by Tyler Cowen
on October 24, 2012 at 10:27 am
1. Broken windows in Afghanistan.
2. Imaginary markets in everything.
3. Karl Smith responds to Scott Sumner on fiscal policy, Scott responds in turn, and good Amir Sufi slides on monetary policy and why it may not be so powerful.
4. The adaptive house.
5. Cass Sunstein on how to fix the mistakes of the impatient. (Is he at this point a Bloomberg columnist?)
6. Academics are moving further to the left.
‘the percentage identifying as “far left” or liberal has increased notably in the last three years, while the percentage identifying in three other political categories has declined.’
The culture that is incessant American media drumming about ‘the far left’ – by the standards of the German politics, almost nobody in American academia (not to speak of politics) classifies as especially left.
But this may be a decent indication of the conflation of politics with the Kulturkampf that continues to burn so brightly in American minds.
Id say that is just as true about the “right” or “far right”.
Id go further to say that right and left have little meaning except as crude tribal identities.
Sure – but in much of the world, politics is still regarded as something other than an issue of tribal identity.
For example, the consensus concerning universal health care in essentially every country of the industrialized world except the U.S. is a matter of politics, not tribal identity. And certainly there is discussion concerning how such systems should function, without anyone feeling the need to question the very benefits such health care systems bring the societies they exist in, since those benefits are a matter of common and personal experience.
Or to give another example – bicycle riding is common in countries like Germany, Denmark, or the Netherlands. Bicycle riders and car drivers are not in an us/them conflict. The majority of adults belong to both groups at the same time, without thinking there is any distinction worth talking about (except for the greater responsibility borne by those controlling tons of metal). There is essentially no politics involved in identifying oneself as a bicycle rider – and yet, I am sure that many Americans consider bicycle riding a political act on the part of the person riding it. And that someone who rides frequently is on the left.
This is Kulturkampf, not politics. And it is cleverly played by those who attempt to frame such issues – though from the outside, it is just laughable what the American Kulturkampf sponsors consider ‘far left.’
Especially after one notes that the quoted Daniel Klein is part of the Mercatus Center Faculty Network.
“There is essentially no politics involved in identifying oneself as a bicycle rider – and yet, I am sure that many Americans consider bicycle riding a political act on the part of the person riding it. And that someone who rides frequently is on the left.”
Thats the first ive heard that bike riding is a leftist endeavor, but i usually ignore that sort of thing. And i think that cuts to the heart of the matter, If you actually believe (or care a lot about) that sort of claim, then, of course, to you the US looks like its embroiled in a culture war.
Personally, i think your concerns say way more about you than about American society at large.
“Sure – but in much of the world, politics is still regarded as something other than an issue of tribal identity.”
I should add that while I dont follow foreign politics particularly closely, i kind of doubt that things are all that much different in other democracies, it just seems that way because you are less in tune with their politics, or you are falling for a ‘grass is greener’ kind of fallacy.
Its like Americans invented pandering to voters or can claim a patent on us vs them politics.
“and yet, I am sure that many Americans consider bicycle riding a political act on the part of the person riding it. And that someone who rides frequently is on the left.”
That seems like an unlikely statement. I think you are conflating your opinions with American society. I’ve never thought for a moment that someone riding a bicycle must be a Leftie. Nor is it a sentiment that I’ve heard espoused.
I take it you don’t read urban planning blogs? Because trolls on those blogs insinuate this or something like it with some regularity.
I’m sure that 99% of Americans have never even heard of “urban planning blogs”, let alone read one.
The question is whether Americans in general consider bicycle riding to be a left-wing political statement, it really has nothing to do with comment flame wars on obscure corners of the internet.
The best urbanism blogs bring in a wide cross-section of their regional populations. To employ a classic metaphor, I’m sure no one you know voted for Nixon, so he couldn’t possibly have won, right?
Also, spend some time biking around rural or exurban America, and tell me if you don’t observe a pattern in who shouts obscenities or tries to run you off the road. There is very much a cultural divide over recreational cycling, one that is highly correlated with political views, even if political views are not a proximate cause of the divide.
Yeah, I’m sure that urban planning blogs are wonderful, but they really aren’t widely read, so your Nixon analogy fails. I mean, go up to 100 random strangers on the street and ask them what their favorite urban planning blog is and let me know what you find.
As far as your point about rednecks in pickup trucks running you off the road, that isn’t even relevant unless you think they were running you off the road because they assumed you were a leftist.
And cyclists do get run off the road in big city, too, do they not? Is that some kind of right-wing conspiracy as well?
