Re: Even The Liberal New Republic Drinks Kool-Aid

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Mwahahahahah. When the Maroon Revolution is complete, w-lfs-n and I will rule you all.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 12:01 PM
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I'm extraordinarily benevolent. Ben, however . . .


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 12:02 PM
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Hey, I'm a Maroon half-breed.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 12:03 PM
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3: Oh, riiiiight. OK. The First Trium(femina)virate.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 12:05 PM
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Or Bifemina-univirate.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 12:07 PM
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LB a wonk? Say it ain't so, Liz?


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 12:08 PM
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5: Much better!


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 12:10 PM
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Not qualified as one myself, but I like having them run things. Assuming by 'wonk' we mean people with relevant expertise in actually doing the things we want government to do.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 12:10 PM
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Isn't Goolsbee the one that has McManus so terrified?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 12:16 PM
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Sifu, I'm afraid that you'll provoke something by asking that question.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 12:19 PM
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I don't actually know much of anything about Goolsbee, and should look into him -- that is, I can't vouch at all that the TNR article is correct. But what they're saying makes Obama sound like my dream candidate.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 12:22 PM
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Does HRC have all of her husband's advisors?


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 12:24 PM
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I'm sure she doesn't have all of them -- who were you thinking of, or what area?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 12:28 PM
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Not Morris the Toesucker, that's for sure. Not Stephanopolous the Weenie.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 12:29 PM
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Not Stephanopolous the Weenie.

By most accounts that I've read, a standard liberal who lost most of the battles he fought with DLC types.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 12:31 PM
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10: naaaaah.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 12:32 PM
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Well all know Fama is pulling the strings behind the curtain.


Posted by: French | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 12:35 PM
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Isn't Goolsbee the one that has McManus so terrified?

Yes, whatever is discussed in this article is just the smokescreen for his lust to destroy Social Security.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 12:37 PM
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13: Ill-formed inquiry, but the article you linked contrasted the economic approaches of the advisers of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. I was wondering to what extent, if any, this informs differences between Obama and Hillary Clinton on economic policy.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 12:40 PM
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9: Actually, a month or so after mcmanus first brought up Goolsbee, I saw his name elsewhere (possibly not even campiagn-related), and it was, indeed, in a... suboptimal role. I'd say malevolent, but I don't want to disturb the KoolAid-in.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 12:41 PM
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For all I know Krugman and McManus are right about Goolsbee and Obama. "Beggars can't be choosers" is my new political philosophy.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 12:44 PM
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21: Here we find the seeds of the end of the No Relationship School of Thought.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 12:46 PM
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Though rational self-interest was the central tenet of neoclassical (i.e., modern) economics, they didn't take a wrecking ball to the field and replace it with some equally sweeping theory of human behavior. Instead, they labored to bring economics closer in line with how the world actually works, one small adjustment at a time.

Yes, there are so many academic economists who use wrecking balls on a daily basis and are not at all interested in how the world actually works.

They're pragmatists--people who, when an existing paradigm clashes with reality, opt to tweak that paradigm rather than replace it wholesale.

Yes, it is a rule of economics that when the model doesn't totally match the empirical results, you throw out the entire model.

Oh c.mon, is it a lawyer or liberal arts thing to get excited by these kinds of banalities? Or an Obama thing?

And Goolsbee concerns me for many reasons, his youth, his specializations (cv and papers are online) which do not give me confidence that he understands macro as well as Bernanke or Paulson or the others he will be fighting, his recommendation of Jeffrey Liebman.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 12:47 PM
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Oh, and I do want to note:

An adminstration run by wonks with a pragmatic approach to getting stuff done using methods that work, rather than ideologically based lunacy
was pretty much the calling card of the Clinton admin. There was a political cartoon shortly after his Inauguration showing B & H passing each other in the hall, each carrying a stack of binders, each saying to the other, "Wonk!" At the time I didn't know what the word meant, and I found it utterly, surreally hilarious.

