Lance Roberts has a guest post published on Zero Hedge today, showing the United States’ decline in several rankings: education, income inequality, human development, et cetera. Roberts blames “dependency” and debt, or, in other words, the welfare state. He calls for “better leadership” — ambiguous much?
Some discussion points,
- We’re in desperate need of a good, convincing, comprehensive “free market” explanation of the United States’ growth path in these areas. I think explanations today are either weak or too specific, therefore not directly applied to the broad picture;
- Many countries that boast better figures in the area Roberts highlights have larger welfare states than the United States. How does fit within the naïve conservative take?
- Why should we care about being #1? Take education and suppose that the United States is ranked below country ‘X.’ Assume country ‘X’ achieved its rank by spending vast sums of money on education and, although not true to the real world, the United States has a completely private market. How should we interpret the statistic? Does it consider misallocation of human capital, and of resources more generally? It could be that being #1 is actually making society worse off. There are other ways this could be true — imagine an economy with a comparative advantage in industry that doesn’t require education in the sense of higher education in the humanities and sciences. This country, when ranked by education, might be at a “disadvantage” as compared to another with a comparative advantage in intelligentsia-related products. Why should we care?
I don’t think it helps to tackle these issues by means of non-nuanced methods. Unfortunately, the internet — through both the media and the blogosphere — make it seem as if these are the only explanations non-liberals can come up with. It’s these arguments that lend credence to pundits, such as Paul Krugman, who go on to claim that “conservatives” have lost touch with reason.