A Lazy New Year's Eve Morn on Twitter...

School of Athens

Brad DeLong: Gee, I Have Argued Myself From Half-Agreeing With @EconMarshall To 90% Agreeing With Him, Haven’t I?_:

Suresh Naidu: Sorry that came out wrong, deleted. Straightforward: a substantial amount of economic power and inefficiency is not eliminated by deconcentration/free entry. Not clear, lots of problems are made worse by free entry/competition. Low margins mean harder to unionize. Innovation is done by big firms. On simple efficiency grounds things can get worse in market with advantageous selection (eg loans) or with any negative ext. It depends!


Mike Konczal: If we are worried about margins being too low, boy do I have exciting news for you:

Sure, but between that, Tobin's Q, "profit share", consistent rate of return under declining real rates, and the break of investment and profitability, something is broken. One can contest any of the individual methods, but together they paint a clear picture.

Suresh Naidu: The " always more competition" fix implies we want to expand output but it is not clear we do in every market (eg airline monopoly might be 10th best emissions regulation).

(((E. Glen Weyl))): 10th best reasoning is fine for policy technocrats, but I think a pretty poor basis for thinking about imaginaries for broad social change and democratic movement building. Imaginaries that move us beyond monopolistic corporate forms, but using market mechanisms, seem promising. I am talking about building coalitions and democratic discourse rather than just being technocratic experts.

Do you really think "allow monopolies to control the tobacco industry because it is a very mediocre way given our extremely imperfect and complex world to nonetheless somewhat control cigarette addiction" is useful way to be in discourse with a broad democratic public?

It seems to me that this sort of descent into endless technocratic 100th best calculation is precise the sort of bandage upon bandage reasoning with angels dancing on the heads of pins that people like @snaidunl usually decry as the worst sort of utilitarianism

Suresh Naidu: Right but my point was why antimonopoly politics, focusing on exercise of pricing power/market structure, are bad relative to more comprehensive criticisms of capitalist power and democratic remedies.

Marshall Steinbaum: Say what you will about antimonopolist politics, it most definitely was a "comprehensive criticism of capitalist power." That's exactly what it was—a fight for control over the process of economic production. Which the antimonopolists lost, for good reason (namely, they refused in the end to interpose state power against the power of capitalists).

(((E. Glen Weyl))): Anti-monopoly also uses the rhetoric of the free market to undermine capitalist power, which is often a far more effective strategy for building coalitions...how many libertarians have you won over, @snaidunl, with @DemSocialists?

Ilyana Kuziemko: Libertarians are incredibly rare outside of economics departments. I can imagine them as convenient anti-Trump allies, but given their views and their tiny numbers, is winning them over a high-return activity for a social movement?

Suresh Naidu: Right and too hard to distinguish real lovers of real freedom from reactionaries who like drugs

Ilyana Kuziemko: I mean, sure, intellectually it might be fun to try to convince libertarians (i feel like that's what I do on Twitter w most of my econ colleagues). But if you are serious about a social movement and have limited time/resources, it seems low on any to-do list.

(((E. Glen Weyl))): Frankly I could not disagree more. Most efficacious social movements are not 100% bottom up; they involve changing the ideas of elites in concert with building coalitions from below. And a very large chunk of elites build a lot of their identity around libertarian ideas.

Alice Evans: Just intervening on this one specific point, I wonder if that’s true..? I think most social movements succeed not by changing elite beliefs about what’s right/ wrong , but when by strengthening sympathetic but despondent people’s collective efficacy that change is possible?

(((E. Glen Weyl))): I didn't say most, I just said many. I think the examples I offered are good ones. Most "poor people's movements" were quite different, but also had important interactions with elite movements.

Alice Evans: Oh for sure. For example, the PT in Brazil secured broad support so long as it was a win-win coalition, benefitting everyone, and thus was contingent upon continued growth. I was just cautioning against optimism about converting others. And instead pointing to the importance of building collective efficacy. Raising hopes that change is possible.

(((E. Glen Weyl))): My project is not one so much of "converting others" as building coalitions that speak in many languages, both the language of social democracy and the language of liberty which, btw, used to be the same thing.

Ilyana Kuziemko: Maybe it’s a gendered thing but the whole « freedom» discourse just falls flat with me, personally. Some socialists have made the argument that “socialism is freedom” and I get it, and it’s clever to expropriate a right-wing word, but I don’t think it will move many people.

(((E. Glen Weyl))): I don't think it is a particularly gendered thing. Two of the people that self-identify or recently stopped self-identifying as libertarian who are both most prominent in the @RadxChange movement and who I most admire are both women, @devonzuegel and @rivatez.

(((E. Glen Weyl))): Literally all I was trying to argue is that willfully alienating and equating the deepest beliefs large sections of the elite with white supremacy is not a good strategy to help social democracy flourish.

Marshall Steinbaum: You might have noticed that I don't particularly care about "winning over" libertarians given their longstanding intellectual commitments, but ymmv

(((E. Glen Weyl))): I think that is wildly unfair, divisive and bigoted. There are enormous numbers of open-minded good people who self-identify as libertarians; I was once one of them. Writing them all off using guilt by association is no better than equating Islam with terrorism. I like a lot of Marshall's work, but it is this kind of attitude that I think is responsible for so much of the self-defeating nature of today's left. @rivatez @VitalikButerin

Marshall Steinbaum: If it is self-defeating to refuse to ally with white supremacy, then fine. Personally, I am moved by the contemporary criticism of the New Deal, which provided social democracy for white people & which white people burned to the ground rather than permit black people's inclusion.

(((E. Glen Weyl))): Are you equating libertarianism with white supremacy?

