Just Curious

If they invented the social security system yesterday, and had to sell the idea to the 18-50 year old demographic today how would they go about doing that...

That's right kids we're going to deduct a portion of every pay check to go towards funding your retirement. There won't be any correlation between how much you put in now and how much you will later be able to get out, and in fact we will use the current funds to pay people who never paid into the system, but who just didn't happen to bother saving for retirement. You don't want your grandparents starving do you?

Also if you are particularly industrious and save up enough that you don't need the money you've put into social security we will reward you by not allowing you to have any. Or if you get a job in your retirement after receiving your benefits we will promptly take your benefits away to give them to more needy individuals. Furthermore the money taken from your paycheck and put into the fund, may not necessarily be used for the fund. We reserve the right to borrow money from the fund to use for other purposes from time to time. If we should forget to put it back, don't worry we'll just reduce your overall benefits to make up for the short fall.

Another great benefit of the system is that we will assign every individual a number that will never ever be used for personal identification, unless you are getting a driver's license, bank account, credit card, cell phone, going to college, getting a job, or financing anything ever. So who wants to sign up?!

Me! Me! Me! What a great deal! Thank goodness for social security! Now I don't have to bother saving any of my money for retirement. I can spend it all, and rely on those deductions from every paycheck to fund me safely through retirement...

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state intervention and

state intervention and protectionism and war (not that I’m a fan of any of those) produced a society wealthy enough to do those things. What did markets have to do with anything?

I rest my case: that, my friends, is the Liberal History Myth.

This is simply a tenet of faith, and it’s why economic historians laugh at theoretical economists who get so overwhelmed with their theories that they simply reinterpret history according to them. Who needs evidence when you’ve got theories?

Theoreticians don't need history to know that state intervention, protectionism, and war don't create wealth. To the extent that economic historians disagree, they must be mistaken.

It may be an old cliché to say "when the data contradict your theory, ignore the data", but sometimes it's true, especially in economics. If a clean, well-designed physics experiment contradicts theory, the theory is probably wrong. But when messy, politically charged, possibly flawed economic data contradict theory, I tend to trust the theory.

This may sound strange, but much of the "theory" in economics is more akin to mathematics than physics. If a new right-triangle measurement study comes out showing that a squared plus b squared doesn't equal c squared, which is more likely—that the Pythagorean Theorem is wrong, or that the data are flawed?

A new study may purport to show that taxing sunlight and breaking windows causes prosperity, but I still won't believe it.

Actually, I agree on most

Actually, I agree on most points of these posts except the one about "
and in fact we will use the current funds to pay people who never paid into the system, but who just didn’t happen to bother saving for retirement. You don’t want your grandparents starving do you?"

Actually, grandparents and parents must have funded their kids education and upbringing. So it is not exactly a free lunch to the current retirees.

Actually, grandparents and

Actually, grandparents and parents must have funded their kids education and upbringing. So it is not exactly a free lunch to the current retirees.

For education, the vast majority presumably took advantage of subsidized public schools. And as for upbringing, so what? Every generation has to pay for that, but theirs didn't have to pay 14% of their salaries on top of it.

So state intervention,

So state intervention, protectionism, and war are responsible for the invention of air conditioning and refrigeration?

Also since when is having an air conditioner a human right?

It may be an old cliché to

It may be an old cliché to say “when the data contradict your theory, ignore the data", but sometimes it’s true, especially in economics.

You're being far too charitable. Even if we ignore the theoretical explanations for why war, state intervention, and protectionism and economically destructive, Matt's assertion that the historical data show otherwise is dubious at best (and that's still too charitable, but that's just the kind of guy I am).

Joe, I'm not sure if my

Joe,

I'm not sure if my last comment is going to show up eventually or if it is lost to the aether, but here's the quick recap without links (I spent a long time researching the statistics).

I agree that to blame the 14,802 heat wave deaths in France on its economic system is simplistic and naive as there are many other differences between France and the US. However, Matt made the comment that 800 heat wave deaths in Chicago should be blamed on the free market. If we accept his implicit premise that the economic system is to blame for all that happens in a given area, then France's economic system would appear to be worse than Chicago's when it comes to saving lives from heat waves.

