A Libertarian Moment?

Recent polls seem to indicate a shift in public opinion in a more libertarian direction.

Nate Silver, the resident poll number-cruncher at The New York Times, takes a look at a recent CNN poll and senses a shift in public opinion toward a more libertarian point of view:

Libertarianism has been touted as the wave of America’s political future for many years, generally with more enthusiasm than evidence. But there are some tangible signs that Americans’ attitudes are in fact moving in that direction.

Since 1993, CNN has regularly asked a pair of questions that touch on libertarian views of the economy and society:

Some people think the government is trying to do too many things that should be left to individuals and businesses. Others think that government should do more to solve our country’s problems. Which comes closer to your own view?

Some people think the government should promote traditional values in our society. Others think the government should not favor any particular set of values. Which comes closer to your own view?

A libertarian, someone who believes that the government is best when it governs least, would typically choose the first view in the first question and the second view in the second.

In the polls, the responses to both questions had been fairly steady for many years…..

But in CNN’s latest version of the poll, conducted earlier this month, the libertarian response to both questions reached all-time highs. Some 63 percent of respondents said government was doing too much — up from 61 percent in 2010 and 52 percent in 2008 — while 50 percent said government should not favor any particular set of values, up from 44 percent in 2010 and 41 percent in 2008. (It was the first time that answer won a plurality in CNN’s poll.)

Whether people are as libertarian-minded in practice as they might believe themselves to be when they answer survey questions is another matter. Still, there have been visible shifts in public opinion on a number of issues, ranging from increasing tolerance for same-sex marriage and marijuana legalization on the one hand, to the skepticism over stimulus packages and the health-care overhaul on the other hand, that can be interpreted as a move toward more libertarian views.

Siliver provides this chart showing the extent to which public opinion has, he believes, become more libertarian using historical data from the CNN poll and a similar poll that Gallup has regularly taken:

The shift toward a more libertarian view seems to be especially true when it comes to social issues. For example, recent polls by both Gallup and Pew Research have shown that public acceptance of not just same-sex marriage, but of homosexual relationships as a whole, is at an all-time high. To some degree this is a result of demographic changes and the fact  that, the younger a person is the more likely they are to be accepting of homosexuality itself. Additionally, though, the death of many of these social issues as political wedge issues suggests that there’s been a shift in what Americans believe to be the proper role of government.

Additionally, as Silver notes, there is a libertarian element to the Tea Party movement at least in terms of its rhetoric:

The Tea Party movement also has some lineage in libertarian thinking. Although polls suggest that many people who participate in the Tea Party movement have quite socially conservative views, the movement spends little time emphasizing those positions, as compared with economic issues.

While this is true, it’s also true that winning a Republican nomination would not be easy for a candidate who didn’t at least pay some homage to the “correct” positions on social issues like abortion and same-sex marriage. This is why a Presidential run by Mitch Daniels would have been an interesting test case to determine just how libertarian the movement is. Alas, Daniels is not running and nearly all the candidates who are, including Ron Paul, are in lockstep on social issues. The one outlier, Gary Johnson, is barely mentioned in conversations about the race. Nonetheless, there does seem to be some evidence that the Tea Party Movement is more libertarian, or at least “socially tolerant,” than one might expect, as Ilya Somin points out in a recent paper:

Although the majority of Tea Party supporters are self-described conservatives, the focus of the movement has so far been primarily on what may be seen as libertarian concerns. An April 2010 New York Times/CBS News poll found that seventy-eight percent of self-described Tea Party supporters believed that “economic issues” are the more important issues facing the country, compared to only fourteen percent who said “social issues” are more important.

Moreover, survey data suggests that many Tea Party supporters are more socially tolerant than expected. An exit poll conducted by Politico at a major April 2010 Tea Party rally in Washington, D.C. found that fifty-one percent of those surveyed believe that “Government should not promote any particular set of values,” while forty-six percent endorsed the more socially
conservative view that “Government should promote traditional family values in our society….”

