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September 30, 2008

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Dude,
glad you got power back. I am over in the Heights and got it back on the 16th (thanks for that calendar over there, that I had never noticed afore).
If you ever want to do Steak Night or any other of our assorted bacchanalia, lemme know.

C

I just read this endorsement of Obama [and Dems in general, economywise]:

http://yaforobama.ning.com/profiles/blog/show?id=2246335%3ABlogPost%3A8502

I think it is very apropos here. If that is the word I want.

"All that said, I’m not calling for a return to New Deal command-and-control regimes."

Which New Deal regimes, specifically, might be examples of what we shouldn't return to? (I ask as an FDR buff.)

I more or less agree with your general points.

Welcome back!

"I ask as an FDR buff."

To be clear, I have a few in mind, myself; I'm just curious which ones you have in mind. :-)

flawed at the conceptual core

And in the simplest psychological terms: is it credible to hope for serious, competent officials and legislators from a faction that has spent 30+ years chanting "government is the problem" and "starve the beast"..?

That surfaced vividly with Katrina and Brownie, but it needs to be hammered home every day. If you wouldn't expect good maps from flat-earthers... if you wouldn't expect progress in taxonomy or paleontology from creationists... why on earth would you expect good federal government or governance from Reagan-and-after Republicans, who don't believe there is such a thing?

Amen!

Sorry, I'm not buying.

I hate the government for some pretty damn good reasons. (Cops, mostly, but not only cops).

But the fact is, the Repubs have expanded the government manically the whole long time they've been in office!

They've just expanded it in blatantly pro-corporate ways.

We need to start painting them as what they are: THE PARTY OF BIG (PRO-CORPORATE) GOVERNMENT.

Our alternative: We'll do less, but what we do will benefit average people.

I'm reluctant to support this government or any government until the immigration system and criminal justice system are reformed in humane, sensible ways. Also there's this little matter of the war in Iraq that got wide bipartisan support and the war in Afghanistan that most Democrats still support. I can't support a government that goes around blowing up civilians for their own good. Will Obama get us out of Afghanistan? Will Matt Yglesias start trying to convince him to?

Outlook not so good.

Look, here is my bumper-sticker, talking point mantra on the market.

Saying the market will take care of the economy is like saying the atmosphere will take care of the weather.

It's true, of course, but we all still own umbrellas.

It's not necessary to convince people that government is good. I think it's enough to convince them that it is useful, necessary, and legitimate.

I concur with all of your examples of infrastructure and natural monopolies that should be managed as part of our common, public life.

Thanks -

Agreed, strongly, and thanks for reminding us that Bill Clinton 'bought into' the anti-'Big Government' idea as well, to the point where John Hess used to refer to him -- accurately -- as a "Rockefeller Republican." (That -- and Terry McCauliffe's hideously Tancredo-like statement on immigration in early 07 -- were the reasons why I opposed Hillary from the beginning.)

But I believe Obama 'gets it' and has read Galbreath enough to understand his simple idea -- that government serves as a 'countervailing power' on the side of the people. He's also an FDR pragmatist -- keep trying things until we find something that works. (Remember that one complaint FDR campaigned on against Hoover was that he'd failed to balance the budget, but he saw what was needed once he was in office.)

This even ties into the discussion of 'district-specific programs' ('earmarks') from last night. Few of them really are 'boondoggles' but one thing they do is supply desperately-needed jobs, mostly for 'manually-skilled' labor, but for professionals as well.

(For those who worry about 'the cops' well, one thing he had originally proposed, but took off the table, was marijuana legalization. He might just put it back, as FDR ended prohibition. And, for the most part, it is 'vice laws' which cause most police corruption.

(Very scattered comment, just waking up, two hours earlier than usual.)

"But I believe Obama 'gets it' and has read Galbreath enough to understand his simple idea"

John Kenneth Galbraith, perhaps?

OT, but heh.

Government is good.

Nope. Government is a necessary evil.

George Bush turned me into a believer in limited government, because I realized I wanted his administration limited.

You're arrogant and imperious like Bush, seeking to impose your massive, costly agenda on the rest of us, soaking up an ever larger share of our blood, sweat and tears.

I'll take freedom. Freedom from you both. Freedom in the form of a government that takes as little from me as possible and interferes in my life as little as possible.

Thanks, Gary, my spelling is weak until the caffeine hits, and rushing to get ready for a doctor's appointment kept me from looking it up.

"Freedom in the form of a government that takes as little from me as possible and interferes in my life as little as possible."

"I'm all right, Jack."

Well the Republicans set out to create a one party nation (at the federal level) and they have pretty much succeeded.

