The problem with “left” neoliberalism

by Chris Bertram on August 5, 2011

This is just a short post seeking, for the purposes of mutual clarification, to highlight where I think the real differences lie between someone like me and “left neoliberals” like Matt Yglesias. I think that something like Yglesias’s general stance would be justifiable if you believed in two things: (1) prioritarianism in the Parfit sense and (2) that real (that is, inflation adjusted) income levels reliably indicate real levels of well-being, at least roughly. For those who don’t know, prioritarianism is a kind of weighted consequentialism, such that an improvement in real well-being counts for more, morally speaking, if it goes to someone at a lower rather than a higher level of well-being. So prioritarism is a bit like a utilitarianism that takes a sophisticated and expansive view of utility and weights gains to the worse-off more highly. This view assigns no instrinsic importance to inequality as such. If the best way to improve the real well-being of the worst off is to incentize the talented (thereby increasining inequality) then that’s the right thing to do.
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On the utter fatuity of rational man

by Maria on August 5, 2011

Look, most of us have met a celebrity, burbled something insanely stupid, and lived to regret it.

When I was a teenager, I met Mats Wilander and had the bright idea of giving him my autograph, instead of the other way around. That way he’d remember me. Cringe. Another time, in college, I met Umberto Eco and blurbled away to him about smoking for several minutes until the postgrads he was there to speak to managed to get a word in. Why, only last month, I was introduced to Alastair Darling and asked him if he’d ever been to DC.

Maybe that’s what happened to the girl from Reason.tv. In this video clip (spotted on BoingBoing a couple of days ago) Matt Damon responds to her assertion that he works hard because acting is insecure, therefore teachers would be better if their ‘incentives’ were similar. Coz it’s in their interest to, see?

Asking a man who financially never needs to work again to agree that the fear of not having a job is what motivates him/teachers is head-scratchingly silly.
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Peak oil was thirty years ago

by John Quiggin on August 5, 2011

Taking a break from my war with Murdochracy, my most recent column in the Australian Financial Review (over the fold) was about Peak Oil. Partly for tactical reasons, but mainly because I believe it’s basically correct in this case, I’m wearing my hardest neoclassical hat.
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