Friday, December 18, 2015

Why Is Macro So Hard? Orderly but Dumb or Chaotic but Smart? Choose one.

Here's a quote from Charles Marohn, writing at Strong Towns:
Projects coming from the top down tend to be orderly but dumb while projects coming from the bottom up tend to be chaotic but smart. We all prefer smart to dumb, but we Americans have a really strong preference – and have established systems that enable bureaucrats and elected officials to ensure – that we get orderly over chaotic, even when it means accepting dumb as a result. [emphasis is original]
This goes some way towards explaining things like the "Obama stimulus packages" of 2009. A new government responded in a timely fashion for a representative democracy (over a period of several months), with a large series of nice sounding programs (that roughly match up with the textbook Keynesian prescription for a bad recession), wrapped up in a few large multi-purpose bills.

That's the orderly part.

But mixed in there were some clunkers like ... well ... the "cash for clunkers" program. You know, let's destroy some productive capital because it has relatively larger negative externalities that are still minute when compared to the stream of beneficial services delivered by the capital.

BTW: Thanks to Cold Spring Shops to pointing me to this source article, from which I'm getting the next entry in this series too.

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