ve never moved from either of those positions. I’m not sure what Chris is saying his “broader” point was, but I never really addressed a broader point–I addressed the fact that he claimed an idea still held by a large proportion of the discipline–the weak version of EMH–was “dead.”

        Frankly, I’m still wondering how any theory still held by a large portion of its home discipline could fairly be said to be dead. Even a number of Chris’s own links supported the weak version of the theory–not just his first link that didn’t really support his position at all, but even his link that clearly rejected the strong and semi-strong versions still accepted the weak version that Chris claimed was “dead.”

        At no point has Chris actually supported that claim–all he’s done is complain that someone’s been so rude as to say that his claim demonstrates a misunderstanding of the concept at stake.

        As for DavidTC, he regularly misuses economic concepts. A one-time event doesn’t mean much, but repeated misuse of a discipline’s concepts is a pretty good indicator a person doesn’t actually know that discipline. One can only wonder what Chris would say if a commenter repeatedly bungled their use of concept in psychology, or perhaps in discussions of philosophy, where he’s also very well read (far more so than I am).

        If someone repeatedly mis-stated concepts in the field of IT, would we be pitching a fit if Schilling, Cahalan, Caine and others pointed out that they don’t seem to have any real understanding of it? I doubt it, because I think Chris was right about one thing–ideology’s playing a big role here, and IT doesn’t have the same ideological divide at the OT as economics does.Report

      • One can only wonder what Chris would say if a commenter repeatedly bungled their use of concept in psychology, or perhaps in discussions of philosophy, where he’s also very well read (far more so than I am)

        Maybe he’d be polite!Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Michael Drew says:

        the ideological component is that part of libertarianism/free marketism is believing that the economic facts of the matter are a certain way, that this is established fact

        When we’re talking about whether a theory is “dead” in the discipline, that is a factual matter. It’s not about whether free markets are ideal, or whether people “ought” to believe in the EMH–it’s simply about whether the EMH, at least in its weak form, is still live within the discipline. And that’s not an ideological position-one can readily believe the EMH ought not be live within the discipline while recognizing that it still is.

        And misusing the concepts is also not about ideology. That’s why I tossed in the bit earlier about the possibility that labor and capital are not necessarily always complementary–that’s actually an empirical question, but I’d bet right now that to some extent the answers given might fall along an ideological divide–certainly outside the circle of disciplinary experts, and maybe even inside. So I wanted to emphasize that I wasn’t taking an absolute stance on capital and labor necessarily being complementary. But as to what economists actually mean by the concept of capital and labor being complementary? That’s not an ideological question–whether an particular economist is liberal, conservative, or libertarian, or whether they think labor and capital actually are complementary or not, they’re going to have a common understanding of what that concept means.

        Chris wants to play this all up as being about ideology, but what I’ve been critiquing aren’t ideologically based issues, so I have to say that his argument is about equal parts bullshit and butthurt.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Michael Drew says:

        @michael-drew

        Google his conversations with Brooke.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Michael Drew says:

        We can’t all be above ideology and without potential for error like you are, Chris.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Michael Drew says:

        Fleshed out a bit: at this point, you’re just being a bitter, petty ass. I say this as someone who’s defended you more than once to people who have asked me publicly and privately why you’re being such a bitter, petty ass. That is, as someone who knows that you are not by nature a bitter, petty ass.

        You’ve basically admitted to doing what I said you did. You’ve even ended up agreeing with what I was saying about the EMH (or at least admitting that what I was saying was part of the scholarly discussion of the EMH). Yet you’re still being an ass about it, for whatever reason. I haven’t the slightest idea why. I know we had some bitter disagreements in the Brooke thread and the consent thread (and one other, in which I badly misread you, for which I am still very sorry, but I can’t remember which thread it was), but man, this is just incomprehensible to me. I’ll let you say whatever you want to say about it from this point on, because I have no reason to bother. I’m genuinely sorry I brought it up (Dave really did ask me for examples, so I highlighted one when I saw it, but I probably should have just written him an email).

        MD: if you want me to explain what I mean further, feel free to shoot me an email. No reason to incite James any more than I already have, or give Dave any more of a headache.Report

      • @james-hanley

        I’ve just been reading them. You yourself there describe what he says as an expression of “moral righteousness”; he says it’s simply anger (which is pretty clearly borne of a sense of moral indignation at what Brooke was saying), and that what he was saying he said and continued to press basically to make himself feel better about that anger. As you can see, I didn’t agree with his approach there, but at the same time, if you feel moral indignation and you’re going to express it, it’s going to come out sounding like moral indignation.

        You’re now saying we should conclude from that that Chris would act that way if people were making erroneous statements about his field of study. The contexts – what’s basically going on; what would hypothetically be motivating Chris in each instance – seem wildly disparate to me. I see no reason to make conclusions about how Chris would act in the scenario you envision from what he said in the scenario you point to.

        But then, if he did, I would not like to see it, either.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Michael Drew says:

        Doh, this is where my most recent post actually goes, sorry.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Michael Drew says:

        You know, I feel I need to actually make that post here. Feel free to delete the other one:

        I’ve been staying out of this silliness, because it’s pretty clear at this point that James H. does not want to discuss Piketty, which makes it *very* strange that he made an article on it.

        But I fell I should point out that his entire disagreement with me basically is him calling me stupid because I didn’t explain something well in a single sentence, despite the fact other sentences in the post I knew what I was talking about. (Apparently I knew that ‘capital and labor are complementary’ applied to production, but *didn’t* know what complementary mean?!)

        So, he decided to explain it to me in the next post, under the impression that I had misunderstood the term, which I have no problem with and appreciate. I then made sure he understood that I *did* understand, so we could move on, and I tried to expand on *why* I said what I said. He then decided this meant I was lying and had gone and looked things up, and thus actual conversation ended.(1)

        He, as far as I can tell, does not have an issue with any position I’ve stated. In fact, as I pointed out above, he *literally* raised one of the same objection to Brandon’s point that I had raised earlier (That ‘capital and labor are complementary’ is just a general idea and sometimes they are substitutionary instead), in one of his few actual on-topic posts.

        This makes his complaining about me *even more* pointless. I’m not standing here espousing things that are wrong, as far as anyone can tell. Perhaps James H thinks they are wrong, but if so, he hasn’t bothered to tell anyone.

        I find it rather interesting that *I* keep saying things about Piketty, and other people, including the people who *apparently wanted us to talk about Piketty*, refuse to respond to any point I’m making. and refuse to make any statements of their own.

        The best example, I think, was when James H in response to ‘What is the right’s response if Piketty is correct’, hilariously responded with ‘Gee, with such a plethora of righties here, that’s kind of amazing.’. I’m sure James H was very startled to find, on a liberal leaning blog that he posted about Piketty on, someone politely asking the question ‘What does the right think we should do if Piketty is correct?’. What a crazy unexpected question, there’s no way he could have already thought up an answer to that already!

        Although j r leaping out the gate and trying to catch me in some sort ideological logic trap was somewhat surreal, too. The joke is, it’s likely I’ve said things over there that actually are wrong. As I admitted to j r, I’m not 100% certain I understand Piketty. (I do, however, understand what ‘complementary’ means, and I also understand goddamn ‘invest’. Jesus Christ.)

        So I have to ask the question: Why are economic issues being posted here if the expects in economics will not talk about them, and the people who are not experts get called stupid and dismissed on those grounds if their definitions and terms are not letter perfect? How *exactly* is this supposed to work?

        1) The really really weird thing? I have the vague feeling I’ve *actually discussed* complementary goods here before with James H in some context.Report

      • @davidtc

        This subthread is where it is only because *I* misthreaded my initial foray into this discussion. So, no worries (by me).Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to Michael Drew says:

        And my mis-placed response:

        Why are economic issues being posted here if the expects in economics will not talk about them, and the people who are not experts get called stupid and dismissed on those grounds if their definitions and terms are not letter perfect?

        Nice try, but that’s not what happened.

        You should go back and read your own comments. Heck, look at the way you started this comment.

        Your problem is that you want to come out swinging at everyone who doesn’t share your ideological priors, but then you end up getting slapped down. And now you’re complaining that everyone is hurting your feelings.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Michael Drew says:

        @michael-drew
        This subthread is where it is only because *I* misthreaded my initial foray into this discussion

        Put your dollar in the jar.Report

      • Indeed. There really wasn’t much reason for me to get involved here, but I thought it was becoming a very interesting discussion at the point where I saw it, so I did.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Michael Drew says:

        Heck, look at the way you started this comment.

        …by pointing out that James H does not want to discuss Piketty?

        Are you seriously disagreeing with that statement? Because he’s made like three posts about Piketty in this entire discussion. Remove the posts where he’s complaining about my terminology, and this meta-discussion, and he’s hardly posted at all.

        Your problem is that you want to come out swinging at everyone who doesn’t share your ideological priors

        …says the person who attacked me in my very first post:

        ‘I don’t get the sense that you care much about Piketty’s economic argument other than that it appears to support your prior leanings.’

        Please note that the only thing I’d said about Piketty at that point was just asking how the right proposes we deal with r > g if it hypothetically is true. That’s it. You just just pre-emptively decided that I only embraced Piketty because I’m on the left, and attempted to build some sort of logic trap for me about social security.

        but then you end up getting slapped down.

        LOL. As I’ve said, no one has *addressed* most of the points I’ve made, to the extent that I just gave up talking about them. Not because no one agree, but because no one *responded* to them. (1)

        In at least two circumstances, the discussion has instead focused on whether I use words correctly.

        Not that I’m claiming that these are super-duper awesome points I’m making, but they certainly haven’t been ‘slapped down’.

        1) Brandon Berg has responded a bit, and I feel I owe him an actual discussion at some point about what I think WRT his point, which is correct, but I feel there’s an aspect he hasn’t considered. He, and Piketty, are both right. But I can’t possibly have that discussion in the middle of James H saying I don’t know anything.

        And now you’re complaining that everyone is hurting your feelings.

        I’m pretty certain my complaint was that economic discussions here cannot *possibly work* if this is how this site behaves. I don’t think I referenced how I ‘feel’ at all.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Michael Drew says:

        You’ve even ended up agreeing with what I was saying about the EMH (or at least admitting that what I was saying was part of the scholarly discussion of the EMH).

        False claims don’t get truer for the repetition, Chris.Report

  3. Avatar Doctor Jay says:

    Ok, I’ll comment on number 2.

    The observation that spending money on stuff like child care, elder care and transportation makes it easier for people to enter the work force and probably somewhat lowers the cost of labor is something that hadn’t occurred to me. Thanks for sharing it.

    I do, however, think that universal health care, even if it’s Obamacare, makes certain types of work easier to do, thus more available, thus cheaper. But it doesn’t serve the interests of the large corporation. Rather it serves the interests of people wanting to strike out on their own, or do freelance type work. I think this is a good thing.Report

  4. Avatar Kolohe says:

    They fix the cable?Report

  5. Avatar zic says:

    I’m amused by the horse race framing.

    First, if Piketty is proven completely wrong, even mostly wrong, (and for some liberals, even a little wrong,) they’d be relieved. That would be great news that we’re on the ‘right track,’ to borrow a phrase from horse-race polling. Pop the champaign corks and celebrate 15% capital gains. I sure as hell know I would. Now some liberals might have some denial issues for a while; they’ve been concerned about their perceived notions of income inequality for a long time, it will take them a while to accept that it’s not the problem they think it is. But to suggest all liberals would be sad because an ideological point isn’t true and people really are better off then liberals think is pure libsplaining. Because as a liberal, it’s okay with me if folks frisk that data hard. Constructive criticism is helpful.

    I’m also mystified why it would bother conservatives if high taxes and socialism were sustainable, and for similar reasons. Even if high taxes and socialist daycare, medical care, elder care, and education proved to be economically sustainable, I think many conservatives would find it unacceptable. As I understand conservatism, federal government shouldn’t be doing these things; charity, community, church, and local government should do these things. I do realize I risk GOPsplaining.Report

  6. Avatar zic says:

    The NYT has an editorial on social-services, taxes, and income inequality today.

    Inflation-adjusted earnings of the bottom 90 percent of Americans fell between 2010 and 2013, with those near the bottom dropping the most. Meanwhile, incomes in the top decile rose.

    All told, social spending in the United States is below the average of that of the wealthiest countries. And other governments help their less fortunate citizens to a greater extent than we do in ways that are not captured in the income statistics. The United States, which is the only developed country without a national paid parental leave policy, also has no mandated paid holidays or annual vacation; in Europe, workers are guaranteed at least 20 days and as many as 35 days of paid leave.

    When you include government social-service programs in the measure of income, in the US, income from 2010 to 2013 for the 20th-to 40th earnings-percentile is down 7%, the 40th to 60th down 6%, all families are down 5%. The only group that gained is the top 10%, who’s incomes are up 2%.

    But there is cause to celebrate if you believe taxes thwart growth; for we have the lowest tax burden, as a percent of GDP, of the OECD countries, and we’re near the bottom (China, Switzerland, and Hong Kong are lower in the chart) for income tax on $100,00.Report

  7. Avatar j r says:

    2. Conservatives won’t like this:

    Sweden’s high taxes may be self-sustaining.

    I’m not a conservative, but I am someone who is not a big fan of high taxes and large welfare states. However, the fact that Sweden has had success with this model does not bother me at all. Good for them is what I say. I still remain opposed to the United States moving in that direction, because I do not believe we will get the same results as Sweden.Report

    • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to j r says:

      This is a concern that gets glossed over a lot. It’s not that solid, beneficial government programs can not function & be an unalloyed public good, it’s that the federal government & large swaths of state & local governments do not have the institutional philosophy to make such programs work well.

      In short, the various welfare institutions/bureaucracy are too busy-body & too quick to punish.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        Hence the need for a negative income tax/guaranteed basic income scheme.Report

      • It’s not that solid, beneficial government programs can not function & be an unalloyed public good, it’s that the federal government & large swaths of state & local governments do not have the institutional philosophy to make such programs work well.

        Can you explain this to me, please?

        Back in the 1980’s, I worked for a state Dept. of Welfare; I was a code monkey, and designed a lot of the prototype systems used to detect welfare fraud in Reagan’s welfare-crackdown efforts. What I saw, and continue to see, is a liberal impulse to help, a conservative impulse to compromise with, “but not too much,” resulting in the problems you describe.

        So I don’t think we’ve really done much of the whole liberal social-welfare investment of which you speak, except for the elderly, who receive medical care and social security (which they invested in,) and they seem to be the group most economically stable. So I guess I would frisk this notion about institutional philosophy, where it stems from, and how it’s proof of something other than what James initially suggested, “conservatives won’t like this.’

        My argument was that conservatives don’t care if it works; they think it’s not the business of government, particularly the Federal government, to do these things even if they would work. @j-r and @mad-rocket-scientist are both reverting to it wouldn’t work here, which begs for proof.Report

      • I’m starting to like this whole Guaranteed Basic Income idea, if it replaces all the political wrangling over welfare (and so long as it doesn’t cause undue inflation). Everybody gets X dollars/year, and we are agnostic over whether you invest it, buy clothes/food/shelter with it, or waste it all on hookers and blow*; but that’s all you get.

        *Just kidding. That’s not a ‘waste’, that’s ‘stimulating your very-local economy’.Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        How are we to get to a GBI when many people are enraged about and still fighting Universal health care?Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        Glyph,
        Also child labor!Report

      • In some ways, GBI could be an easier sell. A fair amount of the opposition to Single Payer is rooted in a mistrust of government management, which doesn’t apply to GBI. The latter is also easier to comprehend and it’s harder to make FUD arguments against it.Report

      • @greginak I dunno; and anyway, I am pessimistic that people would truly do what is implied and let people fail once they’ve been given that GBI.

        We can’t just have people dying in the streets; have we no compassion?Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        @will-truman With all due respect, and you know what always comes after that phrase, i think you are really missing a lot of conservative anger over UHC. Yeah some is mistrust of gov when it does things C’s don’t want. But there has been plenty of talk about subsidizing others people bad choices, gov taking our freedom, and the real biggie has always been how Gov assistance subsidizes a lazy underclass of moochers. That last one has been a standard part of C resistance to a social safety net for decades.

        For all the talk about how complex the ACA is most people haven’t seen a change since many of us have employer based HI or are already on some sort of Gov insurance. Once the website got unsporked it seems to have worked well with participants reporting high satisfaction similar to those with employer based HI. The “it’s so byzantine” argument while not wholly without merit is a bit oversold.Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        @glyph Oh it is early here. I don’t’ know if my sarcasm/snark detector isn’t working yet. Their seems to a shortage of milk of human compassion for all sorts of groups. And when there is some milk it is served with a sneer, a piss test and a derogatory scowl. Unless you are being snarky in which case…..yeah.Report

      • “But conservatives will object!” is true but… so what? The question is how many people they will be able to convince. Not whether they will argue, but whether they will win the argument.

        Will they? Well, yeah. Right now, anyway. My point is that GBI gives them less tools in their arsenal than single-payer health care.

        I’m not misunderstanding the nature of the conservative opposition. I think you’re misunderstanding why their arguments have done so well in the court of public opinion despite a completely broken health care system screaming for an overhaul.Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        Well i’ll put a GBI on a post note for next time we have a D prez and large majorities in teh House and Senate.

        People were strongly for HCR. The lies and fear mongering were a big part of why some of the persuadable middle became uncertain. But really for all the R guff, HCR polled well for years before 08. People even now are for most of the ACA and believe the fixes are needed. Yet somehow we are in another court case aimed at torpedoing the ACA, gotcha quote wars, 50+ and counting votes to defund, yada yada yada.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        @greginak
        Yeah some is mistrust of gov when it does things C’s don’t want. But there has been plenty of talk about subsidizing others people bad choices, gov taking our freedom, and the real biggie has always been how Gov assistance subsidizes a lazy underclass of moochers.

        This. It’s hard to see exactly how any objections to the ACA can be based in ‘mistrust of the government’.

        I know there were a few attempts, like the insane attempt in Congress to try to pretend that the government wasn’t securing people’s medical information on the exchanges. (Before it got pointed out that people *didn’t give medical information* to get insurance any more.)

        But ‘mistrust of the government’ isn’t presented as the objection anymore. Neither is the closely related ‘the government can’t do anything right’, which was obviously a very popular complaint when the government screwed up the site at launch.

        No, all complaints are basically about moochers…not just people mooching off subsidies or ‘free contraceptives’ (sic) but off the very premise of health insurance, that healthy people pay for sick people.

        For all the talk about how complex the ACA is most people haven’t seen a change since many of us have employer based HI or are already on some sort of Gov insurance.

        Well, technically, employer-based insurance also had some changes. Of course, that *always* has changes, all the time, in many different ways, so half the changes that people point to and claim ‘this is because of the ACA’ is just incorrect.

        The “it’s so byzantine” argument while not wholly without merit is a bit oversold.

        That argument seems to be based in the idea we’re insurance companies. It’s a bit like arguing that cars are byzantine. Yes, yes they are. But we’re not trying to build them. We buy them and operate them, and operating them is fairy simple and standardized.Report

      • Anecdotally, here’s what I know:

        After my father left, our household dropped into severe poverty. This was the 1970’s; we had heat insecurity (nothing to scoff at in Maine,) food insecurity, transportation insecurity, health-care insecurity, and probably drifted on the verge of housing insecurity in was I am unaware of; I’d have to ask my mother. She, remember, was a wife and mother at 16; and my Dad was a farmer, suffering the fate of small farmer’s during the energy crisis; he had not money to pay child support, and there was no legal mechanism to force it at the time. During those years, I never received a new article of clothing, I ate free school lunch, and at home, I cooked the food my family ate, which was 1) army surplus (predecessor of food stamps,) we grew and hunted (we were farmers, I shot a deer to feed us when I was 12 years old,) and 3) supplemented by limited purchases from the grocery store. I provided the after-school child care.

        When I was 12, the year things were so bleak I went to the abandoned apple orchard on our farm and shot a deer come to eat apples so that we’d have meat, my mother enrolled in a CETA-grant program that trained her to be a medical lab technician. I was still the main child-care provider, but she was paid while she went to school, and provided with health insurance. The schooling years were tough, but a bit better. When I was 14, she went to work at the nearest hospital, and life really improved. Dramatically improved. Shortly after she began working at Rumford Community Hospital; she took me shopping at Kings Department Store, and we got me a pair of jeans and two shirts, the first new clothes that weren’t home made I’d had since I was nine years old.

        I had a similar experience; I got very sick when I was 18, complications of the bicycle accident I’d had when I was 14. The one covered by her work insurance, thank fully. I nearly died; my weight dropped to below 90 pounds, I could not get nutrition from the food I ate. I got medical help, received welfare for six months, and then enrolled in a CETA course (the very last ones financed), where I learned how to code. I was very good at it, too. And my life improved.

        My mother and I have each paid far more into the system in taxes than that socialism cost; most particularly me. I’ve had years where I paid the price to keep a man in jail for an entire year and then some.

        So the evidence of my life is that a strong social safety net that lifts people out of poverty is a good investment with a huge return on investment. But I also know that I live out on the legs of a lot bell curves, so perhaps I’m the exception that proves the rule.Report

      • That HCR is popular in the abstract, and was popular to 2008 actually supports my point. As an abstract principal, making health care more accessible to more people isn’t unpopular.

        You can point to Republicans being lying terrible liars all day long. But why did their criticisms resonate with the public? It’s not because everybody listens to what the Republicans have to say, or believes what they have to say. It’s because they were able to exploit FUD and they were able to do so because it represented a sea change the ramifications were much, much harder for the average joe to understand than GBI. That’s not even a criticism of PPACA. That’s just why GBI actually has a simplicity that I think can garner it some support.

        Single payer does have simplicity on its side, but like PPACA relies on faith of government in execution and a pretty big sea change. Both Single payer and GBI do have the “sea change” in common, though you can start off pretty incrementally with the latter.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        @j rand@Mad Rocket Scientist are both reverting to it wouldn’t work here, which begs for proof.

        @zic, I cannot tell if your comment is a claim that the various elements of the welfare state have no demonstrated failures in their history or a claim that all such failures are purely the fault of acts of right-wing sabotage. Either way it is wrong.

        There is, for instance, a reason that we no longer build housing projects. And that reason is not that Republicans are evil. It is that housing projects in America were a terrible idea that created as much misery, if not more, than they ever alleviated. Now we know that there are better ways to help people who cannot afford adequate housing.Report

      • And on a last point, the complexity is exactly what allowed Republicans to talk about “death panels” and it allowed Republicans to talk about losing your plan, losing your doctor, losing your Medicare benefits, paying higher rates for less care, blah blah blah.

        It doesn’t matter how much merit these arguments have. More than that, the more dishonest you believe Republicans were, the more of a role complexity played because it helped those arguments convince undecideds.Report

      • @j-r Housing projects is a good example. And as you point out, we no longer build them. But we still provide some housing assistance; section 8; CDBG for low-income and affordable housing (which is administered by states,) and most particularly, Medicaid pays for elder housing when seniors have exhausted their resources.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        @zic, that is all fine. My issue is with the welfare state, not with a well-functioning social safety net. They are not the same thing.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        jr,
        What’s the “welfare state” then?????
        Because, where I stand, you get on food stamps for two years out of five, no more.
        The only way you get cash assistance is by attending classes or applying for jobs (proof required on both).

        Do you mean WIC?

        Seriously, help a gal out, I’m interested in specifics.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        I define the welfare state as a system of cradle-to-grave public entitlements that apply universally and which are supported by a relatively high level of taxation and a fair bit of regulation to the private sector to keep the whole thing viable.

        By social safety net I mean any number of discrete, means-tested anti-poverty interventions designed to help those who are priced out of the private market for certain goods and services.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        Well that escalated quickly…
        @zic

        Philosophically, social welfare should be about helping people. If a person seeks out help from the social welfare bodies, be they public or private, that person should have almost zero fear that they will face criminal/legal trouble. Think of the recent attempts by conservatives to tie welfare payments to drug screening. That just should not happen! Not because I want welfare recipients to use drugs, but because people seeking help should not face criminal prosecution for being imperfect & seeking help.

        And yet, both sides of the aisle support varying degrees of punishing the poor for being poor.

        This is where my classical liberal side has massive fits of frustration with the left & right today. Take for instance this case.

        This is a solid example of what I am talking about. Not only was the state quick to intervene in a heavy handed & drastic way (separating an infant from it’s mother), but it was also quick to file criminal charges. No apparent effort by CPS (with the caveat that the media may not be reporting the whole story) to work with the new mom in a way that is low stress & keeps the family intact, no seeming effort to investigate if there was a real danger or not. Now, even if the media is not reporting the whole story, what do you think the chances are that other new moms, who are more at risk, will see this report & make an effort to not seek help for fear of winding up like this lady Hell, when Bug was born & he lost a whole pound (from 8 to 7 lbs, more than 10%!) and we could not figure out why he wouldn’t nurse (he was tongue tied), I was scared he’d be taken away before we could figure it out, even though were were feeding him formula, & my wife & I are successful professionals, not low income easy targets. No new parent who is trying their best should ever face that kind of fear, it just should not happen, & if it does due to some overzealous CPS workers or police, then those people should face real consequences.

        sigh…

        Think about the GBI discussed above. I think it’s a great idea. I think the right will oppose it because they get all squicky at the idea of poor people spending tax money of things they disapprove of. The left does too (see Bloomberg & soda, he had a large amount of left wing support for that; or the First Lady & all her food ideas; or that Op-Ed in the WaPo that Al Gore loved so much). The left will get all squicky at the idea that somebody will use the GBI in a very irresponsible way & wind up dead in the streets; or worse, they’ll do so while neglecting their children (Because they would not neglect their kids while working three part time jobs? How does that work again?). So instead of creating an efficient public assistance program, we wind up with a menagerie of programs each trying to address a specific trouble, because everyone at the top is so busy trying to guarantee an outcome, instead of doing the most to maximize opportunity. This means the focus is centered on the ones lost, instead of the ones saved. Which makes a kind of sense why they are so quick to get law enforcement involved, because once it’s on their docket, if it goes sideways, they are at fault, whereas if it never hits their radar, how could they be responsible.

        And as I re-read all of that above, I realize it’s horribly dis-jointed. I should clean it up & all, but I have a stack of work to do & a household to move, so it’s just going to have to suck.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        And let us all be honest here and not devolve this into some exercise in red team vs. blue team status signalling. There are lots of conservatives who would oppose a UBI on the grounds that people ought not get something for nothing, but there are also a lot of conservatives who would support a UBI on the grounds that it would help to dismantle lots of government bureaucracy.

