Bryan Caplan  

Why the Left Should Not Forgive the American Voter

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Paul Krugman says that the American people just ended 14 years of monster rule.  If he's right, though, what does that say about the rationality of the American people? 

I don't see how those who agree with Krugman could draw any conclusion other than, "We'll take what we can get, but after enduring these horrors for 14 years, we have to conclude that the median voter is either a fool, or a monster himself."


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COMMENTS (56 to date)
Gbear writes:

When Paul Krugman speaks, most people think -
consider the source.

Methinks writes:

I'm sorry, was re-electing George Bush an option that I somehow missed this time around? I'm assuming Krugman couldn't have been talking about the other branch of government as it has been in the hands of the opposite party's monsters for a couple of years. And "the people" seem pleased as punch about all those fine folks, if opinion polls are any guide.

bad dog writes:

Indeed, it does say something about the rationality of the American voter. Why do so many red state Americans vote against their wallets? And give up their political rights so easily? And solicit media like Fox News that lies to them?

Great questions for an economist. Know any?

P.S. Is attacking Paul Krugman a regular feature of this site? I don't get it. The guy's been right about almost everything over the last eight years, and after we're finally getting rid of the Republicans, he's the guy we start kicking around? Huh?

Jacob Oost writes:

Krugman? Right? Right...

He's only right when he sticks to econ 101. Otherwise he's an idiot.

bad dog writes:

Right. The guy has the below bio and is a Nobel Prize winner and he's an idiot, while you're just a guy on a website, but you know better.

Who's the idiot now?

Is this a site about economics or some haven to visit for bitter right wingers who like to pretend they understand economics? Just wondering ...

PAUL KRUGMAN BIO

Paul Krugman joined The New York Times in 1999 as a columnist on the Op-Ed Page and continues as professor of Economics and International Affairs at Princeton University.

Krugman Wins Nobel Prize for Economics (October 14, 2008) Mr. Krugman received his B.A. from Yale University in 1974 and his Ph.D. from MIT in 1977. He has taught at Yale, MIT and Stanford. At MIT he became the Ford International Professor of Economics.

Mr. Krugman is the author or editor of 20 books and more than 200 papers in professional journals and edited volumes. His professional reputation rests largely on work in international trade and finance; he is one of the founders of the "new trade theory," a major rethinking of the theory of international trade. In recognition of that work, in 1991 the American Economic Association awarded him its John Bates Clark medal, a prize given every two years to "that economist under forty who is adjudged to have made a significant contribution to economic knowledge." Mr. Krugman's current academic research is focused on economic and currency crises....

[Indention added and material elided so as to not violate the NYTimes copyright. Material appears to have been taken from Paul Krugman's personal bio at the NYTimes, available in full at: http://topics.nytimes.com/top/opinion/editorialsandoped/oped/columnists/paulkrugman/index.html In the future, please supply a link rather than requoting material in its entirety so as not to violate copyright. EconLog respects copyright and fair use laws.--Econlib Ed.]


Zac writes:

I think we can all safely say that the median voter is both a fool and a monster.

Sambo Slice writes:

Bad dog, even smart people say stupid things. Just because he won a Nobel Prize does not mean everything that comes out of his mouth is non-argueable.

As for Fox News lying to their listeners, well, that is a pretty absurd statement and I think most would agree - Fox News does no less than what the rest of the liberal media does to their liberal listeners. If you say it, you better be able to back it up.

El Presidente writes:

"If he's right, though, what does that say about the rationality of the American people?

Not much.

Even if we overlooked the impossibility of identifying a corporate preference from an aggregation of individual preferences (Kenneth Arrow), we shouldn't forget that voters are humans and humans have priorities (Maslow). Some Americans might hire monsters to do battle with monsters if they believe that monsters are out to get them. Many of them might make the mistake of thinking a bigger monster on their payroll will solve their problem.

A better approach to assessing their rationality would be to first query their motivation; to identify the end they are seeking when they vote. Then, examining their choice might say something about how rational their votes are in relationship to the ends they intend to pursue.

What's more, we know humans don't display infallible rationality, they display bounded rationality. Understanding their constraints (i.e. asymmetrical information) is important in assessing the constraints guiding their decisions.

bad dog writes:

"Bad dog, even smart people say stupid things. Just because he won a Nobel Prize does not mean everything that comes out of his mouth is non-arguable."