The New York Times/CBS News survey of Tea Party supporters found that forty percent believe that Supreme Court’s decision protecting abortion rights in Roe v. Wade was a “good thing” and fifty-seven percent support either marriage rights (sixteen percent) or civil unions (forty-one percent) for gay couples.

Reason’s Matt Welch attributes the shift in public opinion to both the economic downturn, and the backlash against increased government spending that followed from both Presidents Bush and Obama:

It’s not hard to fathom the recent spike in both questions. On economic policy, Americans since the great NPSM of 2008 have been consistently more radical than their elected representatives, and oftentimes more radical than me. And yet that angry feedback, despite manifesting at just about every opportunity you could name, has yet to translate into anything like the course-correction Americans so clearly advocate. As for social policies, I have to imagine that those who sought social change through electing a better flavor of president are re-discovering the limitations of the top-down approach.

Jason Pye agrees:

Given the economic intervention pushed through by a Democratic Congress in the first two years of President Barack Obama’s administration, it’s not hard to understand why the public would view government skeptically; after a sluggish economy and high unemployment tend to have that affect. On social issues, I’ve been saying for years that this next generation – even conservatives – are becoming increasingly libertarian; perhaps not on all issues, but marijuana legalization and gay marriage (or getting the state out of marriage all together) are commonly held views today.

None of this means, of course, that Americans are suddenly going to start electing Libertarians to office. One can be a libertarian philosophically, or libertarian-oriented in one’s political beliefs without supporting, or even caring about, the Libertarian Party. What we might see, though, is that more libertarian-oriented candidates in the GOP, and even possibly the Democratic Party, are able to win nominations and get elected to office. In some cases, that’s what happened in 2010. Ron Paul used to be pretty much the only “libertarian” in the United States Congress, now that label can fairly be applied to Congressmen like Justin Amash and Tom McClintock, and Senators like Rand Paul. Additionally, many of the conservatives that were elected in 2010 are arguably more sympathetic to libertarian ideas in areas like foreign policy than their predecessors may have been. Those are marginal changes for sure, but change in American politics typically starts at the margins, the question becomes whether it can continue and become something more than a small caucus on Capitol Hill.

More practically, though, I would caution my fellow libertarians not to put their trust in any political party. Libertarian ideas are the flavor-of-the-year in the GOP, but that’s because they can use those ideas to attack the President. Once they’re back in power, the GOP is likely to slink back to its big-government conservatism roots unless the base holds their feet to the fire. Perhaps things will change on a more permanent level when social conservatives finally realize that their decades long war against homosexuals is lost, but until then the GOP will still be the party of Michele Bachmann more than it is the party of Rand Paul.

 

FILED UNDER: US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. michael reynolds says:

    I hate to be the skunk at the LP picnic but while I welcome libertarian views on social issues, libertarian economic views have never been more thoroughly out of touch with reality. In fact, I think this is the death rattle of economic libertarianism.

    We’re moving into a world where a substantial percentage of the population may never hold a job for much of their lives because we’ll be able to sustain a reasonably wealthy society without the services of large numbers of people. We’re still going to feed and house and care for those people. So we’ll be more redistributionist, not less.

  2. Vast Variety says:

    “when social conservatives finally realize that their decades long war against homosexuals is lost”

    I’m not going to hold my breath on that, although I’m sure some social conservatives would like to seem me turn blue and pushing up daises.

  3. michael reynolds, that’s sad and funny at the same time. It’s not economic libertarianism that is creating a permanently unemployed and unemployable class. It is the overregulated nanny state and its politicians offering “free” money and “free” lunches. The idea that some people, including many probably not born yet, are condemned to lives on the dole is a particularly dark view of humanity that I cannot share. You know, as Margaret Thatcher noted, eventually you run out of other people’s money to redistribute, especially when you are doing everything you can to hobble those creating wealth.

