Paul Ryan

Losing Arguments

Are free market ideas beating a retreat?


“We’re losing,” is the provocative and depressing starting point from which Fox Business Network host John Stossel begins his meditation on how liberty is counterintuitive. In the never-ending battle of political and philosophical ideas, the facts on the groundâ€"current government policy and the way we talk about itâ€"would seem to indicate that the free market, limited government, individual freedom side of the debate has consistently and convincingly lost the argument.

Take federal spending: In March, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) proposed, and House Republicans passed, a budget blueprint that increases federal spending over the next decade from $3.6 trillion to $4.9 trillion (in current dollars), and according to the Congressional Budget Office never once comes close to balancing any year’s budget during that time frame. At a time when debt levels and entitlement time bombs are putting the nation at severe financial risk, Ryan’s budget should be seen as inadequate to the task of averting catastrophe. Instead, he’s being accused of deliberately starving the poor.

Ryan’s budget, President Barack Obama said in early April, “is a Trojan horse. Disguised as deficit reduction plans, it is really an attempt to impose a radical vision on our country. It is thinly veiled social Darwinism. It is antithetical to our entire history as a land of opportunity and upward mobility for everybody who’s willing to work for it.” 

Instead of laughing off the social Darwinism chargeâ€"which remains as inaccurate today as when historian Richard Hofstadter popularized it a half-century ago to slime Victorian philosopher Herbert Spencerâ€"the nation’s commentariat applauded the president’s truth telling. “His remarks,” The New York Times editorialized, “promise a tough-minded campaign that will call extremism and dishonesty by name.” Economist Jared Bernstein, a former top adviser to Vice President Joe Biden, seconded the motion at Rolling Stone’s website. “According to Rep. Ryan’s plan, the trouble is this: The poor and middle class have too much and the rich have too little,” Bernstein wrote. “The Ryan plan wants to vastly shrink the role of government.”

Bill Clinton’s last submitted budget was $1.8 trillion. Barack Obama’s first was $3.6 trillion. We are growing government so fast and so programmatically that the choice between jacking up the federal price tag to either $5.8 trillion (Obama’s preference) or $4.9 trillion (Ryan’s) is being portrayed as the difference between tightening our belts and hacking off our own limbs. No wonder the GOP is afraid to actually cut government: Just slowing down the rate of increase gets you branded as a murderer. 

This state of affairs represents a failure of limited government counter-narratives. Public opinion polls have shown a widespread aversion to bailout economics and Keynesian stimulus since the fall of 2008, but that still hasn’t bubbled up into the brains of the political class. Consider the way we’re still talking about the financial crisis.

“For much of the last century, we have been having the same argument with folks who keep peddling some version of trickle-down economics,” Obama charged in his social Darwinism speech. “Now, the problem for advocates of this theory is that we’ve tried their approachâ€"on a massive scale.…Huge, reckless bets were made with other people’s money on the line. And our entire financial system was nearly destroyed.”

Totally absent from the president’s rogue’s gallery were the Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid of the mortgage meltdown: A Federal Reserve that flooded the market with artificially cheap dollars, and a government housing apparatus that dominated the mortgage industry and helped create the market for exotic and highly leveraged derivatives. The biggest “reckless bet” that was made “with other people’s money” was the federal government’s own guarantee of more than 90 percent of the country’s mortgages.

Obama’s version of events, which remains popular in the media, is important because it was translated into both official research and policy. The government’s Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission (FCIC), a bipartisan but majority-Democrat group of economic thinkers, concluded last year that the crisis should be pinned not on moral hazard or central planning follies, but primarily on “widespread failures in financial regulation and supervision,” mixed with corporate misbehavior. 

On page 30, Reason Foundation Director of Economic Research Anthony Randazzo talks with an FCIC commissioner who was on the losing side of that particular argument: American Enterprise Institute scholar Peter Wallison. “If they’d done an honest job,” Wallison says, “we would have had a different answer to what happened in the financial crisis. They didn’t.” The result? The Wall Street-regulating Dodd-Frank Act, which Wallison claims “is the principal cause of the semi-recession that we are still struggling through.”

Should those who see government fingerprints all over the financial crisis just acknowledge defeat? Not yet. As Wallison points out, “Every Republican presidential candidate has said the cause of the financial crisis was Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and government housing policy.…If a Republican beats Barack Obama in the next election, we will have, at least in the White House, someone who accepts the correct narrative.”

Even if Obama wins re-election (which is what I’d bet), there remains a small but growing bloc in Congress â€"Republican so farâ€"that not only embraces a different housing policy narrative, but actively seeks to cut instead of slow-grow government. Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), and Mike Lee (R-Utah), the same month Ryan announced his plan to balance the budget some day in the distant future, unveiled a far more radical blueprint that would do the job in just five years, by (among other things) lopping off the Departments of Energy, Commerce, Education, and Housing and Urban Development. If Republicans re-take control of the Senate in November, such proposals may start winding up on President Obama’s desk.

But looking at these arguments purely through the lens of short-game electoral politics misses some important points. For one, party identification matters a whole lot less than principle, as anyone who remembers unified Republican government under George W. Bush can attest. Mitt Romney campaigned his way to the nomination not by embracing tough-minded fiscal reform, but by running to President Obama’s left on Medicare cuts, to Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s left on Social Security, and to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s right on military spending. If you aren’t talking about the big three growth areas of the federal budget, you are not a credible budget-balancer, let alone a cutter. And if you can’t screw up the courage to discuss such things in a GOP primary campaign after nearly four years of calamitous and unpopular economic policy, when exactly are you planning to bring it up?

The battle of ideas is a long slog, with surprising victories awaiting the persistent and defeats facing the complacent. As this issue of reason was going to print, the Supreme Court heard three days of oral arguments about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, better known as ObamaCare. Supporters of the bill had spent months in the run-up ridiculing the notion that compelling Americans to buy health insurance might run afoul of the Constitution’s Commerce Clause, and predicted a lopsided victory for the administration.

But libertarian legal scholars, who for decades have been playing the long game on Commerce Clause jurisprudence against overwhelming numbers, ran circles around the government’s lawyers in the courtroom, paving the way for a final vote that will be much closer than many esteemed legal analysts thought possible. Perhaps the lesson is as simple as this: People who get used to winning eventually stop competing. We may be losing, but as long as we keep up our end of the argument, anything is possible.

