how to diminish the influence of economics

1. Expend energy railing against the Patriot Employer Act, co-sponsored by Barack Obama. What’s to hate about it? From the Economist‘s Free Exchange blog (h/t Mark Thoma):

There is much to dislike in the bill. Essentially, it offers employers a tax credit, worth one percent of taxable income, in exchange for adherence to a set of economic limitations. Among them are: a minimum wage, minimum standards on retirement and health plans, and protections for workers and headquarters based in America.

Yeah, that Obama sure is History’s Worst Monster for wanting to give corporations a modest tax incentive to do that sort of stuff. (They do need to hire a Frank Luntz type to come up with a better short title for the bill, though.)

A couple of European academics go much further in calling this package “reactionary, populist, xenophobic and just plain silly.” It perhaps goes without saying that, were Willem Buiter and Anne Sibert somehow to lose their sinecures, they wouldn’t have to pray to the gods of health that they not get too sick for a while. Or perhaps they’re just part of a movement, which I’ve found curious, of neoliberal Euroeconomists who seem want to show their pals at Chicago how tough they are. Or, as Charlie Stross put down New Labour:

And lo, in the thrusting entrepreneurial climate of the early nineties a new government came into power with the remit to bring about the triumph of true socialism by privatising the post office and air traffic control systems…

And it might be prudent to verify that the U.S. doesn’t get thrusted by its entrepreneurial climate before frothing at the mouth about the evils of populism.

10 thoughts on “how to diminish the influence of economics”

  1. My political-cognitivist streak wishes the proposal was to simultaneously increase the tax by one-half of one percent and offer the one percent decrease as a credit.


  2. The quotation from the free exchange blog is taken out of context. Sometimes context doesn’t matter, but here it does. Any reason you didn’t include this quotation from the same post: “Mr Obama deserves a slap on the wrist. He does not, in my opinion, deserve the rhetorical pounding he receives. Why not? This bill is much less bad than it could be …”? Or this one:”There is a case to be made that Mr Obama is the most economist-friendly candidate out there”? Doesn’t quite jibe with your representation that the economists at that blog are portraying Obama as “History’s Worst Monster.” The simple fact is that economists realize that almost all government interventions of this sort have (sometimes subtle) unintended consequences, and it’s usually the putative beneficiaries of the government protection who end up bearing the cost. That is why we tend to be skeptical of such things. Surprisingly enough, our advocacy of any given policy bears no relation to our love or hatred for [insert your favorite demographic here].


  3. “History’s Worst Monster” is a joke, pal. It isn’t much of an overstatement of Buiter and Sibert’s histrionics, though. And, the “slap on the wrist” context doesn’t change the fact that the Free Exchange “defense” of Obama does in fact consider the aims of the bill (tax incentives to provide better wages and benefits!) “dislikable.” Maybe the Free Exchange blogger wants incentives for the reverse?

    It’s also a “simple fact” that many of my fellow economists have been pushing the neoliberal deregulatory agenda with little regard to the often unsubtle unintended consequences — e.g., current financial market clusterf**k — and it is usually the people being sold the benefits of freer-marketism who bear the costs.


  4. I see; I point out that you’ve mischaracterized the position of the (presumably innocent) blogger you’re quoting, and you respond with the “f-you” usage of “pal,” and quickly jump to a different portion of your post.

    You clearly want neither to defend nor retract your creation of a straw man in your original post. Good day, sir.


  5. I don’t retract anything, because I’ve already told you that History’s Worst Monster was a cacophemism (IIRC, one of the ‘favorite words’ listed in a certain Scatterplot predecessor blog), and the substantive point remains that both linked sources disapproved of the application of the tax incentive to populist ends.


  6. Geographic labels are not what they used to be, and here they serve no purpose at all. Both of the academics you scold have studied in the U.S. and one of them is actually an U.S. citizen. Let’s stick to debating the ideas, shall we?


  7. I scold them because of, not despite, their U.S.-based economics training. The “geographic label” serves plenty of purpose, here, since by virtue of their residency Buiter and Sibert take for granted benefits far beyond what the Patriot Employer Act would purport to provide. Maybe they’re actively campaigning to rescind their own tenure and pay more for their health care, in which case I might admire how they stuck to their principles (dim-witted though those principles may be), but I sort of doubt that.


  8. Tina, I think we would be a livelier bunch as a whole if the AEA had a Sexualities section. Me, I plead sinus infection and annoyance at the amount of snow on the ground.


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