Marshall Steinbaum: I am indeed, with much in the historical record to back me up. For example: "the United States, with trivial exceptions, has never been a colonial country." —Milton Friedman

(((E. Glen Weyl))): Not just vaguely associating, but literally equating? So @tylercowen,@ThomasSowell and @JeffFlake are literally a white supremacists just as much as @RichardBSpencer is?

Marshall Steinbaum: There are flavors, but they all serve one another's purposes and are part of the same political movement, yes.

(((E. Glen Weyl))): This is a good piece, written by people who are either libertarians or until recently self-identified as such. So how does this count as proof that self-identified libertarians are all white supremicists? https://t.co/tzsPzo2ekD

Swole Porter: ...did you actually read it? Because it’s a critique of the ways libertarians have long countenanced white supremacy as a primary motivation for many of their ideological fellow travelers.

(((E. Glen Weyl))): "Now, libertarian, individualist, and market-liberal ideas, concepts, slogans, and advocates aren’t alone in having a history that is entangled with white supremacy. Hardly any set of social ideas in American intellectual history lacks such an entanglement." The guy is a self-identified libertarian writing for a site that was designed for self-identified libertarians advocating for building a liberatarianism that is genuinely libertarian and non-racialized. That such people exist and can be our allies is precisely my point.

(((E. Glen Weyl)))(: Marshall is equating libertarianism with white supremacy. I think this is roughly equivalent to equating socialism with Stalinism, conservatism with Nazism or Islam with terrorism. This attitude of some of the left is unbelievably destructive and dangerous. added,

Kim-Mai Cutler: Is there a theoretical world in which libertarianism /= white supremacy but the practical, real-world effect of libertarian policies over the last 40 yrs has been to extend white supremacy, given that different groups did not start out w/ equivalent resources & capital in the US?

Brad DeLong: I had thought that my brilliant-but-at-times-highly-annoying coauthor @Econ_Marshall was making a more sophisticated point—that here in America "libertarianism" is a Frankenstein's monster that got its lightning-bolt juice from massive resistance to the Civil Rights Movement. Dismantling the New Deal and rolling back the social insurance state were not ideas that had much potential political-economy juice back in the 1950s and 1960s. But if the economic libertarian cause of dismantling the New Deal could be harnessed to the cause of white supremacy—if one of the key liberties that libertarians were fighting to defend was the liberty to discriminate against and oppress the Negroes—than all of a sudden you could have a political movement that might get somewhere. And so James Buchanan and the other libertarians to the right of Milton Friedman made the freedom to discriminate—or perhaps the power to discriminate?—a key one of the liberties that they were fighting for in their fight against BIG GOVERNMENT. And this has poisoned American libertarianism ever since.

This—Marshall thinks, and I am more than half agree—is the right way to look at it.

For example, consider when Rand Paul Came out of the libertarian fever swamps to Washington https://www.google.com/amp/s/thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/161217-paul-says-he-would-have-opposed-civil-rights-act and began saying that he would have voted against the 1964 Civil Rights Act because it infringed On property holders’ rights to discriminate: “This is the hard part about believing in freedom.... I'm sure you believe in the First Amendment so you understand that people can say bad things. It ’s the same way with other behaviors.... In a free society, we will tolerate boorish people, who have abhorrent behavior...”

No “public accommodation” category for him!

No argument that if you hold yourself out as a provider of goods or services in the public marketplace you must then not discriminate on the basis of race.

Of course, Rand Paul then quickly learned not to say what he thinks. He quickly learned that it is a loser in America today and say that your libertarianism Includes a strident commitment to the right to discriminate on the basis of race—that having a belief in FREEDOM understood as the freedom to discriminate on the basis of race beats be done privately and quietly rather than publicly and loudly. And so now Rand Paul only says it in private.

It is now 65 years since Murray Rothbard and his ilk began trying to harness the lightning bolt of white supremacy to animate the dead tissue of their Frankenstein’s monster of the anti-New Deal cause. Does it still matter? I think it does. I have heard a lot of people who call themselves "libertarians" say and sagely nod at others’ saying that utility derived from satisfying a taste for discrimination is a proper thing to include in a social welfare function—and they are often the same people who are outraged at counting utility from redistribution, envy, or theft.

Gee, I have argued myself from half-agreeing with @Econ_Marshall to 90% agreeing with him, haven’t I?

Marshall Steinbaum: It was inevitable.

Brad DeLong :-)

Oliver Beige: If you're trying to investigate the linkage between Rothbard and Peter Thiel, you should have a closer look at white flight suburbanization and how it shaped, among other things, Silicon Valley: https://techcrunch.com/2015/01/10/east-of-palo-altos-eden/

Kim-Mai Cutler: I wrote that...


(((E. Glen Weyl))) retweets: Ryan Lackey: Favorite 5 books that I read in 2018: The Bell Curve (Murray); Radical Markets (Posner); Eichmann in Jerusalem (Arendt); Influence (Cialdini); Principles (Dalio).

Brad DeLong: If you are trying to claim that white supremacy is not in inextricably intertwined with American libertarianism, it is really better not to retweet people who are excited by The Bell Curve and its strange sad fascination with genetic racial differences in IQ. This is what @Econ_Marshall means: you start out reading somebody, and then they have an unhealthy fascination with:

  • genetic racial differences in IQ, or
  • with how “public accommodation” doctrine is a grave and illegitimate overreach, or
  • know too much about the muzzle velocity of the Nazi armored battlewagon four.

I have found that if someone identified as a libertarian there was an unhealthy chance they would like to hang out with one of these groups.

Better, I think, in a benefit-cost sense, to confine you’re reading and interaction to people who say that they feel the strength of libertarian arguments but who accept the label only with many many asterisks...

#publicsphere #economicsgonewrong #moralphilosophy #ontwitter #highlighted