Even adjusting for population size (metro Chicago = circa 8 million, France= circa 60 million), France suffered 133% more casualties per capita from its heat wave.

To answer your objection that France and Chicago have different climates, and therefore the French were less likely to have air conditioners, I found that Chicago's average summer high and low temperatures were a dead ringer for Lyon's average summer high and low temperatures. Lyon is in the middle of France, so it seemed like a good city to pick.

Of course, France is a far larger body of land that Chicago. The temperature to the south and west of France is a bit higher, to the north and east it is a bit lower.

The difference in ownership of air-conditioning equipment is therefore not likely to be due to climate differences. Perhaps it is due to discretionary wealth. Citizens, when allowed to spend their own wealth, will do so more wisely. Governments, when spending other people's wealth for them, will do so more foolishly.

French taxes, as one might expect, are much higher than the taxes on the average Chicagoan.

Hopefully my last post appears to back all this up.

And back to the main

And back to the main argument, Social Security would be much less of a problem if it did what Matt says it does:

"Social Security is how we take care of our elderly parents when they retire. It says that regardless of your past decisions- suppose you invested poorly, or had expensive medical problems, or [gasp] were too thoughtless to save your money- you have a right not to starve to death."

What Matt describes is not the system we have. A welfare system that took care only of those in need would not be facing multi-trillion dollar deficits. It would not rob the young of 14% of their pay check.

What we have is a massive, monstrous one-size-fits-all system that grossly distorts incentives to save.

If there were any impetus from the political left to change Social Security into the system Matt describes, I would be behind it 100%.

Joe, You're right. A

Joe,

You're right. A monocausal argument in this situation is hasty and oversimplistic because there are many variable that differ between the US and France besides their respective manner of government. Blaming the 14,802 heat wave deaths in France on socialism would almost be as foolish as saying about the heat wave deaths in Chicago (edited for grammar):

" I say market kills 800 because I think the tragedy was a result of

a. market-maintained inequality
b. the destruction of communal bonds of mutual aid, an effect at least exacerbated by markets
c. free market attitudes about human rights- 'if they didn’t save enough for an air conditioner we can’t very well steal Donald Trump’s money (via taxation) in order to pay for it!'"
-Matt

Also, to anticipate an objection, if we adjust for population size between the Chicago metro area (population circa 8 million) and France (population circa 60 million), then Chicago still beats France by 8,000 lives saved.

Someone in France has a lot of work to do. Just don't count on private charity, French citizens don't have any money to give after their government is done raping their bank accounts:

http://www.oecdobserver.org/images//1361.photo.jpg
http://www.econlib.org/library/Enc/MarginalTaxRates.html

One more note: although there may be vast differences between more-capitalist Chicago and more-socialist France, average summer temperatures don't appear to be one of them.

http://www.chicagoweatherfront.com/seasonal.html

"The summer weather season features normal Chicago temperatures from the middle to upper 70s/mid 50s in early June to the lower and mid 80s/low 60s by mid July."

http://www.climate-zone.com/climate/france/fahrenheit/lyon.htm

Average temperatures for Lyon, France (hi/low):

June:75/57
July:80/62
August:81/62

Lyon appears to be a pretty average city in the central area of France.

If I can also have 10 weeks

If I can also have 10 weeks of vacation, 32 hour work weeks, and cheap Bordeaux, you’ve got yourself a deal.

Great if you are fortunate to have a "protected" job. Not so great if you're one of the one in ten unemployed stuck out in the banlieus.

Pretty much irrelevant that,

Pretty much irrelevant that, since it’s not usually all that hot, not that many places would really stock air conditioners. In fact, I’m sure that all those silly socialists just sat in their flats saying, “If the government won’t buy me an AC, then I must not need one.” Give me a break.

I take it you've never lived in Madrid.

