I missed this on Wednesday but it’s worth sharing.
What is the appropriate role of government?
Traditionally, the division between conservatives and liberals has been over the role and size of the welfare state: liberals think that the government should play a large role in sanding off the market economy’s rough edges, conservatives believe that time and chance happen to us all, and that’s that.
But both sides, I thought, agreed that the government should provide public goods — goods that are nonrival (they benefit everyone) and nonexcludable (there’s no way to restrict the benefits to people who pay.) The classic examples are things like lighthouses and national defense, but there are many others. For example, knowing when a volcano is likely to erupt can save many lives; but there’s no private incentive to spend money on monitoring, since even people who didn’t contribute to maintaining the monitoring system can still benefit from the warning. So that’s the sort of activity that should be undertaken by government.
So what did Bobby Jindal choose to ridicule in this response to Obama last night? Volcano monitoring, of course.
And leaving aside the chutzpah of casting the failure of his own party’s governance as proof that government can’t work, does he really think that the response to natural disasters like Katrina is best undertaken by uncoordinated private action? Hey, why bother having an army? Let’s just rely on self-defense by armed citizens.
The intellectual incoherence is stunning. Basically, the political philosophy of the GOP right now seems to consist of snickering at stuff that they think sounds funny. The party of ideas has become the party of Beavis and Butthead.
The intellectual incoherence is stunning. Especially that coming from Krugman. There is no incentive to monitor a volcano because there are free riders? That argument applies infinitely. There is no way to have an interaction with others without effecting them in some way. The free rider problem is the way of the world. There is nothing one can do about it. If you can’t peacefully convince people to pony up a few dollars to monitor the local natural disaster in waiting… it’s obviously not that bad a problem. If the residents learn otherwise… they won’t be living there very much longer. Knowing when a hurricane is coming is great for the Gulf coast settlements… too bad since it’s done at the threat of violence and then combined with other risk reductions not directly felt by the inhabitants you have for generations people living in locations they wouldn’t have otherwise.
Did Krugman ever bother to investigate Katrina? How many private firms went to help and were turned away by the government bureaucrats? How they arrived faster than FEMA? Uncoordinated private action is exactly what was needed. Those closest involved know better than some DC bigwig as to what is necessary. The arrogance of Krugman’s statements would be stunning if it wasn’t for the volumes of statist, know it all opinions on how helpless their fellow man is I’ve read. Why not rely on armed citizens? Does this man forget US history? Has this man ever read a history book? The things he advocate have been shown to be self destructive. Whether it be his Keynesian economic beliefs or his etatist beliefs in the power and role of government.
He makes no argument. No logically consistent statement. No means to prove his examples. What is says is mearly assumed true. Rather obvious to the average sophisticated NYT reader. Order comes from above. Man is helpless without the god State’s protection and guidance. Spontaneous order is a novel but false idea. Or at least inefficient. Man couldn’t possibly know what is best for him. I am the only one with the knowledge to show them the way. For the betterment of himself and everyone else.