Matt Yglesias says he’s not the kind of liberal like Kevin Drum who wants to micro-regulate the economy:
Regulate business to prevent negative environmental externalities, sure. Basic safety, okay. But the idea that what we need is for a bunch of people to get together and say that it would be better to ban this and that and the other capitalist act between consenting adults just strikes me as the wrong way of going about things.
He goes on to cite regulatory capture and corporations ability to use regulation to stop competition as reasons to be skeptical that these policies will make people better off.
What I like about Matt is not just that he believes this -because being right is nice, but it’s not a virtue-, but that he writes about it, points it out when it’s relevant, and isn’t shy about bringing it up. Paul Krugman, in contrast, knows what Matt is saying is true, but he doesn’t write about it. Dan Klein and Harika Barlett document that in 654 New York Times columns Paul argued for market liberalization only 16 times. I think the difference in their approaches can be attributed to their goals in writing: Matt writes to inform his readers and argue for the truth as he sees it, Paul writes to arm his readers for battle against Republicans, which are ruining this country.
Brad Delong is sort of a combination of Yglesias and Krugman; managing a war-with-Republicans goal, but also being unafraid to argue against progressive ideas for markets. It’s sort of tangential to the regulation/market liberalization issue, but I think contrasting Brad and Paul’s obituaries sort of reflect their differences: Paul cannot remove himself from the holy war against Republicans long enough to write a balanced assessment.
I think if more liberals were like Matt and less like Paul then they would be more succesful at achieving Matt’s goal, which I think is also Paul’s:
…take the rich people’s money and use it to pay for stuff, don’t tell them what to do with the companies they run.
There are libertarians and conservatives who would be willing to make that tradeoff.
(Do I need the requisite statement one must make when criticizing Krugman? Ok. He’s all the nice things (most of) his critics agree he is: genius, great writer economist.)