Friday, February 12, 2016

Maybe I'm amazed

Buster Keaton in The General (1926)? [corrections welcome], from the Tumblr of yet another idiot who can't understand the concept of crediting an image, so screw them.
Shorter David Brooks, "Livin' Bernie Sanders's Danish Dream", New York Times, February 12 2016:
If Bernie Sanders becomes president, government spending will go through the roof! There will be centralized economic planning and the Washington establishment will control American life! Taxes will be so high you won't be able to choose your own lifestyle! Entrepreneurs will have no incentive to entreprenate! American colleges and universities will become tawdry nests of hippies like Cambridge and Uppsala instead of forward-looking profit centers like the University of Phoenix! You'll have to wait in line for your rationed health care! Not that there's anything wrong with that, I've lived in northern Europe myself, but it's not Tocqueville's America, and I find it amazing—amazing—that our young people should think of it as a good idea.
(Is he trolling me today, doubling down on "amazing"? 141st and 142nd career uses of the adjective and its corresponding adverb in the Times column.)

I'm surprised he failed to note that we'll all have to wear identical gray uniforms and line up for hours in the supermarket for wormy cabbages and potatoes, and the Swedes have the highest suicide rate in the world—they never did, of course, though they did have a very high suicide rate for a brief period in the later 1960s when these fears animated the thinking of scholars like Ronald Reagan and my high school world history teacher Mr. Gallucci, and maybe Bob Hope for the crack about the college students. which Brooks channels today. It was zombie thinking then, and now it's worse.

Chart by ItCanHappen via Wikimedia Commons.
I'll leave it to others, I think, to cover in detail how wrong Brooks is about the Sanders economic program in particular, though I'd like to point out once again that if your federal tax payment goes up $500 a year, to take a fairly arbitrary number (it's more than you'd be paying on the 2014 median income of $51,000, based on the Clinton campaign claim that the plan will raise them 9%), and your health insurance premium of $5000 goes away, not to mention all the payments you might have to make on your deductible, you are not losing any money.

And that one of my objections to the Sanders program is that it doesn't centralize enough, giving too much power to the states to design their own plans, which I think is unwise—last night in Milwaukee Clinton made a similar objection to the Sanders free college plan:
Senator Sanders's plan really rests on making sure that governors like Scott Walker contribute $23 billion on the first day to make college free. I am a little skeptical about your governor actually caring enough about higher education to make any kind of commitment like that.
But then health care in Denmark is run entirely at a regional-municipal level, with the central government not involved at all in the taxation that funds it or in the ownership of hospitals and clinics, playing a purely regulatory role, and education in Germany is entirely a state issue in a similar way, although German universities have been tuition free for a very long time, except for the nine-year experiment from 2005, when the first Merkel government legalized tuition, until 2014 when the last states abandoned the stupid practice.

And while the proportion of US citizens who are entrepreneurs is higher than that of Denmark there doesn't seem to be any doubt that Danish entrepreneurs are a lot more innovative than American ones. Seriously.

And and and Tocqueville's America, during his nine-month stay in 1831, in the third year of the Jacksonian revolution in favor of the Southern slave economy and in opposition to the Northern industrial economy, was kind of a poor period for centralization, which caused Tocqueville himself a good deal of concern, as I've been anxious to point out before. A much better time to observe what America is at its best might have been the earlier years of the Republic from 1787 through 1824 or 28, and its massive projects in exploration and infrastructure building and free public education throughout the North, long before any other country attempted that; or the Whiggish revival of the 1860s, when the Civil War didn't stop the federal government from blanketing the country with railways and developing public land grant universities; or the New Deal, when Saint Frances Perkins, radiating goodness, Brooksy, developed the implementation of social security and unemployment insurance decades before these became the norm in northern Europe, or...

Ah, well, but just speaking of making America great again, how about looking at the things that used to make it great every few decades, the strong central government and the egalitarian impulse...

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