The moral and intellectual bankruptcy of the Republican Party?

23669069_1631029183628675_3247074209637407602_o Well maybe. But I'm not sure I agree with the logic. Tis Dana Nuccitelli, in the Graun. Specificailly, DN is comparing the scientific consensus on GW ("97%") with economists attitudes to the GOP tax plan. And look! Among the experts who took a position either way, there was a 96% consensus that the plan would not substantially grow the economy more than the status quo, and a 100% consensus that it would substantially increase the national debt. See; there's the number 96%, that's almost 97%, so it is practically the same thing! Well, no.

The 97% for GW is the consensus on the underlying science. If you asked instead for consensus on policy responses to GW, you'd get a much lower degree of agreement. An appropriate concept to try to compare 97% to would be "are protectionist tariffs a bad idea?" To which "all" economists would agree; but of course no significant politicians are prepared to sign up to, much less any political party. On those grounds, I could just as well compare the Democrats1 to denialists. But please don't think that I'm defending the GOP tax plan; as I've said elsewhere it isn't good.

But "not good" isn't the standard; to make DN correct it has to be "economic denialism", and I don't think he gets close to that. Increasing the national debt is one of those things that everyone decries, perhaps the GOP most vigourously, but time after time pols cave in order to buy whatever trinkets their current electorate demand2; at the moment, that's tax cuts. So if that's denialism, practically all pols are guilty. As to "would not substantially grow the economy more than the status quo", by many standards, that's a success; at least it won't shrink the economy. Or would it? We don't know, because the survey doesn't tell us. But again, a tax plan that simply doesn't make anything better is hardly a failure; plenty do worse.

Why do I care: there are lots of wrong things in the world, why pick this one to write about? Pfft, maybe I shouldn't. But it is a part of my long doomed campaign to help people get out more.

[Update: this (from George Will! Boo hiss!) more directly addresses the plan itself (or, in a sense, any plan):  The top 1 percent of earners supply 39 percent of income tax revenue, the top 10 percent supply 70 percent, the bottom 50 percent supply 3 percent, 60 percent of households pay either no income taxes (45 percent) or less than 5 percent of their income, and 62 percent of Americans pay more in payroll taxes than in income taxes. So, any tax cut significant to macroeconomic policy — any that might change incentives sufficiently to substantially change businesses’ and individuals’ behaviors — must be primarily a cut for the affluent.]


1. Or, I strongly suspect, a fair fraction of my commentators. Nothing new there, then:-)
2. Tell me I'm wrong. Point to Hillary campaigning for tax rises to reduce the national debt.


Our greatest responsibility is to be good ancestors via mt.
Is the GOP tax plan an unprecedented windfall for the wealthy? We look at 50 years of data to find out - WaPo
Utopias in the Anthropocene - mt criticises progressives and Historicism, but doesn't reach the obvious conclusion.
* Observing for the long haul
* The Economist isn't keen on the budget, but even more on the manner of its passing.


CapitalistImperialistPig said...

How about part of your long campaign to minimize any critique of right wing nut jobbery?

William Connolley said...

It might superficially look like that, but I'd hope my readership is intelligent enough to see beyond the ficies. I don't think that bad analogies, which is what DN's piece is, are helpful. I don' think the implication - that there is one clear economic policy we should be following - is helpful.

Andrew said...

Actually, protectionist direct tariffs have been gradually wound down since WWII, the problem nowadays is generally around non-tariff barriers, which are more problematic. After all, insisting that electronic goods imported to the UK meet UK safety standards (as opposed to, say, Chinese safety standards) is technically a non-tariff barrier to trade, but it's not clear that scrapping such barriers would be in out interests.

Or, ironically, putative Chinese importers interests; if the impression get around that a product is unsafe after a string of accidents, then the damage and loss of trade may end up worse than if the barrier had never been lowered.

