SocraticGadfly: 3/6/05 - 3/13/05

March 12, 2005

Can I have Greg Mankiw’s crack, or whatever he’s on?

Or, how to be both deceitful and nutbar on Social Security privatization

Former Bush Council of Economic Advisors chair Gregory Mankiw is a walking object lesson.

In a column in The New Republic , he manages to pull out just about every conservative canard about liberals from class warfare on down.

Take a look at a few doozies:

“Why are liberals in Congress (and the liberal NEW REPUBLIC, for that matter) so appalled that Bush would propose moving the public retirement system in the same direction?”
The liberal New Republic? Does he really believe that? Or is he that full of bullshit about a mag that hasn’t been liberal for a generation?

“The second reason the left hates personal accounts is that, over the long term, they could destroy one of its favorite battle cries: the alleged conflict between evil capitalists and oppressed workers.”
Don’t you just love the way a conservative like Mankiw launches a pre-emptive class war strike by accusing liberals of class war?

“After workers develop an equity stake in corporate America, they will start watching CNBC and the ‘Nightly Business Report.’”
Yeah, right. You try to get Bubba to turn off NASCAR, or The Playboy Channel, to watch a stock ticker, Greg, that’s the day Bubba breaks your fricking arm.

“The third reason for the left's opposition to personal accounts is simple paternalism. … To be sure, the paternalists raise a valid concern — some segments of the population are not economically sophisticated —but this is not so much an argument against personal accounts as a reason why we need to get the details right.”
Now he takes the class warfare jujitsu into paternalism, then adds in the insinuation that only Republicans can tell the story right, and are doing so now.

“There should be limits on how much risk people can take in their portfolios, especially as they approach retirement. There should be requirements that people annuitize enough of their accumulation upon retirement to ensure they are kept out of poverty for the rest of their lives.”
How much more Big Government can you get? Is SSA going to have an S-agent knocking at your door if you don’t invest the way the government says? Where’s the “ownership society”?

“Opponents of Bush's proposal say that funding personal accounts will require irresponsibly large increases in the budget deficit. This argument, however, is mostly fatuous. For one thing, the president is proposing to phase in the new system gradually.”
So that just means we’ll gradually phase in irresponsibly large increases in the budget deficit.

“Some economists go so far as to suggest that the borrowing to finance personal accounts is an advantage of the proposed reform.”
Now this is the hat trick — Republicans as (unconfessed) Keynesians.

March 11, 2005

Buffalo professor gets a piece of my mind

University of Buffalo professor John Della Contrada and Isaac Ehrlich claim Social Security causes delayed marriage and lower fertility rates.

The report, based on a paper by Ehrlich posted here, should fool nobody, as Ehrlich has worked with the University of Chicago’s Gary Becker on privatization and was a former economics professor there himself.

I responded to Dell Contrada, as his link was on the U. Buff story, and through him to Ehrlich:
Mr. Ehrlich, you have either unwittingly fallen for, or else willfully engaged in, a classic "post hoc, ergo propter hoc" fallacy by claiming a causal correlation from an apparent statistical correlation between delayed marriage and social security-type benefits.

Given sociological trends around the world over the last century or two, I could make many similar nonsense conclusions:

1. Electric lighting causes delayed marriage.
2. Fewer people farming in a country causes delayed marriage
3. Increased mechanization causes delayed marriage
Etc., etc.

Given your former professorate at the University of Chicago and work with Gary Becker, I have no doubt your engaging in such illogic on the economics of Social Security was willful, perverse, and academically unethical.

Patriot Act gets official constitutional rebuke

In a lawsuit involving the ACLU just now made public, a federal judge in New York has ruled the Internet snoop and search provisions of the Patriot Act violate both the First and Fourth Amendments.

Here’s the key graf from the AP story:
U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero of New York ruled in September that the law violates the Fourth Amendment ban on unreasonable searches and the secrecy clause violates the First Amendment because it is a prior restraint on speech.