I'm not claiming that the Clintons have absorbed any of the behavioral stuff - they were completely in thrall to bog-standard neoliberalism - but they were certainly pragmatic wonks. I seem to recall this being a criticism of them from the Left, before it was decided that they were the moral equivalent of Bush.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 12:47 PM
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25

Bifemina-univirate
Hott.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 12:48 PM
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While I was dreaming of my pig farm I momentarily cheered up, but then I realized it could never happen. Perhaps I should go back on drugs.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 12:48 PM
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26: If you could live with a frog farm instead, search this page for "Frog-farming" to get more details.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 12:50 PM
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24 said what I wanted to say. Thanks you for the pwnage, JRoth; my coffee today was too weak, as a yesterday's stronger brew crashed my coffemaker.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 12:53 PM
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To add to it, now that I wake up a little, I think we can expect Obama to be more or less like Clinton I, with the major differences being contextual. And I think the context is favorable.

On second thought, the number of qualifications I want to load onto this thing are so numerous that any idea contained within collapses.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 12:54 PM
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17 may have an audience of 3, but it's fucking funny.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 12:56 PM
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I'll be back, if you want, or if you don't. I do have a name, Thaler, to do research with. But after skimming the article, it reminds me not so much of the Clinton administration, but of the "Best and Brightest" of the Kennedy administration. Like putting Ford's McNamara in charge of the Pentagon, "run it like a business".


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 12:57 PM
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I was thinking of FDR. What's the line: "Do something. If it doesn't work, admit it and do something else. But do something." (That's from memory, so it's almost certainly wrong.)

The administration has just been such incompetent fuckups for so long. While ideology is important -- doing bad things competently is bad, of course -- it would be so refreshing for things to be done well for a while.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 1:01 PM
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24: I haven't read the linked article, but this all seems pretty clear. Incremental tweaking of the status quo, complete with acknowledgment that "status quo bias" is a powerful thing and provides the most obvious basis for moving people along (a little bit, a little bit) without alarming them overly much ... all of which could be billed as nonpartisan or bipartisan politics ... the Clinton approach overall.

The end of the sentence escapes me. Merely that this is the best kind of administration to hope for, but it's all in the execution.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 1:04 PM
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(Can't get my bloglines to open, Mark Thoma recently posted a piece on behavioral economics, which basically asked "When will they move up from mice?"

It has been thirty years since I read Halberstam, but as I remember the McGeorge Bundy's of JFK were so proud that they were moving toward pragmatic realism and away from the ideologues like Acheson and the Dulles bros.

Goddamn did they fuck it all up.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 1:04 PM
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24: Right, it seems that the difference isn't that Obama's advisors are wonkish, but that they're wonkish in some different ways than the Clintons. This is a good thing all the way around, I think, but I don't know how it compares with Bush's advisors.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 1:06 PM
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Goolsbee has been writing for the NYTimes irregularly since 2003 (the link is to the ninth time chronologically that he's mentioned in the NYTimes, but the first piece by him. It's about how the Bush Administration lies about the economy, and it's written in 2003), and regularly since April 2006. While reading all his academic work would give you a more accurate picture of his views, that's a lot of work. So read his Times' columns, that's easy.


Posted by: washerdreyer | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 1:08 PM
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32: The difference between Bush I and Bush II was enormous, and if they were running against each other for president, I wouldn't have any problem at all voting for Bush I.

This attitude on my part explains why I find so vexing those who would minimize the differences between, say, Hillary and Bush II.

Emerson says it correctly in 21: Beggars can't be choosers.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 1:11 PM
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by 'wonk' we mean people with relevant expertise in actually doing the things we want government to do

These days, that seems to be a bit of a stretch.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 1:12 PM
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There's very little difference on domestic policy between Clinton and Obama, folks. If anything, she has been somewhat stronger in her proposals (her health care and mortgage plans) than he has been.

I think there could be differences on foreign policy, but I don't think anybody really knows what those differences are.

Also, Thaler is great, but Goolsbee is not.

I'm not claiming that the Clintons have absorbed any of the behavioral stuff - they were completely in thrall to bog-standard neoliberalism - but they were certainly pragmatic wonks.

Nobody was that behavioralist back then, it's a change in the profession. There's not a dime's worth of difference between Obama and Clinton on domestic policy, and to the extent there is I get a vague feeling Hillary is a touch more willing to go left.


Posted by: PerfectlyGoddamnDelightful | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 1:12 PM
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Beggars can't be choosers. But they can wonder how the fuck they got to be beggars.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 1:13 PM
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39: It's true that there isn't all that much light between them at this point. Who knows what time will tell.

Given that you believe all else is (nearly) equal isn't anything that gives the DLC a kick in the nuts an objective good?


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 1:14 PM
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Also, Thaler's result has been well-known and lauded absolutely across the economics profession for years now, going on a decade. It's well known and a wide variety of people would cheerlead for it. Thaler is just with Obama because Obama made all kinds of contacts at the U of Chicago back when he was, you know, a professor there.

What would really show some balls would be some behavioral finance applied to the mortgage mess. But I'm not holding my breath.


Posted by: PerfectlyGoddamnDelightful | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 1:15 PM
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This attitude on my part explains why I find so vexing those who would minimize the differences between, say, Hillary and Bush II.

I don't know that I've seen anyone do that, save Krauthammer and various other neocons on foreign policy. There seems to be some overlap on what each assumes is an appropriate base, too. But other than that, I can't think what you might be referencing.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 1:16 PM
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What would really show some balls would be some behavioral finance applied to the mortgage mess. But I'm not holding my breath.

What would that look like?


Posted by: Gabriel | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 1:17 PM
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Imperfect Knowledge Economics

Here is a Thoma article that discusses behavioral economics. Not the one I was looking for.

But both the "rational expectations" and the "behavioral" models are flawed, because they seek to generate exact predictions of human behavior. Both disregard the fact that rationality depends as much on individuals' imperfect understandings of history and society as on their motivation.

Understand that the behavioral economists are serious, they are working in a field where "people are more likely than not" does not win a Nobel. They want mathematical precision in prediction, using psychology that looks more like Skinner than Freud.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 1:23 PM
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It looks like neither Skinner nor Freud.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 1:26 PM
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47

45 is right on. Economists will do a lot to avoid viewing their discipline as a cultural, interpretive, and historical one. Being like sociology is already awful; looking too humanistic is intolerable. Behavioralism is still way too scientistic -- the "brain imaging" stuff is especially egregious.

Still and all, behavioralism is a huge improvement over a simple rationality assumption. Also, it opens up a lot more acceptance for reporting and thinking about "anomalous" empirical results -- the 90% of human behavior that conflicts with the rationality assumption.


Posted by: PerfectlyGoddamnDelightful | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 1:31 PM
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It looks like neither Skinner nor Freud.

Perhaps, but McManus is right that if you had to pick one it looks a lot more like Skinner.


Posted by: PerfectlyGoddamnDelightful | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 1:32 PM
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The complaint about behaviorial economics is that it lacks mathematical precision in prediction.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 1:32 PM
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46:Obviously way over my head, and I will be working on it, because reading technical shit is what I do for fun.

This Paper is old, 1986, but was the first Thaler, Kahneman (a name I had heard of) and other dude paper opened for me

(Gotta type, because "select text" isn't working)

"There is a similarity in the programs of economics and classical stimulus-response behaviorism..."


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 1:38 PM
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48, 50: Point taken. Freud wouldn't be a particularly satisfying replacement, though, I must say. I myself would enjoy some nice William James, but no one asked me.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 1:42 PM
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More support for the "not a dime's worth of difference" position from Ezra. Fr'instance, the 401(K) thing is taken straight from HRC advisor Gene Sperling....


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 1:42 PM
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49: anything lacks mathematical "precision" if you compare it to assuming people mechanically maximize a totally general utility function at all times.

(Actually, economic theory has never shown any mathematical precision in predicting real human behavior. There's only precision in getting unique closed form solutions to a bunch of assumed equations).


Posted by: PerfectlyGoddamnDelightful | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 1:43 PM
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There's a similarity in the level of absurd reductionism. The problem with economics has always been assuming that people can always step back and dispassionately calculate their self-interest from here to the date of their deaths. Behaviorism assumes people are much stupider than they really are, while neoclassical econ assumes people are much smarter than they really are.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 1:44 PM
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53 - Are you kidding? Right now I'm computing my expected utility in 2053 given that the chance of a recession is .12, the chance of all of the world's landmasses drowning is .02, and that the chance that robot-armed monkeys are our overlords is .0001. I'm estimating the chance of world peace breaking out below .00000001, so I might just leave that out of my calculations.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 1:50 PM
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51:It was just the fist name came to mind.

The Value of Saving a Life ...Thaler

This is a bad scan from 1975, but made me laugh, affectionately, at all the math. Scroll down a ways. Aren't those partials down there?

Yeah, economics is all about using math to predict and control human behavior, individual & aggregate. All your other social sciences will be consumed. I love it.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 1:51 PM
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55: It seems to me that some absurd reductionism is necessary at the start if you're going to get anywhere at all. (Though neoclassical economics was happy with using that reductionism forever.)


