Annals of bad analogies

Political reporting is rife with bad analogies.  Not so bad, in and of itself, but as they often lead voters to actively misunderstand how the political world works, that’s definitely a bad thing.  Best example being how a household budget is most definitely not a good analogy for the finances of a government.  The idea that running a business is like making macro economic policy ain’t so good either.  Paul Krugman certainly knows of what he speaks:

For the fact is that running a business is nothing at all like making macro policy. The key point about macroeconomics is the pervasiveness of feedback loops due to the fact that workers are also consumers. No business sells a large fraction of its output to its own workers; even very small countries sell around two-thirds of their output to themselves, because that much is non-tradable services.

This makes a huge difference. A businessman can slash his workforce in half, produce about the same as before, and be considered a big success; an economy that does the same plunges into depression, and ends up not being able to sell its goods. Nothing in business experience prepares one for the paradox of thrift, or even the inflationary impact of increases in the money supply (which is real when the economy isn’t in a liquidity trap.)

And I haven’t even mentioned the fact that presidents need to work with Congress, and face far more limits on their authority than CEOs.

That said, I do think good management skills are hugely important.  I think that’s a much more useful analogy.  Working as a private equity consultant, not so much.


NH: It’s over, baby

As pretty much expected, Romney comes through with a big win.  Maybe if had a a surprisingly small margin– or, if someone with an actual chance to win the nomination (though I think that’s nobody), not Ron Paul, had come in second– we’d have have something to talk about going forward, but we don’t.  Stick a fork in it– the most disappointingly swift nomination race in modern history is done.   I’d be willing to discount this if it did not appear that Romney is set to cruise to victory in SC as well.   You can discount a big Romney victory in NH, but there’s no discount a big win in SC.  And heck,  even if he doesn’t win SC there’s just no viable/logical scenario for him losing.

The man is charmed.  Interestingly, I do think he’s increasingly looking like a weaker general election candidate.  This, “I like to fire people” thing (context or not), is so not going away, largely because it fits a largely accurate narrative of what he was actually doing at Bain (and for the record, I don’t have a problem with that, but it sure ain’t the record of “job creation” he likes to pretend).

What can you say about Clarence Thomas?

Seriously.  The man is an absolute embarrassment of a Supreme Court Justice.  In a case you probably won’t hear a lot about, the Court overturned, 8-1, a conviction of a New Orleans man based on fairly egregious withholding of obviously exculpatory evidence.   The details:

Tuesday’s case concerned Juan Smith, who was convicted of killing five people in 1995, when a group of men burst into a house in search of money and drugs. They ordered the occupants to lie down and opened fire.

Mr. Smith was the only person tried for the killings. He was convicted based solely on the eyewitness testimony of a survivor, Larry Boatner. Prosecutors presented no DNA, fingerprints, weapons or other physical evidence.

But Mr. Boatner’s testimony proved sufficient.

“He’s right there,” Mr. Boatner said at Mr. Smith’s trial, pointing at the defendant. “I’ll never forget him.”

It later emerged that prosecutors had failed to disclose reports of interviews with Mr. Boatner. In one, hours after the killings, Mr. Boatner said he could not describe the intruders except to say they were black men. Five days later, he said he had not seen the intruders’ faces and could not identify them.  [emphasis mine]…

Justice Thomas’s dissent, at 19 pages, was almost five times as long as the majority opinion. “The question presented here is not whether a prudent prosecutor should have disclosed the information that Smith identifies,” Justice Thomas wrote.

Rather, he wrote, the question was whether Mr. Smith had not shown a reasonable probability that the jury would have reached a different conclusion had it known of the undisclosed statements. Justice Thomas said a careful review of the balance of the evidence demonstrated that nothing would have changed.

Seriously?!  Does he know what the words “reasonable” or “probability” mean?  Can you imagine having Clarence Thomas on a jury.  Prosecution opens it mouth and he yells “guilty!”  There’s the old line about a DA being able to get a grand jury indictment on a ham sandwich.  Presumably if Thomas were on the grand jury, he’d happy indict a single piece of white bread.

Primary doldrums

As I was listening to the NPR story on the NH primary this morning I realized that I’m just not excited at all, though you’d think I should be.  I started my Campaigns & Elections course today, but the truth is this is just not going to be a very exciting primary season. Here it is only NH and it is truly hard to imagine a world in which Romney does not win  the GOP nomination.  Especially in the face of evidence that more and more rank-and-file Republicans are accepting the inevitable:

Acceptability of 2012 Republican presidental candidates, by ideology

I was actually giving David a mini-lecture on certainty/uncertainty today on the way to school and said that, in most things, certainty is almost always better.  I realized, though, when it comes to presidential primaries (for pundits, scholars, teachers, and plain ol’ political junkies) certainty really takes the fun out of it.  Slovakian Pravda wants my take on the results tonight.  Barring a hugely surprising result, I could really just write and email it now (don’t worry, I won’t– Pravda always gets my best).

The triumph of socialism

No, not really, but I certainly like this chart via Ezra:

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: markets are great, when they work.  Health insurance, not so much.  The socialized insurance of Medicaid/Medicare is simply more efficient.  But, here’s the thing, I think most liberals are actually quite pragmatic.  If you reversed the labels on these graphs, lots of liberals (certainly most all the bloggers I read) would favor the expansion of private insurance and certainly not single payer.  What we want is the outcome– the efficient provision of health care to as many people as possible (and the more efficient it is, the more doable that is).  Conservatives, meanwhile, almost universally insist that markets simply must be better, even when voluminous data suggests otherwise.

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