I must actually be a centrist, judging from the discussion here: when I lived in Chicago and worked in the Loop, I took Metra in to the NW Station then crossed the Loop diagonally in about twenty minutes (with no ice present). In pedestrian mode, I had to dodge BOTH automobiles AND cyclists (usu. commercial messenger bikers). I recall more numerous close calls with cyclists than with drivers, so maybe I’m slightly right of center.
Why on earth would the standards of German politics be relevant?!
To evaluate “left” and “right” against some universal standard, rather than against US discourse-of-the-minute.
(That is not to say that German politics sets the standard, just that by combining US and German politics, you get a better picture of what constitutes “left” and “right” than by examining US politics alone.)
Their meaning is determined by American circumstances, though.
Good save. I was about to say “didn’t we settle that Germans aren’t allowed to dictate to the world last century?”
Because from the outside looking in, it is absurd to use the term ‘far left’ to describe anyone in America public life.
Concretely – many of Obama’s opponents call him ‘far left.’ Obama himself would probably be considered, at best, a moderate, with a distinct tilt to the right bordering on the utterly unacceptable to thoroughly illegal (executing Americans citizens without due process comes immediately to mind) in a German context.
At this point, the term ‘left’ is so debased in American discourse that both Eisenhower and Nixon look like leftists, with Nixon being on the extreme left.
But in terms of Kulturkampf, this debasement works wonderfully.
Even more amusing to consider is how this American framework paints everything into a simplistically inaccurate framework – where would the real world deficit cutting, state employment trimming Greens in Stuttgart fit into this framework?
It is worth reminding Americans that their two party system does not represent anything resembling a split between left and right. After all, a lot of people are telling them that it does, confident that no contradiction will be forthcoming.
“It is worth reminding Americans that their two party system does not represent anything resembling a split between left and right.”
Do you really think we don’t know that?
Do you really think there is a two party system in the first place?
It’s one party that puts on a show to monopolize the media.
Because from the outside looking in, it is absurd to use the term ‘far left’ to describe anyone in America public life.
More absurd than making the argument that words mean different things in German in response to the allegation that US academics are moving even more leftward of US mainstream politics?
That may be true of Obama but people were not asking about American political life. They were asking about American academia. Which tends to be on the Left even by European standards. Chomsky is not on the Right. Not even by German standards. The Communist defeat was mourned as much in American academia as it was in European. American univerisities produced more people devoted to whitewashing the Soviet Union than Germany did.
The fact is academia is more or less a light pink-to-deep-red blur across the whole world. Engineering and economics aside.
The left (in the historical sense) has never executed citizens without due process?
Where exactly would you put Mao and Stalin on the spectrum?
Are academics moving to the left or is American politics moving to the right?
The Republican Party is certainly moving further to the right. Mitt Romney’s dance to the right in the primaries and then pivot back to the middle highlights this problem. The true moderate has to mischaracterize his/her positions in the current Republican Primaries. What happened to the Eastern Republicans of the late 1800’s? What happened to the California Republicans of the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s?
These economic conservatives made a stronger alliance with the social conservatives after the 60’s and then after Roe v. Wade. It helped win for a few decades, but now that is crumbling – because much of the country finds the anti-immigrant, anti-woman, anti-gay, anti-minority sentiment of the social conservatives as too repulsive – so much so that they are willing to put their economic conservatism on a lower rung of importance.
Even if Romney wins, I can’t see this current Republican Coalition lasting much longer.
When Hilary Clinton becomes president in 2016, her brand is generally economically conservative – and a reasonable new home for libertarians.
Here’s a nice post from Scott Sumner
Sorry but on what issues has the Republican Party moved to the Right? The Republican Party’s platform is pretty much exactly where it was in 1980. Or even in 1972. It is to the Left of where it was in 1956 and 1960.
The Party that has substantially moved to the Left is the Democrats. As can be seen by their efforts to remove God and Jerusalem from their platform. Just look at their 1980 platform.
If you think the GOP is anti-immigrant, anti-woman, anti-gay, anti-minority you are delusional. Not that anyone minded the fact that until about five minutes ago Obama’s platform was just as anti-Gay as the Republicans’.
On economic matters, the philosophical conversation has moved steadily to the right for decades. Serious liberals, like Krugman, have only started digging their heels in over the past few years.
Of course, this is not obvious from the drift of policy (where at best, a steady leftward tide has been stemmed over the past three decades), but I still call it progress of sorts.
On social issues (abortion aside), the whole thing has moved substantially to the left, which I also see as progress of sorts on balance.
