Brickbat: A Proportionate Response
4 hours ago
it’s striking to me that on what would seem to me to be the simple and straightforward libertarian case that we should make Social Security benefits less generous, Cato has nothing much to say. Instead, it has an elaborate Project on Social Security Choice aimed at restructuring the program into one of mandatory, privately managed savings accounts. It’s not immediately obvious to me what this proposal has to do with libertarianism, but it would seem to offer some prospect of profits for fund managers. Whether monetary contributions from individuals working in the financial services industry, or else a desire to align more closely with the partisan political agenda of the Republican Party (itself largely dominated by the interests of American business rather than free market principles), or some combination of the two motivate the preference is beyond my ability to say.Maybe it hasn't occurred to Yglesias that there is libertarianism beyond the "straightforward" Mises Institute schoolboy stuff, but I doubt it, as, if his writings for the Atlantic are indicative, he seems reasonably intelligent and well-read. Perhaps this ridiculous "straightforward libertarian" solution is a consciously created straw man and perhaps it indicates that, however well-read Yglesias is, he still doesn't know much about contemporary, cutting-edge libertarianism.
Similarly, the free-market case for a revenue-neutral carbon pricing scheme seems fairly impeccable to me. But instead of organizing its climate change efforts around seeking to ensure that any future carbon pricing plan be as close to revenue neutral as possible, Cato prefers to steadfastly defend the rights of industry to unload air pollution unimpeded.Yglesias fails to mention one thing: a considerable portion of the Cato crowd still thinks that, concerning the question of the existence of anthropogenic global warming, there are two sides, on reasonably equal footing, at that! Most of them haven't the background (or the willingness) to read technical papers at the level needed to judge them on their merits and are thus incapable of distinguishing the latest from JGR-Atmospheres from Christopher Monckton's "amateur hour" excursions. I suspect that they are suffering from Ronald Bailey Syndrome, that is, that they have chosen their position not due to honest scientific concerns, but rather because it fits more conveniently with their other, perhaps sounder, beliefs on policy.
...Why don't you ask these guys [critics] what should be done specifically and what should be done now?
People like [Josef] Stiglitz [the US economist and critic of free markets] use name-calling instead of just diagnosing the problem and saying what should be done.
Should there have been regulation to prevent this? Well sure, but what sort of regulation? Let them spell out what regulation we should have in place.
If the religion professor who is leading the movement against the naming is right that "Friedman's over"--that the current economic crisis has consigned Friedman, along with Greenspan, to the dustbin of economic history--he should have no fear that the new Institute will be biased in favor of Friedman's views. If a physics institute were named after Albert Einstein, would the institute's researchers reject quantum theory?