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Posted at 6:05 PM ET, 01/20/2011


By Ezra Klein

Recap: Barack Obama doesn't need anyone's permission to be bold; neither party should be willing to risk a return to the status quo on health care; and Greg Mankiw offers a very odd thought experiment.


1) "Liberalism in general has internalized key libertarian critiques of earlier iterations of liberal thought, with the result that a guy with a largely Friedmanite policy agenda can plausibly call himself a liberal."

2) How can a quasi-socialist country like Norway be so entrepreneurial?

3) Four alternatives to the individual mandate.

4) Larry Mishel doesn't think education is the cure for inequality.

5) Robert Reich on China.

Recipe of the Day: No one -- or at least no one I've found -- has better Chinese recipes than Fuschia Dunlop.

By Ezra Klein  | January 20, 2011; 6:05 PM ET
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Next: Wonkbook: RSC details $100B in spending cuts; Obama admin appoints GE CEO


I have a few bones to pick with 1).

"It has become a cliché in libertarian circles that we’re constantly playing defense against the ever-expanding welfare state. Yet if that were true, welfare state advocates like DeBoer wouldn’t be so gloomy."

Just because the welfare state advocates aren't getting everything they want doesn't mean the libertarians are winning.

In the past decade alone, there were two large expansions of the welfare state (Medicare part D and PPACA), and that's if you exclude the recent increase in benefits for various other transfer and social insurance programs.

The only roll back of the welfare state was the 1996 welfare reform, which was more of a conservative policy success than a libertarian one.

"Income tax rates are way down."

The top marginal rate for many workers (particularly in areas with high state/local income taxes) is ~50%. Way down it may be, but it's not a libertarian success story. The top rate also hits more income than 50 years ago. A libertarian celebrating these rate reductions as a success would be like someone claiming the Doolittle raid was a huge gain for America back in WW2.

By the way, total revenue to the government has been on an upward trend over the past century, with only periodic interruptions.

"Numerous industries have been deregulated."

And numerous other industries have been re-regulated. Sometimes the deregulation is more of a change in regulation (e.g. Californian energy sector a decade ago). Some of that deregulation was done for the good of large corporations.

Then you have the periodic bailouts, which have been growing larger and larger over time.

"Competitive labor markets have steadily displaced top-down collective bargaining."

Not so much in the public sector, and in any case collective bargaining is perfectly okay with libertarians provided it isn't being maintained by coercion.

"Environmentalists have begun championing relatively free-market mechanisms like cap and trade as more efficient ways to achieve their goals."

And yet, cap and trade isn't a libertarian policy.

"The policies being advocated aren’t always libertarian, but many non-libertarians sell their non-libertarian policy proposals using libertarian arguments."

Smashing success. If libertarians successfully repealed Medicaid, would progressives claim success if those libertarians used liberal-sounding arguments (e.g. poor people dying under inadquate Medicaid coverage) to sell it? Of course not.

Posted by: justin84 | January 20, 2011 8:25 PM | Report abuse

Ezra you're taste in music is mostly, well, abysmal! Since you like non-pop and the offbeat however try Fitz and the Tantrums.

It's the best early Hall and Oates, blue-eyed soul cover band ever, except in this case the Oates part is played by a black woman with a nice voice!

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | January 20, 2011 8:53 PM | Report abuse

A trifling comment, except perhaps to Ms. Dunlop. Her name is spelled Fuchsia, not Fuschia (although that spelling gets you the "sh" sound). However, that fellow who the flower is named after? Fuchs! Therefore, fuchsia.

Posted by: dduprey1 | January 20, 2011 9:23 PM | Report abuse

Last week this Timothy Lee guy misunderstood both the meaning of NP-hard and how cochlear implants work, and therefore made a complete botch of an argument about brain simulation.

This week, he's arguing that neo-liberals like Yglesias can now "plausibly" call themselves liberals because liberalism has shifted right-ward, towards libertarianism. But this is only "plausible" if you redefine liberalism rightward, as Lee is happy to do. If you stick with the usual (American) meaning of liberalism, Yglesias and Lee are not liberals, and "liberalism" has only absorbed libertarianism insofar as up-and-coming thinkers like Yglesias or Klein now call themselves liberals when they are actually neo-liberals who, only a few years ago, would have been called centrists or moderate Republicans.

Posted by: Ulium | January 20, 2011 11:59 PM | Report abuse

Oh yeah, what's NOT acceptable, as the administration says, is staying with the "broken" system that has been performing miracles with Giffords and all the other living victims of the recent shooting.

Posted by: truck1 | January 21, 2011 7:45 AM | Report abuse

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