Please don't argue against a straw man. I'm right here. I didn't say the man is the Second Coming. I was saying Krugman obviously isn't an idiot and knows more than Economics 101. I guess I'm just trying to understand the venom directed at him. Professional jealousy? Residual kneejerk hatred of anybody who disagrees with Bush among the right wing set? I don't know, but it's strange to watch.

(In my view Milton Friedman has done far more damage and has been far more wrong than Krugman, and yet I don't see anybody complaining about him.)

"As for Fox News lying to their listeners, well, that is a pretty absurd statement and I think most would agree - Fox News does no less than what the rest of the liberal media does to their liberal listeners."

Your absurd contention that there is such a thing as a liberal media to me indicates your bias towards the right wing part of the spectrum. But I like how you speak for "most." I think I'll try that: "I think most people would agree Fox News is a propaganda machine for the Republican Party."

"If you say it, you better be able to back it up."

One small example:
http://sigmax.blogster.com/polls-show-fox-news-bias_170808004534


Mark A. writes:

Decent but frightened people may seek protection from a monster.

Uninformed? Yes. I imagine most smart people think that the majority of voters are uninformed. Monsters, no.

Kenneth Reitz writes:

I'm so glad the election is over.

Alex writes:

Krugman was once a good economist. His re-analysis of international trade and pointing out some details about comparative advantage are very interesting.

BUT the man used the broken window fallacy in his idiotic NYT's column.

http://www.pkarchive.org/column/91401.html

Then there's his treatment of Milton Friedman after Friedman died. What courage Krugman has.

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/19857

Here's another column he wrote in favor of MERCANTILISM. No comment necessary, hopefully.

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/27/opinion/27krugman.html?ex=1277524800&en=9303b9197426525d&ei=5090&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss

And then there's this lovely idiotic piece:

http://select.nytimes.com/2006/07/14/opinion/14krugman.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

Which is thoroughly destroyed by the economists at www.cafehayek.com:

http://cafehayek.typepad.com/hayek/2006/07/krugman_raises_.html

Krugman is certainly a smart man, but if his NYT columns are any indication of his current economic reasoning ability, he has become a poor economist.

Nathan Smith writes:

re: "Why do so many red state Americans vote against their wallets?"

Probably, they don't. Big-government policies in the late 1960s and 1970s brought us stagflation. Since Reagan, there's been a push towards smaller-- or at least, less invasive and fast-growing-- government and freer markets, and that has brought faster economic growth, benefiting everyone. Or at least, if you don't buy that story, it's silly to pretend it isn't a plausible one that Kansans etc. might buy into without being irrational or perverse.

Not that there's anything irrational about voting your values instead of your narrow economic interests, anyway. If you care more about banning gay marriage than getting a few more handouts from the government, who's to second-guess your preferences, and on what grounds?

manuelg writes:

> Why the Left Should Not Forgive the American Voter

It would be peculiar timing for the Left to resent the American Voter, now.

Oh, I get it. It's Backwards Day!

Thomas DeMeo writes:

Who would an enlightened voter have chosen?

guthrie writes:

Thank you Nate.

"And give up their political rights so easily?"

Probably they don't. Those who support 'privacy' have a point against the administrations wire-tapping, but I am not aware of anyone willingly giving up their 'political' rights. Red state voters who were willing and able got to the polls with no problems by-in-large, much the same as blue-staters.

Funny... I thought it wasn't about 'blue sate-red state' anymore...

And Bryan isn't 'kicking Krugman'. He's mearly taking Krugman's concept to it's logical end, and asking him and those who would drink the kool aid for him to acknowledge it.

Butch Osman writes:

Paul Krugman is spewing the exact same venom as the people he despises. The "other" guy is always the monster. Pot....meet kettle.

Lord writes:

I wouldn't call them irrational, just with a very different set of values. If you believe in the literal interpretation of scripture and that all life, including government, should be focused on defending, maintaining, and propagating those beliefs, life becomes a crusade and reason takes on a different meaning.

Zac writes:

I don't really think this is hard to reconcile for Krugman or his followers. Their preferred tyrant was just elected along with an increased majority in house and senate. Right now they love the median voter. Yes, they have to consider the median voter who voted for the past "14 years of monsters" to be either a fool, a monster, or both. And I think they would say fool - and optimistically, will say the median voter was a fool who is now reformed into a smart decision maker.