        Likewise, there are lots of progressives who would be all for a UBI, because it fits with their conceptions of social and economic justice, but there would also be lots of progressives that would oppose a UBI precisely because it might help to dismantle lots of government bureaucracy.

        Put another way, for a UBI to become a viable political idea, it has to overcome the retributive nature of conservative politics and the paternalistic nature of progressive politics.Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        @will-truman We don’t’ really need to re-litigate the ACA, because lord knows it will be done enough no matter what. However anything can be made to sound terrible and most things are more popular in theory than in practice. I don’t’ see any reason why a GBI wouldn’t suffer the same fate. One reason for that is people at least know what health insurance is, only nerds are even aware of what a GBI is.Report

      • there would also be lots of progressives that would oppose a UBI precisely because it might help to dismantle lots of government bureaucracy.

        I’m not sure that I agree with this; are you saying liberals want social programs for the sake of social programs? I honestly don’t know any liberals who go about planning how to grow government for the sake of more government, instead of for, you know, wanting to do stuff that might be able to be accomplished through government. And I am not trying to get into a red/blue divide here; I just think you’re attributing motive to the wrong lever.

        But even if some mother did receive a UBI payment every month, I would still want a safety net to catch her if, for instance, she was addicted to heroin, and her children were being seriously neglected.Report

      • I’m not litigating PPACA. My comments do not rely on believing it to be a good idea or a bad idea (or whether criticism of it had merit or not). Good law isn’t always simple. But complex law is more susceptible to certain kinds of attack (FUD) than simple law. It just is. Whether it’s good law or not (and whether it’s liberal law or conservative).

        Yes, opponents can always try to accentuate the complexities. Whether this succeeds or is actually kind of influenced by whether or not the law is complex, though.Report

      • Avatar dragonfrog in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        @j-r
        I define the welfare state as a system of cradle-to-grave public entitlements that apply universally and which are supported by a relatively high level of taxation and a fair bit of regulation to the private sector to keep the whole thing viable.

        By social safety net I mean any number of discrete, means-tested anti-poverty interventions designed to help those who are priced out of the private market for certain goods and services.

        I dunno about anyone else, but to me that sounds like an awful lot of emphasis on the difference between a tomayto and a tomahto.Report

      • Avatar dragonfrog in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        And let us all be honest here and not devolve this into some exercise in red team vs. blue team status signalling.

        … more specifically, which definition the speaker chooses seems a clear red-team / blue-team signal.

        The presence of “entitlements” and the assumption that they are necessarily supported by high taxes gives the game away on that one. One could try to rewrite that definition to obscure those signals a little, but the clarity is actually rather nice.

        The other definition seems a little less obvious to me in its signalling, but it might be that the signals are less visible to me because they’re closer to my own vocabulary. Perhaps an observer from the other side of the political spectrum could see the tells more clearly than I.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        @j-r

        Put another way, for a UBI to become a viable political idea, it has to overcome the retributive nature of conservative politics and the paternalistic nature of progressive politics.

        That was wanted I wanted to say.

        @zic

        I try not to think of progressives & liberals as the same thing. Progressives are generally thought of as under the liberal tent, but are not the entirety of liberals. To me, progressives tend to embody ideas that are much more paternalistic/nannyish, and are much more willing to use the force of the state to achieve their ends, while liberals tend to be less inclined to such meddling or means to the end.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        @zic

        I honestly don’t know any liberals who go about planning how to grow government for the sake of more government…

        And I honestly don’t know any conservatives who want to see the poor sick and starving in the streets and yet, policy preferences have outcomes. And the outcome of the welfare state is a large bureaucracy. Outcomes matter more than intentions.

        @dragonfrog

        I dunno about anyone else, but to me that sounds like an awful lot of emphasis on the difference between a tomayto and a tomahto.

        No it doesn’t. Knocking down a tenement and building a housing project is a lot different than offering someone a Section 8 voucher. A pension system based on incentivizing private saving, or even forcing private saving, is different than Social Security. There is a difference between a national health system and one that subsidizes people’s purchases on the private market.

        I can go on, but hopefully you get the difference.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        jr,
        you should meet the helicopter crowd in rio…
        ” I honestly don’t know any conservatives who want to see the poor sick and starving in the streets”

        it’s different if you don’t need to walk on the streets.Report

      • @j-r

        I define the welfare state as a system of cradle-to-grave public entitlements that apply universally and which are supported by a relatively high level of taxation and a fair bit of regulation to the private sector to keep the whole thing viable.

        GBI would seem a classic example, so do you think it’s a bad policy?

        By social safety net I mean any number of discrete, means-tested anti-poverty interventions designed to help those who are priced out of the private market for certain goods and services.

        I need to clarify something; when I told my story about writing code to catch the Welfare Queen while Reagan was president, I did not mean to pit sides; I was describing the tension between the two sides; you say it yourself — discreet means, tested anti-poverty interventions. My job was premised on just that; government programs to administer aid to those who could prove they were needy, and a whole lot of effort into identifying those who were hiding stuff. As far as I can tell, this was the result of, as I said, the liberal impulse to help people in poverty and a conservative impulse to limit that help to those who were truly needy for a limited duration. Elsewhere, you suggested progressives would be against a GBI because it would eliminate government programs; but means-testing anti poverty programs are, in fact, government programs. Writing a check is easy; sending out an EBT card is easy; verifying that people qualify for that aid and then tracking them while the receive is a government program that consumes a lot of resources.

        The Great Society direct cash payments — classic welfare — ceased and your preferred polices were initiated; targeted, limited duration, and means tested. I do find some irony here.

        @mad-rocket-scientist First, I don’t think I’ve ever referred to myself as a progressive. I’m a liberal. If I used it as a political descriptor, I was probably quoting someone else, speaking to them in the terms they used. I also don’t much say Tea Party, though I do often interchange conservative/Republican/GOP and I have to be careful to use those works precisely.

        And all of this still misses the boat, still focuses on people in poverty. The socialist safety nets that were the topic of James post were for daycare, medical care, paid time off, parental leave, elder care; aimed at all people, not just poor people.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        GBI would seem a classic example, so do you think it’s a bad policy?

        It is not. And I do. A basic income is by definition means-tested. If you earn over the income threshold, then you don’t get the benefit. More to the point, I support the basic income because it is a direct cash transfer in lieu of a whole slew of government programs and the sprawling bureaucracy put in place to service those programs.

        Elsewhere, you suggested progressives would be against a GBI because it would eliminate government programs; but means-testing anti poverty programs are, in fact, government programs.

        No I did not. I suggested that some progressives would be against a GBI, because it might replace that whole slew of government programs.

        The over the counter birth control debate offers a pretty good parallel. There are conservatives who are generally against the proliferation of birth control and, therefore, oppose it being made OTC. And there are conservatives who would rather make it OTC to decrease the role of government in subsidizing and providing birth control. On the other side, there are progressives who support making birth control OTC, because it would make it more accessible and with fewer hoops. And there are progressives who oppose making it OTC, because of paternalistic concerns about women getting birth control without adequate medical consultation and those who oppose it because they want to make sure that it remains legally provided for under health insurance. You would have a similar split on the issue of a basic income.

        tl:dr version: If you want to talk about the merits of a universal income, whether it is politically feasible, and how it might be implemented, then let’s talk about those things. The whole, yeah maybe a UBI would be nice, but conservatives would never go for it line of argumentation is a cop out.Report

      • A basic income is by definition means-tested. If you earn over the income threshold, then you don’t get the benefit.

        This is incorrect. A guaranteed minimum income is by definition means-tested. For a guaranteed basic income, there could be a threshold or there could not be one, but there isn’t one by definition. You could send $100 a month to literally everyone whose name and address you could find. Doing that, at some amount, is the essence of GBI, though you could also decide to cut it off at some income level. Whereas if you’re sending everyone who earns below $16,000 the difference between what they earn and the 16, that’s a guaranteed minimum income (or, depending on how you administer it, a negative income tax).Report

      • Avatar Road Scholar in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        @glyph : I am pessimistic that people would truly do what is implied and let people fail once they’ve been given that GBI.

        We can’t just have people dying in the streets; have we no compassion?

        With a GBI (and uni-HC) in place perhaps the remaining social problems will be of a magnitude amenable to private charities.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        @zic

        In your response to jr, you were using liberal & progressive interchangeably. He said progressive, you took that to mean liberal.

        And all of this still misses the boat, still focuses on people in poverty.

        Actually, this is the boat. If we have institutions that are supposed to be helping those most in need among us, and they are used (or perceived as being used) with some regularity as a way to punish* those most in need, why in the world would I, as a person not in need, trust such institutions to treat me any different?

        *Be it police who keep an eye on free clinics for easy pickings, vagrancy laws, feeding the homeless bans, aggressive CPS reportings & reactions, or systems known for being horrific to those who find themselves caught in them (some foster care systems, etc.). Now one could argue that if such systems had more participants who were more capable of combating abuse, such abuse would become lessened, but that rings hollow to me.Report

      • I really struggle with ‘punish,’ the way that you’re using it here. It’s an emotionally fraught term, and one that kind does the same thing as having a crime story played on looped repeat on cable news; distorts proportions. The crime story makes people feel there’s more crime then there really is. The DSS broke this family up distorts the number of system screw ups in a similar way. One unintended consequence here is that people needlessly mistrust the safety net, they fear having their children taken or getting busted, and so don’t seek help available to them. Improvements and successes don’t get much media attention at all. Which do you think is more common — genuinely helping a family in dire economic circumstances, or wrongly punishing a family with the power of he state? Those are chartable statistics; but much depends on how you’re defining ‘punish.’

        That’s not to say the really awful stuff is okay, it isn’t. But those extremes should not necessarily be the drivers of public policy; throw the baby out with the bathwater and all that splash.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        @michael-drew
        A guaranteed minimum income is by definition means-tested. For a guaranteed basic income, there could be a threshold or there could not be one, but there isn’t one by definition.

        Yeah, I was reading j-r’s post and got a little confused by that also. I suggest a set of terms so we don’t get confused:

        guaranteed minimum income – If someone does not make at least $X a month, we give them enough to make up the difference
        guaranteed universal income – We just give everyone $X a month.
        guaranteed basic income – an umbrella term used to refer to either one of thoseReport

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        @zic

        That is my point. If we look at the safety net programs of countries that are successful with them, do we see the horror stories of people getting caught up in the criminal justice system during or after interacting with safety net programs? In the rare cases where law enforcement is involved, how often are the people who need help ground up by the system, versus being helped as much as possible?

        This is my whole point. Philosophically, our safety net programs may have the best intentions & the people running them may recognize the problem with allowing or requiring liberal involvement with law enforcement, but the fact is, the ways our laws & the programs are structured, their hands are tied & they have to allow law enforcement in, often to the detriment of the person seeking help. Our law enforcement incentives & priorities are so screwed up that until we get those under control, our social services will always be distrusted to some degree or another, and as long as they are distrusted, there will be resistance to expanding things to areas where it is not desperately needed.

        We got here through bi-partisan effort, and it will take bi-partisan effort to fix it.Report

      • @mad-rocket-scientist

        This is my whole point. Philosophically, our safety net programs may have the best intentions & the people running them may recognize the problem with allowing or requiring liberal involvement with law enforcement, but the fact is, the ways our laws & the programs are structured, their hands are tied & they have to allow law enforcement in, often to the detriment of the person seeking help.

        By this logic, we get stuff like teaching sex ed might encourage some kids, so don’t teach sex ed. Yet statistics show that kids taught sex ed, on the whole, actually delay sex longer. That’s the point — the fear of the unintended consequence results in inaction, which is not really inaction, but an action reaffirming the status quo. In my state, our lovely governor just decreed mandatory drug testing of convicted drug felons who receive food stamps. That’s punitive. It’s also not the policy I want. It will cost more then the few folk receiving food stamps that it weeds out. Likewise fears of having your child removed by DSS. Do you think more children are harmed by DSS or harmed by families who fear asking for help due to fear of DSS? What about the children who actually receive protection from abuse via DSS intervention?

        I’m not saying punishment and abuse don’t happen because of the system; just ask any woman who’s got to go through the trial of her rapists. But I am saying that not reporting rape because the system sucks won’t fix that suck, either. Yet that seems to be the course you’re advocating.

