Friday, December 22, 2006

Does the study of economics tend to make people conservative?

Greg Mankiw comments:

I believe the answer is, to some degree, yes. My experience is that many students find that their views become somewhat more conservative after studying economics. There are at least three, related reasons.

First, in some cases, students start off with utopian views of public policy, where a benevolent government can fix all problems. One of the first lessons of economics is that life is full of tradeoffs. That insight, completely absorbed, makes many utopian visions less attractive. Once you recognize, for example, that there is a tradeoff between equality and efficiency, as economist Arthur Okun famously noted, many public policy decisions become harder.

Second, some of the striking insights of economics make one more respectful of the market as a mechanism for coordinating a society. Because market participants are motivated by self-interest, a person might naturally be suspect of market-based societies. But after learning about the gains from trade, the invisible hand, and the efficiency of market equilibrium, one starts to approach the market with a degree of admiration and, indeed, awe.

Third, the study of actual public policy makes students recognize that political reality often deviates from their idealistic hopes. Much income redistribution, for example, is aimed not toward the needy but toward those with political clout. This Dave Barry column, which is reprinted in Chapter 22 of my favorite economics textbook, describes a good example.

For these three reasons, many students in introductory economics courses become more conservative--or, to be precise, more classically liberal--than they began. Nonetheless, studying economics does not by itself determine one's political ideology. I know good economists who are distinctly right of center and good economists who are distinctly left of center. In my department at Harvard, I would guess that Democrats outnumber Republicans among the faculty (although there is surely more political balance in the economics department than in most other departments at the university).



The Hispanic underclass

Many of the police and youth workers blame the increase in gang appeal on the disintegration of the Hispanic family unit . . . and it's worsening by the day - especially for U.S.-born Hispanics. Fifty years ago, 70 percent of the children of U.S.-born Hispanic parents lived in an intact family. By 1999 that number had dropped to 56 percent. The percentage of Hispanic children living with a single mother rose from 18 percent to 35 percent. Single parent households constituted 25 percent of all Hispanic households with minor children in the 1970s. By 2005 the proportion had jumped to 37 percent.

Teen parenthood - the marker of underclass behavior - has affected the crime and gang rate. In 2002 there were 83.4 births per 1,000 Hispanic females between ages 15 and 19. Today the figures are out of sight. Hispanic mothers have higher birth rates, and here in California, most newborns are of Hispanic origin. Parenthood is all but forgotten with teen youngsters giving birth while they are little more than children. Many of these teenage Hispanic girls are having four, five, and even six babies by their mid-20s. Many of the fathers simply disappear. And 80 percent of teen births to Latinas in 1999 were to unmarried girls.

The crime rates are soaring and these young Spanish offspring drop out of school and resort to gang activities. And, tragically, many of these young Hispanics are unable to communicate in either Spanish or the English language. Impoverished youth become lethargic and obese with little or no drive and end up on the streets, and the easy way out for them is criminality. Much to our dismay, with teen pregnancies out of control and the crime and gang rate running rampant, we have developed a complete third world underclass America - a ghettoized Hispanic subgroup in terms of welfare use and out-of-wedlock child-rearing.

More here



There is an amusing dismissal of blogs by an orthodox newspaperman here -- who sounds like he read three blogs two years ago and now thinks he knows all about them. His generalizations are wild and one in particular is most amusing. He accuses blogs of "leaving underexamined more fundamental issues, say, Iraq". Iraq underexamined! Never have so many written so much as bloggers have written about Iraq! Maybe our dyspeptic newspaperman has just been dumped by his girlfriend. That would both explain and be consonant with his sourness about the world. Another indication of his systemic sourness is that his judgment of his own MSM is that it "is not wholly imperfect". Poor man!

There is a superb example of arrogant Leftist ignorance here -- a video of a protest by charity group Oxfam against the Starbucks coffee chain. Their basic point seems to be that the third world-farmers who grow the coffee beans get only a tiny percentage of the final price of a cup of coffee. But ALL farmers get only a small percentage of the price of the final product. What percentage of the price of a loaf of bread do these ignoramuses think American or Australian wheat farmers get? I am sure the boneheaded "protesters" have never even asked that question. The final price of ANY product is built up mainly by transport costs and processing costs. Do the boneheads think the Starbucks waiters work for nothing? THAT is the main factor in Starbucks' costs. And no doubt landlords give Starbucks use of their expensive central city premises for nothing too!

Flushing Congress from the toilet industry: ""Every time I have to flush a toilet twice, I think of Congress. No, I'm not crazy. It's actually Congress's fault. Well, I may be crazy, but in this case my point is: it really is the fault of our legislative wonders in Washington. After so many decades of we citizens taking our toilets for granted, well, Congress wandered into the toilet regulation business. And now I'm buying plungers."



"All the worth which the human being possesses, all spiritual reality, he possesses only through the State." -- 19th century German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. Hegel is the most influential philosopher of the Left -- inspiring Karl Marx, the American "Progressives" of the early 20th century and university socialists to this day.

The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialistisch)

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