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July 2013

"The secret to Danish happiness"

Danes are supposedly very happy. Should we try to emulate them? This post gives what seems like a fair appraisal of the benefits and costs. Key paragraph:

Danish life seems to involve less uncertainty. You can be pretty sure that you aren’t going to strike it rich. There are only a handful of wildly successful enterprises in Denmark, e.g., Maersk and Novo Nordisk. At the same time you aren’t going to become destitute. So you can concentrate on stuff other than trying to earn more money, e.g., connections to family and friends, participation in community groups, hobbies, etc. These non-work items are the ones that happiness nerds say are the most important.

Note, though, that the Danes' trust of each other and of the their government would have been difficult for the U.S. to achieve 50 years ago. With all the water under the bridge since then, I conjecture it would be virtually impossible today.

More on Detroit

I just can't help myself.

Some on the Left repeat their profound failure to learn from history. Case in point: David Sirota's "Don’t buy the right-wing myth about Detroit". Sirota, echoing arguments heard elsewhere on the Left but presenting them with more detail and brio, blames Detroit's mess on 1) NAFTA, 2) "what happens when large corporations are allowed to write macro economic policy and dictate the economic future of an entire city," and 3) corporate welfare, as in "After years of robbing those pension funds to pay for such giveaways, a crisis inevitably hits, and workers’ pension benefits are blamed — and then slashed."

The last point has merit. But what Mr. Sirota fails to mention--surprise!--is which political party has held the Detroit mayor's office for the last 50+ years. And which respected man of the Left was mayor for twenty years and who, like his successors, presided over a substantial amount of the "corporate giveaways"? Isn't there an enormous lesson in that? If even the Democratic Party and the Left can't stand up to crony capitalism--heaven knows we can't expect those sleazy, greedy, two-faced conservatives to do it--what hope is there for Big Government? 

Reasonable cases for "Causality is really, really hard to determine" are made by Barry Goldman in the Los Angeles Times and, even better, by Megan McArdle

But while there are undoubtedly a large number of potential causes, I think there is an irrefutable case that a substantial proportion of the blame belongs with Big Goverment, both for what it did and did not do. Justin Pope in The Atlantic asks an excellent, key question:

But what was distinctive about Detroit? Other cities struggled mightily to adapt to the decline of manufacturing. But only Detroit struggled mortally - at least in terms of municipal cash flow. Why do Detroit's troubles so vastly exceed not only those of Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Chicago, but Baltimore, Providence, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, St. Louis and Rochester?

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