        Social services, also, don’t tread nearly so close to law enforcement as you seem to think they do; millions upon millions of people receive some sort of social service during the course of their lives. The one place this happens, however, is mental health care, where family members of adults can only trigger social services once they’ve triggered the legal system.Report

      • Avatar Murali in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        @james-hanley @j-r @zic @mad-rocket-scientist @will-truman

        In order for a UBI to have a chance of passing it must have significant support by either the mainstream right or the mainstream left. We know why the mainstream right won’t support UBI. But you are forgetting why the mainstream left won’t support a UBI replacing all the current welfare programs:

        A UBI is extremely non-paternalistic. If a person spends his cheque on drugs and alcohol within the first week, he will not have enough money to pay for his food, medical bills etc. No leftist (except the most purist among the luck egalitarians) is going to support a system where people and their children still end up starving or dying even if it is due to their own bad choices. Not leaving people to starve on the streets is a non-negotiable desideratum of a social safety-net for lots of people and no non-paternalist option plausibly accomplishes this. The reason for this is that many people believe that most chronically poor people have short time horizons and are incapable of delaying gratification. They may phrase it more politely and explain it in terms of habits and norms that make sense from the point of view of those who are chronically poor, but the bottom line is the same. Given certain behavioural tendencies of the chronic poor, the only way to ensure that they have enough food at the end of the month is to place a floor on how bad a choice they may make with their money. And this means food stamps and school vouchers and housing allowances, i.e. money demarcated for specific uses.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        @murali

        I did allude to that here:

        The left will get all squicky at the idea that somebody will use the GBI in a very irresponsible way & wind up dead in the streets; or worse, they’ll do so while neglecting their children (Because they would not neglect their kids while working three part time jobs? How does that work again?).Report

      • @murali

        why the mainstream left won’t support a UBI replacing all the current welfare programs:

        A UBI is extremely non-paternalistic. If a person spends his cheque on drugs and alcohol within the first week, he will not have enough money to pay for his food, medical bills etc. No leftist (except the most purist among the luck egalitarians) is going to support a system where people and their children still end up starving or dying even if it is due to their own bad choices.

        That’s why the mainstream left will probably never get on board with the political project of replacing the existing in-kind welfare system entirely with a UBI. They would indeed want to keep things like health coverage, last-resort housing support (a UBI won’t automatically make sure everyone has a roof over their head), education supports, etc. Other programs they might look at replacing or scaling back in exchange for a generous UBI, though not absolutely certainly. (For example I would think a discussion about Social Security could be entertained given that this would seemingly provide a similar benefit, though that is indeed the crown jewel of the American left’s cherished safety net institutions, and may simply be a sacred cow, full stop. But notice: their most scared safety net component is the cash-paying component).

        But none of that is a necessary consequence of a UBI. We seem to have internalized the political project of advancing the replace-welfare-state-with-UBI project that libertarians since Friedman have advanced, but we don’t need to. A (presumably somewhat smaller, though I’d be interested to see the income number that it is thought might tempt progressives to trade the in-kind/non-cash support system for a UBI wholesale) UBI could be added on top of existing non-cash programs, and it would still be a UBI. the UBI doesn’t inherently replace existing welfare programs. As with means-testing, you could have it do that, or you could choose for it not to.Report

      • Avatar Murali in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        @mad-rocket-scientist

        There is neglect and there is neglect. At the end of the day, if someone is working three jobs, their kid has some decent level of nutrition and a roof over its head. If someone is pissing the rent money away on hookers and blow, their kid has neither. But, the target demographic we are supposed to be looking at is not people who are already working three jobs to support their kids. Those people will be fine and do better. The people who would do worse are those who are kept from starvation only because they cannot spend their food stamps on non-food items.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        @murali

        This is where I part company with many liberals, in that I am OK with allowing people to self destruct. I won’t let them destroy their kids if I can help it, and I am want to offer them every opportunity to get help, but if that is where I stop. If they want to descend into a destructive spiral, let them. Take the kids, if there are any, but programs that force people to spend money in specific ways are overly paternalistic & encourage ‘cheating’. This forces us to spend resources combatting the cheating instead of improving the better aspects of the welfare programs.Report

      • Avatar Murali in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        @mad-rocket-scientist

        The hard question, I think, is why do we think in the first place, that paternalism is wrong?

        There is one kind of paternalism that liberals usually condemn (I’m trying to be charitable here): the kind that tries to substitute one’s own conception of the good for another. The kind of paternalism that a lot of left liberals have a harder time condemning is helping people who act in ways counterproductive to their wellbeing according to their own lights. There are two plausible reasons for opposing paternalism in the second case. One is that we don’t have direct insight into people’s minds and as such risk engaging in the first kind of paternalism. The second reason is that most people are better aware of the local conditions and so are in a better position than some distant bureaucrat to evaluate what would best advance their own interests. That is to say, respect for autonomy depends on a factual evaluation of a person’s rational capacities as adequate. That evaluation is reversed in this case and thus the basis for respecting such person’s autonomy is undermined.Report

  8. Avatar DavidTC says:

    I’m never quite sure what detractors of Piketty are arguing. It all seems to be nitpicking around the edges of exactly how much r > g, or how fast we’re getting back to that.

    I’d like to see some people on the right stand up and admit that r > g *would be* a problem in the long term, *if* it’s true. The right likes to argue that’s *not* where we are going, that the middle class is going to stay around forever…but let’s just pause for a second and go hypothetical:

    Hypothetical premise: r > g. Aka, the share of income going to capital is greater than that going to labor, and, if nothing is done, will stay that way.

    Pretending this is true, what, *exactly*, would the right expect to happen? Does the right agree with the idea that this will make money more and more concentrated? If not, what *would* happen?

    If that (Or something else bad) is what would happen, what would the right propose doing about it?

    And, since I proposed a hypothetical that the right doesn’t believe, I will go ahead and answer this in the other direction, attempting to speak for the left:

    If r g for long periods of time, and that if we actually attempt to *return* to how things were, we will basically erupt into general strikes and revolutions…which sorta has already started happening, even if some of the anger is confused about the cause of the problems. Economically, Piketty is 100% correct, socially, there’s no way we’re going backwards. Hell, the only reason we’ve managed to move this far back is due to the fact that to a large portion of voting age people the enemy was ‘communism’ and ‘hippies’, along with a totally broken news media and political system. But nothing stays broken forever, and people don’t live forever.Report

    • Avatar DavidTC in reply to DavidTC says:

      Ah, whoops, HTML ate my less than sign. Let’s make that sentence ‘If g > r for long periods of time…’.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to DavidTC says:

        You fall prey to a fallacy about the future, believing that it is likely to be similar to today.
        Future shock’s going to be a bitch.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to DavidTC says:

        Induction is a fallacy now?

        Grue that!Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to DavidTC says:

        Chris,
        Flippers will tell you yes.
        Do you have any idea how much advice I got about mortgages that was predicated on a steady-state interest rate? Despite the fact that it was actually unprofitable to cut a mortgage at that rate??

        Stock market to the moon books sold a ton of money. A lot of people figured the tech bubble wouldn’t end.

        Failing to consider, or even plan, for future cases that aren’t a straightforward extension of current reality hurt tons of people when gas went from .99/gallon to upwards of $3/gallon.

        Is it a bit of hubris to predict that gas prices are going to go up (and your wages may not), and that one should value a home one plans on living in for 20 years accordingly?Report

      • Avatar Patrick in reply to DavidTC says:

        The future is likely to be similar to today.

        When the future appears to be not similar to today, it’s usually because you’re grossly misunderstanding what today looks like.

        If you’re making assumptions, you’re projecting on those assumptions, and then you’re surprised that your projections are wrong, you’re making a fundamental error if you assume that this is because your projection method was incorrect. It’s just as likely on the face of it that your assumptions were wrong.

        Most of those sorts of things you’re talking about, Kim, are cases of the assumptions being wrong, not the projection methodologies.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to DavidTC says:

        Patrick,
        an excellent point, well worth noting. thank you.Report

    • Avatar DavidTC in reply to DavidTC says:

      Oh, hell. I just realized that an entire paragraph got eaten. So here’s the actual last two paragraphs of my post, with the less than removed. (Thank you Lazarus.) An editor should be feel to fix this, if they want.

      …attempting to speak for the left:

      If g > r and was going to stay there for the foreseeable future, that would *eventually* result in income inequality reducing…but, of course, the problem is that ‘eventually’ does not help things now. However, if this could be demonstrated to be true, the left might be willing to make a lot of solutions short-term corrections, and after a lot of problems disappear, remove the corrections. If we truly could level the playing field *once* and never have to do it again or have to leave rules in place to make sure that imbalances didn’t show up again, that would be *awesome*. (In fact, that’s actually what a lot of people on the left think, because they don’t believe, understand, or even know about Piketty’s work.(1))

      1) In a technical sense, I don’t ‘believe’ in Piketty’s work, because I feel he’s ignored fundamental *social* changes that literally will not allow r > g for long periods of time, and that if we actually attempt to *return* to how things were, we will basically erupt into general strikes and revolutions…which sorta has already started happening, even if some of the anger is confused about the cause of the problems. Economically, Piketty is 100% correct, socially, there’s no way we’re going backwards. Hell, the only reason we’ve managed to move this far back is due to the fact that to a large portion of voting age people the enemy was ‘communism’ and ‘hippies’, along with a totally broken news media and political system. But nothing stays broken forever, and people don’t live forever.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to DavidTC says:

        David,
        Complacency is not good for any movement. So long as the plan on the books, in a first world country, for “how to deal with global warming” is genocide… can you really say we’re winning?
        It doesn’t take nearly as much as you think to bring us down to a feudalish society. That’s not just “airy fairy” — that’s the actual plan of people with a fair degree of power.Report

    • Avatar j r in reply to DavidTC says:

      Economically, Piketty is 100% correct…

      I am not quite sure what you mean by that, but nothing that you’ve written in your comment deals effectively with the economic criticisms of Piketty. I don’t get the sense that you care much about Piketty’s economic argument other than that it appears to support your prior leanings. For one thing, if you really believed that r>g, then you should support abolishing social security and replacing it with some form of private retirement accounts.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to j r says:

        Not necessarily. One of the FPers thinks that “The Plutocrats are Coming” isn’t a terribly good way to define policies to pursue. I disagree. If we were to put money into private retirement accounts, and — what, fund the rest out of charity? You really think we’d do our country good by giving people without wealth (*cough* blacks and HIspanics have a TENTH of the wealth of an average white person) private retirement accounts??

        I think the German corporations have a more sustainable business model than the American corporations, and that their view of government as giant piggy bank saying “smash me” is a better one than “get the government out of everything”. Because, even if the German corps do smash the piggy, there’s still a government left.

        Put money in the stockmarket, and you’re likely to lose your shirt, if the big corps decide they’re gonna crash the market again. Did I say if? I meant when.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to j r says:

        @j-r
        I am not quite sure what you mean by that, but nothing that you’ve written in your comment deals effectively with the economic criticisms of Piketty.

        …you did notice that was in a footnote where I talked about *my* beliefs, right? I believe Piketty is, economically, correct. I do not believe, socially, he’s right, because we’re not going back to the 1800s again for various social reason.

        And I didn’t talk about the ‘economic criticisms’ of Piketty because, as I point out, the criticism presented in this article seems to be somewhat marginal at best, and *this post* was dedicated to asking a hypothetical question about what the right would do if Piketty was correct.

        For one thing, if you really believed that r>g, then you should support abolishing social security and replacing it with some form of private retirement accounts.

        No. Even if the market does better *on average*, we do not provide retirement *on average*.

        I think you’re basically trying to make the claim that r>g means the casino’s (Aka, investments) growth rate means it’s rigged in favor of every player, that people on average make money. I would argue with that (I have a feeling the better returns on investments are being siphoned off by high-frequency traders and market manipulations, and actual normal investment by random people does not do better than economic growth. Just because the mean is up doesn’t mean the medium is.) but *even if* we operate under that premise, a casino is still a shitty bank. If our system has 8 out of 10 people somewhat better off, one really better off, and the last starving to death, that is not an outcome we want in a safety net.

        What that premise actually says that I should support is funding social security (And perhaps more of the government) not via taxes on labor, but via some sort of sovereign wealth fund.

        Which, hey, funny coincidence…Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to j r says:

        I have a feeling the better returns on investments are being siphoned off by high-frequency traders and market manipulations, and actual normal investment by random people does not do better than economic growth.

        Well, if you have a feeling…

        If you want to offer me some sort of empirical evidence to back that claim, I am all ears; however it is largely irrelevant to this conversation, because that is not Piketty’s argument. And like I said, it is pretty obvious that you either don’t quite grok Piketty’s argument or that you don’t really agree with it, but that you are happy to use his conclusions to support your pre-existing worldview.

        Piketty’s argument is that, over the long run, r > g; that is, over the long run, the return to capital is greater than the rate of economic growth. Piketty’s argument is not that the capitalists use their power to earn outsized returns for themselves and screw over ordinary investors and workers; therefore the government has to step in and level the playing field. His argument is that even with a level playing field, capital outperforms the economy as a whole; therefore the government has to step in and actively disadvantage capital to keep capital from accumulating wealth at a greater rate than the rest of the economy. Both you and @kim are making the same mistake in that you have the causality backwards. And the direction matters if Piketty’s argument is to hold.

        And if you really believe this argument, then you ought to be up in arms about Social Security. Because what security does is tax a portion of your present income in return for a future claim on some benefit that is indexed to inflation and a function of the government’s fiscal health (ie tied to g). It doesn’t matter if you are talking about private investment accounts or one big sovereign wealth fund in which every citizen accrues a stake, either should be outperforming Social Security if Piketty’s argument is true. If you don’t believe that a pension scheme tied to investments will outperform Social Security, then you don’t believe Piketty. Or you believe in a very weak form of Piketty’s argument, that r is sometimes greater than g, which takes much of the wind out of the argument’s sails.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to j r says:

        And @j-r wins the ‘The Worst Reading Comprehension’ Award for 2014.

        If you want to offer me some sort of empirical evidence to back that claim, I am all ears; however it is largely irrelevant to this conversation, because that is not Piketty’s argument.

