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Ep. 54 How the Left and the Right Move the Goalposts in Economic Arguments

Bob goes solo to explain a common rhetorical dodge that he’s encountered from both the progressive Left and the conservative Right. On the issue of slavery and reparations, the Left will argue that modern whites benefited from the institution. When someone like Murphy points out that slavery actually made the average white person poorer, the leftist may object that this isn’t about economics, but about privilege and social hierarchy. Likewise, when Bob pointed out that Tucker Carlson’s “economic nationalism” would hurt the national economy, right-wingers responded that they cared about culture, not just prices at Walmart.
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The audio production for this episode was provided by Podsworth Media.

About the author, Robert

Christian and economist, Chief Economist at infineo, and Senior Fellow with the Mises Institute.


  1. Triple Play on 08/28/2019 at 1:16 AM

    […] My latest episode on the Bob Murphy Show goes after the Left and the […]

  2. Tel on 08/30/2019 at 11:44 AM

    Elizabeth Warren calls her plan “Economic Patriotism” and that’s kind of similar to the Trump plan, but she would prefer not to use the N-word if you know what I mean. One thing that you can say about Warren is that she was very clear on the metrics that upset her, and she spells them out:
    * Lack of wage rises (in real inflation-adjusted terms) for production and non-supervisory employees on private non-farm payrolls.
    * Inequality as measured by the top small percent of “rich people” … Warren links to a UC Berkeley paper, so you can imagine what it’s on about.
    * Lack of overall economic growth in the USA … and for this Warren links to an article citing none other than Donald Trump and his 2016 election campaign.

    You might personally feel like inequality is a meaningless, perhaps useless metric for an economy, but it IS some sort of a metric. I mean, it’s a number and people measure it in a systematic manner … so in economic terms you are measuring something real. Whether we should care about that is another issue, but Elizabeth Warren has been self-consistent that she keeps going back to these type of numbers.

    Her stuff on wage growth ends up also being about inequality, because of course it mentions that the wage growth for the wealthy has been better than your typical working class American, and then it gets into Piketty territory … but Warren doesn’t explicitly blame “capital” for this problem, she simply declares it needs fixing and then barges on with her plan.

    She also talks about “lost jobs” in various places, and you must admit that US employment participation doesn’t look so good. It’s fine to talk about “GDP per capita” but if you are sitting on the couch, out of work, with skills like coal mining that no one wants and people are telling you “learn to code” … this sort of guy doesn’t think GDP per capita is particularly helpful. He wants the coal mine to open up again. That’s what Trump has been promising.

    As for lack of overall growth in the USA … Elizabeth Warren is probably correct, but depends on what you want to compare that to. China of course wins the “most improved award” by starting out a complete socialist basket case and then importing vast amounts of foreign technology and restructuring their economy. Sure, for a while you can get huge growth numbers by not doing the stupid stuff you were doing and following other people’s successful formula. If you want to compare the USA with Greece then economic growth in the USA is looking quite decent. If you want to compare with Australia, then us Aussies were doing pretty good during the mining boom back when we had a strong AUD and low government debt … but right now it’s kind of stale in this country, government debt has been ramping up, and our central bank keeps dropping rates to “stimulate” while the AUD is down to 70c or something like that. Getting off topic a bit.

    Now that I’ve outlined where the “goalposts” are, at least from Warren’s perspective … I can say I think she has a really stupid plan for fixing those things. She wants aggressive government intervention in markets, and greater public spending on projects. Those things might create jobs in the short term, but medium to long term they are likely to discourage any genuine entrepreneurship. Warren could successfully make rich people poorer but I doubt she can do anything to make poor people richer.

    Did Tucker Carlson move the goalposts when describing Warren’s plan? Maybe so … overall I think he just described it badly and muddled it up with a bunch of other ideas while banging on about Libertarians. Bit of a Tucker brain fart overall … best politely forgotten.

    In comparison, Trump has at least reduced government regulation on business (which is a positive step) and although he increased the tariff (yes, that’s a tax) he also reduced corporate tax to boost economic activity inside the USA. Roughly speaking, the corporate tax reduction has approximately offset the tariff increase. Although US federal debt is high, if you look at it as a radio to GDP it’s no worse now than when Trump took office. Thus most of the economic tweaks done by Trump have been neutral. Trump won’t fix inequality, but does that matter? Trump has improved employment participation, by a little bit, not much. Trump has at least delayed the next recession … which would have hit already had Hillary won … let’s see how much longer he can delay it.

  3. Matt Voegtli on 09/05/2019 at 3:04 AM

    I think there are two problems with your 2nd analysis.

    First, protecting workers is an inherently left wing position. It doesn’t matter if a right winger is making the argument or not.

    Second, Tucker is not on the right. Culturally yes, but in every other aspect he is a leftist.

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