Friday, January 18, 2013

You Have an Annoying Habit


You have an annoying habit of assuming since I question and criticize the effectiveness of government than I must be against all government. If I ask what are the costs of a program like unemployment benefits (a program I have used, by the way) then I must be against unemployment benefits. If I state there is a cost to providing "free" health care (despite taking advantage of many aspects of the government's mandates and largesse) than I must be against any government involvement in health care. You have a Pavlovian response of invoking Dickensian poverty whenever I mention a year starting with the digits 18.

I want to "throw people out," of what I'm not sure, "leave them to their own devices"; throwing them out of this unknown structure into the great void will lead lead to a degree of suffering you know will occur because you have conjured it out of your imagination in response to a suggestion I have not made.

The answer to ineffective government indeed may be effective government. Alternatively it may be no government. Head Start has been shown to be ineffective. We have three choices: 1) Keep spending money on something that in ineffective 2) Implement the effective solution to whatever the problem is 3) do nothing. If we don't know what 2) is would you prefer to continue ineffective policy 1)? How does that make sense? Does that mean I'm against children?

You are horrified by throwing people out and leaving them to their own devices, but you have expressed multiple times horror how certain current programs are effective now but at a cost of placing a tremendous burden on our children and grandchildren. That is, it's only effective if we allow a giant inter-generational theft. If something is ineffective, at the very least, don't do MORE of it. If you are in a hole, stop digging.

I don't think the answer is to ignore the voices on the ends of the bell curve. Everyone gets one vote. I don't question their patriotism nor do I think it's useful to characterize, or mis-characterize their motives. They have opinions and a right to share them. Like you I think many on the edges need remedial math lessons, but even so, I have no reason to believe the opinions they are sharing are not honestly come by.

I just finished a book called, "The Professor and the Commissions," by Bernard Schwartz. The author was chief counsel for a Congressional inquiry into the six major regulatory agencies in the second Eisenhower administration. He found a bit too much dirt for the comfort of Congress, the Administration and the regulators and was fired about six months after the inquiry began. Schwartz was most troubled by the FCC, which granted television and radio licenses via a process that was highly arbitrary  subject to political influence and at its core unfair and inefficient. Ronald Coase and the Chicago boys love to quote the book, as well as mock the somewhat overwrought tone of the later chapters. To them it's a good example of regulatory capture. That is, the regulators become the pawns of the businesses they regulatie. It's a good example of crony capitalism since friends and relatives enrich themselves at the public trough. LBJ became quite a wealthy man with his manipulation of the FCC. (Maybe someday we'll find out how that other tribune of the people, Harry Reid, amassed a $10 million fortune on a Senator's salary). To the Chicago boys they look at this ineffective government regulation and see restricted consumer choice and higher prices as the result of this policy. Your typical response to this is to dismiss the criticism, and a knee-jerk reaction that they want to eliminate government and let big corporations take over. That's is exactly what they DON'T want or propose.

What did Coase and the Chicago boys recommend? Let the market figure out the best use of the resource with clear rules set by the government. And to a large extent, that is what the FCC has done. Not fully, the FCC still plays a large role, but it has very much attempted to let the market sort out more of the allocation of spectrum, and the result has been greater consumer choice and lower prices. The result has been exactly what the theory predicted. 50 years ago Ronald Coase suggested a more effective FCC and it was Bill Clinton that finally listened. I don't think I've every suggested, even remotely, the elimination of government. I have argued making the government more effective may mean making it less powerful in the allocation of resources, but not less powerful in setting the rules that all play by.

We both want more effective government. But you often conflate my belief that more effective government may mean less arbitrary, less totalitarian for a belief in anarchy.

There. I got that off my chest. Go Pats.


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