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 1:52 PM
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I don't think comparing Thaler and Kahneman to Skinner is particularly useful or meaningful. Yes, they are interested in behavior in the aggregate, which demands some black box thinking, but a lot has happened since Skinner's time, and anyhow they're in an entirely different field.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 1:59 PM
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Finally, on an hour's inspection, I think I love this guy. Now it is true that Thaler has twenty years of work on Goolsbee, but he seems more macro, with a wider range of interests, a better sense of humour, and a better work ethic. This, I say with my accustomed awe, is an Economist.

But Goolsbee is younger and has whirly-eyes.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 2:03 PM
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Fr'instance, the 401(K) thing is taken straight from HRC advisor Gene Sperling

<Nitpicking>:Ezra doesn't say that, he says Sperling included the idea in a book which he wrote in 2005.</nitpicking> Ezra also makes the argument that the pre-filled in tax forms can't be a Goolsbee brainchild because Clark proposed it in 2004 and Edwards proposed it before Obama did this year, but Goolsbee was writing in the Times about it in 2006 (which is after 2004, admittedly) and a slightly more limited version of the idea appears in this 2002 paper.


Posted by: washerdreyer | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 2:03 PM
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I looked at the link in 56, and I don't see any partials. (I'm sure there is behavioral work with partials in it.)

Thaler wrote a paper on how to make money betting on horse races. (Bet on heavy favorites for second or third place.) Now that's an Economist.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 2:06 PM
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I think that separating the actually valuable knowledge in economics from the dogmatic methodology, the ideology, and the fraud is an important and necessary task. I can't do it because I don't have the mathematical chops, and I don't think that it can happen from within the profession because the thoughtful economists are too terrified by the people who control the profession.

Economists judged as heterodox have miserable careers, and cutting edge economists are careful not to offend the bigshots in the field, whom they are not even willing to name. (Sources: Coyle, Holt-Colander-Rosser).


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 2:07 PM
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I'm more fascinated by the extent to which Obama's pragmatic "policy shop" (dreadful term) forwards little new to Democratic policy. cf. 42, 52. I hate to say it, but the first comment at that link to Ezra's (at 52) is pretty funny.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 2:08 PM
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I had a couple of encounters with Goolsbee in college, where he was a powerhouse parliamentary debater for Yale. I hadn't realized until recently (when Julian Sanchez mentioned it on his site) that Goolsbee's debate partner was Dahlia Lithwick.

You can't draw too many judgements about a person's views from parliamentary debate, because the whole idea of it is to be able to extemporaneously argue any side of any issue, but I did infer from my exposure to him then that he was a solidly technocratic liberal.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 2:08 PM
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The concept is to set defaults to a desirable solution then allow for opt outs. For example, make the default to be full 401K withholding into an age appropriate portfolio for everyone, but allow people to opt out.

Here is the paper:

http://www.martinfrost.ws/htmlfiles/feb2008/liberal_paternalism.pdf

Here is the book:

http://www.amazon.com/Nudge-Improving-Decisions-Health-Happiness/dp/0300122233/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1204060509&sr=1-1


Posted by: lemmy caution | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 2:16 PM
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60: That doesn't contradict, or even modify, what I said. I said the idea was Sperling's, and that Sperling is an HRC advisor. Both those are true.

Anyway, neither my point nor Ezra's was that BHO is stealing the plans of others; it's that BHO's proposals - even those cherry-picked to be part of this story about The Obama Difference - are mainstream Dem proposals, a mainstream that decidedly includes HRC.

I'm not sure if I've made this explicit here - since VA/MD/DC + WI, I've been certain HRC is toast. Totally fine with that - as things stand, HRC is marginally better on domestic issues, BHO may be distinctly better on int'l issues going forward, but I've always been OK with both (same with Edwards, even tho he bugs me personally). BUT. If Obama punts on UHC, I'm going to track down each and every one of you Obamaheads and cough right on your keyboards.

That is all.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 2:17 PM
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solidly technocratic liberal.

I don't know how I feel about this (not just Goolsbee, but in general). I used to spend a lot of time over at DeLong's getting very pissed off at his ur-technocratic liberal viewpoint. The last 7 years have, of course, brought all of us left-of-Nixons together, but the coming Democratic Dawn will feature a lot of resurgence of the kind of middling-liberal technocracy that led to rioting in the streets of Seattle. I'm not looking forward to Krugman pissing me off from the right again.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 2:21 PM
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64: I had a boyfriend who did parliamentary debate. For Hopkins. How old are you Knecht?


