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Thursday, November 13, 2014

How Much Is Being "Better Off" Worth?

The economist Don Boudreaux notes that Jonathan Gruber admits what many would like to keep hidden:
Obamacare’s chief academic architect, Jonathan Gruber, is caught on camera admitting frankly, and without remorse, that important parts of Obamacare were sold to the public under false pretenses.  Gruber does express regret that voters are afflicted with too much “stupidity” to enable them to see that such legislation is (or so believes Gruber) in their best interest.  But given this regrettable reality of the political process, deception is in order.  Deception and lies and duplicity are proper.
So now I'm allegedly better off regarding my healthcare, but to get there, I had to be held with contempt as being stupid, lied to, and deceived.  Well, guess what?  The negative value to me of being thought stupid, lied to, and deceived by those with violence at their disposal to force me to do what they want far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far exceeds any possible benefits that might accrue from Obamacare, even if those benefits are substantial.

In other words, being made "Better Off" by folks like Gruber has made me worse off.

Boudreaux concludes his Gruber post with:
So Jonathan Gruber simply admits that the very process that people on the left romanticize and celebrate – democratic politics – isn’t what it’s cracked up to be.  Of course, libertarians and public-choice scholars say the same.  The difference between the Jonathan Grubers of the world and the [libertarian scholars such as the] Russ Robertses and Bryan Caplans of the world is that the former believe that politics is still commendable as long as good, smart people (such as Gruber) are performing deceptions necessary to trick voters into supporting policies that good, smart people somehow divine are best for the masses, while the latter believe that the very need to deceive rationally ignorant (indeed, rationally irrational) voters is itself a major flaw in politics – a flaw that makes politics far less reliable and admirable than competitive, private markets.
 The arrogance of the Grubers of the world is what forces me firmly into the libertarian camp.

49 comments:

Clovis e Adri said...

Bret,

---
while the latter believe that the very need to deceive rationally ignorant (indeed, rationally irrational) voters is itself a major flaw in politics – a flaw that makes politics far less reliable and admirable than competitive, private markets.
---
I am not sure I understand that phrase. How do you substitute politics for "competitive, private markets"? Kind of apples and bananas comparison.

And isn't misleading propaganda just part of the game too in private markets?

Howard said...

Clovis,

You're missing the obvious point. It's advisable to limit what we address through politics because of it's limitations, which are different from those of the free enterprise approach.

Peter said...

Ho, ho, I see Clovis has mastered the narrative. When the right cheats or lies, it's a gross betrayal of the nation that undermines the very foundation of democratic constitutional government. When the left does, it's "misleading propaganda" and part of the game.

In The Ides of March, Phillip Seymour Hoffman plays a cynical veteran campaign operative trying to help George Clooney win the Democrat presidential nomination. When he counsels some seedy backroom horse trading to win delegates, the insufferably perfect Clooney refuses because he insists on a "clean campaign". An exasperated Hoffman delivers a soliloquy about how frustrated he is that his side keeps insisting on virtue and honesty and losing to the right, which knows how to play hardball. It's an amazing performance that endears the audience to a character they weren't sure they liked. Now they know that all the lyin' and cheatin' has been done for a higher purpose and that, underneath, he actually sings with the angels.

Clovis e Adri said...

Peter,

I did not see that movie yet, but thank you for spoiling it. And I don't think I implied overreaction to one side cheating's only, Peter, you read more than myself in my own words.

I only pointed out to something trivial, IMO: deception happens a lot both in politics and private markets. And usually with intersection between both.

Call me naive, but I believe a culture of honesty is behind the overall success of a country. In such a culture, both private market and govt institutions may function better. What is happening in the USA is not much about collectivism X individualism like our friends here like to portray. In my reading, it is more about a loss of honesty in their general culture (a kind of "Brazilianization" of many developed countries). So graft and pork will follow, both in Democratic and Republican govts. Welcome to my world, guys.

erp said...

Clovis:

Here's an example of gratuitous leftwing propaganda promoting the narrative: "An exasperated Hoffman delivers a soliloquy about how frustrated he is that his side keeps insisting on virtue and honesty and losing to the right [by which he means the non-leftwing side], which knows how to play hardball” -- obviously implying that they, the righteous left, plays fair and square.