  4. hey norm says:

    it’s not about what you say, but what you do.
    and since getting into office the silly folks who wear tea bags dangling from their hats have been full-on social extremeists…passing 4 major abortion roll-back bills on the federal level…but no jobs bill. on what planet is that small government economically focused libertarianism? so nate silver can say “…there is a libertarian element to the Tea Party movement at least in terms of its rhetoric…” but their actions just do not match up to their rhetoric. on the state level 15 states have passed anti-abortion bills…some which can land a doctor in prison for life. this is what passes for libertarianism in tea bag land.
    it’s a f’ing confused movement. the tea bag wearers don’t seem to know what exactly it is they do want. and as much as i respect nate silver, i don’t think he’s any closer to figuring it out.

  5. hey norm says:

    over-regulated nanny state…blah da blah blah. it was not over-regulation that crashed the economy. it was not enough regulation. it was self-regulation. but we better slacken up some nmore regulation because that’s always the answer. i’m so tired of this through the looking glass myopia. taxes are at an historic low and we have a huge debt. doh…better lower taxes even further because that’s always the answer. unemployment is at 9%…better slash government spending and thus jobs, because that’s always the answer.
    since 1980 we have cut regulations and taxes and at least the democrats have cut spending and look where we are. it hasn’t worked. the only ideas you have to offer have failed. some new ideas or stfu.

  6. michael reynolds says:

    No, Charles, it’s not the “nanny state” or “regulation.”

    It’s technology. We can make a lot more stuff with a lot less labor, and what labor we do need is all-too-easily outsourced to countries where people make $2 a day. Unless by “deregulation” you mean, pay people $2 a day and let them build un-plumbed tarpaper shacks outside of Cleveland you’re talking nonsense.

  7. hey norm, stay classy.

    michael reynolds, yes, in fact it is the nanny state and overregulation, but we can agree to disagree. The rather significant intellectual leap from me claiming we are overregulated to $2 per hour plumbers is rather interesting. Come on, you can do better than that. Oh, and good luck outsourcing your plumber jobs.

  8. mattb says:

    @MR:

    It’s technology. We can make a lot more stuff with a lot less labor, and what labor we do need is all-too-easily outsourced to countries where people make $2 a day.

    There’s a bit more there — the thing to remember about manufacturing is its role in fueling ancillary job growth (i.e. support industries). Part of the rational for the auto bailouts was that keeping GM and the other manufacturers going was keeping a slew of other support jobs going (from people working in dealerships to companies building parts within the US).

    The thing about the sifting of growth onto service, tech, and financial sectors is that they don’t create as many supplemental jobs — in part due to technological efficiencies (as has been pointed out on previous threads, a single programer can sling a hell of a lot of code, and you don’t need a team of programmers to mass reproduce a program) — and where they do create jobs (say tech support), those jobs are often created in other parts of the world.

    Granted the off-shoring may return wealth for the company and to people residing in the US, but not necessarily so much as to increase the number of jobs in a given area. In other words, plumbers stay employed, but you don’t necessarily have a need to grow the number of plumbers.

  9. hey norm says:

    hey austin,
    how in the world do you get $2 an hour plumbers from an un-plumbed tarpaper shack? talk about your intellectual leaps.
    stay predictable – predictably wrong.

  10. mattb says:

    The problem with strict libertarian economics is that they can fly in the face of national good/security. This is something that Adam Smith pointed out centuries ago. The needs of the business person (i.e. maximization of profits) and the needs of the locality are rarely in-line. He actually identifies the problem of outsourcing/off-shoring quite nicely in “The Wealth of Nations” (Book II).

    The notion of the “Invisible Hand” taken during the past century to suggest that what the market dictates is always what the best for the people, is actually brought up in a section on economic nationalism in which Smith notes that merchants who choose to invest in local industries, which are more stable but less profitable than colonial industries, are also helping increase the wealth and stability of the nation as a whole.

    The problem we face is that once offshoring becomes both more profitable and as stable as doing the work locally the direction that the “invisible hand” points industry in ceases to be in parallel with national needs.

  11. george says:

    Technology is likely not only going to make it possible to produce more with less people, but the rate at which it does so is likely to increase. Expert systems (AI if you like, though its not actually the same thing) are moving into professional realms (medicine, accounting, engineering – even military as you might have noticed with drones), and robotics is closing in at the point where many skilled jobs (including plumbing) will in a few decades be cheaper to do without human hands involved. Baring a collapse of research into these areas, people are going to become redundant.