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 2:30 PM
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Reacting to the thread as a whole: Everyone's commenting as if competence were an ideological postition, where someone running on competence was also running on not rocking the boat, and making only minimal changes to anything. You're probably all right about that, in recent politics that's certainly how it's turned out.

But it's not what I was thinking of, particularly, when I swooned over the article -- I was reacting to the idea of pragmatic (and by that I mean real-world pragmatism, not political pragmatism) competence as a value at all. You could have pragmatically competent people working toward socialist utopia: someone's got to build Minneapolitan's anarchist arcologies.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 2:31 PM
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Yes to 64.

Say it ain't so, Liz.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 2:37 PM
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69: I think it's turned out that way because there's scant evidence that BHO's people do intend to rock the boat. "Competent pragmatism" could very well serve a radical agenda; indeed, in the US, it's probably the only way to get buy-in with a radical agenda (viz., your FDR reference). That just doesn't seem to be what we're looking at here.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 2:42 PM
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Surreal debate on the Senate floor right now.

Isakson (Rep, Georgia): we value American civil liberties. That's why we oppose Muslim fundamentalists who want to make us pray five times a day and live according to Sha'ria law. We need a pre-emptive strategy to attack them.

Feingold: can I ask, Al Qaeda is operating in 80 different countries followed around the world. Are we to intervene pre-emptively in all those countries?

Isakson: I would say that this struggle may demand many more sacrifices of us.


Posted by: PerfectlyGoddamnDelightful | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 2:43 PM
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60: BUT. If Obama punts on UHC, I'm going to track down each and every one of you Obamaheads and cough right on your keyboards.

I prefer Obama on foreign policy grounds, but I'm afraid that Obama won't put any effort into fighting for healthcare either. Matthew Holt did a blog piece for Spot-On on Obama's Healthcare Head Fake. In it Holt argues that Obama isn't stupid; he just doesn't care all that much about dealing with healthcare, because he'll have two much more pressing problems: (1.) Iraq and (2.) the recession caused by the housing market collapse.

Personally, I think that a recession is the best time to try to get something like UHC in, since people who are afraid of llosing their jobs are probably afraid of losing their healthcare ttoo, but it may be that this recession is going to be bad enough that people will be mostly worried about keeping a roof over their heads and food.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 2:43 PM
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We may not know who will be designing the arcologies themselves, but I think we all know who will be designing the water supply.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 2:43 PM
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Oops. I meant 66, not 60.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 2:44 PM
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Yeah. But I'm not actually hoping for radical politics, given that Obama and Clinton are very centrist Democrats. If I can get competent execution of the minimally acceptable BHO agenda, I'll be as happy as I ever expect to be.

Damn. Now that I've said that explicitly, I'm really depressed.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 2:44 PM
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76 to 71.

74: You couldn't keep her away with a fire hose, I'd assume.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 2:46 PM
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78

Maybe I'm just a great big pessimist-pants, but I do not foresee actual UHC resulting from President Obama or President Clinton.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 2:46 PM
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68: Younger than Apo, older than LizardBreath.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 2:46 PM
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It's actually good that the Democrats have a pretty unified domestic agenda. Whoever gets elected will pursue it.

It's hardly radical, but it's about as left an agenda as we've seen for quite some time.


Posted by: PerfectlyGoddamnDelightful | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 2:48 PM
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Be disappointed by someone new!


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 2:51 PM
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73: This is the growing suspicion I've had for months; the use of that tool US Rep. from TN as a health care surrogate was kind of the last straw on that. Thing is, UHC is actually the single most important thing for me, personally. I have no prospect of ever again getting proper employer health care, or of affording my own as a small businessman. Right now we rely on what my wife gets as an adjunct, the premium for which essentially equals her salary. I know that UHC won't be magically free, but it will be better than what we have right now, and will remove a huge overhanging stress in our lives. The idea that, at this moment, it will be blown off for "other priorities" is pretty infuriating. The country is ready. Congress will be ready. It's now or a decade or two from now. Stop fucking around, please.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 2:52 PM
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79: Oh HO. Then you are said friend's age. Hmm.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 2:53 PM
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redfox, I think you're right. I find this horribly depressing. I think that it's the single most important domestic policy issue, and I have no idea how to advance the cause.

