Free Markets, Free People


Obama and the Economy: Incompetence, Disinterest, or Something Else?

Over the past several weeks we’ve been pondering Pres. Obama’s handling of the economic crisis. For the most part we’ve all agreed that Obama’s lack of leadership (whether from a dearth of experience or ability) is only serving to exacerbate the situation. But we also have somewhat divergent views as to whether there is a method to Obama’s madness.

Bruce is pretty convinced that the problem is a lack of executive experience, and the fact that Obama is learning on the job, while in the one government position that simply won’t allow for that sort of training. Being devoid of leadership skills or abilities, and being overly confident in his abilities to talk his way out of trouble, is driving Obama into mistake after mistake. Call this the Boy-King scenario.

Dale has suggested that Obama is simply disinterested in things like foreign and economic policy, thus he’s put little effort into guiding those efforts, and instead has handed these messy areas off to subordinates. That those on whom he is depending are not terribly proficient is not helping matters (e.g. Hillary and the “reset” button). But at bottom, the real problem with Obama is that his only real concern is with implementing his social agenda. This is bascially the Louis XVI problem (the King who famously recorded “Rien” as the sole entry to his July 14, 1789 diary, referring to his hunting exploits that day).

Last night on the podcast, I ventured that, in addition to a lack of experience and a disinterest in anything other than social policy, Obama is perfectly happy to let the economy flounder because (he thinks) it will drive more people into the arms of government dependency, and allow him to push forward with the radical transformation he envisions for this country. What he wants most, in my opinion, is to greatly expand the desire and need for government, to instill “democratic” controls into as many areas of life as possible (and especially in economic affairs), and to revise what he sees as a top-down power structure into a bottom-up one. Regardless of whether Obama is right or wrong in any of his thinking, it seems to me that his apparent lack of concern with respect to the economic crisis (only one of seventeen post filled in Treasury, despite the frightening prospects of a new depression?) has more to do with the fact that he does not envision the crisis interfering with his social agenda, and perhaps sees it as an enabler of that agenda. Call this the Commodus explanation.

I’m loathe to suggest that Obama is some sort of Manchurian Candidate, aiming to secretly impose socialism on the US, primarily because we’ve been teetering on that edge for several decades now, and he’s not been shy about wanting to give the final nudge. At the same time, I believe that Obama truly wants what’s best for this country. It’s just that what he views as “best” is something similar to European social-democracy, to which I am absolutely opposed.

So, I’m curious. How do you all see it? Is Obama the Boy-King, Louis XVI, or Commodus? Some combination of the three? Something different altogether?

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85 Responses to Obama and the Economy: Incompetence, Disinterest, or Something Else?

  • Why postulate theories when there is a simple one at hand:  absolute incompetance.

    • That’s pretty much Bruce’s theory.

    • Incompetence is a given.

      That is part and parcel of who Obama is politically.

      But when you look at a regime like Chavez’s, you don’t necessarily first observe the incompetence, because Chavez is definitely working a plan, and any failure that occur as that plan are worked are rationalized as the result of the old model, the one being replaced.

      Basically, Obama and his people have repeatedly attributed failure to the old model in the U.S., the old model being in its essence entrepreneural capitalism, which is the greatest success story in history.

  • You have to start by taking seriously where, why, and how Obama was trained and how he lived his life. Out of that you will get his politics and the formation of his cult of personality, which is already merged with that politics.

    But some concepts:

    Domestic social policy: Infantilization (not mere dependency); Deathworks (if you’ve paid attention to the avant-garde of “health care” you’ll understand one chief element of that concept, but it goes beyond that); Enhanced mass psychology;

    Domestic security: Return of the therapeutic model; Crime rates back up; Vulnerability; Varieties of terror (street crime, gangs, the kinds of attacks that we didn’t get after 9/11, and the soft terrorism of ACORN and other “community organizations”;

    National security and foreign policy: Appeasement; Treachery; Depletion of national sovereignty; Post-American (Obama isn’t disinterested in foreign policy, he’s disinterested in the United States, as we understand that concept. If you don’t get where that might be headed take a look at the dilemma that has unfolded in Europe vis a vis its Muslim minorities. The blog Gates of Vienna, though controversial, offers a lot of coverage on that topic.)

    Remember, lads, we’re just two months into this thing. The fun hasn’t started yet. What you’re watching is “activity in the bullpen.” There’s still a lot of turnover in the national security apparatus, the Justice department, especially in the judiciary that needs to happen. The bidding up between the White House and the Congress in those areas will be quite spectacular, I believe.

  • There’s no secret to it. They, Obama and handlers, are systematically stealing the entire nation’s wealth, while moving ahead as rapidly as possible with their intended takeover of every pertinent industry required to eventually take control of everything that is controllable. IMHO, the stock market as we know it and capitalism don’t have a place in “Obama’s” vision of the United States.

  • I vote for the Commodus model.  Increasing dependency on the government has been the democrats’ (spit) goal since at least the time of the Great Society.  I don’t say that this is what Johnson had in mind when he pushed it through, but I think that the dems (spit) who have followed have seen that it’s a helluva way to buy / extort votes.

    I object to this statement:

    What he wants most, in my opinion, is to greatly expand the desire and need for government, to instill “democratic” controls into as many areas of life as possible (and especially in economic affairs), and to revise what he sees as a top-down power structure into a bottom-up one. [emphasis mine - dj505]

    Like most revolutionaries, TAO is not interested in a “bottom-up” power structure: he merely wants a DIFFERENT power structure, with himself and the rest of the democrat filth at the top.  Permanently.

    ‘There is no way in which the Party can be overthrown. The rule of the Party is for ever. Make that the starting-point of your thoughts.’ 

    [O'Brien] came closer to the bed. ‘For ever!’ he repeated. ‘And now let us get back to the question of “how” and “why”. You understand well enough how the Party maintains itself in power. Now tell me why we cling to power. What is our motive? Why should we want power? Go on, speak,’ he added as Winston remained silent.
    :
    :
    ‘You are ruling over us for our own good,’ [Winston] said feebly. ‘You believe that human beings are not fit to govern themselves, and therefore –’

    He started and almost cried out. A pang of pain had shot through his body. O’Brien had pushed the lever of the dial up to thirty-five.

    ‘That was stupid, Winston, stupid!’ he said. ‘You should know better than to say a thing like that.’

    He pulled the lever back and continued:

    ‘Now I will tell you the answer to my question. It is this. The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power. Not wealth or luxury or long life or happiness: only power, pure power.’

    George Orwell
    1984

  • Disaster Socialism? I dont see that kind of thinking in Obama, but i wouldn’t be surprised if Pelosi was all for destroying us to push Socialism.

  • Two months in, I prefer the Louis XVI scenario…

    Obama has described the Iraq War as a “distraction”.  Distraction from what?

    So far, it’ clear to me Obama is much more interested in pursuing his agenda of egalitarianism and collectivism than dealing with what he rightly (so far) believes is cleaning up previous administration’s messes.
      

  • You don’t really get to whine while we clean up the giant mess created by your capitalism.  Well you can, but it just makes you look silly :P

    • You don’t really get to gloat while the President exacerbates the giant mess created by intervention, regulation, and lack of free market principles.  Well you can, but it just makes you look silly.

  • Then again, you could be caught up in ideological groupthink, and the Obama administration could be making the right substantive moves, setting up a sustainable recovery.  After all, no matter what you think of Obama, it’s clear that previous administrations (including Clinton’s) let an unsustainable bubble economy develop, full of high debt, unsustainable current account deficits, and a consumer society that was far more consumption than production.  This had its roots in the 80s, a quarter century or so of economic mismanagement.   Will Obama’s actions fix it — we’ll see.  But I really think you’re letting your ideology get in the way of being able to truly assess the policy.

    My own view: I worry about inflation, and I am convinced we cannot go back to 2007, that kind of economy was unsustainable.  We need to increase production, decrease the trade deficit, and ultimately reduce debt.  But it may be that to get us from here to there we need to increase debt and risk some inflation to avoid being caught up in a recessionary spiral from which there is no magic return — markets do not automatically adjust themselves.   I’m optimistic that the people in there are competent and making good calls, based on their assumptions and read of the economy.   But nobody, not them, not you or I, knows how good those assumptions are.

    • You say “But I really think you’re letting your ideology get in the way of being able to truly assess the policy.”  We are assessing the performance of the man at the head of an administration and trying to determin whether there be motives behind the performance.  My own take is that the man is caught in the most massive “Peter Principle” known in the history of mankind.  That is not my ideology speaking but my assessment of his performance to date.  He is good at one and one thing only – lofty high-minded speechifying, nothing else.  He has shoved 4 years of gaffes into the first 60 days of his adminsitration.  He doesn’t even know who is the President of France.  And had there been an (R) behind his name he would have been laughed out of the White House by the Democrats and even Republicans would be pointing and laughing at him by now.

      You say “I’m optimistic that the people in there are competent and making good calls, based upon their assumption and read of the economy.”  Now I ask you, is that your own ideoplogy peeking through or not?  And if not, would you point out some of those “good calls” they are making for the rest of us blind folks?

      • By most accounts his “performance” has been quite effective.    You guys seem to think it hasn’t been.  I think that’s because of your ideology, and the fact you want him to do poorly.  I am absolutely certain you’re going to be very disappointed by Obama’s success.  I believe he’s the most competent President we’ve had for a long time, based on how he’s managed very difficult crises in the always difficult early days in office.  But hey, tell each other he’s failing if it makes the pain of being in the political wilderness easier to bear.

        • That’s right Erb.  Keep spouting the Democrat Talking Points rather than respond to the direct question I posed that you yourself might be seeing things from an ideological perspective. 

          And you further state that by most accounts his performance has been quite effective.  Seems McQ and others here have been “sharing” accounts written by others who are not so complimentary of Obama’s performance to date.  So you would not mind sharing some of those “most accounts” you are touting?

    • Erb before Obama:

      Question: will the politicians make the hard choices to handle this, or will they borrow more and finger point?

      Erb after Obama:

      we need to increase debt and risk some inflation

      and then he points his finger at Reagan (again).

      But, please, no one make fun of what Erb writes. He’s a serious thinker after all.

    • Another pre-Obama quote from Erb:

      the fact of the matter is we are in debt about 70% of GDP, and adding new programs and expanding government is not the best course of action right now. Paying for it with a new tax isn’t an answer either. Let’s say I’m in debt $100,000, and say “gee, I can work an extra job and buy a new car with that money.” No, if you get an extra job, you should pay down your debt.

      Because it’s not really Billy’s money that goes to pay for this, but the money of the next generation who gets saddled with this debt. They don’t even get to vote on it.

      Why, oh, why won’t anyone take Erb seriously?

      • I know you’re trying JWG, but even in my posts recently I’ve pointed out the danger of inflation.  I also note that this has to be a short term deficit to handle the transition to the new economic conditions, with Obama needing to start cutting the budget if this is going to work.  I’ve blogged extensively on this as well, noting points where I’ve changed my mind (I was originally against the stimulus, but the form and content convinced me that it was a gamble worth taking).   You see, smart people look at evidence, question their assumptions, and change their mind from time to time, especially in a crisis like this where uncertainty is immense.   People who are intellectually lazy fall on answers provided by ideology, refuse to engage other perspectives except to ridicule them (and if you ridicule others, that means you don’t have to do the hard work of engaging ideas different than your own), and shut their eyes to the possibility that their view is wrong.  So slight changes in opinion on what to do in this crisis may seem like a weakness to you, I see it as a sign I’m listening to arguments and questioning my own beliefs.  It would be nice if I’d encounter some of that here with different thinking people.  Instead, you guys seem to want to defend the orthodoxy by treating other opinions as mere heresy to be ridiculed and insulted.  I don’t think that’s going to help you truly understand what we face.

    • And another pre-Obama quote from Erb:

      When our debt is about $30,000 per person in the country, we simply have to stop adding programs until we are able to pay for them — and that means getting rid of most of the debt first, or being on a path to do so

      Remember when Erb would get mad because no one believed he really meant this stuff? We claimed he only said it as a way to attack the overspending of the Bush administration (which we also attacked), but that he really believed it was OK if a democrat was in office? Once again, Erb’s own words show him to be the Prince of Weasels.

    • Mr. Erb, I’d take your accusations of “ideological blindness” a lot more seriously if JWG didn’t seriously have your number.

      When QandO is dittoing Krugman, there’s more than mere ideology at play!