    Of course there’s always Kurzweil’s technological singularly, which makes people not only redundant but obsolete, but I think he’s confusing technology with magic.

  12. mattb says:

    Ok… let me correct something in that previous post:

    The needs of the business person (i.e. maximization of profits) and the needs of the locality can be, but are not inherently rarely in-line

    Please ignore that rarely — I fingers were moving way faster than the mind was. In fact for a long recent portion of our history (beginning somewhere around reconstruction) they the two needs were generally speaking in-line.

    But, in the last few decades, a number of changes, including the digital technologies and the rapid growth of the financial industry, have led them to increasingly diverge.

    Right now I see little on the horizon that encourages me that they’re going to get back in line any time soon — at least not without a major environmental/technological change.

  13. mattb says:

    @george

    robotics is closing in at the point where many skilled jobs (including plumbing) will in a few decades be cheaper to do without human hands involved.

    While there is some truth to this, it becomes a question of when will we see it. The problem with robo-plumbers, for example, is that mechanization always works best when the job is largely cut and paste. While tools and AI’s continue to improve, the fact is that, for example, most pop-up books are still largely cut and assembled by hand because automatic the process is far too costly. For that reason, I think the average home plumber probably will not be replaced during our lifetime.

    I don’t even want to get into how much some of the expert system stuff scares me.

    And +1 on the Kurzweil point

  14. Steve Verdon says:

    We’re moving into a world where a substantial percentage of the population may never hold a job for much of their lives because we’ll be able to sustain a reasonably wealthy society without the services of large numbers of people. We’re still going to feed and house and care for those people. So we’ll be more redistributionist, not less.

    Ahhh yes, the reserve army of the unemployed argument. So libertarianism is dead because Marxism is alive and well.

    Okay then.

  15. Steve Verdon says:

    It’s technology. We can make a lot more stuff with a lot less labor, and what labor we do need is all-too-easily outsourced to countries where people make $2 a day.

    There it is again, after 150 years Michael, you’ve rediscovered Karl Marx’s notion of the reserve army of the unemployed.

    Never mind that as technology has advanced it has never ever worked out quite the way you and Marx described it. Now this time, of course, it will be different.

  16. OzarkHillbilly (used to be tom p) says:

    that’s sad and funny at the same time. It’s not economic libertarianism that is creating a permanently unemployed and unemployable class. It is the overregulated nanny state and its politicians offering “free” money and “free” lunches.

    Charles, that is sad and funny at the same time. A lot of right wing bullshit with nothing to back it up.

  17. OzarkHillbilly (used to be tom p) says:

    Ahhh yes, the reserve army of the unemployed argument. So libertarianism is dead because Marxism is alive and well.

    Steve, do you have an argument? Because all I see is you shooting holes in somebodies off the cuff remarks. Please tell me how Libertarian principles make it all better. And no, I am not an economist…. but last I checked, you weren’t either. Krugman is tho. Tell me again why I should listen to you as opposed to a Nobel prize winning economist? And no, “He is an idiot.” is not an argument, it is an opinion. I got several of them too.

  18. OzarkHillbilly (used to be tom p) says:

    And Doug? If you think this is a “libertarian moment”…. You are truly delusional.

  19. wr says:

    Tom P — Don’t say Austin has nothing to back up his opinion. He’s still got that Thatcher quote, and he’s not afraid to use it at least fifteen times in every subject to prove his point.

  20. A voice from another precinct says:

    “but until then the GOP will still be the party of Michele Bachmann more than it is the party of Rand Paul.”

    Allowing for the possibility that you will argue that Ms. Bachmann is more radically socially conservative than Rand Paul (a point that I’m not fully prepared to concede, by the way), in what way is the GOP of Rand Paul different from the GOP of Michelle Bachmann?

