Is It Time to Start Dismissing 'Economics Deniers'?

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No economics section in scienceblogs to post this in eh?
Why is that if its a science field?
If its not a science field, a comparison with science denial
is not valid and is akin false equivalence.

The fact is, sub-$10/hr jobs were devastated.

Also the Newsmax article points to uncorrected misquotes from Al Gore. But whatever.

By Russell the Stout (not verified) on 15 Jul 2017 #permalink

Yes, very much like climate denial. Cherry pick one report that fits your preconceptions, then denigrate others and criticism with dogwhistles. Sad to see you fall for this.

Not a supporter of the minimum wage?

I don't know what the answer is on minimum wage and don't have the time to read the study in detail - but having seen the way that turds like Monckton's paper have been presented as legitimate in online articles I don't know whether to trust this characterisation of the paper either.

Assuming the characterisation is accurate though, I'd say there are two reasons this is a false comparison. Firstly, understanding of physical systems from physical principles is clearly different from economics. And secondly, a consensus based on thousands of studies of a physical system over decades is clearly different from a single social sciences study.

So does this article support the idea of dismissing "economics deniers"? I don't think so. Is Seattle's minimum wage good or bad? I don't know, the study in question should provide useful information.

"...the UW researchers did conclude that, for low-wage restaurant workers, the law cost them work hours. (Specifically, though the actual number of hours worked by low-wage restaurant workers in Seattle increased a slight 0.1 percent from the second quarters of 2014 to 2016, the researchers’ “synthetic Seattle” model showed that if the minimum wage law hadn’t been in effect, there would have been an 11.1 percent increase in hours for those workers.)"

So in reality no hours were lost...but modelling projected there should have been an increase in hours. How reasonable are the assumptions in the model? That's challenged in the link.

Notice this key paragraph in the article:
"Since its publication, liberals have given the study hyper-skeptical treatment, claiming to find all sorts of shortcomings with its methodology, data set, and so on. They point to a different study, from the University of California at Berkeley, which examined the law's effects on the restaurant industry and found no statistically measurable effect."

ooh, "liberals" are "hyperskeptical"! UC Berkeley! Damn hippies!

When you follow the links you see what looks like very valid criticism from yes, a study done by professors at UC Berkeley; another non-partisan think tank; and Fortune magazine.

The cherry picked study that the oh so rational love turns out to be an extreme outlier in these kinds of studies; has excluded minimum wage jobs at chains (seriously??); seemed to find that lower wage jobs decreased, but higher wage jobs increased, and more than compensated for the loss in lower wage jobs; and is not peer-reviewed.

There is even the equivalent of the climate change denier "common sense" argument that a little CO2 couldn't possibly change a planet. "The idea that the price of something has no effect on demand for it sounds pretty funny, coming from liberals. ... The cognitive dissonance can be head-spinning. "

This is not reasoned argument. This is not economics as science. This is jumping on the ONE (visibly flawed) study that supports your "DONT TAX ME BRO" bias.

It's interesting how you true believers never manage to read anything that doesn't fit your preconceptions, like, for example, this Fortune article:…

The methodological flaws in the study you love are serious, especially the exclusion of 40% of the low wage economy.

You might try spending more time with climate deniers - I think you would find you have more in common than you suspect. Love that confirmation bias!

It was just a Winter Is Coming alarm

Reminds me of the level of detail Dr Stoaty McStoatface conducted into bendy bananas... Basically saw an article that confirmed his belief and that was the end of the investigation...

Are all the academic and professional economists who signed this letter advocating a minimum wage increase from the Economic Policy Institute (including the 7 Nobel laureates) all "economics deniers" too?

[That is in support of $10.10. Not $15. As everyone keeps saying, modest increases in the minimum wage have modest effects. Personally I'd say they are modestly bad, others including all your Nice People say modestly good; but modest. The deniers are those insisting that large increases are good -W]

As I wrote 2 weeks ago in the 'Risk Perceptions' thread:

Re: The U of W study on Seattle’s minimum wage. The Economic Policy Institute’s Ben Zipperer and John Schmitt point out that:

The spurious results are clear in the case of the restaurant industry, as we illustrate in Figure B, where the authors’ own methodology and estimates imply that the Seattle minimum wage increase caused an incredible 20.1 percent growth in restaurant jobs paying above $19.00 per hour. While this number is not directly reported in their paper, it can be precisely inferred from their other results. To make this inference, we first note that when Jardim et al. focus on the restaurant industry, they estimate that the minimum wage increase to $13.00 caused restaurant jobs paying less than $19.00 hour to fall by an average of 10.7 percent (see their Table 9, averaging the estimates provided for the employment fall in 2016). At the same time, they find that the minimum wage caused essentially zero change in the number of all restaurant jobs, regardless of their wage rate. Because jobs under $19.00 comprised 65.4 percent of the restaurant industry prior to the first minimum wage increase (see Jardim et al.’s Table 3 for the 2014Q2–2015Q1 period), and because these jobs shrank by 10.7 percent while overall employment held steady, it follows that Jardim et al.’s estimates imply that the Seattle minimum wage increased the number of restaurant jobs paying over $19.00 per hour by about 20.1 percent.”