Jacob, Yes, the world works

Jacob,

Yes, the world works through a simple series of very straightforward causes. France is socialist, so lots of people died in heat waves. The U.S. is less socialist, so fewer people died. Things like the fact that normal summers in Paris and London really aren't all that hot, so there isn't all that much air conditioning even among the fairly wealthy, that really has nothing to do with more people dying. Pretty much irrelevant that, since it's not usually all that hot, not that many places would really stock air conditioners. In fact, I'm sure that all those silly socialists just sat in their flats saying, "If the government won't buy me an AC, then I must not need one." Give me a break. Always nice to see knee-jerk Europe bashing, and especially ironic since the best explanation for the greater number of heat-related deaths in normally cool climates is, well, that market forces will pretty much guarantee that cool places don't really have all that much air conditioning.

http://www.euro.who.int/epris

http://www.euro.who.int/eprise/main/WHO/Progs/CASH/HeatCold/20040331_1

2003 heat wave:

14,802 dead in France

2,405 dead in the UK

2,099 dead in Portugal

So much for wealth and prosperity being brought about by government intervention.

http://www.euro.who.int/epris

http://www.euro.who.int/eprise/main/WHO/Progs/CASH/HeatCold/20040331_1

"A preliminary analysis of the 2003 heat-wave in Europe estimated that it caused 14,802 excess deaths in France, 2,045 excess deaths in the United Kingdom, 2,099 in Portugal. Ongoing epidemiological studies will better describe and contribute substantial evidence to the understanding of health effects of heat-waves in Europe and add significantly to targeting interventions."

Please, more socialism mommy! I want more socialism!

Then you’re wrong. The

Then you’re wrong. The tragedy was a result of the world being a hostile environment for human life.

If someone's drowning and we sit and watch him from a boat because we don't feel like paddling 30 feet over there, then I guess we can just say "the tragedy was the result of the world being hostile." Gimme a break.

Markets didn’t kill those who died; they saved those who lived by producing a society wealthy enough to create things like air conditioning and refrigeration.

state intervention and protectionism and war (not that I'm a fan of any of those) produced a society wealthy enough to do those things. What did markets have to do with anything? This is simply a tenet of faith, and it's why economic historians laugh at theoretical economists who get so overwhelmed with their theories that they simply reinterpret history according to them. Who needs evidence when you've got theories?

What about that French heat wave that killed something like twenty times as many people a couple of years ago? Do you want to blame that on markets, too?

I couldn't say, I don't know of it.

the issue was housing and

the issue was housing and poverty. I also have a hard time understanding why “markets save millions” would be in the title about a heat wave. Even if you think it’s true how would that be relevant? “100 people die in earthquake. Capitalism rules!” I say market kills 800 because I think the tragedy was a result os

Then you're wrong. The tragedy was a result of the world being a hostile environment for human life. Markets didn't kill those who died; they saved those who lived by producing a society wealthy enough to create things like air conditioning and refrigeration.

What about that French heat wave that killed something like twenty times as many people a couple of years ago? Do you want to blame that on markets, too?

_Maybe we should emulate

_Maybe we should emulate their GDP and unemployment figures._

If I can also have 10 weeks of vacation, 32 hour work weeks, and cheap Bordeaux, you've got yourself a deal.

I’ve met many intelligent,

I’ve met many intelligent, educated people who believe the Liberal History Myth: in the beginning, people lived brutal industrialized lives at the mercy of evil robber barons; then, FDR created prosperity and the American middle class by legislative fiat.

it;s only a myth because FDR wasn't a saint who did things by fiat. Popular groups had been organizing for 50 years to get such legislation passed, and circumstances were finally right for it to happen.

Before the government brought us Social Security, Medicare, the minimum wage, the 40-hour work week, compulsory overtime pay, and strong organized labor, society was a wreck. Do you really want to turn back the clock?

the government didn't bring us anything, and the government would love to take it away. We fought for it ourselves. The only myth here is the "Rand Myth" that I'm discussing on another thread- the idea that the "big gov't" new deal programs were the result of well-meaning but bumbling politicians who just blindly grope toward the people's interests. Nothing could be further from the truth.

It seems virtually impossible to dislodge the fanciful LHM; until someone figures out a way, I fear we’re in for more of the same… :-|

as I said, I think the real myth is the one that's implicit in positions like yours- the free market was working great (under evolutionary principles which *magically* don't happen to apply to governments- at least that's the Austrain version of things) and then bumbling politician came along and brainwashed the people because they loved socialism so much. That myth has to go.