I’m guessing that isn’t intended to be the kind of line that causes people to spit coffee all over their keyboards.

Here’s something else you don’t get, the private sector until very recently wasn’t supported by tax payers. In the new USA, crony capitalism aka fascism is the operative, very lucrative game. In free markets, you can only fool people until they get wise and then you go out of business. In controlled markets, the players can go on tapping the till in perpetuity and that isn’t even the worst of it. The worst part is as the regulatory agencies proliferate, it becomes almost impossible for any competitors to introduce new products or services.

Clovis e Adri said...

Erp,

I don't think you got my point.

You are too self-centered to ever ask why there are countries - yes, Sweden (and other ones too) - that achieved success in the face of heavier State models.

They happen to be societies where honesty is still a common value.

Take a dishonest populace, and give them whatever regulatory model you wish - yes, your Libertarian dream state included - and you'll still won't like the end result.

We can discuss which model may minimize the damage in such a situation, but I'll still argue that any model (Nordic style or Erp's Libertarian) with a population cultivating honesty will beat the dishonest ones.

Unfortunately, just free market adoration won't spread honesty. That's the resume of why I don't buy into the Libertarian frenzy.

erp said...

Only a very few "state" models achieved success and even those few are moving away from socialism. Why don't you use the proper word and those countries were hugely steeped in the protestant work ethic as was the U.S. The siren song of welfare has changed that so now those who work are considered saps.

I understand exactly what you are getting at BTW - I've heard the same arguments from people a lot more articulate and erudite than you. They were wrong and so are you.

BTW - I got quite a kick out you describing Tolkien's works as being about Orcs. Somehow I don't think that the prevailing opinion.

Clovis e Adri said...

Erp,

Can you first explain "what I am getting at", and afterwards tell me why I and all those more erudite people are wrong?

Otherwise this is not a conversation, but you talking to your mirror.

erp said...

Almost every conversation on this forum is a variation on the same theme. Most of us are supporters of our Constitution and want to live by the rule of law, are more or less conservative, non-collectivist, libertarian, believers in individualism, free enterprise ... you, on the other hand, are critical of that point of view but can only point to a handful of small countries with a strong protestant work ethic that have had some success at collectivism now seemingly deteriorating.

I don’t need to repeat all the arguments. Go back and read all the posts and comments above and you’ll get your answer.

Clovis e Adri said...

Erp,

There is not need for all that proselitism. Non-protestant countries can do well too, and that's the reason I've chosen to focus on honesty, as opposed to protestantism. The latter may imply the former, but has no monopoly on it.
You'll find few protestants in Japan, for example.

No set of rules, of whatever system you imagine, will work very well if the citizens massively engage in cheating one another. Pervasive enforcement of the law is only achievable when a critical mass of citizens abide by it, for it is impossible to police everyone, every time.

Your country is losing that critical mass, or so it looks like to me. And at every level, this is not only about people abusing welfare state, which is your usual scapegoat.

erp said...

Clovis, are you being disingenuous or are you just unable to comprehend.

I said protestant work ethic, not Protestant religion. Japanese have it as do Jews. It was cited because the Scandinavian countries you use as models of socialism are Protestant, not Japanese nor Jewish.

If everyone were honest and true, there would be no need for laws or government and if wishes were kisses, fishes could fly. Welfare steals from workers and gives to shirkers with government and media leading the movement.

We are no longer ruled by the law, but by poverty pimps, community organizers, union thugs, crony capitalists, bureaucrats, etc.

BTW - I don't know why you denigrate your country, I read in the AP, that your president, having spent gazillions correcting your former problem of unfair distribution of wealth, got herself re-elected. Looks like you might have something there the rest of the world can emulate.

Clovis e Adri said...

Erp,

You make a basic mistake. If everyone were honest and true, you would still need laws, for people may honestly want opposite things that hence need to be ruled by law.

And that's not the point. I did not require everyone being honest, but a critical mass (a minimum after which the system changes qualitative behavior).

On our re-elected president, I dont't know why you need all that sarcasm when I started making a self criticism. Stop kicking a dead horse, Erp.

erp said...

I'm merely pointing out that she's done what you think should be done and it's apparently not working out.

Now what?

As for honesty. We were a very law abiding citizenry with those who broke the law in the minority and in jail.

That changed when the lefties took over.

Clovis e Adri said...

Erp,

Unfortunately, just redistribution of wealth won't spread honesty either.

We were never much of a law abiding citizenry, Erp, and when the lefties took over that didn't change.

erp said...

Which is worse? To have your way of life wrenched away or to have never known how it could have been?

Clovis e Adri said...

Erp,

To know it could, and still can be better, if only people wanted to. When things are beyond hope, you at least give up mourning.

erp said...

An example of what the left/media can do is the latest assault on Bill Cosby about charges already disproven that he raped women 30 years ago*.

Apparently there’s a new Cosby TV show in the works and it probably is going to depict what the race pimps don’t want people to see -- you know – normal Americans of various races, religions and ethnicity living normal lives, so out come these charges.

Cosby should be up there with Jackie Robinson as a hero who showed the world that negroes are not only equal to other Americans, but can be exceptional in their chosen fields of endeavor without the benefit of affirmative action. The TV show, “I Spy” was a monumental achievement with the colored and white actors on equal terms. It was a pretty entertaining show too.

Cosby, a pretty outspoken guy, apparently hasn't chosen to get back on the plantation. Herman Cain was discouraged by the same technique when his wife wisely declined to have their lives and the lives of the children destroyed because they wouldn't kowtow to the narrative.

Of course two of the most dangerous anti-women men in modern times, Clinton and Kennedy are revered icons of feminism.

*Cosby is a famous rich guy and it’s doubtful he needed to rape women. As one of Clinton’s boys said back when, drag a $100 bill through a trailer park and you’ll get a girl to say and do anything you want. Apparently EBT cards and Obamaphones and countless other bennies haven’t changed that.

Clovis e Adri said...

Erp,

I didn't know much about either Cosby or Cain, but I went for their wikipedia pages.

Apparently, at some point, both settled accusations out of courts.

Now, it is hard to draw much from that, but one may always wonder why you settle if you are absolutely clean...

erp said...

I think you can figure that out, especially if the media is looking to trash you and just because Wikipedia says something, it doesn't mean it's true.

Peter said...

erp, you have no idea whether Cosby is guilty of sexual wrongdoings or not, so why hang your political philosophy on him? Are you under the belief that being conservative means one is less likely to abuse women?

erp said...

You're missing the point here. Cosby is being accused of rape because he's not following the party line. I don't know if he's conservative or not.

As for Cain, some bimbo came out of the woodwork to accuse him of having an affair with her to discredit his candidacy for president. Disproving a negative is difficult.

Whether either of them paid off the accuser, I don't know, but going to court would give them what they wanted, a scandal to splash across the media.

... and to answer your question, yes I do believe it's less likely that a conservative who would have self-respect would rape a woman.

Peter said...

yes I do believe it's less likely that a conservative who would have self-respect would rape a woman.

Even leaving aside your equivocating qualifier, you are God's gift to the left. You are also arguing like them. How many conservative politicians and pastors need to be caught with their pants down in seedy motels before you figure out political convictions and personal integrity are unrelated?

erp said...

Peter, it's clear that our definitions of conservative differ. My definition is that of a classic liberal, not a seedy preacher or politician who doesn't follow the lefty cant.

Peter said...

I don't care what kind of conservative, classical liberal, Christian conservative, libertarian, etc. we are talking about. Personal virtue and integrity don't flow from them or correlate causually with them. My god, I've heard that nonsense so many times in my life from the left it's depressing to hear the right ape it.

erp said...

Please don't use the word, right, to describe me. The left haven't demonstrated integrity, while the people I'm talking about do.

Bret said...

Clovis asked: "How do you substitute politics for "competitive, private markets"?"

The implication is that politically influenced or controlled production and/or consumption is, of course, subject to politics, where, as Gruber has shown, deception is a key component.

Clovis asked: "And isn't misleading propaganda just part of the game too in private markets?"

