In Praise of Humbug

Steve Landsburg's recent Slate piece gives Ebenezer Scrooge his due:

If Christmas is the season of selflessness, then surely one of the great symbols of Christmas should be Ebenezer Scrooge—the old Scrooge, not the reformed one. It's taxes, not misers, that need reforming.

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I'm not sure I understand

I'm not sure I understand his point. Sure, Scrooge might marginally decrease prices and interest rates, making things cheaper for everyone else, but if he spent that money, merchants would have more money. Plus, saving only drives down prices temporarily until the money is actually spent. If he burned that money, Landsburg would be correct, but most people save in order to spend later.

It's one thing to argue that there are good reasons for saving (uncertainty about the future), but I don't see how it necessarily has beneficial effects to people other than the saver.

His point is that the

His point is that the Keynesian nonsense about the paradox of thrift is precisely that.

As you point out, if he spends his money, then other folk have money and can thus continue exchange, etc. If he doesn't spend his money, it benefits society still, one of two ways- either from savings (his money/claim on resources are used by others, cheaper) or from hording (removing oneself from demand for resources, which raises the value of remaining circulating money).

A Christmas always seemed to

A Christmas always seemed to me to be socialist clap-trap anyway. But I have to agree with the sentiment of the piece.

I'm kind of surprised to see

I'm kind of surprised to see a post on this blog in praise of the author of gibberish like this, but hey, you guys are the ones who made it through grad school... :smile:

Alex, I'm not criticizing,

Alex,

I'm not criticizing, but I'm curious what about Landsburg's minimum wage article you found so gibbered.

I’m not criticizing, but

I’m not criticizing, but I’m curious what about Landsburg’s minimum wage article you found so gibbered.

Well, he starts off with:

"If you contribute $6 an hour to your employer's bottom line, and if he's forced to pay you $7 an hour, you'll soon find yourself out on the street. But so what? Sure, you've lost your job. But don't forget, this was a minimum-wage job in the first place. Losing a lousy job might not be a whole lot worse than keeping it. Meanwhile, lots of minimum-wage workers keep their jobs and are presumably grateful to the politicians who raised their wages."

but ends with,

"The minimum wage is nothing but a huge off-the-books tax paid by a small group of people, with all the proceeds paid out as the equivalent of welfare to a different small group of people. If a tax-and-spend program that arbitrary were spelled out explicitly, voters would recoil. How unfortunate that when it is disguised as a minimum wage, not even our Republican president can manage to muster a principled objection."

and in the middle, employs the fallacy that absence of evidence is evidence of absence, comes out in favor of government wealth transfer (by my reading, anyway), and cites no actual, specific piece of evidence for his key factual claim, "Now that we've re-evaluated the evidence with all this in mind, here's what most labor economists believe: The minimum wage kills very few jobs..." Landsburg appears to trade exclusively in facile pseudologic in the guise of "making economics easy to understand." I mean, "Your individual vote will never matter unless the election in your state is within one vote of a dead-even tie." (from "Don't Vote") SHEEZ! :wall: Seriously, it's as if his columns are ghostwritten by his 10-year-old nephew or something. Folks who want an online introduction to economic concepts are much better served by, say, Arnold Kling. Or here, for that matter. :mrgreen:

He's not writing a scholarly

He's not writing a scholarly article, he's writing for Slate, and so he simply references broadly: "most labor economists believe." Do you dispute what he says most labor economists believe? There may very well be reasons to, but I'm curious if you know of evidence countra. I can't speak one way or the other--I don't know many labor economists. But I'm generally fond of Landsburg, so I grant him some credibility.

I'm sorry for being dense, but what is the fallacy in bit you quoted from his "don't vote" article?

Incidentally, by my reading, he is neutral on the notion of wealth transfer. Most of his other writings seem to belie an opposition to the notion.

Isn't 'reforming taxes' like

Isn't 'reforming taxes' like trying to polish a turd?

That's the way I look at it.

Why reform 'em?

Flush 'em.

Jomama, you remind me once

Jomama, you remind me once again that:

God, I love this website.

-Scott

He’s not writing a

He’s not writing a scholarly article, he’s writing for Slate
True, but that's still no excuse. :smile:

and so he simply references broadly: “most labor economists believe.” Do you dispute what he says most labor economists believe? There may very well be reasons to, but I’m curious if you know of evidence countra.
What I'm curious about is whether he has any evidence pro. Note the total lack of any sort of citation.

I can’t speak one way or the other–I don’t know many labor economists. But I’m generally fond of Landsburg, so I grant him some credibility.
I haven't read much Landsburg, granted, but what from what I've seen, I can't entirely cotton to the notion of calling him any sort of "economist." (except perhaps "pop" or "armchair" :grin:)

I’m sorry for being dense, but what is the fallacy in bit you quoted from his “don’t vote” article?
My bad, I should have explained that one a bit more: it's a classic example of a "correct but useless" statement, and does not remotely support his thesis that voting is pointless or counterproductive. If this is his standard, any form of government besides autocracy falls short. :roll: