Could I ever become a Democrat?

Here is a symposium on whether progressives can believe in economic growth as a primary value.  The impetus is Gene Sperling’s new and intelligent book The Pro-Growth Progressive.  Here is a summary of the book.  Here is a recent Sperling article.  Scroll down MaxSpeak for left-wing criticism of Sperling.

Sperling pushes for markets and trade, but gives government a greater role in insuring against risk.  This includes "wage insurance," more job training, and managed forms of free trade and globalization.  On net his influence will be positive, but I have the following problems with his arguments:

1. He assumes that spending more on education will result in a better educated and more productive populace.  The U.S. data do not support this view, although he does adduce some good evidence on the benefits of preschool. 

2. He assumes that government-sponsored job training — including "pre-emptive" training (i.e., before you lose your job) — is effective.

3. He never puts on his right-wing public choice hat to consider what his proposed policies would end up looking like in the real world.  He feels no shame in postulating dozens of finely honed micro-interventions, all implemented by ugly and brutish politicians and interest groups.

4. We are never told what we must forego to do all this.

5. He ties himself in emotional knots anytime his preferred policies are not unanimous pure Pareto improvements.  He has to get over the fact that Democrats hurt people too.

6. When arguing against the Bush budget deficits, he ignores Cowen’s Third Law: "All propositions about real interest rates are wrong."

He does nail market-oriented views on the issue of risk; we don’t have a good explanation of why private insurance markets do not function better.  But since single-payer national health insurance violates every economic law known to mankind, I am again unsure how I could leap on the Democratic bandwagon.

By the way, here is Reihan Salam on where the Republicans should go (Matt Yglesias comments here).  He is another smart guy, but I just don’t believe that any political party can be mass-captured by the intelligent and brought around to sanity.  Parties exist, in part, to enforce feelings of interpersonal solidarity and to make people forget about critical thinking.  We cannot avoid parties in a democracy, but there is already too much interest in parties as a vehicle for ideas.   


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