Politics isn’t about policy, installment #734

by on April 7, 2010 at 11:40 am in Political Science | Permalink

Matt Yglesias writes:

To borrow an idea from Robin Hanson, I think it’s useful to think about political conflict in terms of valorized figures. On the right, you see a lot of valorization of businessmen. On the left, you see a lot of valorization of pushy activists who want to do something businessmen don’t like. Formally, the right is committed to ideas about free markets and the left is committed to ideas about economic equality. But in practice, political conflict much more commonly breaks down around “some stuff some businessmen want to do” vs “some stuff businessmen hate” rather than anything about markets or property rights per se. Consequently, on the left people sometimes fall into the trap of being patsies for rent-seeking mom & pop operators when poor people would benefit more from competition from a corporate bohemoth.

1 Cognerd April 7, 2010 at 11:48 am

April 1st timestamp?

2 Mommsen April 7, 2010 at 12:04 pm

Wow, another version of the “Conservatives are from Mars, Democrats are from Venus” psychobabble.

3 Alex J. April 7, 2010 at 12:10 pm

The “right” (ie including libertarians) seems more motivated by execrating politicians and bureaucrats than valorizing businessmen. Aside from Rand, valorization of businessmen is what leftists imagine that free marketeers do. We just think that markets work better than government most of the time. The left (relatively speaking) thinks markets don’t work, and thus work to create non-market solutions. In the nature of political disagreement, the left thinks that everyone else also thinks that markets don’t work, and thus “free” marketeers are just trying to twist the system to their own advantage.

Burkean conservatives respect our traditions — of relatively free markets. Neo-conservatives … well, at least they opposed communism.

4 kebko April 7, 2010 at 12:29 pm

Comments seem like a good indicator of the quality of the blogger. I always wonder if bloggers like Yglesias get depressed when they read the comments on their blogs. One of the positives of MR is that the comments are high quality, in my opinion. So many of Yglesias’s comments are basically regurgitations of the readers’ shared, childish biases (“Well, what’s really going on is that our side is smart & caring & the other side is stupid & selfish.”).

But, I wonder, are the comments here just as poor, but I excuse them because I agree more with them? I don’t think so, but how would I know? If Yglesias isn’t depressed by his comments section, what makes me think I am any keener to suss these things out?

5 dearieme April 7, 2010 at 12:57 pm

“valorization” may well be the ugliest word I have ever seen on this blog.

6 lemmy caution April 7, 2010 at 1:01 pm

But, I wonder, are the comments here just as poor, but I excuse them because I agree more with them? I don’t think so, but how would I know?

This is a good point. Mindless comments from people with opposite political views as you are hard to swallow. Mindless comments from people with similar political views as you seem pretty inoffensive.

7 Rock On April 7, 2010 at 1:13 pm

The juxtaposition of the comments at 12:29 and 12:35 is pretty spectacular.

8 anon April 7, 2010 at 2:07 pm

Confusing “corporate-capitalist / state cronyism” and with “free markets” is not helpful.

9 mulp April 7, 2010 at 2:25 pm

The quote illustrates the total meaninglessness of the words “left” and “right” when talking politics or policy these days.

I look at policies from the standpoint of markets:
– does the market work to place the burden of economic activity on the the buyer and seller, or does the burden get shifted to those outside, or worse, excluded from the transaction?
– does the market operate for the long term benefit or only for short term profit?
– in short, is the market moral?

I see those who idolize property rights as totally ignorant of the reality of the world or Western civilization where the great progress the West is known for always came with total violation of property rights. The history of Europeans in the Americas and Africa, and less so in Asia, is one of absolute and total expropriation of property, and liberty.

The driving force has always been markets. Often markets have been used to most effectively expropriate property, for example trading guns to one clan for aid in expropriating the property of a rival clan.

10 Andrew April 7, 2010 at 2:56 pm

“1:46 seem to be quite self-referential”

How so?

11 JumboTron April 7, 2010 at 3:08 pm

“When Krugman critiqued the Austrian theory of the business cycle, he said it wasn’t worth studying, then proceeded to demagogue it in typical style.

When Tyler critiqued The General Theory (taking a standard that Keynesians don’t even live up to) he went through the book chapter by chapter.”

Note the discounting of the possibility that Krugman may be correct and the assertion that Keynesians are, in fact, wrong.

Yep, truly insightful comments.

12 Ryan Vann April 7, 2010 at 3:25 pm

Aside from the odd vernacular, I rather enjoyed that little blurb. Anytime a lefty encourages his flock to reconsider the merits of extremely localized markets, by pointing out the rent seeking (or lack of value added)ma and pas often engage in, the better. Yglesias consistently posts read worthy posts in my view, regardless of the qualms I might have with the logic. I would definitely second some of the opinions expressed about the lack of quality in the comments sections, but that is the nature of online forums.

13 kebko April 7, 2010 at 3:28 pm

RockOn, libert & JumboTron:

All of your comments here are more intelligent than the first 5 comments at the Yglesias site.

14 IVV April 7, 2010 at 3:36 pm


There may be a discounting of the idea that Krugman is correct, but it is immaterial for the basis of the argument, and thus best ignored. What is being debated is the merit of the arguments that Krugman and Cowen make. I would agree with Andrew that Cowen makes the more convincing argument, but what I would like to see are links to Krugman’s and Cowen’s arguments demonstrating the claims that Andrew makes regarding Krugman’s and Cowen’s arguments. The lack of links is the greatest weakness in Andrew’s position, not the bias for Austrian economics.

15 Andrew April 7, 2010 at 3:52 pm

(btw, I get that I’m dogging Krugman while praising Cowen for not. That’s because I disagree with Cowen, but he might be right)

16 me April 7, 2010 at 5:47 pm

comment at 5:46 seems self referential

17 Lord April 7, 2010 at 9:54 pm

I think that should be politics is not about principle, it is very much about policy. Policy provides power. Principle is just used to clothe and disguise these claims for power. It is selective rationalization to justify actions.

18 how to play farmville April 8, 2010 at 1:52 am

business is targeted by progressiveness and many conservatives end up defending the corporation in which policy with power is used to disguise these claims which is selective rationalization to justify action.

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