Good reads: Guinn, Bastable, Noonan, Hunt
Rusty Guinn uses Ace Ventura (“Shikaka. <kneeling> SHEEKKAAKAHH. <more kneeling> Shikasha! <An interrupted kneel> Uh…shishkebab…Shawshank Redemption…Chicaaago!“) as a hook for explaining the mimetic power of The Wall! and The 70% Tax! He says both are essentially substance-free issues that should be of interest mainly to policy wonks, but which are turned into symbols for purposes of mirroring engagements (among supporters) and rage engagements (among opponents). In other words:
“Like The Wall!, the 70% Tax! is an abstraction and a symbol. It is important to realize, even if you care about the underlying issue, that the debate isn’t about the thing. It’s about the abstraction, about all the things that we are being told that each policy supposedly stands for. Those things will feel very real to us, because that’s what the widening gyre does to our brains. It drives us toward the beacon of Good and Right Policy and away from the cesspool of Evil and Wrong-Headed Policy.”
Guinn’s article naturally appeals to me, as I was in the target demographic for Ace Ventura, and have a mild fascination with explanations of comedy. And tax policy. As a part-time policy wonk, I think I get to complain when the debate is not about the thing, because it should be.
Conrad Bastable does a deep dive into a potential cause of cost disease in universities. Summary from @naval:
“Universities artificially limit the number of graduates, keep tuition prices high, and provide just enough financial aid to qualify as non-profits.
This enables the real business model – returns on massive endowments, compounding tax-free, and earning far more than tuition.”
If you buy this, consider blaming Moloch. If you don’t buy it, let’s hear about the holes in the theory.
Peggy Noonan writes about immigration policy under a headline referencing the government shutdown. She outlines the parameters of where serious debate ought to be happening (“America is for legal immigration…. Both sides agree at least formally that a sovereign nation has a right to have borders…. Almost everyone would agree we have a right to determine the rules by which legal entry is attained. Most Americans would agree it is desirable to set those rules according to the nation’s needs”). So she says, about the shutdown and the immigration policy that’s presumably driving it, “Stop this. It’s embarrassing. And it’s wrong. Make a deal.” I don’t know… does either side with the power to make a deal actually agree about what the nation’s needs are, or failing that, what fair rules on immigration should be? Seems like one or both of those might be prerequisites to such a deal.
Ben Hunt is angry, and it’s great. He sounds the alarm about Modern Monetary Theory, which he calls the Dr. Strangelove post-hoc justification for what the politicians are surely going to do next.
“So don’t tell me that the crowding-out effect of sovereign debt on the real economy isn’t a bad thing. Because it is. This is how entire economies are turned into zombies.
Don’t tell me that the monetization of sovereign debt, explicitly or implicitly, isn’t a bad thing. Because it is. This is how a middle class is destroyed.”