What the states can do is limited by the weirdness of the existing employer-provided benefits. The new MA plan is pretty complicated, and your eligibility for different levels of coverage and the premiums you owe can vary from month to month, but it's not as though that money is coming directly out of your paycheck; you have to write the insurance companies a check yourself, and if you're not insured for any month, you lose your tax deduction. It would be so much better (assuming that you want private plans to run the thing) if everyone had a basic payroll tax which would easily vary with one's income in real time and then received a voucher to cover the cost of teh basic insurance package.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 2:54 PM
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83: Was he short, with a short haircut, and slightly pudgy around the middle?


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 2:54 PM
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86

Who in Congress is really hot to trot for single payer? Are there any good plans floating around with at least some Congressional buy-in? It'd be nice to be able to say "What I really support is the Jones-Robinson plan."


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 2:56 PM
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Come now.
He was tall and skinny. Leather jacket, combat boots, complicated hair.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 2:57 PM
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81:There ya go.

Anyway, it's Too Late Now The die is cast, the Rubicon is crossed, I need a entire thesaurus of cliches to bore Flippanter with.

Obama will become President, and will do whatever the fuck he wants, until he fucks it all up, and the impeachment proceedings begin.

And it's all your fault.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 2:59 PM
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77 - Not after I find and shut off the valve to the fire hose. Before then you probably could, because that's a lot of pressure coming out the end of those hoses.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 3:00 PM
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bob, we couldn't manage to impeach W. Do you honestly think that there's a chance that Obama would be impeached? Shouldn't you be cynical enough to know that Congress is too lazy and self-absorbed to go after a president, any president, particularly when they've done nothing to go after one who should have been impeached? I have to run. I'm sorry that I can't stick around to hear your answer.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 3:01 PM
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That's where the wonky technical knowledge gets you. Knowing how to find the valve.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 3:02 PM
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I'm not sure if I've made this explicit here - since VA/MD/DC + WI, I've been certain HRC is toast. Totally fine with that - as things stand, HRC is marginally better on domestic issues, BHO may be distinctly better on int'l issues going forward, but I've always been OK with both

I basically agree with all of this (particularly the comment about HRC being toast), but I'm slightly more excited about Obama.

As the second commenter at Ezra's says, if he could be a centrist Democrat in most areas, and have a distinct positive impact on Foreign policy, tech policy, and ethics/open government that would be a significant achievement. Even if it had few signature victories.

My initial reaction is just that it's a good sign about his campaign to have articles like this written -- as LB says, everyone would like to be able to claim that they will be competent.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 3:04 PM
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I know y'all don't listen to us grumpy old men, but we know the score.

***spoiler alert***

It's all gonna be really really awful, worse than you can possibly imagine, and then it will get a little better, and a little better, and then you will get bored, and look back at the awful and say:"Those were the best years of my life."

***end spoilers***


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 3:05 PM
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Rep. Conyers has a single payer plan.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 3:06 PM
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Maybe I'm just a great big pessimist-pants, but I do not foresee actual UHC resulting from President Obama or President Clinton.

I think HRC recognizes that her term will be defined more or less exclusively by UHC. If she fails with UHC a second time, she could create peace in the Middle East and still be viewed as a failure.

Which isn't to say that it might not still fail, but I actually think that a President who tries really hard in 2009 can get it. I just doubt that BHO is that President. And I kind of think that his failure to do so (try really hard) should be a huge black red mark on his Presidency.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 3:10 PM
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bob, cut it out. The worst to be said about Obama is that we don't know, and that's not saying much.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 3:12 PM
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As the second commenter at Ezra's says, if he could be a centrist Democrat in most areas, and have a distinct positive impact on Foreign policy, tech policy, and ethics/open government that would be a significant achievement. Even if it had few signature victories.

UHC aside, I'd be perfectly happy with:

A. Clean house
B. General technocratic competence
C. A distinct positive impact on Foreign policy + tech policy

That would be a fine presidency, esp. given the awful economy BHO will inherit.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 3:13 PM
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66: I agree that Obama doesn't have a significantly different or better economic policy than HRC (though I'm not sure why people are excited about her loan freezing plan, unless it's as a sign that she's willing to consider somewhat further left proposals). I thought you were citing to Ezra for your claim that, "[T]he 401(K) thing is taken straight from HRC advisor Gene Sperling." Since you weren't, what is your basis for saying it's his idea? I can find a 2001 NBER working paper for the automatic enrollment raises participation claim, Sperling's not on it, but could easily have written something about it before then.


