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Big philosophical issues for the '10s

Discussion in 'Political Discussion' started by PatsFanInVa, Apr 9, 2011.

  1. PatsFanInVa

    PatsFanInVa PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

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    They're not that different from earlier big philosophical issues in the U.S. landscape. In fact, they may be described as eternal. They underlie our momentary disagreements.

    1) (Highlighted by the 08 meltdown and response): Does Keynesian stimulus work?

    The data say yes, but our actions say no, at present. I will not trot out the facts that make Keynesian economics the de facto model on which western economies are for the most part based (our recent few decades of deregulatory spasming notwithstanding.)

    But if you think Keynesian stimulus works, your concern with debt and/or deficits is tempered by the timing of response to said concerns.

    If you think Keynesian stimulus does not work, your concern with debt/deficits is a holy grail without unintended consequences.

    This will be a constant trend in the '10s, and will continue to be a topic into the future.

    2) Should the U.S. have a government, and if so, what should it do?

    The Constitution does not, in fact, specifically ban cabinet departments that are not named therein. It also does not demand, specifically, the various departments that the U.S. has. It certainly does not describe their "sub-branches." I'm pretty certain the air force isn't in there.

    So - other than the military which we all have to stipulate is always good - what is the purpose of the government at the federal level? The state level? The local level?

    Do we want it "off our backs?" Really?

    Getting the government "off our backs" had a lot to do with the pickle we got into in '08. Meanwhile, we want government "off our backs" but also "in our bedrooms/wombs" in many cases.

    Is there in fact a "small-government" movement, or are there only "let's make the part of the government I don't like small" movements?

    If there are in fact small-government movements, how small is small enough?

    Conservative voices have opined that modern governments have become primarily insurance companies, that deal with what happens in our extended old age.

    How valid is it to respond by scaling back a government that deals with lifespans of 80, to government predicated on a life-span of 70 or 60?

    3) Are we our brothers' keepers?

    If my neighbor is in trouble, should I help him?

    Without regard to voluntarism and community involvement, what if my neighbor's trouble isn't attended by his community or his family?

    Should there be anything a society does to help someone other than oneself? Is there one America, or many Americas -- a white one, black one, and latin one... a rich one and a poor one (with a disappearing middle class one...) etc.

    4) Will corporate interests help the middle class and/or the poor?

    At the heart of pure corporate capitalism/market purism, is the preposition that the reason it's okay is that the goals of markets always end up helping everybody.

    In other words, if everybody is greedy enough, the poor and the middle class are helped by a great deal of greedy activity. If we all try to enrich ourselves in the most amoral way possible, the theory says, it's okay: Those we would otherwise feel beholden to help will benefit from that greed.

    Is this proposition true?

    If it is not true, and in fact the purpose of greed and the effect of greed are identical -- the enrichment of the greedy party, with no predictable benefit to the less prosperous population -- what other force exists for the benefit of those who do not meaningfully participate in the wealth perpetuation industry?

    5) Perhaps underlying all these questions: Are some of us just better than others, and deserve all the goodies, based on some entitlement? Or are all of us responsible to all the others of us, to make sure that birth -- whether by economic class, race, or other superfluous factor -- does not significantly determine destiny?

    To truly ruffle all the feathers, you could make (5) an international question. But for right now let's leave it purely within our borders.

    I think these are among the big questions, and we only see the momentary responses reflected in the issues of the day.

    Discuss.

    PFnV
     
  2. PatsFanInVa

    PatsFanInVa PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

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    No takers, I take it. Quelle domage.

    Let us all rather lurch to and fro and respond to the latest bumper stickers.

    We'll get the policy that we're capable of voting for, and therefore, discussing. If that's "my bumper sticker vs. yours," okay.

    If we cannot respond to these basic underlying challenges, I do not understand the sense of trying to apply reason to specific flashpoints channeling one or another larger theme into a specific issue. We'll all just decide a "side" and scream.

    PFnV
     
  3. Patters

    Patters Moderator Staff Member PatsFans.com Supporter

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    Those are all such big questions that we'd have to write treatises to give proper answers. But, in the think in many cases we've already discussed some of these issues indirectly, if not directly.

    1. I for instance think Keysian economics is fine. It's just that in recent years taxation has been driven by ideological purists, so it's no longer looked upon as a tool for managing the economy. Instead it's seen that we must have a flat tax, can't charge some people higher tax rates, etc. No one ever said our economic system is perfect. Taxes go up and go down; tax loopholes appear and disappear; they are simply a tool for regulating an economy and we need to return to that simple logic.

    2. I think the the federal government is the most scrutinized. Considering that it's constantly monitored by public interest groups, the media, the opposition parties, and various special interest groups, it's no surprise that significant scandals are rare. The greater danger for corruption exists in state and local government. Keep the federal government strong but continue to improve transparency, and I think you have the best system. The federal governments role is to maintain and advance individuality (and certain the US government has done a good job of that by preventing local prejudices from discriminating), economic stability (through job training program, investments in alternative energy, etc.), social welfare (through things like Medicare and SS), physical and economic safety (through the militay, FBI, SEC, etc.), among others.

    3. Yes, we are our brothers' keepers? Our government would naturally reflect the degree to which we want to help others. If you had a government made up of caring people, it would more than likely implement programs that reflected that. If you had a government made up of selfish people, it would cut such programs. To the extent our government helps the poor, it reflects that natural mentality of our nation to care for our neighbor.

    4) Corporate interests only help the poor and middle class if they are mandated to do so. The American philosophy has been for a long time that a corporation's only responsibility is to increase shareholder wealth. To the extent that corporations do more, it's to create an illusion that serves marketing purposes.

    5) In any society but a utopian one, those with more money, more power, or who are part of the dominant demographic will always have advantages, but the government through anti-discrimination laws, anti-hate laws, support for health and education, and so on does try to make things more equal. Over time, our national educational system has helped a larger number of people be more respectful to others. Despite the cries of the anti-PC crowd, our schools continue to discourage the kind of sexist, racist, homophobic language and behaviors that were considered fairly normal 50 years ago.
     
  4. The Brandon Five

    The Brandon Five Experienced Starter w/First Big Contract

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    #75 Jersey

    I would add:

    6) The challenge of non-state actors (as discussed in another thread). This includes global conglomerates that are bigger than some countries, like Exxon-Mobil, as well as informal military groups like al-Qaeda. Globalization doesn't just bring benefits. It presents a whole new set of challenges, particularly for regulating commerce and enforcing the rule of law.

    I haven't waded into this yet because of a lack of time. I still don't have the time for the whole thing, so let's try them one at a time.

    1) Does Keynesian stimulus work? Sure, in the short-term. As a permanent fiscal policy I think we can both agree that the answer is emphatically "no". As discussed elsewhere, the debt accumulated by running an intentional deficit needs to be paid off after the stimulus supposedly restores the economy ahead of schedule. Otherwise, you are essentially planning for the eventual demise of your currency and all financial wealth.

    To wit:

    From the IMF via Agence France Presse via the much-maligned Breitbart:

    Health costs huge risk to advanced economies: IMF

     
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2011
  5. Harry Boy

    Harry Boy Look Up, It's Amazing PatsFans.com Supporter

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    Thats all well and good but I need some time to think about the ramifications and what all this will do to the distribution of food stamps.

    :bricks:
     
  6. PatsFanInVa

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    Let's add (6) as described above. How do we deal from actors that seek to supercede the state, the the detriment of the state and its citizens?

    (response to your AFP quote below, have to do some backup.)
     
  7. The Brandon Five

    The Brandon Five Experienced Starter w/First Big Contract

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    #75 Jersey

    IMF - FISCAL MONITOR April 2011 - Shifting Gears: Tackling Challenges on the Road to Fiscal Adjustment

     
  8. The Brandon Five

    The Brandon Five Experienced Starter w/First Big Contract

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    #75 Jersey

    Last edited: Apr 13, 2011
  9. Real World

    Real World Moderator Staff Member

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    How does the data suggest that Keynesianism works? Who's determined so, and by what standard?
     
  10. Patters

    Patters Moderator Staff Member PatsFans.com Supporter

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    We've certainly seen the economic growth of the US and the quality of life, at least in terms of income, since Keysian economics was introduced. Prior to Keysnians economics we'd have recessions and depressions every few years. While they still happen, they happen far less frequently than they did since we became an industrial country. In addition, the simple logic of Keynsian economics makes sense in terms of our current lives. If we invest, we generally do okay. If the nation invests in its infrastructure, including roads, sewers, schools, and so on, it creates new opportunities, not only for those building the roads, for instance, but for those using the roads. Also, most of the countries with very low deficits are underdeveloped:

    List of sovereign states by public debt - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    Debt external (per capita) (most recent) by country

    Now, perhaps you can post some evidence that shows Keysnian economics does not work.
     
