<>[The following two trackbacks and ten comments were deleted from The Battle of Ideas:]

» In The Battle Of Ideas, New Dealers Are Like Civil War Re-Enactors from Knowing Humans
Brad DeLong's blog is still limping along with a critical lack of the engagement with free-market perspectives that initially attracted me to it a couple years ago. Last week I noted DeLong's recent confused discussion of apparent taxation inequity be... [Read More]

Tracked on July 4, 2005 07:58 PM

» Arguing On The Internet Is Like Running In The Special Olympics from Knowing Humans
For a thread that starts out so full of smug self-congratulation among Brad's lefty acolytes, it's interesting how quickly the room empties out when somebody stands up to offer some evidence and critical thinking that questions the alleged victory for ... [Read More]

Tracked on July 7, 2005 08:45 AM

Jonathan 1) admits he didn't even follow my trackback link, 2) types "I interpret this to mean that [...], and 3) completes his sentence with a laughable strawman. Thank you, Jonathan, for answering the liberal casting call for what in the "battle of ideas" are analogous to Civil War re-enactors. (I hereby affirm that I didn't enter Jonathan's comment myself, and that as far as I know, he is an actual liberal.)

Posted by: Brian Holtz | July 4, 2005 11:03 PM

(Actually, despite the impression left by his penultimate paragraph, Jonathan implies in his last paragraph that he did manage to click the link, but nevertheless provides no evidence of having read anything his browser then displayed to him. My article is all about "actual economic analysis", and if he wants even more textbook economic analysis he should read http://marketliberal.org/Lesson.html#Rivalry.)

Posted by: Brian Holtz | July 4, 2005 11:21 PM

MTC, nothing you say above changes the significance of the Samuelson quote. While Social Security may once have been a politically ingenious way for liberals to buy political tenure by redistributing wealth from the young to the old, it is now wildly maladapted to America's demographics. Thank you for playing "Battle Of Ideas", please accept a copy of our home game.

Posted by: Brian Holtz | July 5, 2005 09:08 AM

Lee, it remains a basic statement of fact that Social Security now wildly maladapted to America's demographics. Don't take my word for it, just read the entire statement of the Urban Institute's Eugene Steuerle before the House Ways and Means Committee in May (http://waysandmeans.house.gov/hearings.asp?formmode=view&id=2630). Steuerle enumerates at least a dozen perverse consequences of the way Social Security is so painfully maladapted to 21st-century America in its assumptions about "life expectancy, health care, the physical demands of jobs, the labor force participation of women, the percentage of women who are left on their own to both raise children and work, the age at which one can be considered old, the consumption levels of the elderly relative to the non-elderly, and poverty levels of children relative to the old".

I'll put Steuerle's economic analysis up against your cartoon any day. In fast-forwarding through it I saw no topic that isn't already thoroughly dealt with in the postings of Jim Glass at http://www.scrivener.net/2005/01/social-security-posts.html.

Ari, are you seriously questioning that Social Security has tended to redistribute from the young to the old, or that liberals/Democrats did not know they would benefit politically from this redistribution? If this is news to you, just read this 1962 speech (http://www.ssa.gov/history/perkins5.html) by Frances Perkins, FDR's Labor secretary and the mother of Social Security. She made it clear from whom Social Security was to buy votes: "the aged have votes. The wandering boys didn't have any votes; the evicted women and their children had very few votes. If the unemployed didn't stay long enough in any one place, they didn't have a vote. But the aged people lived in one place and they had votes". The context was a proposal that helped inspire Social Security, in which everyone over 65 would be given a straight handout of "$30 every Thursday".

We apologize for this reality-based interruption. We now return to our regularly-scheduled simplistic bashing of easy targets on the radical right, already in progress.