Yes. The difference is this: you mislead me, you hurt me, then I (probably) stop dealing with you and if you push it too far, there's a fraud case; you mislead a voter and/or his representative a la Gruber, then you hurt everybody, and given how hard it is to undo political things like Obamacare, you hurt everybody for a very long time, and there's almost never a fraud case.

Annoying Old Guy said...

Clovis;

--
Now, it is hard to draw much from that, but one may always wonder why you settle if you are absolutely clean
--

Because you calculate two numbers, (1) what it would cost to win and (2) how much the accuser wants as his payoff, and pick the smaller one. Going to court, especially for someone famous, can be extremely expensive. Since we don't know the amount, we don't know those two numbers, but multiple million for (1) is very possible, so (2) could be not a small number and still less.

If you want some examples, there's the Martin/Zimmerman case. Or the Duke Lacrosse case which is particularly apropos. Or the Tawana Brawley case. Let us note that in the last case, one of the main instigators is now a (1) host at MSNBC and (2) and advisor to President Obama.

Hey Skipper said...

From the post:

Gruber does express regret that voters are afflicted with too much “stupidity” to enable them to see that such legislation is (or so believes Gruber) in their best interest.

The irony here is as exquisite as it is completely lost on Gruber.

There are multiple levels of stupidity. Voters can be too stupid to do what's in their best interests, due to being swayed by contradictory noise and short term thinking. Voters can be too stupid to understand the consequences. Voters can be too stupid to understand the arguments in play.

Yet in each regard the fickle finger of stupidity points at Gruber in particular, and progressives in general.

Those not in thrall to their own arrogance — another way to spell "stupidity" — knew full well the arguments in play. The states that did not accept Gruber's "free" Medicare money new full well two things: the more states that got on board, the less free it got; and, there was absolutely no funding for out-year costs. (Precisely the same reasons some governors stayed away from Obama's stimulus money.

Those insufficiently blinkered knew that Obamacare would be destructive of civil society, and invariably make what should be private decisions employers' business.

Those insufficiently unaware of the glaringly obvious knew there would be significant "cost shifting" involved, and that Obamacare must eliminate health coverage choice.

So the not-stupid, which excludes Obama, Sebelius, Gruber, Krugman, MSNBC and the NYT in particular, plus journalism in general, every Democratic senator, and progressives across the land, knew from outset that Obamacare was going to be an epic charlie foxtrot and a festival of unintended consequences.

So who's the stupid party, now?

It didn't have to be this way, of course. It's not as if there wasn't a great deal of barking madness already in the US health care system. But that madness is the product of decades of governmental intrusion, technological change, and court decisions. Presuming to undo that in the space of one law, no matter how well written, is exactly the kind of rampaging hubris that characterizes progressives.

Instead, Obama could have made the case for change. At the risk of too much self-preening, here is what one of Gruber's stupid voters had to say:

But I suppose I blame Obama the most. If he was as smart as he thinks he is, and even [half] as good a communicator, he could have made a case similar to the one I did in the post: define the problem first, then look for ways to minimize its scope before deciding on a solution, and be quite honest that there is no such thing as a free answer. He could have engaged Republicans, he could have created some commission to propose measures.

But instead, he went with Gruber.

Clovis e Adri said...

AOG,

Your links are about false accusations of rape, but that was not quite the point.

I can understand the arguments you made for settlement. And I am not implying anyone is necessarily guilty for settling out of courts. (Well, I do find the whole concept of a settlement a bit strange, but that's my problem only.)

It looks like to me you need to fear some possible evidence out there (even if a misguiding one) in order to accept such a blackmail, in case you are innocent.


Clovis e Adri said...

Bret,

---
The difference is this: you mislead me, you hurt me, then I (probably) stop dealing with you and if you push it too far, there's a fraud case;
---
That's not the experience I have with it.

Depending on the market share of the company and other local conditions, plus inneficiency of the justice system, plus cunning tactics of the company, you sometimes end up stuck with the deceptive company, or worse.

Which goes back to my case no how hard it is to keep a good society running if too much of their players are cheater and liars.

erp said...

Clovis, the object of the accusations is to discredit, embarrass or otherwise disrupt the victim’s life or make political points and aog was far too kind to Sharpton a truly vile ceature who destroyed the lives of several innocent people. Neither Sharpton nor Tawara Brawley suffered consequences for their actions.