Or as Econospeak’s Peter Dorman writes: “One interpretation is that the Seattle study’s methodology didn’t sufficiently control for factors that have caused upward movements in wages (moving workers out of lower and into higher wage categories) in Seattle compared to other communities. That’s what the EPI folks think. I prefer to take the results at face value: by increasing the minimum wage we can, by some currently unknown process, cause a big upward shift in wages, not just around the minimum, but all the way up to the stratospheric reaches of the labor market. That negative elasticity for the lower-paid is fully offset by a positive elasticity for the middle and upper class. Magic."

No response by WC at that time, but now he resuscitates the study ignoring previously established problems with the study.
Remind us any climate pseudoskeptics we know?


[I think you don't realise how biased your sources are. It's like the Watties pointing at Soon+Baliunas: "look! it's a a proper journal and all" -W]

By Kevin ONeill (not verified) on 19 Jul 2017 #permalink

> I think you don’t realise how biased your sources are. It’s like the Watties pointing at Soon+Baliunas: “look! it’s a a proper journal and all”

And you don't even check your links.

[Kinda like spelling flames? -W]

By Phil Hays (not verified) on 19 Jul 2017 #permalink

"If not the latter, why not?"

Because the world is a nasty place.

Putin would make the US Federal government look like a high school chess club.

[You haven't understood the linked piece.

Or, somewhat less dismissively since I did point people to it: this is about whether you want a govt that is powerful, but dominated by a few people, and want your govt to be designed to work with those few, powerful, good people. Somewhat in the mold of Plato's philosopher kings. This is a view that is popular with many people who want their vision to be implemented. Because it provides a way to do that. It rejected by Popper, and of course the libertarians, but arguably also the founding fathers of your fine USA. Who believed that government should be designed to survive bad people running it. the more power you give your government, and the more you free it from the restraint of the constitution, the harder that is -W]

By Phil Hays (not verified) on 19 Jul 2017 #permalink

If the government doesn't control the great corporations, the great corporations will control the government.

[That's more a slogan than anything else. Would you like one in return? You can have: "When buying and selling are controlled by legislation, the first things to be bought and sold are legislators". You, too, are missing the point -W]

> [I think you don’t realise how biased your sources are. It’s like the Watties pointing at Soon+Baliunas: “look! it’s a a proper journal and all” -W]

WTF? *YOU* picked the one outlier paper - not me. And the problem as exposed above is simple math; one doesn't need to be an economist, political scientist, or have peer-review to understand it. [Incivility redacted -W]

By Kevin ONeill (not verified) on 19 Jul 2017 #permalink

Something to consider.

A government that is designed to be robust needs to be more powerful than a government run by a few, powerful, good people.

[Why do you take that to be self evident? -W]

Or in other words, there is a trade off between efficiency and robustness.

By Phil Hays (not verified) on 19 Jul 2017 #permalink

Mmmm i like that.
Similar to a physiological trade off between strength and dexterity.

Efficiency vs robustness shows up in many systems from airlines to universities. Why do you think that government would be any different?

From "The Prince" by Nicolo Machiavelli is the example of the King of France and the Turk.

Chapter 4.

[I'm not arguing that something designed to be robust - for example, the US constitution with its separation of powers and so on - might be inefficient in the short term - for example, the gridlock you get. What I'm querying is your assertion that such a govt needs to be more powerful. This is far from obvious. Indeed, one can argue - and I believe that the CH post is effectively arguing - that it should be less powerful, because of the constraints upon it -W]

By Phil Hays (not verified) on 20 Jul 2017 #permalink

For a robust state to complete on a battlefield

[I'm unsure what you mean by "battlefield" here. Do you mean literally? You're actually talking about military expenditure? -W]

with an equal sized state with an efficient government, the robust state needs to collect more taxes and spend more money than the efficient state. This means more power to tax. Agree?

[Hard to say. There are no equal sized states to the USA, if you're thinking in terms of economic output; I presume that you're not thinking in terms of surface area. Do you mean this as a theoretical arguement, or one that applies in the real world?

Kinda guessing what you mean, no I don't agree that a robust state would need to tax more; nor do I agree that if you wanted to tax moreit would require more power -W]

For a robust state to punish theft, more laws, rules and regulations are needed to completely define the nature of theft. Court hearings, legal teams and so on and so forth. In an efficient state, the ruler just says "kill him" and it is done.

So on and so forth for any other power.

The world is a nasty place. Libertarians assume that only government is nasty,

[That is not true. Obviously. Why are you wasting conversational time and space on what you fully know to be rubbish? -W]

and that robust states are the worst as they have more laws.

[Oh, hold on. Your "robust states are the worst as they have more laws" makes no sense to me. I was using "robust" to mean "a state robust against executive power"; like the original founding fathers envisaged. That doesn't require more laws. Dictatorship doesn't imply few laws -W]

By Phil Hays (not verified) on 20 Jul 2017 #permalink

For a robust state to punish theft, more laws, rules and regulations are needed to completely define the nature of theft. Court hearings, legal teams and so on and so forth. In an efficient state, the ruler just says “kill him” and it is done.

