Ideological ≠ Ideological Loser


I see a lot of Democratic criticism on the internet about the Republican party’s opposition to American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in the face of GOP members of Congress accepting “stimulus” money.

This is a non sequitur.

Let me illustrate. Say you and two of your friends are trying to decide what to do on a Friday night. The choices are the bar, or a basketball game. You vehemently dislike basketball (to the point of swearing never to attend), and would much rather go to the bar. After putting it to a vote, you lose 2-1, and it is decided that you will attend the basketball game. You’re are free to go to the bar alone, but at the cost of giving up the greater utility of your group of friends. Do you view your friends as ideological hypocrites if they decide that they’re marginally better of by attending the game with friends?

To provide a more pertinent hypothetical…leftist-liberals were very, very vocal in their opposition to the Bush tax cuts based on their (perhaps valid) assessment of the policy. Many Democratic Congresspeople, in fact, voted against these cuts. Did these Congressmen offer to voluntarily donate to the Treasury the dollar difference between their pre-law and post-law tax rate? I would bet a sum of money that I don’t actually have that the answer for the vast majority of Congresspeople is a resolute “no”.

Would it (or did it?) make sense for the Republican party to suggest that these Democrats were engaging in hypocrisy? Of course not.

Only an ideological loser (or an crybaby loser, in the first scenario) would not seek value after a concrete decision has been made. Claiming the “stimulus” failed to stimulate aggregate demand, and claiming that it provided targeted help are not mutually exclusive. In fact, that is the exact position that Paul Krugman takes. Contemplating all of the pejorative terms I can think of with which to label Paul Krugman, “hypocrite” is not very high on the list.

Update: It seems that Greg Mankiw made the same point, presumably before me =[. But(!) I can reclaim the high ground by assuring you, readers, that I was making this point way back in 2008, as Ron Paul was being attacked for earmarks!

Update: Many members of the US armed forces are against the war in Iraq…are they being hypocritical? Of course not. The marginal cost of not complying with orders is very high. Thus, they are being rational.

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2 thoughts on “Ideological ≠ Ideological Loser

  1. Not to worry Mr. Blanchard,

    Mankiw doesn’t have a monopoly on logical clarity. Having to defend against petty criticisms, such as these, is a foregone conclusion when it comes to politics. Another gem in the realm of petty politics is the recent “gaffe” by Obama in pronouncing corpsman as if it were core-man. What relevance this has to anything remotely important is beyond me.

    Perhaps it comes as no great surprise that these pedantic arguments are being promulgated by polarizing pundits at Fox and MSNBC.

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