The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Heads I Win

I visit a variety of media sources that argue the liberal (progressive) economic position. In general, writers at these outlets fervently believe that government can solve our economic woes and at the same time, mitigate the natural “unfairness” in a free and open society.

I’ve noticed that writers at these sites increasingly espouse arguments that might be called the “infallibility of liberal thought.” In other words, if a favorite liberal economic policy is applied and fails, it’s not because the policy is flawed, but rather that it wasn’t applied using enough dollars, with enough enthusiasm to communicate its merits, or in enough areas of the economy to make it work. There just wasn’t enough of it.

James Taranto notes this when he quotes a comment by Jacob Weisberg:
President Obama is trying to push a jobs agenda. But for the federal government to spur growth or create jobs, it has to spend additional money. The antediluvian Republicans who control Congress do not think that demand can be expanded in this way. They believe that the 2009 stimulus bill, which has prevented an even worse economy over the past two years, is actually responsible for the current weakness...

Some of the congressional Republicans who are preventing action to help the economy are simply intellectual primitives who reject modern economics on the same basis that they reject Darwin and climate science.

First it's important to emphasize that when the President crafted his stimulus, the Democrats controlled all of Congress and could have fashioned a stimulus of any size. But never mind. Let's focus on the core of Weisberg's statement.

Weisberg uses a common strategy among those on the left who struggle to present rational, fact-based arguments to support their positions—use ad hominem attacks to denigrate those who disagree. In this case, Weisberg suggests that those who question big government or the efficacy of Keynesian economics readily reject Darwin’s theory of Natural Selection. I’m certain some of his readers think that to be very clever. Sadly, it has absolutely nothing to do with his contention that the problem is that we spent too little.

Taranto responds:
Darwin is a red herring here. Although disparaging people for holding harmless religious beliefs as "intellectual primitives" is awfully uncivil, we agree with Weisberg that people who "reject" the theory of natural selection are mistaken.

But the comparison between Keynesian economics and global warmism is on target. Both are liberal dogmas disguised, increasingly thinly, as science. Both are supported by circular logic, and thus lack falsifiability, a necessary characteristic of a scientific theory. If the weather gets warmer, that's because of global warming; if it gets colder, that's "climate change" and proves the theory too. Had unemployment stayed below 8%, as the Obama administration promised it would, that would have proved the "stimulus" worked; since it peaked at 10% and has held steady above 9%, that proves the stimulus wasn't big enough. Heads I win, tails you lose.

Taranto’s comments are on target, but fail to mention two other key facts. (1) The vaunted stimulus used $1 trillion of borrowed money and objectively failed to create jobs to hold unemployment below 8 percent. (2) It did, however, increase the federal deficit noticeably, and that’s an objective fact.

The hubris of the “big government” argument is astounding. As we watch social democracies in Greece, Spain, Italy, Ireland, and Portugal struggle to remain economically viable after sixty years of big government programs, you’d think that somebody as smart as Jacob Weisberg might ask himself why these countries are all approaching national bankruptcy.

I’m sure he’d answer that they didn’t spend enough.