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Sábado, 27 de febrero de 2016
There is one other aspect of this discussion that should be aired, involving incentives and motives.
What you get a lot from supporters of Mr. Sanders are accusations of bad faith. In general, “feeling the Bern” often seems to mean accusing anyone who doesn’t of corruption. So how should we think about such things?
First of all, yes, corruption – including corruption of alleged experts – really does happen. It tends to be a much bigger issue on the right, simply because there’s so much more money and so many fewer scruples. I’ve been saying for a while that there are three kinds of economists: liberal professional economists, conservative professional economists and professional conservative economists. The box for a fourth kind is mostly empty, for lack of funding. Still, it would be naïve to claim that maintaining access to corporate consulting gigs and the like has no effect on policy arguments.
But it’s also naïve, and destructive, to presume that that’s all there is. You don’t have to be a corporate hireling or a shill for Mrs. Clinton to be taken aback when a Democratic campaign endorses economic projections that are even more outlandish than the Republican fantasies you were ridiculing just the other day. And you really, really don’t want to go down the rabbit hole of assessing everyone’s arguments solely on their political convenience, and assuming that nobody who disagrees with you might honestly disagree with you. That’s what right-wing apparatchiks do, and you don’t want to emulate them.
It’s also important to understand that to the extent that personal ambition distorts analysis, that’s not a phenomenon unique to well-connected insiders. For sure, big money or the prospect of having big influence are much more powerful corrupting forces than what I’m about to describe. But they’re not the only sources of impurity.
Imagine an economist who has some following but is, for whatever reason, not in the “nomenklatura” of policy wonks who typically get called upon to advise officials or give speeches at financial conferences. That might be because said economist holds views that are considered too heterodox. Or it might be because he is too honest about the corruption of the mighty. Or perhaps insider circles don’t consider him especially insightful or even technically competent – which in turn could be a huge injustice, or possibly kind of true. Whatever the reason, he is, or feels himself to be, on the outside looking in.
Now imagine that our outsider encounters a situation in which another outsider, this time in the sphere of politics, has some chance of staging an upset victory. It should be obvious that our outsider economist has every personal incentive to throw his lot in with the political outsider – even if the politician’s chances of winning are relatively small, and even if his campaign could bring about disaster because it’s not ready for the challenges of the larger world. The point is that if the outsider politician should happen to emerge victorious, it will give the outsider economist a seat at the table, which he won’t have otherwise.
It also follows that this outsider has every incentive to vilify and blacken the reputation of insider types who aren’t on the challenger’s bandwagon, even if this means alienating progressives whose support he could really use later on (after all, you don’t want to see your champion turn to established figures if he makes it to office).
My point is not that outsiders are more corrupt than insiders, nor that everyone’s actions right now should be seen as reflecting nothing but self-interest. That’s exactly what I’m arguing against! What I’m saying instead is that nobody can be presumed to be pure simply because he is currently without much power or access to power – for that very lack of power can have its own distorting effect.
What each of us should do all the time is ask ourselves not just what we believe but why.