  • <i>Then again, you could be caught up in ideological groupthink,</i>

    This from a denizen of one of the least diverse groups in America: academia.

    <i> and the Obama administration could be making the right substantive moves, setting up a sustainable recovery. </i>

    Maybe, but unlike others in the discussion you are not making any substantive arguments at all, just complaining about the commonality here, and waving your hands saying obvious things “increase production, decrease deficit, reduce debt” (you seem to have forgotten to tell us to buy low and sell high) and hoping  Obama’s people are competent.

    I don’t really know these matters well enough to have a say, but it is obvious the execution of the Obama administration has been poor and worrisome: Obama’s doom-and-gloom to rush through  1000 page bill, the confusion and exploitation of the AIG bonuses, Geithner’s botched first presentation of the bank recovery plan, etc.

    • People complained when I posted links to my blog, so I ceased doing that in most cases.   But since people are cherry picking quotes in a misleading manner, I’ll post some links here.  I apologize in advance, but feel this is the best way to respond to efforts to falsely accuse me of changing my mind simply because it’s Obama.

      I’ve extensively blogged about this crisis, including initial opposition to the stimulus idea.   As you’ll see if you read that post from early January, I don’t brandish the kind of absolute certainty that “I’m right and the others are wrong” that I seem to see from too many people on the right or on this blog, but am trying to work through the issues.   I continue in thinking about socialism vs. the free market.   As the economy got worse, I maintained skepticism on the stimulus, but kept an open mind — this later January post “Spiraling vortex of doom” shows my view on how dangerous the economic collapse is.

      In early February I go a bit more into the logic of Obama’s plan, and start to shift my view towards supporting because it may help us do what we need to do to get out of this mess: change our way of life.  I did note that this was a “failure of Reaganism” but was clear that both parties, and President Clinton were complicit in ruining our economy.   This month I’ve grappled with the idea of the bailouts and stimulus and the fact that much of our problem is caused by the “credit card culture” we’ve adopted.   Most recently I’ve rethought my aversion to more debt and considered the possibility that even bolder action is needed that than contemplated by Obama.   The bottom line is that our problems have resulted not from government or big business, but a culture addicted to ‘something for nothing.’    After all, illusions were shattered in 2008, and all of us are coming to grips with how different the new reality will be.

      Sorry for so many links, I really am going to avoid pasting these as it bothered some.  But in this case quotes were used to try to suggest I’m simply changing my mind due to politics.  The links are only about a third of my posts on the economy in recent months, and are a public expression of my thoughts and analysis as I grapple with these issues.  Anyone who turns to simple ideology for the answer is, I believe, avoiding some hard work and the pain of having to question their core assumptions.

  • ERB, you MIGHT be right, The Administration may have somehow discovered a way to use massive deficit spending to create real sustainable economic growth without inflation. Of course it has never happened before in history, but I suppose anything is possible.

    BTW, what you call twenty five years of economic mismanagement was actually twenty five years of the most fantastic real economic growth with growth in real wages and jobs that our nation has ever seen, but we are only splitting hairs right?

    Yes, there were bubbles, those always happen in anything but a command economy, but this last one was not made worse by “The free market” , it was made worse by actions (bipartisan) of the government including the push for loans to the unqualified, the adoption of Mark to Market accounting, and Sarbannes-Oxley. 

    This bunch have no clue as to what they are doing, but I will go ahead and say Commodus, because I really do think that Obama has an antipathy for capitalism, and possible for the nation itself due to his hanging around Lefty academics like Scott all his life.

    • I see Erb has put the mask back on. Sorry pally, after your “arise the proliteriat” eruption the other day,  I guess I know what you would consider “good” economic moves to be, god help us 

      • not sure why you appended that to my comment

      • What mask?   Look, I’m giving my opinion honestly and trying to avoid insults.  I realize it’s often very provocative in an unfriendly venue.  I’m hoping for actual discussion based on arguments, logic, and evidence.  What I get is insults and accusations.  I’m used to that, and in fact I find it a kind of ‘law of the blogosphere’ — conservatives that go to “liberal” sites get the same kind of treatment.  People tend to correlate disagreement on politics with other people being bad, or read into opponents negative personality traits.  It’s interesting, I keep hoping I can break through that, but I suspect the only way to do that would be to start arguing with you guys on everything, and that wouldn’t be honest.

        • There’s a much easier way, Scott: just admit when you’re wrong.  A nice, clean, “I got it wrong”, as opposed to “I’ve delved deeper into the intricacies, and I was really right then and I’m still right now”.  You reek of intellectual dishonesty, and you’re treated accordingly.

          • Sure, I’ve actually admitted being wrong many times.  Point out where I’m wrong and if you’re right, I’ll admit it.  I’m wrong a lot.  In fact, I think we all are.

    • The historical comparison would be to WWII and its aftermath.   And while this isn’t a war, the crisis may be that big (and it took that level of deficit spending and government action to truly end the Great Depression.  Britain tried muddling through and letting the market fix things, and that didn’t work).

  • I’ll pose another model:   Obama thinks he is Ozymandias from Watchmen.  He thinks he is taking actions that can ultimately transform the US into a better, more egalitarian society.  The fact that he is causing pain and suffering by deepening and prolonging the economic downturn is a utilitarian “cost” that must be bourn in order to bring about the greater good.

    Two problems:

    1.  Ozymandias’ solution was a vile evil, akin to those proposed by Hitler, Lenin, Stalin and Mao.

    2.  Obama isn’t the smartest man in D.C., much less in the world.

  • “Obama is perfectly happy to let the economy flounder because (he thinks) it will drive more people into the arms of government dependency, and allow him to push forward with the radical transformation he envisions for this country. What he wants most, in my opinion, is to greatly expand the desire and need for government, to instill “democratic” controls into as many areas of life as possible (and especially in economic affairs), and to revise what he sees as a top-down power structure into a bottom-up one”

    I wouldnt doubt that this is true.  The only thing is eventually the producers who are producing for everyone simply say screw it and join the takers.  Then the whole thing falls apart.  Obama wont care though as he will be able to build up enough to whether it as will the rest of the liberal elite who see themselves as benevolent rulers who are looking out for the unwashed masses.

  • In reality, I’m of the opinion all three of Michael’s descriptions are alive and well within the persona of Barack Obama.  I don’t at all think it has to be one or the other, but would suggest that there’s a certain percentage of all three there.  Which is the dominant one is something we can squabble over a bit, but in reality I’ve seen at least flashes of them all.