  21. Strange how technology didn’t create a such mass of unemployed people when Henry Ford came along, or Robert Noyce and Andy Grove, or W. Edwards Demming, or teflon and going to the moon! Luddites unite!

    tom p, uh, actually Steve Verdon is an economist.

    mattb, the people versus profits meme is one of the hoariest and poisonous bits of nonsense out there.

    wr, as for Mrs. Thatcher and her quote, I’m pretty sure its been a while since I’ve mentioned it, much less fifteen times in every thread, but hey, you understand conservatives and liberatarians better, so you got that going for you. Please point out, if you can, the error in her quote. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

  22. michael reynolds says:

    Steve:

    If your only argument is “this has never happened before,” it’s not terribly powerful.

    As you know, we’ve gotten by floating from bubble to bubble for what, the last decade or two? Prior to that were as many nations building as many factories? Were shipping costs as low? Was data as easily and cheaply transmitted? Had someone just added a billion Chinese and another billion Indian workers to the equation? (And on a separate note, was our population aging as family sized declined?)

    Henry started cranking out Fords a hundred years ago, give or take. Is it possible that what we’ve had since then are a series of events that are unique? The Great Depression, WW1 which devastated our competitors, WW2 even more so, and Communism. The modern American worker competes with robots and people making $2 a day. I don’t think that’s a problem of too much regulation. Maybe the reassurance of history owes less to some economic law and more to a series of unfortunate events unlikely to be repeated.

  23. michael reynolds says:

    mattb, the people versus profits meme is one of the hoariest and poisonous bits of nonsense out there.

    And yet the Europeans have lost far fewer jobs than we in this downturn, in part I would guess, because it’s harder to fire workers and pocket the profit.

  24. mattb says:

    @Charles:

    Strange how technology didn’t create a such mass of unemployed people when Henry Ford came along, or Robert Noyce and Andy Grove, or W. Edwards Demming, or teflon and going to the moon!

    Strange how all of these names are tied with manufacturing of products which are largely assembled today by either (a) machines or (b) low payed workers in foreign countries. In particular the reference to Ford is particularly telling as he was dealing with a fully mechanical world (i.e. everything made of moving parts), while we, today are living in a increasingly solid state/digital world. Pretending the rules of manufacturing is anywhere the same — or more importantly, there will the same demand for low skilled labor is frankly smoking crack of the highest order.

    And again, please don’t retort with bio-tech revolution. Again, the issue is low skill, lower paying jobs — what was classically referred to as “hand work.” That isn’t coming back — at least not on the same scale.

    Perhaps we may see a re-emergence of cottage industries or a huge transformation in local industry if 3D printing fully takes off. But that’s still a big if. And it still won’t provide jobs for everyone, at all levels. Or rather it won’t create jobs the way that manufacturing did in the 19th and 20th centuries. That particular ship has sailed.

    Which leads to:

    mattb, the people versus profits meme is one of the hoariest and poisonous bits of nonsense out there.

    Bull crap. Seriously, having worked and lived in the corporate world for the first eight years of my career, you can believe that profit v. people is a lie, but you are frankly being naive.

    Now, I don’t think it is the case (generally, excluding folks like Ikon) that bastards in a backroom sit down and try and screw people. But the fact is that the entire system — led by wall street and the need for quarter over quarter growth in publicly traded companies — does ultimately put profit above people. If you’ve ever spent time around analysis and other people in the financial business you would understand that many do believe “Greed is good” — in that their job is to return the highest value to shareholders.

    Again, I point to the article on Walmart and the Price of Pickles (The Walmart you don’t know – http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/77/walmart.html ) as an example of how profit is placed over people.

    The bigger point I was attempting to make however, is that we are at a moment (and have been for a bit) where the so called invisible hand of the market (broadly defined) is positioned against national economic interests (including those core American values that you love to cling to so much).

    I’m not saying it’s a good thing or a bad thing, but have an honest discussion about where libertarian economics can in fact diverge from national interest and what — if anything — might be done about it is a worthwhile decision.

    But sticking your fingers in your ears and pretending that on an institutional level profits are not more values than people or patriotism — that’s just being willfully ignorant.