Posted by: Brian Holtz | July 5, 2005 03:13 PM

Apav, our differing interpretations probably indeed come down to "experiential differences" -- in particular, differences in the information that we've been exposed to. Your conclusion "It all comes down to SS must feel bad to you" is simply a non sequitur. I've given links above to just a fraction of the information that I've "experienced" on Social Security, but feel free to ignore it if it's important for you to believe that SS merely "feels bad" to me.
For the record:

1. No, I'm not frightened of the tax burden, as the new economy has given me more wealth than payroll taxes could ever tax away. Rather, I'm outraged at the intergenerational inequity of SS, and also that e.g. poor single working moms are disadvantaged by SS in favor of rich trophy wives. If you want to narrow our "experiential difference" on this score, I suggest you read the Steuerle testimony I linked to above.

2. My trackback blog entry above (and my congressional campaign platform at http://marketliberal.org) indicates support for a negative income tax and mandatory retirement saving, so it's bizarre that you think I "think people behave better when afraid".

Do you really think that the best arguments for personal retirement accounts center on either of the two kinds of fear you asked about? Is your experience in this regard really that blinkered?

Posted by: Brian Holtz | July 5, 2005 07:01 PM

Lee, I never said that Steuerle uttered the words "wildly maladapted". I said that his testimony contradicts the assertion that Social Security "has actually grown more, not less, suited to the character of the U.S. economy over the last several decades". If you dispute this, then just read my article "Democrats Favor Trophy Wives Over Poor Single Moms" (http://blog.360.yahoo.com/knowinghumans?p=23) and its list of nine different kinds of Social Security inequity gleaned from Steuerle's testimony. None of them have anything to do with "the medical system".

"Ask any retiree rich or poor whether we should monkey with Social Security"? No need, since it was only around last year that a cohort started retiring that will for the first time experience negative returns from SS when compared to risk-free investments. OF COURSE current retirees fear SS reform as a "money grab", for the same reason that bank robbers consider it a "money grab" when the police confiscate those bags with the dollar signs on them. (Sadly, this particular bank doesn't have much left to rob. Gone are the days when Ida May Fuller could earn $20K lifetime benefits on a lifetime contribution of $50. Did somebody say "money-grab"?)

You put the word "solvency" in quotes, but your use of it is the first in this thread. The subject here is: whether SS's allegedly increased suitedness to the current demographic character of the U.S. economy constitutes some kind of victory for New Deal liberals in the "battle of ideas". Do you defend that proposition, or not? (I'll queue your solvency link up for reading, and if there is anything there I haven't already seen rebutted e.g. at http://www.scrivener.net/2005/03/social-security-future-economic-growth.html, then I'll address it on my blog. For the record, I don't doubt that the currently-underfunded negative returns that future retirees are promised could be financed with sufficiently high taxes. I just don't think the consequent Eurosclerosis is in America's best interest.)

I'm not citing Glass as an authority. I don't even know what kind of degree Jim has. I'm just saying that there's no issue I saw raised in your cartoon that isn't dealt with by the evidence and arguments that Jim marshals. If you get to point to a twelve-minute overview cartoon about SS -- or the unspecified oeuvre of Robert Ball, or that entire bruceweb site -- then I get to point to Jim's overview of his SS posts. If it's authority you want, then my first pick would be the Cato pros at socialsecurity.org.

To "obscure": No, the fact that voting majorities engage in rent-seeking does not imply that "democracy must be illegitimate". It does, however, imply that democracies desperately need the institutional safeguards that America abandoned in our constitutional Kristallnacht in the spring of 1937 (http://blog.360.yahoo.com/knowinghumans?p=29). And if you think that the (underfunded!) negative returns scheduled for future SS recipients are at all comparable to the undeservedly high positive returns given to past recipients, you are simply ignorant of the facts surrounding this issue. You are, however, useful as a typical example of the cheering section for the ersatz victory Brad claims above in this "battle of ideas".

