Saturday, October 8, 2011

Brain Droppings October 8th, 2011: Mitt Romney is not an empty suit, excess democracy a legitimate concern

Prof. DeLong titles or quotes someone else titling Gov. Romney an "empty suit".

He's not. He's got a solid technocratic record JD (cum laude) MBA (bates scholar) from harvard, and served a term as governor of MA, non-disastrously. Or let me put it this way. I'll grant Gov. Romney is more of an "empty suit" than Prime Minister Singh of India and Mayor Bloomberg of New York -two administrators I consider to be his technocratic superiors. But I don't think he's more of an "empty suit" than former President Clinton or Secretary of State Clinton. That Prof. DeLong would characterize or Gov. Romney as an "empty suit" but not do the same for either Clinton is ideological, not good faith social epistemology.

I don't think it does us any favors to blur B grade technocrats like Gov. Romney with F grade technocrats like Gov. Palin.

Also, I noted a recent round of cliquish mockery of the former OMB director (I forget his name)claiming we need more decision making by experts. I noticed Prof. Krugman and Prof. Gelman piled on (I was particularly disappointed by Prof. Gelman's choice. Thus I think it's a sweet boomerang that Prof. Krugman recently felt the need to defend himself as being elitist at least in the sense that he think detailed macroeconomic policy formation is hard and perhaps shouldn't always be crowd sourced. Prof. DeLong, probably the best non-anonymous advocate of technocratic ratcheting blogging today, virtuously passed on another blog comment urging caution against "excessive democracy" in some policy sphere.

Killing american citizens by predator drone with a secret panel of senior federal officials -I'm all for it, for now. I intuit it passes cost benefit analysis magnificently. My basic test is a three parter: (1) less than 1% of US citizens affected, (2) less than 1% of people in the world affected, (2) it's done to reduce existential risk, not just to reduce dissent or diversity of opinion.

I think we spend way too much on rights and we're also spending too much to protect against unlikely threats. whacking propotionately tiny amount of american citizen terrorists nicely solves both problems.

Chelsea Clinton: what a symbol of what's wrong with America without inciting the attention it deserves. She's apparently earning a double doctorate from two private universities while working for her Dad's foundation. That sort of educational expenditure should be taxed through the roof in my opinion, same with the income stream from Dad's foundation. I don't necessarily support bans on overeducation of the kids of rich elites and private sector nepotism, but let's make it a rich pigovian revenue stream -although yes, sigh, subject that policy idea to experimentation, cost benefit analysis, and general empirical scrutiny.


  1. Yglesias seemed to suggest in response to Orszag that the problem is officials who don't hold themselves responsible for outcomes.

  2. TGGP, for my take on that kind of "it's them, not us" moral accounting, please see my Neurotic Manifesto.

    Hopefully Anonymous