  11. PatsFanInVa

    PatsFanInVa PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

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    Good link on the BRICS, don't understand how it has to do w/non-state actors, the part of my reply you quoted. I think it's meant to reply to the part where China or the US, individually, could make a big impact on global policy...

    The BRICS are certainly aligning as a group of former have-nots whose growth rate is far more impressive, as IMF says world growth outside the developed world is (unifying thread there.)

    I got interested in the Monitor, just as you did, and had in mind pinging Breitbart on the comparison of debt to deficits.

    I noted page 5 (going from memory,) where IMF displays the European ending of Keynesian spending, compared with US continuation thereof (Europe primarily in the upper right quadrant of the scatter, the US in the bottom right quadrant, signifying deteriorating net position but renewed growth for the US, and improving net position and renewed growth for most European nations.)

    What you see reflected here is that the US made a big deal at the end of '10, throwing another trillion onto the pile, by extending the tax giveaways to the rich, and exempting people from about a third of their FICA taxes -- both of which were phrased as stimulative spending.

    Like I said, I'm still digesting the IMF report. I do think it's academic, in the near term, because all actors are accepting the debt as an issue. When we talk about reducing total spending, or reducing deficit spending, by 10% to make a goal by 2020, it won't be difficult; indeed, it's just an acceleration of the curve projected budgets are already supposed to follow (with the OMB wanting to peak now and last year, and IMF saying no no, don't peak now, start on the downslope, but do it more gradually -- again going from memory.)

    It's worth noting that the two historical responses to Keynesian spending focus on whether 1937 was too soon to stop spending that started in 33 -- of course that was for a disaster of yet greater proportions, in which we did not intervene promptly whatsoever, occasioning a deeper financial collapse (i.e., runs on the banks, etc.)

    I think we're in agreement that debt is a serious problem, as we've both said elsewhere. I'm digesting the IMF reports at some length (going from the Monitor, because it's easiest to find,) because it's at odds with what I've previously read, in terms of rankings. I'm trying to determine what they're referring to as "raw debt" (which they say they are phrasing as proportion of GDP.) I.e., is that debt, or deficits over the time period studied?

    My most recent fact-finding on the total debt to gdp ratio had us in the 20s or 30s in the rankings, at something like 50 or 60% debt to GDP, heading for 90% by '20. IMF still says that's where we're headed, but ranks us toward the top debt to gdp in the world. So again, I need to digest that report and square it with previous impressions. IMF is not at all timid in their recommendations (as is normally their practice) for austerity. The difference is that in this report they're talking about the US, not places like Greece and Angola.

    About the BRICS -

    We know that the BRICS want us not to have much inflation, because that erodes their US holdings (particularly China's). We also know that when additional money is actually chasing goods, de facto devaluation follows. Of course, we have our point of view too: let the yuan float freely and find its own level.

    The Chinese are focusing on "gap-filling" in the histogram of their population's buying power now. It's a big population and it may take a while. But the notion is that they've got a big fat consumer economy just ready to take off, as soon as the average Chinese has that buying power, and is ready to resist the urge to save the money.

    A big consumer sector in China will change the equation going forward, and whatever the Chinese government's preferences, it is an almost inevitable development.

    In any event, good stuff all around. Patters your world rankings going by 2007 figures is much more in line w/my previous thoughts about US debt to gdp profile. IMF, by contrast, is emphasizing data (regardless of the window they're using to frame it) that put us near the top of the debtor heap.

    Gettin the popcorn ready for the speech.

    PFnV
     
  12. Real World

    Real World Moderator Staff Member

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    The onus is on the person who's making the declaration that Keysnian economics works to provide proof and supportive data. Do you have any to support his claim, outside of your usual "I have a friend who.." diarea? Also, by who's determination and by what standard? If you're simply going to state that dumping trillions of printed and borrowed dollars into an economy will result in net growth, then sure. If I take out a $10,000 personal loan and go into my clothing store to buy my own inventory, I'll experience "net" growth too. That's not how it works long term though. There are consequences to foolish, poorly planned, and inefficent spending. That's why the question of according to whom, and by what standard, are key.
     
