As a father, he was also a teacher. My dad taught me that hard work eclipses talent or natural gifts every day of the week and twice on Sunday. He taught me how to drive like a Philadelphia cabbie and how to parallel park in a space equal to the length of my vehicle. He taught me that the best time to look for a job is when you already have one and that opportunities are often masked as disappointments.
He taught me that play is necessary, but that it’s more fun when your work is finished. He taught me to love my life and the people in it. He taught me to drink the wine and not to save it for a special occasion. And he taught me that family is always my safe place to land.
Walter’s influence goes well beyond my own education. The thousands of students whom I have taught are unwitting beneficiaries of Walter’s insistence on high standards, yet understanding that none of us not know it all. I attempted to pass on Walter’s focus on problem solving technique and reliance on evidence. Many academics claim to follow the science wherever it leads, but all too many wilt when the results they find are counter-intuitive or politically unpopular. Walter truly followed the evidence wherever it led. In Walter’s case, it often resulted in disagreement with what many people wanted him to believe.
Second, no political party, economist, or economic textbook has ever referred to “trickle-down” anything as a policy tool or outcome. As Thomas Sowell wrote in 2014: “The “trickle-down” theory cannot be found in even the most voluminous scholarly studies of economic theories – including J. A. Schumpeter’s monumental ‘History of Economic Analysis,’ more than a thousand pages long and printed in very small type.” It is a description typically employed by opponents of free markets and economic liberty, and one which like so many others (“fairness,” “hard-working Americans,” “equality“) has become so freighted with political suggestion as to become a near-metonym.
Most important of all, the phrase fails to accurately describe any economic phenomenon or outcome. “Trickle-down economics” is, beyond being a phrase used to evoke an emotional reaction among a certain sector of the populace, a profound illustration of economic ignorance.
As documented in the Wall Street Journal, the elected officials who gather regularly in Sacramento might, about most economic matters, be dumber than dung. But they are among the world’s leading experts at destroying an economy. Here’s the opening paragraph:
California’s Legislature is considering a wealth tax on residents, part-year residents, and any person who spends more than 60 days inside the state’s borders in a single year. Even those who move out of state would continue to be subject to the tax for a decade—a provision that calls to mind the Eagles’ famous “Hotel California” lyric: “You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.”
There are also problems in the piece related to mythology about 1990s capitalism. In the 1990s, the piece states, “The United States, the world’s sole superpower, embraced an almost messianic belief in the ability of unfettered capitalism to improve lives around the world.” It is certainly true that many people were pretty high on capitalism in the 1990s, given the experiences with socialism around the world, but capitalism was hardly “unfettered” and the U.S. government was certainly not “messianic” about it at this time. Debates about deregulation and privatization have a real impact, and at times various governments move back and forth on the continuum a bit, in one direction or the other. But regardless of any marginal successes we on the free market side have had, we have never come close to making capitalism “unfettered.” There are plenty of fetters still in place. And the U.S. government was always pretty practical in its approach, advocating for and using subsidies and trade restrictions in areas where it wanted to impose them.