This is a post from Richard Taylor. The last time I stepped in as the
blogmasters' avatar I was posting from Italy, just south of Switzerland.
That seems like a good enough segue to muse for a moment on a great
article by the economist Robert Shiller in the Sunday
New York Times. (You have to read the article to find the connection.)
Noting the myriad federal subsidies to the housing industry, Shiller
asks "what is the long-term justification for putting taxpayers on the
line to subsidize home ownership?"
His answer is a complicated
one. I won't try to summarize it here; there is enough nuance and food
for thought that it deserves its own reading. I will say that I
appreciated having an economist acknowledge that our decisions cannot be
reduced to simple economic efficiency. He talks about the role of
values (and not the kind showcased on "The Price is Right"). In addition
to finding policies that make economic sense, those policies need to
take account of some fundamental values that run much more deeply in our
national psyche than simple economic efficiency. His point is a bold
one because his critics could argue that the values he describes are
contrary to the change in policy direction he seems to be proposing. He
seems more committed to recognizing, naming, the values than in winning a
technical argument (and willing to insist that we look deeply at the
values before jumping to policy conclusions). The piece feels like an
invitation to conversation rather than a prescription for legislation.
may differ with his take on our values as a nation. That could be an
essay in itself. To me, the first step is to acknowledge that values
have a place in the discussion. Now we can talk.