URLs du Jour

2008-01-28

  • As mentioned yesterday, it's an open question whether John McCain is "well versed in economics", especially in John McCain's own mind. But Greg Mankiw has a favorable opinion of one of his tax ideas.

  • Senator McCain gets our grudging respect for at least sometimes admitting that he's not an economics whiz. And he also deserves mention for not getting sucked into the mad bipartisan rush for the "fiscal stimulus" package in DC.

    McCain's "stimulus" plan is here; there's only one item that might be fairly deemed a "gimmick" (the R&D tax credit).

  • Meanwhile the aforementioned Professor Mankiw gives his view on the "fiscal stimulus".
    In this environment, I would prefer to rely on monetary policy as the main source of macroeconomic stimulus. If there were a stronger case for a short-run demand-oriented fiscal stimulus, I would view the compromise package announced today as reasonable. But given where the economy is right now and the best forecasts of where it is heading, the fiscal package seems unnecessary as a short-run measure, while in the long run adding to the debt burden without doing anything to improve incentives for economic growth.
    I've only taken one course in economics, and it was over thirty years ago, and I didn't do that well, but even I can translate this from the Harvardese: it's a stupid idea.

  • Prof Mankiw also has a post with eleven—count 'em, eleven—links to other economists and pundits who agree with his negative assessment.

  • To round it to an even dozen, I'll throw in Steve Chapman. His opening:
    Washington, D.C. is a place where delusions go to thrive. That explains why Congress and the president are now agreed on remedies that will not work, expending money they do not have, to fix a problem that may not exist.

  • You will, of course, want to read a new Dave Barry column on the presidential race as it leads up to Florida's primary tomorrow. Sample:
    THE DEMOCRATIC RACE: It's down to Obama vs. Clinton, and it's getting nasty. They hate each other, with the kind of passionate hatred that you see only between two people who hold essentially the same positions on everything. Edwards is still running, but at this point they don't even bother to put a microphone on him for the debates. He just waves his arms to indicate how he's going to take on the big corporations.

  • But, speaking of passionate hatred, you might want to check out this broken-bottle fight between two groups I usually find myself in agreement with:

    • First, this Weekly Standard article from McCain supporters Benjamin Storey and Jenna Silber Storey, in which they defend the Senator against the libertarian charges that detail his "departures from strict free-market ideology." Basically, the defense is: so what?
      The moral vacuity of dogmatic libertarianism is poisonous to public life. By teaching that 'greed is good,' strict free-market ideology holds out the promise that private vices can be public virtues. Recent congressional history has laid bare the fallacy of this argument. Republicans who proclaimed from the stump that greed was good turned out to believe it when they got into office, amassing earmarks and bridges to nowhere by means of their newfound powers. Why should we be surprised? To expect them to do otherwise would be to expect that men sometimes risk their self-interest for the sake of the public good, which our economist friends tell us is impossible. Conservatives who forget that the free market is properly a piece of policy rather than an ideological end-in-itself not only obscure the importance of individual virtue, they undermine it.

    • Oooh! Libertarian Will Wilkinson couldn't resist picking up that gauntlet.
      I am more and more coming to the conclusion that National Greatness Conservatism, like all quasi-fascist movements, is based on a weird romantic teenager's fantasies about what it means to be a grown up. The fundamental moral decency of liberal individualism seems, to the unserious mind that thinks itself serious, completely insipid next to very exciting big boy ideas about shared struggle, sacrifice, duty, glory, virtue, and (most of all) power. And reading Aristotle in Greek.

      I sometimes think that liberal individualism is something like the intellectual and moral equivalent of the best modernist design — spare, elegant, functional — but hard to grasp or truly appreciate without a cultivated sense of style, without a little discerning maturity. National Greatness Conservatism is like a grotesque wood-paneled den stuffed with animal heads, mounted swords, garish carpets, and a giant roaring fire. Only the most vulgar tuck in next to that fire, light a fat cigar, and think they've really got it all figured out. But I'm afraid that's pretty much the kind of thing you get at the Committee on Social Thought. If you declaim the importance of virtue loudly enough, you don't have to actually think.

    • Oooh! Ross Douthat can't resist dealing with that metaphor.
      Allowing for a certain amount of deck-stacking on Will's part (I'd prefer that the carpets not be too garish, obviously, and I don't care much for taxidermy), the den with the roaring fire sounds awfully homey and appealing, while even "the best modernist design" often seems to me essentially chilly and faintly inhuman, and thus better admired from afar than actually inhabited. As Will says, this preference almost certainly reflects my lack of "discerning maturity" and my failure to "cultivate" my sense of style. There is, though, the vanishingly small possibility that certain forms of modernist design, like the stringent libertarianism that Will compares them to, emerge from an impatience with, well, actual human beings — with their abiding messiness and irrationality, with their particularist loyalties and romantic attachments and juvenile yearnings for solidarity, for heroism, for transcendence. Rational, mature beings, after all, would be perfectly happy living in the spare, elegant functionality of, say, an enormous housing project; only reactionaries and adolescents would cling to the clutter and disorder and, yes, the outright tastelessness of the old ethnic neighborhoods, where worse monstrosities than wood-paneled dens abounded.

    Fun argument. As usual in these conservative/libertarian disputes, I find myself nodding in agreement with the last thing I read, even if it's totally at odds with the previous thing I read. Anyway, if you're interested in that sort of thing, check out the posts; I think it's a lot more fun than listening to, say, the State of the Union Address.

  • Finally, you'll want to check out the album collection generated by the algorithm we used here. (Via the Agitator.)

Once

[Amazon Link] [4.0
stars] [IMDb Link]

I'm supposed to be immune to this multi-cultural junk, but … this is a sweet story of a brief relationship between an Irish street musician, and a young Czech woman. They're drawn together by their love of music, and the fact that he's also a vacuum repairman, and she has a broken vacuum.

Well, it's not quite that simple, but almost. Part of the charm is that both remain unnamed through the movie (they are "Guy" and "Girl" in the credits). And they both have Significant Others in the background; he's just broken up with a girlfriend who's in London, and she's got a kid and an absent husband. It's gently funny in the right places.

All in all, not a bad "chick flick" movie.


Last Modified 2012-10-15 10:53 AM EST