Greg writes:

So are you saying that you think the median voter makes an informed decision for the good of the overall country? Didn't we dispose of that idea all the way back to DeToqueville (I believe), who at least was optimistic enough to think that everyone's biases canceled out? I suppose it's not very flattering to say the median voter is pretty poor, but it's true - on both sides.

I believe you're also implying that the use of the word monster is outrageous. I think it's a poor choice of words, but let's consider the track record. In the last eight years in particular, we've killed hundreds of thousands of people in Iraq based either on mistaken and poorly analyzed evidence or based on attempts to mislead the public, depending on your point of view. We've supported coercive regimes like Pakistan. We've pretty widely used techniques that are arguably torture while claiming the Geneva Conventions don't apply to us. We've apparently fired federal attorneys for not making politically-motivated cases. We've introduced high levels of unaccountable domestic surveillance. We've run enormous deficits, thus presumably hurting economic growth. While Bush has done some highly admirable things like increasing AIDS funding, is it too far-fetched to say that this administration can be considered morally bad... from a Burkean conservative point of view? Are you sure that you're not making excuses because the administration in question is Republican and ostensibly conservative?

bob boyd writes:

assume that krugman is acting rationally. then, when you read his column, ask yourself, "what is he trying to accomplish"?

here are a few possible answers:

1. he's aiming for a cabinet post.
2. he was tired of being a 'neutral' academic and wants to influence the outcome by influencing some part of the electorate. extreme language and far-out positions are tools to that end.
3. he had a stroke and writing a column is therapy.

nobel prizes are never driven by politics.

Sambo Slice writes:

So b-dog, it is your belief that there is a "propaganda machine" for the relativley withdrawn Repubican party, but none whatsoever for the outspoken liberal platform???


Ruy Diaz writes:

Bob boyd:

Don't assume Paul Krugman is acting rationally. He's emotionally unhinged. His hatred for conservatives is obvious, deep, and hard to control.

Monsters he says? Pol Pot was a monster, and so were Hitler and Lenin. To put the Republicans in that category is only a testament to Krugman's sad state of mind.

(I notice in passing how Krugman's position does not put him outside "polite company". This should worry us all.)

bad dog writes:

"assume that krugman is acting rationally. then, when you read his column, ask yourself, "what is he trying to accomplish"?"

If his goal was to generate snark on message boards of websites populated by neoconservative armchair economists, he appears to have succeeded.

"Big-government policies in the late 1960s and 1970s brought us stagflation."

That's an interesting theory. Another is that we suffered two major supply shocks caused by the oil embargoes.

"Since Reagan, there's been a push towards smaller-- or at least, less invasive and fast-growing-- government and freer markets, and that has brought faster economic growth, benefiting everyone."

It has generated more wealth, but has not benefited everyone. Another ideological bubble bursts...

"Or at least, if you don't buy that story, it's silly to pretend it isn't a plausible one that Kansans etc. might buy into without being irrational or perverse."

The red states are net importers of taxes and rely more heavily on social spending than the blue states. Hence, they are voting against their best interests.

"Not that there's anything irrational about voting your values instead of your narrow economic interests, anyway. If you care more about banning gay marriage than getting a few more handouts from the government, who's to second-guess your preferences, and on what grounds?"

Thanks for acknowledging that so many red staters rely on handouts. But you are correct that some people are happy to trade away their political rights and money for a greater perception of security and social issues like banning gay marriage. I'm just wondering if it's rational.

"Probably they don't. Those who support 'privacy' have a point against the administrations wire-tapping, but I am not aware of anyone willingly giving up their 'political' rights."

Basically, the government, right now, can declare you as an American citizen an enemy combatant, throw you in jail without counsel, torture you, and try you by a military court, with capital punishment. All they have to do is say you're a terrorist. This is called giving up your political rights.

"Red state voters who were willing and able got to the polls with no problems by-in-large, much the same as blue-staters."

I say political rights, you assume I'm talking only about voting rights. Please stop assuming.

"Funny... I thought it wasn't about 'blue sate-red state' anymore..."

Oh, the right wingers are going to shut up for five minutes?

"And Bryan isn't 'kicking Krugman'. He's merely taking Krugman's concept to its logical end, and asking him and those who would drink the kool aid for him to acknowledge it."

Still trying to figure out why Krugman is so hated on this site and the only thing I can think of is reality upset the neoconservative apple cart recently and the neocon armchair economists want to shoot the messenger instead of acknowledging their mistake.

