Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Peter Radford — McCloskey Disses Democracy

Peter Radford takes down Deirdre McCloskey's take down of Thomas Pikettythat Greg Mankiw opined was "compelling".

This is a good one. Here are a couple of excerpts for the flavor.
Actually it’s McCloskey dissing what she calls leftish economists generally, although poor Piketty and his notorious book provides the moment she seizes to attack us misguided folk. Riven through with fundamental error and hopelessly soft we have all, apparently, misunderstood the great sweep of history. 
The lesson from which is that all is swell if we just leave it alone. We need to set aside our petty and foolish concerns about the environment, and a whole host of other nonsense about market imperfections – and, yes, government imperfections too – we need to acknowledge the great wealth that surrounds us, and gorge on the pile of goodies that capitalism has brought us.…

If the great spirit in the sky was working tirelessly throughout those two hundred years or so, then surely the benefits ought to have accrued more evenly. Why is the material leap more focused towards the end? At least for the ungrateful poor who don’t realize they are actually wealthy.
Perhaps it had something to do with democracy. Or, alternatively put, the push back by folk like my grandmother against the system that seemed to be permanently stacked against them. They voted repeatedly to distribute wealth more evenly, to limit the risks of living in the spirit’s system, and to otherwise guard against to excesses of the capitalists. They had a sense of balance. A sense that allowed the economic system to flourish but within more decently proscribed limits. Distribution was important because it allowed everyone to feel an equal participant. Excess undermines that feeling. 
Yes, Deirdre, distribution does matter. It matter s a lot. In fact it matters so much that rightists – I resist the obvious impulse to use the word “wrongists” – wanting to defend the great spirit in the sky ought to pay very great attention. 
Because maldistribution can, and I will stay polite here, mess things up. Big time. Really big time. It creates political problems in a democracy. And that then creates problems for the economy.
The key point:
The tradition in which McCloskey sits, denies forcibly and very loudly that the government can play any role whatever in the economy. It has constructed an entire intellectual edifice – Smith-Say-Mises-Hayek-Friedman et al – to enforce that denial. It has sought to interfere in the democratic process in order to neuter any influence that process might have.
Like I've been saying capitalism and democracy are antithetical.

The Radford Free Press
McCloskey Disses Democracy
Peter Radford

Best line: "The system-we-cannot-name is rooted in venal bourgeois values. You said so yourself Deirdre."

No comments: