URLs du Jour

2019-01-31

[Amazon Link]

In a word: Brr.

  • At National Review, Kevin D. Williamson points out that Economic Inequality Helps Drive Growth.

    There are two theories about why hurting the wealthy would help everybody else. The first is the economically illiterate zero-sum proposition that there exists in the world a bucket marked “Income” and that some force in society — some combination of government, Chamber of Commerce, and that little Monopoly guy in the top hat and monocle — goes around ladling out income while the world’s workers and investors gaze up at them pleadingly like so many hatchlings with their beaks agape. That is not how wealth works. Jeff Bezos did not become the world’s wealthiest man by going around and picking people’s pockets a nickel at a time; he and his colleagues created something in Amazon, something that has real value. If they hadn’t done so, the thing that they created simply would not exist. The sum of good things in the world grows greater through economic production; it is not simply a shifting of resources, taking a coin out of one pocket and putting it in another. This is another occasion upon which to be mindful of the paradise of the real. Money is just a record-keeping system only indirectly related to the vast bounty of actual goods and services, which is why a middle-class American in 2019 eats better than Louis XVI and sleeps in more comfortable quarters than did Marie Antoinette or Akbar.

    If the rich were radically less rich, the poor and the middle class would, at best, still be where they are. In some ways, they’d almost certainly be worse off: A disproportionate share of U.S. economic growth, wage growth, and employment growth has been driven by a relatively small number of startup companies. As Vivek Wadhwa of Harvard’s Labor and Worklife Program put it: “Without startups, there would be no net job growth in the U.S. economy.” Technology startups are driven by venture capital, and venture capital is a rich man’s game. The “PayPal mafia” — the group of young entrepreneurs who got rich from that startup — went on to form Tesla, LinkedIn, Palantir, SpaceX, Yelp, YouTube, and others. Their investments helped build Facebook, Spotify, Lyft, and Airbnb, among others. Startup-heavy California has 12 percent of the U.S. population but accounts for 16 percent of its job growth and 14.2 percent of its economic output. Nobody wants to hear it, but inequality is part of what makes that happen.

    The other argument: the rich have a disproportionate share of political power. Click through for why KDW says: "There is a little something to that, but less than you might think."


  • Daniel J. Mitchell looks at the latest Budget and Economic Outlook issued by the Congressional Budget Office. And, as is his wont, he points out that the New CBO Numbers Confirm that Modest Spending Restraint Is the Ideal Way of Balancing the Budget.

    […] the first thing to understand when contemplating how to fix America’s fiscal problems is that tax revenues, according to the new CBO numbers, are going to increase by an average of nearly 5 percent annually over the next 10 years. And that means receipts will be more than $2.1 trillion higher in 2029 than they are in 2019.

    And since this year’s deficit is projected to be “only” $897 billion, that presumably means that it shouldn’t be that difficult to balance the budget.

    And mathematically, it's not. Daniel shows that if spending increases by 1% annually, the budget would balance by 2026. Too draconian? Increasing spending by 2% annually, and the budget balances in 2027, a year later. And a 2.5% annual spending increase gets you to balance in 2029.

    Gotcha: this includes cutting back on the growth of entitlements. So balancing the budget is mathematically easy, but politically… I don't know. Impossible or just unlikely?


  • Megan McArdle at the WaPo: Elizabeth Warren’s wealth tax is no way to run government — but a good way to run a campaign.

    There are three things to note about Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s proposed wealth tax. The first is that it won’t do what she promises. The second is that it won’t happen. And the third is that both of those cavils are almost beside the point.

    The Massachusetts Democrat wants to tax fortunes greater than $50 million at a rate of 2 percent of assets a year, with billionaires kicking in an additional 1 percent. Economists Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman estimate that the tax would raise $2.75 trillion over 10 years, all from people most voters don’t like very well.

    Click through for the details, but Megan's bottom line is that Warren's proposal is political theater, boob bait for the Progressive bubbas.


  • Bryan Caplan looks at Venezuela and reminds us that it's only A Short Hop from Bleeding Heart to Mailed Fist. Among his observations:

    5. Bleeding-heart rhetoric is disguised hate speech.  When activists blame the bourgeoisie for causing hunger, disease, and illiteracy, perhaps their main concern isn’t actually alleviating hunger, disease, or illiteracy.  While they’d like these problems to disappear, the bleeding hearts’ top priority could be making the bourgeoisie suffer.  The mailed fist systematizes that suffering.

    It’s tempting to dismiss this story as cartoonish, but it’s more plausible than you think.  Human beings often resent first – and rationalize said resentment later.  They’re also loathe to admit this ugly fact.  Actions, however, speak louder than words.  People like Chavez and Maduro can accept their failure to help the poor, but not their failure to crush their hated enemies.

    For some reason, I thought it appropriate to put this after the links to Kevin, Daniel, and Megan.


  • In the City Journal, Kay S. Hymowitz takes aim at the tedious campaign against dudes. And says: What’s Really Toxic Is “Toxic Masculinity”.

    To understand fully why the “toxic masculinity” concept is pernicious and not, as proponents would have us think, a helpful corrective to male malfeasance, consider that it is based on several related and erroneous premises. The first is a Blank Slate theory of sexual identity, the idea that men and women have no inborn preferences, interests, and urges that might reveal themselves in different kinds of behavior. Instead, it’s society—or, rather, patriarchy—that writes instructions on the human tabula rasa about the right way to be female or male. Those rules are designed for the benefit of the powerful, namely white males, and are completely separate from biology. 

    The Blank Slate theory then leads to a second error. To explain why men are in fact more likely to, say, assault their landlord or, less dramatically, to stare at a woman’s breasts without allowing for innate tendencies, blank slatists have to paint a garishly degraded picture of American society and its supposedly pathological gender norms. Only toxic elders passing on the rules of a vicious, woman-hating society can account for the existence of rapists, cat-callers, bullies—and those Covington Catholic boys.  

    Take it from the horse's mouth: guys can be jerks, and worse. And (fine) attribute that to "masculinity" if you want.

    But "masculinity" is also what caused Benjamin Keefe Clark to help a woman in a wheelchair on the 78th floor of the south tower of the World Trade Center. Something to think about.