Renato Drumond writes:

"Still trying to figure out why Krugman is so hated on this site"

Are you sure about this? http://econlog.econlib.org//archives/2008/10/pauls_nobel_nic.html


"neocon armchair economists want to shoot the messenger instead of acknowledging their mistake"

Wow, neocon economists! I never heard about them before. Can you please explain what a neocon economist is and how the fact that Bryan and Arnold criticize some of the Krugman arguments automatically make them neocon economists(even when Bryan is an outspoken opponent of Iraq War)?

Francis writes:

Bad dog;

If you think this is a neocon website, you didn't get it at all.

Just read a little of what is written on this site before letting your prejudices jump to their conclusions. You'll see, among other things, many critics of Republican policy. You'll also see the right merit being given to Krugman when it is fit, i.e., appreciation of the work that gave him the Nobel prize.

Now if you want, check Krugman's own writings. You'll see that although he includes as 'monsters' of the last 14 years someone who had a despicable comment about victims of Columbine, he strangely forgets someone who said about Waco 'a bunch of fanatics incinerated themselves' and, indeed, those who perpetrated Waco. He 'forgets' also some rapist who got away with it. And etc., etc.

So, if you want to accuse someone of being partisan: start with Krugman himself.

bad dog writes:

Renato Drumond:

"Are you sure about this?"

The link provided to the article about Krugman had some fair criticisms.

"Wow, neocon economists! I never heard about them before."

But you had heard of left-wing economists. Interesting.

"Can you please explain what a neocon economist is and how the fact that Bryan and Arnold criticize some of the Krugman arguments automatically make them neocon economists(even when Bryan is an outspoken opponent of Iraq War)?"

When will the people in this board actually read what I write instead of inventing straw man statements to attack? Isn't there enough going on to have an HONEST debate about? I never criticized Bryan and Arnold and in fact in a recent post I complimented them on a great site even though I find the general hostility to Krugman here baffling. The link you provided had some interesting criticisms but nothing worth the hostility. I expressed my curiosity and apparently reaped the whirlwind.

Sambo Slice:

"So b-dog, it is your belief that there is a "propaganda machine" for the relatively withdrawn Republican party, but none whatsoever for the outspoken liberal platform???"

Relatively withdrawn? You mean since November 5? Not sure what you're talking about.

Come on. Really. If you can't acknowledge that Fox News is a giant propaganda machine for the Republican Party there's no point in further discussion. As for the "outspoken liberal platform," well that might be relative. I have right wing friends who consider anybody to the left of Rush Limbaugh to be Marxists. Otherwise, I see the MSM expressing the establishment position but other than Keith Olberman and Rachel Maddow on MSNBC I see no voice for true progressive viewpoints on cable news. You pretty much have to go to blogs to get the liberal viewpoint on things. If you don't believe me, you're confusing safe center-right MSM positions with liberal positions, which shows you never visit liberal blogs.

Ruy Diaz:

"Don't assume Paul Krugman is acting rationally. He's emotionally unhinged. His hatred for conservatives is obvious, deep, and hard to control."

Speaking of the pot calling the kettle black. Looks like here's one right winger whose panties are in a knot over Krugman criticizing Bush. BTW, don't confuse the right wing policies of Bush with real conservatism. I consider myself center-left and even I am more conservative than Bush is.

"Monsters he says? Pol Pot was a monster, and so were Hitler and Lenin. To put the Republicans in that category is only a testament to Krugman's sad state of mind."

Wow, this performance deserves an Oscar.

"(I notice in passing how Krugman's position does not put him outside "polite company". This should worry us all.)"

LMAO

bad dog writes:

Francis:

"If you think this is a neocon website, you didn't get it at all."

Once again, for the last time, please read what I write and please don't fill in the rest from imagination and your own prejudices. I never said it's a neocon site. I like the site. I've read only a few days' worth of posts from its authors and hope to make a habit of visiting unless I'm banned first for making people cry. What I did say is there seems to be plenty of neocon armchair economists visiting these message boards.

"Just read a little of what is written on this site before letting your prejudices jump to their conclusions."

I'm only reacting to the posters in his message board. I keep asking over and over why the hostility about Krugman and it was like yelling fire in a movie.

"You'll see, among other things, many critics of Republican policy. You'll also see the right merit being given to Krugman when it is fit, i.e., appreciation of the work that gave him the Nobel prize."

That's fine.

