Paul Krugman Is Terrible

Paul Krugman is a big prestigious NYTimes columnist with a Nobel Prize. He also has some fascinating quotes:

  • Sharing his enthusiasm for the threat of intergalactic war as an economy booster: “If we discovered that, you know, space aliens were planning to attack and we needed a massive buildup to counter the space alien threat and really inflation and budget deficits took secondary place to that, this slump would be over in 18 months. … There was a Twilight Zone episode like this in which scientists fake an alien threat in order to achieve world peace. Well, this time, we don’t need it, we need it in order to get some fiscal stimulus.”
  • Advocating the broken window fallacy in one of the most morally heinous contexts imaginable (September 11th): “Ghastly as it may seem to say this, the terror attack — like the original day of infamy, which brought an end to the Great Depression — could even do some economic good. But there are already ominous indications that some will see this tragedy not as an occasion for true national unity, but as an opportunity for political profiteering.”
  • Commenting on the future impact of the Internet in 1998: “By 2005 or so, it will become clear that the Internet’s impact on the economy has been no greater than the fax machine’s.”

This is what can pass for a serious public intellectual these days. At least if you have the right politics.

“Who Should Rule?” and the Administrative State

Alan wrote a post over at his blog discussing the EU from a Popperian perspective (read his whole post, especially if you don’t know what a Popperian perspective on “Who Should Rule?” questions means):

The short version of how the EU works runs as follows. The heads of EU states form the European Council. The European council picks a group of politicians called the European commission who are responsible for originating and writing EU regulations and that sort of thing. The European parliament is an elected body who can vote up or down legislation written by the European commission, or amend it, but are not allowed to originate legislation. So the people who are legally supposed to originate and write all the laws can’t be voted out of office by the public. The people who are subject to being removed by the public always have the excuse that they aren’t allowed to originate laws, so they can’t deliver any specific policy.
By contrast, an MP in the British parliament can originate, amend or revoke laws and can be voted out for failing to deliver on policy promises.
The competition for which set of institutions is better isn’t even close.

This sounds really dumb. It also got me thinking about the administrative state in the United States, which has similar accountability problems to the EU and is basically a big rights-violating scam.

There’s a bunch of agencies under the Executive Branch, the administrative agencies, which do a lot of the actual law-writing (in the form of issuing regulations).

How the scam works is: Congress writes a law which empowers some agency to do something. But the law is pretty vague, and leaves a lot of the implementation details up to the agency.

So then an agency issues some regulation pursuant to the law. Since the heads of the agencies are appointed by the President and since the agencies are in the Executive Branch, the President gets to exert a lot of control over the general shape of how the regulations come out.

So then some regulation comes out. Say it’s a terrible regulation. Tons of people are mad. But Congress shrugs and says “Hey man we just wrote the Making America Healthier and Happier Act, we had no idea HHS would take that act and hire a bunch of people to force-feed Americans their broccoli!!”

And some Congressmen maybe try and change the law to stop the agency from doing the bad regulation, but changing laws is actually quite hard. And maybe they try and do something else to deal with the regulation (using control over funding, using some kinda congressional veto they made up, whatever) but those efforts fail because politics. And maybe some people try and sue and maybe they win cases or maybe we’re stuck with a bad regulation until we GET A NEW PRESIDENT. Or maybe we’re stuck with it FOREVER.

One example of this is the Waters of the United States rule, a recent rule which greatly expands the EPA’s regulatory powers over private land by changing the definition of “waters of the U.S.” The EPA’s authority here comes from the Clean Water Act (who can oppose clean water right??) The EPA has been strongly opposed on this by Congress. But what has it come to? Well, some people in Congress tried to use the Congressional Review Act to overturn the rule, but Obama vetoed them and they didn’t have enough votes to override his veto.

That’s not what the procedure should be like. It shouldn’t be the same procedure to overturn a bad regulation as it is to enact an entire law in the first place. The current system makes it way way too hard for there to be any accountability.

Ideally, Congress should be able to overturn any regulation of any administrative agency that it doesn’t like with a simple majority vote that the President can’t veto. And if there’s a Constitutional issue with that, we should amend the Constitution to fix it. That’d be a pretty big change, but we need some big change in order to get the out-of-control administrative state under control and fix the system.

The current system of hoping you get a favorable President to fix a bad regulation rom the EPA is ridiculous. Presidents are elected only every four years and have a lot on their plate. Fixing some dumb regulations isn’t going to be a huge priority for most of them. Ted Cruz, to his great credit, has talked repeatedly about the Waters of the United States rule and his intent to repeal it. But there needs to be some delegation of these issues to people like Congressmen who can be held accountable. Otherwise, we might as well be Europeans!

Daniel Pipes vs. Trump

Daniel Pipes writes on Twitter:

But see this article:

 

After Hamid and three others, all wearing stars reminiscent of those worn by Jews during the Holocaust, were escorted out by police and Trump campaign officials, Trump commented on the disturbance.

Hamid joined a group of people — some friends, others strangers — who wanted to silently protest Trump’s proposals, which are viewed by some as anti-Muslim.

Several of those other people attended Trump’s rally in Aiken, South Carolina, last month, including Jibril Hough.

Unlike Hamid, Hough did not stay silent, shouting “Islam is not the problem” as Trump spoke about radical Islamic extemism.

So it sounds like: after one guy in a group wearing these yellow stars (with “Muslim” written on them instead of “Jude”) had caused a ruckus, all the star-wearers got escorted out?

Given the common tactic of having multiple hecklers do sequential interruptions— where one person causes a ruckus, then another, then another, then another, in order to cause maximum disruption and wasted time for the attendees of private events  — is it unreasonable to eject the heckler and their accomplices en masse when they’ve conveniently labeled themselves? I don’t think so.

There’s also the issue of the grotesque and anti-Semitic yellow stars. There’s  no equivalence at all between the way Muslims are treated in the United States, or the way they are proposed to be treated by Trump, and the way Jews were treated in the Third Reich. To say there is involves a massive denial of reality. It minimizes the actual Holocaust by faking the reality of what Jews experienced. Holocaust denialism is anti-Semitic. It’s slightly trickier to see here, perhaps, because the hecklers weren’t actually denying the Holocaust outright. Instead, they were super whitewashing it, while also partially relying on its accepted badness for the strength of their message. But when you whitewash the Holocaust to the extent these guys did, that starts to come pretty close to outright denial.

Also, rather than damaging anti-Islamist efforts, I think Trump is helping them. For years the left has gotten away with weaponizing designated victim groups in order to advance their agenda. Trump is basically immune to that tactic. People look at his unfazed response to stuff like this and feel less emotionally blackmailed themselves. It’s a good thing.

So why is Pipes, who knows a lot about the problem of Islamism, trashing Trump and buying into/amplifying the media narrative? He should be more careful about sanctioning that kind of stuff. It’s way more harmful to the cause of fighting Islamism than anything Trump’s accused of doing.

Update:

Breitbart points out that Hamid is an anti-Israel activist who says things like:

On September 3, 2014, she commented on the Jewish state: “Israel does not want peace, they want land and they want to ethnically cleanse the Palestinians from that land they have lived on for generations.”

So basically she’s a monstrous anti-Semite playing the part of a poor innocent Muslim victimized by the nascent Trump-reich. Utterly predictable outcome.