  • Then again, you could be caught up in ideological groupthink, and the Obama administration could be making the right substantive moves, setting up a sustainable recovery. And thank goodness that we in academia are completely immune to groupthink. Why, around the faculty lounge today, we were just differing on how magnificent Obama is, with myself and a majority saying he was better than Christ, while a minority held that he was merely better than FDR.

    And no, I don’t have to point to any actual moves he is making to assert that he’s making the right moves. As I’ve explained to you dense righties before, all I want is to have a legimate debate and discussion, with me setting the standards of evidence, and for myself the standard is that I decree something and you just have to accept it. Given that I’m taking my precious time to come here and lecture you, I can’t understand why you are all being so unreasonable about that.

    After all, no matter what you think of Obama, it’s clear that previous administrations (including Clinton’s) let an unsustainable bubble economy develop, full of high debt, unsustainable current account deficits, and a consumer society that was far more consumption than production. Well, we on the left know how to fix that! Just look at what we’ve done in other countries, and you’ll see that we’ll dramatically reduce that wicked consumption, with wonderful consequences for the rest of the planet and at the same time making people more dependent on the government. Then we’ll cement our hold on power so that no one ever again is allowed these silly “freedom” movements that allow people to over-consume, unless they are part of the nomenklatura, of course, and have worked hard saving society by teaching young minds, and so forth.

    This horrible, nasty, free-market-oriented over-consumption had its roots in the 80s, a quarter century or so of economic mismanagement. As I’ve told you a hundred times, that Reagan was just awful and vicious and we were much better off with 18% mortgages and 12% unemployment under Carter. Now there’s a man who knows how to get people consuming less! Instead of causing awful problems like that nasty Reagan and that truly odious Bush, who started an awful, awful war that I have not yet worked into this comment.

    Will Obama’s actions fix this terrible, unnecessary, gratuitous consumption — we’ll see. And I’m not just being wishy-washy so I can come back and say I was right no matter what, so stop saying that! But I really think you’re letting your ideology get in the way of being able to truly assess the policy. And, of course, with my godlike powers of political science, I would never do that. And the fact that I never seem to find a single thing wrong with Obama’s policies is not either evidence of ideological blindness, so for goodness sake, stop saying that!!

    My own view: I worry about inflation, and I am convinced we cannot go back to 2007, that kind of economy was unsustainable. Why, there were some indications that people were actually starting to think they could live their lives without being dependent on the government, can you imagine that?

    We need to increase production, decrease the trade deficit, and ultimately reduce debt. And putting increase of production in the hands of the government is an obvious strategy that is guaranteed to work, and the failure of all those Soviet Union five year plans is completely irrelevant, so just stop bringing that up, do you hear?!? And, of course, the obvious way to reduce debt is to first massively increase it. That’s just a given, though you silly righties with your reliance on ways of reasoning that don’t even grant post-modernism probabaly can’t see that.

    See, it works like this. It may be that to get us from here to there we need to increase debt and risk some inflation to avoid being caught up in a recessionary spiral from which there is no magic return. Because markets do not automatically adjust themselves. Stop laughing! They don’t, I tell you! How can they possibly do that? Why, it would require the coordination of millions of people to adjust like that, and only wise and benificent governnment can do such coordination! That’s obvious to all of us in the faculty lounge!

    I’m optimistic that the people in there are competent and making good calls, based on their assumptions and read of the economy. But nobody, not them, not you or I, knows how good those assumptions are. See, I have now covered all possible bases, so I’ll be back in a few months crowing about how I was right, no matter how things turn out. If things are fine, I’ll crow about how smart Obama and I are (he thinks like me, you know), and if not, I’ll be explaining how it was be because you dense righties sabotaged everything.

  • Scott Erb

    “markets do not automatically adjust themselves”

    Actually if left alone THEY DO.  And if not left alone THEY STILL DO only making things a lot worse than they would have been if someone hadnt put their fat fingers in the pot.

    It is called the LAW of supply and demand.  It is called  a LAW for a simple reason.

    • Markets do not automatically adjust themselves, there is no reason to think they do.  The “law” of supply and demand (note: in social science ‘law’ does not mean the same as it does in natural science because there are always exceptions) not only does not assure ‘natural’ adjustment, but in fact itself be affected by imperfect information, panic, greed, bad guesses about the future, and uncertainty.  You assert a kind of ideological mantra.  Reality usually doesn’t respond in the way simple mantras believe they will.

      • You must be joking.  Markets don’t automatically adjust themselves???  This is contrary to thousands of years of human experience AND plain logic.  It explains, among many other examples, why we no longer have industries related to manufacturing horse and buggies, or why we don’t have whalers out hunting whales for their oil: there is virtually zero demand for these things.  The market adjusted and nobody sells them on any kind of a large scale.  The automobile market automatically adjusted when gas was at $4 / gallon several months ago: you could hardly give away SUV’s while there were waiting lists to get hybrids.  Now that the price of gas has fallen (which it did automatically when demand fell faster than production), the market adjusted again and hybrids are not so popular.  The price of houses automatically adjusted when it was realized that they were grossly overvalued: nobody came along from some central agency and dictated that (for example) my house should lose 1/3 of its value overnight.

        What planet do you live on???

        I suspect that you have two basic problems:

        1.  You are an academic who has never really had to live in the real world and therefore don’t understand how it works, and;

        2.  The market isn’t tidy or “just” enough to suit you (which is to say, it isn’t under centralized, liberal control), so you naturally don’t like it and therefore feel compelled to attack it.  History is replete with examples of people like you, people who think they not only CAN mind their neighbor’s business better than he can himself but that he OUGHT to do so.  Your only virtue is that, so near as I can tell, you are motivated by some twisted sense of virtue.

        “No one believes more firmly than Comrade Napoleon that all animals are equal. He would be only too happy to let you make your decisions for yourselves. But sometimes you might make the wrong decisions, comrades, and then where should we be?”

        George Orwell
        Animal Farm

        • Nothing you wrote supports the claim that the market automatically adjust itself.  You do support the general efficacy and desirability of markets, something with which I agree.  But the idea that they are magically self-adjusting is contrary to historical experience.  The Great Depression is a recent example.  So, frankly, unless you can come up with more than assertion, I don’t find your claim at all persuasive.

