Brad DeLong's Grasping Reality
Hexapodia Is the Key Insight! By Noah Smith & Brad DeLong
PODCAST: Hexapodia LI: Begun, Þe Attack on Biden Industrial Policy Has!
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PODCAST: Hexapodia LI: Begun, Þe Attack on Biden Industrial Policy Has!

Noah Smith & Brad DeLong Record the Podcast We, at Least, Would Like to Listen to!; Aspirationally Bi-Weekly (Meaning Every Other Week); Aspirationally an hour...
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Key Insights:

  1. Critics: Cato-style libertarians, including AEI’s Michael Strain. The last die-hard classic Milton Friedman-style economic libertarians—and starting in 1975, Milton Friedman would say, every three years, that the Swedish social democratic model was going to collapse in the next three years.

  2. Critics: Progressives—Biden is a tool of the neoliberals, and secretly Robert Rubin in disguise. People like David Dayen. They seem to be going through the motions—half-heartedly making their arguments to try to shift the Overton Window, but knowing deep down that Biden is about as good as they are going to get

  3. Critics: Ezra Klein and the other supply-side progressives, worried that Bidenomics in danger of supporting too much procedural obstacles through “community engagement” and “consensus building”, and will wind up pissing its money away without boosting America’s productive capacity.

  4. Critics: The Economist magazine and some of the people at the Financial Times, writing about how the Biden administration’s policies are “mismanaging the China relationship” and raising “troubling questions”—that decoupling will never work, that Chinese manufactured products are too good and too cheap to pass up; that you can’t correct for for externalities; & c.

  5. Critics: Macro policy was unwise, inflationary, and pissed away on income support resources that ought to have been used to boost industrial development. But Biden may skate through because he was undeservedly lucky.

  6. The real critique: Implementation—the U.S. government does not have the state capacity to pick or subsidize “winners” in the sense of companies whose activities have large positive externalities.

  7. To deal with (6), supporters of Bidenomics need to (a) figure out what the limits of U.S. state capacity are, and (b) shape CHIPS and IRA spending to stay within them; meanwhile, critics need to (c) come up with evidence of overreach on attempts to use state capacity to do things.

  8. What is valid in the criticisms of Bidenomics is part of a more general critique—that we have a society in which there are limited sources of social power, namely, primarily money, secondarily a somewhat threadbare rule of law, tertiarily a somewhat shredded state administrative staff. We need other sources of social power—like unions, civic organizations, and so forth that aren’t just politicians and NGOs that use direct-to-donor advertising to terrorize and guilt-trip their funders, and that take government money and use it to do nothing constructive at all.

  9. Friendshoring rather than onshoring.

  10. Japan is potentially an enormous productive asset for the U.S. to draw on.

  11. And, of course: Hexapodia!

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References:

  • Libby Cantrill & al.: CHIPS & Science Act ‘The Closest We’ve Had to Industrial Policy’ in Decades

  • Economist: The lessons from America’s astonishing economic record: ‘The more that Americans think their economy is a problem in need of fixing, the more likely their politicians are to mess up…. Subsidies… risk dulling market incentives to innovate… [and] will also entrench wasteful and distorting lobbying <https://www.economist.com/business/2023/04/10/americas-800bn-climate-splurge-is-feeding-a-new-lobbying-ecosystem>…

  • Economist: The world is in the grip of a manufacturing delusion: ‘How to waste trillions of dollars…. Governments… view… factories as a cure for the ills of the age—including climate change, the loss of middle-class jobs, geopolitical strife and weak economic growth—with an enthusiasm and munificence surpassing anything seen in decades…

  • Henry Farrell: Industrial policy and the new knowledge problem: ‘Modern industrial policy… [requires] investment and innovation decisions [that] involve tradeoffs that market actors are poorly equipped to resolve…. [Yet] we lack the kinds of expertise that we need…. This lack of knowledge is in large part a perverse by-product of the success of Chicago economists’ rhetoric…. Elite US policy schools… have by and large converged on a framework derived from a watered down version of neoclassical economics…. New skills, including but not limited to network science, material science and engineering, and use of machine learning would be one useful contribution towards solving the new knowledge problem…

  • Rana Foroohar: New rules for business in a post-neoliberal world: ‘“Reimagining the Economy”… by economists Dani Rodrik and Gordon Hanson…. The Roosevelt Institute… progressive politicos (many from within the administration) gathered to discuss the details of America’s industrial policy… the opposite of trickle-down…

  • Andy Haldane: The global industrial arms race is just what we need: ‘Manufacturing is undergoing a revival around the world…. An arms race to invest in decarbonising technologies is in fact exactly what the world needs to tackle two global externalities—the climate crisis and the investment drought…

  • Greg Ip: This Part of Bidenomics Needs More Economics: Massive sums are being spent on industrial policy with little guidance from economic theory or research…

  • Réka Juhász & al.: The Who, What, When, and How of Industrial Policy: A Text-Based Approach: ‘We create an automated classification algorithm and categorize policies from a global database…

  • Ezra Klein & Robinson Meyer: Biden’s Anti-Global Warming Industrial Policy After One Year…

  • Anne O. Krueger: Why Is America Undercutting Japan?: ‘United States… wasteful, inefficient industrial policies…. The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and the CHIPS and Science Act… directly threaten the Japanese economy (and many other US “friends”)…

  • Paul Krugman: ‘I guess I shouldn't be surprised that there's pushback against the observation of a Biden manufacturing boom…. The usual suspects claimed that a green energy transition would require huge economic sacrifice. Seeing this much investment in response to subsidies that are still only a fraction of 1% of GDP suggests otherwise…

  • Nathaniel Lane & Rék Juhász: Economics Must Catch Up on Industrial Policy: ‘Industrial policy… is back in a big way…. Governments are trying to improve the performance of key business sectors. Can they manage to do so without subverting competition and subsidizing special interests?…

  • Dani Rodrik: An Industrial Policy for Good Jobs: ‘A modern approach to industrial policy must… target “good-jobs externalities,” in addition to the traditional learning, technological, and national security considerations…

  • Noah Smith: ‘David Dayen and Marshall Steinbaum completely misrepresented Ezra Klein's "supply-side liberal" position. This is not good faith debate at all…

  • Noah Smith: ‘Oh, and notice that this framing [from David Dayen]—“The claim made here is that the dumb U.S. workforce fell behind, and now TSMC has to make up for it with Taiwanese workers…”—treats job skills as a test of inborn IQ, rather than something that has to be learned and taught. Wild…

  • Noah Smith: ‘Neoliberalism: a thread…. Markets as the fundamental generators of prosperity, and government as the way to distribute that prosperity more equitably…. Government can't shoulder the entire burden…. We need additional, quasi-independent institutions, like unions…. Industrial policy is underrated, both at the national and the local level. Neoliberalism under-emphasizes science policy, for example. I want a Big Push for science-driven growth…. Can the government "pick winners"? Yes. The government *must* pick winners. Green energy and other zero-carbon technologies being chief among the things we must pick…

  • Michael Spence: In Defense of Industrial Policy: ‘The real question is not whether industrial policy is worth pursuing, but how to do it well…

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