IMO, Jim Manzi continues to own defenders of the preposterous cap and trade bill. His latest assessment of the state of play:

So let’s review the overall bidding, at least as I see it:

1. Everybody agrees that if Waxman-Markey becomes law, and it does not lead to a global, binding and enforced agreement to severely reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, then it makes U.S. taxpayers worse off economically.

2. I have presented an economic argument that even if such a global agreement were achieved it would accomplish in the best case a net increase in NPV of global consumption of 0.2%, and a practical argument that it would almost certainly reduce global economic welfare. These specific arguments remain undisputed.

3. Those who argue that Waxman-Markey would lead to a global agreement have provided no evidence that it would have this negotiating effect, and are presenting what is, at best, a pretty idiosyncratic negotiating premise that by giving away our leverage as one participant in a collective action problem we will somehow increase our ability to get others to sacrifice on our behalf.

The thing is, Jim's arguing from the basis of extremely generous assumptions.

Many of the people making a big deal about the bargaining value of this bill rarely (never?) use similar logic in similar circumstances. The idea is that coordinated international action toward carbon reduction is a global public good, and that the probability of effective coordination increases significantly if the U.S. acts unilaterally. HOW DOES THIS WORK? Standard statist-liberal reasoning about public goods is that they will not be provided unless there is a  coercive mechanism in place (e.g., a state) to solve the assurance problem. But there is no state with global jurisdiction. So am I to understand that folks making the argument about the crucial role for Waxman-Markey in solving the international collective action problem don't really believe the standard story about the need for coercion in assuring compliance? Because that would sure change a lot of debates about a lot of things! To put it another way: if you think that the probability is low that smaller-scale public goods can be provided through voluntary mechanisms without government, shouldn't you think the probability is even lower the larger the scope of the coordination problem?

  • TheZSpot

    I really have to disagree with this. As you pointed out, the gini coefficient of the Democratic voters is most likely higher than that of Republicans. This, in fact, supports the argument that inequality works in favor of the Dems. The richest of the rich and the poorest of the poor support the Dems. The middle ground supports the Republicans (oversimplified, I know). If this is the case, wouldn’t growing the extremes (increasing inequality) and shrinking the middle benefit the Dems?

    Personally, my explanation is this. The vast majority of people vote in their own self interests. For the poorest of the poor, this means voting for the person or party who says that they stand for redistribution. For the vast middle ground, and in particular, the high end of the vast middle ground, this means voting for the person or party that wants to leave your money in your hands. Then you get to the $110K+ crowd, and in particular, the $110k academic/social scientist/Ivy League crowd. They have the intellectual foundation, and the self-righteousness, to vote with their “conscious” rather than their self interest. And they can afford to do so.

    Also, to whoever made the minimum wage comment: I think that the realities of its effect have little bearing on how it affects who will vote for who, and here’s why. Those lowest skilled people, whose unemployment is actually increasing, are worried about getting a paycheck. As you said, they’re lower skilled, thus probably not an education in the theoretical and empirical workings of economics and politics. They see a promise to make more money per hour. They don’t see that this in fact is probably worse for them. Therefor, they are still, in the end, more likely to support a politician who supports raising the minimum wage, even if they will be worse off.


  • muirgeo

    you claim a desire to believe policy doesn’t effect economics or distribution.

    “Is that really what I’m saying? No. It isn’t. Once again, a strawman. I said there is no partisan cohesion to policy over the decades and nothing to point to across the board that substantiates such a trend.? John V

    Well very good. I’m glad you clarified your claim As stated above it’s very easy to disprove. There most definitely are consistent policies that explain the economic outcomes of the 2 parties. Quite simply Democratic regimes favor the middle class and the Republican regimes favor wealth.

    From tax laws, to corporate and regulatory laws to education and support for labor the differences are clear.

    There’s simply little to debate here. You’ll clearly want to mince details but most people are pretty clear of the obvious policy differences between the 2 parties. And anyone who looks a little deeper will see what are even more glaring differences.

    • John Thacker

      Quite simply Democratic regimes favor the middle class and the Republican regimes favor wealth.

      And yet at the state level, Republican-controlled states have shown decreases in inequality while Democratic-controlled states have shown increases.

      There’s lots of complicated effects going around that can be used to make an argument in many different directions, though, as Andrew Gelman points out.

    • John V

      I didn’t clarify my claim, I merely paraphrased what was already clearly there to begin with. Repeat: It was already there written in plain English. You try to go off on strawman tangents.

      A strawman, Muirgeo, is the act of taking someone’s argument and twisting or reducing it down to a weakest and inaccurate form to allow for a response that seems to refute the argument. But it doesn’t refute the argument. It merely refutes a weak argument that wasn’t really made….which is pointless.

      You’ll clearly want to mince details but most people are pretty clear of the obvious policy differences between the 2 parties.

      The only one mincing details (and mincing them beyond recognition) is you.

      Yes, there are some obvious policy differences between the parties. That by itself is meaningless to the point you want to make.

      Because now we can come full circle and ask again and I’ll pull something I already said upthread:

      Over the decades, neither party’s presidents, as a group, have anything broad and unifying about the policies they adopted.

      What do Truman, JFK, LBJ and Clinton have in common beyond being Democrats in terms of policy that could possibly do anything even remotely close to causing certain economic outcomes that provoke or hinder inequality and GDP growth?

      Ditto for the GOP…

      Raising/cutting taxes? No true pattern. Both parties raised and cut taxes.
      trade liberalization vs.protectionism? liberalizing was mostly by Democrats….even though it’s not something they campaign on or support. Protectionist measures were adopted by both parties over the years.
      Regulation/Deregulation? Again, no pattern. Both parties have done both.

      So when you look for partisan policy specifics…IOW, as Krugman said: “a controlling mechanism”, there’s not much to be found to explain anything that you and others would like to point.

      Now, monetary policy, business cycles and demographics and technology play a role as well…and it could very well be a much more influential role. And that is out of the hands of either party. Fed chairman, from the Dems and GOP alike, have done things, not done things, suggested things and been ignored and listened to with no real pattern. Again, what’s the controlling mechanism?

      Rhetoric and stereotypes don’t cut it. What are the defining partisan policies formulated by the President in concert with Congress that empirically explain the theme you like to push? You say it’s “obvious”. So what is it? From Truman to Bush 2…what is it? Let’s hear it.