Editor in Chief Matt Welch is co-author, with Nick Gillespie, of The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What's Wrong with America (PublicAffairs).

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  1. Ask yourself one question: what would victory look like? What would it look like if people culturally shifted away from looking to the government as an institution they wished to participate in? What would it look like if they were moving towards making their mark and making a difference by private activities?

    I argue that the incompetent, the power-mad, the malignant narcissists would come to dominate the state, and eventually rather than tolerating their dicats, people would begin to resist by ignoring or breaking their laws and with sporadic insurrections and rebellions.

    I look at the current mess, and I see victory.

    1. R C Dean or sarcasmic should be by any minute now to destroy any optimism you have left. I almost pity you.

    2. I argue that the incompetent, the power-mad, the malignant narcissists would come to dominate the state

      That’s what defeat looks like, too…

      and eventually rather than tolerating their dicats, people would begin to resist by ignoring or breaking their laws and with sporadic insurrections and rebellions.

      …and that’s not happening.

      So I don’t see where you get victory from this.

  2. I argue that the incompetent, the power-mad, the malignant narcissists would come to dominate the state,

    That is true regardless of whether a country is culturally statist or free, I believe. There are exceptions, of course, but they are short-lived. This marker doesn’t tell us much.

    and eventually rather than tolerating their dicats, people would begin to resist by ignoring or breaking their laws and with sporadic insurrections and rebellions.

    Some people always ignore or resist laws. I think the question is more, how is law-breaking regarded in social/cultural terms? Is it widely tolerated/celebrated? If not, then you are still in a statist mindset. I’m not sure we are to the point yet where we can say that lawbreaking is widely tolerated/celebrated.

    As for sporadic insurrections/rebellions, I don’t see any on horizon.

    1. See, I told you. Fucking knew it. What a useless superpower.

      1. “Tell Brett Favre he should have never sent actual pictures of his schlong!”

  3. Are free market ideas beating a retreat?

    Even if they were (and they’re not, just by looking at how many enthusiastic people Ron Paul gathers) it would matter not a bit. Government cannot violate the laws of economics just as surely they cannot violate the laws of nature. Whether people learn the soft way or the hard way not to meddle in the economy through central planning, the fact is that the day of reckoning will come and those foolish enough to have listened to the siren song of the politicians will end up dousing themselves with gasoline and setting themselves on fire.

    I have a few lighters to spare for them – it’s the least I can do. Hear me, shrikey?

    1. Sometimes I really wish they’d just give me the pure joy of doing the dousing and lighting for them. I’m a helpful guy like that.

    2. But here’s a question: If everyone’s doing it, how will people learn that it doesn’t work? IOW, would the Soviet Union have collapsed if the free world weren’t setting the bar so high?

      1. [Would] the Soviet Union have collapsed if the free world weren’t setting the bar so high?

        Yes. Next question.

        1. I’m not so sure.

          1. of course, it would have collapsed. The only variable was time. Had the bar been set lower, it may have taken longer. Oppressed and repressed people usually know they are oppressed and repressed, aznd few seem to like it.

            1. Sort of like in the PRC, North Korea, Cuba, and a hundred other authoritarian shitholes around the world?

              The Soviet system was fairly stable in itself. It was perfectly capable of going on forever (miserably) were it not for the arms race with the US.

              1. PRC does not compare to the other two. The party bosses have loosened certain shackles. The sad reality is that someone is actually asking this question, as though central planning is finally going to work.

                1. It depends on what you mean by “work”. You can’t centrally plan prosperity, but you can centrally plan a sort of stable misery of low expectations.

                  What felled the USSR was not what they could plan but what they couldn’t plan (the arms race).

            2. Not liking it and doing something about it are two very different things.

        2. The left has nothing on you guys when it comes to knee jerk answers to complex questions.

      2. Yes, the only thing keeping the USSR going at all was the black market.
        I suggest “Meltdown: Inside the Soviet Economy” to see how the Soviet economy was bumping along the bottom.

        1. I think the point is, it doesn’t look like the bottom if everyone else is there too.

          1. True, but if people have any awareness of history in other parts of the world they’d realize abject poverty isn’t the only way to live.

    3. Serious question: do you think a majority, or even a substantial minority of RP supporters support true free markets? Given how much he talks about withdrawing from empire, and the problem of bailing out big banks, etc., is it plausible that some people support reducing the military, ending bailouts for big banks but still want government to intervene to help THEM?

      1. Serious question: do you think a majority, or even a substantial minority of RP supporters support true free markets?

        Of course not. Most of them probably stop when they realize how heavily subsidized their student debt is.

        1. Well, when the debt ends up being so large due to the subsidization…

        2. Most of them probably stop when they realize how heavily subsidized their student debt is.

          You think a majority of them ever realize their student loans are subsidized? That’s not a safe bet. After all, these geniuses were educated by the public school system.

      2. is it plausible that some people support reducing the military, ending bailouts for big banks but still want government to intervene to help THEM?

        Yes, but those people gravitate toward OWS, not Ron Paul. RP is quite up-front about opposing govt intervention across the bard.

    4. I often find this motherfucker’s comments to be more insightful than the Reason articles themselves. Old Mex, I don’t know why you aren’t writing for this rag.

  4. Huge, reckless bets were made with other people’s money on the line. And our entire financial system was nearly destroyed.”

    Isn’t government itself a huge, reckless bet made with other people’s money?

    1. Thread Winner…

  5. If a Republican beats Barack Obama in the next election, we will have, at least in the White House, someone who accepts the correct narrative.”

    A Republican will not be winning the next election. If a miracle were to occur, and Romney beat Obama because in a moment of brief principle, former Obama supporters remained former Obama supporters, we wouldn’t be any better off.

    1. we wouldn’t be any better off.

      that sounds like an Obama-style, try to prove the negative type of argument. Romney has actually worked in business and has some clue about how it works. He also seems to have modest narcissist gene, meaning he may actually listen to other points of view, in stark contrast to Obama.

      Either way, Obama took over roughly the conditions as Reagan did and took the exact opposite route. With exactly opposite results. I find it incomprehensible that Romney would follow the same path.

