21 February 2010

Two links on voter anger

Following on from Thursday's post about the mis-analysis of the Tea Party:
EconLog | Arnold Kling | Paranoia About Paranoia

I would be the last person to impute rationality to mass political movements. Nonetheless, I am fed up with the psychoanalysis of the tea party movement. When people say that they do not like big deficits and government activism, why not take them at their word? Why say that what they really believe are wild conspiracy theories?

It would not surprise me to learn that many tea partiers believe strange things. But it would not surprise me to learn that many people of all political stripes believe strange things. [...]

I think that a lot of pundits would be comfortable describing the 2008 election as the a rational, focused statement in favor of the progressive agenda, rather than an emotional outburst of frustration with economic circumstances. Yet those same pundits would feel comfortable describing the tea party movement and the election of Scott Brown as an emotional outburst of frustration with economic circumstances, rather than a rational, focused statement in opposition to the progressive agenda.
I would quote the entirety of Kling's post if propriety allowed it.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Reason: Hit & Run | Matt Welch | Angry Americans Confusingly Hate Both Bailouts and Bailouts

New Yorker financial columnist James Surowiecki, who can be very smart when talking about microeconomics, is less than very smart when talking about macroeconomic politics. At least that's the case in this new column, on "The Populism Problem," which posits that "this new populism has stitched together incompatible concerns and goals into one 'I'm mad as hell' quilt." Excerpt:
The bailout of the auto industry, after all, was as unpopular as the bailout of the banks, even though it was much tougher on the companies (G.M. and Chrysler went bankrupt; shareholders were wiped out, and C.E.O.s pushed out), and even though the biggest beneficiaries of the deal were ordinary autoworkers. You might have expected a deal that helped workers keep their jobs to play well in a country spooked by ballooning unemployment. Yet most voters hated it.
Well, yes. They have also continued to hate, as Tim Cavanaugh has been pointing out since at least the summer of 2008, bailing out underwater homeowners. Could it be that rewarding failure with taxpayer dollars is just widely and persistently perceived as unfair and unwise? Especially when the country's media and governing elites continue to pat these confused little Americans on the head and tell them to swallow their medicine?
Again, Surowiecki is sticking to his hypothesis in the face of contradictory evidence and then getting all confused that people aren't fitting into his pre-determined narrative rather than adjusting his narrative.

Welch makes this anciallry point at the end which I also agree with:

I sincerely do not understand how it is supposed to automatically follow that a crisis spurred in no small part by cheap government money and loose-credit government lending incentives is supposed to make us conclude, after eight years of massive government growth on all levels, that the problem was the insufficient involvement of government. I'm open to persuasion on specific acts of deregulation (like the repeal of Glass-Steagall) or non-regulation (as in the trading of certain derivatives) or sideways-regulation (as in the seemingly capricious changes to various reserve requirements for financial institutions), but it is rare to hear about such tangible policies anywhere near blanket statements about how "the government should be more involved in the economy," and rarer still to see much analysis of how malfeasance took place under regulators' perfectly empowered noses.
The generic cry for more regulation is much too facile. I want to know what regulation specifically, how it would have prevented the last crisis and how it will prevent the next crisis. "More" doesn't cut it.

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