To solidify their status as the one party that runs the federal show, the Democrats need to give the nation good governance and that means being boldly progressive Democrats. Not Vichy compromising appeasers.

This particlualr issue--what to do about the Crisis--gives the Dem leadership in Congress the opportunity to be clearly progressive or be clearly appeasers. In my view the bill that failed was an appeaser bill. It ws watered down and chock full of compromises against the public intgerest in an attempt to get Republican support. maybe that was the right thing to try, I don't know. In any case the compromise failed. So the choice seems pretty stark to me: sell out the public ingterest even more to get a few Republican votes or stand up for Democratic principles to get a few more Deomcfratic votes and the votes of some endangered Republicans who are scared to face the voters unless they can deliver some relief.

Also the Democfraats need to be banging the regulation drum loudly. Deregulation caused this and one of the legitmate responsiblities of governemtn is to regulate in the publicn ingterst. So Deomcrats need to promote regulation of corportate activity as a positive function of government.

I am not at all sure that Reid and Pelosi will do the right thing. I am much more optimistic about Obama, but of coursse Presidents don't come with magic wands.

Freedom in the form of a government that takes as little from me as possible and interferes in my life as little as possible.

i hear Somalia is giving "limited government" a shot. i'll gladly donate up to $200 towards an effort to ship all the small government ideologues over there.

i hear Somalia is giving "limited government" a shot.

Looks like the word "necessary" in the phrase "necessary evil" didn't register with you, cleek.

Government is a necessary evil in the same sense as oxygen is a necessary poison.

Looks like the word "necessary" in the phrase "necessary evil" didn't register with you, cleek.

oh don't be so arrogant and imperious - it was a joke.

Over the past several years, I have reluctantly come to accept that the era of small government is over (contra ol' Bill). My choices, unfortunately, are between Republican-style big government and Democratic-style big government.

The Republicans will mortgage my children's and grandchildren's futures to pay for tax breaks for the rich and corporate welfare. The Democrats will at least partially pay for what they spend by raising taxes, and as a lower-middle class schmoe I might actually get some of the benefits. Therefore, I choose the Democrats. I can only hope that Obama, if elected, will at least partially roll back the Bush administration's surveillance state, rather than augmenting it with his own liberal nanny-statism.

Yeah - to be clear, I'm not saying government doesn't have its problems. I'm focusing more on the economic sides.

I think I'm essentially a social libertarian, Ron Paul-type on non-economic issues. But I'm not a libertarian at all on economic issues. That doesn't mean i'm a socialist. Few Americans believe in a true "Left" -- it's just that I want to recalibrate the balance a bit b/w markets and government, while still fully recognizing the validity of a market-based economy.

we just shouldn't demonize any and all government interventions on the economy. they're vital -- they've been the products of huge fights. and we should keep fighting for them (eg, health care)

cleek: oh don't be so arrogant and imperious - it was a joke.

It was? I think it would be a great idea!

I can only hope that Obama, if elected, will at least partially roll back the Bush administration's surveillance state, rather than augmenting it with his own liberal nanny-statism.

People who complain about nanny-statism rarely object to having potable water, food not actively poisonous, decent health care, a non-lethal work environment, and a clean safe place to live. Yet all of these things were accomplished by liberal nanny-statism against corporate interests howling that government shouldn't have anything to do with them. (Another example of liberal nanny-statism: bunk beds that won't kill your child.)

It was? I think it would be a great idea!

I'll gladly donate up to $200 towards an effort to ship "unlimited government" ideologues to China.

Strangely, there aren't any of those in the US.* Interesting, no?

* To within epsilon, at least.

Government is good — that’s what progressives must argue. That’s the long-term strategy.

Of course Eric doesn't really mean that.

US/UK government actions led to the completely avoidable deaths of several hundred thousand innocent people in the last couple of years. Now certainly governments can do good things, just as corporations, foundations and private citizens can. But the former infinitely outweighs the latter.

What Eric means is that good governments can do a lot of good. That is tautological and only needs to be mentioned, because some crazy people in the US regard government as inherently evil. Everything else has to be judged on a case by case basis.

Nope. Government is a necessary evil.

If using that particular turn of phrase will get all of the "don't tread on me" types of the world to stand down and let the rest of us get something freaking done, that's fine with me.

Call it whatever you like, just get the hell out of the way. Please.

The Republicans will mortgage my children's and grandchildren's futures to pay for tax breaks for the rich and corporate welfare. The Democrats will at least partially pay for what they spend by raising taxes, and as a lower-middle class schmoe I might actually get some of the benefits.

I think this analysis is right on. If Democrats want an effective platform to run on, TGB just handed it to them on a plate.

