Saturday, April 19, 2014

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Paul Krugman explains how one's political values figure to affect one's view of evidence as to the success or failure of a policy:
(T)he liberal and conservative movements are not at all symmetric in their goals. Conservatives want smaller government as an end in itself; liberals don’t seek bigger government per se — they want government to achieve certain things, which is quite different. You’ll never see liberals boasting about raising the share of government spending in GDP the way conservatives talk proudly about bringing that share down. Because liberals want government to accomplish something, they want to know whether government programs are actually working; because conservatives don’t want the government doing anything except defense and law enforcement, they aren’t really interested in evidence about success or failure. True, they may seize on alleged evidence of failure to reinforce their case, but it’s about political strategy, not genuine interest in the facts.

One side consequence of this great divide, by the way, is the way conservatives project their own style onto their opponents — insisting that climate researchers are just trying to rationalize government intervention, that liberals like trains because they destroy individualism.
(A)nother factor is the lack of a comprehensive liberal media environment comparable to the closed conservative universe. If you lean right, you can swaddle yourself 24/7 in Fox News and talk radio, never hearing anything that disturbs your preconceptions. (If you were getting your “news” from Fox, you were told that the hugely encouraging Rand survey was nothing but bad news for Obamacare.) If you lean left, you might watch MSNBC, but the allegedly liberal network at least tries to make a distinction between news and opinion — and if you watch in the morning, what you get is right-wing conspiracy theorizing more or less indistinguishable from Fox.

Yet another factor may be the different incentives of opinion leaders, which in turn go back to the huge difference in resources. Strange to say, there are more conservative than liberal billionaires, and it shows in think-tank funding. As a result, I like to say that there are three kinds of economists: Liberal professional economists, conservative professional economists, and professional conservative economists. The other box isn’t entirely empty, but there just isn’t enough money on the left to close the hack gap.
- Linda McQuaig discusses the Cons' combination of elitist operations and populist messaging. Don Lenihan considers populism to be merely a particularly cynical form of elitism - which often serves to divert needed accountability by replacing the public's role in keeping an eye on its leaders with the promise of a savior to take on the job. And Jim Coyle questions how children of privilege like Rob Ford and Justin Trudeau can keep a straight face while claiming to stand up for the little guy - while comparing the respective plausibility of their pitches.

- Of course, elitism in the ranks of our political leaders is all the worse when it's accepted by other institutions which should protect the public interest. On that front, Michael Harris wonders whether the RCMP is doing the bidding of the PMO rather than pursuing justice in electing not to pursue charges against Nigel Wright, while suggesting that we're at least owed an explanation for the choice.

- Meanwhile, Erik Loomis asks why we treat employer wage theft as an administrative matter to be met with a slap on the wrist, rather than an abuse just as deserving of criminal intervention as an employee's stealing from the till. And the Star-Phoenix editorial board duly slams the Cons' "victims' rights" legislation which once again uses a misleading title to introduce regressive changes to the criminal justice system.

- Kim Nursall reports on TD's study examining the long-term costs of climate change - which include both tens of billions in losses to Canadian GDP, and human costs going far beyond what can be easily quantified. And Leilani Farha and Michele Biss look at the numbers we're missing in discussing homelessness in Canada, while pointing out that we already know plenty which should push us to act.

- Finally, Rob Nagai suggests that the NDP should change its attitude to take a more positive view of fund-raising. But I'd note some distinction between the view of the party apparatus (which has done plenty to work on the issue) and the grassroots (which probably does better fit Nagai's description of preferring issue advocacy to fund-raising) - and suggest that if the NDP is going to find a find-raising advantage, the longer-term goal should be to better build fund-raising into its member-driven activities.

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