Sunday, October 14, 2012

It's not Tina's glorious comeback

This morning, I read Mark Thoma's column about Tyler's column before I read Tyler's column and thought to myself, "an anti-government screed? Kill Government? Tyler? Did Tyler outsource his column to me and Mungowitz? Or has visiting North Korea allowed Tyrone to just take over?"

Then I read Tyler's actual column and it was vintage Tyler. We are both makers AND takers. Restrictive zoning favors the rich. There are things we could do over time to improve education but those things are difficult. The mortgage interest deduction is both popular and distortionary.The founding fathers worried about this problem.

But here's Thoma's reaction:

I just don't believe that no government at all will result in a better outcome for the vast majority of Americans. (A good analogy is monopoly power. I think the government should do more to reduce monopoly power, but it doesn't due to the influence of the wealthy and powerful who own these companies. But getting rid of anti-trust law altogether, i.e. getting government out of the way completely, won't improve the outcome -- monopoly problems would simply get worse). I want to improve government, not kill it.

Maybe Romney's glorious comeback has everyone on edge, but Mark is just way way way off base here. There is not a single phrase in Tyler's piece to suggest that Tyler favors "killing" government.

In fact, Tyler's libertarian bona fides are actually quite suspect to many because of his acceptance of relatively big government.

Liberalizing zoning laws is not killing government. Repealing the mortgage interest deduction is not killing government. Reforming teachers' unions is not killing government. Centralizing school spending decisions is not killing government. More school choice is not killing government.

I'd suggest that Mark consider responding to what people actually write, than to the boogieman that appears before his eyes when he sees the byline of someone he suspects might be a libertarian.

I'd also suggest that phrases like this, "the answer is a government that represents all of our interests," suggest that Mark's comparative advantage in blogging may lie outside the field of political economy.


Tom said...

Thoma: "A good analogy is monopoly power."

Analogy? Did he mean "example"? But then, "the answer is a government..." Does Thoma not know that government is a monopoly? Moreover, government is the only example of a sustainable monopoly that I know of.

The examples that Angus gives of "not killing government" are correct. They are, instead, examples of hacking bits off of government. Perhaps Thoma suspects what I believe: if we hack off all the bits of government that can be done better by market forces, then what's left of government will be... invisibly small, inconsequential. Thoma fears to hack off the first bit; how will we know when to stop?

Mark Thoma said...

So you don't like the work "killing." No problem, it was a throw away line at the end. Use reduce instead, lop-off, whatever your favorite word might be.

But if you aren't reading this as a call for government to do less in a whole host of areas, then you really ought to reexamine your reading skills.

Mark Thoma said...

One other note: Including quotes, but not the qualifications that follow, is fundamentally dishonest (e.g. you omitted an important qualification to the last quote).

Is that how you think the game is played?

I'd suggest that you consider responding to what people actually write instead of a misleading presentation of their remarks.

Anonymous said...

No problem, it was a throw away line at the end.

I just read your piece. It struck me that the "killing" line was your conclusion about Cowen's piece, and not simply a "throw away line." If it is a throw away line then why include it?

Angus said...

LOL mark. At least I quote you instead of just making stuff up! And no the NY times piece in no way is a call to get rid of government. Sorry I made you mad though.


Anonymous said...

Thoma's been edging ever closer to Delong territory for a while now, no?

Jeff said...

the answer is a government that represents all of our interests

My interest in small ponies. Can I expect that one (or more) will be provided for me under this new, more inclusive regime?