Sunday, November 19, 2006
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David Brooks rousts me from my Sunday torpor
In the past 24 hours I had to go from presenting a paper at the inaugural meeting of the International Political Economy Society to spending the night with my son at his Cub Scout campout. In other words, I'm wiped.
So I ordinarily wouldn't bother to blog today... until I saw David Brooks' column devoted to Milton Friedman.
Brooks accomplishes a unique two-fer in this column, simultaneously infuriating me on one point and making me agree with him on another.
So, in order... the part of the column that is utter horses%&t:
[Friedman's] passing is sad for many reasons. One is that from the 1940s to the mid-1990s, American political life was shaped by a series of landmark books: "Witness," "The Vital Center," "Capitalism and Freedom,""The Death and Life of American Cities," "The Closing of the American Mind." Then in the 1990s, those big books stopped coming. Now instead of books, we have blogs.Oh, please, spare me the crap about how today's deep thoughts fail to rival those of the past. Brooks listed five books to cover five decades. Here are five books from the past decade that would meet his criteria (note I am far from endorsing the content of these books -- but they're big in the sense that their arguments cannot be ignored):
Samuel Huntingon, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order.I did this without breaking a sweat. If I actually glanced over to my library or checked out my book club recommendations, I could probably come up with twenty more.
To paraphrase Gloria Swanson -- books are big, it's the politics that got small.
Oh, and it's not the blogs either -- the last three authors in that list either have blogs or have interacted with them on a regular basis.
At the same time, Brooks got me to nod with this pararaph:
His death is sad, too, because classical economics is under its greatest threat in a generation. Growing evidence suggests average workers are not seeing the benefits of their productivity gains--that the market is broken and requires heavy government correction. Friedman's heirs have been avoiding this debate. They're losing it badly and have offered no concrete remedies to address the problem, if it is one.posted by Dan on 11.19.06 at 12:32 PM
"Growing evidence suggests average workers are not seeing the benefits of their productivity gains..."
What evidence do you have in mind? I'm not aware of any such long term trend. I've seen some stuff about short term shifts in this direction, but those are as likely to be statistical anomolies as anything. I've never seen any evidence that the trend of growing inequality is driven by some disconnect between productivity and wages. The most reasonable theories seem to be that technology has increased the productivity of the very top end people most of all.
Friedman is not all he is cracked up to be. He claims to be a Libertarian, yet he does things all real Libertarians would revolt at. He is the one behind our current system of deducting taxes from your paycheck every two weeks. I wonder why no one ever mentions that. Also, he was behind the ending of the draft. I bet that if the draft were still in existence, we wouldn't have the Iraq mess. Plus, ask Chileans how his ideas benefitted most of them.posted by: Ghost of Tom Joad on 11.19.06 at 12:32 PM [permalink]
Also, he was behind the ending of the draft. I bet that if the draft were still in existence, we wouldn't have the Iraq mess.
Oh, please. It's not as though the draft lessened popular support for the Vietnam war. Public support was high initially and tapered off only as they dragged into stalemates -- exactly the same pattern we see with Iraq today.
I'm also dismayed that after all the boogeyman talk from Edwards in 2004, it's a *Democrat* who proposes reinstating the draft today.posted by: He Who Must Not Be Named on 11.19.06 at 12:32 PM [permalink]
This only proves that the Cub Scout program is much better than reading the NYT - and more fun.posted by: save_the_rustbelt on 11.19.06 at 12:32 PM [permalink]
sounds like Brooks read senator elect Webb's op ed in WSJ and is afeared Democrats may be stumbling upon big idea with legs.posted by: goose gossage on 11.19.06 at 12:32 PM [permalink]
He is the one behind our current system of deducting taxes from your paycheck every two weeks.
Yes, but you left off the reason he worked on that program. (Did he create the policy, or work on the team that implemented it? I believe he helped create the actual policy, but I'm not sure about that.) My understading it that was done so that the US government could adequately finance the WWII effort. Waiting for quarterly or yearly payments probably wouldn't have been feasible at that point in time. Besides, Freidman was a Keynesian at that time, at least according to a quote attributed to him in his Wiki entry. Or are Libertarians against people who weren't born Libertarians adopting their views?posted by: Icepick on 11.19.06 at 12:32 PM [permalink]
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