Monday, April 23, 2012

Read Stuff, You Should

Happy Birthday to Captain Sensible, 57. Wot?!?
The good stuff:

1. Ezra Klein horns in on the stuff that we political scientist bloggers do by reminding political professionals and political junkies that we're not normal. OK, he's quoting political scientist Lynn Vavreck, but c'mon, Ezra: if you keep saying smart things, who is going to pay me to do this stuff?

Note: I'm not sure which is more amazing: the fact that Wonkblog exists, or how consistently excellent it is. Ezra Klein and his great team -- Suzy Khimm, Sarah Kliff, Brad Plumer -- manage to do an enormous amount of serious policy coverage for a major newspaper. An important positive development.

2. I'm sorry -- a professor of philosophy believes that because rich people who favor higher taxes don't just voluntarily give more money to the government that therefore those rich people must not really believe what they're saying? Huh. Will Wilkinson points out the fallacy.

3. Michael Kinsley on Romney and success.

4. Seth Masket catches the NYT with (another) bogus comparison.

5. Good piece by Stuart Rothenberg warning about a coming phony idea of an anti-incumbency mood.


  1. I think you should check your Captain Sensible link.

  2. Also, here's the right link to the Kinsley column (which is excellent, BTW):

  3. If Wilkinson's argument is right, then what does it say about people who buy Priuses to save the Earth? Are they wasting their time or buying a sense of self-satisfaction? The yay-government wealthy should improve their mood by doing the "right" thing for Progressive governance. Opapa could thank big donors to the treasury to help them get prog. brownie points.

    I'm a problem solver.

  4. Wilkinson's argument is silly. See e.g.

    Suppose you think that taxes should be higher in order to fund better medical care, and you give $1000 a year to Planned Parenthood. Well, obviously you think that Planned Parenthood spends that money better than the government would, otherwise you'd give that money to the government instead. Therefore you should stop advocating higher taxes, and start advocating more charitable giving.

    The fact that lots of people give voluntarily to charity but almost no-one gives voluntarily to government shows that people do not think the government uses their money well.

    1. The Arnold Kling reply linked to here argues as follows:

      "I think it is worth imagining a world in which government competes on a level playing field with other charities. That is, imagine a world in which government relied on voluntary donations. In such a world, government would be smaller and other providers of public goods would be larger. To me, that sounds like a win-win."

      And yet, such a "win-win" is not operating anywhere, not in even one of the planet's 200 or so nation-states. Nor is there even one historical example of it on any large scale. That's why such a world must be "imagined." Also worth imagining: Universal peace! Justice for all! And ponies, of course -- let's not forget the ponies.

    2. Well, there is Somalia, the libertarian's paradise.

    3. Yes, and Mohammed Aidid is a "provider of public goods." ;-)

    4. Somalia is dirt-poor and unpleasant like most sub-Saharan African countries, where 19 of the 20 poorest countries are found. Which libertarians have described Somalia as a paradise?

    5. I don't understand the desire to come up with libertarian arguments that are fundamentalist in their individualism, like some fourth rate Nozick-style philosopher. It seems like only neo-classical economists and off-the-cuff pundits feel the need to do this.

    6. No, it doesn't.
      First, since we call them by different names, I'm going to assume that most people think that you can't get the charitable deduction by giving to government, only to charities. It's not true, but perception is what matters, not reality.
      Second, our government is massive. If Buffett gives $10 million, it doesn't really get noticed. Nobody has a black tie gala to celebrate the gift; there's very little psychic benefit to Buffett. He gives $10 million to a charity? Well, now, they're going to be appreciative, and Warren will get his ego stroked. In fact, that ego stroking might then encourage others to give. It gets a news item, and that convinces more, etc.
      Finally, let's assume you're right (which is VERY dubious) that people giving to charity proves that people think that charities are using their money better. Well, to be perfectly honest, I don't care what people think. People THINK American Idol is a good show. People THINK that they are above average. People THINK that the existence of charity disproves the utility of government. People THINK all kinds of silly things.

  5. Warren Buffet should have to buy the Prius instead of just claiming he wants to buy the Prius if he's to receive Progressive points. His assertions aren't costing him anything, yet he's being lionized by Opapa and all other liberals for them.


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