What I think I am nearly certain about

My apologies if this list sounds dogmatic or polemic.  I’m not trying to persuade you (now), I’m simply listing the inner contents of my mind, so you may compare this with my post on what I am uncertain about.  Here is an incomplete and desultory list of what I (think I) am nearly certain about:

1. Polarizing America won’t make interest group politics go away, no matter how hard either the right-wingers or progressives wish it so.  It may even make interest group politics worse, and in the meantime the polarizer is simply demonstrating a lack of meta-rationality on the part of the polarizer.

2. We cannot do economic policy as we might arrange pieces on a chessboard.  What you ask for is rarely what you get, and your recommendations had better be prepared for this discrepancy.

3. Government-dominated health systems, insofar as they work well (a number of them do), succeed simply by lowering costs.  Health care has a murky relationship to human health, pharmaceuticals and broken limbs aside.  A version of the single-payer system, as might be adopted in the United States, would not lower costs.  We would be raising taxes and lowering medical innovation to give poor people a good deal more financial security and a slight bit more health; that is the relevant trade-off.

4. Overall, despite its many flaws, America is a force for liberty in the greater global community.

5. We are programmed to respond to the "us vs. them" mentality and highly intelligent people are no less captive to this framing.  We should try very hard to get away from this framing.

6. America is a beacon of innovation for the world, and it is critically important that we allow the preconditions for American innovation to continue.

7. It would be a disaster if American taxation ever reached 55 percent of gdp.

8. Which institutions work well is often country-specific. 

9. The West European way of life is a marvel, unprecedented in human history.  That said, I am not sure that the degree of economic security to date can persist in a more mobile and more diverse future (this second sentence retreats to what I am uncertain about).

10. No one has a good idea what the equilibrium looks like for nuclear proliferation.  This is very worrying.

11. The possibility of pandemics receives insufficient attention.  The world sleepwalked through AIDS for a long time, mostly because "it doesn’t affect people like you and me."  The next time around could be much worse.

12. It is a big mistake — even in rhetoric — to conflate concern for the poor with comparative egalitarian intuitions.  The left ought to turn its back on this mistake, although it would mean losing one of their most effective rhetorical tools.

13. Most people are sincere in their views (even if wrong), and polemic attacks on them signal a weakness of the attacker, not the attackee.

14. The chance that a protectionism will be an economically rational form of protectionism is very low.


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