Saturday, July 30, 2011

Brad DeLong, if you're in the "Rubin wing" of the Democratic Party, you are essentially a centrist

I am too - and it's OK.

Brad writes: "One of the most puzzling things that those of us in the Rubin wing of the Democratic Party face is that we get no credit for any of the good things we do in the eyes of "centrist" commentators, and the Republicans get no blame for any of the bad things they do in the eyes of "centrist" commentators".

He's jumping on the Krugman point earlier about the "cult of centrism", which I criticized here. This narrative says that centrists are moral equivocators and "opinions of the shape of the Earth differ" style commentators.

It's a blatant category error on the part of Brad and Paul. Centrism as a political disposition simply says that when you look at the left and the right you often think they both have some good points to make on either policy or philosophy and you have a tough time identifying enthusiastically with either one. That's all it is. It's a political or philosophical disposition. It's not:
1. Being a lazy journalist
2. Being a gutless people-pleaser
3. Unwilling to accept evidence and objective science
4. Being a contrarian
5. Giving those whom the evidence is against a free pass

These have nothing to do with a person's policy or philosophical stance.

Likewise Brad earlier wrote that he was "moving to the left of Steny Hoyer" in proposing a few technical solutions to the debt ceiling crisis. Again, it's a category error. There's nothing inherently left-wing or right-wing about economic policy competence (which is really the quality that Brad brings to the table). Competence is competence. It so happens that it's in short supply all around and the shortage seems to become more modest as you move left. But that's just coincidence. There's nothing inherently "leftist" about (1.) following the Constitution, (2.) prudently running government, and (3.) prudent macroeconomic management. You're not proposing a massive expansion of the welfare state, after all. You're not proposing a punitive orientation towards business. You're not even touching a host of social issues. You're just pushing basic functionality in the public sector with a little Keynesian stabilization mixed in. That's fairly centrist, and you push that centrism without getting deferential to both parties in the room. I do think the sort of journalism Brad and Paul describe is a problem. A lot of journalists also just presuppose that what Washington is worried about is the actual problem, and that's bad too. Washington is worried about deficits so the presumption is deficits must be the problem. They're not - jobs are. I don't want to minimize the problem, I just don't think we should be confusing that ignorance with centrism.

One of the perks of being a centrist is precisely that you don't give a damn about strict attendance to a particular party's reputation!

No comments:

Post a Comment

All anonymous comments will be deleted. Consistent pseudonyms are fine.