"Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assault of thoughts on the unthinking" - JMK
- Sylvia Nasar has another great article on Keynes. She's speaking at the Mercatus Center in November, the day I present at APPAM and the night before Kate and I leave on a trip... it seemed like too much to squeeze in, but now I'm thinking I might want to show up. I liked to things about this article especially: (1.) it explained Keynesianism easily without resorting to consumptionism, and (2.) I like the details on Marshall.
- Lots of times when I argue with libertarians, I criticize what I consider to be their dangerous foray into social engineering. On the American political spectrum right now, libertarians propose considerably more radical shifts in the way society is organized than any other group, and for an economist that thinks these social orders evolve that seems suspect. So I found Karl Smith's coining of the phrase "liberalization failure" interesting. His concern is a little different from mine, of course. He defines it as: "When attempts to leave a market to its own devices results in a social backlash and the adoption of policies worse than what would have prevailed had the government taken the economists’ orginal recommendation." I wouldn't define it so narrowly in terms of the "social backlash" (although this is obviously a problem in many cases). I would broaden it to situations where people think they can predict what will happen as a result of large-scale liberalization, but they really can't. Still, it's a good idea. But ultimately I'm not sure I like it for the same reason I don't like the terms "market failure" and "government failure". I think the idea of "failure" in general for these things is a bad way to think about it. An externality, for example, isn't a "failure" - it's just a description of the way the world works given a certain property regime and set of incentives. Indeed, in a situation of externality the whole problem is the market isn't complete - it seems strange to blame the market for that. "Government failure" is odd too because often it's not the apparatus of government itself so much as the decisions that are made that turn out badly. If a firm goes out of business do we call that "market failure"? No. We say that given the institutional environment that firm didn't have what it took to be successful. The same goes with most things dismissed as "government failure". Demonstrating that a given piece of regulation is bad hardly proves that the act of regulating is unwise. I think these terms - "government failure", "market failure", and probably "liberalization failure" too aren't as clear analytically as they first appear. But it is good that Karl Smith is calling attention to the failure of libertarians to consider a lot of public choice problems associated with their ideas.
- I always have a tough time accepting the idea that the media has a strong liberal bias. New research suggests my suspicions might be good. You can get almost anyone - liberal, centrist, or conservative - to admit that Fox is pretty conservative. You can get almost anyone - liberal, centrist, or conservative - to admit that MSNBC is pretty liberal. There are obviously example of ideological news sources. But all the other major channels and all the big name newspapers seem to all be thought of as "liberal" by conservatives I talk to and "conservative" by liberals I talk to. That's a major clue-in that there's probably not all that much bias in them. Or to put it another way - if these news sources were unbiased, you would expect conservatives and libertarians to think they have a liberal bias, and you would expect liberals to think they leaned right. If they were biased, you wouldn't expect to see that symmetry. [And commenters - be a little circumspect about whether your brilliant refutation simply amounts to proving my point]