"Now if you want, check Krugman's own writings. You'll see that although he includes as 'monsters' of the last 14 years someone who had a despicable comment about victims of Columbine, he strangely forgets someone who said about Waco 'a bunch of fanatics incinerated themselves' and, indeed, those who perpetrated Waco. He 'forgets' also some rapist who got away with it. And etc., etc. So, if you want to accuse someone of being partisan: start with Krugman himself."

Okay, that's fine. I didn't get the rapist reference or the "etc. etc." references but okay I get it. Is it worth all the hostility? Seriously, what economic policies does he advocate that people here hate that much? Or is that he simply is extremely outspoken and you don't like some of his opinions? I'm still not really getting much in the way of answers, and so I'm falling back on my own prejudices, which is an understanding that Krugman is a lightning rod for the Right and the Right tends to blindly attack whatever it is told is evil.

Dick king writes:

Shockley was also a Nobel Prize winner. I don't listen to him in race relations. Need I say more?

Even Linus Pauling, Nobel Prize winner in medicine, went off the rails with his Vitamin C thing.

-dk

Francis writes:

Bad dog:

"don't fill in the rest from imagination and your own prejudices. I never said it's a neocon site."

But earlier:

"Still trying to figure out why Krugman is so hated on this site and the only thing I can think of is reality upset the neoconservative apple cart recently and the neocon armchair economists want to shoot the messenger instead of acknowledging their mistake."

You're crazy, man. I don't argue with you any longer.

Renato Drumond writes:

"But you had heard of left-wing economists. Interesting."

I'd heard about them because:

1-a lot of economists define themselves as left-wing economists

2-some positions on (normative) economics are freqüently referred as lef-wing.

But I never heard (a)an economist who describe himself as an neocon economist or (b)any position on (normative) economics classified as neocon.

So 'a neocon economist' continues to be, at least to me, a misterious term.

"When will the people in this board actually read what I write instead of inventing straw man statements to attack? Isn't there enough going on to have an HONEST debate about?"

Do you realize that you just accused all people who disagree with you on this board to be dishonest and this accusation is an straw man itself? I'm not inventing anything. I just wrote what I understand. If you're not capable to give to your adversaries the benefit of doubt, then I can't do anything.


"I never criticized Bryan and Arnold"

Well, you wrote: "Is attacking Paul Krugman a regular feature of this site?" Since this blog is written by Arnold and Bryan, it's a fair interpretation that you're reffering to them, and not to the commenters. If it's not your intention, ok. But it's not so clear on your original post.

Francis writes:

Dick:

Also, for the case of that oft-quoted pacifist Albert Einstein, see:

http://www.csicop.org/si/2007-03/einstein.html

Dick king writes:

I'm so depressed. I've been consoling myself since about 2003 with the thought that we would get Krugman the economist back after the 2008 election, especially if a democrat won.

-dk

Francis writes:

Dick:

I know, and some time ago some people expressed the same wish (about his coming back to economic insights) on this site.

But to me, he followed the typical path of the scientist-that-becomes-popular:

1) Starts by saying smart things;
2) Gets popular because of that;
3) Gets somewhat intoxicated with popularity;
4) Starts saying things that makes him more popular, but less and less of (1);
5) Then gets completely intoxicated and just says what his audience wants to hear.

I don't know if Krugman has hit step (5) or not. For example, I don't know if he is the great defender of free-trade he once was. Tell me: has he said anything about the anti-free-trade stance of Obama? That could be a good test.

bad dog writes:

I was treating this as a game for a while to see how far it would go, but God, this is getting exhausting.

Francis:

"You're crazy, man. I don't argue with you any longer."

I was referring to the posters in this message board, not the site's authors, but we do agree that we don't want to argue with each other anymore. On that we are 100% sympatico.

Renato Drumond:

Renato I'm going to give you the Nobel Prize for nitpicking.

I don't care if people disagree with me on this board other than I don't know what we're disagreeing about. I was just wondering out loud why all the hostility for one the great economists of our time other than the guy doesn't like Bush--which to me says far more about some of the commenters here than it does about Krugman.

"Well, you wrote: "Is attacking Paul Krugman a regular feature of this site?" Since this blog is written by Arnold and Bryan, it's a fair interpretation that you're reffering to them, and not to the commenters."

[LOUDEST SIGH IN THE UNIVERSE] Asking a question of the site's authors is a fair question, not a criticism. I've only been visiting a few days but I've liked what I've seen so far. Was puzzled and curious about the Krugman bashing. That's permissible, I hope?