      1. No, it’s libertarian sour grapes.

        This way, when perfect libertopia isn’t implemented under Romney, they can say “Don’t blame me!”. It’s a sad byproduct of electoral irrelevance. Typified by Mr Doherty who boasts about his moral decision to not vote, and then bitches about the outcome of the vote he chose not to participate in.

        1. It’s not sour grapes to point out that Romney and Obama are basically the same and there will not be much of a change, in anything really, if Romney somehow wins.

          I disagree with anyone who says not voting is some great moral decision, but voting for the giant douche or the shit sandwich aren’t the only options.

          1. I just don’t see the Romney = Obama equation, certainly not with regard to the economy. For years, folks have questioned why govt is not run more like a business. This time, an actual breathing business guy with a track record is running. Doesn’t make him perfect, by any means, but makes him better than some former campus lecturer and agitator.

            1. Bush had a background in business too, that didn’t make him a great fiscal conservative.

              And you would have a point if he had offered up one iota of evidence that he had any intention of actually cutting back spending. But he hasn’t.

              1. That is because Bush was a so-con; compassionate conservatism was a euphemism for right-leaning liberalism. I could be wrong about Romney and you are correct regarding his words, or lack of, regarding spending but it is difficult to imagine him following the path Obama has blazed.

              2. Bush had a background in business too, that didn’t make him a great fiscal conservative.

                Bush’s running a bunch of businesses into the ground with daddy’s money doesn’t compare to Romney’s business experience.

                And while Bush’s presidency was an absolute disaster…Bush WAS more fiscally conservative than Obama. Which is to say, less fiscally diarrhetic, but unfortunately that’s the choice we have at this point in time.

                1. Yeah, when Romney destroyed a company, it usually had been successful for a long time, first, and while I have no idea how CraterAir or Ar-Busto employees made out, we know George W. Bush didn’t get rich off other’s misfortune, while Romney profited handsomely while the pension plan had to be bailed out by the government.

                  Bain clear over 20 million from that. What sort of enriching himself off the misery of others did Bush ever pull that even comes close to that?

                  1. None of the companies bought by Bain Capital were successful when they were bought.

                    And the misery was going to happen whether Bain swooped in or not. I suppose you consider defense attorneys to be scum since they profit off of people being in bad situations.

                    1. @Tulpa,

                      Saying the misery was going to happen, regardless, doesn’t seem accurate when I read this story about it:


                      While there is blame to go around, for example, the unions expectations in a PNTR for China trade environment, there’s also Bain:

                      “[Bain] hired line managers with no experience in the steel industry, workers said.”

                      “Paperwork proliferated. Cost-cutting efforts backfired. Managers skimped on purchases of everything from earplugs to spare motors and scaled back routine maintenance.”

                2. There are lots of people who successfully run companies but I wouldn’t want them running my country.

                  The world is full of rent-seeking corporate swashbucklers who are good at navigating the regulatory minefields. That doesn’t make them principled libertarians, or hell, even principled acolytes of small(er) government.

                  1. I think I missed something, who in the hell referred to Romney as a principled libertarian, or even hinted at it?

            2. Gary Johnson ran a successful business prior to his stint as Governor of New Mexico, and actually left us a budget surplus after his term in office, as opposed to, well, Massachusetts.

        2. His vote wouldn’t change that outcome one iota.

        3. It’s sour grapes insofar as I have a case of sour grapes after every election where I live.

          I vote “no”.

          Everyone else votes “yes”.

          But as Designate writes, it’s hardly sour grapes to point out that Romney isn’t even marginally libertarian.

          1. I vote “no”.

            Everyone else votes “yes”.

            The irony, of course being that everyone who votes “yes” keeps bitching that things are getting worse.

            Funny that.

        4. Tulpa, I have to point out something:

          “Sour grapes” refers to the attitude of the fox in the Aesop fable, in which the fox – upon discovering the grapes are too far out of reach – rationalizes his disappointment by saying the grapes were probably too sour to eat, anyway.

          It has NOTHING to do with jealousy or envy. Simple rationalization.

          Please do your part to help correct these misuses.

          1. The whole thing is literally worse than hitler.

      2. Romney-bot 2000 might be slightly better than Obama at the margins, but not really on the big issues. I can’t see Romney forgoing drone strikes in Pakistan/ Yemen (on the plus though, the anti-war crowd will crawl out from whatever rock they crawled under on 1/20/2009 and the media might actually decide that dropping bombs on countries we’re not officially at war with really is newsworthy afterall). Nor do I see Romney doing anything about the debt. If he’s true to his words he’ll increase defense spending and won’t touch medicare/caid, and it’s hard to pin him down on where he stands on Obamacare (repeal, reform, or leave it alone). So I really don’t see much changing on any big issues.

        1. You don’t have to think Romney is going to actually roll back government to think we’re better off (by a lot!) with him at the helm rather than BO. The fact that you don’t have good suturing equipment available doesn’t mean you don’t try to stop the bleeding.

          1. You don’t have to think Romney is going to actually roll back government to think we’re better off (by a lot!) with him at the helm rather than BO.

            Define “a lot”.

            The fact that you don’t have good suturing equipment available doesn’t mean you don’t try to stop the bleeding.

            Define “stop the bleeding”.

            1. When interest on your debt is on pace to become your largest budget item, reducing the deficit from 1.4 trillion to, say, 400 billion would be “a lot”, for example.

              The bigger issue to me is the fact that half of the conservative/originalist wing of the SCOTUS has one foot in the grave. Those are lifetime appointments. A shitty budget or environmental policy can be fixed. A SCOTUS composed of 1 or 2 more will be gobbling individual rights like hungry hungry hippos when you’re having grandchildren.

              1. *1 or 2 more Obama appointees. I have no idea where my vocabulary went.

                1. And yhis here is exactly why I’m voting for Romney. Libertarians love to tell me that the Supreme Court is the last great bulwark of our freedoms. Well, we’re just one more worthless piece of Sotomayor away from having absolutely no protection left of the remaining shreds of our individual freedom that we still have left.

  6. judging from the discussion I had yesterday with an academic, the answer to Matt’s question is a resounding yes. This woman’s lack of self-awareness in bashing corporations is breathtaking. She willfully ignores mountains of evidence of how big govt strangles innovation and liberty, and hides behind weasel words terms like justice and greed. That the very system she hates is the one that provides the privileges she takes for granted is a lost point. And she’s teaching our young.

    1. And she’s teaching our young.

      If it makes you feel any better, they’re probably asleep.

      1. The ambitious aren’t and taking the lesson to heart.

  7. Even if your this idea is in retreat in America, surely, somewhere in the world, it is in the ascendancy, if not dominating? Where is this libertarian paradise, with its booming economy and citizens so free that, if they’d ever deign look on me, see a slave of the government with a gun pointed to my head?

    Your characterization of Fannie and Freddie as the Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid of the episode feels dishonest to me. There were many culprits. There were poor people who wanted nice homes. There were mortgage brokers who pushed “No Doc” loans, created as a favor to the very rich, on them, knowing they had no way to pay. There was Wall St., pushing their totally shady CDO ratings calculations on the ratings agencies. There were the incompetent ratings agencies. There were the house flippers. There was the SEC which was supposed to be paying attention, at least.

    Another picture, where one only mentions the government, seems imbalanced, by comparison

    1. Another picture, where one only mentions the government, seems imbalanced, by comparison

      What you paper over here is that most narratives omit government entirely.

      You create a straw man, pretending the opposing argument is overly simple/one-dimensional… and that the “reality” is in fact so complex that one is forced to avoid actually naming any *primary culprit*. This is a common undergraduate liberal-arts form of non-argument = take any pre-existing formalist, structural argument, and ‘deconstruct’ it, naming all the moving parts, and ‘revealing its innate complexity’… but basically taking no real position of one’s own, and just muddying things into incomprehension.

      If there is any *culprit* at all the in the creation of a massive asset-bubble & subsequent wealth-destruction, it is the entity without which *no other culprit would exist*. , the prime force that created the environment and incentives for all other institutions to keep the wheel spinning. If the Fed weren’t pumping tons and tons of cheap money into the economy, and congress strongarming banks & fannie to increasingly generate ‘subprime loans’, the institutions you mention would hardly have invented the housing crisis on their own, no matter how venal one believes Wall St. to be.

      1. ^^THIS^^

      2. I did no such thing as you describe.

        If you look at all the parts, you can see that two (mortgage brokers and getting ratings agencies to follow Wall St. guidance) were actually unethical, and maybe, in some cases, what the mortgage brokers did was criminal (after all, those were the companies that were destroyed first, like Countrywide).

        You can *assert* that the prime force was Fed monetary policy, or Congressional retooling of Fannie and Freddie, but your assertion doesn’t pass for fact.

        I am not saying Wall St. is venal. I’m saying the CDO ratings and pricing models they provided S&P, Moody’s and Fitch were patently fraudulent. They batched up tons of junk grade bonds and then declare that some of it was actually AAA. You can read Lewis’s The Big Short for more details on that angle of everything.

        As for the criminality in supplying “No Doc” loans, invented for the very rich as a privacy protection measure, to the very poor, it was clearly a criminal act on the part of the mortgage brokers, operating under the simple pressure of “sell more to make more.”

        These “No Doc” loan formulations weren’t something Congress did to increase sub-prime loans, but they let the bubble happen.

        Did the money supply play a role? Certainly. It’s to the libertarians credit that the Anti-Libertarian, Alan Greenspan, oversaw that particular patch of money supply craziness.

        1. I did no such thing as you describe.

          of course, you did and in your rebuttal, you once again absolved govt of any and all responsibility. Instead, you focus on no-doc loans, conveniently forgetting the monumental stupidity required to give money to someone with no hope of paying it back. No institution would do that without some govt agency being in its ear, and the notion of Fannie/Freddie being on shaky ground dates back to the mid-2000s. Reform efforts died a party line death.

          That companies were destroyed is not proof of illegality but of bad decision-making aided and abetted by equally bad govt policy. Most problems are traceable to the simplest possible answers. Lenders did not unilaterally create an environment where mortgages were handed out like govt cheese.

          1. Well, here’s proof you are just flat out lying.

            You> in your rebuttal, you once again absolved govt of any and all responsibility

            Me> Did the money supply play a role? Certainly.

            Further, I mentioned how No Doc loan formulations were created by the government.

            F*cking liar.

            1. Further, I mentioned how No Doc loan formulations were created by the government.

              And yet, you want to hold the lender criminally liable.

              it was clearly a criminal act on the part of the mortgage brokers,

              Brilliant. So, govt creates a tool but someone who uses it is wrong. The bureaucracy for which you work must be thrilled at your level of genius.

              1. Absolutely, you f*cking unrepentant liar, and I was right, too.

                The No-Doc loans were designed for the super-rich. Unethical sc*mb*gs turned around and signed up migrant workers for them.

                1. good grief, do you even read your own stuff. Govt invents instrument A. Mortgage guy, under govt pressure to help the downtrodden fulfill the dream of home ownership uses it, and that is a crime. Nice gambit with the migrants, like they are the majority of folks who bailed out loans they had no business taking. You may be our new gift.

                  1. I’m talking about an actual example of a lettuce picker who signed a loan for a $750K house. He is a migrant worker, because he moves around for work.

                    The No Doc loans were supposed to be for the rich, only. Giving it to a letter picker is like handing a loaded pistol to a child. It’s not intended for that. It might not be strictly against the law to put a loaded weapon in a child’s hands, but that doesn’t make it right.

                    1. If you want to understand why you can’t have a rational argument with Senor JoshSN, check out his website. What a bunch of nonsensical blather! It’s like reading a combination between the ravings of a guest on the Art Bell show and a liberal arts major with no background in critical thinking. Here’s a gem quoted from the theories page:

                      The greater the linguistic difference between groups, (e.g. government and governed) the greater the power of the force of linguistic difference.

                      Ha! That explains so much! (about the mental state or lack thereof of the author)

                    2. I’ve discussed my ideas on that topic with some of the top researchers in their fields, international relations, conflict research, American criticism, linguistic history, and they all think it’s kosher, so, pffff.

        2. Did the money supply play a role? Certainly.

          Did congress *not* generate an oversized market demand for subprime loans by requiring institutions to issue them?

          Does devaluing the dollar incentivize banks to pour money into other asset classes rather than sit in treasuries?

          Without either of these forces, would anything else you mention taken place?

          You seem to think the Evildoers just thought this up on their own. No Barney Frank in ur universe?

