October 6th, 2009

PK Icon

Stimulus XR

While I would like to see the problem of unemployment solved, I gotta disagree with this Bob Herbert column which calls for massive public works program.

Leave aside for the moment the point that the existing stimulus bill already contained massive public works programs in the form of billions to the states to fund road and bridge repair. There is a more difficult issue here: the fundamentals of our economy are NOT sound.

In the 1930s, most industrial production was domestic in origin. This is why job works programs had such big ripple effects. When construction workers bought new shoes, they created other American jobs. Our current economic structure has outsourced most industrial production. While short term spending on job creation projects has some ripple effect, it is much more modest. You get the local lunch cart and potentially a few more staff at retail outlets. But the new cloths and goods that these stimulated dollars buy now go into other economies. As we proved throughout the last decade, increasing sales at WalMart and other retail outlets does little to increase overall American jobs.

What we need, therefore, is something that alters the economic fundamentals in a way that creates sustainable new American jobs. We did this in the 1990s by promoting the tech sector (which we subsequently outsourced). The stimulus package pushes heavily to create new jobs in new sectors, notably health IT, green energy (including smart grid), broadband, and new transportation technologies. Unsurprisingly, this takes more time to do right and for the jobs to come. But when they do come, they will have a far greater impact for the long term.

Neo-Kynseians, especially of the pundit variety, have not given enough thought to how the economy has changed since the 1930s. Government still has a role in promoting economic growth, but it requires considerably more thought and planning in execution. We may or may not need additional short term stimulus, but the only way to break out of this cycle is to have an extended release stimulus (or Stimulus XR, to borrow the medical jargon) that is designed not just to buck up the economy, but to transform it.
PK Icon

Link Harvest: We Lose Moral High Ground on Twitter

Remember how we celebrated Twitter for allowing those brave Iranian protesters to stand up to the forces of Iran. Apparently, we do not extend the same courtesy to protesters here.
As reported in this NYT piece, the Pittsburgh police have arrested Elliot Madison for purportedly helping protesters evade arrest. The problem, of course, is that it is rather difficult to explain what makes Madison's tweets illegal other than it describes things that any person on the scene might describe. As described by the NYT:
Many of those messages tracked police movements. One read: “SWAT teams rolling down 5th Ave.” Another read: “Report received that police are ‘nabbing’ anyone that looks like a protester / Black Bloc. Stay alert watch your friends!”

One can imagine, if Twitter had existed in 1970, a prosecution for Tweeting "National Guard shooting into crowd! Watch your friends!" But, in any event, we seem to have lost our moral high ground in challenging Iranian police for arresting protesters who likewise "disobeyed a lawful order to disperse."
PK Icon

Is Hollywood's Defense of Polanski Factesque?

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/the_big_picture/2009/10/is-hollywood-really-a-hotbed-of-support-for-roman-polanski.html

I've seen a great many people angrily denouncing those who defend Roman Polanski. What I actually haven't seen is a lot of defense of Roman Polanski. As this article points out, the "Hollywood elites" have pretty much declined to sign on to the two petitions making the rounds and supported primarily by foreign filmmakers.

I have no interest in defending Polanski, although if I were back in Crim Law I'd expect to have to argue both sides of this under the Model Penal Code, Utilitarian Theory, and Retributive Theory (most folks angrily denouncing the factesque support of Polanski plainly fall into the Retributive camp. The case under utilitarian theory is a bit less straightforward, but still fairly easy. And it's been so long since I've looked at the MPC I no longer remember the substantive arguments).

I'm all for Polanski doing the time for the crime and for his spending years evading his sentence. I just don't feel the need to get angry or feel superior to an imaginary mob of non-existent defenders.