So, anybody else want in on the action?

Dennis Mangan writes:

"The guy has the below bio and is a Nobel Prize winner"

Just goes to show that economics is not a science.

Jacob Oost writes:

bd, maybe if you made actual arguments instead of rhetoric people wouldn't have to make straw man arguments. For example, you say "red states" are net importers of taxes and thus vote against themselves when they don't vote Democrat. But you don't bother trying to connect these social services recipients with these Republican voters. In all likelihood they are different groups of people (i.e. single mothers vs. two-parent tax-paying households).

Also, you make your own straw man attacks when you assume I'm a "neo-conservative" who only attacks the Krugster because he attacks Bush.

Your rhetoric is highly politically charged, and your take on economics appears more biased than you assume mine is.

Take stagflation. Only somebody who learned economics from normative Keynesian and left-wing pundits rather than actual textbooks and papers could deny that adherence to the Phillips Curve by government planners didn't lead to stagflation. What was Friedman wrong about? Monetary stability? Debunking the Phillips Curve, among many other orthodox Keynesian principles? That economic freedom increases efficiency, lowers prices, and raises everybody's standard of living?

bad dog writes:

Thanks for reminding me of my original question, Jacob:

"Why do so many red state Americans vote against their wallets? And give up their political rights so easily? And solicit media like Fox News that lies to them?"

Anybody got any ideas other than Krugman's evil and I'm a commie?

Dick King writes:

Francis, I agree with you. I've been disappointed for a while that Prof. Krugman hasn't been an outspoken critic of protectionism.

It's especially salient because Paul Krugman received the Nobel Prize for proving that free trade enhances the well-being of all trading partners even when there is initially no comparative advantage.

-dk

Lauren writes:

Dick King writes:

...because Paul Krugman received the Nobel Prize for proving that free trade enhances the well-being of all trading partners even when there is initially no comparative advantage.

By way of clarification: That's not at all what Krugman received the Nobel Prize for. He didn't prove that, and he'd be pretty embarrassed if the only reason he was awarded a Nobel Prize was to take credit for something that's been known for hundreds of years before he was born. It's been understood and proven for over 200 years that free trade enhances the well-being of all trading partners regardless of their initial conditions, advantages, or disadvantages--comparative or absolute.

Krugman's Nobel Prize was for his work on trade patterns and location of economic activity. See http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/economics/laureates/2008/announcement.html

By the way, with regard to the meaning of the term "comparative advantage": What David Ricardo showed over a hundred years ago was that everyone--and every country--has a comparative advantage. People might initially have no absolute advantage, but they always have a comparative advantage; and that's exactly why even in some cases when it looks like there might be no gains from trade for some participants even though they still are observed to trade and benefit, there still are underlying reasons that explain why we as outside economic observers see them trading and benefiting. Krugman's work can be viewed as showing a mechanism by which comparative advantage evolves. Sadly, the Nobel Prize didn't exist in Ricardo's day. (One might argue that equally sadly, it exists today. But I digress.)

For Krugman's contribution in context, see International Trade in the Concise Encyclopedia of Economics.

Jesse W. writes:

It will be quite interesting to see if he is right. Anyone can make a statement about the future, but on the other hand, if it comes true or not determines their validity.

MattYoung writes:

This guy looked up the blue/red state divide on tax net:

http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2005/1/13/25325/6923

"Of the 31 states that GAIN wealth from the federal government, 25 (81%) voted for Bush. Of the remaining 17 states that LOSE wealth to the federal government, 12 (71%) voted for Kerry. "

Answer, in the election four years ago, vote for the opposition if government is stealing.

The answer is more complicated and much is determined by the geography of the state.

Butch Osman writes:

Bad Dog asks:
"who like to pretend they understand economics?"

On Paul Krugman:
He wrote in his July 14, 2008, New York Times column that:

‘Fannie and Freddie had nothing to do with the explosion of high-risk lending…whatever bad incentives the implicit federal guarantee creates have been offset by the fact that Fannie and Freddie were and are tightly regulated with regard to the risks they can take. You could say that the Fannie-Freddie experience shows that regulation works.’

Neal W. writes:

bad dog,

I haven't read all the comments, so excuse me if someone pointed this out already.

Paul Krugman thinks that George Bush is a proponent of the free market and it's his free market policies that have caused the current crisis. I think that speaks for itself, don't you? I mean if Bush=free market, then the Pope=Satan worship.