        You mean the thing I put in parenthesis and explicitly said ‘I would argue with that’ and ‘I believe’ at the start was irrelevent and not part of Piketty’s theory? I’m amazed! Wow! It’s almost as if I was presenting it as my own idea and also not very relevant!

        Both you and@Kim are making the same mistake in that you have the causality backwards.

        I have no idea as to what sort of mistakes Kim is making, but the one *you’re* making is pretty obvious.

        You just *decided* that I didn’t care about Piketty’s arguments ‘except in the sense they support my beliefs’. Well, I have no idea what the hell that’s supposed to mean, but it’s pretty clear you haven’t bothered to read a single thing I’ve said, and you’ve just *assumed* I don’t understand Piketty.

        I honestly have no idea if I completely understand Piketty or not, but EVERYTHING YOU SAID in your second paragraph about Piketty is not only what *I* also believe Piketty has said, but I have given absolutely no indication of believing otherwise.

        If I don’t understand Piketty, you don’t understand him either. Or, more likely, you didn’t bother to actually read what I said to see if I understand him.

        Piketty’s argument is not that the capitalists use their power to earn outsized returns for themselves and screw over ordinary investors and workers; therefore the government has to step in and level the playing field. His argument is that even with a level playing field, capital outperforms the economy as a whole; therefore the government has to step in and actively disadvantage capital to keep capital from accumulating wealth at a greater rate than the rest of the economy.

        You know, this literally was the entire damn point of a paragraph in my original post. That if Piketty is *wrong*, if g > r, liberals would *happy* because it would mean we could just fix things *once*, get a fairly even distribution of wealth for once in human history, and basically stop worrying afterwards, perhaps even removing a lot of regulations. Whereas (Although I didn’t explicitly spell this out, but it was the obvious other side) if he’s *right*, if r > g, we can’t do that…things are inherently imbalanced toward capital and we’ll have to leave regulations in place to deal with that.

        I think it’s pretty clear I understand the difference between an ‘unlevel playing field’ and what Piketty is describing. (Except I wouldn’t use that confusing metaphor…logically, what many liberals, including me, often think happens is that people cheat by tilting the playing field towards them, whereas Piketty has discovered the field literally came tilted, at least a little.)

        You did not read a word I said, did you?

        It doesn’t matter if you are talking about private investment accounts or one big sovereign wealth fund in which every citizen accrues a stake, either should be outperforming Social Security if Piketty’s argument is true. If you don’t believe that a pension scheme tied to investments will outperform Social Security, then you don’t believe Piketty.

        WHICH IS EXACTLY WHAT I BELIEVE. A pension scheme tied to investments *will* outperform social security. I can’t even imagine why you think I think otherwise. Hell, that is obviously historically true *even if* Piketty’s theory is wrong.

        However a pension scheme tied to *private* investments would randomly fail individuals (Which is a shitty way to run retirement), so if we want to do that, we obviously should do it some other way, like the sovereign wealth fund I *literally just suggested*.(1)

        Jesus Christ.

        1) And those private investments also, just as relevantly, would tend to go temporarily bad in times of economic distress..the exact time that people start needing them. Which is why having a sovereign wealth fund that replaces taxes as funding source, but can be backstopped by printing money, is a boatload better.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to j r says:

        And@j rwins the ‘The Worst Reading Comprehension’ Award for 2014.

        You think that the award for the worst reading comprehension of the year ought to go to someone who might have taken an unkind reading of your comment on an internet blog? That is a fairly grandiose sense of your own importance, no?

        It’s not my fault you have a convoluted way of making points.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to j r says:

        @lwa

        You are correct, in that not ALL conservatives see inequality and lack of access as a Calvinistic judgment; but the ones that don’t, simply present a shoulder shrugging indifference to the status quo.

        And not ALL Democrats believe that POTUS has the authority to order extra-judicial executions of American citizens, but the ones that don’t, simply present a shoulder shrugging indifference to the status quo.Report

      • Avatar LWA in reply to j r says:

        @j-r
        I agree completely.Report

    • Avatar LWA in reply to DavidTC says:

      “I’d like to see some people on the right stand up and admit that r > g *would be* a problem ”

      Which is where I bang this drum one more time, about how the debate between the contemporary right and left in America isn’t a technical disagreement over how best to reach an agreed upon goal.

      The end goal itself is the disagreement.

      There is no argument put forward in the conservative world that advances the goal of universal health care access for example, or the goal of reducing wealth inequality. These things are not goals of the conservative movement, full stop.

      Even being charitable, the conservative movement sees inequality as a just outcome, and lack of access to health care as simply the rightful consequence of poor living choices.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to LWA says:

        Even being charitable, the conservative movement sees inequality as a just outcome, and lack of access to health care as simply the rightful consequence of poor living choices.

        Yes. I’ve noticed that no one on the right responded to my hypothetical question: What if Piketty is right?

        Like I said, the left has an answer for if Piketty is wrong, and in fact, many people on the left don’t know or haven’t integrated Piketty’s point yet, and think we *are* operating in a world where we can fix the imbalance once and that will basically fix it forever, assuming we can stop future systematic corruption of the political process.

        This is because the left, until recently, thought the problem was entirely that capital was *cheating* via rent-seeking behavior. We didn’t understand the game was *built unbalanced*. But the new information presented by Piketty does not really change what we’re trying to do right now. If Piketty turns out to be wrong, the left just goes back to what we thought in 2011 or whatever.

        But if Piketty is *correct*, the right needs an answer.

        If capital always gives a better ROI than labor, if capital grows more than labor, then money will always tends towards capital instead of labor.

        This means the entire premise of ‘job creators’ and ‘investment creates jobs’ is built on quicksand. Hell, it means our *entire economy* is built on quicksand, that what we thought was some sort of permanent advancement of the middle class is actually just a weird blip due to some random factors. The natural state of the world is for capital to accumulate capital, and everyone else to scrap by.

        And thus if we want to keep our current world, we are going to have meddle in the economy. That we have to not only stop treating capital as privileged over labor, but *actively penalize* it, or at least concentrations of it.

        Does the right accept this conclusion? Not ‘Is he right?’, but ‘What do we do if he is?’. If not, what do *they* think we should do?Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to LWA says:

        @lwa

        Even being charitable, the conservative movement sees inequality as a just outcome, and lack of access to health care as simply the rightful consequence of poor living choices.

        You have an interesting definition of the word charitable.

        In response to your comment below, your problem is that you think that you have some kind of profound access to the workings of the conservative mind, but you don’t. You have stereotypes. I doubt that you could pass an ideological Turing test.

        @davidtc

        Yes. I’ve noticed that no one on the right responded to my hypothetical question: What if Piketty is right?

        I don’t pretend to represent “the right,” but I can give you my answer: so what?

        I would hope that capital investment grows at a rate greater than the overall growth rate of the economy, because capital investment is what power economic growth. The more productive investment there is, the more the economy grows, the more technological advancement we get, and the better off that we all are.

        As I’ve said before. I do not care one bit about inequality. I care about the objective well-being of individuals at the lower end of the income/wealth spectrum. If capital makes people better off in the long run than wage labor, that sounds like a pretty good reason to get as many people invested in capital as possible.Report

      • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to LWA says:

        Even being charitable, the conservative movement sees inequality as a just outcome, and lack of access to health care as simply the rightful consequence of poor living choices.

        I don’t think this is generally true. There are surely some who believe this, but I think for the vast majority of people on the right – and a good chunk of what we might call the “center,” for that matter – the proper framing would be that “inequality is just an outcome” rather than “a just outcome.” It’s not that they believe it to be morally just, it’s that they are wholly unconvinced that inequality in and of itself is a problem. They can be convinced perhaps that it’s a symptom of some other problem, but the fact is that they don’t see what makes it problematic unto itself. This is not an unreasonable position mind you – in their view, inequality is only a problem insofar as quality of life for those at the bottom is actually diminishing. While liberals often like to mock conservatives who point to the prevalence of iPhones to explain why they don’t view inequality as a problem, I rarely see them attempt to understand and grapple with what conservatives are driving at with this.

        It took me myself years to arrive at the conclusion that it can be a problem unto itself, and even then my concern has to do with rising inequality rather than absolute inequality. Being convinced of this much occurred only because someone on the left patiently and seriously engaged me on it for an extended period of time, taking my objections seriously.

        As for healthcare, I don’t think it’s the case that more than some people on the right view lack of access as a rightful consequence of poor living. For most people, it’s that there is an assumed tradeoff between increased access and quality of care. There are also concerns about paternalism. Such people would not agree that someone who cannot afford health insurance deserves to suffer more. They very well may even actively support charities that provide health care to the poor and uninsured. Instead, they find that the need for increased access is a lower priority than their concerns about how guaranteeing that access will affect everyone else.

        The reason conservatives as a group have not proposed anything that will seriously address the issue of health insurance further has quite a bit to do with the fact that conservatives, like liberals, are an amalgam of interests, but unlike liberals, they don’t have much in the way of common priorities and interests when it comes to health insurance. Ask a given conservative how they would personally address health insurance, and you may well get an answer that in their honest view would significantly reduce the ranks of the uninsured (whether that view is correct is for now beside the point). That increased access may in some instances be a second order effect – ie, their focus is on reducing costs, which in turn would increase access – but in their view it would be a significant second order effect. The problem is that most conceivable conservative proposals will wind up doing some sort of significant harm to another conservative interest, which makes them DOA. The types of things that you can get all or almost all conservatives to agree on are pretty limited, so official conservative alternatives to PPACA wind up looking nothing short of pathetic and lame.Report

      • Avatar LWA in reply to LWA says:

        @j-r @mark-thompson

        “Conservatives”= The dominant theory promoted by Fox, Rush, NRO, and any other mover and opinion leader of the conservative scene. I’m not talking about somebody’s uncle who is a Fox viewer but is actually a heckuva nice guy.

        Mark, I can’t see how you are disagreeing with anything other than the actual phrasing of my words; you acknowledge that conservatives don’t think inequality is a problem, but you say they don’t see it as a just outcome.
        I just have a hard time seeing any practical difference there.

        As for your health care comment, aren’t you just saying that for conservatives, universal access to health care just isn’t a high priority? Maybe they don’t ALL see it as a Calvinistic retribution for sin, but the “amalgam of interests” you mention all agree on one thing- that universal access just isn’t moral imperative.

        And JR, it doesn’t take any deep analysis to read the words actually written by conservatives. Do you agree that they believe an unequal distribution of wealth is just, or not? This is not a difficult question!Report

      • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to LWA says:

        @lwa The way you phrased it in your comment indicates that conservatives aren’t merely apathetic about inequality and lack of access to health care, they actually view them as moral goods – as a “just outcome” and “rightful consequence,” respectively. My point is that, at worst, they are apathetic about these goals or view them as comparatively low priorities.

        Such people do not have passionate or fundamental objections to these goals and are not truly disagreeing with “the end goal itself” as you indicate. They may very well stand in the way of legislation that seeks to achieve these goals, but if so it is because that legislation interferes with greater priorities for them – it is the tradeoff involved in the proposed solutions that is unacceptable, not typically the pursuit of the goal itself.

        The difference between the American Right and Left, broadly speaking, on these issues is that the means proposed to achieve these goals by elements of the Left generally seek to avoid goring the oxen of people on the Left for whom these goals are relatively low priorities.

        There are, to be sure, a lot fewer such people on the Left than on the Right, but they are hardly non-existent, and there’s a reason why healthcare reform was so difficult to pass even with a Democratic legislative supermajority and a Democratic President.

        I mean, here’s an example of legislation that would have done as well or better than the ACA at providing universal coverage, would have bent the cost curve significantly, would have undone the tragic mistake of linking employment and health insurance, and would have gotten support from at least some (though by no means all or even a majority) of conservatives: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Healthy_Americans_Act

        But it never got much (really any) support from Democratic leadership. Why? Because it would have gored the oxen of a core liberal interest group (namely, unions) for whom universal health care was a lower priority than preserving certain tax benefits. And there’s nothing wrong with that – there is no way in the world you are ever going to get the majority of either the Left or the Right to agree that a single priority should trump all others.

        But the point here is that the difference between Right and Left isn’t fundamentally over whether certain goals are worth achieving, but rather over what tradeoffs are acceptable to achieve any given goal.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to LWA says:

        I would hope that capital investment grows at a rate greater than the overall growth rate of the economy, because capital investment is what power economic growth. The more productive investment there is, the more the economy grows, the more technological advancement we get, and the better off that we all are.

        I see you slipping the word ‘productive’ in there. If returns on capital are better than returns on labor, why would anyone do ‘productive’ investment, by which I assume you mean investing money in companies so they can ‘hire people to create goods and services’? Aka, *labor*.

        If Piketty’s claim is that *spending money on labor* is not the most efficient use of money, you can’t handwave that by then concluding that capital having more money means people will…spend it on labor. Well, no, they won’t. That’s not the best ROI. That’s the entire point of Piketty. It’s much better for them to just rent-seek.

        And if they do invest in a company, why wouldn’t that company *itself* turn around and rent-seek instead of spending on labor?

        I feel I must, for what is the third time on this article alone, point to our *1.2 quadrillion* ‘financial’ economy that consists of a giant circle-jerk of capital all somehow making money (Often by sucking it out of people in the form of loans and fees and other nonsense), while our actual ‘productive’ economy, the thing that actually *makes stuff*, can only stagger very slowly forward.

        I used to think this was insane nonsense. Well, it’s still nonsense, but it’s apparently perfectly rational…that stuff pays better.

        As I’ve said before. I do not care one bit about inequality. I care about the objective well-being of individuals at the lower end of the income/wealth spectrum. If capital makes people better off in the long run than wage labor, that sounds like a pretty good reason to get as many people invested in capital as possible.

        And you propose to do that *how*? You can’t just suggest everyone ‘get’ some capital.

        More to the point, when everyone *does* get this capital, either:
        a) It’s a lot of capital and hence enough to live off of without working, in which case…we have no economy at all, and this is actually impossible, or
        b) It’s not enough capital to live off, which means there will be labor involved, which means the imbalance *still exists*, and those living solely off capital will still slowly acquire more money than others, or
        c) You remake the world in which every person has basically the same amount of capital and also has do some small amount of labor. With a few minor corrections every once in a while. As that already exists, and is called communism, I’ll assume you didn’t mean that, either.

        So, basically…b then? Give people some small amount of capital so that the imbalance is slowed? Are you going to do this *repeatedly* to keep trying to rewind things, to try to hover around a steady state? Random capital infusions to people who have no capital?

        What form will these infusions be? Houses? Cars? 3D printers?

        Should the government just send the very poor some money each month?Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to LWA says:

        I’ve noticed that no one on the right responded to my hypothetical question:

        Gee, with such a plethora of righties here, that’s kind of amazing.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to LWA says:

        If Piketty’s claim is that *spending money on labor* is not the most efficient use of money, you can’t handwave that by then concluding that capital having more money means people will…spend it on labor.

        Sorry, that sentence is a bit confusing. I skipped a few steps of the logic. Piketty’s ‘claim’ is obviously not that. Piketty’s claim *leads to* that conclusion.

        If capital growth outpaces economic growth, and you have money, setting up a situation where your ROI is based on capital growth instead of economic growth is the logical thing to do. Obviously, we’re talking averages here, so there are places where spending money on labor *is* logical. But, much more money than that will just chase itself around until it hits some rent-seeking thing.

        Which is, like I said, what has actually happened to the economy already.Report

      • Avatar LWA in reply to LWA says:

        @mark-thompson
        A universal health care plan that would garner even ONE Republican vote in todays Congress?

        Please.

        Seriously, man, that’s almost insulting.
        I won’t bother repeating the history of the HeritageCare plans/ RomneyCare plan/ ObamaCare plan, but suffice it to say that even when Obama presented Republicans with their own words, they vociferously objected that it was the work of Satan himself.

        This is what I am trying to demolish- the myth that somehow there is a secret freemarket Republican universal healthcare plan, immigration reform plan, wealth redistribution plan, universal day care/ preschool/ tuition-free college plan which they are about to present ANY DAY NOW, if only it weren’t for that stubborn Obama ignoring their pleas for bipartisan comity.

        You are correct, in that not ALL conservatives see inequality and lack of access as a Calvinistic judgment; but the ones that don’t, simply present a shoulder shrugging indifference to the status quo. Together, they see the pre-ACA status quo as an acceptable state of affairs. And their priority ranks any change to that status as about the lowest possible ranking possible.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to LWA says:

        @davidtc

        You claim to fully understand Piketty’s argument and accuse me of mis-reading you, but then you say stuff like this:

        feel I must, for what is the third time on this article alone, point to our *1.2 quadrillion* ‘financial’ economy that consists of a giant circle-jerk of capital all somehow making money (Often by sucking it out of people in the form of loans and fees and other nonsense), while our actual ‘productive’ economy, the thing that actually *makes stuff*, can only stagger very slowly forward.

        I get it. You have a beef with finance. So do I. That, however, is not what Piketty’s argument is about. Piketty is not comparing the returns from finance to the returns from investments in the real economy. Piketty is talking about capital in its broadest definition: savings accounts, equity share in a business, real estate, etc. His whole argument is laid out across hundreds of years, well before the financial sector of the economy became the size that it is today.

        The implications of Piketty being correct are that people who have savings or investments or own their own businesses or even just own their own homes will earn more from their capital than people who rely almost solely on wages from their labor. That is not such a ground-shaking finding. It pretty much accords to the sort of common sense that people have been trying to teach their kids for generations.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to LWA says:

        @j-r
        Piketty is not comparing the returns from finance to the returns from investments in the real economy. Piketty is talking about capital in its broadest definition: savings accounts, equity share in a business, real estate, etc.

        Yes, and Piketty presents the conclusion that capital grows faster than labor.

        Which means, as I point out, it’s entirely rational for *anyone* with capital to invest it in something besides labor. And by ‘anyone’, I include *companies*. They might be the recipients of ‘investment’, but when they actually get the money, they *themselves* have the option of spending it on labor or not. Often, they choose ‘not’, and it ends up invested in something else via some means or another. (Stock buy-backs, money market accounts, real estates, whatever.)

        Please note, since there seems to be a good deal of confusion here, that is *me* coming to this conclusion from Piketty’s work. The things that *Piketty* said will be clearly labelled by me including his name or a pronoun referring to him in the sentence.

        The implications of Piketty being correct are that people who have savings or investments or own their own businesses or even just own their own homes will earn more from their capital than people who rely almost solely on wages from their labor. That is not such a ground-shaking finding. It pretty much accords to the sort of common sense that people have been trying to teach their kids for generations.

        That is *an* implication of Piketty being correct, yes.

        Another implication is that laws subsidizing investment, like our reduced capital gains tax, are completely unjustifiable and flat-out stupid.

        Another implication is that a small subset of people owning everything is not some sort of temporary manipulation of our market or a short-term imbalance, but is in fact the *default state* of economies, and if we truly do not want that to happen, we have to make laws hindering it.

        Which is, of course, *where we came in*, as that implication prompted my original question: What the right would like these sort of laws to be, in a world where they believed Piketty?Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to LWA says:

        Which means, as I point out, it’s entirely rational for *anyone* with capital to invest it in something besides labor. And by ‘anyone’, I include *companies*.

        This is another example. You are misapplying terms that have specific meanings within economics.

        Firms do not invest in labor. Firms hire labor. Firms employ labor. Firms may invest in human capital, by training workers, but you are misusing the term investment.

        Firms invest in capital. From Wikipedia: “In economics, investment is the accumulation of newly produced physical entities, such as factories, machinery, houses, and goods inventories.”

        You continue to conflate the definitions of investment and capital that you would use in finance with the way those terms are used in economics. They are similar, of course, but you are completely obliterating the differences in how those terms are used in the respective fields.

        My advice: write less, read more.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to LWA says:

        Firms do not invest in labor. Firms hire labor. Firms employ labor. Firms may invest in human capital, by training workers, but you are misusing the term investment.

        Oh for Pete’s sake. I know firms don’t ‘invest’ in labor when they hire labor.

        I’m terribly sorry I’ve apparently confused people by occasionally saying things like ‘companies invest in things other than labor’, which, of course, is completely indecipherable. I will be sure to say, from now on, that ‘companies invest in things instead of spending money on labor’.Report

      • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to LWA says:

        @lwa I don’t think you’re understanding my point, which has close to nothing to do with whether there is a “free market” solution to this or any other problem (though since you brought immigration into this, I’ll point out that the only thing that would meaningfully be characterized as a proposed ‘free market’ solution to immigration reform is, broadly speaking, open borders, which is something more likely to be espoused on the Left than the Right). It also has exactly zero to do with what Heritage or any other group might say or have said.

        It has instead everything to do with disproving the assumption that, on economic/social welfare questions, there is a meaningful and widespread disagreement about whether universal health care coverage is a laudable goal, in which those on the Left applaud it and those on the Right are fundamentally opposed to it in all its forms.

        My point is that, while it’s surely much less of a priority on average throughout the Right than it is/was throughout the Left, that is not the same as saying that this is a situation where “the end goal itself is a disagreement.”

        You countered by indicating that “much less of a priority” is indistinguishable from opposing it outright, or at minimum that agreeing that it is not a “moral imperative” is what unites the Right.

        But if this is true, I don’t find it to be a terribly interesting point, because there was and remains a substantial portion of the Left that also agrees it is not a moral imperative, even if they won’t say so out loud. Were it otherwise, we’d have single payer or, at minimum, something equivalent to Wyden-Bennett. Instead, we have Obamacare, which certainly increases coverage but still falls well short of universal coverage, does relatively little to bend the cost curve, and doubles down on the employment-insurance link.

        My point, further, is that similar things are true on most issues of any complexity. and particularly economic questions, where any given solution to one problem is likely to conflict with vested interests on another issue: there’s basically no such thing as a policy without serious moral and/or economic tradeoffs, so the question is how a given person or set of interests weighs those tradeoffs. I mean…..how many on the Left, really and truly, would be willing to accept literally any conceivable tradeoff for universal coverage? There are and were certainly some, but for plenty of others, quite likely the majority, I assure you that there were costs they were unwilling to pay or accept. Again, if it were otherwise, we’d have single payer right now.

        So once we’ve established that the only way to get closer to universal coverage is by cutting some sort of deal to minimize the tradeoffs for enough people to get them to support legislation, the question simply becomes one of figuring out who to cut a deal with and how to cut that deal.

        Which is exactly what happened – PPACA is a whole boatload of compromises and deals. It’s just that – understandably so – the deals were made with Democrats for whom universal coverage was a comparatively low priority rather than seeking out Republicans for whom it was a comparatively low priority. Again – there is absolutely nothing wrong with this.

        My point is simply that there is qualitatively no difference between Republicans for whom it was a lower priority than many liberals and Democrats for whom it was a lower priority than many liberals.

        And there were indeed Republicans willing to be the ones to cut a deal. Whether they were enough to overcome the lost Democratic votes that would result from cutting that deal is another question (my sense is almost certainly not). As importantly, though, is the nature of the deal that these Republicans were not only willing to cut, but actually did cut with some Democrats for whom universal coverage was an absolute and unequivocal priority – in at least one case at the cost of his political career. That deal, Wyden-Bennett/The Healthy Americans Act, or at least something structurally similar, would have gone significantly farther towards achieving universal coverage than PPACA. There was, I might add, widespread agreement on this at the time from many of those who were most highly-regarded on the question of health care reform.

        But it would never have passed, because the number of Republicans it would have gained would have almost certainly fallen short of the significant number of Democrats it would have lost, who were more than a little outspoken in their opposition. I have great difficulty seeing why those Democrats should get credit for supporting the goal of universal health coverage in a way that, say, Bob Bennett or, to a great extent, even Paul Ryan, should not.

        Was Wyden-Bennett a “freemarket” reform? If your comparison is to PPACA, then I guess it was a fair amount more “freemarket,” but, honestly, who cares? Republicans for the most part use the words “free market” as nothing more than buzzwords – in practice, they’re really not much more committed to it as a matter of principal than Democrats, but it makes for a rhetorically useful way of characterizing their interest groups.

        None of which, by the way, is to say that there aren’t issues where a significant number of Republicans and a significant number of Democrats have moral imperatives that are wholly irreconcilable – there certainly are, otherwise we wouldn’t have political parties. My point instead is that the assortment of imperatives that make up a political party in the US are largely arbitrary and/or matters of historical accident, and that there’s no reason to assume that the best deal to advance a given moral imperative is necessarily a deal that maintains Left or Right unity.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to LWA says:

        Oh for Pete’s sake. I know firms don’t ‘invest’ in labor when they hire labor.

        This has become a regular feature of your comments. You use terms wrongly, get called out, and then protest that you actually understand them, and we should understand that you understand them despite you’re using them wrongly.

        If you want to be taken seriously, give up on the protesting that you really really do know, and just start using terms correctly. Then you won’t have to resort to your pathetic and unconvincing protesting.Report

      • Avatar LWA in reply to LWA says:

        @mark-thompson

        All you are really doing here is trying to muddy the waters a bit- suggesting that the world is complex and conservatives are special snowflakes who can’t be assigned generalizations.
        Yes, you can find a Democrat who isn’t willing to go for single payer; But universality of coverage is an essential defining characteristic of contemporary liberalism.

        And no, you won’t find any Republican who sincerely sees universal coverage as a moral imperative. Its so powerful a feature of the Right that generalizing is actually true. It is the base, not the compromising politicians that believes this, deeply and sincerely.

        You haven’t provided a shred of evidence of Republicans or conservatives promoting universal coverage- the Wyden bill was a charade, a stunt act. Did all the organs of the Right (Talk radio, Fox, blogs) support and champion it? Nope. It was exactly the same with Hillarycare in 1994; when presented with a credible health care plan, the Right suddenly becomes fervent champions of something else, something perfect, something wildly unrealistic which has no chance of passage.

        You are attempting to make the case that liberals and conservatives actually share common moral ground, but are separated by minor issues of who pays, tradeoffs, benefits, etc.

        This is fundamentally absurd.

        We all were here in 2009-10, when the ACA was being debated around the country; Doesn’t everyone here remember the frothing rage, verging on hysteria, by the Right?
        Does anyone here believe that this was merely rational actors disagreeing over benefits and tradeoffs?
        Isn’t it true that the people who protested the most wildly- white working class Tea Partiers and elderly Fox viewers- were in fact either untouched, or actual beneficiaries of the law?

