Thursday, December 12, 2013


Somebody was playing "Cross of Gold" and I got to thinking about Bryan. Some things don't seem to change much.

Faced with powerful rent-seekers, the populist answer was to steal from everybody else using inflation: in Bryan's day by expanding the money supply with an arbitrary linkage to silver, in ours by printing money with no revenue to back it up. These days, because we've got the strongest economy in the world, we've been successful at exporting some of the inflation--which means exporting the theft into poorer countries. So the price of cooking fuel in Africa goes up because our politicians don't like to make hard choices.

I'm trying to understand how this readily predictable side effect fits in with straight-faced progressive talk of "economic justice". One obvious answer is that only the people in their field of view are real, and the those out of the focus--well, that group includes some of the villains(*), so maybe it is easier to discount them. And their favored tools cannot possibly have bad side effects--you must be an evil person for suggesting that The Law of Unintended Consequences trumps their good intentions (an attitude common between groups that bitterly disagree on the tools). And the retired couple down the street whose savings are eaten away--we'll devise plans that help them so they don't need to worry, just have faith in our good intentions.

Something similar appeared in some of the defenders of the Second Iraq campaign(**). There could not possibly be any serious consequences, because the cause was right. Well yes, but... What makes us expect perfection from "least-bad" choices?

(*)I am perfectly willing to stipulate that some of the accused villains actually are predatory. Not all, though. And I notice that some of those genuinely predatory sorts (one such is Soros) are quite cozy with the populist leaders. And often with the not-so-populist leaders too.

(**) I'm a defender too, though I think I had a better idea of the downsides than some of the commentariat, and believe we blundered away and threw away all the strategic possibilities and arguably leave the situation worse than before.

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