Krugman needs to take a hike.

Ruy Diaz writes:

[Comment removed for rudeness.--Econlib Ed.]

Greg writes:

Neal,

Bush certainly did a lot of talking about free markets, and a lot of free-markets believers voted for him twice. I'm not entirely sure what that means in the end, but I think it's a bit disingenuous of conservatives to simply disavow Bush and his actions because things didn't turn out as they would have liked.

John Fast writes:
"Why do so many red state Americans vote against their wallets? And give up their political rights so easily? And solicit media like Fox News that lies to them?"

Anybody got any ideas other than Krugman's evil and I'm a commie?


Yes. First, for "voting against their wallets":

1. Low-income voters often think -- possibly correctly -- that voting Republican is actually better for their wallets than voting Democratic is. It probably depends on whether they think they would benefit more from lower taxes than from more government spending.

2. Voters in general are not motivated by self-interest but rather by what they perceive as the public good.

I'm not sure what you mean by "give up their political rights" but if you mean things like warrantless wiretaps, excruciating and worthless airport fake-security procedures, and imprisonment and torture of suspects without trial, then the answers are:

1. People are often willing to give up freedom in order to get security, or even just the illusion of security;

2. The Democrats haven't offered a *real* alternative: they didn't demand a deadline for withdrawing troops from Iraq, nor overturn (or even set a limit on the duration of) the Patriot Act, nor demand the President abide by the Fourth Amendment (even as loosely as FISA required).

Why do conservative/Republican voters prefer to watch Fox News and other sources that reinforce their prejudices? For the same reason liberal/Democratic voters prefer sources that reinforce *their* prejudices. Read Bryan's book The Myth of the Rational Voter for more specific examples *and* for the general principle behind it.

mensarefugee writes:

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The Dirty Mac writes:

"Why do so many red state Americans vote against their wallets?"

Why do so many blue state Americans vote against their wallets? Because the stasis imposed through government limits competition from the hoi polloi. Why do so many red state Americans vote against their wallets? The free market is primarily a threat to those who already have substantial wealth.

stanfo writes:

I've tried to read most of the comments but you all seem to be missing the point.

The point Bryan was trying to make is that Democrats seem to think that the election somehow vindicates their ideology. Somehow, the last eight years were just an aberration that has been corrected by rational and smart voting.

But an electoral majority does not imply rational outcomes, or it would have meant 2000 and 2004 were rational outcomes as well.

So, take the election with a grain of salt, y'all!

Steve writes:

I am glad the rhetoric seems to be calming down a little over the last few posts.

In personal experience I would say neocon is a bad term to describe the bias on this site. But there really is a shared bias from most of the posters here. I think I would be less likely to be corrected stating that the lower half of Americans on the income distribution scale dont pay taxes than i would with a comment that is unfair the other direction.

Milton freidman dirtied his econ credentials with politics but I bet most people here are glad he did cause they agree with him.

really offtopic sorry
my opinion:
cnn is fair(but boring) fox is right and msnbc is left(maybe further from center than fox lately) they can all be fun but we should all "remember the source"

The news overall doesnt seem biased to me just incompetent. A Mccain guy an obama guy and a moderator were talking about removing the fed tax on fuel. The mccain guy said it'd save an average person (maybe family but i dont think so) 30 dollars a week. The obama guy said the savings wouldnt be real relief and the moderator said nothing. The fed tax was about 17 cents at the time. How much driving do they think average people do? Three people and the number didnt feel wrong to any of them?

bad dog writes:

Wow, the discussion has gotten really good while I was gone today.

Ruy Diaz:

Tsk, tsk!

John Fast:

Thanks for an interesting post. But regarding your comment about low-income voters, the choice is not often a case of lower taxes versus more social spending. The choice when voting Republican is often a little more difficult: Let us lower taxes on the richest of us, you give up social spending (or accept a higher debt), and trust that down the road you'll get more money in your pocket due to the trickle-down effect.

Do the people visiting this message board still believe trickle-down economics works? In my view it's been thoroughly discredited. And yet 48% of the American public voted for its continuation less than a week ago. That's what puzzles me. Can so many people believe a myth that it becomes accepted as fact even though it's not true--such as the belief Iraq was behind the 9/11 attacks?

You also noted: "Voters in general are not motivated by self-interest but rather by what they perceive as the public good."

