Politicians Pursue Power, Not Truth or Understanding

by Don Boudreaux on November 15, 2006

in Politics

Arnold Kling points out that Jim Webb’s op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal lacks any real suggestions for how to solve the problem that Webb allegedly believes now haunts America.

If this lack of specifics means a lack of action by government, I’d be pleased.  But I suspect that there are lots of harmful interventions on the horizon.  Greg Mankiw quite wisely notes that many of the favored policies now promoted by the American left — raising the minimum-wage, protectionism, labor cartelization, and Wal-Mart bashing — are poor policy tools to address the problems the left frets over.

Here’s a letter that I sent today to the Wall Street Journal in response to Webb’s huffing and puffing:

Dear Editor:

Webb’s fear-mongering essay about income inequality obviously is meant
to justify higher taxes on "the rich," boondoggle programs for "working
Americans," and protectionism for special-interest groups posing as
victims of nefarious foreign merchants ("American Workers Have a Chance
to Be Heard," Nov. 15).  And like all such efforts, Webb’s is a series
of illogical arguments and half-truths.

For example, he says
that "manufacturing jobs are disappearing."  True.  Contrary to his
suggestion, though, this fact is unrelated to recent trends in
globalization, corporate governance, or tax policy.  Manufacturing jobs
as a percentage of the U.S. work force peaked in 1945 and have declined
steadily ever since – even though manufacturing output continues to
rise.  Today this output is at an all-time high.

I understand that politicians pursue power rather than truth.  Still, it’s galling to read such concentrated deceitfulness.

Donald J. Boudreaux

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Mcwop November 15, 2006 at 1:17 pm

Webb's obvious policy (though not overtly stated) is to have something akin to the "United States Handicapper General". Webb is comfortable with the awfulness of the idea, because he thinks it will correct something he finds to be more awful.

Webb wants to correct an emotion – Resentment. To correct that emotion he will apply the powers of government on the resented group, which he and his supporters resent. This in turn will simply create resentment by the newly penalized group.

I happen to resent the government, because they have more power than me. Their power is not equal to mine, but I am sure that Webb would cry at the suggestion that all government power should be curtailed.

JohnDewey November 15, 2006 at 1:21 pm

We'll have to listen to this idiot Webb for six more years. And all because George Allen just had to ad lib. Maybe the Republicans need more actors who can stick to the script.

William November 15, 2006 at 2:34 pm

I think the Democrats are trying to create a class-based system (by making people see class where it doesn't exist) in order to win votes. My college classmates at the University of Virginia come from all nations and income levels. Richer students are disproportionately represented, but it's ridiculous to argue that the poor are being held down by some sort of fat cat capitalists' club.

Bruce G Charlton November 15, 2006 at 2:46 pm

I find the recent discussion of 'class' in the USA to be somewhat bizarre.

A hundred years ago in the 'gilded age' class meant that scions of the ruling group got a position of status wealth and power merely by being born to the right parents.

Now, apparently, 'class' means that scions of the ruling group must study hard for about 25 years at schools, college and graduate school just in order to have a shot at the same positions they would have walked-into two or three generations ago.

Commentators say that the US is returning to the social immobility of the gilded age.

But 19th century and 21st century 'class' don't seem at all like the same thing to me.

MesaEconoGuy November 15, 2006 at 7:38 pm

This Webb idiot offers more of the same statistically irrelevant economic horsecrap about the fictional “ever-widening divide.” Incidentally, here’s the non-subscriber link to this economic disaster [Professor Boudreaux posted the subscriber link]:


He also neglects to mention that 30 years ago, everybody was overpaid, productivity was stagnant, and inflation was in the double-digits. Maybe it will only take 2 years for people to remember just how economically dumb Democrats truly are.

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