This is the old "autocracies are more efficient than democracies" argument, and it is wrong. History shows the opposite.
The trains did not run on time under Mussolini despite the myth, Communist countries were bureaucratic to the point of being sclerotic, Hitler was known for giving two people authority with almost identical terms of reference, leading to infighting and duplication of effort, and the apartheid government wasted huge sums on projects to keep people employed.
In democracies, political parties are trying to get reelected, so they have to run government efficiently. If a Minister is incompetent, he or she is usually pretty swiftly replaced. If a policy turns out to be bad, it gets removed. Contrast that with an autocracy. Bad policies and people are usually difficult to replace.
The very accountability that people decry as inefficiency turns out to be a very good tool to enforce efficiency.

By Julian Frost (not verified) on 20 Jul 2017 #permalink

In my experience, "The very accountability that people decry as inefficiency..." often turns out to create an environment where nobody will actually make a decision because they're afraid someone will question it. Not at all efficient.

Everything in moderation...

By Bob Loblaw (not verified) on 20 Jul 2017 #permalink

Nah. Its easy. No questioning required.
Be accountable. Keep ya restaurant up to standard for example.
Or keep protocols for interviewing prisoners.
Or agreed quarantine measures for ducks who fall sick on a duck farm.
Its not ineffecient at all.

>>[“When buying and selling are controlled by legislation, the first things to be bought and sold are legislators”. You, too, are missing the point -W]

My point is that even libertarians seem to think that property is defined by governments and disputes are settled by courts. If there are not institutional restrictions on wealth, the wealthy will control both these essential functions. We have six thousand years of history in evidence.

Just incidentally, you seem to be both Green and Libertarian. That strikes me as being rather like a vegan cannibal, since the one thing Libertarians seem to hate above all is any regulation of their right to pollute.

[I think you're crippled by your hatred of a virulent stream of USAnian right-wing stuff that calls itself Libertarian but isn't. We've talked about it elsewhere; you can't seem to get over this short-sighted identification of one little thing with a much wider viewpoint. I find it frustratingly myopic on your part; it is very hard to have an intelligent conversation since you're so determined to rat-hole on this one point -W]

>>a virulent stream of USAnian right-wing stuff that calls itself Libertarian but isn’t.

You post is a quote from the house organ of what you call that "virulent stream." Maybe you would find it easier to have an intelligent conversation if you tried addressing some of my specific arguments. See, e.g., paragraph 2 of what I wrote.

[You mean "Green and Libertarian"? I didn't address that because it was incomprehensible. Why do you think they are at all incompatible? -W]

Li D:

No questioning? Then how is one to be held accountable?

In the "accountable" systems I have worked in, you get questioned many times. Who gave you authority to do that? What rule did you apply? Let me audit that: the last two people to audit it may not have gotten it right. Did you ask for permission to do that? We need a signature to approve the expenditure after you made it, from the person that gave you permission before you did it.

What you end up with is a large number of people that will not choose a course of action unless a rule tells them what course to follow. If there isn't a direct rule, they'll look for another rule that they can twist to apply to that situation, even if it doesn't really apply.

Can't find anything? Then just avoid the issue (i.e. make no decision) or pass it up the chain to your boss. Or ask a "subject matter expert" to find a rule for you. Anything but using your own judgement. Maybe you'll find someone who can mak eup a rule for you - anything so that when you are questioned, you can refer to something that shows that it isn't your fault when someone complains.

By Bob Loblaw (not verified) on 21 Jul 2017 #permalink

Its pretty simple.
There are direct rules and protocols and
people follow em. In rare instances of confusion it goes
up the chain one level and people who are paid to make decisions do so quickly so the show goes on.
Thats my world anyhow.

Ya dont have a bunch of people sitting around because nobody
knows what to do. People know their jobs.
They are skilled and efficient.

A plumber does some work and signs off on it. Thats accountability. Its not inefficent at all.
Occassionly said plumber might get audited. Thats good too and
not inefficent. The ball keeps rolling for productivity and saftey of everyone.


Paragraph 2 is the one after the first paragraph break. You know, the first one written by me rather than you.

[Well, you said para 2 of what you wrote. That was at best ambiguous. Anyway, "property is defined by governments and disputes are settled by courts" is partially correct. Disputes are settled by the courts, when they cannot be settled by mutual agreement. And the aim is to avoid "surprising" court decisions; the law should reflect reasonable expectations. This is part of the preference for case / common law rather than "designed" law. Many of the most contentious cases here, generally involving "human rights law" are where people's apparently reasonable expectations are violated by interpretation of designed law.

It isn't clear why restrictions on wealth are needed to prevent it controlling govt and courts, off in the Libertarian paradise. Of course in the current hideous setup we have controls are necessary because pols meddle so much, supported by the Nice People. For example, we in the UK currently have the govt telling train companies to ban first class seats. The answer to that should be "f*ck off and stop micro-managing the economy". You have endless pork-barrel politics. The answer is not to further micro-manage and regulate the pork barrelling, but to get rid of it -W]

So you don't see how wealth leads to power and power leads to wealth.

[See my response to CIP -W]

Want better coach seats for the majority of people? Ban First Class.

[Indeed, yours is a typical reaction. My answer is no: I do not want the govt micromanaging the economy. If train companies retain first class because it is profitable for them to do so, then they are reacting to the will of their passengers, and that is fine; there is no cause for intervention -W]

By Phil Hays (not verified) on 22 Jul 2017 #permalink

Li D:

What you describe is far from what I have seen in an "accountability" framework - i.e., I have empirical evidence that what you describe is not true in all cases.What I have seen done in the name of accountability is vastly increased oversight. People are not allowed to just do their jobs, because everyone has to defer decision-making authority to a rule or someone further up the food chain (or in a completely different branch of the hierarchy).

