David R. Henderson  

The Good and the Bad

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The Good

Scott Sumner has an excellent post about Krugman and about fiscal policy in Britain and Sweden. To refute the idea that the Swedish economy is doing well (Krugman admits it's doing well) even though the Swedish government has cut spending, Krugman singles out one component of government spending--government purchases--and points out that that has risen.

Sumner calls him out because government purchases in as extensive a welfare state as Sweden are not a large percent of government spending. Krugman could retreat to the simplest Keynesian model--the Keynesian cross--where aggregate demand is C + I + G, where G is government purchases, not government spending per se. But haven't Krugman and other Keynesian economists been telling us that it's crucial to extend unemployment insurance benefits so that unemployed people will have money to spend? UI benefits aren't government purchases. So once Krugman has said that those benefits count, he should look at a much bigger range of government spending than just government purchases.

As Sumner summarizes (I love that alliteration), "Kind of unfair to ridicule someone, and then provide irrelevant evidence to back up your claim."

The Bad

The Wall Street Journal has an unsigned editorial this morning, "Tea Party Terror Flakeout" excoriating the Tea Party because some of its members defend civil liberties. The sin?

Adam Smith, a Washington State Democrat, and Michigan Republican and tea partier Justin Amash want to bar the U.S. military from capturing, detaining or interrogating any terrorist of any nationality captured on American soil. Their proposed amendment to next year's defense authorization bill more or less revokes the legal authority granted by Congress a week after 9/11 to fight terrorists on every front.

And what does the Journal see as the tragedy here?
The tragedy here is that the political battles over terrorist detention were finally calming down. The anti-antiterror left waged war against President George W. Bush for refusing to treat illegal enemy combatants the same as common criminals, but President Obama has adopted much of the same legal framework. Now a misguided wing of the tea party is giving political cover to the left to revive this fight and confuse the American public with overblown fears that the government can arrest anyone for anything and hold him forever.

Because, as the Journal's editors well know, the government NEVER uses its powers to do X (arrest Americans without charge and hold them without charge) to actually do X.

The good news is in the pushback. Check out the comments. The vast majority defend the Constitution and worry that the government will go too far. Moreover, the commenters tend not to be abusive, nasty, or name-calling.

Here are two of the better ones. First, Justin Murray:

We are rightly fearful of a government that grants itself such powers. There is no clear, bright line between al-Zawahri and your neighborhood burgarlar as you put it. The extremes always seem obvious, but the governmental abuse always happens in the large grey area between them. Anything can be twisted and contorted into an act of "terror". A great example is from September of last year in Ethiopia, which has an almost carbon-copy wording of our own law, that was used to detain Swedish journalists for criticizing the Ethiopian government. This criticism was called "terror" and the law was used to bypass all of that nation's normal legal channels to detain those journalists indefinitely. Our own government is not immune to twisting any random act as one of "terror".

Second, John Gorentz:
I would like to hear the WSJ's proposal for a mechanism to keep these powers from being used to suppress political dissent. Very important, given that we have a whole political class just itching to suppress dissent any way it can.


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CATEGORIES: Fiscal Policy , Regulation



COMMENTS (5 to date)
Ken B writes:

To paraphrase:
Ridicule is risible from persons providing
a paucity of pertinent proof.

I do enjoy alliteration Thursdays!

Ken B writes:
A great example is from September of last year in Ethiopia, which has an almost carbon-copy wording of our own law,...

When I make arguments like this I often hear the rejoinder, we are not Ethiopia. Indeed we are not, in large measure because we as a populace take a stand against such arbitrary extensions of power. We are not like Ethiopia because enough of us object when even the well-meaning try to make us so.

Bryan Willman writes:

Always ask this "What keeps a desperate president of party A from deicidng that all members of party B are terrorists?"

Can't happen?

Really?

Japanese internment is a fine example from the US. It happened here.

US citizens of hispanic origin randomly rounded up in the public square of a CA city and shipped off to mexico at random. It happened here.

It *CAN* happen HERE. It *HAS* happened HERE.

Gian writes:

It is not the wording of a law or even Constitution that differentiates America from Ethiopia but Americans who differ from Ethiopia, considered as wholes.

Josiah writes:

Where's the ugly?

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