Bryan Caplan  

Bleg: Questions for Noah Smith

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Tomorrow I'll be hanging out with blogger Noah Smith all day.  Have any questions you'd like me to ask him?  With his permission, I'll share responses.

Earnest questions only, please.

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COMMENTS (11 to date)
Adam Ozimek writes:

I've asked myself not "What question do I want Noah Smith to answer?" but "What question do I want Noah Smith to answer when Bryan Caplan is there to discuss his answer?".

What can we learn about American poverty by looking at poverty in Japan?

Noah Yetter writes:

Why should we listen to anything he says when he so mendaciously misrepresents his ideological opponents?

And yes that is a serious question. His description of libertarianism is such a caricature, so far disconnected from anything vaguely resembling reality, that I can only conclude it to be deliberate. That would make him a hack, not worthy of any attention on any topic for any reason.

David R. Henderson writes:

Yes. Here's my question. And I don't think I need to suggest follow-ups because you're very good at figuring those out.
I read the link that Noah Yetter posted above and reading that led me to ask the following:
"Would you, Noah, oppose having the government force people in the wedding photography business to take wedding photos of people at a gay marriage ceremony?"
If you read Noah's post, you'll see why I ask that.
If Noah responds that no one is requiring that, then show him this link.

perfectlyGoodInk writes:

In that link above, it seems like Noah is arguing against the paleo-libertarians courted by Ron Paul in his newsletters. That group does seem to weaken the federal bully to get out of the way of local bullies in their attempts to institutionalize racism.

This is why I'm sympathetic with Steve Horwitz's argument that the libertarian movement ought to distance itself from that group, but I imagine Bryan will represent libertarians to him much better.

John Soriano writes:

Which historical and current libertarian and/or conservative thinkers does he respect the most and find the most reasonable (or least objectionable)?

Also, what straw men does he think his personal critics are most guilty of?

James writes:

In a setting with policies nothing like whatever Noah favors, would Noah see bad events as evidence against his preferred policies? On at least a few occasions, Noah has cited problems arising in very non-libertarian settings as evidence against libertarianism. Offhand, I can think of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire and the violence of Tamerlane.

What should we assume is the objective function of government (or voters, appointed officials, etc.) when we try to anticipate the consequences of different policy options?

Historically, there have been plenty of cases of groups that Noah would call "bullies" using governments to do their bullying. How high is the probability that, to borrow Noah's analogy, Universe Man will collude with Triangle Man? How much higher would that probability have to be for Noah to give up on progressivism?

Eric Falkenstein writes:

Are you concerned that blogging has brought vulgar Keynesian logic back into the mainstream, making an end-run around the macro theoretical vanguard? That is, when forced into general equilibrium models simple Patinkin-style logic don't follow. Back in the 80s and 90s, everyone knew undergraduate Keynesian analysis was partial equilibrium analysis, but now Krugman, DeLong et al say it's top-shelf and so that's good enough for most journalists and bloggers.

Keynesians talk about stupid zombie economics getting in the way. Aren't the Phillips curve, government multipliers>1, and G=I, the ultimate zombie ideas?

Scott Sumner writes:

Ask him if he understands why Krugman's blogging style is unethical.

kebko writes:


Looks like Noah picked a very unfortunate example! Off topic of Noah, but on the topic of the NM ruling, I always think it's interesting that these laws and rulings only apply to employers and producers. For instance, Noah would be correct that nobody is clamoring to make photographers work for gay shop owners, or to make straight couples hire gay photographers, or to make the photographer's assistants work at gay wedding jobs, etc.

All of these things could be just as important for social justice as constrictions on producers. This seems to be a universal facet of civil rights rulings and legislation, that they apply to the state and to producers and employers, but not to any other private parties.

Progressives, I suspect, naturally see this as a power struggle. As a libertarian, it just looks like anti-Bourgeois posturing.

Noah is probably right that a minister wouldn't have to perform the ceremony. Religious people have rights. The photographer is in the realm of commerce, where the point of these rulings is to undermine rights.

If that couple had to face the same legal ramifications in marriage that an employer does in hiring, they would probably choose to just cohabitate.

John S writes:

Please ask Noah what he thinks of George Selgin and Larry White's research which shows that free banking systems performed well in Scotland and Canada and only ended due to political, rather than economic, circumstances (the Bank Charter Act of 1844 and the creation of the Bank of Canada in 1935).

If he cites the US free banking experience, please inform him of the restrictions on branch banking (and resultant over-reliance on NY correspondent banks) and bond collateral requirements in excess of 100% on private banknote issuance (resulting in an inelastic money supply) which kept the US system from functioning as smoothly as Canada's concurrent system.

Thanks for this, looking forward to your discussion, Bryan.

Tom Jackson writes:

I know that Noah Smith believes solar power is becoming more feasible economically as an important power source. What does he think of NASA scientist Geoffrey Landis' proposal to position solar power satellites in space so that they can beam power to earth when the power will command the best price?

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