Michael is right – I’ve seen this effect. There are so many people who are convinced that civilization would collapse without government activity in every sphere of life.
I'm certainly not convinced of that. Nor do I know anyone who thinks so. The people you're speaking simply don't adopt market fundamentalist propositions for good reason. People have good instincts about many things- the idea that a perfectly free market would solve all our problems is a very convenient, suspicious and metaphysical doctrine which people are right to be suspicious of.

A more accurate headline would have been “Nature Kills 800, Market Saves Millions.”

the issue was housing and poverty. I also have a hard time understanding why "markets save millions" would be in the title about a heat wave. Even if you think it's true how would that be relevant? "100 people die in earthquake. Capitalism rules!" I say market kills 800 because I think the tragedy was a result os
a. market maintained inequality
b. the destruction of communal bonds of mutual aid, an effect at least exacerbated by markets
c. free market attitudes about human rights- "if they didn't save enough for an air conditioner we can't very well steal Donald Trump's money (via taxation) in order to pay for it!"

Matt

(see the heat wave in

(see the heat wave in Chicago in 1995 which killed 800 people in a week, simply because of the lack of air conditioning and poor housing conditions- the headlines should have read “market kills 800.")?

A more accurate headline would have been "Nature Kills 800, Market Saves Millions."

Michael is right -- I've

Michael is right -- I've seen this effect. There are so many people who are convinced that civilization would collapse without government activity in every sphere of life.

Social Security would probably pass again. The libertarian minority would not be able to stop it.

The comment thread brings up

The comment thread brings up a point worth amplifying: a huge number of people out there are absolutely convinced that most government intervention is both necessary and good. I've met many intelligent, educated people who believe the Liberal History Myth: in the beginning, people lived brutal industrialized lives at the mercy of evil robber barons; then, FDR created prosperity and the American middle class by legislative fiat. Before the government brought us Social Security, Medicare, the minimum wage, the 40-hour work week, compulsory overtime pay, and strong organized labor, society was a wreck. Do you really want to turn back the clock?

It seems virtually impossible to dislodge the fanciful LHM; until someone figures out a way, I fear we're in for more of the same... :-|

young people figure that

young people figure that while of course they will take good care of their elderly parents, the rest of society is made up of jerks who don’t care

Social Security is how we take care of our elderly parents when they retire. It says that regardless of your past decisions- suppose you invested poorly, or had expensive medical problems, or [gasp] were too thoughtless to save your money- you have a right not to starve to death. Is it possible that private charities technically could fill this gap? Sure, it's possible. But it doesn't seem likely and it's certainly not preferable. For one thing, the guarantee is nicest thing about SS and I have a hard time imagining how such a guarantee would function in the market. For another, the "private charities" already aren't doing a good job- elderly people die from heat waves all the time, and this would be a great opportunity for private charities to step up and fill in the gap left by SS's dwindling benefits (apparently the most miserly of any industrialized country.)

What's more likely? That we'd all feel possessed by a desire to give up our hard earned money that's right there in our pocket... or that we'd constantly convince ourselves that such deaths were exaggerated and that it wasn't happening (see the heat wave in Chicago in 1995 which killed 800 people in a week, simply because of the lack of air conditioning and poor housing conditions- the headlines should have read "market kills 800.")? The telling thing is that for the whole heat wave there was apathy and denial about this incredible amount of deaths- private charities weren't coming to the rescue. Surely we all know that odd feature of the human psyche which can ignore things which seem to horrifying to comprehend, or matters in which we really should be stepping in- Sudan comes to mind. With such matters in mind, I'd say that SS should be preserved indefinitely.

Matt

People think that all we

People think that all we really need to do is emulate them, and we can provide security for everyone.

Maybe we should emulate their GDP and unemployment figures.

Sadly, I think the sell

Sadly, I think the sell would be easy, for several reasons. I'm 27 and many people I encounter outside of libertarian websites and such believe that we have two alternatives: universal "social insurance", or widespread, grinding poverty among the retired. I'm not sure, but my impression is that this flows from having learned somewhere that Social Security originated because there was widespread, intractable poverty among the American elderly, a solution was desperately needed, and a non-governmental solution was simply not forthcoming. Maybe I live in a particularly left leaning milieu, but my impression is that a lot of young people figure that while of course they will take good care of their elderly parents, the rest of society is made up of jerks who don't care (I've been emphatically told that people simply WILL NOT take care of the elderly if left to do so voluntarily. The person telling me this spoke of it as a simple, incontrovertible fact). There's also the view, favored by my local liberal paper, that the ability to save for retirement is only for the lucky, wealthy few, and out of the reach of most working people. For all of the many, many, things that are wrong with SS, I don't think my generation can really imagine life without government-provided security of some sort, even if it's really an illusion. They believe the world is simply too harsh otherwise. Add to this the fact that the European welfare states are often portrayed as paradises on earth where they've solved problems of poverty, unemployment, access to health care, and everything else. People think that all we really need to do is emulate them, and we can provide security for everyone.

