Monday, February 14, 2011

Catch of the Day

This blog has been critical of Greg Mankiw more than once in the past, but today he gets the coveted CotD for taking apart the administration's stinker of a slogan, which they've persisted in using far past its sell-by date:
More troublesome to me as an economist, though, is that calling on Americans to “win the future” misleads us about the nature of the policy choices ahead. Achieving economic prosperity is not like winning a game, and guiding an economy is not like managing a sports team...
Listening to the president, you might think that competition from China and other rapidly growing nations was one of the larger threats facing the United States. But the essence of economic exchange belies that description. Other nations are best viewed not as our competitors but as our trading partners. Partners are to be welcomed, not feared. As a general matter, their prosperity does not come at our expense.
I like it for two reasons. One is because I agree that the administration's sloganeering is pathetically weak (as I said last month in a sadly ignored post). The other is because the opposition party should oppose, and here Mankiw opposes on real policy grounds, not phony math or equally inane slogan-mongering.

Anyway, I'm terrified at the thought of hearing two more years of "win the future." It's like suffering through the "bridge to the 21st century" again, only even more content-free and...did I say inane already? So anything to knock that down, I'll probably be for.


  1. Among my political memorabilia is a WIN ("Whip Inflation Now") coffee mug from the Gerald Ford era. Can we keep the new slogan at least long enough to get me a matching "WTF" coffee mug? (And yes, I'm chagrined at borrowing a joke from Sarah Palin, but it would be a terrific set of coffee mugs.)

  2. I generally find the "war" metaphor to be unhelpful and even harmful in some cases. For instance the "war on drugs" is something that any reasonable person would have to admit is a failure, but when we see drug use as a two sided battle, anything less than total eradication becomes defeat, which makes change harder.

    I think "win the future" is meant to be a framework with which to gain the high ground, and justify some pretty typical democratic policies (investment in education, infrastructure, and science). I think as such it may actually prove useful.

    George Lakoff has an interesting take on it:

  3. " Other nations are best viewed not as our competitors but as our trading partners. Partners are to be welcomed, not feared. As a general matter, their prosperity does not come at our expense."

    That is true for college professors but not for the blue collar class.

    Mankiw worked for an administration that supported trade deals that made the outsourcing of US jobs to China and other low wage countries easier. The result was a decade in which the number of private sector jobs fell while the US population increased by over twenty million. Given that record I don't think automatic support for our current trade practices is in order.

    I am reading the latest book by Clyde Prestowitz. He worked as a trade negotiator for Reagan. He disagrees with Mankiw. He also notes that Alexander Hamilton had different views on trade then our policy class does today.

    The US followed Hamilton until 1945 and became the richest country in the world. Germany also followed Hamilton under Frederich List. Japan and China adopted similar paths. The view that more open trade is always better does not match the history of the worlds most successful economies.


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