Italian Minister of Economy & Finance Tommaso Padoa-Schioppa [120K PDF]:
I now come to the last and conclusive theme of my argument. Controlling expenditure always has to balance technical arguments and constraints, with the legitimate and competing claims (often drawing on very different ideological Weltanschauungen) on the resources managed, directly and indirectly, through the political processes. Balancing the two elements is a difficult exercise, as I experience on a daily basis.
Political economists have blamed the difficulty on the fact that the time-horizon of a typical political cycle is shorter than the one relevant on average for the society as a whole, in turn leading the legislature to attribute a smaller weight to the long-run implications of public expenditure policies than it would be socially desirable. Empirical evidence shows that discretionary public expenditure tends to rise before the elections irrespective of the political orientation of the incumbent government, and also in spite of the weak evidence of a relation between the size of pre-election spending and the election outcomes. The politicians’ short horizons and the long lag between reforms and their beneficial effects gives rise to a pervasive tension in expenditure control.
For Faust, the lure of Mephistopheles’ services is greatly enhanced by the fact that the price – albeit a terrible one – is to be paid later. For politicians, the lure of the support obtained through public expenditure is similarly enhanced by the fact that public debt will be paid (o reneged) by next generations, often well after the end of one’s political career. As to myself, having inherited a public debt larger than GDP, and having committed myself and my government to comply with sound fiscal principles, I scarcely can afford even to contemplate the possibility of accepting Mephistopheles’ services.
Fascinating and powerful!
Interesting to see the Big Telco jousting with their competitors. Unfortunately, we Madisonians are a long way away from fiber to the home, something Verizon is installing in many markets.
This looks Handy: Supersync.
The Becker – Posner Blog:
Milton Friedman died this past week. He was the most influential economist of the 20th century when one combines his contributions to both economic science and to public policy. I knew him for many decades starting first when I was a graduate student at Chicago, and then as a colleague, mentor, and very close friend.
I will not dwell here on what a remarkable colleague he was. However, I do want to describe my first exposure to him as a teacher since he enormously changed my approach to economics, and to life itself. After my first class with him a half-century ago, I recognized that I was fortunate to have an extraordinary economist as a teacher. During that class he asked a question, and I shot up my hand and was called on to provide an answer. I still remember what he said, “That is no answer, for you are only restating the question in other words.” I sat down humiliated, but I knew he was right. I decided on my way home after a very stimulating class that despite all the economics I had studied at Princeton, and the two economics articles I was in the process of publishing, I had to relearn economics from the ground up. I sat at Friedman’s feet for the next six years– three as an Assistant Professor at Chicago– learning economics from a fresh perspective. It was the most exciting intellectual period of my life. Further reflections on Friedman as a teacher can be found in my essay on him in the collection edited by Edward Shils, Remembering the University of Chicago: Teachers, Scientists, and Scholars, 1991, University of Chicago Press.
Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold addressed the Madison Civics Club yesterday. His speech addressed the Long War. Adam Malecek was there:
Feingold said that Africa also presents a number of critical issues related to terrorism, and that it is a growing haven for many terrorist operatives. He noted that terrorists blew up American embassies in Africa, not in Afghanistan or Iraq, and that the culprits went to South Africa to hide.
He said even though he was well-educated and studied abroad, at 39 years old he didn’t know anything about Africa — and he was on the Foreign Relations committee.
“And I spent 15 years since learning about (Africa). But I offer that as a commentary on how prepared this country was on 9/11,” he said.
Feingold pointed out the fact that the northern part of Africa is only about 20 miles from the Middle East.
“But we don’t think of them that way. We think of them as separate,” he said, adding that the United States needs to work on determining the complicated interrelationships between various nations and terrorist groups.
Useful sites on the Long War:
Andy Hall has more as does Douglas Schuette.