That’s my wonder as well. In the 1990’s a “universal” healthcare system based on private for-profit insurance companies enforced by an individual mandate was an idea of the right (as opposed to a “medicare for all” gov’t run universal system on the left). Now, that same formerly-right health system is considered “far left.” You see similar things with attitudes towards things like free-trade. Those used to be “center-right” positions (as opposed to more protectionary view of the left). These days, favoring free trade does not make one right-leaning anymore.
Historically, a top marginal tax rate of 39% was probably pretty middle-of-the-road. Now, it’s akin to socialism. In the 1970’s you had Nixon declaring himself a Keynesian and issuing price controls. Reagan granted amnesty for illegal immigrants. Republicans today would never do such things.
What I wonder is what effect this will have on academic work. People like Mankiw and Taylor made their name in academia working with the New Keynesian paradigm. Do young Republicans in college and grad-school still do work in that area, or do they stay clear of anything with the word “Keynes” in the title? There are even aspects of Milton Friedman’s ideas that now seem like their from the “loony left,” in an era where Conservatives have moved away from monetarism and towards the Austrian school of thought.
Similar stories can be told with social issues. After all, sometimes I feel like the debate in this country regarding abortion is now whether we ban it in all cases, or allow exceptions for rape, incest, and health of the mother.
Go back to the 70’s and plot out the spectrum including openly communist groups like the People’s Temple, or the radicals in the Symbionese Liberation Army. In that context where does someone like Mark Thoma fall? Is he closer to Nixon or Jim Jones? Heck, on the price controls issue, he’s probably to the right of Nixon. But today? Well, he seems in league with DeLong and Krugman, so a far-left, because obviously Krugman and DeLong are super lefties.
Or think about “key parties” of the 1970’s. Heck, I can recall the naked hippie parties of the 1970’s being attended by top gov’t scientists. Most of today’s “liberals” are too conservative for a lot of that sort of behavior.
Point being, I think most of the “shifting” has happened via a shift of the Overton Window, not so much the actual political beliefs. The current center-point of politics these days is much further to the right than it was 10, 20, and especially 30 or 40 years ago. “Center-right” in 1972 is “Far Left” these days.
Granted, there are shifts on the other side too. I doubt George Wallace’s stump speeches would go over well today. Or, maybe they would. I’m not so sure sometimes.
American politics isn’t moving in either direction. What’s happening is that political parties and their associated ideological movements are becoming more and more ideologically rhetorical in a rather successful branding effort. A lot of people like identifying with a particular ideological team and doing battle with their ideological foes. Politicians and journalists and activists have become very adept at giving these people what they want.
I’ve talked to a few Obama supporters recently who can’t quite articulate how four years of Romney would be all that different from four years of Obama; yet, they have this deep and abiding fear that Romney might win. Likewise, look at all the conservative partisans who simply can’t bring themselves to recognize the very obvious fact that Obama is a center-left president. He is as much a secret-Muslim Kenyan anti-colonialist communist as Clinton was.
A lot of people like identifying with a particular ideological team.
Just so. Politics is sports for people that can’t grasp the rules or nuances of ball games but still want to belong to a team. And, just as after the Yankees thump the Red Sox 12-1, the Bostons don’t disappear forever, they return and play another day. So it goes with two party politics, as long as the GOP and Dems get to split the spoils, everything is OK, there’s another game, another election, in two or four years. That accounts for the nearly universal vituperation toward the Tea Party, who would upset the division of benefits.
Not even Romney can explain how he would be different from Obama.
Obama failed tax cut stimulus is to be replaced by Romney’s successful tax cut stimulus because Obama doubling down on Bush’s failed tax cut stimulus was just too radical leftist???
I just contrast the failed Jimmy Carter economic policies which resulted in 10 million new jobs in 4 years with far fewer during 8 years of Bush with tax rates well under half those when Carter was president. And Romney is promising a slower rate of job creation then when Carter was president with rates 20% lower than the rates more than 50% lower than the rates when Carter was president??
If lower tax rates and less regulation failed to beat Jimmy Carter policies for Reagan, Bush, and Obama, how is doubling down on Obama’s doubling down on Bush’s doubling down on Reagan’s tax cutting make Romney different?
Well, if Romney is exactly the same as Obama, you’ve got nothing to worry about, do you?
A critical point.
I think that American conservatives have moved further to the right in recent years, so some who thought of themselves as “middle of the road” might now self-define as “liberal,” despite not having changed position on many issues.