In the plumber example, somewhere there is a plumber that if he knows he will never be inspected, he will cut corners and do a sub-standard job. As long as the cheque is cashed long before anyone notices, he's content. He'll be well-employed as long as plumbers are in high demand and builders can still sell the houses he works on.

Some oversight is required (hello, building inspector), but "increasing" accountability by having every job by every plumber inspected twice, and having every inspector inspected by the senior inspector on every job is not at all efficient.

Zero inspections is bad (someone will cheat); inspecting everything is bad (inefficient, extra costs). Somewhere there is a balance. We'll always have cheats. Any inspections increase overhead and cost. Any cheat eventually costs someone something. The goal is to accept some inefficiency to reduce the risk of cheating, but the risk cannot be eliminated. Trying to eliminate all risk of cheating by increasing the accountability created by even more inspections will inevitably choke the system.

We can argue about what the appropriate level of inefficiency is (oversight), but to pretend none is necessary or present is unrealistic.

By Bob Loblaw (not verified) on 22 Jul 2017 #permalink

" pols meddle so much, supported by the Nice People"

From my view, pols in the US are not supported by the "nice people". They are supported by the unlimited financial contributions from corporations controlled by a very small segment of the population.

[You're misread me, which is a shame, as this is what this thread is all about. Nice People support pols meddling. This is a constant problem. Nice people know that they are Nice, and that the world could be made better if only people would do what the Nice People want. They find, to their regret, that convincing the Nasty People of their Excellent Ideas just doesn't work somehow, and is anyway far too messy and time consuming. So the like the idea of Gummit imposing Good Ideas by fiat, and recoil in horror from limited govt and people being left in liberty, except insofar as their actions affect others -W]

Those financial contributions are needed to run campaigns to get nominated to run for elected office. The "nice people" then get to choose from the very small group of individuals that had enough financial backing to make it onto the ballot.

The individuals that get elected are the ones that manage to walk the tightrope between appearing to act in the interest of the "nice people" and making sure the financial backers are still happy.

By Bob Loblaw (not verified) on 22 Jul 2017 #permalink

>>It isn’t clear why restrictions on wealth are needed to prevent it controlling govt and courts, off in the Libertarian paradise.

Restrictions on the use of wealth are what's necessary to avoid wealth from controlling courts and government, as we have very clearly seen in the US, where big money often picks candidates and judges.

[This is where I think you're logically in error. You're seeing real deficiencies in the current system. And yet you reject the most obvious solution: make these people less useful to buy. Somehow, although you know money can buy pols and (you surely must expect) always will, you're still in favour of giving pols lots of meddle power -W]

Six thousand years of history show that wealth has nearly always dictated the laws and how they are applied. Wealth has both motive and opportunity to control the law, and the world's most important libertarians, the Koch brothers, have used that control to steal, poison, and even kill with near impunity, as documented in the book Dark Money, and elsewhere.

[Wealth isn't just money to buy fancy toys; it's also a proxy for control. How could it be otherwise? One-person-one-vote doesn't alter that. The solution your founding fathers had, but you seem to reject, is to minimise the power of govt, they having seen what over-mighty govt does and disliked it -W]

There is a workers paradise in socialist mythology, and I suspect, some kind of entrepreneurial paradise in somewhere in libertarian mythology, probably ruled by that psychopath John Galt.

Both are bullshit.

You’re misread me, which is a shame,

Well, at this point I have no idea what your definition of "Nice People" is, then. It sounds like it's anybody that wants government to take an action you don't like, but I'm probably misreading you on that, too.

[Oh, I mean all the nice left-wing people you meet at dinner parties, socially, your friends on fb. Those kinds of people -W]

By Bob Loblaw (not verified) on 22 Jul 2017 #permalink

"make these people less useful to buy"

The problem with the US system isn't that the pols gain personal benefit (although I'm sure some do) - it's that private corporations can spend as much as they want on campaign financing and third-party advertising. They buy the system, not the individuals. By owning the system, they exert control over who gets in the door - no need to buy them.

[They can buy individuals; and those individuals can over time change the system. Your preferred solution is to limit the money spent to buy individuals; mine is a system that gives those bought less power -W]

Rather than limiting what the government can do, you can limit how much pols can spend to get nominated/elected and how much individuals, corporations, unions, etc. can contribute individually. Seems to help in other countries, which don't reach the US level of dysfunctionality.

[Errm, yes. I am in fact aware that there is more than one approach to the problem -W]

...and the current US system favours pols that create legislation that benefits the corporations that fund them (e.g. gas and oil) rather than the individuals. Read up on ALEC.

I'm sure nobody here is in favour of eliminating government altogether and living in a world free of any legislation at all. Even if you get rid of the entire Executive branch, you still need a Legislative branch.

[Indeed; that seems so obvious that I'm surprised you bother mention it -W]

By Bob Loblaw (not verified) on 22 Jul 2017 #permalink

If you would like some clue as to what the real beef of the American colonists was, you should try reading the Declaration of Independence. The first several specifics relate to the King's interference with the colonies attempts to pass and enforce laws to regulate commerce and safety.