        • Hmmm, so academics teaching at rural colleges aren’t in the real world.  Are military people, who get socialized everything and live according to a different culture in the "real world?"  What about corporate executives who are used to massive bonuses compared to factory workers who are barely getting by?  Who is in the "real world?"   Well, I worked myself through college at 30 hours a week (60 hours a week in summer), worked on assembly lines, spent time as a restaurant manager, and worked for a Republican Senator in DC…now I teach, helping students learn about the world and plan their future, often dealing with very diverse circumstances (a rural public university is not at all like an ivy league school, we have stables instead of ivory towers).   I suspect your world is as unreal as mine — or we simply live in different corners of the world.

          But I do know I’ve studied political economy, taken graduate courses in economics, international trade, and monetary policy, so while I may be wrong on my views, I certainly know the material of which I speak.  

          I don’t know what you mean by "tidy."  The market can slip into a downward spiral with no way out absent intervention.  It’s happened before.  Moreover, the economy has been mismanaged for nearly 30 years creating tremendous imbalances and an illusion of wealth that has been shattered.  To simply ignore the pain it causes and have a faith based ‘let the market take care of itself’ is one option.   I don’t think it’s one most people will choose.

          • “We have stables instead of Ivory Towers”.

            Ah, that explains where you get all the horsesh*t.

            By the way, how does your ‘school’ get away with calling itself a university when it doesn’t have a graduate school?

      • Wow, I had to double back on the 1st line because I thought I war reading Scott Erb, but the first line was just too stupid a statement even for him, so I thought it was Ott Scerb. 

        But NO!  it WAS Scott Erb.  Mark the page gentlemen, link it, because any time in the future that wunderkind gets on and pretends he has brain one in his head, and is capable of serious analysis you can link back to this example.

        I have to conclude now that any time he says anything that seems to be sensible we’re seeing the 10,000 monkeys in action writing one of Shakespeare’s sonnets.

        Insults, oh, my, yes. 
        “Markets do not automatically adjust themselves and there is no reason to think they do”
        Bwaaahahahahaha, pricesless, brilliant, idiotic.   I laughed until I stopped.

        • Looker, thanks for proving you’re locked in a kind of ideological group think.  The idea that markets automatically adjust themselves is a minority view.  You seem to hold that idea, but you don’t seem to be able to defend it except by asserting that questioning this view warrants insult. 

      • Markets do not automatically adjust themselves, there is no reason to think they do. 

        That’s a sentence so stupid only a college professor would believe it.

        Markets adjust, all by themselves.  The people involved in the market buy more or less, depending on price and other factors.  When people buy more, the price will go up, and so will the supply as more producers find it worth their effort to participate.  When people buy less, the price goes down, and some producers abandon production for more profitable areas.

        • Steverino, with an argument like that, you’d earn a very low grade.  You seem to think markets are magic.  They aren’t.  There are many reasons why they can get stuck in a downward spiral and not automatically adjust.  Anyone who has studied economics knows this.  But hey, you have your faith, and woe to the infidels who deny your beliefs.  Meanwhile, I’ll deal with reality, and teach about reality.

          • Steverino, with an argument like that, you’d earn a very low grade.

            Actually, I got As in all the econ courses I took in college.  My degree is in Electrical Engineering, but I have a minor in Econ.

            You seem to think markets are magic. 

            Actually, I don’t, and you have no idea what I think.  Markets aren’t perfect, but when you’re talking about large numbers of people involved in large numbers of transactions, the fact is that there is a definite trend in how markets behave.

            There are many reasons why they can get stuck in a downward spiral and not automatically adjust.

            That’s not what you said originally.  You said markets never adjust by themselves, which is patently false.  Yes, there are patholigical cases where a market can go out of control; these are by far the exception to the general rule that markets correct themselves.
            But hey, you have your faith, and woe to the infidels who deny your beliefs.

            Putting words into my mouth?  I said nothing of the sort.  For someone who claims to deal in reality, you sure don’t spend much time there.  Try to avoid ad hominem, and try to state your opponents’ opinions honestly.
             

  • <blockquote>I’m loathe to suggest that Obama is some sort of Manchurian Candidate, aiming to secretly impose socialism on the US… </blockquote>
    It is not socialism that Obama seeks to impose, rather fascism.  Fascism in the classical sense – a nation best served by industry (willingly) subjugating itself to the aims of the state.  This is not to say that this is what industry wants, but what Obama wants of industry.

    Sad that so many have willingly allowed the term fascism to become so distorted in popular lexicon.

  • Based on Obama’s abysmal performance so far, and Erb’s long history of idiocy and disingenuousness in comments here, I am now prepared to say that Erb may have something right: it’s possible that Obama really does think like him.

    And if that doesn’t scare you, I don’t know what will.

    • Yup, people like me are the ones taking over, and your kind of thinking is being brushed aside.  But there is no reason to fear, it’s actually going to work far better than what we’ve been doing! :)   And I realize that you are very into name calling and smears, but not very good at actually engaging in discussion with people who think differently.  You are defending an orthodoxy; that is anti-reason.

      • Yet again, you reveal your own ignorance.

        And I realize that you are very into name calling and smears, but not very good at actually engaging in discussion with people who think differently.

        Well, you might try that line with the quite liberal friend I talked to all last week. Unlike you, he actually knows how to use logic, and admit when he’s off in the weeds. So I had some great conversations, even though we disagreed in the end.

        You are defending an orthodoxy; that is anti-reason.

        Yet again, you have a total wrong number. In the 1970s height of McGovern-Carter liberalism, I was the one telling everyone that Social Security was doomed to long term failure, that high-tax regimes stunted growth, and that government bureaucracies became sclerotic and ineffective. At the time, those were considered unorthodox positions. All have become conventional wisdom outside academia.

        You’re a fool. You assert things that are not true, and are too naive, foolish, and ideologically blinded to see it. You’re the only person I go out of my way to gratuitously insult on the Internet, because when it comes to complete idiocy and disconnectedness, you are in a league of your own.

        Why don’t you go away, and quit polluting these threads with drivel? Because you can’t. You need the psychological satisfaction of lecturing to we “dense righties”. You crave it.