  25. mattb says:

    @Steven V…

    I’m not a Marxist — though I do think there are some important insights to be gained from his economic writings. That said, it seems to me that we are dealing with a world that may — in someways — be closer to his naive visions about the future of mechanization than you might first expect.

    That isn’t to say that there’s going to be a proletariat revolution — or necessarily the reserve army of the unemployed — but I think we are going to have to seriously consider the difficult question of what do we do when “the market” doesn’t need as many workers to sustain it (consumers may be another thing entirely) — at least not in the developed world.

  26. mattb says:

    @Charles, one concession — I do think that it is entirely possible, especially in small scale businesses — to balance profit and people. But to do that a company needs to be able to resist a specific expectation of continuous growth and expansion. And I believe that it is even possible in larger, privately held companies (one great example in my neck of the woods is the “Wegmans” supermarket chain — consistently in the top 3 of the best place in the US to work).

    However, there are two key cavaits to this (when good companies go bad)
    – First, the company needs to be in a top of the food chain position. Meaning they get to set the price of things had have others match it. If you’re in a position where you are bidding on jobs or supplying to someone like Walmart (and I have some experience with this), the retailer owns you (and suddenly we return to people v. profits — or people vs. staying solvent — whether one likes it or not).

    – Second – If a company goes public, all bets are off, because the shareholders via Wall Street are now essentially running the show. Then it is fully profits versus people (especially as we approach the blue-chips. Been inside one of those. Know people at a bunch. I can tell you that few people like the situation (and lots of execs have done everything they can to avoid things like off-shoring or mass layoffs) but the Street demands what the Street demands.

  27. john personna says:

    Marx wore a coat and shoes, Steve V wears a coat and shoes, therefore …

    FWIW, the wikipedia page has an interesting line:

    Prior to the capitalist era in human history, structural unemployment on a mass scale rarely existed, other than that caused by natural disasters and wars. Indeed, the word “employment” is linguistically a product of the capitalist era.

    If Marx discussed anything we think is important, we must drop it like a hot potato!

  28. john personna says:

    Re. charles austin’s argument about regulation and jobs:

    Production in China will not close entirely for most companies because even though labor costs have increased, they’re still cheaper than most other places. Right now, the average manufacturing wage in China is about $3.10 an hour, while it is $22.30 in the United States. In the eastern part of China, it is about 50 percent more than the average $3.10 wage elsewhere.

    There is a lot of really crazy handwaving by some on the right, making the claim that it’s the red tape and not the dollars and cents. A weird argument for capitalists to make, isn’t it?

    Normally they’re pretty good at the spreadsheets.

    Even if you could eliminate every single regulatory advantage the Chinese “enjoy,” you could still hire six or seven Chinese for the price of each American.

    For equal money, hire 100 Americans, or 600 Chinese?

    We know what Apple chose.

  29. hey norm says:

    “…Strange how technology didn’t create a such mass of unemployed people when Henry Ford came along…”
    Of course this is because Ford realized his workers needed to make enough money to be able to purchase his product. He understood DEMAND. He didn’t think it was going to come from massive tax cuts for the rich, because it never will. He didn’t expect DEMAND to come from massive de-regulation, because it never will. He didn’t expect DEMAND to come from slashing government spending and jobs, because it never will. But those are the only ideas that come from some geniuses…because they just don’t can’t get it.

  30. Herb says:

    “The shift toward a more libertarian view seems to be especially true when it comes to social issues. ”

    Yeah, I can see that. I think there’s a libertarian stripe in both political parties…hell, there’s a libertarian stripe in the American character, whatever that may be, but I don’t think that means that we’re all libertarians.

    I think it actually means that the big L Libertarians are missing the point. They’re taking a good idea to logical extremes.

  31. Maxwell James says:

    I mostly agree with Michael Reynolds. A dose of economic libertarianism is probably more likely to be helpful than hurtful right now, because it will force us to reassess our priorities as a society. But in 10 years it’s going to look damn silly. The vast majority of traditional work has involved making stuff, and those are exactly the jobs that are increasingly automated and/or exported.

