In Which Ezra Shows Why He is not Close to Conversion
By Arnold Kling
Michael Cannon and I would build very different systems, to be sure, but at base, we both believe the employer tie to be awful, and the insurers to suck, and the hospitals to be performing below expectations, and on, and on. The obstacles to reform are not intellectual disagreement or policy uncertainties — they’re interest groups trying to protect a system that benefits them.
To which Michael Cannon responds,
I’m ready to predict it: Ezra Klein will die a libertarian. And it won’t be a deathbed conversion, either.
I know where Michael is coming from. He is thinking, “if you believe that government is controlled by special interests, then sooner or later you have to come around to a belief in limited government.”
But in fact, Ezra is expressing the core belief of those on the left–that “we” know what’s right, but we are thwarted by “they” (they being special interests). If democracy just worked better, all would be well.
The role that conservatives or libertarians play in this drama is as allies of “they.” Some on the left, including Ezra, will concede that we are intellectually sincere. Others think that we are mere stooges, of the Thank You for Smoking ilk.
The fault, dear Ezra, lies not in our interest groups but in ourselves. That is, the irrational beliefs of the voting public shape our institutions and policies. In this regard, my latest essay and Bryan’s new book are aligned. Bryan and I draw different implications for political reform, but that’s another story.
The core belief of progressives is that if “we” were in charge, then policy and outcomes would be good. Bad policy outcomes can always be rationalized by saying that the people in charge are not “we.” Hence, the core belief of progressives is non-falsifiable. Hence, I don’t think Ezra’s conversion is inevitable, much less close.