Wednesday, July 20, 2011

In praise of Matthew Yglesias

There are a handful of leftie economists I'm eager to quote or draw inspiration from. They include Paul Krugman, Brad Delong, Ezra Klein, Matthew Yglesias and of course, Lord Keynes himself.

I think Yglesias deserves more praise for being so consistent with his economics while being very serious about his progressive views. He makes a serious attempt to understand his intellectual opponents, and he's not afraid to criticize people on his side. Look at yesterday's post on barber licensing for a perfect example.

I see breaking up the barber cartel and increasing competition for barbering services as a progressive measure, because if you reduce the cost of things that poor people buy, you increase their real living standards. A contrary view espoused in comments is that since barbering is a working class occupation, we ought to favor cartelization as a means of increasing working class income.
But he wasn't done.
But to perhaps gesture at a “theory of politics” issue, I think part of what bugs people about the barber issue is that they’ve developed the implicit view that for progressive politics to succeed we need to raise the social status of “big government,” and that it’s counterproductive to this mission to highlight any misguided “big government” initiatives. It’s acceptable to criticize excessive spending on the military and on prisons, because the conservative critique of “big government” often exempts those institutions. But if conservatives attack “regulation,” then “regulation” must be defended or, when indefensible, ignored.
Well played, good sir, well played. Being automatically against all "deregulation" means tolerating - if not embracing - a lot of bogus regulations that didn't work the way they were supposed to.

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