You forgot: And if you

You forgot:

And if you should unfortunately die two weeks before you're scheduled to receive benefits, then your loved ones will get exactly zero regardless of how much and how long you paid into the system.

And of course if you happen to be gay, then by law you don't have any "loved ones," so they can't receive any spousal or survivors benefits the way your heterosexual siblings-in-law do.

Jacob Also, to anticipate

Jacob
Also, to anticipate an objection, if we adjust for population size between the Chicago metro area (population circa 8 million) and France (population circa 60 million), then Chicago still beats France by 8,000 lives saved.

this isn't the argument. I'm arguing that the market contributed to these deaths in Chicago. Who the hell cares about France, unless you're going to frame it into an argument? Is France socialist in the relevant way? What's considered the major cause of the deaths? I just don't know. I doubt it has much to do with the argument, because I'm not arguing the french system to deal with problems like this.

What Matt describes is not the system we have. A welfare system that took care only of those in need would not be facing multi-trillion dollar deficits. It would not rob the young of 14% of their pay check.

Well that's good to know. I wouldn't be opposed to creating a need based system either, but I think it's difficult politically because people feel that it's less fair. Ideally we could increase the benefits for the needy and not give any for the people who wound up wealthy. I think people'd feel a bit gyped about it for the moment though. I think it wouldn't be a major change from Social Security, so there's no need to dismantle the system.

I should also mention that the system isn't running a deficet, and you'd be wise not to give much credence to hooey these politicians are spewing about
a. there being no social security trust fund, conceptually
b. the social security system heading toward bankruptcy

Especially since those two ideas (which make up the crux of the argument) are mutually exclusive.

However, Matt made the comment that 800 heat wave deaths in Chicago should be blamed on the free market. If we accept his implicit premise that the economic system is to blame for all that happens in a given area, then France’s economic system would appear to be worse than Chicago’s when it comes to saving lives from heat waves.

I don't share that premise. I think capitalism is responsible for specific reasons, which I listed. I didn't just say "people died and we're capitalist therefore cap's the problem." (which is a post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy.)

Michael,

I rest my case: that, my friends, is the Liberal History Myth.

that's tnot the liberal history myth at all- few people believe that's true. Most people believe (falsely) that the market drove this stuff and they are liberal because they think the market's imperfect and needs to be corrected. There isn't a major plank on the democratic party which opposes or questions capitalism- why do you think that idea's so widespread (because it isn't.)

Theoreticians don’t need history to know that state intervention, protectionism, and war don’t create wealth. To the extent that economic historians disagree, they must be mistaken.

and why's this?

It may be an old cliché to say “when the data contradict your theory, ignore the data", but sometimes it’s true, especially in economics. If a clean, well-designed physics experiment contradicts theory, the theory is probably wrong. But when messy, politically charged, possibly flawed economic data contradict theory, I tend to trust the theory.

the theory's logically flawed anyway (if you like you can make the argument- pick any mainstream economic one you want- and I'll show you why it's theoretically false.) Nevertheless, my claim isn't that the theories are wrong (though they are) but that they are inapplicable to our history, something that you come very close to pointing out yourself. Suppose free markets are the best thing in the world- certainly that doesn't mean we've had them in our history right? That's just ludicrous. Economic theory cannot prove that, because my argument is that our economy (and every other succesful major economy) got big under radical state driven protectionist economic models.

This may sound strange, but much of the “theory” in economics is more akin to mathematics than physics. If a new right-triangle measurement study comes out showing that a squared plus b squared doesn’t equal c squared, which is more likely—that the Pythagorean Theorem is wrong, or that the data are flawed?

again, make an argument and I'm happy to demonstrate the flaws in it. But I think you're missing the major point which is: the fact that pythagorean theorem is correct doesn't mean that the earth is a triangle. I.e. the question isn't the correctness of the theory, but rather the domain of that theory's applicability, and if the relevant thing isn't a triangle then why the hell should we care about the P theorem?