Posted by: Brian Holtz | July 6, 2005 08:09 AM

Kristallnacht was a sudden and wrenching public-policy watershed, which a popular elected government suddenly orchestrated in the late 1930s by channeling what it claimed were the demands of the people in the midst of a decade-long national crisis, and that presaged an era in which the government acted with shocking disregard for the principles that had formerly constrained the proper exercise of its powers in the relevant domain. I'm of course not saying that the two domains -- 1) human right to life and 2) enumerated limits on federal powers -- are comparable. I'm saying the actions with respect to those domains were comparable, and that the predicate nominative of my first sentence here is an accurate description of what happened in American constitutional jurisprudence in the Spring of 1937. Ari, if you think for one moment that I'm insensitive to the issue of genocide, then just read what I posted a couple hours before your complaint: http://blog.360.yahoo.com/knowinghumans?p=70

Posted by: Brian Holtz | July 6, 2005 10:45 AM

Lee, your point about a safety net against income volatility is already addressed at http://blog.360.yahoo.com/knowinghumans?p=67. Your one-sentence dismissal of the numerous fundamental inequities of SS with scare quotes and talk of "tweaks" constitutes polemical abdication, and is typical of the "battle of ideas" that this thread is supposed to about. Ditto for your name-calling about what any serious SS scholar recognizes as its changing rate of return across age cohorts. I won't even deign to comment on your brushing off the entire economic concept of the risk-free rate of return. If this is what counts as informed advocacy by your champions Robert Ball or Bruce Webb, let me know now so I need not waste my time reading and refuting them.

I field the above (and any further) criticisms of my metaphor at its original posting: http://blog.360.yahoo.com/knowinghumans?p=29.

Posted by: Brian Holtz | July 6, 2005 12:55 PM


1) You claimed the situation across cohorts is symmetrical. I pointed out the undisputed fact that it's not. I further pointed out the significance of your ignorance of this fact. If all you can say in response is "non sequitur", then I'm perfectly happy to let my chain of argument stand as is.

2) There's nothing "dishonest" about asking Lee to stick to the subject. The subject is Chait's claim that SS "has actually grown more, not less, suited to the character of the U.S. economy over the last several decades." When I asked Lee to stick to to the subject, he hadn't even yet mentioned income volatility. That was his *next* attempt to salvage Chait's claim, alongside which he used scare quotes and the word "tweak" to dismiss in one sentence the detailed parade of inequities that I linked to. The comment you quote of mine was in fact in response to Lee's earlier fourfold attempt to avoid the demographic inequities question: 1) complaining Streuele didn't say two words I never said Streuele said; 2) a still-unexplained reference to "the medical system"; 3) pointing out that current retirees like SS (wow!); and 4) changing the subject to "solvency" while quoting it from nowhere in this thread.

3) It's not even "dishonest" for me to talk about "current demographic character of the U.S. economy", since while Chait was of course thinking about income volatility, his blanket statement was nevertheless about "the character of the U.S. economy". That character includes its demographic character, obviously.

4) You ask what is the relevance of past returns "to the risk-ameliorating role of SS?" Sorry, but you don't get to move the goalposts and restrict Chait's claim -- or SS's grounds for evaluation -- to being only about risk amelioration. SS must also be evaluated on its equity across age cohorts, as well as how it treats e.g. trophy wives vs. poor single working moms. Or not -- since you blatantly wave away an equity concern by saying "Undeservedly? Who is the judge... and who cares?" Obviously not you. Well, I do. If you don't care about the government mistreating people, that's your right. Enjoy it while it lasts.

5) Call me names all you like. In the Geneva conventions governing the "Battle of Ideas", name-calling is interchangeable with a white flag as an acceptable sign of surrender.

Posted by: Brian Holtz | July 6, 2005 04:35 PM

Jennifer, by an amusing coincidence, I had just come to that very conclusion about my critics here -- as I explain in the new trackback posting above that pokes some politically incorrect fun at myself for naively hoping I could find intelligent and open-minded debate here.

Posted by: Brian Holtz | July 7, 2005 09:09 AM