The Camden Bobos Proposal
By Arnold Kling
Below is a list of Ten Proposals for the next Administration, which came from a talk by Juan Enriquez. I thought that the main point of the talk is that politicians are dealing in unreality. Certainly, in the debates, every time the candidates were asked what needed to be cut back in view of the financial meltdown, they responded instead by talking about where they needed to spend more or bail people out. This talk threw a refreshing bucket of cold water on that rhetoric.
1. We have to save the dollar (AAA rating in jeopardy)
2. We have to fundamentally and brutally restructure debt
3. All entitlements are fair game. To begin with…
a. If you are 60 to 65 you probably just lost a big chunk of your nest egg.
(we don’t want anything from you)
b. If you are 55 to 60, we need two more years’ work from you
c. 55 and under, we need three or four more years from you
4. Cut back military by 2% per year for ten years
5. Cap medical costs at 18% GNP (going to be a cat fight, but we need to have it)
6. We have to triage our support for companies (don’t attempt to save dying whales)
7. The program has to be bipartisan. It has to make both Dems and Repubs unhappy
8. Simplify and broadly apply Sarbanes Oxley – apply it to government, apply it to hedge funds
9. We will invest in growing start up companies (which create the most jobs – this is where the economy is growing)
10. We will treat education as a varsity sport (and continue to recruit foreign PhDs)
I like (1), (3), (6), (7), (8), and (10)–if you listen to the talk by Juan Enriquez, you will see that treating education as a varsity sport means being willing fire people in order to win. I’ve been arguing for years about the need to raise the age of government dependency, also known as the Medicare and Social Security retirement age. Enriquez points out that the likely recession means a drop in tax revenues that is likely to accelerate the problems in Social Security. I would add that state and local pension plans are looking particularly sick right now.
I have plenty of doubts about capping health care spending, but in the talk Enriquez puts a lot of emphasis on not being able to pretend that health care is free. As far as I am concerned, if you take away the government subsidies, people can spend whatever they want on health care. I am not sure he would disagree.
On points (2) (9), I want to know what he means by “we.” If he means removing incentives to excess leverage and avoiding an ideology that opposes wealth creation, then I’m with him. If he means some form of central planning, then I’m not.
What is interesting is that the audience is pretty far to the left. I refer to them as Camden Bobos. The conference takes place in Camden, Maine, and the attendees exemplify David Brooks’ bourgeois bohemians. I did not attend the conference this year, but I have a couple of times previously. I wrote about the substance of the 2003 conference here. I wrote about the left-wing hubris at that same conference here.
So, here was a left-leaning audience giving a fairly enthusiastic reception to a talk that contained a lot of libertarian ideas. I count that as a win.
It will be interesting to see what happens to the wiki that the conference is trying to put together around the talk. I would think that mainstream political types would try to hijack it. It would be a lot more interesting if that did not happen.