    That doesn’t mean I think we should accept a long-term class of the unemployable, but it will force us to completely overhaul our education, job training, and employment policies. And redistribution will be an unavoidable part of that transition, which will probably take several decades.

  32. john personna says:

    The vast majority of traditional work has involved making stuff, and those are exactly the jobs that are increasingly automated and/or exported.

    I read an interesting take on that this morning:

    Ronald Coase turned 100 in 2010. He is best known for his work on transaction costs, social costs and the nature of the firm. Where most classical economists have nothing much to say about the corporate form, for Coase, it has been the main focus of his life.

    Without realizing it, the hundreds of entrepreneurs, startup-studios and incubators, 4-hour-work-weekers and lifestyle designers around the world, experimenting with novel business structures and the attention mining technologies of social media, are collectively triggering the age of Coasean growth.

    Coasean growth is not measured in terms of national GDP growth. That’s a Smithian/Mercantilist measure of growth.

    I’m not sure I totally get the guy’s framework, but I think there might be a demographic that gets along OK with fewer hours work, less GDP generated.

    Isn’t one of the statistics that job growth, such as it is, has been coming from part-time positions of late?

  33. mattb, the argument about people versus profits is predicated on gross misunderstandings of what the purpose of a business (or corporation if you prefer) is and that the purpose of a civic community is in its many and various forms of governments, religious organizations, voluntary associations, charities, etc. Any business not focused on making money, or more generally getting a maximum return on its capital, is going to lose out to someone who has a better focus on that goal. The crony capitalism, rent seeking, and other forms of villainy that bigger government makes ever worse perverts both the public and private entities.

    There’s nothing at all wrong and much commendable about corproations being good citizens, but expecting or requiring them to become paternal and/or maternal is not a good thing.

  34. michael reynolds, perhaps the Europeans lost fewer jobs because they are starting from a lower base, having had their job destroying policies in place much longer than the US. Unemployment has been much higher in Europe than the US in most years since WWII. Oh, and Henry Ford was quite the disruptor as well. Disruption and creative destruction are not new concepts in free markets, it is just that we know seem to act as though it is the government’s job to remedy the situation instead of the citizens’.

    john personna, the US benefited greatly fromn a golden age where it dominated manufacturing and was able to provide a large workforce with jobs that paid well for relatively low skilled work. Those days are gone. Attempts to conflate the challenges caused by that worldwide historical phenomenon with failures of free markets is wrong. Just. Plain. Wrong.

    We are embarkingo on an age, correction, we are well into an age, of creating a class of people in this country who come to believe that they cannot compete. This is a very bad thing. Between that and misguided attempts to pretend that progressivism can overcome a normal distribution of talents and abilties across the board, well, I think we are doomed to some bad times ahead.

  35. john personna says:

    charles, I can see some genuinely bad scenarios possible. I hope they aren’t probable. But the bad case would be that we don’t find a transforming, and jobs creating, innovation to mine for our future. If we don’t do that, whether or not we try to aid them on the way down, we will end up with a lot of genuinely poor in this country.

    What’s the real difference between us, that you accept that outcome, and want to slash benefits, in something like throwing the weak from the lifeboats?

    Of course, if you want to keep low marginal rates on the authentic rich, the authentic winners in this new society, it’s a bit uglier isn’t it? It’s throwing over the weak, while keeping a whole bench for each rich man.

  36. wr says:

    Charles — You might as well ask me to disprove “take my wife — please.” It’s got the same level of seriousness, and is every bit as valid an argument as your favorite Thatcher quote. Here’s a hint: A punchline isn’t the same as an economic argument, no matter how many times you repeat it.

  37. hey norm says:

    “…misguided attempts to pretend that progressivism can overcome a normal distribution of talents and abilties across the board…”
    what ideological hokum. and just plain wrong.
    here’s the distribution that has been wrought by 30 years of failed policies – job killing policies – like de-regulation and tax cuts for the wealthy, and fantasies about the invisible hand-job of a non-existent free market.
    http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&id=3220
    a flat-lined middle class creates no demand. combine no demand with fools convinced they have the only answers – in spite of 30 years of evidence to the contrary – and you’re f’ing right we’re doomed to bad times ahead.