        • You need the psychological satisfaction

          He is so much fun to watch, but I wouldn’t miss him if he went away. It’s like watching the really bad singers on American Idol. You feel sorry for them, but there’s still something entertaining about it. I know that some people suggest Erb should be ignored, but I get such a kick watching Erb spin himself in circles until he falls down. It’s probably not very nice to pick on someone with a psychological problem, but I can be a small, small man.

        • Because, Billy, you’re not insulting me.  You can’t.  You’re insulting something your imagination whipped up that you think is me.  Yeah, sure, I can’t use logic.  I just got an MA from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, a Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota, have succeeded in every job I’ve had from assembly line worker to restaurant manager to educator because I can’t use logic.  Sheesh.  You don’t have any clue about who I am.   But you have your imagination, and based on that, you can launch internet insults.  Wow.  I hope it makes you feel good about yourself.  You seem to need it.

          • Let me repeat the one thing you can’t get around:

            You crave it.

            If you didn’t, you would have gone away long ago. There’s no other reasonable explanation. Just admit it to yourself. 

  • I am not sure Obama was prepared to become president in 2008. I think he was suprised that he won the primaries. Then he was so busy campaigning that he is still in shock. This explains his floundering.

    Now, about the policy errors and gaffes, I wonder if the Dems have not drunk their own MSM Kool-aid, and after 8 years of jeering Bush as an idiot, they think simply having “smart” people in charge means anything goes. So the staff doesn’t take the time and think through stuff…they just say “hey, we’re the smart people, so whatever we do will work.” The electoral landslide also helps in this mentality.

    So I would say all three theories are correct in some ways, then sprinkle with a dash of hubris.

    • I am not sure Obama was prepared to become president in 2008. I think he was suprised that he won the primaries. Then he was so busy campaigning that he is still in shock. This explains his floundering.

      I’m down with that.

      But not all his floundering. A supposedly top-ranked college grad who can’t pronounce “Orion” correctly or function without a teleprompter or lacks basic literacy in history is a fraud, pure and simple.

      Otherwise he’s got a great jump shot compared to white pols and he knows his way around black and radical circles. Just what we need.

      • My thinking on the Orion thing (and Pakistahn) is that he grew up in Indonesia. He did not go to school in the USA until high school, right? 

        So he missed greek mythology and such during grade school. And he pronounces Pakistan as an Indonesian would.

  • I think by now there is enough evidence available to show that being certified as being  educated by even the ‘best’ schools is no guarantee of competence or actual education.

  • “I’ve extensively blogged about this crisis…”

    Erbie, I put on my boots to slog through those links, and what I found is just more of you running your mouth. You don’t link to external sources. You don’t raise interesting arguments. You don’t do much of anything except put forth some minor fact (“the savings rate has become blah percent”) and then indulge in verbal diarrhea about what you think it means.

    At best your observations are trite. More often, they are the very ideological groupthink you accuse others of having. Sometimes, they’re just incredibly lame and stupid.

    In other words, they are just an extended version of the “I decree it” pattern that Ott Screb has noted about you. You want for the rest of us to play by your weird rules, in which you make an assertion, someone challenges it, and you defend it by referring to more of your own assertions. Repeat, ad infinitum. Then, if someone points out that you’re being dishonest or that some or your assertions are transparently stupid, you whine about being insulted.

    People here are wise to that game. That’s why we go straight to the insult phase. Going through the dreary motions of trying to argue with you is fruitless and everybody here knows that. The only person who gains anything from that is you, as you get to be the poseur and play the part of a smart person generously educating the rest of us.

    We all realize that you’re stupid enough to believe your own bull$hit. But we’re not stupid enough to take it seriously, or to try and play your transparently one-sided game. The fact that you don’t even realize it’s one-sided and useless, while we all do, is further evidence of the incredible depths of your stupidity.

    • Grocky = hammer

      Erb = nail

      Hammer meet nail – nail meet hammer.  Hammer wins.

      • Erb, don’t lose hope.  Erb, don’t lose faith.  You can come back from this.  All it take is Small Steps, there Erb.  SMALL STEPS!

  • Erb is trying to sell the notion that the bad habits that have accumulated in the economy — many if not most of them the result of or complicated by government behavior — will be “fixed” by Obama government policies and programs.

    That, of course, is ridiculous. Obama is calling for more bad and unnecessary behavior from government, which will further exacerbate bad habits at play in the economy and both curtail the natural elimination of those bad habits by the recession and stifle the capacity for recovery in the economy.

    There is a cold war going on in the United States between freedom and collectivism, between entrepreneurial capitalism (the greatest success story in human history) and movement socialism (the greatest failure in human history). Obama is committed to movement socialism and thus to failure. That is how plainly, starkly it must be put. It comes down to a one and a zero, in the end.

    Yeah, it’s wonderful that a black guy could become President in this wonderful country. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yadda, yadda. But after that nice fact, this was the most serious case of mismanagement by a democratic (small “d”) electorate in America in a long time. Having dodged Gore and Kerry, you had to know that at some point we were going to take one in the chest. Well, everybody, here it is.

  • I have a theory.

    They know the system is broken beyond repair, and all the various stimuli are nothing more than looting the treasury for all it is worth before it collapses.

    • That’s certainly a theory that has to be considered. You wouldn’t lose that argument by making the “stimulus” bill passed last month your Exhibit A.

      You’re basically arguing that Barney Frank, Chris Dodd, Nancy Pelosi et al., in addition to being ordinary thieves, are bona fide gangsters.

      Frank had the fix in for some bank, didn’t he? Dodd had some things stuffed in his belt on the way out the door, too, if I recall. But, are the colluding, or just acting spontaneously out of the usual venal instinct?

  • “Markets do not automatically adjust themselves”.

    Wow. All that time, money and effort I put into those Econ. and Math. courses, all wasted. I guess I should have taken Poly. Sci. courses, then I would know everything.

    • He’s avoiding the economics professors in the faculty lounge. 

      Obviously.

    • You obviously weren’t studying during those economics courses.   Oh well, as long as you’re not in the business of educating people, you can live with your misconceptions.

  • Markets do not automatically adjust themselves, there is no reason to think they do. The “law” of supply and demand (note: in social science ‘law’ does not mean ….

    I’m sorry. I can’t go on. This stuff is too ridiculous to parody.

    There’s out of touch. Then there’s outright bat$hit crazy. I’m afraid the good professor has veered into bat$hit crazy territory, and I refuse to follow him there.

