Steve Landsburg (over email) did not agree with me that Krugman was wrong in the Great Debt Debate, allowing Ken B. and Gene Callahan to run victory laps. As punishment for this stance, I must now criticize a recent Landsburg blog post. (Sorry Steve but actions have consequences, as you should know by now.)
Anyway in a post with the clever title, “Can a Million Puppets All Be Wrong?” Steve writes:
The million-puppet march on Washington is advertised as a demonstration in favor of public broadcasting, but of course that’s not exactly what it is.
What it is, exactly, is a demonstration in favor of the current level of funding for public broadcasting.
Now: Just how many of those puppets — or how many of their human fellow marchers — do you imagine would be able to tell you what the current level of funding for public broadcasting is?
And insofar as these humans are out there marching and chanting without pausing to inquire into what they’re marching and supporting — well, I guess that explains their affinity for puppets. [Bold original.]
At first this sounds devastating, but actually I don’t think it works at all. Suppose I hear that my local government is going to raise property taxes. Am I allowed to object to that, even if I can’t tell you exactly how much I currently pay? I think that is totally fine.
For the people protesting–if they were coached by an economist on vocabularly but not given any information about current funding levels–presumably would say something like, “If they cut the budget for public broadcasting by $x million, then we will get less of the programming we love. In exchange, we’ll get a slightly smaller deficit or lower taxes on rich people, or more spending on bombs. I would rather keep things the way they are, than make those changes on the margin.”
What’s wrong with that, besides the fact that they want government funds at all? Steve was saying they are committing some kind of basic mistake, but I don’t see it.