So state intervention, protectionism, and war are responsible for the invention of air conditioning and refrigeration?

one could make the argument, I suppose, but from the bit I've looked into it I don't know that any of these three are directly responsbile. We're talking generally about growth and the fruits of capitlism though, this was never a point.

Also since when is having an air conditioner a human right?
it's obviously not a general human right, but it's basic human decency. If people live in an area over populated with ferdelance snakes and the snakes are killing people left and right, I'd say that Galoshes are a human right (not in principle, but as an extension of a more general principle of human rights like "the right to life.")

Brandon
You’re being far too charitable. Even if we ignore the theoretical explanations for why war, state intervention, and protectionism and economically destructive, Matt’s assertion that the historical data show otherwise is dubious at best (and that’s still too charitable, but that’s just the kind of guy I am).

it's not my assertion, it's also the claim of mainstream economic history, and it's clear to anyone with hlaf a brain who seriousl does their history. For one thing, you might consider making the argument to oppose it. Though this would hardly be a satisfactory rebuttal, you might start by trying to name a normal country which has succesfully developed in the last 150 years by following strict "free market" principles. Certainly if the world's wealth was all created from the working out of market forces, it should be beyond easy to name just one good example of a country that's developed like this (since you're arguing that the vast majority did.)

Matt

Links and Minifeatures

Links and Minifeatures Special RINO and LLP edition
Be sure to come back Tuesday morning for Carnival of Liberty VIII. And I'd appreciate it if you'd tell me if my blog rolls to the right are missing any members of either group.

**********

Rainbough, although what you

Rainbough, although what you say is certainly the case, merely stated simply and to the point. The politicians who would presumably advertise SS if it were created today would never say it in the manner you did above. They would dress it up in all sorts of lofty tones and actually make it sound quite wonderful. This is how all government programs get popular support. Does any program sound pleasant if its reality were stated so plainly as above? Of course not, thats why they lie so damn much.

Socialists are hilarious.

Socialists are hilarious. Without fail, they vehemently defend the *intent* of a law or policy regardless of the actual reality of it.

The fact is that if you think Social Security exists to keep old people from starving, there's better ways to do that. If you think Social Security exists as a retirement annuity, there's better ways to do that too.

Defending Social Security as is requires either vehement partisanship or astonishing ignorance, usually both.

nmg

4:20 Post - Selling Social

4:20 Post - Selling Social Security today
A short post at Catallarchy wondering how one would sell Social Security to 18-50 year olds if it was being suggested as a new retirement program today. Give it a look. And read the comments too, lots of good stuff.

Did I just call you "Brain"?

Did I just call you "Brain"? I need my typing privleges taken away.

Matt- Well, I do have a

Matt-

Well, I do have a henchman called Pinky with whom I plot to take over the world on a nightly basis, so I can see the confusion. :)

Brain- you know I could

Brain-
you know I could never exchange snarky comments with another person in that same special way that we do.

Hah! :beatnik:

Hah! :beatnik:

sorry brandon- that last

sorry brandon- that last post was to you. It's just that when I was writing it I was fantasizing about BW Doss, and I guess it just slipped out.

Socialists are hilarious.

Socialists are hilarious. Without fail, they vehemently defend the intent of a law or policy regardless of the actual reality of it.

well the intent is in this case important as it highlights the differences that most "retirement annuity" proponents seem to miss. That is: the guarantee aspect.

The fact is that if you think Social Security exists to keep old people from starving, there’s better ways to do that. If you think Social Security exists as a retirement annuity, there’s better ways to do that too.

and what better ways do you suggest? Clearly your "socialists are hilarious" line isn't going to make many enemies on this board, so as such you can probably get by with just lurking on boards and making the occasional argument-free jab. A person who loves the word "vehement" as much as you do can't be all bad though, and accordingly I'd simply love it if you'd make your next post more substantive so that we might have a serious meeting of the minds.