    If he retreats from outright insanity to mere delusion, I’ll return to our regularly scheduled program. For now, wow, just wow.

    • Following the self-parody with parody followed by self-self-parody will eventually get you to the point where the ventriloquist’s dummy starts talking back for real. Those painted-on freckles, those batting wooden eyelashes, that eternal smile, and those flat monotone platitudes, like flyers announcing a sale on used bathrobes slipped under the dorm room door in Plato’s cave, flattened further with each repetition, eternal return.

      What I think beats it all is Erb’s gloating hatred served like an ice cream sundae with a strawberry on top by a gimp on the boardwalk in a paper hat with peppermint breath who is secretly thumbing through the complete memoranda of J. Stalin below the counter, out of the view of the customers.

  • Well, Erb, you’re warm. Markets never adjust themselves toward failure on their own.
    For that, they need the help of government. Markets never fail…never… absent government help; they’re by nature self adjusting. Always have been. It’s called supply and demand. It’s when government ry to alter that law that markets and the people dependant on them get into trouble. Like,f or example, trying to get people into housing they cant afford simply by passing a law.

    You’re welcome, Erb.

    Think, people, Erb is the type of non-mentality teaching our young. Is it any wonder we’re in trouble as a nation?
     

  • Ok, time for a recap on what Erb has taught us on this thread:

    “I’m used to that, and in fact I find it a kind of ‘law of the blogosphere’ — conservatives that go to ‘liberal’ sites get the same kind of treatment.”

    Translation: “The reason I get treated so badly here is that I’m a liberal/leftist. So all that stuff I’ve said in the past about being a non-partisan pragmatic moderate whatever was sheerest moonshine to try and dishonestly build up my credibility so you right-wingers would listen to me.”

    “Markets do not automatically adjust themselves, there is no reason to think they do.”

    Translation: “I’m a socialist. I don’t believe in markets. I refuse to accept the fundamental principle on which capitalism is based.”

    “Yup, people like me are the ones taking over, and your kind of thinking is being brushed aside.”

    Translation: “I’m a leftist thug, and I want my side to rule your side so we can ignore (brush aside) anything your side thinks. As with all committed leftists throughout history, what I really want is power to tell the rest of you what to do. This silly right-wing idea that government’s purpose is to provide stability for people to run their own lives is poppycock. It’s all about the power.”

    So the bottom line is that, in one thread, Erb has proven yet again that he’s a dishonest leftist thug. And a delusional one at that.

    Well done, Erbie.

    • I often get the feeling that people think it’s irrelevant (or maybe guilt by association) when I mention that Erb married into the family of a former Russian Communist Party official who ran a collectivized farm. Well, I always thought it was relevant, and not some bizarre coincidence. As this Obama thing unfolds, I think it will become more and more apparent just how relevant and indicative it is. Again, Erb has only had two consistent themes as far as I can tell: socialism and anti-Americanism. In Obama he has found what he has always wanted in a leader, someone who embodies both of those.

    • Except, of course, I believe markets are the best way to organize the economy.  And, like almost all economists and capitalist, I believe there needs to be rule of law and effective regulations in order to prevent people from corrupting markets.  I think that lack of regulation caused markets to be corrupted in the past twenty years, and I understand, as do most economists, that markets do not automatically adjust because of imperfect information, greed, fear, and time lags.   You guys seem to have grasped an emotionally satisfying over simplified view of markets that almost no one believes, and since you don’t have the capacity to defend your view, you insult anyone who disagrees.   Get used to the margins, that’s where you’re going to stay.

  • “Yup, people like me are the ones taking over, and your kind of thinking is being brushed aside”.
     See you on the tumbrel Citoyen Erb.

  • Rahm Emanuel;  “Never allow a crisis to go to waste”.

    V. I. Lenin; “The worse, the better”.

  • I think the answer is that Obama is just another sleazy politician that’s taking care of the special interests that support him. Would he like to see the economy recover? Sure, it will make his life easier if it does. People like him use Keynesian economics to rationalize their pass the pork politics as stimulus. They probably believe their own BS. Sadly, like FDR, Obama will fail.

  • It is really not that complicated.

    Obama is a hard core Marxist. If you are on this board you know what that is, there’s no mystery here.

  • Except, of course, I believe markets are the best way to organize the economy. Because we wise leftists need some way to organize the grunts who grow food and make TVs and such, after all. And, like almost all economists and capitalist, I believe there needs to be rule of law and effective regulations in order to prevent people from corrupting markets. Of course, none of you were arguing otherwise, but since you nailed me pretty good on that unqualified statement that indicated my ignorance of basic economics, I have to come back and obfuscate things, and pretend I was arguing something else.

    I think that lack of regulation caused markets to be corrupted in the past twenty years, and it certainly wasn’t wise leftists like Chris Dodd and Barney Frank who had anything to do with it. Nope, it was those greedy free market guys, just like you thick righties that hang around here.

    I understand, as do most economists, that markets do not automatically adjust because of imperfect information, greed, fear, and time lags. Well, most economists that are in our faculty lounge think that, though there are some Nobel-prize-winning wackos who think that adjustment is a continuous process that is always automatically ongoing. What do they know? I tell you, automatic adjustment is just impossible. Only wise leftists leaders at the controls can lead to real adjustment, that is, adjustment in the direction we wise leftists think the market should go.

    You guys seem to have grasped an emotionally satisfying over simplified view of markets that almost no one believes, and since you don’t have the capacity to defend your view, you insult anyone who disagrees. And my view of markets guided by the benificent hand of leftism is a perfect philosophy, and I don’t either believe it because it’s emotionally satisfying, so stop saying that! You guys are just wrong, wrong, wrong, and I don’t care that Dale Franks wrote a book on economics or that you guys have participated in deep discussions on economic principles, you’re just wrong, do you hear!

    Besides, people like me are the ones taking over, and your kind of thinking is being brushed aside. And even though that implies that I want my side to rule your side, I’m not either a thug! I’m a wise, thoughtful, smart guy, and Obama thinks just like me, and besides, it’s all for your own good! Why, you guys have already demonstrated that you don’t know how to handle freedom, judging by the irresponsible stuff you throw around this site.

    Get used to the margins, that’s where you’re going to stay. And I just can’t help crowing about that, but I definitely don’t do it because I have some strange need to get psychological fulfillment by feeling superior to you dense righties, so please, please, please stop saying that!