        In order for your argument to hold water, these people should have been supporters, or at least neutral; yet they were and remain insanely hostile to it. This is a moral disagreement, not a economic or pocketbook one.Report

      • Avatar Murali in reply to LWA says:

        @lwa

        You are attempting to make the case that liberals and conservatives actually share common moral ground, but are separated by minor issues of who pays, tradeoffs, benefits, etc.

        This is fundamentally absurd.

        If you are right, then it is the death knell for any genuine liberalism. Its protestants vs catholics all over again.

        Classical liberalism evolved from a détente between liberals and catholics who were tired of the wars of religion. If people with a progressive outlook and people with a conservative outlook have no common-ground and governing is just a matter of imposing one group’s conception of the good on everyone else, then what was wrong with protestants imposing Protestantism on catholics or catholics imposing Catholicism on protestants? Surely its not just that progressives are now right and protestants and catholics were wrong right?Report

      • Avatar LWA in reply to LWA says:

        @murali
        We are drifting a bit off target here.
        Its not that liberals and conservatives share no common ground on anything.
        What we have is a disagreement over moral imperatives. They see the imperative in upholding a Just Order of reward for good living and punishment for bad. This leads to an acceptance of inequality, of unequal access.
        Liberals hold the imperative in universal access, and tighter boundaries on inequality of outcome.

        I think you may be widening that more than I am; My point is that universal access to health, or upper and lower bounds on wealth are not goals of the conservative movement.

        The way to falsify this assertion is simple- demonstrate the presence of conservatives who advocate for universal access, or upper and lower bounds on wealth.Report

      • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to LWA says:

        Isn’t it true that the people who protested the most wildly- white working class Tea Partiers and elderly Fox viewers- were in fact either untouched, or actual beneficiaries of the law?

        I remember the phrase “Keep your damn government hands off my Medicare.” It’s ideologically incoherent. It’s also a very real expression of fear – the fact is that the ACA depends heavily on cuts to future Medicare spending. And objectively speaking, it probably should, because short of Wyden-Bennett (which, I might add, was something that Ron Wyden developed over years and was pushing well before the ACA was ever proposed) or single-payer, cuts to reimbursement rates are the only thing you can do to even pretend to “bend the cost curve”! But if opposition to the ACA is purely ideological as you insist, then the Medicare cuts should be something that the GOP base loved, not something it hated.

        On the other hand, “keep your damn government hands off my Medicare” is a perfect expression of priorities, of opposition to tradeoffs. It’s an expression that “I hate this because it’s my ox that’s getting gored.”

        And a lot of these people, I assure you, were not lifelong Republicans. Take a look at the exit polls over the years, which I’ve linked recently in another comments thread (don’t have time to redo the research). You’ll see that after the ACA, for the first time in at least 40 years (there’s not much data before that), the over 60 vote has ceased to be anything approaching a “swing vote” and has instead become essentially a GOP monopoly.

        This is hardly naive on my part by the way. The cynical way of phrasing this is to say that Republicans by and large are today a party of “FYIGM.” But the more academic and objective way of phrasing it is just to say that for most people, most of the time, perceived personal or cultural interests trump ideology and moral imperatives.

        There’s a reason that the Libertarian Party, or really any third party, never gets more than 1% of the vote.

        Along these lines, TNC’s Bill Cosby post the other day (which really is worth reading) briefly discusses how there are lots of black conservatives, but they’re a very different group from black Republicans. Listen to any GOP attempt at “outreach” to people of color in the last 20 years and you’ll hear a similar refrain. At minimum, though, I think anyone would need to acknowledge that there are a lot more black conservatives (at least under a traditional understanding of the term “conservative”) than black Republicans. Why is this? Simple: the Republican Party is, on the whole, a lot worse for the personal interests of black Americans than the Democratic Party. Again, interests trump ideology for most (not all) people, most (not all) of the time.

        Where have I said that the Republican Party did anything but go into a frothing rage over the ACA? Look back at my posts over the years and you will find an awful lot of criticism of that rage from me, a lot more than you will find from me with regards to the Democrats. But a huge part of that criticism has always been that the rhetoric – the proclaimed moral imperative – is, upon examination, utterly disconnected from the action and the outrage.

        The overwhelming majority of Republicans were always going to froth at the mouth over the ACA, even though, yes, the ACA was basically the Heritage plan from 20 years ago. But that was 20 years ago, and the GOP isn’t what it was 20 years ago, just as the Democratic Party isn’t what it was 20 years ago. The GOP depends on elderly voters now in a way that it didn’t 20 years ago, and elderly voters are less important to Democrats now than they were 20 years ago.

        I’ve said this time and again over the years, but the GOP’s problem isn’t that it’s too ideologically rigid, it’s that it’s nihilistic, incapable of agreeing on any actual agenda other than vehemently opposing whatever the hell Democrats want. There’s no natural “glue,” no common ground around which to form an agenda and govern competently, that’s holding the GOP together. There’s certainly not some commitment to free markets, despite the rhetoric – its actions consistently prove it doesn’t actually possess such a commitment. When you’ve got no real common ground, all you’ve got to hold yourself together is fear, and the organs of the GOP base are exceptionally good at creating fear.

        The GOP and its base frothed at the mouth over the ACA not because of some common, deep seated opposition to the notion of universal coverage. That gives them far too much credit. Instead, they frothed at the mouth because they had nothing better to do than reflexively oppose any Democratic attempt to do anything of significance since they have no actual agenda themselves.

        As for Wyden-Bennett, it was in no way a “charade,” and certainly not in the context of my point, since I pretty clearly emphasized that only a handful of Republicans supported it, and that those Republicans took a boatload of shit from the rest of the Right for doing so. My point was only to show how moral imperatives are not as widely shared within parties as you assume and insist, and further to show that in situations where activists truly do view something as a moral imperative, cross-party coalitions can often (though by no means always) better achieve that moral imperative than intra-party coalitions: you’re making compromises no matter which way you go, the question is only how much you’re going to need to compromise in pursuit of your moral imperative.Report

      • Avatar LWA in reply to LWA says:

        @mark-thompson
        OK- so conservatives don’t oppose universal health care out of principle; they are simply crazed nihilists who want to reflexively oppose any liberal initiative.

        Which coincidently is the take from Brad Delong
        http://equitablegrowth.org/2014/11/18/continuing-conservative-policy-ideas-replacing-obamacare-beat-early-wednesday-focus/

        As much as I want to believe that, I think it holds true only for committed politicos on the right; I do think the base sincerely believes that health care should be a consumer good- you only get it if you can afford it.

        But I will yield and argue no more against the “crazed nihilists” theory.Report

    • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to DavidTC says:

      Putting aside other problems with the theory, r > g is inherently self-limiting because of diminishing marginal returns. Capital tends to be employed for the most profitable purposes first, and then less and less profitable purposes as more and more capital becomes available. As the supply of capital increases, the rate of return falls to the point where r > g no longer holds.Report

  9. Avatar Patrick says:

    If you’re manipulating data that’s already been published you better have a really good reason to do so. It’s not like the book is aimed at an audience that can’t grok your defense of your methods if your defense is valid.

    But I’m not sure that liberals would really be all that upset that Piketty’s numbers are off as regards to Sweden, as Sweden has a fairly progressive attitude about taxing and spending, so if wealth concentration is going down in Sweden (and wealth concentration is a problem), then Sweden would seem to be a success point for the progressive attitude towards taxing and spending. It’s if the existing presentation was correct that you’d be more negative, I’d guess… “If Sweden-levels of taxing and spending don’t help alleviate wealth concentration, then *nothing* will!”

    That would seem to point more to the “Piketty is overstating wealth concentration because it makes his academic analysis more compelling as a selling point, if less actually accurate” than “Piketty is overstating wealth concentration because he’s a pinko”.

    Nonetheless, it’s a valid criticism.Report

    • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to Patrick says:

      “If you’re manipulating data that’s already been published you better have a really good reason to do so. ”

      It might be necessary to hide the decline, for example.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Jim Heffman says:

        Yeah, that was only a matter of time.

        Interestingly, it looks like Piketty and the researchers who published that data have part of an extended conversation on these subjects in the literature, so they must know each other pretty well.Report

  10. Avatar Patrick says:

    @j-r

    Down here for a sec:

    The over the counter birth control debate offers a pretty good parallel. There are conservatives who are generally against the proliferation of birth control and, therefore, oppose it being made OTC. And there are conservatives who would rather make it OTC to decrease the role of government in subsidizing and providing birth control. On the other side, there are progressives who support making birth control OTC, because it would make it more accessible and with fewer hoops. And there are progressives who oppose making it OTC, because of paternalistic concerns about women getting birth control without adequate medical consultation and those who oppose it because they want to make sure that it remains legally provided for under health insurance. You would have a similar split on the issue of a basic income.

    Broadly true, but I think that generally that this sort of observation is not a terrible useful rejoinder because – regardless of what the individual conservative or individual liberal believes – they aggregate their preferences when they elect a representative.

    I realize this muddles a lot of conversations because a lot of folks say, “I identify as conservative but I’m that that thing that you accuse conservatives of being!” (or vice-versa).

    There are fairly libertarian folks who routinely vote R who will put into place representatives who will try to mandate stricter regulations on birth control methods because that representative represents not just those fairly libertarian folks but also all of the other folks who vote R who are socially conservative.

    I think that generally speaking you won’t find many individual liberals who support the welfare state because they support large government. That’s a fairly common GOP Talking Head talking point, but it’s clearly ridiculous. There are individual liberal-leaning legislators who will support the welfare state because they are supported by groups of vested interests who support large government, but even there they’re not supporting large government because they think large government is good. They’re supporting large government because that’s where their election war chest comes from.Report

    • Avatar Chris in reply to Patrick says:

      And there are progressives who oppose making it OTC, because of paternalistic concerns about women getting birth control without adequate medical consultation

      I wonder wh othose people are. I know there are a lot of people who prefer some drugs to be prescription-only so that insurance will cover them, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard the argument that birth control should be prescription-only to insure that the women get “adequate medical consultation.” I’d love to see a link to people making that argument.Report

      • Avatar morat20 in reply to Chris says:

        The pill, as a form of birth control, works by screwing with hormones. It’s not as simple as a lot of people (primarily male) think. (Which is why “it’s 18 dollars at Target!” is a stupid response to cost. SOME types are. The cheapest sort turns my sister-in-law into a maniac depressive, which is why the type she’s on costs quite a bit more because it literally doesn’t make her crazy).

        OTC is perfectly fine — a number of countries do so quite safely — but in general it’s a REALLY good idea to sort through the specifics under a doctor’s care, because they can more quickly determine whether or not you’re having one of a wide range of possible side effects.

        Having settled on a particular formulation that works, there’s really not a particular need to continue going through a physician unless you have other, complicating, health factors.

        On the whole, offering it OTC seems like a good idea. But then again, the real problem with the Pill has little to do with medicine and a lot to do with social mores.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Chris says:

        Chris,
        that link’s been made on this website, by folks who buy much more expensive birth control than is normally prescribed. The good doctor also mentioned that birth control pills are substantially more dangerous than Plan B… (I assume because of long term consequences).
        People have different levels of risk premium, and it’s perfectly understandable that folks might not want people being given medicine that might be life-threatening.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Chris says:

        Here is Russell Saunders making that argument. He’s since changed his views on the matter (I think), but it doesn’t seem strawmanny at all to say that some progressives support prescription-only contraception in order to assure that women are getting appropriate medical consultation.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Chris says:

        morat and chris,
        at least with a prescription one gets to make sure that the person is consenting to the damn medication.

        Birth control pills for the mentally retarded? Suuure… How about dad slipping some in his 12 year old daughter’s drink? Suuure…

        Over the counter is an invitation to trouble…Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Chris says:

        Interesting. I don’t remember that post, though at 2 year’s old, that’s probably not surprising. Are there other examples ya’ll can readily think of (preferably by non-physicians)?Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Chris says:

        Also, I fully agree with people who say that women taking birth control should at least consult with physicians first. I also think anyone taking almost any medication regularly should consult with a physician first, whether that medication is zyrtec or aspirin. Doesn’t mean they need to be prescription-only, of course.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to Chris says:

        If I were re-writing that sentence again, I’d probably leave out the part about opposition to OTC based on the need for medical consultation. It is there, but the overwhelming amount of progressive skepticism appears based on wanting to keep birth control coverage legally guaranteed under health insurance.

        Of course, from the standpoint of pure politics, there are probably a fair number of physician and medical association lobbying groups that would find Democrats to oppose such a measure.Report

    • Avatar j r in reply to Patrick says:

      @patrick

      Broadly true, but I think that generally that this sort of observation is not a terrible useful rejoinder because…

      What exactly do you mean by useful in this context? It is a pretty clear example of conservatives taking the side of a policy debate that they are stereotypical not supposed to and of progressives doing the exact same thing. It is the perfect response to the claims that conservatives would never support a UBI. If that does not convince you, then just look at history. The idea of a negative income tax was something championed by Milton Friedman and the earned income tax credit was signed into law by Ford and expanded by Reagan. I don’t really care if it’s useful. It’s true.

      As to this:

      I think that generally speaking you won’t find many individual liberals who support the welfare state because they support large government. That’s a fairly common GOP Talking Head talking point, but it’s clearly ridiculous. There are individual liberal-leaning legislators who will support the welfare state because they are supported by groups of vested interests who support large government, but even there they’re not supporting large government because they think large government is good. They’re supporting large government because that’s where their election war chest comes from.