Which goes back to my case no how hard it is to keep a good society running if too much of their players are cheater and liars. The fourth estate is in collsion with the left which why cheaters and liars and rapists and murderers are given cover if they’re part of the narrative.

People like Cosby who have been outspoken in promoting integration, education, etc. for blacks have been trashed.

Peter said...

Clovis, you have almost unhuman expectations. Bret's point may be a little overstated, but what I think he is basically saying is that, on average, a citizen has more ability to protect himself from private dishonesty and exploitation than government dishonesty and exploitation. There is no shortage of exceptions to point to, especially if the judiciary and government are corrupted too, but I think he is generally right. Power and money corrupts, whether private or public. As my exchange with erp shows, I get very nervous when conservatives start seeing greater virtue in their "team", as if private businesspeople were a different species than public officials. The goal should be to accept the dark side of human nature and minimize the effects of dishonesty, not try to eradicate it or build a political economy that assumes saint-like virtue.

Look at advertising. I could defend it on several grounds, but honesty? I don't think I've ever seen an ad in my life I would call completely honest.

Well, maybe once.

Annoying Old Guy said...

Clovis;

--
Your links are about false accusations of rape, but that was not quite the point.
--

No, it was exactly the point. Let me quote the starting point

--
Bill Cosby about charges already disproven that he raped women 30 years ago
--

A false accusation of rape - that seems to make my examples exactly on point.

You then wrote

--
I am not implying anyone is necessarily guilty for settling out of courts
--

I disagree. I see no point to your previous comment

--
one may always wonder why you settle if you are absolutely clean
--

other than to imply exactly that.

You wrote

--
It looks like to me you need to fear some possible evidence out there
--

No. You should read my examples. What you can fear is Old Media or district attorneys making things up. Sarah Palin is another case, although not precisely in this vein, where she accumulated a couple of million dollars of debt by defending against completely unsubstantiated accusations. Or the current effort against Governor Rick Perry. Or Governor Scott Walker where a judge ruled that even if the accusations were true, it didn't matter because the actions would not have been illegal. Yet Walker, too, has spent large sums of money and many of his political allies have been silenced through related legal attacks and raids.

Annoying Old Guy said...

Clovis;

As for honesty vs. free markets, you are making the presumption that the form of governance of a society has no effect on the civic virtue of that society.

erp said...

Peter, private business people are not a different species than public officials, but they live by different rules.

Both the private (crony capitalists) and the public sector, if they are of the left, are protected by the media. Those who oppose them aren't, so their behavior is far different.

Bret said...

Peter clarifies for me: "...on average, a citizen has more ability to protect himself from private dishonesty and exploitation than government dishonesty and exploitation."

Yes. Thank you Peter.

Clovis e Adri said...

AOG,

I was focused on accusations (false or not) deal with through settlements. It is in that regard your links, with no settlements involved, missed the point IMO.

You take it for granted, but we have no analog of out of courts settlements here, so the concept is not familiar.

---
What you can fear is Old Media or district attorneys making things up.
---
For one part, I'd say this reflects my impression that honesty is getting no longer so plentiful in your Land.

For another one, I think that rape and political accusations are on very different levels, better to take care when mixing both in your comparisons.

Clovis e Adri said...

Peter,

---
Clovis, you have almost unhuman expectations.
---
Not really. We are just lost in translation, as usual.

Where you read me asking for people to turn into angels, I am only asking them to stop being damn little imps.


---
Bret's point may be a little overstated, but what I think he is basically saying is that, on average, a citizen has more ability to protect himself from private dishonesty and exploitation than government dishonesty and exploitation.
---
And I am not saying he is wrong. Only that, if the US keeps getting more like Brazil, soon he'll discover he can't protect himself from both private and govt dishonesty anymore.

Annoying Old Guy said...

Clovis;

No, you're missing my point. You asked "why settle?". I answered with "because this is the alternative even when you are completely innocent".

Clovis e Adri said...

AOG,

So I was missing your point indeed.

But how pervasive you believe that is? I mean, every citizen wrongly accused should cave in and settle, or just the ones in political hot spots? Or not even them, and the cases you present are still exceptions?

