Comparing Politicians to Global Warming Deniers

At CafeHayek, Don Bordeaux has a post that requires careful reading. It is an attack on politicians and overbearing government, couched in a metaphor of global warming deniers.

My comment was

Using the metaphor of global warming is apt, but like any metaphor breaks down once examined closely. I would claim that a global warming “denier” has a more tenable position once the evidence is examined in detail and from different perspectives. Conversely, a denier of the unintended consequences of interventionism, like a holocaust denier, has a less tenable position once the alternative evidence is examined.

This brings me onto a second point. Politicians are selling themselves to get elected, which implies building up coalitions of diverse interest groups. Early Public Choice theory called this Pork-Barrel politics. A more successful approach in the television era is one based on image. That is projecting personality over policy substance. It goes against the notions of weighing up the pros and cons, learning from error in one’s past judgments, and recognizing limitations in one’s abilities and knowledge. Good government requires questioning skeptics, but has a propensity to elect the smooth-talking deniers.

An early example of image-based politics – indeed the forerunner in modern times – is JF Kennedy. A more recent example in Britain is New Labour. The image-based politics justified building up a structural deficit in the boom years. The need to save face, and the political ambitions of the key player, meant that the political business cycle did not operate after the 2005 general election. That is, according to Public Choice Theory, to boost the economy to get re-elected and then take the necessary measures to reduce the deficit immediately after.

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