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Old 09-02-2011, 04:02 PM
Alexandrite Alexandrite is offline
Join Date: Feb 2009
Posts: 125
Default Re: Booze and Money (Tim Fernholz & Megan McArdle)

You guys ever play madlibs?

I made a madlib of The Green Lantern Theory of Geopolitics by Matthew Yglesias, and Tim was kind enough to fill in the missing parts.

Up at [bloggingheads.tv] you can find [Tim Fernholz]'s latest argument for [monetary expansion]. I think I've covered the policy arguments on this score extensively elsewhere, so let me just note something in particular about [Fernholz's rant]. Like a lot of [liberal speeches] on [economics] it puts a huge amount of weight on things like will, resolve, and perceptions of strength and weakness. It's a view of things that reminds me of nothing so much as the Green Lantern comics, which I enjoy a great deal but regard as a poor guide to [economic] policy.

As you may know, the Green Lantern Corps is a sort of interstellar peacekeeping force set up by the Guardians of Oa to maintain the peace and defend justice. It recruits members from all sorts of different species and equips them with the most powerful weapon in the universe, the power ring.

The ring is a bit goofy. Basically, it lets its bearer generate streams of green energy that can take on all kinds of shapes. The important point is that, when fully charged what the ring can do is limited only by the stipulation that it create green stuff and by the user's combination of will and imagination. Consequently, the main criterion for becoming a Green Lantern is that you need to be a person capable of "overcoming fear" which allows you to unleash the ring's full capacities. It used to be the case that the rings wouldn't function against yellow objects, but this is now understood to be a consequence of the "Parallax fear anomaly" which, along with all the ring's other limits, can be overcome with sufficient willpower.

Suffice it to say that I think all this makes an okay premise for a comic book. But a lot of people seem to think that American [Fed] might is like one of these power rings. They seem to think that, roughly speaking, we can accomplish absolutely anything in the world through the application of sufficient [regulatory] force. The only thing limiting us is a lack of willpower.

What's more, this theory can't be empirically demonstrated to be wrong. Things that you or I might take as demonstrating the limited utility of [regulatory] power to accomplish certain kinds of things are, instead, taken as evidence of lack of will. Thus we see that problems in [Argentina] and [Europe; Japan] aren't reasons to avoid new [regulatory] ventures, but reasons why we must embark upon them: "Add a failure in [QE3] to a failure in [QE2] to a failure in [Stimulus], and we could supercharge [deflation] in a way never before seen. The widespread and lethal impression of [Free Market] weakness under the [Bush] administration, which did so much to energize [the great recession] in the [2000]s, could look like the glory years of American power compared to what the [Obama] administration may leave in its wake."

I don't even know what else to say about this business. It's just a bizarre way of looking at the world. The wreakage that the [Obama] administration is leaving in its wake is a direct consequence of this will-o-centric view of the world and [Fernholz] takes it as a reason to deploy more willpower.
Obviously this is must be a reason why the Green Lantern theory is pretty stupid, and not a sign of policy wonks who do not understand the nature of the problem they're dealing with.
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