« Making Markets Work for Everyone | Main | Nudges »

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Conservatives and Government

Thomas Frank on "The Wrecking Crew":

On the same topic, Free Exchange follows up on the post below this one:

...I think it's absolutely necessary to think clearly about what has gone wrong and what ought to change. One assessment might be that Mr Friedman's ideas were fundamentally flawed—that there never should have been such a substantial push for liberalisation. Another is that Mr Friedman was largely correct, but when his ideas were embraced and adopted, his followers found themselves at a loss as to how to respond. As a result, they continued to press for liberalisation, well beyond an "optimal" level, because it continued to be politically expedient. And still another is that Republicans embraced free marketeering as politically convenient but never gave it the rigourous policy support liberalisation deserved—the impure Bush theory.

Democrats, and economists generally, need to be clear about which of the above they believe or do not believe and why. They also need to be careful not to overpoliticise the issues, simply for the sake of electoral gain. It may be that some new regulatory practices are needed, and some new liberalisation is needed; in fact, that's almost certainly true. Democrats may reject that wishy-washy sounding diagnosis, however, in favour of the cleaner "making markets work" theme, which may ultimately correspond to a general walking back of liberalisation.

I have trouble with any ideological reading of the economics, because the two (ideology and economics) so rarely fit well together. I don't want to elect a free-market supporter or an interventionist. I want to elect someone who will carefully consider the issues and determine that here the government ought to assign pollution property rights, while here the government should reduce licensure, and so on. I want, in short, someone with enough intellectual heft to know the difference between good policy and good politics.

If the economists are unwilling to make these distinctions, I have little confidence that the candidates ever will.

    Posted by on Tuesday, August 12, 2008 at 01:08 PM in Economics, Market Failure, Politics, Regulation | Permalink  TrackBack (0)  Comments (35)


    TrackBack URL for this entry:

    Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Conservatives and Government:


    Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.