      I am not sure why I ought to recognize a difference between the two. My argument against the welfare state is in large measure a belief that outcomes matter, intentions not so much.Report

      • Avatar LWA in reply to j r says:

        Because “I want large government, and welfare is just a handy tool to do it!” is staggeringly stupid argument, which is why conservatives love to assign it, usually to the pointy headed guy in Mallard Fillmore strips.

        I mean, if we only consider outcomes, intentions not so much, is it fair to look at indigent medical patients dumped on Skid Row and use that as the preferred policy outcome of the Heritage Foundation?.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to j r says:

        @lwa

        When I talk about anti-poverty interventions, I am primarily interested in what works and what does not work. Secondarily, I am interested in what is politically and logistically feasible. That’s about it.

        The whole conversation about which team is better on these issues is spectacularly uninteresting. If you want to continue to have that conversation, have at it. Just do it without me.Report

      • Avatar Patrick in reply to j r says:

        It is the perfect response to the claims that conservatives would never support a UBI.

        No, it isn’t.

        I don’t really care if it’s useful. It’s true.

        Let me rephrase: the idea that “something is supported by conservatives” is a useless idea if broadly speaking your benchmark for “supported” is “I can find one”. Or even “I can find a lot of them”. Or “I can find a lot of them that support this thing that’s reasonably close to that thing that we’re talking about.”

        It may be the case that conservatives, as a group, would support a UBI. It may be the case that conservatives, limited to the elected officials, would support a UBI. Either of those two things may be true.

        Based upon the rhetoric that is commonly espoused by the current crop of elected conservatives *and* the lack of support for the welfare state *as evidenced by the complaints about the welfare state that are made, publicly, by populist conservatives*, I find the claim that “conservatives would support a UBI” dubious. Not impossible. Just dubious. I don’t see many conservatives talking about a UBI. I see an awful lot of complaints about the welfare state coming from the public conservative-o-sphere reflecting the attitude that the real problem with the welfare state is that it is a huge moral hazard, and I don’t see that attitude being able to morph into support for a UBI on the basis that “well, at least we got the bureaucracy out of it”.

        Generally speaking, you can find conservatives who are supportive of comprehensive immigration reform, too. But based upon my reading of the last few elections, and the sorts of rhetoric I see from the right-o-sphere, and which messages of those resonate among the right-o-sphere as reflected in the stuff they share and promote on social media, I’m pretty sure that someone talking about comprehensive immigration reform in a GOP primary would be losing support, not gaining it.

        I am not sure why I ought to recognize a difference between the two.

        One is a root cause (a principled objection) held largely in common, and the other is not.

        outcomes matter, intentions not so much

        I generally regard this as true myself, and it is certainly a hugely overlooked bit of politics when it comes to partisan wrangling, because they’ll talk intentions to death rather than talk at all about outcomes.

        But one of the important things to consider *not* from a partisan wrangling standpoint is that intentions are still actually pretty huge when you’re talking about politics, because intentions shape what outcomes are possible and what sorts of strategies can create which changes.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to j r says:

        jr,
        so how much have you read about Minnesota?Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to j r says:

        I find the claim that “conservatives would support a UBI” dubious. Not impossible. Just dubious.

        The truth is that most people would not support a UBI at this point in time, whether they self-identify as conservative or liberal or libertarian. Therefore, almost no politician, whether they have a D or an R after their name would support it either.

        Everything else you are saying just speculation. I offered a comparison to an issue that has similar dynamics and I mentioned the historical reality of the EITC. You are offering assertions.Report

      • Avatar LWA in reply to j r says:

        @j-r
        Everyone wants to talk about what works and what doesn’t;
        The problem, as I refer above, is that our disagreement is in what the word “works” means.

        Works to produce universal access to health care? Or works to deliver health care to those who can afford it, and not to those who can’t?

        Two very different goals and outcomes are being pursued here.Report

      • Avatar Patrick in reply to j r says:

        The truth is that most people would not support a UBI at this point in time, whether they self-identify as conservative or liberal or libertarian.

        Probably. But I think you’re making a huge error if you think that most people would not support a UBI for the same reasons, and that really matters. Because some of the *reasons* why people would or wouldn’t support a UBI are more susceptible to being changed themselves than others.

        Non-UBI comparison: A lot of Democrats support single payer as their primary solution to healthcare. A majority of Democrats don’t support single payer as a tactic because they don’t think it’s politically feasible. If single payer was politically feasible, you’d probably see a change among the Democrats from “weak support for single payer, strong support for something” to “strong support for single payer”.

        When it comes to a UBI, I think if you had political conditions such that it was politically feasible, you’d see a majority of Democrats supporting it. There would still be a minority who would worry that folks might misspend the money, yes, but I think this is a secondary motivator, not a primary one. Because I see support for the social safety net as the important ideological identity point for the Dems, not “big government”.

        On the other hand, I think the GOP stance on a UBI would be remarkably similar to the GOP stance on the social safety net, generally. Because I see the objection of moral hazard being a fairly important ideological identity point for the GOP.

        Therefore, almost no politician, whether they have a D or an R after their name would support it either.

        Certainly, as it stands now.

        Everything else you are saying just speculation. I offered a comparison to an issue that has similar dynamics and I mentioned the historical reality of the EITC. You are offering assertions.

        (snort) Your comparison only has similar dynamics… if you’re making particular assumptions, which you’re speculating about, and asserting.

        Which, maybe you don’t see that, but there you go.

        Granted, I’m speculating about the makeup of the GOP, sure.

        It’s not speculation absent any data. There is a correlation between how many people watch Fox and Friends and how often they post ijreview.com articles on Facebook and what normative assumptions they old as ideological identity points.Report

  11. Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

    @zic

    We aren’t in disagreement. Read everything I wrote again. My whole point is that as long as our safety net social services carry with them negative, painful possibilities, the public incentive to expand those services to other, less safety net type areas will be low.

    Think of it this way: You want your kid to go through Sex Ed in school, the good that information provides is without question. But how anxious would you be if, in order to fight the spread of STDs & prevent teen pregnancy, the instructor was required by law to report to CPS any instances where they have reason to believe the students are engaging in underage sex? Not sex where it’s a teacher & a student, or an adult & a minor, or there is any question of consent, statutory or otherwise. Just sex. The law says that under the age of consent, kids can not have sex. No exceptions. Now CPS knows about an illegal act, they have to investigate & get law enforcement involved. What kind of chill do you think that would put on kids asking questions of the instructor, in class or in private? Now factor in our eagerness to label people as sex offenders, and how eager do you think people will be to support sex ed in HS? Sure, it probably would cut down on STDs & pregnancies a bit, but at what cost*?

    Think about the article I posted originally, about the mother who had to fight to get her infant back. It all started because a doctor didn’t agree with her decision to use soy formula to supplement breast milk to treat dehydration. She did nothing criminal, she just got crosswise with a doctor who called CPS on her. Even if that is an isolated incident, the fact is it’s a story, people are hearing it, and the fact that the doctor & CPS will get a pass for all of it degrades the trust in the system.

    As a society, across the board, we are too focused on punishment, too quick to want penalty, not nearly concerned enough with rehabilitation & re-integration. We are also too willing to decide that those who find themselves crosswise with the law are deserving of it, even though many times, the law is an ass.

    *My sister went through this particular grinder as a teenager. Luckily this was before sex offender lists, but it was still 6 months of hell for the whole family for no good reason except his mother did not like my sister.Report

  12. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Conservatives won’t like this

    A country with Demographics like Sweden’s being willing to have a hugely robust Social Safety net?

    Apparently, Sweden doesn’t keep ethnic demographics records (seriously! try googling for them!), but 67.5% of Sweden belongs to the (now disestablished) Church of Sweden (one of Luther’s bastards). The largest group of foreign-born immigrants in Sweden is from Finland so let’s group everybody together and say that 70% of Sweden presents as a particular ethnic demographic.

    Sweden also has language laws.

    Now: if you were to offer “conservatives” a 70% ethnic majority as well as language laws for the language of their choice, do you think you could get them to support a robust social safety net?Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird says:

      If you could offer them a 70% ethnic majority, they’d be fine with speaking Swedish.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        Full point.

        I honestly suspect that you’re going to find that “Folks Like Us” are a lot more likely to support a Robust Social Safety Net. Now “Folks Like Us” can be based on ethnicity or they can be the result of a robust naturalization, but I suspect that the more different that one’s neighbors are, the more that one is likely to push for, at least, a more robust naturalization (for example: language laws) and, barring that, restricted immigration and, barring that, a less robust of a Social Safety Net.

        But I’ve given this rant a half dozen times.Report

  13. Avatar zic says:

    @mad-rocket-scientist down here, please.

    Actually, this is the boat. If we have institutions that are supposed to be helping those most in need among us, and they are used (or perceived as being used) with some regularity as a way to punish* those most in need, why in the world would I, as a person not in need, trust such institutions to treat me any different?

    I thought the particular boat we were discussing is Sweeden’s high taxes to support universal health care, child care, education, elder care, etc? In Sweeden, these things are payed for by the government for everyone, not just he poor. That’s why I said this whole discussion (above) was missing the boat. As far as punitive uses; they too fall by the wayside because everyone can access; there’s less reason to build in punitive stuff because you’re not trying to keep people from cheating the system.Report

    • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to zic says:

      @zic

      Oh, sorry, I thought we were talking about why such programs don’t get support in the US.Report

      • @mad-rocket-scientist

        We do have some apples and some oranges. Which leads to some questions about the differences. We see that welfare/government services, as practiced in the US, leads punitive measures. Screening all that — the verification the government must do to determine of someone is 1) eligible for the benefit and 2) remains eligible for the benefit is hugely expensive. My state just spend $700,000 to crack down on welfare fraud and initiated a program to drug-test drug felons for food stamps; that investment of resources to week out fraud found about $70,000 of fraud. I’m pretty sure the drug testing will cost a lot more then the few people it will weed out, too. But at least we’ve spent a lot of money making sure the underserving don’t get help, right?

        (I spent the morning talking with a friend in an abusive marriage. She’s afraid to reach out to authorities (aka cops) for help because they both toke. Right now, her short-term safety plan is me; if things become violent, she will come here. Which potentially puts me and mine in danger, too.)

        In Sweeden, they don’t screen for income to help a family with child care. If you do toke, they’re not going to send a social worker to your home to do a sniff test before you can enroll your kid in government-funded child care. They’re not going to do all sorts of the expensive things we do to weed out the undeserving.

        So higher taxes/broad-based social services (that everybody uses at some point in their lives) means they don’t have to waste money on the punitive crap, too.

        It’s pretty useless to compare our welfare system to Sweeden’s socialism for these types of reasons. That our system might not work doesn’t actually offer proof that a Swedish-style system won’t work, either. The places where we have this type of socialism — Medicare and social security, are much maligned for being huge entitlement programs, but in terms of functioning to bring health care and financial security to large numbers of people, actually function pretty well; the exception being a lot of the end-of-life care for seniors; that’s very expensive.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        In Sweeden, they don’t screen for income to help a family with child care. If you do toke, they’re not going to send a social worker to your home to do a sniff test before you can enroll your kid in government-funded child care. They’re not going to do all sorts of the expensive things we do to weed out the undeserving.

        So higher taxes/broad-based social services (that everybody uses at some point in their lives) means they don’t have to waste money on the punitive crap, too.

        This is the philosophical difference I was talking about. Social welfare & criminal investigations are two separate domains & only in the most extreme cases should they intertwine.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        @zic

        The places where we have this type of socialism — Medicare and social security, are much maligned for being huge entitlement programs, but in terms of functioning to bring health care and financial security to large numbers of people, actually function pretty well…

        If by function pretty well, you mean that they reliable deliver a check on time, then sure. That, however, completely ignores the fiscal concerns that both programs face. The Social Security Trust Fund runs consistent deficits that are only made up by plusing it up with government IOUs. It would be illegal for any private entity to engage in the accounting practices that the government does on Social Security. That is the sort of thing that brought Enron down.

        If you really want to assess the success of either of these programs, you would have to compare them to possible alternatives.

        And that has been my point all along. One of the problems with the welfare state model is that, once a program gets enacted, it is almost completely immune from evaluation and reform. Chances are that we are going to ride SS and Medicare until the wheels fall off; whereas it is much easier to submit other smaller, means-tested programs to the type of cost-benefit analysis that programs ought to go through.Report

  14. Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

    @murali

    The kind of paternalism that a lot of left liberals have a harder time condemning is helping people who act in ways counterproductive to their wellbeing according to their own lights.

    No disagreement here.

    In my mind, paternalism has a place, but it is a thing that must be entered into voluntarily. So a person who is spiraling down should be allowed to do so. We can tell them, “Help is here, if you want it, when you are ready.”, and then we (as a society) have to be OK with the possibility that they will find a bottom that is permanent & potentially fatal. We should minimize the damage they can do to others (like children), but cutting them off from welfare support does not generally cause them to get help, it just leads to a faster descent, or crime. Now, should they seek help, that help can have elements of paternalism to it, much like addiction treatment does, but the person should voluntarily subject themselves to the paternalism in order to get help. Not have the paternalism forced upon them for their own good.Report