  13. The Brandon Five

    The Brandon Five Experienced Starter w/First Big Contract

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    #75 Jersey

    Sorry I wasn't clearer. I was seeing it as another "international body", albeit one without our participation. The presence of China and Russia make me wonder how much such a body will pay attention to environmental, labor and human rights issues, but I admit that it is somewhat OT.

    I noted that figure too, and was trying to figure out a way to post it here. Of particular interest to me was the grouping of countries with "Output gap improving,fiscal balance improving". I would rather the U.S. be in that group rather than "Output gap improving, fiscal balance deteriorating", but that will have to wait, I guess.

    I wonder if they are including unfunded liabilities?

    Mine or Obama's? :p
     
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2011
  14. Patters

    Patters Moderator Staff Member PatsFans.com Supporter

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    I just provided you two links that show the countries that have low deficits. If deficit spending is the hallmark of Keynsian theory, then those links should certainly suffice to support the success of Keynsian economics. Unless of course you think Palau and the West Bank are superior places to live.

    You have actually provided nothing except your usually defensive posturing, and then get to the utterly ignorant idea that Keynsian economics means simply dumping money into the economy. Since you obviously don't know what you're talking about, why do you even bother to post? Either support your point of view with something other than immature rants (and bizarre claims that I referenced someone I know in my post) or don't waste our time. Try reading even the Wikipedia article about Keynsian economics since obviously you are over your head in this discussion.
     
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2011
  15. The Brandon Five

    The Brandon Five Experienced Starter w/First Big Contract

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    #75 Jersey

    How the heck did the oil and gas states like U.A.E. and Yemen accumulate that much debt? It is shocking that it has taken this long for the people to rise up against the royal families that squander their nations wealth on parties and Russian hookers.
     
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2011
  16. Real World

    Real World Moderator Staff Member

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    zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...........

    2 links that show and explain NOTHING. So again I ask, please explain to me how the "data" proves that keysian economics work.
     
  17. PatriotsReign

    PatriotsReign Hall of Fame Poster

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    #18 Jersey

    Whether or not Keynesian economic policy policy works or not is one of the most highly debated topics among world economists, so please don't post as if YOUR belief is a given fact.

    Patters, I'd swear sometimes you just like Gov't Spending in general. I sometimes wonder if there are people who would be happy to hear gov't spending increased again. Maybe it puts a smile on some people's faces, I don't know.

    I do know almost EVERYONE hates to spend more than they make on a personal level. I'd guess those who don't mind it must just be a few crumbs short of a sandwhich. So why do any Americans WANT our gov't to spend more than it makes (takes in)?
     
  18. Patters

    Patters Moderator Staff Member PatsFans.com Supporter

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    It's pretty obvious that there's a rough correlation between nations with a lot of debt and their degree of overall development. Those nations that have invested heavily, while they do carry a lot of debt, also tend to have longer life spans, more economic opportunity, better education, and so on. True, they also have debt and debt needs to be managed, but you're asking about Keynsian economic theory, which holds that a nation can carry considerable debt since debt can advance growth, which makes it possible to pay the bills. It sounds like you don't really have an argument here because apparently you don't know what Keynsian theory is. I'm no expert, but I've certainly read enough about our history and economics to believe the logic of theory is as sound as the logic of company borrowing money to invest in growth.
     
  19. Real World

    Real World Moderator Staff Member

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    So you think these countries are developed nations due to their debt? So without the debt they'd be like Guatemala maybe? Hmmm...so is it safe to say that a country can't be both developed, and with economic opportunity, if it operates in the black? :confused:
     
  20. Patters

    Patters Moderator Staff Member PatsFans.com Supporter

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    I think a country needs to invest in its future. For instance, making high speed internet available to rural areas supports the economic development of those areas, and may take years before realizing a gain. Creating highways that run through those areas further supports their economic development. Providing job training and job programs to poor areas brings in even more money. But, in the short term, none of these investments are profitable. It sort of goes with the old saying that it take money to make money.

    Now, it's a different issue whether or not there is waste. Is there waste? Well, I think you and I both agree on that front, though we might disagree on priorities. Personally, I think rather than give healthy poor people welfare, it would be better to set up an infrastructure that gives them workfare. While that will cost more money, in the long run it will yield a better return than handouts. You get no dispute from me that our social services are largely maintenance programs rather than recovery programs; but it's cheaper to maintain the poor with handouts than to hire staff to train people and set up jobs for people.
     

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