Thanks -

oops, publius not Eric, sorry


And in the simplest psychological terms: is it credible to hope for serious, competent officials and legislators from a faction that has spent 30+ years chanting "government is the problem" and "starve the beast"..?

My bumper sticker version of this argument is that if Republicans don't believe the government is good and can be used judicously to make peoples lives better, then electing them to run the govt. is like hiring a Vegans to run a steakhouse. The inevitable and entirely predictable result is burnt meat, angry customers, and money missing from the cash register.

"like hiring a Vegan to run a steakhouse."

More like hiring a steer to run a steakhouse.

It's in their interest to lose the order and shut the place down.

Plus, there's no need for those nanny-state warning labels regarding grade and fat content, even if we're really hungry and want to follow the steer home and eat him there.

Where's the beef?

Sorry, I'm not required by regulation to tell you where the beef is and it's going to stay that way.

oops, publius not Eric, sorry

I've never been so insulted in my life ;)

Very good post Publius. But you wrote in the comments:

"I think I'm essentially a social libertarian, Ron Paul-type on non-economic issues."

Correct me if I'm wrong, but when you ignore the economic side of being libertarian, does that not make you a standard liberal? Why the jumping around with words? Maybe we're working with different definitions, I don't know...

It's great to have you back, publius. And what you're talking about is what we need to be thinking about.

I have one main worry: there needs to be an intellectual foundation for the re-thinking. It sounds elitist, but it seems to me that the "lofty" ideas of the Poppers and Hayeks become the common sense of the next generation. And progressives are dangerously short on Poppers and Hayeks.

It amazed me that there were people arguing that this whole thing was caused by government intervention (via fannie and freddie). These ideas will simply not die until they are dismembered, fed through the wood chipper, and replaced with things that make more sense.

I think the ideas are out there (in fact, I think Russell's excellent atmosphere/weather metaphor hints at one of them - we understand complex adaptive systems better than we used to, and we should apply that knowledge in thinking about government). But we need the thinkers to put them together and push them.

People's idea of government as an entity separate from and "other than" themselves is firmly entrenched, even for progressives. It's going to take an FDR on top of our Poppers to change that.

Here's hoping that Obama's up to it.

I don't know what makes you think Obama is going to be better than Clinton in being a conservative, VERY centrist Democrat.

That's what he is, you know.

According to the WSJ, the paladins of the Free Market have capitulated.

Three days later, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley applied to the Fed to become commercial banks -- a historic move that ended the tradition of lightly regulated Wall Street securities firms that take big risks in the pursuit of equally big returns.

To some, the government's decision to resort to a bailout represents a tacit admission: For all officials' desire to allow markets to punish the risk-taking that engendered the crisis, banks have the upper hand. "Lehman demonstrated that it's much harder than we thought to deal effectively with banks' misbehavior," says Charles Wyplosz, an economics professor at the Graduate Institute in Geneva. "You have to look the devil in the eyes and the eyes are pretty frightening."

Love that last bit. All in all an elegant pair of paragraphs.
It’s a great story, by the way, a narrative from a few crucial days after Lehman took its dive. The way some things happened.

People's idea of government as an entity separate from and "other than" themselves is firmly entrenched, even for progressives.

Uneducated as I am in political theory, this has seemed central to me for a long time. I think it will take a long time and a lot of patience and determination to correct it (and some luck). Thinking of government as "other" is (among other things) such a convenient way of not taking responsibility.

People's idea of government as an entity separate from and "other than" themselves is firmly entrenched, even for progressives

I’ve been lightly puzzling over the ‘regulation is bad’ ‘government should get out of the way’ mindset.
It was a sentiment I might have held to when I was young, and it seems to me a very adolescent frame of mind. Government=‘the cops’. It seems to rise from some cowboy notion of rugged independence (whose truly adolescent nature is betrayed by the fact that those adhering to it are so thoroughly enmeshed in the social/financial/cultural web).
This is not to deny that a pallid dependency on the comforts (not speaking of desperate necessities like health care and stable trustworthy infrastructural institutions) provided by government is the mark of a diminished society where any sense of challenge is synthetic and authentic individuality is suppressed.
But pretending we must all be citizens of Dodge City now is to be blind to the rich possibilities of good government.
That is a great shame, not to mention disaster.

Thinking of government as "other" is (among other things) such a convenient way of not taking responsibility.

But yes. Adolescent.

Palin, for example.
Or Bush.
Makes for blind spots you could drive a convoy through.
But not a healthy nation.

