Now Less Than Ever

I think at least one problem with the desire to raise taxes on high income earners is it focuses discussion on income redistribution.  I think we arguably have issues there.  The biggest threats now however are the intractable recession and in the intermediate run the budget deficit. 

The piece I lift here focuses on the concept:  Now Less Than Ever.  The point being for policy makers to not focus on what are ones core concerns but what are the nation’s biggest problems.  

A recent back and forth between Paul Krugman and Russ Roberts on Keynesian economics reminded me of something I discussed briefly on twitter some time ago and wanted elevate it blog post level. Here’s what Russ said:

Krugman is a Keynesian because he wants bigger government. I’m an anti-Keynesian because I want smaller government. Both of us can find evidence for our worldviews.

But I think Russ’ point tends to be very true, and is exemplified by what, I think, Ezra Klein called “Now-More-Than-Everism”. This is when someone argues that the solution for any given problem is simply that their favored policies are needed Now More Than Ever. We find ourselves in an extended recession-like economy, obviously Now More Than Ever we need to gut the EPA, or Now More Than Ever we need green energy subsidies.

In the anti-spirit of this mindset I want to focus on Now-Less-Than-Everism. I’ll let Krugman go first:

“Here’s an example: is economic inequality the source of our macroeconomic malaise? Many people think so — and I’ve written a lot about the evils of soaring inequality. But I have not gone that route. I’m not ruling out a connection between inequality and the mess we’re in, but for now I don’t see a clear mechanism, and I often annoy liberal audiences by saying that it’s probably possible to have a full-employment economy largely producing luxury goods for the richest 1 percent. More equality would be good, but not, as far as I can tell, because it would restore full employment.”

Deregulation is important, and necessary, and too much regulation is a problem. But it’s not the problem the economy is facing right now. Attempts to focus on regulation are a distraction, and we’re not going to deregulate our way to full employment. We need to focus on deregulation now less than ever.

I am a creative destruction proponent and regulatory burden is a big long-term concern of mine. I wish that was what was causing our current malaise, I really do. Everyone likes to have their beliefs confirmed, and Now More Than Everism feels good. But it isn’t the problem.

So now it’s your turn. Help prove Russ Roberts’ cynicism wrong, and tell us what favorite policies of yours we need Now Less Than Ever. These can be things that either would be downright harmful now, or that we simply shouldn’t be focusing on and aren’t as important as actual recession cures.

I think the President did not make the economy his main focus for nearly long enough.  Instead, he put a stimulus in place more focused on his social welfare concerns, followed by health care. 

On taxes from his campaign on, he mostly focused on the idea of making the rich pay more.  I think it would have made more sense to simply enact at least a partial roll back across the board of the Bush tax cuts, timed to follow the recession and address the fiscal situation, perhaps accompanied by a payroll tax rollback much earlier.  His focus on raising income taxes on the wealthy was much to focused on his concerns with extracting wealth from the well off, not addressing our fiscal balance or the recession. 

He fell into the now more than ever trap.  Admittedly, Republicans are doing the same thing.

Post Script

In thinking about this a little more, I think the issue is that we all have our ideologies these days, and as the saying goes if you have a hammer every problem is a nail.  Thus we all hammer on issue with our given ideologies.  What we need is more simple competent non-ideological, and humble problem solving.   We should be open to trying or experimenting with a lot of things if they’re thought out, but quickly discarding them if they don’t work.  We shouldn’t so much just look for ways to apply a preset predetermined preferred policy.  I think FDR was a great experimenter, who tried a lot of things (though some were disastrous economics.  We need competence and pragmatism, not strong ideology.  But our system of selecting leaders mostly seems to be getting the latter, not the former.

Filed under: Bias and Rationality, Economics

Now Less Than Ever
Adam Ozimek
Sat, 15 Oct 2011 02:56:35 GMT


2 responses to “Now Less Than Ever

  1. “We need competence and pragmatism, not strong ideology. But our system of selecting leaders mostly seems to be getting the latter, not the former.”

    Very well said. While I did point out the republicans, our entire system has developed into an unmanageable and unresponsive gridlock.
    The revolving doors to K street lobbyists would be the first thing that needs changed. The sad fact is, the guy with the most money always wins the election, and now the Citizens United ruling has cemented the monied interest’s grip on government.
    The REAL citizens are beginning to unite, but being ‘the 99%” we don’t have enough money to be represented.
    This situation must change.

  2. Bigger/smaller government is often a philosophical dead end. It’s like having a bigger/smaller meal. We should spend a lot more time talking about principles. Issues like clean water, innovation and campaign financing don’t depend of the size of our institutions.

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