Government in those days was a tiny fraction of the economic size it has today, and nowhere does that document complain about big government. The colonists were annoyed by the King's refusal to let them pass their own laws.

[Errm, have you actually read the thing you're pointing me at? It doesn't literally use the phrase big govt, of course, but it quite clearly complains of a "design to reduce them under absolute Despotism" and a "direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny". Anyway, you're looking in the wrong place. You want you constitution -W]

If you knew anything about the history of the American Constitution, you would know that it substantially strengthened the central government, in response to the ineffectiveness of the previous Articles of Confederation. I notice that, quite characteristically, you decline to address my comments about the specifics I mention of the Declaration of Independence, which, by the way demonstrate that I have read beyond the first paragraph, and instead blow smoke and change the subject.

[I have addressed your comments, by pointing out the bits about despotism, etc. Your assertion that the only piece worth mentioning is their desire to add laws is clearly wrong, as those quotes demonstrate -W]

> The solution your founding fathers had, but you seem
> to reject, is to minimise the power of govt

Funny they didn't offer the British East India Company US citizenship. Why was that?

[Why would they? The East India company (a) was owned from England and (b) traded with India. Is this some kind of reference to "corporate personhood"? -W]

By Hank Roberts (not verified) on 23 Jul 2017 #permalink

"offer the British East India Company US citizenship."

If I understood that, I suspect I'd like it.


Is a big government intrinsically powerful by definition? What about one that is big in order to keep power to a minimum?

[This is a reasonable question, and/or attempt at clarification and definition. I can easily see a big but weak govt; that one would not be powerful by design, but simply by being inefficient. Arguably, the US govt is in that state now to some extent: Obama never got any "shovel ready" projects off the ground due to the inordinate amount of time and permits required to get anything started. One that was big but weak because designed to keep chasing its tail to minimise its own power might in theory be possible, but seems terribly wasteful, and all too likely to end up interferring with the citizenry rather than itself -W]

By Russell the Stout (not verified) on 23 Jul 2017 #permalink

The British East India Company, and it's siblings, like Leopold's Belgian Free State, are poster children for what weak government can do: create corporations that have armies, fight wars, murder millions and enslave tens of millions.

You've got nothing Connolley, so blow us some more smoke.

[Does that address Hank's comment re citizenship, or my reply? If so, I don't see the connection. Could you amplify -W]

A bicameral house is bigger than a unicameral one, and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and the Government Accountability office could be eliminated, making the U.S. government smaller. I suppose I could wish for greater efficiency in them (and I do) but I see no reason to suppose they are so badly run as to eliminate.

[Size-of-govt refers to more than just the number of people in the "legislature". It also refers to stuff like fraction of GDP passing through govt; or areas that laws / regs touch -W]

By Russell the Stout (not verified) on 23 Jul 2017 #permalink

I'm on my second history in a row on the British East India Company. I suppose they can be a legal person - as soon as Texas executes one their clade.

On the right wing lies and myths about Obama-era infrastructure spending:…

[That one's primary defence seems to be "The stimulus was not primarily an infrastructure bill" which is entirely compatible with my point. The secondary seems to be "the Recovery Act helped push to completion the $1 billion DFW Connector highway in Dallas-Fort Worth" so again, I'm not sure that helps you. Dupe removed -W]

By Russell the Stout (not verified) on 23 Jul 2017 #permalink

(...on not eliminating government completely...)

"[Indeed; that seems so obvious that I’m surprised you bother mention it -W]"

Why mention it? Because hearing a repeated mantra of "we need less government" is tiring when one recognizes the consequences of thinking less government is always better - if that were true, then the best system is no government at all.

[You have misunderstood. On many levels. Firstly, the desire for less govt starts from the current base - and so indicates a desired direction of travel from now. You are wrong to think that it alone implies an eternal desire for less govt. But secondly, yes, govt is indeed an undesireable thing in itself; it would indeed be better if we could do without it. But we can't; AFAIK everyone accepts that -W]

As nobody holds that position, then "we need less government" can't be a solution to every problem related to government. Therefore, if one wants to make the case that "we need less government" in a specific situation, or for a particular limited definition and case of "less government", then one should actually make a more specific argument.

Just repeating "we need less government" starts to look like ideology, not reason. And government run by ideology rather than reason is something I definitely agree we need less of.

By Bob Loblaw (not verified) on 23 Jul 2017 #permalink

BL writes: “we need less government” can’t be a solution to every problem related to government.

Yes, and the corollary is the equally stupid "we know better at the state level than the federal gov't" (or the county level vs state; or the city level vs county; or the township level vs city; etc). If this were true then obviously the best control of any situation would be the individual level. I know better what speed to drive, what building codes I should adhere to, what pesticides to use, ...... than any bureaucrat.

Basically all of libertarianism is built on similar worthless memes.

By Kevin ONeill (not verified) on 23 Jul 2017 #permalink

“we know better at the state level..."

I have actually seen that portion argued at the provincial level (rough Canadian equivalent) to the extent that "we know better at the provincial level" was used to argue for less central federal power (because centralization is bad), and for less local/municipal power (because Mother Knows Best).

It basically becomes an ideology of "power is good in my hands, and bad everywhere else".

