The article does kind of make me want to lay out my overall model for thinking about markets and government in 2019.
- The starting premise for me is "The Most Important Chart in the World" - that one that shows global gdp per capita being basically nothing until it takes off during the industrial revolution. I think the high level implications of that chart should be relatively uncontroversial. Capitalism defined as private property, market exchange with floating prices, and an ability to obtain returns on investments that work out - that is why everyone isn't poor and eating dirt. Markets are extremely powerful and we poo on them at our peril.
- The long run rate of growth is, after recognition of a set of rights that roughly correspond to the negative rights of libertarianism, the most important moral fact in the world. People attacking growth are attacking human wellbeing and the more significantly they do that the worse they are as people - they own considerable suffering by way of policies they advocate.
- I have no interest, none, in inequality of material wealth per se. I care about opportunity and mitigating poverty quite a bit. I think it entirely moral and appropriate to employ redistributive measures to ensure a base living standard. My view of base level is quite low relative to how other modern nations approach that question because I'm very concerned about the second point above. Related, I think equality of opportunity is not exactly the goal. That's not really a thing in a society with some people being born with more resources by many multiples. Not equality of opportunity, but a base line of opportunity. Schools should be better. Extra resources should be available to kids who have to overcome other features of their background, but that is not the same as saying school should be free or teachers should be paid more or everyone gets chromebooks or whatever, and you can't measure this by relative rates of success by demographics. Are kids who themselves are studious constrained by a low supply of quality educational opportunity? That's a thing we can attack. Are people struggling to feed themselves? Thats a thing we can attack. Do people without money wind up in comparable situations to people who do have money? That's probably not realistic as a goal and attempts to make that happen are going to be highly distortionary.
- Broadly, social welfare should be seen as a sliding scale. If you are unemployed you get enough for a basic pretty unpleasant life. If you are working you get sliding supplements like EITC designed to get you to a level above basic unpleasant life. Welfare should be a backstop against poverty not a universal "this is how everyone gets stuff" model.
- Things behave differently at different margins. "Distorting markets" is not a binary thing. Pretty much nothing is a binary thing. You may or may not notice the effects of a minimum wage set a small amount above prevailing wages. You almost certainly will notice effects at a minimum wage multiples of prevailing wages. I don't think traditional modes of libertarian thinking reasonably address this, preferring universal prohibitions based on negatives of distortions and perceived rights violations. If I'm evaluating a thing, I'm evaluating it at some margin of cost, effect and scale. Related, the way things are right now isn't Freedom (tm) and some policy change Tyranny (tm) or socialism or communism or whatever. Specific ideas have specific effects on growth, rights, etc. and I think for example the Republican view that healthcare was a market before ACA is a quite stupid take. Very often we are choosing among flavors of distortion and margins at which those distortions operate.
- Carbon is the largest uncaptured externality in the world and we should be taxing it. Any kind of tax involves some level of distortion and some level of deterrence to raise some level of funds. Taxing that thing would be a boon to society. The public case for funding basic research is quite strong. The public case of subsidy of nuclear is also quite strong. The case for solar is not very strong at all because it just doesn't produce much useful energy.