I wonder if this is explained by Republican threats (and actual decisions) to cut funding to universities, both directly (state appropriations) and indirectly (NSF and other grant agencies). ( I say this without expressing an opinion on whether the cuts are warranted or not. )
And/Or: what role might the dismal state of primary and secondary education have upon post-secondary attitudes? Public education is also an available target for budget cutting (for some good reasons, while failing to be cited for yet other good reasons). Post-secondary sympathy with the plight of public educators? Guilt knowing that present-day public educators once attended post-secondary schools themselves and now are responsible for sending unprepared students to post-secondary schools? (Someone passing through here could also probably say: is tenure harder to come by these days than it STILL is for a public educator to be fired? –in which case, professional jealousy is implicated, or possibly regret that all those years and debts spent attaining a doctorate or post-doc degree were — for what?)
#1 is also an example of Coasian transaction costs
“Where you stand depends on where you sit.”
By the way, Sunstein’s essay in #5 is old hat. Thomas Schelling has written about the problem of the future self decade ago.
See, e.g., http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2307/1816322
Sunstein would like nothing more than to look in the mirror in the morning and see Otto von Bismarck.
He also needs to grab a dictionary and look up the definition of “patience”.
#2 – what a great story.
Yes, I agree! Thank you for linking to it.
FWIW, at least two other short stories in Asimov (the SF short fiction magazine) have a similar premise. In one, a woman trying to punish herself for guilt of her own takes a job as substitute mugging/assault victim. In the other, children are required to surrend their bodies to their elderly parents for periods of time based upon how much they benefited from their parents prior to their parent’s disability.
I want to echo the praise of this link. Very good read.
The second Asimov story you mention is even closer to the actual Life As We Know It. My parents are pushing 80, and I’m finding more and more opportunities to repay in part my debt to them (and I’m hoping my kids are taking notes.)
I’m wondering if they released what disciplines these professors were in. I do recall some years ago criticism of one of these reports that revealed that the professors they used in the study were disproportionately from Sociology, English, etc.
As a Chemical or Nuclear Engineer for example; no matter what you choose as your area of work your views are likely to be characterized as “right wing” by observers.
As a participant in the academy (FWIW: history), I mostly run into centrists, BUT . . . most of the centrists are eager to distance themselves from the “conservative” label. And who can blame them? Part of the Republican branding effort, especially in the last decade, has been to demonize and denigrate academics (along with the “mainstream media”) as untrustworthy.
It’s a good, largely successful strategy that has helped conservatives to achieve victories on issues like climate change and pre-college biology and sex-ed curriculum.
It’s inevitable that such a strategy has collateral damage. Pushing academics to label themselves as more leftist is an example of that damage, as is the exodus (or ejection) of so many conservative academics and thinkers in recent years (the flap over David Frum, for example). I’m one of those myself–I voted more or less 50-50 for Republicans and Democrats in the past, but today I wouldn’t even consider calling myself a “conservative,” even though my views haven’t changed much.
“or maybe the pipeline of professors filling the universities is becoming more leftoid?”
ps frum is not conservative. nor a thinker.
Maybe they have just become more arrogant.
I no joke just read a scientific paper about a Nobel winner whose work which underlies the fundamentals of one area of biology was slow to be accepted because he used non-mammalian animals.
“ps frum is not conservative. nor a thinker.”
This just proves the point that conservatism is moving to the right. Frum wrote the “axis of evil” speech and was the first ex-staffer to write a glowing book about W. Now he’s a RINO?
“mood affiliation systems: OPERATIONAL”
“This just proves the point that conservatism is moving to the right.”
or maybe it just proves frum was never of the right? come on man, we can play this game all day.
“Frum wrote the “axis of evil” speech and was the first ex-staffer to write a glowing book about W.”
neocon != of the right. hth.
Frum’s activities when Bush was in office are precisely what lower his stature as a “thinker”.
The death of Professor George McGovern moved academics to the left??
I guess professors who spoke highly of Chairman Mao, Ho Chi Minh, Fidel, Stalin, communism, were right wing because authoritarianism is at its core right wing, so the death of the red commies in academia moves academics to the far left….
Have they apologized for academia yet?
#3 aren’t some of those problems because the current monetary system, the federal reserve system, relies on debt created money, where in a free banking system the banks can spend cash in the face of a rise in value of their money?
#5 so if you are an excessive saver should you look a pictures of your children when they were smaller and think about all the fun things you could have done with them?
Concerning the friction in housing and autos: In their current highly regulated form neither are productive assets. Subsidies do not change this basic problem. Historically houses and conveyances performed multiple functions, some personal but many income generating. Current houses and cars are over-designed, sterile, about to be extinct. Pull the plug.
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