  38. michael reynolds says:

    Charles:

    What you have is a religious faith, immune to logic or evidence.

  39. john personna says:

    I’m pretty sure that charles sometimes expresses a faith that less government means more jobs, but in that paragraph to me above he goes the other way:

    john personna, the US benefited greatly fromn a golden age where it dominated manufacturing and was able to provide a large workforce with jobs that paid well for relatively low skilled work. Those days are gone. Attempts to conflate the challenges caused by that worldwide historical phenomenon with failures of free markets is wrong. Just. Plain. Wrong.

    What he’s saying, if he’s really being honest here, is that $3/hr jobs in China are a triumph of the market. And that’s good in the abstract market-loving sense.

    Just sucks to be one of the workers he’s throwing under the bus.

  40. john personna says:

    (The alternative, if you don’t try to integrate Chinese wages into your thinking, is just to pretend that this is “planet America” and the only way capital can ever flow from the rich is to US jobs.)

  41. mattb says:

    @Charles,

    Your last post pretty much confirms that you did not understand my first post — and concern with Libertarian Economics — or you fundamentally miss an extension of what you just wrote about profits and people.

    You are correct that the purpose of a business is business. And as I have always heard them expressed, Libertarian economic principles are based on deregulating in order to allow the market to decide — i.e. do what is best for business.

    The point I raised — my concern with this stance — is that if you accept that the business is fundamentally about profit, then like people, national security is fundamentally not a concern of businesses and, provided they can operate without it, can be seen as a hinderence to business (just like people).

    The problem is that many people have take “the invisible hand” to mean that what is good for business is good for the nation. That was NEVER Smith’s point. And to some degree, we are at a point where the interests of profit and the interests of nation continue to diverge.

    It is surely the case that policy needs to be changed and that current laws tend to adversely effect smaller businesses (hence “crony capitalism”). And there should be discussions on things like regulation.

    However, it seems to me, that you especially — who pine for a “traditional” America — need to ask the hard question of whether or not the Market, as imagined in Libertarian and more laze fair economics, has already “decided” that country’s time is past.

    Especially on issues like language, it seems to me most businesses were among the first to decide that — based on profit and the needs to their markets — that Spanish is a fundamentally acceptable language of business and commerce within the US. Likewise, one would argue that migrant workers should be equally welcome if we are pursuing laze fair economics.

    My entire point was that because of Profit v. People AND Profit v. National Security/National Culture, we need to have these debates about regulation. And further, going back to the famed invisible hand, this was — to a degree — Adam Smith’s point as well.

  42. jukeboxgrad says:

    hey norm:

    Ford realized his workers needed to make enough money to be able to purchase his product. He understood DEMAND.

    Exactly. Understanding this is crucial to understanding the bogus, destructive, discredited philosophy that is at the heart of Reaganism and trickle-down economics.

    Jobs are not created by the generosity of the rich. They are not even created by business, or by capital. They are created by demand. Jobs come into existence because there is someone ready, willing and able to buy something. And jobs don’t go away because the rich decide to go Galt. Jobs go away when there is no demand, because people don’t have money to spend.

    Henry Ford understood this very well. He said that higher wages would lead to higher sales, because they would support the development of a prosperous middle class:

    I have learned through the years a good deal about wages. I believe in the first place that, all other considerations aside, our own sales depend in a measure upon the wages we pay. If we can distribute high wages, then that money is going to be spent and it will serve to make storekeepers and distributors and manufacturers and workers in other lines more prosperous and their prosperity will be reflected in our sales. Country-wide high wages spell country-wide prosperity

    From “My Life and Work” by Henry Ford.

    Ford understood that business thrives when there is a prosperous middle class. (And democracy also depends on the existence of a strong middle class.) Reaganism is all about destroying the middle class, and creating a two-class society: rich and poor. And the GOP has had a great deal of success in this regard, as I documented here. Reaganites are too short-sighted to understand what Henry Ford understood: when you destroy the middle class, ultimately you also undermine the rich. And that’s the road we’ve been on.