Here from afar, sexual related accusations (affairs, rape, etc) look to be part of your political games since at least JFK, if not earlier. And practiced by both the Dems and the GOP.

Are things any different now at that area?

Annoying Old Guy said...

Clovis;

how pervasive you believe that is?

It's directly proportional to how rich and conservative you are, although someone like Zimmerman can get caught up in the gears if it that is thought to benefit someone else's career.

sexual related accusations (affairs, rape, etc) look to be part of your political games since at least JFK

But false ones, and legal action, are overwhelmingly from the MAL. Every example I listed is such, please provide counter examples if you think I'm wrong.

I have to ask, because this comes up with you so frequently, do you ever consider amount or level of risk when you say "both sides do it"? Or do you go by a one drop rule of equivalence?

Howard said...

regarding honesty in our culture and politics and narrative(I'm mixing posts a little - (from latter portion of this)

The thing is, race politics is what Democrats do, just as Grubering is what elite liberal academics do. As the black race thing starts to lose its glamor and its traction, it's natural that Democrats would try the same thing with Hispanics; you go with what you know. There are even a few conservatives out there convinced that all the division by race is going to end up in a race war, unless we do something.

But I wonder. I've been on a mommy trip back east with Lady Marjorie recently, wandering in and out of banks and FedEx Kinko offices. The first thing that strikes you is the kaleidoscope of color in today's branded big-corporation offices and stores. The second thing that strikes you is that somebody has trained up all the minority twenty- and thirty-somethings to a customer service fare-thee-well.

If I were a licensed race baiter instead of merely an autodidact racist-sexist-homophobe I would despair at the cultural threat from corporate America. Every day in every way corporations are converting your tired and your poor into middle-class workers glad to serve the stranger, make the customer king, act friendly with everyone. No wonder lefties hate corporations; they are teaching people how to break out of liberal tribalism and join the global middle class.

There's no virtue in what the corporations are doing; it is just the logic of capitalism. You want a profit? You extend trust to everyone that can be trusted, because that is how mass production for the masses works. If you don't grab market share by figuring out how to expand your market, someone else will expand into your market.

If the pre-election period was a non-stop road show of Obama administration follies, the post-election period has descended into farce. It's a packed program of Gruber Confessions, the mean girls clique at The Atlantic Young Ladies Academy turning science class into snippy talk about clothes, and, next up, no indictment in Ferguson.

It seems that liberals are losing control of the narrative; maybe liberal racism is getting lost in all the “transnationalism... tri-coastal revolution and radical enlightenment” of the fashionable academy.


Americans also have ways of putting the political class in their place. That's part of the feature of our rambunctious revolutionary nature.(stay tuned)

Clovis e Adri said...

AOG,

It is simple, I am brainwashed by the media to believe so. And, as Erp is fond of saying, everything I know, is wrong, or something.

Or I am just much less informed than you.

Or yet a third option: maybe I am just less partisan, having no stakes on your politics.

I'll let you decide which one is it (which surely you already did anyway).

Clovis e Adri said...

Howard,

I think you are the one that recently said that politics is downstream of culture.

If the culture gets corrupted, who will put the political class in their place? Yeah, I'll stay tuned to watch that. Just don't be surprised if you see me not impressed after another Bush get elected president.

Annoying Old Guy said...

Clovis;

All of your putative answers are nonsequitors.

erp said...

Clovis, another Bush would be a great improvement over the other possibilities. Whom would you support instead?

Howard said...

Clovis,

What if attempts to shape the culture became more competitive?

Clovis e Adri said...

Erp,

It is none of my business, I am no US citizen after all.

But... if you really want to know my opinion, I'd like to see a Rand Paul presidency. I think the last honest guy you had as President, and that would be Jimmy Carter, did not do a great job in part because of that. I foresee Rand Paul would run into similar problems, but I'd like to see that prediction tested anyway.

Clovis e Adri said...

Howard,

You are indeed an optimist.

That's a trace I've seen in many CEO-like people. They have not only a natural inclination to think more like an optimist, but also purposefully develop techniques to not allow bad news to take their good mood away.