Monday, March 14, 2011

FLG Has A Different Explanation

Tim Kowal objects to this passage by Matt Yglesias:
Politicians don’t understand that the voters don’t care about the deficit because the voters themselves don’t understand that they don’t care about the deficit. . . .

But they don’t. Public understanding of fiscal policy is hazy, inaccurate, and dominated by fallacious analogies between a national government and a household. What’s more, voters believe that deficits are primarily driven by wasteful government spending. So when a recession strikes the deficit spikes, and people complain. The smart thing for a politician to do under the circumstances is ignore the voters, do what you can to fix the economy, and recognize that in the end the economy drives public opinion.

Tim goes on to explain this by saying that left-leaning economists have tried to portray economic policy as beyond the mental reach of the public.

FLG has been reading Matt for a long time now, and he chalks this quote up to a combination of Matt's a liberal, which means he has short time horizons, he's also assuming that everybody else is like him on this score, suffering from The Big Assumption, and then, to top it off, he's drowning in the worst type of liberal condescension. The exact type from which stereotypes are made.

Oh, sure. He'll point to poll data that supports the hazy, inaccurate, and fallacious analogies. But to tell you the truth, while FLG believes much of that can be explained, as he has said before, by people having infinite wants and little conception that even the government has finite resources. But to tell you the complete truth, whether the people are 100% correct or whether their analogies are 100% accurate isn't really relevant.

Matt is trying the divide, which is uncomfortable for him, between his time horizons and the relatively longer time horizons of the American people.


Tim Kowal said...

In addition to time horizons, another possible explanation is the left's commitment to substantive justice over procedural justice. Deficits are typically run up due to over-inflated desires to achieve certain predetermined outcomes. This comes at the expense of procedural fairness, e.g., future taxpayers having to pay more than their fair share in terms of either increased taxes, or decreased services, or both.

Actually, I think this dovetails nicely with time horizons: the harm caused by the breach of procedural justice in the objective of substantive justice typically manifests in even graver real injustices, but only much later in the future. Conservatives and libertarians, of course, typically view procedural justice as the highest form of justice political society can hope to achieve, and a good in itself. But they'll never convince liberals of that. What they might offer in the alternative is that compromising procedural justice will result in more substantive injustice in the future. But there, again, the argument is doomed since liberals discount the future at such a high rate.

FLG said...

I've actually been thinking about the link between time horizons and procedural versus substantive justice since your post over a LOG.

Tim Kowal said...

Oh man, check this out:

Talk about a link between the two ideas.

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