Saturday, April 5, 2008

This and That: From McCain to the Acharnians

McCain advisor speaks, Friedman, Smith, et. al roll over in graves
As I've written before, my vote will depend greatly on my faith in the Presidential nominees' advisors. It's been pretty even in my book for a while, but lately Obama has been pulling ahead (though he has a way to go), and this latest comment by a McCain advisor is a MAJOR negative, especially given the fact that McCain has admitted he doesn't have many economic ideas of his own.

“What really happens is that the economy grows more vigorously when you lower tax rates,” said Kevin Hassett, an adviser to the presumptive Republican nominee, John McCain, and the director for economic policy studies at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. “It is beyond the reach of economic science to explain precisely why that happens, but it does.”

Wow. Now, the first part of this statement isn't always true, certainly many economists on the left disagree, but it's a reasonable position. However, the fact that Mr. Hassett believes this phenomenon is unexplainable by economics is insane. Dani Rodrik dubs it's "faith-based economics." When one of your advisors can't explain Econ 101 concepts you may be in trouble; if you don't know anything about economics either, you are DEFINITELY in trouble.

On the plus side, McCain's kid is joining the Marines, which should allay SOME of the fears that we'll be in Iraq for 100 years. I do respect that he also refuses to speak about it and politicize an issue he could certainly score some easy points on (please spare me any psycho-babble about him NOT talking about it to get even more attention; would you say that if Jimmy Obama was joining the Marines?)

Still, McCain's stock is definitely down. He'll need to bring on some heavyweights.

More on the internets, innovation, and the development of the market economy under the fold...

Will the internet soon be obselete?
From the creator of the internet, Al Gore (just kiddins!), "The scientists who pioneered it have now built a lightning-fast replacement capable of downloading entire feature films within seconds. At speeds about 10,000 times faster than a typical broadband connection, “the grid” will be able to send the entire Rolling Stones back catalogue from Britain to Japan in less than two seconds."

Why are the Social Sciences Backwards? (Pt. II from Econlog, Pt. III from MR)
Why were the Ancients able to take such huge steps forward in the fields of philosophy and astronomy, while economics (and history, among other studies) wouldn't *BEGIN* to receive serious treatment until the 16th century. The title question harkens back to the previous post about the steam engine, and Cowen has a useful take, "No one really cared [about economic thought] because they could not yet see how important those contributions would turn out to be. This is a central theme in why the growth of economic thought took so long.

It also suggests that today we might have some very important ideas amongst us, we simply cannot yet see how fruitful they will be. Their own proponents may not even know it."

Did the Ancients have market economies?
A personal interest of mine, here are a few different perspectives on whether the Athenians had a market economy, or if all economies were really plunder-based until the Dutch Republic. The blog debate is particularly enlightening. I agree with the posters who suggest it's more helpful to judge where an economy fits on a continuum of "marketness" (or "marketousity," if you're feeling crazy). Why does this matter? It is a large part of the puzzle to how and why societies evolve from plunder-based economies caught up in zero-sum conflict traps to exchange-based economies that thrive in peace time.

Hopefully, I'll come across a few more articles/books on the subject and sort out how political economy/technology/geography/other factors explain the development of market economies and liberal rule. Not today though.

3 comments:

Lloyd said...

I'm a fan of Marketousity - the entire continuum.

Pete said...

First of all, would you please separate your posts. I dont really like commenting on the whole of March 6th.
Also, I dont see why you dont open this blog up. It is well constructed, thoughtful, the only thing it is really lacking is a base of people commenting and discussing. Go ahead and keep it anonymous, just open it up!

Anyway, I quite agree with you on the mccain front. Pretty absurd that one of his advisors cant explain to you why this happens. How do you expect to explain to people, "we think it is better to cut funding to schools, health care and various other social programs because they are too expensive and we want to have lower taxes and an expensive war. Now dont worry, these lower taxes are going to make the economy grow faster. What? How? Oh well we dont know how, or even why for that matter, it just happens. Think water into wine. that should clear things up for you a bit."

John said...

Ahem...La Serenissima Repubblica post 1204. See "The Market (Or Capitalism) Kills," in Part III of Carnage and Culture for a right-leaning rundown on the subject.

(Acharnians)