          1. What I can’t figure out is how an entity with 90% involvement in the home mortgage industry gets a passing “the money supply played a role”.

            Wouldn’t that be like saying that O.J. Simpson “played a role” in Nicole Brown’s death?

            1. Monetary policy is not the same as Fannie and Freddie regulations. One played a role. The other was covered (to the exclusion of any other explanation) by the article we are commenting on.

              1. way to totally not answer any of the direct questions.

    2. “Your characterization of Fannie and Freddie as the Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid of the episode feels dishonest to me.”

      Of course it “feels” dishonest, because it doesn’t sufficiently punish those evil rich people and vindicate those good-hearted politicians who just wanted to give poor people the American Dream. This is probably the same reason that you don’t make a coherent point in all of your rambling.

      1. It’s called sophistry.

        Libertarians are saying Govt created A, coerced B, and financially insured C, then Biz used A,B, and C to LEGALLY cause D,E,F, which made money (fiduciary responsibility of Biz) but caused Crisis G.

        Statist don’t like that cause chain, so they say things like “D,E,F were really bad and stupid actions!I don’t care about fiduciary responsibility! A, B, and C were not good, but we’re all to blame here!”

        No we’re not. If A,B,C didn’t happen, D,E,F wouldn’t have happened.
        Statists use sophistry to let the real criminals go free and keep doing the same crime: Creating a Fascist Banking System. Not saying some oligarch wanna-be’s didn’t play along, and they shouldn’t have gotten a pass either IF evidence shows they knew they were on a train destined to crash and were COUNTING on bailouts. That’s fraud.

        Keep your eye on the value streams, and watch how the statists disrupt them and steal from them, and try and set up a permanent Housing/Financing Mafia to bleed it white. Don’t let em confuse you boys! Get out there and hit somebody (figuratively, with razor edge logic)!

        1. Two of the factors in my progression, two of your “D, E and F” were not, in fact, clearly legal.

          No Doc loans were designed for the super-wealthy. They were not supposed to be given to the very poor. But, the trick with a No Doc loan is, there is no documentation. The rich demanded some privacy rights, the government granted them, and then those rights were abused.

          The second aspect was that Goldman Sachs (among others?) was telling the ratings agencies how to rate. The ratings agencies are private firms, with little or no government regulation of what formula they use to rate investment instruments. They acted in a greedy, and patently corrupt, fashion, by taking the easy road, and accepting, at face value, Goldman’s valuation of Goldman’s product.

          There was no specific government regulation of the CDO market, it was brand new. Nor was there much in the way in terms of regulation for the CDS market.

          How _should_ CDSs be regulated? Well, it will never happen as long as the rich rule the world, but stock options and bond insurance (like a CDS) should be regulated like insurance. I can’t buy a fire insurance policy on your house (unless I have a material interest in it) so why should I be able to buy a CDS that pays off if the value of your bonds go down?

          1. If the ratings agencies had done their job, it couldn’t have happened.

            1. CRACRACRACRACRACRACRACRACRACRACRACRACRACRACRA. All you need to know. It all stems from CRA. Government social engineering with carrot and stick used on the banks. It was nearly impossible to be successful in home lending without joining the CRA crowd.

              1. The CRA had absolutely nothing to do with the private entities of S&P, Moody’s and Fitch rating AAA bonds which, in a few short months, would become absolutely worthless.

                Nor did it have anything to do with Goldman pushing those bullsh*t ratings on Moody’s, S&P and Fitch.

          2. Do you have a reference to any legal resource or case law where no-doc loans were held to be illegal except for the super-rich? I’ve certainly never heard of any such precedent.

            And CRAs aren’t regulated? Really? Does the phrase “Nationally Recognized Statistical Rating Organization” ring any bells? As per SEC rules, NRSROs are relied upon BY THE GOVERNMENT for regulatory purposes and therefore granted a de-facto oligopoly. Could it be that government is the reason the same Big 3 CRAs circle jerk each other and rate 90% of the private and public bonds in the United States? Nah, couldn’t be it. Our beneficent rulers would never do something like that, motivated as they are by pure and innocent altruism. It must be those evil corporashuns. They’re the only ones who could possibly have bad motives….

            1. I never said they were “held to be illegal except for the super-rich.” I’m saying the super-rich pressed for, and got, a documentation exception. It was for them. The lenders knew it. From one of their websites:

              > This type of loan is meant for people who want maximum privacy-public figures, well-known actors, high-profile citizens, and anyone else who doesn’t want to disclose their financial history, such as someone securing a loan by using an inheritance. Those who get a NINA must have an excellent credit score and never fail to pay a bill on time.

              Next: CRAs

              Are they regulated? Not in any way relevant to the discussion, no, they are not. Exactly as I said, the government has no say in what formula or calculations the CRAs must use to value bonds.

              As for the Big Three getting the lion’s share, while nine firms have the NRSRO stamp of approval, you could as well ask why almost every industry has major players who have the lion’s share of the business. Tide. Charmin. Sheraton. CitiBank.

              1. You said that no-doc loans:

                “were not, in fact, clearly legal.”

                Doesn’t seem like there’s much ambiguity. No-doc loans for the poor weren’t illegal, regardless of whether they were originally intended to be used that way or not. Whether you think using them for the poor (which was tacitly encouraged by the government since the recipients of a lot of mandated low-income CRA loans were/are illegal immigrants who don’t have a lot in the way of traditional loan documentation) was a good idea or an intended use is irrelevant to whether or not it was legal.

                Re: CRAs:

                So the fact that the government has a class of ratings agencies that are “nationally recognized”, whose ratings it endorses via mandate of their use in its own regulatory calculations doesn’t constitute a meaningful regulation? That’s an interesting contention. It seems like that kind of thing could have a really distorting affect on the market. Not as distorting as the government rating its own bonds or mandating the formulae by which particular securities are evaluated, but distorting nonetheless. It’s worth pointing out that there is no agency rule mandating the use of Tide, Charmin, Sheraton or Citibank.

    3. Local radio show had a couple hours devoted to current and former bank employees. It was story after story of low to middle managers and loan officer rubber stamping bad loans with one specifically quoted as saying “it’s not my money.” Many were incentivized by getting bonuses for the raw number of loans, not how they turned out.