I’ve been lightly puzzling over the ‘regulation is bad’ ‘government should get out of the way’ mindset. It was a sentiment I might have held to when I was young, and it seems to me a very adolescent frame of mind. Government=‘the cops’. It seems to rise from some cowboy notion of rugged independence (whose truly adolescent nature is betrayed by the fact that those adhering to it are so thoroughly enmeshed in the social/financial/cultural web). This is not to deny that a pallid dependency on the comforts (not speaking of desperate necessities like health care and stable trustworthy infrastructural institutions) provided by government is the mark of a diminished society where any sense of challenge is synthetic and authentic individuality is suppressed. But pretending we must all be citizens of Dodge City now is to be blind to the rich possibilities of good government. That is a great shame, not to mention disaster.

Notice this quite a bit on various boards.

One prime example was that of a small city on the outer suburbs that lacked cable and broadband. Wasn't worth it for the big companies. A citizen gathered up a coalition of like minded people in the same neighborhood, formed a majority on the city council and voted to tax themselves so they could get that cable and broadband.

Naturally, this was attacked by doctrinaire libertarians and republicans as the tyranny of government screwing over the little guy---never noticing that the little guys WERE the government that acted to get what they wanted.

Government is, to be sure, two-sided. It can be used both for and against us. Getting all het up and talking as if it can only do the one, and not the other, would be, and is, an error.

This is an interesting tangential note.
this battle is likely to have long term consequences in determining whether or not new forms of academic collaboration are likely to be controlled by academics themselves, or take place through some kind of commercially controlled intermediation, with all the forms of stupidity that are likely to go along with that.

—Henry at Crooked">http://snipurl.com/3yvio">Crooked Timber on the Reuters/Thomson attack on Zotero.

Its relevance is in its reference to ‘commercial control’. The forms of regulation introduced by The Market (caps indicate deity) can be more inimical to creativity, progress, and freedom than what government functioning properly is apt to impose.
Who else can enforce net neutrality?

If you believe government is a necessary evil then it is axiomatic that you can never have good government, because you can't have a good evil.

What the anti-government/small government types aren't prepared to acknowledge is that we have been there and done that. Take early ninteenth-century Britain (or indeed the US). Governments then defended the country and protected property rights and not a lot else. If what the libertarians really want is Hogarth's England with computers, antibiotics and semi-automatic rifles they should come out and say so.

"If what the libertarians really want is Hogarth's England with computers, antibiotics and semi-automatic rifles they should come out and say so."

But it works out fine if you're an armed educated able-bodied white property-owning male in comfortable economic circumstances, with valuable skills, friends, family, and a support structure, or at least most of the above.

So what's the problem?

If what the libertarians really want is Hogarth's England with computers, antibiotics and semi-automatic rifles they should come out and say so.

Not just say so. They should go someplace where you can actually live that way and knock themselves out. They don't have to go to Somalia, there are many places in this country where you can still live a pretty wide-open lifestyle, if that's really what you want.

It's not convenient to limit the intrusion of government in your life, but it's also not out of reach. Buy some cheap land in a remote area, drill a well, get a pellet stove and some livestock, and have a ball.

If you need some electricity, there are simple, DYI technologies that will let you generate a modest amount of power, enough to run a few lights or some low-power appliances.

If you need to get around, get an old diesel Benz and put a biodiesel conversion on it. You'll get a few hundred thousand miles out of it, and you can run it on waste oil.

Better yet, get a horse.

You'll want to get to know whatever scanty neighbors you do have, because you'll need some hands-on help now and then, and living off the map is easier if you can barter for stuff.

But people do it. I, personally, know people who either do it now, or have done it. If you want that "don't tread on me" life, it's in your grasp. You just have to get off your @ss and make it a reality.

That's the way the folks generally lived back when we had a lean and mean government. The reason most folks lived that way is because there were not a whole lot of us.

In 1850 the population of the US was 23 million and change. It's now over 300 million.

In 1850 the population of NYC was a bit under 700K, and it was, by an extraordinary margin, the largest city in the US. The population of DC was about 40K.

Those days are gone.

You can't address the requirements of a 10 fold increase in the population with the same institutions. It doesn't scale linearly. That much increase in population is not just an increase in quantity, it's a huge increase in complexity.

It's no longer practical for everyone to grow their own food, make their own clothes, get their own water, and build their own house. You can't learn everything you need to know to get by in life by following your folks around and learning to do what they do.

The world is not the same, so government is not the same.

All of this seems so obvious to me as to not need mentioning, but apparently it's less obvious to other folks.

If someone really, really wants to live the libertarian dream, they can come pretty damned close to it, right now, in this country. They just have to put up with a relatively high degree of inconvenience.

That weeds them out pretty quick.

Thanks -

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