By Bob Loblaw (not verified) on 23 Jul 2017 #permalink

One reason I see size-of-government arguments as somewhat exasperating is, when I worked for private industry and later interfacing with the government, I saw about the same number of people who claimed the corporation had effectively unlimited pockets for them to waste and plunder, as I saw in government employees who claimed the government had effectively unlimited pockets for them to waste and plunder.

By Russell the Stout (not verified) on 23 Jul 2017 #permalink

>>Could you amplify ---

I'm not addressing either of your comments.

[Ah. Well, no wonder it was hard to understand you -W]

I am merely pointing out that the BEIC and similar organizations are what happen when governments won't regulate.

[Nooo... I don't think you can draw that conclusion. The EIC was a thing of it's time; a time when the Rule of Law out East was weak - as far as the English were concerned. You are too careless with your conclusions -W]

Other powers, corporations or other, seize power and use it ruthlessly, because they don't answer to voters, they only answer to wealth.

Not your libertarian paradise of something or other, but rule by untrammeled greed and ruthlessness.

How exactly does one measure the size of a government, or the quantity of regulations? What units are these concepts quantified in?

[Most quantifications, rather than complaints about it being too big, are in terms of GDP-passing-through-govt. It has the advantage of being a definite and easily understood number, and the disadvantage of not really noticing the regulation-type issues -W]

>>Rule of Law out East was weak ...

Rule of Law is regulation by government. Weak regulation meant that the government ceded power to a corporation. That's precisely what Libertarians advocate.

[I'm not sure if you're aware of the law / regulation distinction. Rule of Law is not regulation by govt; it is law-by-govt-enforced by the civil sword. Using the wrong words is confusing in conversation, and I think is confusing your thoughts -W]

[Belated addition: and re the Founding fathers, you might care to read -W]

"You have misunderstood. On many levels. Firstly, the desire for less govt starts from the current base – and so indicates a desired direction of travel from now. You are wrong to think that it alone implies an eternal desire for less govt."

Well, you're going to have to narrow it down a bit if you want to make an argument. Leaving your statement as-is implies that "less government" applies to every current government, everywhere, by every measure of government size and every government activity. Restricting it to just the ones we have now doesn't really narrow the field by much.

"govt is indeed an undesireable thing in itself; it would indeed be better if we could do without it. But we can’t"

Do you want to re-word that?

[No -W]

" better if we could do without it" sure looks an awful lot like an eternal desire for less government to me. And the admission that we can't do without it sounds an awful lot like you're saying that it would be better if we didn't have it, but at the same time it's better that we have it ("necessary"). If having government is necessary, then why is having government undesirable?

[Are you really that naive? There's a whole pile of literature on this subject, of which the most obvious is Hobbes (no, I'm not claiming that he is correct in all things, but if you don't even know his views you're going to be rather lost in a conversation like this). People desire their desires, as you almost say below. Those desires conflict with other people's desires. It would be best if those conflicts didn't occur, or if people could resolve them amongst themselves without outside intervention. But we observe that doesn't work -W]

Personally, I have a rather strong desire for things that I need.

By Bob Loblaw (not verified) on 24 Jul 2017 #permalink

"I’m not sure if you’re aware of the law / regulation distinction."

Where I live, regulations are only possible if there is a law that grants the authority to the Minister (and therefore his/her department) to create regulations. The sort of regulations that can be created, and the factors that must be considered (or may be) need to be specified in law. Regulations don't come out of nowhere - they are subject to Parliament delegating the authority.

What distinction are you thinking of?

[An important one; see for example… -W]

By Bob Loblaw (not verified) on 24 Jul 2017 #permalink

“Your preferred solution is to limit the money spent to buy individuals; mine is a system that gives those bought less power” – W

As stated, one solution is get money out of politics (see Lawrence Lessig – Republic Lost for an example[1]). But you don’t seem too interested in even thinking about the merits of that position. You want to use this problem to push your pet interest – less gov’t.

[Or, turned around: "one solution is to avoid restrictions on freedom. But you don’t seem too interested in even thinking about the merits of that position. You want to use this problem to push your pet interest – more regulation" -W]

Your solution is to make government less powerful so there’s less incentive for corporate interests to buy them. Make government less powerful is rather vague but specificity is only required for others, so let’s ignore that for now.

[No, that's a bad idea, because the aspects of "less powerful" is important. It doesn't refer to a general weakening of all the govt's powers. It refers instead to restrictions, in the case of the US via the constitution, of what the govt is able to do -W]

The obvious question is what fills the power vacuum left by a less-powerful government? You seem to feel that it, by default, is individual interests (…well more like individualist interests). I’m not so sure.

[There isn't necessarily a power vacuum. See previous bit -W]

In a less regulated market, with less influence by a now less powerful government, you would have fewer or weaker anti-monopoly laws/regulations, environmental protection laws/regulations, consumer protection laws/regulations, labour laws/regulations – which shifts power to corporations and (further) away from individual interests.

[Not necessarily. For example, given the choice, I would abolish all our worker-protection laws. Because they are against my individual self-interest. Because they make it harder to hire and fire workers. Assuming those laws act only in the corporate interest is entirely wrong -W]

Oh but the (now freer) market will sort all that out you say? Would you care to give an example were a less powerful government and less regulated market resulted in a benefit to the people?