Matt

Brian- I tend to like

Brian-

I tend to like Keynes' "when the facts contradict me, I change my mind." approach, as opposed to this "explain your history to me in terms of my theory" approach that economists love to take.

That war, state intervention, and protectionism are more closely correlated with prosperity than markets? Can you show us some studies that make the case for this? There must have been some enterprising mainstream economic historian who quantified these variables and demonstrated that their values have historically been correlated with (and preceded, rather than followed) long-term economic growth. Where can I find this study?

my case isn't that these factors are the road to prosperity, but rather that free markets are not. I'm not aware of what the variable is, or even if there is one. Mainly because national economic scenarios are quite fluid and as such certain approaches fit certain periods. Britain was highly protective of it's steel industry until it developed at which point they spread the free market gospel, because they knew they would win the competition. So would a succesful British economy be correlated with protectionsim or free markets? Both, but the correlation misses the point- it's the history of the thing.

I’ll grant that certain types of government interventions (in particular, environmental and safety regulations and various welfare programs) may be correlated with prosperity because of the fact that only wealthy nations can afford them. But they certainly don’t cause prosperity.

again you're thinking like a theoretician. You'll grant that these are associated because those are the only things we can theoretically make sense of within the narrow spectrum of fanatical neoclassical economics (okay, Austrian- no relevant difference in this case.) This logic is applicable to my case in a sense, though (as I explain below)- I do think that succesful countries are more likely to reach the gospel of free trade and maybe even practice for industries that are dominant, for about the same reason you suggest above: because they can afford to.

If there are tremendous losses of human life with little loss of capital, this leaves more stuff left over for each survivor. But nowadays war is more about destroying capital than about killing people. Also, if the war is a resource grab, the spoils may outweigh the costs for the victor. But the loser is that much worse off, so it’s still a loss on net.

this is a bit off topic (because you aren't talking about history, you're talking about a hypthetical) but it's been suggested that horrible atrocities do increase property, in a certain sense. Supposedly, worker wages have never reached the levels they were during and after the Black Plague when labor scarcity boosted things.

That’s a strawman. I never said anything about “strict free market principles,” because no such country has ever existed.

it's hardly a strawman- you can't name a single country that's developed according to the principles that you're convinced spurs development? I can name plenty that have used the "Infant Industry" and "State Capitalist" approaches that you're convinced don't work. So why is that? My theories are wrong, even though they have 200 plus years of succesful history to back them up, yet you guys constantly cite the prosperity of the western world as if it backs up your theory. How can it back up your theory if the prosperity isn't based rooted in the principles you espouse?

I said “markets,” and just about every country which has had even moderately free markets for the last fifty years is relatively prosperous by now.

that's the post hoc fallacy, but it may not be true anyway. Look at the "Asian Tigers", for instance. Nevertheless, the biggest problem is simply that you've got the "great britain" factor which I detailed above- propserous countries love to use free trade as club to bash their opponents over the head with. The correlation (if it even exists) is highly attributable to that. Countries favor free trade when they think they can win- if they don't (as is the case with US agribusiness and pharmecueticals at the moment) they favor protectionism and then all the "radically free trade" theoreticians fall in line about how protectionist IP rights are neccesary to protect our industries, or how Agri subsidies are the only way to compete the with the EU since they do it too. A careful consideration of those latter arguments (which you're no doubt familiar with, whether you agree with them or not) reveals the principle. Those objections say "but what if US businesses can't make money?" And that's precisely the point- free trade until we're concerned that our businesses won't be able to make money. Then it's time for some protectionism.

I should mention also that this is far too generous to even allow that the US is free trade on it's succesful businesses- this is rarely the case as well, and so as such I don't even grant that the US practices much free trade at all.

The same cannot be said of countries which have practiced protectionism or which have frequently been at war. Sure, some have done all right despite them, and pratically every country has practiced them to some degree. But they have not been the virtual guarantee of prosperity that markets have.

I disagree- contries which have colonized other countries have been very succesful (though whether that's causal, I can't say.) All the western countries, especially the most prosperous, have a history of colonial and/or imperial intervention, whereas poor countries generally keep to themselves. Protectionist countries have done extraordinarily well in the past, but given the current EU and US power, they don't do well now because they get attacked or embargoed. Again though, that's using the narrow "propaganda" definition of protectionism... The US is highly interventionist (subsidies serving the same function as protectionist tariffs) and should rightly be considered a protectionist country. My guess is that the same would go for the EU, but I'm not very knowledgable about that.

