23 June 2008

DC Follies

I came to DC to take a "vacation" after finishing the PhD. I wanted to learn how life works in our nation's capitol. Here's one story.

I met someone who worked for a conservative republican.

"Oh, what type," I asked.

"Fiscally and socially conservative."

"Right -- does s/he support smaller government, then?"

"Oh yes."

[Conversation continues...]

"I'd love to meet your science staffer to discuss water issues."

"You don't want to meet him. All he cares about is writing reports that justify more jobs for the federal project in the district."

"Wait, I thought you said that your boss is a fiscal conservative."

"Oh yes, s/he's against more spending -- except in the district."

"Well, how does that work? Doesn't s/he vote more money for others' projects to get more jobs in the district? You know, logolling."

"What's logrolling?"

Bottom Line: In the immortal words of Bruce Yandle: "I hate all subsidies except those that come to me." DC is about divvying up the pork. In the process of robbing Peter to pay Paul, a lot of that money supports the DC crowd.

11 comments:

Bob said...

I think the scariest part of your story is that a Congressional staffer had never heard of logrolling. Was that said in jest, like, "Who's Nancy Pelosi?"

Pepe said...

Ladies and gentelman, I give you the future designer of a system to combat climate change.

Your faith (considering this exchange)in governemnt solving climate change is shocking...

David Zetland said...

Pepe,

I accept your nomination/appointment (are you world dictator?), as I am surely a better choice -- with my belief in human ingenuity -- than politicians and bureaucrats who think they can pick and choose the means to the end.

You aren't one of those types who thinks that markets will stop/reverse CC are you? If so, please tell me who your customers are and how you intend to profit maximize from them.

Pepe said...

I apologize...I violated one of my own rules about being clear/trying to be funny on the internet.

I meant the logrolling Republican aide would be the future of CC legislation. I certainly think that you could probably design a pretty good system but it would be mangled and logrolled in the hands of the politicians bringing us to a Murphy-esque more harm than good which none of us can measure today.

Hmmm, am I one of those types? I wish I knew the answer on CC. I think about it alot but I cannot come to a conclusion so I guess I am in the wait crowd for now (as opposed ot the 'at least we are doing something' crowd)...I know it is irresponsible.

I don't think my current customers are very directly tied to CC so I don't think I could calculate the cost/benefit (I am sure some economist could calculate the maximizing solution of cardinal utilities for them). I would add that I do have some belief that if CC became bad that many consumers would demand a more CC-friendly product and the entrepreneur would respond.

I am really out of my league on CC but I was baffled how you could mock this ridiculous aide's logrolling and then turn to the very same buffoons to implement a worldwide scheme.

Bob Murphy said...

Pepe said:

I don't think my current customers are very directly tied to CC...

Oh, I think David was showing why he thought a market solution was impractical. I.e. he was saying who would the paying customers be, in order to motivate private sector entrepreneurs to deal with CO2 emissions?

David (if you are still checking this thread), what's funny is that, as I'm sure you know, a lot of "liberal" critics would say that the market would be a terrible way to allocate water rights. Sure, it's good for iPods, but not for something as essential as H2O.

So what is it about climate change that is different? Is it that you can assign property rights to a lake, but selling off / handing out property titles to the atmosphere is more cumbersome?

Pepe said...

Thank you for the clarification on the customers. I did miss David's point.

David Zetland said...

Pepe: "how you could mock this ridiculous aide's logrolling and then turn to the very same buffoons to implement a worldwide scheme."

the government does a pretty good job at collecting sales taxes. Carbon taxes would be the same. As I've said elsewhere, I'd refund them per capita -- NOT let the buffoons spend the $$

Bob: "Is it that you can assign property rights to a lake, but selling off / handing out property titles to the atmosphere is more cumbersome?"

absolutely. isn't that obvious to you? common pool goods (the ocean or atmosphere) are more likely to be damaged because property rights are not clear (and perhaps not enforceable, but that's another problem)

[thanks for the clarification, which was right.]

Bob Murphy said...

David said:

the government does a pretty good job at collecting sales taxes. Carbon taxes would be the same.

Well, I don't know so much about sales taxes, but I think the federal government has done an absolutely horrible job collecting income taxes. I don't think it's crazy to suggest that the entire income tax system costs more on net than it is worth in government revenue. I.e. I'm saying the deadweight loss to the economy from IRS compliance could easily be equal to total payments.

As I've said elsewhere, I'd refund them per capita -- NOT let the buffoons spend the $$

But you're not going to be in charge. :) If someone said, "Sure I'm for letting frat guys spend the night in a sorority house, but NOT for flirting" then I think that would be ridiculous. Your stance seems equally plausible to me.

Last thing: I wasn't being sarcastic in my question about property rights and CO2 emissions, I was just trying to understand your different takes on the two issues (water vs. AGW).

Pepe said...

I still feel there is a disonnect here. Putting aside the black market that has evolved to avoid sales taxes (what is the black market 5-10%+ of the economy?), there is still logrolling, etc. in forming your proposed policy/tax (who knows how it would come out of congress?). If the tax collection could exit congress somewhat resembling your proposal you still believe they would refund the money? Income taxes were targeted at like 100 millionaires at the turn of the century, a phone tax we had at the new millenium was instituted solely for the Spainish-American war, the AMT was to get the rich (I am getting hammered on this now). You seem to agree with the politicians being bufoons yet you suspend your belief on this point and think they will 'do the right thing'?

I think we have come to the crux of the issue here. David believes Bob's view of the power/possibility of property rights is implausible and Bob believes David's view of politicians/government efficiency is incorrect.

I think all the back and forth comes down to Bob designing a theoretical proposal for property rights in air/water and David coming up with a Pareto (or whatever) maximizing politician (not a self-interested logroller).

David, I have more faith in a property rights theoretical solution (I want to try -- not just work within a poor governemntal system (logrolling)) versus my model of politicans and government.

Again, I can't believe you acknowledge logrolling and then turn ot politicians/governemnt to solve the problem.

p.s. full disclosure; I know Bob

David Zetland said...

Bob,

1) I said sales and you went to income. Not the same thing. (For the record, I am pro property taxes...)

2) Many laws are implemented/enforced as written. I doubt that a per capita tax will be hijacked (look at the Alaska dividend)

3) Water is easy to capture as a private good. The atmosphere is not. These are serious differences that require different solutions.

Pepe,

Besides above clarifications, note that the government IS GOING TO INTERVENE -- I am in favor of the least-worst intervention.

Pepe said...

Ok, the least-worst standard is helpful.

Just to be clear...you ARE for governemnt intervention on this one and then you are for the least worst solution, right?