As fa\r as government debt goes, Macro 101 says to increase government debt (generally for investment) when private demand drops in recessions. Government Debt fetishism - the idea that budget deficits and government debt are always Bad Things - is basic economic denialism. It just plays well with a certain chunk of the electorate. Compare government finances to that of a household (bad, bad analogy), go on about prudence, make cuts that target your political enemies.. it works politically, but the consequences are low growth and inequality.

Anonymous said...

mt criticises progressives and Historicism, but doesn't reach the obvious conclusion.

Maybe I'm missing something, but the article is by Clive Hamilton. MT says little other than despite it being 5 years since writing it, we are hardly closer to understanding and accepting it. What obvious conclusion was not reached (whether by Clive Hamilton, or MT)?

William Connolley said...

It is mt's post, so I think I can take it he agrees with the ideas that CH has expressed. I would have expected him to clearly delineate anything he disagreed with. But "the text" notes well "...utopian political ideals were a materialized form of the Christian promise of salvation. Among utopians, it did not take long for the ideal of progress to harden into a law, a law of history... all champions of social transformation—democrats, Marxists and liberators of all kinds—could believe that history was on their side. That is what it meant to be ‘progressive’. Philosophers like Hegel provided...". Anyone who has read Popper will see where that points.

Anonymous said...

It seems I haven't read enough Popper then. I'm still not clear as to what obvious conclusion should have been drawn.

Tom said...

The consensus, as shown by Verheggen et al 2013 in a research study of climate scientists done by climate scientists, is apparently 66%, not 97%. It replicates the findings of Bray, von Storch et al, another survey of climate scientists by climate scientists, who also found a consensus of 66% who believe that half or more of recent warming is caused by humans.

A pub search done by website regulars doesn't quite measure up.

Phil Hays said...

Tax cut bill is hardly popular. Not really a trinket.


"You don’t have to want to abolish capitalism to understand why the prospect is tempting to a generation that’s being robbed."

William Connolley said...

> Popper

Evidently not. If you haven't read "The open society and its enemies" (vols 1 and 2) then you should! Better than reading me :-)

> apparently 66%

Consensus on what: "who believe that half or more of recent warming is caused by humans"? I think 66% is too low for that. Even in 2013.

> Tax cut bill is hardly popular

Well it is popular with the GOP lawmakers. They might be doing it based entirely on their own narrow self interest and not responding to any pressure from outside, but I'm doubtful.

> abolish capitalism

That's the kind of drivel I expect from soft-fluffy-bunny commentators in the NYT. We can discuss that if you want, but I've warned you :-).

From that article "The tax cuts are likely to increase the trade deficit, which President Trump purportedly wants to reduce". Yeah, but so what? Actual real economists are not really interested in that.

Phil Hays said...

TANSTAAFL: Tax rearrangement bill:

It is not clear that it is popular with GOP lawmakers, and it is clearly not popular with voters at large. Who was it popular with?


And as it turns out, the Senate bill wasn't even popular with them.


CapitalistImperialistPig said...

I can't decide whether to be more amused or annoyed by the fact that Dr. WC, who claims not to have studied economics, is so quick to speak for "all" its practitioners.

Russell Seitz / Bright Water said...

Which is more discouraging?

That none of the 11 administrators Trump has appointed to do the bidding our new Secretary of Energy has an advanced science degree, or that Sec. Perry's B.Sc is in animal husbandry ?

Still, things could have gone worse

William Connolley said...

> so quick to speak

Meh. I notice you don't actually dispute it. Or do you?

Phil Hays said...

"are protectionist tariffs a bad idea?" To which "all" economists would agree...

Suppose country A and B have no tariffs. Then country A imposes a carbon tax. What would be the effect on trade?

What sort of tariff would be needed to maximize the impact of the carbon tax while reducing the impact on the real economy?

William Connolley said...

> country A imposes a carbon tax

An interesting question, but (in wiki terms) this is OR if the question is "what do economists think" then the answer needs to come from what economists have written.

There's some prior art from me here. As to what is needed that's a more complex question. Possibly, nothing.