This is a topic covered in an interesting way by the authors of Freakonomics on their website a few years ago. If my memory serves me correctly (I read the article years ago), the conclusion was so few people vote because they are motivated by self interest and voting gets them nothing personally. That's an opposite argument of yours. It's my personal opinion that, respectfully, you are both incorrect. I believe people vote out of self interest but some of their needs and wants from the political system are irrational--e.g., I want my potholes paved but I want to pay no taxes.

Maybe my vote is even irrational, who knows. My household income is high enough that I would have paid lower taxes under McCain and will now pay higher taxes under Obama, and yet I voted Obama. In this case I voted against my immediate economic interests and for my broader economic interests--i.e., I believe Democratic policies will result in a healthier economy and a stronger middle class, which will help my business continue to growth. (I also can't vote for a party that believes people are inherently evil and require lots of regulation but corporations are inherently good and require no regulation.)

Another interesting statement you made:

"The Democrats haven't offered a *real* alternative: they didn't demand a deadline for withdrawing troops from Iraq, nor overturn (or even set a limit on the duration of) the Patriot Act, nor demand the President abide by the Fourth Amendment (even as loosely as FISA required)."

I think you're totally right about this. When Obama voted for the new FISA bill and essentially helped to give away my political rights for no gain to me, my jaw hit the floor. The Republicans have gotten so good at framing the debate with the hysterical rhetoric that the Democrats have shied away from advancing a true progressive agenda, which in some ways is a shame. But what enrages me most about the Dems--and the Republicans even more--is this idea that deficits don't really matter. That our grandchildren will have to deal with them but not us, so whoopee. The truth is the average voter works over a month a year to pay taxes that go to cover interest on the debt (more if you don't count the stealing of our Social Security funds). They don't get guns, they don't get butter, they get nothing. And something like 40% of that goes to banks in foreign countries.

(Funny how a red stater voting Republican because of abortion will, because of Republican overspending most of Bush's term, have to work hard however many days or weeks a year to pay taxes that go directly to China, a country that forces, or used to force, abortions. Or pay taxes that go directly to Saudi Arabia for that matter, the country from most of the 9/11 hijackers came from. Interesting notions about compromised sovereignty come to mind.)

All of this raises an interesting question:

So what do you all think? Do deficits matter? and if so should I care, or are they only for my grandkids to worry about?

Jacob Oost writes:

"Trickle-down theory"? And which economist came up with that theory? Answer: none. Pundits stuck it in the mouths of those favoring reductions in capital gains taxes or top marginal income taxes, and you don't have to be a supply-sider to favor that.

And yes, deficits matter, why do you think "fiscally conservative" Republicans hate Bush?

As for social spending, it's horrifically inefficiently used, and rarely helps people the way they think it does. You people who ignore public choice theory are just shielding yourselves from reality. I know this first hand, because I work in social services.

bad dog writes:

Interesting, Jacob ...

What is public choice theory?

Jacob Oost writes:

You've heard of market failure (free rider problem, moral hazard, externalities, etc.), public choice theory deals with government failure. You also ought to familiarise yourself with what Hayek and Mises have to say about the inherent problems of centralized planning. You don't have to be Austrian school to appreciate it.

thorstein writes:

I admire some of Krugman's work on economics. If he would stick to economics, he'd be a worth reading on a regular basis, though that's not to say he's always and invariably right. Alas, he lets his detestation of Bush color his journalism (and I say this as someone pretty unhappy with Bush). His columns are frequently Noam Chomsky-ish in their repetitiveness and their unyielding, partisan hostility. Never has he given Bush or anyone in the Bush administration the benefit of the doubt. And the NYT knows it, since their own ombudsman has said so:

"Op-Ed columnist Paul Krugman has the disturbing habit of shaping, slicing and selectively citing numbers in a fashion that pleases his acolytes but leaves him open to substantive assaults" (Daniel Okrent, "13 Things I Meant to Write About but Never Did," The New York Times, 22 May 2005).

THAT is most likely why so many readers here have grave doubts about Krugman; consider that he has left economic thought behind and has moved into the domain of cheapshot punditry; and that he's frequently not worth reading. But if Bad Dog can't see that Krugman's extremely biased, and that this colors his work -- something one should notice after reading approx. three columns -- then there's probably a lot else he hasn't noticed.

[Comment edited for rudeness. Please email the webmaster@econlib.org.--Econlib Ed.]

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