So what are the countries that have had relatively free and stable markets for the past fifty years that are still poor?

That's crazy... I've never said that I think countries have free markets. It'd be like if my suggestion was that we should blow ourselves up with nuclear missiles, to which you object and then I say "well, show me a country that has tried it and isn't well off."

Free markets are so destructive to economies that they never last for long. Countries are too smart to even play around with them, so the answer is (to my knowledge): none. If you can't name a single country which has practiced free trade succesfully why should I be expected to produce one which has failed at it? The likely conclusion is just that nobody's ever bothered with it, and noone takes it seriously except economists. The countries who have dabbled in it (Thailand in the mid 90s comes to mind) would be unlikely to make the same mistake again. I don't know fo a country who's tried it for the last 50 years.

it’s not my assertion,

it’s not my assertion, it’s also the claim of mainstream economic history, and it’s clear to anyone with hlaf a brain who seriousl does their history.

That war, state intervention, and protectionism are more closely correlated with prosperity than markets? Can you show us some studies that make the case for this? There must have been some enterprising mainstream economic historian who quantified these variables and demonstrated that their values have historically been correlated with (and preceded, rather than followed) long-term economic growth. Where can I find this study?

I'll grant that certain types of government interventions (in particular, environmental and safety regulations and various welfare programs) may be correlated with prosperity because of the fact that only wealthy nations can afford them. But they certainly don't cause prosperity.

War may also be correlated with prosperity in this way, but I doubt it. However, I can think of two ways that war might cause prosperity. If there are tremendous losses of human life with little loss of capital, this leaves more stuff left over for each survivor. But nowadays war is more about destroying capital than about killing people. Also, if the war is a resource grab, the spoils may outweigh the costs for the victor. But the loser is that much worse off, so it's still a loss on net.

Though this would hardly be a satisfactory rebuttal, you might start by trying to name a normal country which has succesfully developed in the last 150 years by following strict “free market” principles.

That's a strawman. I never said anything about "strict free market principles," because no such country has ever existed. I said "markets," and just about every country which has had even moderately free markets for the last fifty years is relatively prosperous by now. The same cannot be said of countries which have practiced protectionism or which have frequently been at war. Sure, some have done all right despite them, and pratically every country has practiced them to some degree. But they have not been the virtual guarantee of prosperity that markets have.

So what are the countries that have had relatively free and stable markets for the past fifty years that are still poor?

State capitalism was

State capitalism was practiced by Latin American countries in the form of import substitution industrialization for decades during the 20th century, and it has failed to make them prosperous. Instead, they are for the most part poor, unstable, and in and out of serious global financial crisis. Doesn’t this undercut your theory

Not really, because I'm not advocating State Capitalism as the answer so much as pointing out that it's the only way things really have worked. It's not that it always works, which is quite a different argument. Nevertheless I think it's an interesting point- I'd be interested in knowing which latin american countries you're talking about- perhaps we could use your best example and discuss it. Just to be clear, my claim is that state capitalism frequently produces immense prosperity, and then in western cultures there were often social restructuring movements which made the wealth distribution more equitable.

Some Latin American countries are extraordinarily wealthy (Brazil comes to mind) but are savagely unequal in terms of wealth distribution. Latin American countries (just like other countries in the world, though moreso) are subject to US military pressure (sometimes outright US terrorism, as was the case in Nicoragua) and western economic pressure (through agencies like the World Bank and WTO) to not redistribute the wealth or enact agrarian reform measures and the like.. The current situation in Brazil under Lula is remarkably illustrative of this- he's being very careful not to make policy as radical as his (and the Brazillians') beliefs, lest they arise the Ire of the US and the other western democracies.

I'm hardly a fan of state capitalism, I just feel that we should call a diamond a diamond.

Matt, State capitalism was

Matt,
State capitalism was practiced by Latin American countries in the form of import substitution industrialization for decades during the 20th century, and it has failed to make them prosperous. Instead, they are for the most part poor, unstable, and in and out of serious global financial crisis. Doesn't this undercut your theory?