[I just have, above -W]

I’ve already given you a counter example[2], which you seemed to ignore it, but I’ll try again – countries that focus on imposing non-libertarian friendly social welfare measures (that expand the power of government) have higher levels of social mobility[3] (and happiness[4] and lower levels of inequality[5]).

[I admit that shows a ranking. I admit that Norway is on top of it; I can't see you demonstrating the connection with your favourite policies -W]

Now, we should be clear on one thing. You get flustered

[If we're being clear, can we also be accurate? My experience of listening to politicians on teh radio is that "I have been perfectly clear about X..." invariably means "I have lied about X". So no; your characterisation is wrong. Would you care to try again? -W]

when people mistake your position to be “all regulations are bad!” Equally, many of us get flustered when people mistake our position to be “all regulations are good!” Regulations are an imperfect solution to an imperfect system filled with imperfect people. The question is really what’s less bad – an imperfect government creating imperfect regulations to help imperfect people or limiting and weakening an imperfect government because their regulations are imperfect? What I’ve referenced seems to suggest the former and I see little from you, other than “but Hayek!”, that suggests the latter.

[As you say, in the real world we have a choice of imperfect govts. I wish to move govt in a direction that I think would be better; towards less of it. You want more of it. For some reason imcomprehensible to me you seem to expect me to accept your position, as though I hadn't actually thought about mine -W]

[1] or

"I would abolish all our worker-protection laws. Because they are against my individual self-interest... they make it harder to hire and fire workers."

This is probably (marginally) true as a white middle-aged oxbridge male. Any checks on your privileged position may not benefit you. However, dont you think you've already had enough silver spoons? And, arguably, not having your spouse sacked during maternity leave does indirectly benefit you anyway.

Before worker protections (say the 1950s) there were no checks against our cognitive biases (e.g. against females and ethnic minorities). Why would we (i.e. anyone those except your class) want a return to that level of unchecked misogyny?

Your marginal increase in privilege, is my loss of my job and house. I gotta keep up with those mortgage payments - or I lose it all. Why would you want to do that to me - and all my non-white non-male non-hetero friends?

[I don't think that is true; you're assuming employers are stupid -W]

Look up cognitive biases. They are a real thing. (You can try a test to prove it to yourself - even you have biases - shock horror!)

As is misogyny a real thing.

Interestingly non-white non-male non-heteros tend to suffer just as strongly from the key cognitive biases. (As in, we all also mostly think white oxbridge males are automatically better, despite substantial evidence to the contrary :-).

So cognitive biases don't make people stupid. It just makes them people. And not rational when it comes to hiring, firing, and promoting.

[Yes, I agree. People have biases. The question is how to deal with that. You can bludgeon, or you can persuade -W]

Persuading can work.. but not everyone sees the point in being persuaded. Why would they when it isn't in their interest (see #59 - not in your - but in my - interest comment)?

You want to fire me coz i don't look or sound right. But i don't want to be fired for those reasons. So i want a protection so that your unconcious biases are kept in check.

It might even be in your organisations best interest, given that i am actually very good. But you neither see nor hear that, coz my accent, university, look etc is wrong..

If it's easier to think of it this way... maybe you could be persuaded of my merit, but perhaps your lesser colleague could not. He would never be able to see someone not in his image as a worthy successor to his position. So he would need to be regulated.

The regulation should ensure that his unconcious biases did not always get the better of him. And thus harm me. And your company. And the national economy. And so on.

Basically i like my worker protections, coz i need them. They are important (to me). Tell me again why i shouldn't have them, please?

[As usual (I mean, as usual amongst those like you who refuse to think about removing these protections), you see them as one sided; as gains only. But they aren't; like most things, there are two sides. The loss is all the people who don't get jobs because employers fear to hire people who may prove hard to sack; refer to France if you doubt this -W]

If you mean worker protections = less jobs, I'd much rather the uncertain (and likely low) risk of one less job in the pool i can apply for versus the (almost certain) risk of being (legally) discriminated against. In my experience, everyday bias is a much bigger problem than the apparently much lesser risk that these regulations makes companies hire a little slower.

If you mean i just wont get hired to that advertised position, then it is also illegal to not hire because of your biases e.g. potential future maternity leavers must be treated fairly. So the current protections do make it possible to sue a company that discriminated against you when hiring. I also like this.

"Are you really that naive?"

Not naive enough. it seems. Your choice of words leaves enough ambiguity that its really hard to distinguish what you really mean to say. No government would be best, if we could work things out, but we can't, so something else (government) is better, even though it's bad.

By Bob Loblaw (not verified) on 25 Jul 2017 #permalink

[An important one; see for example… -W]

An old thread, but I do vaguely remember reading it. I presume the distinction you are talking about is the one where you give the example "notice how Hobbes does not distinguish between law-in-general (“thou shalt not kill” for example) and law-as-regulation (“go build a bridge over this ravine”)"

Alas, this is not the distinction between the two that I am used to. My take on it is illustrated by an example from the Canadian Fisheries Act:

"32. No person shall destroy fish by any means other than fishing except as authorized by the Minister or under regulations made by the Governor in Council under this Act".

The Act (passed by Parliament) grants authority to the Minister and the Governor in Council to allow the destruction of fish by other means, as long as they do it (create the regulation) in the manner specified in the Act. They don't need to go back to Parliament to amend the Act itself.