      Then you had the banks hiring physicists and mathematicians to create bright, shiny algorithms to chop up all these loans into investment vehicles.

      Yeah, it was an atomic clusterfuck from top to bottom, public and private.

      I try to be libertarian, but the only lesson I get from life so far is you can’t trust anyone with anything. There’s crazy shits in the government and in corporations.

      I have no idea what sort of system that suggest as optimal. You need rules to keep the crazy shits in check, but the ones elected to make the rules are also crazy shits. It’s like there’s just no way out.

      1. [Then you had the banks hiring physicists and mathematicians to create bright, shiny algorithms to chop up all these loans into investment vehicles.]

        I call bullshit. I was lectured to by a fat black cow from the Chicago Fed on CRA. We were told the old rules didn’t apply anymore. Not debt/equity, not 20% down, not installment debt, and lending over 100% of deposits was the goal. After all, Fannie/Freddie would buy anything the bank wrote after minimal discount so you could go lend more.

        1. I’ve spent plenty of time on Wall St. The Physicists in question are usually well-educated, ex-Soviets. A Physics degree gives a person the math background required to do the more advanced valuation formulas around. I understand it starts with sigma algebra, which is based on filtrations, which I vaguely understand.

      2. Assuming that everyone has bad motives should lead you logically to minarchist liberarianism where the state punishes bad actors when they’ve used coercion or fraud to cause injury to another party, and where they go broke when they fuck up.

  8. As far as I can tell, the majority of debate about economic policy occurs in some territory between, “Slightly modified status quo”, and “Slightly less modified status quo”… with anyone actually proposing any genuinely effective or sincere changes to the monetary & fiscal landslide we’re on decried as “radical” or “fundamentalists”.

    I see this most often in places like the Democracy in America blog on the Economist…where left of center liberal intellectuals debate slightly less-left of center intellectuals, and consider anything outside their comfy centrist deck-chair shuffling to be ‘unrealistic’ or radical. Perhaps I’m being a bit unfair, as they are certainly more critical of the American liberal punditry than that sounds… just that I think they pat themselves on the back as being very ‘hard hitting’ & ‘reasonable’ when in fact they’re pretty softball.

    They’re basically “Rap for White People” (to keep with the Beastie Boys theme from other thread)

    It is reflective of the European-ish mindset of the modern liberal, who thinks the main problems of government are not fundamental, but really just a matter of getting that little bit of extra tax revenue spent in the right place… or that every failure to ‘get things done’ is the fault of an uncooperative opposition. sample = take any tom friedman editorial about how Government could finally deliver on its promise to give everyone a pony, If only those rascally *checks and balances* on power were stripped away!

    1. Should we even ask what your radical proposal is?

      1. Cut spending.

        Crazy, I know.

        1. This morning Rachel Maddow was on a segment, and she referred to a tax cut as the American people “taking” something, and eliminating the tax cut as people “giving back”.

          I guess in Maddow’s world, that which is not taken is a gift.

          1. In Rachel Maddow’s world, women typically resemble Marshall Crenshaw.

            1. +1

          2. All money belongs to the government. What they allow you to keep is out of pure beneficence, and you should be thankful for what you get.

      2. JoshSN|5.7.12 @ 1:30PM|#

        “Should we even ask…”

        BTW, good job imitating the sound of the ‘elitist centrist democrat’, where “anything outside the domain of a NYT editorial is absolute irresponsible lunacy!!”

        The next step is when any proposal to cut spending is responded to with some reductio ad absurdum, where “..but, the Roads! The children! Mad Max anarchy!”

    2. You’re describing the debate in the MSM, which is becoming less and less relevant.

      If the MSM were “it” as far as policy debate, the Tea Party would never have picked up steam.

      1. The Tea Party is composed of Baby Boomers on the verge of retirement who want a government just big enough to provide for their all of their medical care and retirement for the next 20 years, so that’s not a great example. If anything, the Tea Party demonstrated that this debate is long since lost. To most people, the Tea Party are a bunch of anarcho-capitalist nutcases, and by a 2 to 1 margin they find cuts to Social Security “unacceptable”…..malertNEWS

  9. Just 5 years ago, I was a statist. Like most economists, I believed markets needed help from bureaucrats who knew better. If I didn’t believe that then what was the point of my training?

    But at some point, someone planted an idea – the truth regarding liberty- inside my mind. Because it is truth my mind couldn’t eject it. It grew gradually until it permeated throughout my consciousness. And that’s why I’m optimistic about the war of ideas: they have the media, schools, control of money, but we have the truth. All we have to do is continue to spread it. And at some point soon, technology (if individuals maintain control of the internet) will make that task drastically simpler. I think we will win this war sooner rather than later. Much sooner than most think.

    1. I agree. I’m of the “libertarianism via bankruptcy” school of thought.

    2. Wishful thinking beats truth every time.

      The truth is that everything we do is meaningless because it won’t be long before each and every one of us currently breathing is dead, buried, decomposed, and utterly forgotten, along with everything we worked on or for. If it was inevitable that people would accept truth and react to it in a reasonable way, everyone would curl up on the floor and dehydrate themselves to death.

      1. So why are you wasting your time on this site?

        1. I’m here for the chicks.

          1. Look, man, that’s worked exactly once in the history of this site. Lightning never strikes twice.

          2. Wait, what? Chicks?

            1. Yeah, those articles on sustainable, unsubsidized poultry ranching.

            2. Cluck means no.

      2. Damn, that was a depressing rebuttal Tulpa.

        1. Sorry to be a downer, but we need to drop this “the truth will overcome” bull. It’s very likely that our philosophy, and this country with it, is doomed.

          Winning will take HARD WORK and CLEVER ACTION. It’s by no means guaranteed by our purity of ideas. (and of course, in the final analysis, nobody wins)

          1. I don’t see how anyone can say our country ever had your philosophy.

            The party of laissez-faire for the first 100 years of this country was anti-corporate and against the existence of the stock market.

            Jefferson wasn’t against regulating business in the name of freedom, he was against regulating business because business was greedy and corrupt, and any mingling of the two would undoubtedly corrupt government.

            1. Pretty sure he said our philosophy is doomed. What are you responding to?

            2. Josh. You’re a fucking retard. FUCKING RETARD. You make no sense. You talk in circles. You make up history. Jefferson wasn’t worried about government becoming corrupt, he wrote time and time again that it’s very nature made it corrupt… a necessary evil. I do enjoy how you lower the level of discourse though, since my head hurts at the end of the day from actually having to think.

