Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Why Is Macro So Hard? Voters Sometimes Get What They Want

The news this week is that President-Elect Donald Trump has convinced executives at Carrier to not move a production facility from Indiana to Mexico.

The backstory to this is that the business had bottom line reasons for wanting to move to Mexico, and government officials (with the explicit backing of the currently powerless Trump) bought them off with tax dollars.*

Here’s Larry Summers view:

Some of the worst abuses of power are not those that leaders inflict on their people. They are the acts that the people demand from their leaders.

This is similar to this H.L. Mencken quote from just over a century ago:

Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.

If that seems like a micro-offense, please recognize that those were different times.

Hat tip to Greg Mankiw for noting Summers’ turn of phrase, and to Don Boudreaux for repeating this Mencken quote many times through the years.

P.S. A couple of days after posting this, Tim Worstall posted a similar quote:

Populism: the unpardonable sin of offering the populace what they appear to want rather than what they ought to.

* On the negative side, in the short-run, we’re all investors in Carrier whether we want to be or not. In the long-run, this may solidify the dangerous precedent of corporate executives holding out for government handouts. On the positive side, it’s still early … perhaps Trump will just do this once to establish credibility that obviates it’s future need.

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