Posted by: washerdreyer | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 3:14 PM
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90:I was kidding. I am usually kidding. I don't have a clue what the Obama years will look like. I am very provisionally making a guess at the nomination.

Every Presidency in my memory has surprised me on the downside, though. This may be an accurate assessment, I read the John Judis thing MY linked to, and apparently the Andrew Jackson presidency was a huge disappointment to his supporters.

Or it may be that history and memory are the enemies of hope. No Country for Old Men.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 3:15 PM
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96: No, the worst thing to be said about Obama is that he's only pretending to be willing to push UHC in order get through the primaries. Insofar as this is true, he's a shit.

But you're right that we don't know yet - all we have is a number of small signs pointing in that direction. I don't actually think he's a shit (yet).


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 3:15 PM
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Even if he just sits there, electing him will cause many people now content to hate the US for being a malevolent caricature to pause and think, possibly causing karmic healing, but at least easing up on the worldwide hate. Kindness and reason will spread, and I'll stop needing to look at cuteoverload because the vortex of dread will have receded. The Siegelman article LB posted and BHO's Hatch act enforcement policy plank were really interesting, also promising.

bob is wrong on obvious theological grounds-- if there are many grumpy prophets who disagree, how do you choose the right one among them?

I am usually grouchy enough to stop the birds from singing and I believe it'll get much better with small doses of competence and decency, FWIW.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 3:16 PM
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98: Ah, I see. You're saying that the 401(K) opt-out predates Sperling (2005). Perhaps it does. As I said, my only point was that these proposals are in no way non-centrist.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 3:18 PM
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"Those were the best years of my life."

I call dibsies on being Frederic March.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 3:18 PM
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93: And it helps him on his way, gets him through his busy day ...


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 3:19 PM
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No, the worst thing is that he's secretly Somali and not eligible to run for President!


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 3:19 PM
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it'll get much better with small doses of competence and decency

Frankly, I'd like to think I'll stop caring if we can just get that. I could really use my arguing-politics-on-the-internets time for other things.

Like a second job so we can better afford health insurance.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 3:21 PM
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Damn. Now that I've said that explicitly, I'm really depressed.

That's where I started off. The best case to realistically expect is hardly cause for celebration.

Nobody this go round is going to get anywhere meaningful on heath care.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 3:21 PM
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he's secretly Somali and not eligible to run for President!

I would like this to be threshed out in the primaries. Talk about an awful October Surprise!


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 3:22 PM
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Nobody this go round is going to get anywhere meaningful on heath care.

Seriously, what's the basis for this? At this point, Americans are so hungry for UHC that "socialized medicine" polls above 50%. Dems will have a solid majority in the Senate (OK, probably not 60), and a huge one in the House (which is already basically doing all the good things we'd like; they're just stymied by Reid and Bush). President ObamaClinton will be in a stronger position than Bush was with his 2001 tax cuts, and those sailed through.

WTF is up with this pointless negativity?


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 3:25 PM
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Maybe I'm just a great big pessimist-pants, but I do not foresee actual UHC resulting from President Obama or President Clinton.

The word you're looking for may be "sane-pants." It's going to be done incrementally, I suspect.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 3:27 PM
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WTF is up with this pointless negativity?

We've been watching Reid get steamrolled -- or worse, jump around celebrating own-goals -- for the last two years.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 3:28 PM
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101:if there are many grumpy prophets who disagree, how do you choose the right one among them?

Random walk.

For JRoth, if Obama gets elected, you will get a health care plan proposed in a hundred days, and passed by fall. If not sooner. I don't know what it will look like, but it will be a marginal improvement for the worst off. It will disappoint the optimistic.

Obama will be historic. He will be large. I see Obama as a man with a plan, already looking at the midterms and his 2nd term. He will build the party and a re-alignment, we are due for one. It won't be a Democratic Party I can completely relate to, but none of them have been. But events will overtake Obama, and move him in directions unexpected.