              1. While he may have said governemnt was a necessary evil, he had far worse things to say about banks, private or public.

                Jefferson, and the Democratic-Republicans, saw the small, independent, landholding farmer as the ideal, a requirement for Republican virtue. That was “base” of the Democratic Party through about 1890. The party was also racist, secular, and not party to the “rah-rah” patriotism of the Whigs and Republicans.

                So, while he may have thought government was, as you say, “corrupt,” he thought much worse of business.

                “an aristocracy, founded on banking institutions, and monied incorporations under the guise and cloak of their favored branches of manufactures, commerce and navigation, riding and ruling over the plundered ploughman and beggared yeomanry” — Jefferson to William Branch Giles, December 26, 1825

      3. Premature nihilism.

        “We may be losing, but as long as we keep up our end of the argument, anything is possible.”

        Both the statists and the libertarians are losing against the effort to persuade a majority that their ideas are better than the other sides’.

        But winning the idea battle may not happen until after the statists collapse the economy into negative growth, 15%+ unemployment, 20%+ inflation.

        At that point, the statists will want to try to seize most industries by fascist emergency measures such as forced Fed-printed bailouts to preserve jobs, and fixed prices on food, etc.

        No doubt the Dems would do this if they were in power. Question is would the Reps do it too? I wouldnt put it past Romney, or even the current Senate.

        The Tea Party is the key. We must put more small govt people into Senate and House seats. Actually Obama winning this year will make that job easier. In a way, Romney winning could doom us to a fascist response to the inevitable debt-driven collapse.

        So strap it up and get out there and support your local Tea Party primary challenger! RINO’s must be expunged!

        1. Luger’s going to get primaried out. A journey always begins with a good first step.

    3. I’m not saying your ideas regarding liberty are true or false, but _everyone_ with strong beliefs believes they are true.

      Saying you believe your ideas are true, and, further, stating that it “is truth” is no more convincing than me saying I believe in unicorns, and, because I know they are the truth, I can’t reject the idea.

      1. Ahhh, you’re one of those condescending assholes.

        Liberty and Freedom are pretty fucking easy to understand and don’t have multiple definitions.

        1. Well, what’s your universally accepted definition of liberty and freedom, then?

          By the way, the word freedom comes from the word fredum, which is a Scandinavian word reflecting a fee, paid by a criminal, to the family of the victim. After the fee is paid, the criminal is free from any other sort of vengeance the family might wish to inflict upon them.

          By the way, before you even try, there are probably 100, more likely 1000, different conceptions of freedom and liberty on this website alone.

          1. freedom is also rooted in free, which some of us crazies see as the innate right of man to make decisions that affect him without the heavy hand of govt so long as those decisions do not infringe on the rights of others. This includes decisions made between consenting adults that may have bad outcomes. Again, as long as no one else’s rights are violated, you have sole dominion over your thoughts and actions.

            There probably is no universally accepted definition but I will wager you are the first person here to conflate liberty/freedom with payment to another party.

            1. I didn’t conflate anything. I was pointing out the origin of the word, which was a form of freedom from vengeance.

              Do me a favor and don’t bother to respond to my comments with your inanity, any further. I would consider a great favor if I didn’t have to read your lies and deceit concerning my words.

              A great honor, even.

              1. sorry, no favors. Your type comes by here often, determined to dazzle us all with bullshit. Any dictionary definition of freedom points to the absence of restrictions on one’s rights, pretty much the definition I provided in answer to your question. Feel free to point out where that view of the term is wrong.

              2. That’s not even the origin of the word, you fucking moron. If you’re going to try to be pedantic, at least be accurate.

                1. I predict the word “freedumb” will reappear in this thread, and it won’t be Orrin using it this time.

                2. Book 30, Section 20, Esprit de Lois.

                  20. Of what was afterwards called the Jurisdiction of the Lords.

                  Besides the composition which they were obliged to pay to the relatives for murders or injuries, they were also under a necessity of paying a certain duty which the codes of the barbarian laws called fredum. I intend to treat of it at large; and in order to give an idea of it, I begin with defining it as a recompense for the protection granted against the right of vengeance. Even to this day, fred in the Swedish language signifies peace.

                  1. Freedom

                    This comes from German (literal, modern-day translation, “Freiheit”), but is actually closer in derivation to the German word “Friede”, which means “peace” and is a word of pre-Christian, Germanic origin (originally “Frith”). The archaic term was used to signify the period following the termination of a bloodfeud between two Germanic clans when the softer, feminine qualities of the god “Freda” or “Frita” held sway. To achieve such a peace, some consideration had to given up on the part of the clan whose member had committed the most recent wrong against another clan, such as a certain quantity of meat or animal hides. What was given up was called “Bot” (delivered good) or “Botschaft” (literally delivered shank (of meat), but currently is the modern German word for “message”). It is interesting to note that this is from where we get the English term “boat” (Apparently, as time went on, the term was used less to describe what was being delivered and more to describe the deliverer or means of delivery–Hence, the modern German words “Bote” (messenger) and “Boot” (boat–which can be visualized as a means of delivering something or someone)).

                    The modern usage of the word “freedom” has about as much connection to its etymological origin as the modern word “boat” does. This might be the stupidest quasi-argument you’ve ever posted at, and that’s saying a lot.

          2. By the way, the word freedom comes from the word fredum, which is a Scandinavian word reflecting a fee, paid by a criminal, to the family of the victim. After the fee is paid, the criminal is free from any other sort of vengeance the family might wish to inflict upon them.

            According to Online Etymology Dictionary, it derives from the word for love. Either you have sources that fed you a line of crap, or you’re just making shit up.

            1. Besides which, the term you’re thinking of is weregild.

            2. It looks like I cited my source about 58 minutes before you asked me for it.

              1. True enough, though that’s still a legal discussion, not an etymological one.

        2. Liberty and Freedom are pretty fucking easy to understand and don’t have multiple definitions.


          Of course they do. Most of these definitions are self-contradictory and/or so vague as to be useless, but they do exist.

