Kristol’s Conservative Economic Cluelessness

Now that he’s finished his series of columns giving sage political advice to John McCain (hey John, how’d that Palin pick work out for you?), Bill Kristol thinks he has some good ideas for a Republican party that is wondering whether it has any apparent reason for  continued existence.

To begin with, Republicans should:

…develop an economic agenda moving forward that seems to incorporate lessons learned from what’s happened…

Emphasis, mine. Reality slip, Kristol’s. It pretty much embodies the conservative inability to distinguish between spin and reality.

He does acknowledge reality here:

…Republican ticket lacking any coherent economic message

Then after an obsequious nod to faux humility (“I don’t pretend to know just what has to be done”), he proceeds to tell Republicans just what has to be done:

…free-marketers need to be less doctrinaire and less simple-mindedly

This from the decades-long doctor of doctrinaire. Now he’s acknowledging that conservative economics is  simple-minded. (It’s nice to know that there’s such a thing as progress.)

minded utility maximizing, by the way–creating prosperity for all–is an obvious goal for everyone; the question is how to achieve it. Decades of postwar empirical econometrics demonstrate that progressives know the answers to that question. Conservatives have simplistic (he got that right) faith-based theories that aren’t borne out by the facts on the ground. Which leads to:

…they should depend less on abstract econometric models

He doesn’t seem to understand that econometric models are rooted in data (though the analytic methods applied to this data are, of necessity, abstract). What conservatives have offered are napkin-scribbled economic theories and nostrums. When they use data, it’s almost uniformly cherry-picked, short-term statistical slices and dices creating rhetorical heat, not illumination. (This presumably because the long-term, big-picture data shows that their theories deliver less prosperity, not more.) Does Kristol think that “econometric” makes him sound knowledgeable and sophisticated? He should look words up in the dictionary before he uses them.

What else should Republicans do?

…take much more seriously
the task of thinking through what are the right rules of the road for
both the private and public sectors. They’ll have to figure out what
institutional barriers and what monetary, fiscal and legal guardrails
are needed for the accountability, transparency and responsibility that
allow free markets to work.

Notice his desperate avoidance of the “R” word (regulation). That aside, his advice here is excellent: Republicans should start thinking about creating good government, instead of destroying government.

In a final, frigid dose of reality, Kristol (while meaning something different) concludes his column by explaining the Republican party’s gravest problem:

…conservatives didn’t govern.

Problem is, we’ve already elected somebody who’s dedicated to doing that.

Maybe the Republicans can help?