Thursday, February 5, 2009

Economist's endorsement of Obama: second thoughts?

When one reads the Economist's latest leader, and considers the fact that John McCain led an effort in the Senate this week to do exactly what the Economist is calling for (killing "Buy American" provisions), one can only wonder if this august publication isn't having second thoughts about its endorsement of Obama over McCain.

The most important consideration for me is not whether a politician is left or right, brilliant or ignorant, but his or her inclination to resist populism. This is not a long held opinion of mine but something that I've arrived at with relatively experience in both a policy shop and the political process. Newfoundland's Danny Williams and Alberta's Ed Stelmach are members of "Conservative" parties, with most seriously competitive parties to their "left". Yet both are thorough-going populists. If you don't think Stephan Dion's "Green Shift" was, details aside, intelligent policy (never mind the poitics), why does Greg Mankiw (and a legion of other economists) argue for something similar?

Barack Obama is more intelligent than John McCain. But the policies of President Obama (which is what was actually being voted for) may well prove to be far more unintelligent than the policies of a President McCain would have been. This is simply because Obama might never stand up against unintelligent policy when it is politically disadvantagous to do. Obama is too smart to quickly make himself unpopular. McCain, on the other hand, might well be dumb enough, or, more charitably, pig-headed enough, to insist on doing the right thing regardless of the political consequences.

President Obama and his economic advisors should state -- no, scream -- that America is unambiguously committed to free trade.
- Jeffrey Miron, senior lecturer in economics, Harvard University

No comments: