Patterico's Pontifications

6/9/2014

For Proponents of Texas Secession

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 8:46 pm

This is one of the cleverest images I have seen in quite some time, courtesy of AnnaZ on Twitter:

Screen Shot 2014-06-09 at 8.41.54 PM

Bergdahl Trade Racist?

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:26 am

Nicole Mullen:

. . . I’m the only one who noticed how racist the Bergdahl trade was.

I want to make it clear that I’m not criticizing the president for his decision to rescue Bergdahl, but there’s something that the white left is afraid to talk about here. When Obama traded five men of color for one white man – he made a very clear statement about race.

. . . .

Think for a second – if Bush had made that trade, is there any doubt that we would be calling him out for how outrageously racist it was? If a white man had traded five brown men for one white man, we would be quick to see it for what it was – an affirmation of white privilege and power. But, because Obama is a man of color himself, it seems as if no one noticed.

I can only imagine the struggle Obama, a man of people of color, must have felt as he authorized that trade. He was betraying himself – the black part of himself – while simultaneously affirming the privilege and power structures inherent in the white part of himself. The courage it took to make that decision is remarkable, and again, I feel like he made the right choice, but we should really look at this situation and use it as a way to reflect on our cultural attitudes to the devaluation and reductive characterization of colorful men that we objectify through cisrace projections of cultural self-worth.

This passage is from a piece of well-written satire. (When I say that, I am not being ironic.) If you have any doubt about that, read this:

As a leftist myself, I was quick to dismiss any notion of Bergdahl’s traitorous behavior, nor did I take exception to Obama’s decision to circumvent congressional approval when he released five terrorists from Gitmo. I simply read that a trade occurred, googled to find out how the right felt about it, and then blindly argued against every single point that they made. Is Bergdahl a deserter? Of course not, he’s a hero. What evidence do I have of that? None. Who cares? I’m right and you’re wrong.

The brilliance of it is that the initial quote I gave you is simultaneously a) utterly ridiculous and b) plausible as a statement by a crazed race-obsessed leftist. Which is the point. The nature of race in this country is that people who want to accuse others of racism can say any absurd thing they like, and it will be published somewhere — to the point where even obvious satire starts to look like a “serious” argument.

Well done, Ms. Mullen.

Why Would We Think Increased Government Spending Is A Good Thing to Pursue? — Why Paul Krugman’s Love of GDP Is Wrong, Part One

Filed under: GDP,General — Patterico @ 6:00 am

I want to spend some time this week attacking GDP as the be-all and end-all of economic analysis. It’s a very important point, because it explains why the Paul Krugmans of the world think it’s great for the economy to boost government spending . . . or to have people dig holes and fill them in, so long as they’re doing something . . . or to do anything humanly possible to get consumers to spend, spend, spend. All of these wrongheaded policies flow directly from the overemphasis on GDP.

I want to keep my points bite-sized, so I am going to make this a multi-part series. Today, I address the fact that GDP takes into account government spending, even though government spending does not necessarily satisfy people’s preferences.

The video at the bottom of this post is worth your time. It features Austrian economist Jeff Herbener and historian (and author and prolific podcast host) Tom Woods. This video will provide the basis of two of my posts attacking GDP.

If you’re short on time, jump to 1:50 in the video, and watch for three minutes, stopping at 4:55. Here, Woods asks about the fact that government expenditures are included in GDP. Herbener explains that government expenditures are disconnected from our preferences — and are disconnected from the voluntary nature of the exchange, meaning that the prices are not market-determined, and are therefore inflated.

At 3:51, Woods plays devil’s advocate. Doesn’t government spending put people to work and put money in people’s pockets? Herbener explains: “The only way we can tell whether something in a net addition to human welfare is through voluntary purchase.”

At this point, you’re either nodding your head in agreement, or an objection is popping up in your mind: “Wait, how do we know that only voluntary purchases satisfy preferences? Don’t government actions satisfy people’s preferences? Isn’t that why people vote?”

The short answer is: sure, government actions satisfy some people’s preferences, by taking money from one group and giving it to another. (Government’s economic action ultimately boils down to that.) When you take from Peter and give to Paul, Paul’s preferences are satisfied, to be sure! — but Peter’s may not be. We can’t know for sure, because Peter was not given a choice. His choice was: pay your taxes, or have men with guns take you to jail. That’s not much of a choice at all, for most people.

In the free market, however, voluntary exchange satisfies the preferences on both sides of the transaction. When a car is sold, it’s because both the dealer and the purchaser think they are better off once the sale is finalized. Otherwise, the sale would not happen.

This is the type of activity that we want to maximize: transactions in which all parties benefit. But when we include government spending in GDP, we are including transactions that don’t necessarily benefit both sides — meaning that they don’t necessarily make consumers better off.

This is just one reason among many that maximizing GDP should not be the top economic goal of society.

Here’s the video. Tomorrow, we will discuss another part of the same video, to examine how GDP overemphasizes the importance of consumer spending to economic well-being.

P.S. Woods plugs Liberty Classroom at the end of the video. If you decide to sign up, please do so though this link, which benefits this site at no cost to you. Three people have signed up through this link so far, and the commissions I have received have more than repaid the $50 I spent to join. (I got the course for half price using discount code “DISCOUNT” . . . which still works.) In essence, Tom Woods has paid me to learn Austrian economics and non-P.C. history, and to spread the word to other people. I have access to nine interesting courses, and have listened (on my commute) to about 70 lectures on topics as diverse as Western Civilization, Keynesian economics, Austrian economics, U.S. Constitutional history, and logic. And I’m just getting started!

I highly recommend at least checking out the free samples to see if they appeal to you.

P.P.S. I’d love to get some feedback from the folks who subscribed.


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