by Tyler Cowen
on June 21, 2011 at 9:55 am
1. A superb blog post about something I do not care about.
2. How to hold down health care costs: more and better TV.
3. Is the American public becoming more libertarian?
4. Failed Kiwi markets in everything.
5. An ideological Turing test, Bryan is correct by a long mile.
Jonathan Haidt researched the precise topic Krugman got backwards.
Of course, that’s for morality rather than economics, and the underlying theory (that conservatives care about more dimensions and can better simulate the liberal subset) doesn’t really apply to economics. And Haidt has actually gone to the lengths of of looking at libertarians specifically and, from the perspective of morality, they’re more like liberals than conservatives (but actually distinct from both other groups):
Still, I’d bet that both conservatives and libertarians are better able to simulate liberals than the reverse for the reason that Caplan cites — because the liberal outlook tends to be the default to which everybody is exposed (not just in K-12 schools and universities, but also mainstream entertainment and news).
Well, perhaps I was too excited about recalling Haidt’s articles to think this through before posting. Nevertheless, terms like “progressive” and “right-wing” combine both social and economic views, so I don’t think I was totally off base– even if those two categories miss large groups such as libertarians.
Apologies, here is a link to an actual paper on the subject: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=872251
The comments section of the libertarian poll is a bit scary if you are a libertarian, mostly because nobody has any idea what a libertarian is. From my scan of the comments, (too) many seem to think libertarianism = anarchy or that libertarians really like Medicare/Social Security, but don’t want to pay for it themselves.
Pre-1989: I think the splits looked like this:
Liberal (libertarian): 10-15%
Socially conservative: 35-40%
With the fall of communism, the split looks like this:
Liberal (libertarian): 10-15%
Socially conservative: 50-55%
We can see this shift clearly in, say, Hungary, where the free market Liberals are typically coalition partners with the Socialists (who oppressed the Liberals during communist times). The conservatives crowd the median voter boundary, indeed, they have a qualified majority in Parliament there now.
This implies the median voter boundary today runs not through fiscal conservatives on the right and egalitarians on the left; but through social conservatives on the right and fiscal conservatives on the left.
If you buy that, then you can see the rise of the Tea Party. These are older folks who were accustomed to fiscal and social conservatives co-habiting, as they did prior to 1989. When Obama took a socialist turn, he gave room for this kind of twin ideology to re-assert itself. It also explains the drubbing the Democrats suffered in November, because the winning strategy for the left is thus fiscally conservative–just as Clinton demonstrated during his presidency.
Mike, that’s likely a function of the website it was posted to, fivethirtyeight. It tends to be a more liberal-leaning site, and people find it easier to lump all political opponents together. “Us vs Them” is easier than “Us vs Them vs Them vs Us”.
As far as the “failed Kiwi market”, you have to recognize the adverse selection involved. That being said, the same adverse selection (or maybe even a greater degree) would be seen in female prostitutes, yet there are plenty of men willing to use their services.
J.B., I take “adverse selection” in the case of both male and female prostitutes to refer to the client (demand) side, not the supply side.
I have, for some time, pondered the question of whether America is becoming more libertarian. I actually the the answer is Yes, slightly.
I have nothing statistical to back this up. It’s strictly a one data-point observation based on my interaction with others/internet use. Could be totally biased, but my sense of things is that we are a more libertarian country today than a decade before.
America is currently more in love with libertarian flavored language as the dress we put on our baskets of non ideological worries. Ex rectum, I’d guess that no more than 10% of Americans are meaningfully ideological in the sense that they are primarily motivated by a consistent world view with given features. Most reported ideology is the narrative topping on a sundae of emotional responses and self interest.
Yes, this. We don’t have to join in the base political talking points about “we Americans are conservative”, “we Americans love freedom above all else”, “we Americans support opportunity, not handouts”. I would never back down from saying that few Americans even understand those statements. I’ve stump plenty of my college friends and engineering colleagues with the thought that freedom and justice are often opposing values. Even these educated, intelligent people have not actually thought out their values.
I’ll also say, a bit further from the truths I’ve learned above, that I find Krugman’s statements to be generally true of the general populace. However, I grew up and have lived in conservative areas. I’ve often felt that intelligent children in San Francisco or New York probably grow up feeling as alienated by the excessive liberalism as I did by the excessive conservatism. I also attribute a whole lot of unintelligent libertarianism to adolescent angst and Ayn Rand spreading to the voting populace. I’ve suggested Friedman to several Randians to no avail. Could that be a quick test of a real libertarian?
Jonathon Haidt in the Edge link says:
“conservatism is a partially heritable personality trait that predisposes some people to be cognitively inflexible, fond of hierarchy, and inordinately afraid of uncertainty, change, and death. People vote Republican because Republicans offer “moral clarity”—a simple vision of good and evil that activates deep seated fears in much of the electorate. Democrats, in contrast, appeal to reason with their long-winded explorations of policy options for a complex world.”
Exactly how Andrew Berman interprets this as in opposition to Paul Krugman is a mystery to me.
Bryan Caplan’s challenge to Krugman is nothing more than an old fashioned cat fight among the academics over who is going to be department chair. And Bryan might actually win because minorities almost always know the majorities better than the majorities know themselves. They have to in order to survive.
I think Krugman is optimistic. In this polarized world, neither side seems to have much understanding, insight, or empathy with the positions of the other. It’s too bad, because neither side (or the libertarians) have all the answers or even all the questions.
So what do you say? Want to bomb a few Libyans today?
Take a quick census of conservative vs. liberal media personalities. The conservatives are all grumpy, bellicose, and fear-mongering. The liberals are all comedians.
