Mankiw, Please

So Greg Mankiw seems to be upset that all his economist buddies are supporting Obama. In a post called, “A View from India,” he quotes a newspaper columnist arguing that Barack Obama “embodies protectionism,” while John McCain has, “the courage and conviction to stand up to protectionist populism”. He then turns on that Mankiw charm, concluding with:

If any of my economist friends who are working for Obama wants to defend his positions on ethanol subsidies, tariffs on Chinese goods, the Byrd amendment, etc., shoot me an email, and I will gladly post it for my blog readers. But I am not holding my breath.

This is just silly, though I suppose it’s to be expected from guy who calls himself upper middle class while earning, in all probability, a couple mil a year. Does Mankiw really think that Obama “embodies protectionism?” Does he believe that Obama, once in office, will go on a tariff-increasing spree? Does Mankiw stop to consider that Obama might actually end up serving the cause of internationalism better than McCain, by promoting broad-based growth and not, you know, warring with everyone? And speaking of the view from India, have a look at The Economist‘s global electoral college. It certainly seems that India, along with most of the rest of the world, doesn’t share Mankiw’s concerns.

And yeah, yeah, Obama has some bad economic policies. Does Mankiw want to defend every last one of McCain’s economic policies? How about a spending freeze during a deep recession? Want to defend that? Or the gas tax holiday? It’s clear that Mankiw prefers McCain, and that’s fine. It’s absurd to act like most of the country’s economists–like most of the country’s voters–have been suckered in to supporting the guy against our better judgment.


  1. thm says:

    Just a small nitpick: if you earn–that is, if you work for–your money, then you’re (upper) middle class, or proletarian (working class). At least in Paul Fussell’s formulation. If your money works for you, then you’re upper class. Wealth and class aren’t the same thing.

  2. brooksfoe says:

    The Economist’s global electoral college polls people who vote on the Economist’s website. That’s not exactly a representative sample.

  3. Martin says:

    brooksfoe: Granted, but since The Economist’s readership is inordinately likely to factor in a strong commitment to free trade than other people, the electoral college isn’t a bad thing to cite here.

  4. Matt Zeitlin says:

    Sure, the sample of Indians that votes on the Economist website is hardly representative. But, if we’re talking about their views on trade and Obama, they are probably the most pro free trade Indians in the entire country. The fact that the English speaking, Economist reading class supports Obama is an even stronger point against Mankiw.

  5. alli says:

    Indians are wary of “protectionism” because of the license raj. Mankiw should be smart enough to recognize the difference between Nehruvian protectionism and Obama’s cautious centrism.

    Then again, he did write the macro text I used in college, and I spent so much time rebutting him in the margins that I couldn’t sell the book back. Damn you, Mankiw!

  6. alli says:

    Grr, forgot the word “often.” Indians are often wary of protectionism because of the old license raj.

  7. BruceMcF says:

    One can easily be against what is sold under the brand name of free trade, and favor Ricardian-style free trade. Agreements such as NAFTA are primarily agreements to limit regulation on flows of financial wealth across international boundaries …

    … the trade concessions in these deals are sweeteners, and far more about permitting transnational corporations to pursue absolute advantage than to allow independent firms to chase comparative advantages in open markets.

    But the even idea that Obama is “protectionist” in terms of capital rather than trade flows simply betrays ignorance … while he came out against the Columbian corporate wealth agreement, he came out in favor of the Peruvian one, which was little better. Obama has a distinct lean to the pro-globalization side of his party.

  8. Preston says:

    On the gas tax holiday, i believe Mr. Mankiw wants to see the increase in gas prices lead to an increase in Research and Development for other forms of fuel, be it wind, solar, nuclear, etc… This is called a positive externality and is a popular theme in public economics…. But I am sure you have heard of this???? I am also a little confused on how you believe protectionism from obama can cause broad-based growth…. We wouldn’t want the whole U.S. to look like Michigan…. One last thing is I believe tha the economist who are in favor of Obama seem to Identify with him on policies and attitudes which are not economics based, although they can try to make the argument for his plan as superior to McCain’s… the truth is it is not, and this botthers these economist. “If you a Republican when your young you have no heart, If your a Democrat when your old you have no brain”

  9. Just a small nitpick: if you earn–that is, if you work for–your money, then you’re (upper) middle class, or proletarian (working class). At least in Paul Fussell’s formulation. If your money works for you, then you’re upper class. Wealth and class aren’t the same thing.

    But if Mankiw’s been earning that much for more than a few years, then he’s working by choice, not out of necessity: he could stop working tomorrow, and still be able to afford an upper-upper-middle class lifestyle, at the very least, for the rest of his life.

    I’ll call that ‘rich.’

    I’ll also call Mankiw a ‘hack.’ Hell, even the emphasis that he’s putting on trade is absurd. As Matt pointed out yesterday, neither candidate will move U.S. trade policy very far in either direction. And with so many other major issues needing to be dealt with, trade pact issues are going to be down in the white noise for the next four years.

  10. Ibod Catooga says:

    Mankiw likes to put douches in his butt.

    He videotapes this. I have the vids.

    Want to see?

  11. lark says:

    I haven’t noticed that the theorists have been correct lately about the way globalization distributes and thus reduces risk.

    I think you guys have been taking big risks with the livelihoods of American workers. Yes, I mean outsourcing and ‘free trade’. And the pay off has either gone to the economic elites, or it has been strictly theoretical. For the rest of us, it’s been a slow aching decline. For decades, working more and staying at the same place, or declining.

    I think it’s hilarious that one of the intellectual architects of this travesty, Mankiw, actually is oblivious enough to site Indian support for globalization as an argument in favor of McCain. Sheesh.

  12. Andrew says:

    Preston, What? You make it sound as if Mankiw supported a gas tax holiday, or at the least a different use of the money collected but I don’t recall reading anything along those lines at his blog since the elections began, are you pulling this out of your arse?

    And in response to Ryan’s OP, I would hardly call Mankiw’s blog one sided, he has never hid his political preference (Hello, Romney adviser!) and he has criticized both McCain and Obama where appropriate.

    And for the record, there are plenty of economists who back McCain too, even if he does say some stupid things.
    Mankiw also deserves credit for not signing the “economists against Obama” petition for reasons stated at his blog.