Phil Hays said...

Google scholar hits in order:




Now for some alternative views:



Looks like "all" economists don't agree. Much less that "all" economists agree that tariffs are a bad idea.

William Connolley said...

Now I'm confused: you're pinning your hopes of finding examples of economists liking tariffs entirely on carbon tariffs?

Phil Hays said...

A tariff on carbon* is a tariff. Just as a tariff on coffee or eggs is a tariff.

You have made the claim that all economists agree that all tariffs are a bad idea.

Finding one type of tariff that many economists think is a good idea seems to me to refute that. Not all economists agree that at least one tariff is a bad idea, namely a tariff on carbon. There may be others, but that is outside our common interests. If you are going to impose a carbon tax, a carbon tariff might well be a good idea.

So what is your confusion, again?

* More correctly a tariff on the release of CO2 in the production of the goods in question.

Everett F Sargent said...


Phil Hays said...


Russell Seitz / Bright Water said...

Climate change< a> has accelerated the loss of their wits.


William Connolley said...

> all economists agree that all tariffs are a bad idea

No; I said "are protectionist tariffs a bad idea?" To which "all" economists would agree. I hope you can see the difference.

> is-anyone-ever-wrong-anymore


RS: you really ought to drop Safari for a Real Browser like Chrome :-) if you want to point people at CHIN DEEP IN ANOTHER RIVER IN AFRICA ?

crandles said...

But if you impose a carbon tax then manufacturing would be outsourced unless you also impose a import tariff on embedded carbon to *protect* your manufacturing industries. Doesn't that make it a protectionist import tariff?

William Connolley said...

I guess you're especially interested in carbon taxes, because. But the issue in play here is economic denialism; specifically, whether most major political parties (including the Dems, because I sense most of my readers tend to sympathise with them; I'm not suggesting the GOP are innocent in this regard) are effectively engaged in economic denialism compatible with GW denialism. In that context, nit-picking isn't interesting. GW denialists are perfectly capable or pointing up nits in GW; they don't win any points for that.

But if you want to talk about carbon taxes in particular, I think that protectionism is in general such a bad idea that it needs clear evidence to justify itself. When I last looked at this (see A response to a response to a proportionate response it looked like there might be justification for imposing tariffs at the "ETS" rate (to talk specifically about Europe) but that amounts to such a low rate that it might be pointless; and also (when I last looked) some of the EU heavy emitters get their ETS permits free, so you'd need to work out if yer evil foreign jonnies were emitting in equivalent ways, and therefore should be allowed in free.

All in all I think it is just a bad idea.

Phil Hays said...

"All in all I think it is just a bad idea."

Your opinion, OK. Some economists do agree with you. As I already pointed out.

Just not all economists.

"Protectionist tariffs" is from the Department of Redundancy Department. As Crandles has pointed out.

Phil Hays said...

"“What shall it profit a man,” Jesus asked, “if he gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his own soul?” The current Republican Party seems to not understand that question. Donald Trump seems to have made gaining the world at the cost of his soul his entire life’s motto."


William Connolley said...

"For wisdom is better than rubies; and all the things that may be desired are not to be compared to it".

However (at the risk of once again be misunderstood to be defending the Evil Plutocratic GOP) the solution to "this bunch of pols is rubbish" is "oh look, the voters have voted for someone else". If the voters don't, there's you problem. Why don't they? Either they disagree with you about the pols being rubbish, or perhaps they disagree with you that the alternative are Bright Shining Rubies of Wisdom.

Phil Hays said...

Wisdom does seem like a worthwhile goal. Seems to me that wisdom might start with acknowledging facts.


Phil Hays said...

"The Shed at Dulwich"

The Very Top Rated restaurant in London. #1 on TripAdvisor.


Totally fake. A complete con. A web page, a burner cellphone and some fake reviews. The Donald Trump of TripAdvisor. Kinda like:

The Brexit Shed.