The Unacknowledged Success of Neoliberalism

What I read, what I write, and what I think has become less political in the past years, for a few reasons: the chances that I can meaningfully influence politics are slim to none; expressing opinions on political issues can foment unnecessary division within Christian circles; politics and the economy are frickin' complicated, and I do not have the time or desire to become an expert in either; and, finally, talking about politics (and especially arguing about politics) is unhealthy for me.

That being said, I really liked this column by Scott Sumner. What I liked about it the most was that it distinguished between two different topics that often seem to be conflated in our thinking: government control of the economy and transfer of wealth. (That's probably an oversimplification on my part, but it's better than nothing! I've never even taken an economics class.)

To me, the evidence is quite clear that government control of the economy - price controls, tariffs, direct government ownership of different companies, &c. - is generally bad. Free markets are better.

However, I think the evidence about transfer of wealth - taxes, social services, &c. - is more mixed. Sumner notes how the Nordic countries have done quite well for themselves even with high tax rates (to the chagrin of many right-wingers here in the States); there's also the moral question (which can't be answered solely by economists) of whether it is worth sacrificing some efficiency for some equality. (Again, this is all muddled simplifying on my part!)

I think this distinction is absent in most American discourse on politics, and I think that is unfortunate. Conservatives think that the Nordic countries are all left-wing, when in fact some of them do quite well on scales of economic freedom (see the article for details). Liberals, meanwhile, probably resist a lot of pro-market reforms because they think "pro-market" means "anti-poor people"; again, the Nordic countries show that this thinking is incorrect.

Anyway, good article, and what Sumner says is of much more value than what I say.