An interesting racial version of this suggests itself: Select black writers or journalists or entertainers or whatever, and white ones, and try the same experiement. My guess is that blacks can much more easily simulate whites to other whites, for exactly the reason lxm suggested: minorities have to know the majority culture to get by, whereas members of the majority culture can know the minority culture if they choose to, but don’t *have* to do so to get by day to day.
“hundreds of men had applied to be $240-an-hour gigolos and satisfy the demands of Kiwi women wanting sex”: I’m mildly surprised that so many Kiwi men feel that they can afford to pay $240-an-hour to be gigolos.
Here’s an ideological Turing test for Tyler: can he accurately simulate someone who understands how Bitcoin works? (My sources say “no”.)
@lxm – read further. You quoted the paragraph where Haidt is deliberately setting up a straw man – he spends the entire rest of the article shredding it. He writes this way because he understands the edge.org audience well enough to suck them in that way.
Yes, you are correct what I quoted was a strawman. And, yes, I was too quick to use that quote. I had remembered reading this article, or a similar one, about the five dimensions of morality which had made sense to me. Liberals emphasize harm/care and fairness/reciprocity dimensions while conservatives emphasize ingroup/loyalty, authority/respect, and purity/sanctity. It explained a lot to me.
But the key question here is is Haidt a liberal or a conservative? If he’s a liberal he’s explaining conservative thinking. If he’s a conservative, he’s explaining liberal thinking. Since he is giving advise to Democrats as to how to understand Republicans, I conclude that he is liberal, which proves Krugman’s point once again.
Nevada has allowed male prostitutes at legal brothels since 2009. It has not caught on.
A Turing test is not an AI test. It has nothing to do with accurately representing the abilities of another (computer versus human). It is a logic test. It is about a machine being able to accurately perform a series of tasks that a human could perform, but does not have to perform them like the human. Given that natural language is a necessity for Kaplan and Krugman to try to persuade others that they are of a different ideology, there are idiosyncrasies that would not matter in a Turing test that the judges will use (and I think favor above the actual statements made) to determine which contestants are Kaplan and Krugman. To make this a Turing test it would have to be multiple choice to hide the problems of natural languages. That probably destroys the usefulness of the test, but then it also calls into question both Krugman and Kaplan’s points. I find both to be losers from this whole line of thinking. I also find it disappointing that you were pulled in. It is political posturing, not economics that are on display here.
I’d pay $80 to watch the Caplan vs Krugman test. It sounds far more entertaining than a debate.
Or 1/3 gigolo services?
An alternative explanation of #3 is that there has been no change in the distribution of opinions regarding how much government should be intervening in the economy, and that what has instead changed is perceptions, accurate or otherwise, of how much the government is currently doing to intervene in the economy. If the government is perceived to be intervening more than it used to be, then some people who previously thought it was intervening by about the right amount will say that it’s now intervening too much. “Government is trying to do too many things that should be left to businesses and individuals” is a moving target.
In regards to the Turing test and the ability to understand the other side’s position, this is nowhere near scientific but it is entertaining: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gagAzkY060I&t=2m37s
An evolutionary biologist was once asked, “What came first? The chicken or the Egg?”
His answer … “The Fish”.
Krugman fairly clearly isn’t aiming at libertarians with that passage. You don’t, in general, see liberterians accusing liberals of being pro-terrorist or anti-freedom. Surely the reason Krugman actually bothers engaging with Tyler/etc is that he, like many liberals, regards libertarians as the sensible, can-actually-have-a-debate with part of the right. So why would he take a bet that they’d behave like he accuses mainstream conservatives of behaving?
Mercy is exactly right .Krugman says “conservatives can’t understand liberals.” Caplan switched it to a claim that “libertarians can’t understand liberals,” and then pretends that Krugman is wrong.
Classic strawman. Just dreadful.
In my experience, American conservatives are afraid of change. They want it to be 1955 again. They can’t accept that the world will never be like 1955 again and that the world changes constantly, whether you want it to or not.
The emergency room experiment doesn’t necessarily show that people are less inclined to visit emergency rooms when there are great shows. It could just as easily show that people are less likely to engage in risky behavior when there are great shows.
One way to find out would be to see if there is a spike after the show (showing same ailments but different timing). Or to see if the decline is concentrated in ailments due to risky behaviors.
E.g., probably a lot of hockey players were substituting hockey watching for hockey playing at that hour and hockey is a pretty risky endeavor.
No. Bryan is wrong by a long mile. Consider:
“You can’t get a Ph.D. from Princeton econ without acquiring basic familiarity with market failure arguments and Keynesian macro. At least you couldn’t when I was a student there in the 90s. In contrast, it’s easy to get a Ph.D. from Princeton econ without even learning the key differences between conservatism and libertarianism, much less their main arguments.”
Libertarian pop-economics have been a staple of economic academia for decades, whether it was called that or not (indeed, the moral propositions in libertarianism aren’t even economic issues, strictly speaking). This includes Keynesian economics. Bryan is only pointing to a symptom of the idea-less left: it really is the case that conservative, economic theory based on central planning is roundly supported. On the other hand, decentralization of economic power, that is socialism, is roundly rejected to the point of complete obfuscation of the economic model. This is somewhat less the case in Europe, but is nonetheless in decline worldwide.
The bottom line is that all of the major theories are adamantly pro-central management, often including the bizarre argument for “liberty.”
Comments on this entry are closed.
Previous post: How would a Greek transition out of the euro go?
Next post: From the Richmond Fed, on structural unemployment
Email Tyler Cowen
Follow Tyler on Twitter
Email Alex Tabarrok
Follow Alex on Twitter
Subscribe in a reader
Follow Us on Twitter
Marginal Revolution on Twitter Counter.com
Get smart with the Thesis WordPress Theme from DIYthemes.