And there will be war.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 3:30 PM
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Thanks, bob. My own personalized wish-fulfillment.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 3:33 PM
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watching Reid get steamrolled

I'm very much hoping to see Reid gone. That said, there's a big difference between having 49 reliable votes and having 55, which is what the next term should be. Even without Rs filibustering their asses off, Reid is not in a good position to win simple majorities on most good bills. Next term will be different.

Unless "incremental change" = open enrollment for Medicare, I say "bah."


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 3:36 PM
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He will be large.

That's the Dear Prudence thread, Bob.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 3:36 PM
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A. Clean house

Code word for "pig farm". Mmmmm. Pork.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 3:37 PM
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89 - A firehose that shoots real fire would also work.

I don't get how Reid could do so much better when dealt a weak hand than when dealt a strong hand.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 3:43 PM
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114 - I mostly agree with you about the strengthened position for the Dems next year (I don't see any means short of the nominee picking Kim Jong-Il as a running mate or announcing a mandatory abortion policy for the Dems to avoid picking up at least one net seat), but Reid has been a terrible tactician as majority leader. I hope Dodd (my pick, as he was my guy in the primary) or HRC or Durbin or someone replaces him; it's not the losing so much as the way that he's managed to do it: no real filibusters required, the FISA clusterfuck, letting Mukasey through untouched, no contempt citations, etc. etc.

Although with my luck we'll get Senate Majority Leader Rockefeller.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 3:58 PM
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109: Because nobody is talking seriously about doing what's needed to the insurance industry to fix it. At the best of times, going against big vested interests like that is going to be hard but when you already have an economy in trouble you really don't want to do the kind of damage that will be needed.

Far more likely is a marginal improvement that helps out some of the worse off and actually makes it harder to fix.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 4:07 PM
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It's going to be done incrementally, I suspect.

Agreed. And the first increments aren't even likely to be moving that direction.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 4:08 PM
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I'm not sure why people are excited about her loan freezing plan, unless it's as a sign that she's willing to consider somewhat further left proposals).

yeah, it's not actually a great plan, but at least it's daring. Obama's is as tepid as the Bush Treasury plan.

I actually think we'll end up with a government buyout of a lot of the crappy mortgages. Like happened in the New Deal.


Posted by: PerfectlyGoddamnDelightful | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 5:31 PM
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You're saying that the 401(K) opt-out predates Sperling (2005). Perhaps it does. As I said, my only point was that these proposals are in no way non-centrist.

Not only pre-dates 2005 but was very much a topic of discussion in benefits circles quite a bit earlier. I just did a little bit of lazy and unsuccessful Googling for the earliest supportive guidance from IRS and DOL, but I think it would have been early in the Bush Admin, and that was in reaction to stuff that was being pushed by the industry by the late 90s or thereabout. 401(k) providers like ideas that make it easier to get more assets under management.

It's still a very good idea and all that, but the political types were latecomers.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 5:35 PM
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The academic research specifically into naive 401K investment strategies and the effects of opt-in versus opt-out look to have been around 2001-2002, and were driven by a few people at Columbia, Chicago, William & Mary, and probably other affiliations I'm too lazy to look up. The behavioral research that laid the theoretical groundwork for why those deviations from fully-rational optima exist dates back another 10-15 years.

Figures that the entire thread on U of Chicago economists and behavioral finance would happen when I'm stuck in day two of a two-day meeting.


And because it's hilarious to those same three people:

Well all know Fama is pulling the strings behind the curtain.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 7:09 PM
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17 is so funny; funnier because of who posted it.
23 is on the money.

I think pre-dating the analysis on automatic 401k contributions was the work of the on-line porn merchants telephony providers who brilliantly discovered that if they automatically renewed and automatically billed their customers or billed their customers' credit card under obscure merchant names, and made canceling or opting out impossibly difficult behind dense phone menus and service centers which lose the incoming requests, customers would stick around longer and pay more.


Behavioral economics adds a narrative to transaction costs
and makes price theory more accessible.


Posted by: Econolicious aka anonymous D. | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 8:57 PM
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The New Republic no longer drinking the Kool-Aid


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 02-26-08 10:56 PM
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125: This thread is no doubt dead, but man that New Republic article is hard to take seriously, asserting as it does that Bob Kerrey's constant harping on how keen it was that Barack Hussein Obama attended a madrassa was actually a "misguided defense" of Obama. Yeah, right.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 02-27-08 8:33 AM
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Don't worry, Ned. They're always making more Kool-Aid.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 02-27-08 1:28 PM
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