    Of course, if the Republicans regain a majority in 2010, I’ll have a whole bunch of reasons why I predicted it all along. My godlike powers of political science coupled with the holy writ of postmodernism means I never have to admit I’m wrong. Oh, I’ll pretend in the abstract that I am, as I did above, but we both know that I’m not really, so that’s why I can’t actually point to any instances where I’m wrong. Suck on it, righties.

  • No, Billy, I don’t crave anything but real discussion.  I’m amused by the way you guys so obviously avoid the issues and attack someone who provocatively takes a different perspective — and I think since I avoid personal insults and focus on the substance that bothers you even more, and makes you think I’m “smug” (whatever that means).   I find this all amusing, and actually helpful for my research which involves now looking at the psychology behind politics.  I’m convinced this is all emotion, and reason is just used as a tool for people to rationalize their biases.  When they can’t do it with reasoned argument, they turn to ad hominems and fantasies about the other person or side.   It’s so obvious, yet apparently so easy to fall into.   I know you guys are totally clueless about what I’m really like, but that’s OK.  That’s part of what makes your reactions so interesting.

  • One more thing, and please think about this:  On issues like the economy, the danger of American decline, how President Bush’s policies are judged, Iraq, Afghanistan and American foreign policy in general, I truly believe that in my blog comments history has shown I’ve been far more accurate than most people writing or commenting on this blog.  I was mocked for talking about economic decline in the US last year before September 15.  I noted early the dangers in Iraq and how the administration plans to spread democracy and cause Iran and Syria to change policies out of fear were unrealistic.  I think part of the problem is that you guys know you were wrong on so many of these things (and I was wrong on a number of points too, of course) and because it’s gotten emotional with insults, it’s really anathema to actually admit it.   I think the insults say more about you guys than they say about me.

    • Yeah, you are just one in a million aren’t you, Erb. 

      Why you took us to the woodshed telling us how “The Surge” was bound to work, couldn’t help but succeed and bring the violence down and allow the Iraq government the time to get it’s act together.  Oh wait – you never said that.  You stated time and again how it was going to fail.  In fact in March 2007 you followed your buddy Juan Cole and stated that the Surge had already failed before the first surge brigade had even arrived on station in Iraq.  Strange - from your previous statements some would think you knew it all.

      And then you told us that we just had to be patient and the newly formed government of Iraq would find a way to address the various grievances and begin to work effectively as a force for unifying Iraq.  Oh wait – you never said that did you.  In fact you harped more times than I can remember, repeating the Juan Cole mantra, that it was inevitable Iraq would partition itself into three seperate states.

      And then there was the Malicki government push in region of Basra against the Sadrists and how you were right there telling us that Makicki had the upper hand and would push aside any further interference from the militias and Iran.  Oh wait – you didn’t say that did you.  Again you took up the Juan Cole mantra that the Basra push had failed miserably and Iran held the day.

      Yeah, you are one in million there, Erb.

  • “No, Billy, I don’t crave anything but real discussion.”

    Yeah, yeah, yeah, Scotty, we all know that’s what you THINK. The reality is VERY different, even if you can’t see it.

    You DEFINE “real discussion” as people granting your silly assertions as having some validity. You STILL HAVE NOT come back and explained why all those links you painstakingly collected are just links back to your own bull$hit, which themselves contain more links to your own bull$hit.

    So, sure, you CLAIM you crave real discussion, but that’s just another way of saying what BH is saying. You really crave feeling superior to the rest of us.

    Besides, you’re not getting anything anywhere close to real discussion here by anyone’s definition, so I think his question is a good one. If your not coming here for simple ego-boo, then what ARE you coming here for? You’re sure not getting what you claim you want. So one way or another, you’re lying, because the only other reason I can think of is you just like to f^ck with us. I wouldn’t put such maliciousness past you, but given how stupid you seem to be, it seems unlikely.

    My God, you’re so clueless you actually think you’re “far more accurate” than the people who post here, even though you get slammed regularly with a list as long as my arm of all the stuff you’ve gotten wrong.

    I don’t comment around here much, because I like to read the stuff here and I’m not up on the details the way people like Bruce are. But I can spot bull$hit when I see it, and that describes pretty much everything you write. That means I have to wade through the dreary stuff to get to the stuff worth reading, and I hate that.

    By the way, we all went to school with stuffed shirts getting degrees in social sciences, and we know just what those degrees you are so proud of really mean — that you pestered faculty and piled up bull$hit long enough for them to give you a degree to get rid of you. They don’t say a thing about how smart you are. I’ve seen peopel too stupid to tie their own shoes get advanced social science degrees.

  • Now Erb is talking himself backwards out of his support for Obama’s economic interventionism, as if he weren’t boasting in this very thread 24-hours earlier how people like him were taking over. Suddenly, the markets are alive again, the best way to organize the economy. We just need rule of law and regulation, as if the implicit threats and thuggery of this administration were not obvious.

    Well, note to Erb: we have rule of law and enough regulation to choke even you into silence. But the very rule of law itself is threatened by the over-regulation, and the tipping point into permanent stagnation approaches, if it’s not already here. A condition you know well as a faculty member at an American university.

    So, if you’re really interested in the organizing power of the markets, turn in your lifetime tenure on the dime of the people of Maine, and let the 1,000 or more PhDs in political science who are teaching as adjuncts around the country, who have equal or better credentials than yours, come compete on the open market for your job.

    The truth is that you have no understanding of or interest in markets, and probably only a little less understanding than you have of your own field. You are a political hack propagandist accusing people here of being cornered into their own ideology. Markets, you idiot, are the ultimate anti-ideology. That the markets can be comprehended with ideas does not make them an ideology. They consist of individual acts that are self-actualizing in relation to the individual acts of others. No two people involved need to agree about anything other than the transaction, of which there are billions a day. Not ideology. Free action. Wealth creation. Risk.

    No central plan can comprehend or comprise those transactions or even get remotely close to comprehending them. Only an ideology and its ideologists would even pretend to be able to do so. And the ideology we are talking about is socialism. It is a pretense before it is a lie and a lie before it is a mistake and a mistake before it is a failure and a failure before it is a catastrophe. And that is born out in example after example from history.

  • “…have succeeded in every job I’ve had from assembly line worker to restaurant manager…”

    You were a fucking thief, Erb.  Shut up.

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