Monday, January 14, 2008

Conservative Egalitarianism from Thomas More to Michael Gerson

would be a reasonable title for this op-ed by Jonah Goldberg. I am getting seriously concerned as I have recently agreed with Charles Krauthammer and now I find an op-ed by Goldberg interesting and somewhat informative. I didn't even cringe at all of his attempts at wit. Uh oh.

His point is that many people who describe themselves as conservatives want the government to do more to help poor people, support an increase in the minimum wage and are suspicious of large corporations. Clearly he wrote the op-ed to explain the stunning success of Mike Huckabee. Clearly he didn't get it out before the New Hampshire primary (hey I'm not sneering I have trouble with deadlines too).

I would add that this is nothing new. Many people describe themselves as conservatives because they support traditional sexual mores (now allowing pre-marital sex and divorce so the burden is born by other people) and less separation of church and state. For some reason, these people were tricked into supporting the class awar by the richest 1% against the rest. It couldn't last.

Now, of course, I have complaints about the op-ed. One, of course, is that Goldberg thinks this is bad news and that the Republican party shouldn't change. When he discusses policy, he is dishonest and stupid "'compassionate conservative' -- a political program that apparently measures compassion by how much money the government spends on education, marriage counseling and the like." He slips in "marriage counseling" to make increased government spending sound silly. He directly asserts that spending on education is like spending on marriage counseling. This is so blatant that it is mildly funny. Of course no one proposes major government spending on marriage counseling (I do know a US government employed marriage counselor but she works for the defense department so it is OK).

Looking at crude data on policy and growth the noted pinko Robert Barro finds a postive effect of government spending on education on growth. No one has ever found any evidence that any country has ever spent too much on public education to maximize GDP. Also no country has ever industrialized without public education while countries have stayed poor for millenia without it. Similar results have not been obtained concerning public marriage counseling.

Also, following Pew, Goldberg does a Penn. He should tell the reader what fraction of self proclaimed conservatives support say an increased minimum wage. Instead he talks about a category "pro-government conservatives" who make up "just under 10 percent of registered voters" 94% of whom support an increase in the minimum wage. He is following the Pew Political Typology survey which probably included some raw data along with the neologisms. It would appear from the op ed that about one third of conservatives support an increase in the minimum wage.

I want data without neologisms. Data according to categories chosen before the data were analysed. The naming of groups is neither here nor there. Such analysis is neither causal analysis nor raw data.

I'll ask google. I find this is nothing new, Pew noted the same thing in 2005 using party affiliation and policy views. From the first page of the report I can see why Goldberg is scared.

I got the *.pdf. 77% of Republicans supported an increase in the minimum wage to $7.25. Now that is a fact. 69% of Americans agree that "the government should guarantee 'every citizen enough to eat and a place to sleep'". Most Americans supported welfare reform. Clearly the critical group in both majorities are idiots.

47% of Republicans think government should guarantee food and shelter for all. 58% of Republicans think the government should take care of people who can't take care of themselves.

Oh my god Americans are divided on whethey they want a smaller government provided fewer services (45%) or a bigger government providing more services (43%). I would have assumed that with no details on the services, people would be overwhelmingly for smaller government (hey I would be if the services are universal wiretapping).

The survey is fascinating. It is very hard to write an uninteresting column about it. Goldberg didn't manage. Did I ?

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