In this case, it's not the type of restriction/permission, it's the means by which it is created that makes it a regulation rather than an Act (writ large).

By Bob Loblaw (not verified) on 25 Jul 2017 #permalink

As for worker protection laws, I really hope that you are only talking about hiring, firing, etc. rather than what you've called "'elfin safety" stuff in the past.

...but as someone that once worked for an abusive, irrational boss who thought it was appropriate to threaten to fire me when he lost his temper over his own bad choices, I"m afraid that I think some worker protection is quite reasonable. If all bosses were sane and rational, we could do without it - but they aren't and we can't. Sort of like government.

[At work, the "ideal" in some sense is a constant balance between you wanting to leave because they don't pay you enough (in the sense that someone else would pay you more) and them wanting to sack you because they pay you too much (in the sense that they could get someone else to do it for less). And "pay", in this sense, includes conditions. If you're prepared to work for an irrational boss because the pay is better than elsewhere, then you should have that choice. If he wants to fire you, he should have the choice -W]

By Bob Loblaw (not verified) on 25 Jul 2017 #permalink

I like Duncs query at #54.

If you’re prepared to work for an irrational boss because the pay is better than elsewhere, then you should have that choice. If he wants to fire you, he should have the choice -W

You're making a very big assumption here - that the employee working for the horrible boss has the ability to walk out. It isn't always possible to get a new job and leave an old one. I know from personal experience.

[Well... how close to the knuckle to get? In almost all parts of The West it is possible to get another job. Just not one you like. Sufficiently so that on balance you might prefer to remain with an irrational boss. That's your choice -W]

By Julian Frost (not verified) on 26 Jul 2017 #permalink

I have cancer. My health insurance is through my employer. I do not live in a Medicaid expansion state. I have not put in a full week of work this year. And have not worked for 5 of the last 8 months.

Yeah, I think I'll quit my job.

By Kevin ONeill (not verified) on 26 Jul 2017 #permalink

Re: the horrible irrational boss; why not force him out via you-cant-abuse-your-workers protections? It would seem everyone benefits from this. Quite arguably even the boss, since he isn't suited for the position.

Worker protections tend to work for the majority.

Perhaps if unemployment in the UK, US, and Germany weren't at a multi decadal low there might be an argument that protections were too strong. But that isn't the case.

" If he wants to fire you, he should have the choice"

Well, he didn't really want to fire me. As I said, it was a threat, not a plan. And I was in a temporary position where if he wanted to get rid of me, all he had to do was say the work was no longer needed. I pointed that out and offered to clean out my desk by the end of the day. I don't think he expected me to call his bluff.

Of course, in any moderate-sized organization, the number of people granted authority to hire is limited, and with that goes the authority to fire, too. Hiring and firing costs money, so not every employee is allowed to do it. So, he would have had to convince someone else (his boss, or his boss's boss, etc.) it was the correct action. I would have had potential to file harassment charges of some sort (and considered it), but that isn't free either (from a sanity/stress position).

Eventually, I was moved from temporary to more-or-less permanent, but the abuse continued. I eventually did get another job, but I had to move to another city to do it. There is a cost to these kinds of things.

...and for sure, the abusive irrational boss would have been hard to fire. The manager that originally hired him tried to control him at one point, and senior management just transferred him to report to a different manager. The original manager once said to me "the biggest mistake I ever made in my entire career was to hire that son-of-a-bitch."

...but this wanders far off-topic.

By Bob Loblaw (not verified) on 26 Jul 2017 #permalink

Everyone who is not a deontological libertarian is a consequentialist libertarian. We all want the maximum liberty compatible with our other values. For most of us, though, liberty is a means to other ends. Wealth accumulation, for example.

Charles Koch encourages people to think of him as Libertarian. He told a while back:

The goal has always been, Charles says, "true democracy," where people "can run their own lives and choose what they want to buy, choose how to spend their money."

He would say that, wouldn't he? Charles Koch and his brother David currently control about $100 billion between them. That's largely due to the 'freedom', afforded to generations of the Koch family and a few others by the US government and the 'free' global energy market, to privatize the benefits of the energy in fossil carbon while socializing the climate-change costs.

One couldn't say (truthfully, that is) that Charles Koch's 'libertarian' principles have cost him much.

By Mal Adapted (not verified) on 26 Jul 2017 #permalink

In almost all parts of The West it is possible to get another job. Just not one you like.

Or one you're qualified for.
Several years ago, after the subprime crisis, there was an interesting story. A zoo hiring workers received literally hundreds of CVs from former financial sector employees who were looking for jobs. Sometimes fields contract suddenly.
I'm a certified Software Test Analyst and have been working as one for my entire career. Almost every well-paying job requires some sort of qualification. If I wanted to become, say, a Business Analyst or Systems Analyst, I would have to undergo retraining that could last anywhere from 6 months to 3 years. I may not have the time or money to study, so I would not be able to leave a bad job.

[Sorry. personal circumstances aside, which may be hard to put aside, looking for a job that matches the level of your qualifications is "one you like". You may be forced to settle for less congenial and less well paid employment, if that's all that is on offer -W]

By Julian Frost (not verified) on 27 Jul 2017 #permalink