          For instance, is the right to forcibly exclude others from an area delimited by imaginary boundaries part of liberty? Some say yes, some say no. And the reasoning of those who say yes is quite delicate and non-obvious.

          1. For instance, is the right to forcibly exclude others from an area delimited by imaginary boundaries property part of liberty?

            I say yes, and the reasoning is neither delicate nor non-obvious.

            A community without property rights is a community where all things material are controlled by the strongest; warlordism, in short, which is not conducive at all to liberty (of anyone but the warlord, at least).

            1. Look who’s arguing for positive rights now (with a utilitarian argument, no less).

              And I wasn’t talking about property in general, only land property, which is problematic in a way that chattel property is not.

    4. Like most economists, I believed markets needed help from bureaucrats who knew better.

      for the life of me, I cannot wrap my head around this sort of obtuse thinking. Why would some bureaucrat know more about economics than an actual economist? It’s like saying medicine needs help from career technocrats who know better than doctors. If your thinking is emblematic of most economists, the field is far worse shape than anyone can imagine.

      1. Do you have any respect for the RAND Institute? They did a study and they showed lots of inadequacies on the parts of doctors when it came time to choosing treatment for their patients. The doctor chose, naturally enough, the treatment they could do the best, not the one that was best for the patient.

        So, your analogy falls flat.

        1. so, by all means, let’s insert some bureaucrat with a history degree into the process because s/he knows so much better. The straw argument runs deep with you. I would consider an expert panel of orthopedists to be a much better determinant of standards that some panel of suits. As for patients, there is this thing called a second opinion, something bureaucracy does not allow for.

          1. What straw man? You pointed out that you wouldn’t want doctors being second guessed by technocrats, and I simply provided a link to a right-leaning think tank, filled with technocrats, that said the exact opposite of what you said.

            It’s not like RAND is filled with medical doctors.

            And bureaucracy does allow for second opinions in the sense that, if affected by a regulation, you can sue to have it changed, and most every regulation can be changed by Congress, or, in many cases, through some administrative procedure.

            1. by technocrats, no. But the study you cite relied on a panel of orthopedic surgeons. Says so right in the design section. It’s not like some deep thinkers decided to reinvent medicine.

              1. Except in the sense that orthopedic surgeons didn’t come up with the idea for the study, nor did the AMA fund any such study.

      2. Medicine is now being run by technocrats. Makes my job quite fun.

      3. I wasn’t being clear: I was implying that there is a tendency to train graduate students to believe that economist-bureaucrats (an economist who works in a government office) add value to the functioning of the economy. This makes sense since the largest employer of economists is the government – in other words, the profession’s health depends on that notion.

  10. An uplifting article, but it looks like the conservative movement is losing. France has elected a socialist president, but just barely. Walker’s fate looks uncertain, and polls show a 50% change he could be kicked out. Economy’s getting better, so Obama might stay. Of course, in a few years, the tide can turn again.

  11. Economy’s getting better,

    It is? Housing prices are flat to down compared to a year ago. April auto sales, retail spending, and durable goods orders are back down to 2009 levels. Inflation is here for essential consumables. The labor pool is still shrinking.

    All “unexpectedly”, of course.


    “Rising auto sales, improving bank credit and stabilization of housing are among the signs the economy is more resilient now than it was around the same time in 2010 and 2011”

    So, since you couldn’t even be bothered to cite your stats, I’m going to go with the professional.

    1. Because un-cited information from Bloomberg is more reliable than un-cited information from Joe Blow? You’re a fucking treasure.

      1. But don’t you get it, they’re PROFESSIONALS.

        1. Not just professionals, not just several professional economists at several different firms, but also trends in consumer confidence.

          Compared to one random commenter on a blog of a magazine?

          You folks have a _really_ low bar.

          1. You asked someone to “cite your stats”, and then responded with an appeal not to your own stats, but an appeal to authority. Now what were you saying about a really low bar?

            Your selected quotation is also supported not by “several professional economists at several different firms”, and/or “trends in consumer confidence” as you say, but attributed to “Marisa Di Natale, an economist at Moody’s Analytics in West Chester, Pennsylvania.” The citation is right there in the article.

            You could just as easily have linked to an article from another popular left-of-center periodical with a gloomier spin on the same data, like this one for example:…..s-8-1.html

            Or you could have even risen to your own standard and provided an analysis based on data.

  13. Catholic Church declares welfare cuts unChristian.…..omas-reese

    1. Catholics do not universally support societal death by radical egalitarianism. Check this great book.…..543&sr=8-2

    2. Random priest from Georgetown = Catholic Church?

      In that case, the Catholic Church loves abortion and contraception.

      1. Ok I’ll buy that. To be fair the same guy was going on about how the Pope supports banking regulations.

  14. A brief peek at any poll conducted since the recession began puts the whiff of bullshit to this piece.

    The majority of people are not embracing liberty. They’re pissed off about bank bailouts, but you can’t draw any conclusions about a pro-market rally from that without asking why. If you do, you’ll find out that mainly what they’re pissed off about is that millionaires got bailed out and they didn’t. They aren’t opposed to bailout culture – they’re opposed to the government giving free candy to all the other kids and not them. Even the ostensibly uber-capitalist Tea Party opposes cuts to the welfare programs that benefit them… those being the old-age programs that, without reform, have unsustainable unfunded liability of 100 trillion bucks. And to the average voter, the Tea Party people are austerity-addled anarcho-capitalist nutjobs. With the exception of burned out hippies and high school kids who want to legalize pot, Americans aren’t receptive to libertarian policy prescriptions. Deal with it.

    1. There’s work to be done, no doubt.

      While the TP was hardly a pure libertarian movement, it showed that certain nerve endings are still there. Call me a starry-eyed optimist, but if most people can be made to realize that there’s no way to keep the welfare state going for everyone, I think they’ll (grudgingly) accept a return to limited govt. Most people are not robbers. Of course, making them realize that is the hard part.

      1. I salute your optimism and I hope you’re right, but I don’t think so. Everybody is a libertarian when it comes to taking away the free candy from those other moochers. But nobody is a moocher himself. And he certainly isn’t going to let them take away the free candy that he by-God earned. That was the tragic takeaway from the Tea Party experiment, and like I said, it gets a whole lot less minarchist from there.

  15. Major points moreterminated so true! Takes the bulldoze off of perfectionists!

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