Arnold Kling  

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Michael Cannon describes how the self-selection process in politics works against my ideas for reforming health care.

“Insulation” is another term for spending Other People’s Money. Politicians are predisposed not to see spending Other People’s Money as a problem, because spending Other People’s Money is what politicians do for a living. If politicians thought there were something wrong with it, they would be in a different line of work.

Gerald Kanapathy lauds the educational value of blogs.

Blogging has transformed (and maybe saved) Microsoft. And it did it without being other "applications". They were simply blogs qua blogs. Sure, there was some announcing, and there was some partner and customer outreach, and there was some public relations...but it's not useful to break it down like this, because most of the blogs are just people writing about what they do and creating a relationship (well, many of them) between Microsoft's employees and customers and partners and the public and other employees. And that was it.

Another example for you: the GMU economics department: Tyler Cowen & Alex Tabarrok | Robin Hanson & others | Will Wilkinson | Arnold Kling & Bryan Caplan | Don Boudreaux & Russ Roberts | Peter Boettke, Peter Leeson, Chris Coyne, Frederic Sautet. Are they doing more for the world via their blogs than, say the Harvard department via their New York Times columns?

Paul Mulshine gives a one-line summary of Oil Econ 101.

We don't need alternate fuels. We need alternate politicians.

If that sounds overly glib, read Mulshine's whole piece, which explains why a gas tax or carbon tax is better than all the nonsense legislation that is on offer from Congress.

Ed Glaeser writes,

Senator Obama's plan focuses on making impoverished places more successful with funding for public transportation and community centers while Mr. Edwards wants to give housing vouchers directly to a million people...

I am no supporter of Mr. Edwards, but he is right to focus more on helping poor people than poor places.

Thanks to Greg Mankiw for the pointer.

COMMENTS (6 to date)

I don't agree with Ed Glaeser.

The single biggest problem with poverty-stricken areas is not that people don't have stuff, but that people don't see any legitimate escape. The proposals made by Obama are proposals that we help everyone a little, rather than helping a few randomly-selected individuals a lot as Edwards' proposal does.

I would argue that the former is the job of government, while the latter is the job of private industry. When a government chooses to service only X people from a community of Y, they inherently disenfranchise ( Y - X ) people. While a million may sound like a lot, it really isn't; the ( Y - X ) proportion is in excess of ninety percent. This is not a smart trade. Indeed, Edwards will make things worse for the poor, who will play the house-voucher lottery rather than take responsibility for their lives because it inherently has less risk.

I think Obama understands that it's more important for a government to do less harm than to do more good. This is largely what appeals to me about him; while he may be a democrat, his politics are fundamentally conservative in the classical sense - not in the "shove your religion down the country's throat" fashion, but in the "prefer less government to more government where a compelling benefit is not readily apparent" fashion. I like that.

I do believe that someone eventually needs to stand up and say "aren't some people always going to be poor?" to give government a reality check. If you lift the entire poverty-stricken populace up into the middle class, you don't actually make the poor into the middle class. You make the middle class into the poor, because the poor will always be the people at the bottom. Each and every poor person that actually does make it into the middle class displaces someone middle class who becomes poor, because our definition of poverty makes it a zero-sum game.

Chuck writes:

I think it would be nice too if we required some kind of reasonable carbon labeling (much like nutrition labeling on food). At this point in time, it is simply not practical for a consumer to make buying choices based on environmental concerns.

Floccina writes:

Am I the only one who thinks that lowering the price of petroleum might not have a positive effect on reducing terrorism? IMO it could help or it could hurt. I see no good and clear reason to worry about so called “energy dependence”. The move to stop buying foreign petroleum seems to me a form of anti foreign bias.

Good countries like Canada and Norway export petroleum. Bad countries like Syria, Pakistan, Egypt and Afghanistan do not export petroleum. Plus you have places like Kuwait and the UAE. I do not see much of a pattern.

Lance writes:

I would disagree Mr. Obama is of the type to promote government where there is a limited and defined interest where problems are free-riding are inveitable. For example, like national defense or highway infrastructure. As a side note to this discussion, I believe James Buchanan in his The Limits of Liberty, gives the best explanation to where government is necessary. Where government can help achieve pareto efficiency and so forth.

If it is Obama's plan to build more public housing units, or improve pre-existing ones, there's no way for the problems that are created by concentrated poverty and often broken families to be countered. There will be continued higher incidences of crime, gang activity, which create a poor environment for learning and breaking from poverty.

The question remains, how many people will be helped by Mr. Obama's plan as opposed to Mr. Edwards' plan? You can only fit so many people into public housing units, especially ones built by the Federal Government at a great cost.

Mr. Glaesar's main point that the government should make payments to persons, rather than institutions in regards to public housing is an important concept. A concept that appears to support the idea that housing vouchers would be more effective in the intended goals than building more housing units or improving the conditions of pre-existing ones.

However, the National Bureau of Economic Research has done some great work in regards to this and links to some other great work on the current HUD housing voucher plan,, Moving to Opportunity.

TGGP writes:

Will Wilkinson is not an economist and does not work at GMU. He works at Cato and studied at the University of Maryland. See his bio:

Kimmitt writes:

Caliban -- if the problem of "escape" is one of low productivity potential in the area (a function of low capital density of some sort), then the act of moving some folks out of the poverty-stricken area will improve the capital/labor ratio and help the folks left in the area as well.

This puts aside the possibility of remittances and the persons who are leaving serving as "pioneers" for their family and friends, the usual immigrant experience.

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