Benjamin Studebaker

Yet Another Attempt to Make the World a Better Place by Writing Things

Tag: Paul Krugman

Candidate Evaluations: Rand Paul

One of the big problems in our election coverage is the tendency for journalists to focus on descriptive questions (who will be president?) rather than normative ones (who should be president?). This is understandable, given journalism’s focus on objectivity, but the result is that we often spend much more time talking about whether a candidate is electable than we do about whether or not the candidate would actually do a good job. Voters need to know which candidates support policies that will help them and those they care about–they don’t need to know which candidates pundits think are likely to prevail. So my response is to continue my Candidate Evaluations series, which considers a candidate’s background, policy history, and explicit statements to determine whether or not the candidate would actually be any good at being president. Previously, I did Ted Cruz. Today, I tackle Rand Paul, who declared his intent to run earlier this week.

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Resisting Stagnation and the New Dark Age

There’s a lot of talk lately by Summers, Krugman, and others that we may be in a period of secular stagnation, in which the rate at which the economy grows in the wealthiest countries falls substantially and permanently. Observing this, some are quick to point to demography as the cause. If populations are not growing as swiftly as they once did, it would indeed make sense that growth rates would fall. Under this thinking, slower growth isn’t a problem, because per capita growth is theoretically still strong–the economy is growing slower in aggregate, but it’s growing at the same speed relative to the size of the population. The trouble is that on further investigation, the demographic explanation does not sufficiently account for what’s going on. Not only are growth rates slowing, but per capita growth rates are slowing, and have been slowing for a while, beginning far before the recent economic crisis. This throws Kurzweil’s theory of accelerating returns into doubt, and undermines the central precept underlying our capitalist society–that the labors of this generation today are meant to make the next generation’s lives go better. If stagnation is the way of the future, it’s a much more serious problem than we presently recognize, one that ultimately threatens not merely our dreams of better lives for ourselves, but the very stability of our civilization.

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Only 6% of Voters Know Anything

I am often told that I take too negative a view of the average voter, that people do not need to be experts to vote well or to have good political instincts. I am not the least bit troubled by these critiques. Why? Because I continue to stumble upon utterly depressing statistics. These statistics show that contrary to our optimistic inclinations or general idealistic hopefulness, the average voter is well and truly spectacularly ignorant. The one I wish to discuss today certainly blew my mind–perhaps it will blow yours.

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The Great Gatsby Curve

Today, Paul Krugman drew to my attention some interesting work by economist Miles Corak on what is called “the Great Gatsby curve”, the tendency for economic inequality to lead to decreased social mobility. The curve is fascinating, because it illustrates a genuine negative empirical consequence from the present distribution of wealth in the United States. This negative consequence is no more negative if you’re on the right or if you’re on the left. The most committed right-winger still thinks that we should have a high degree of social mobility–capable children born to poor parents should be successful, while incapable children born to rich parents should fail. The Great Gatsby curve indicates that this does not happen–our outcomes directly influence the next generation’s opportunities. This connects equality of outcome with equality of opportunity in a way that should be disturbing to the right.

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Is the Eurozone a German Empire?

Given the title, it’s necessary to make a clarification. I support a federal Europe. It’s the only way Europe can regain its ability to make foreign and economic policy independently from the United States, and regain its position as a leading region. However, after running some numbers today, I no longer believe in the Euro as presently constituted. Here’s why.
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