Sunday, September 19, 2021

Motivated Reasoning

Part of my attempt to avoid being in a bubble is listening to the libertarian EconTalk. A recent episode tries to "debunk" the idea that Scandinavia countries have better social and economic policies than the United States. They argue that if you make various adjustments, economic mobility is no different in Denmark than in the U.S. 

But I honestly don't remember anyone ever arguing for Scandinavian policies explicitly for mobility sake. Why would that matter?

The main reason to have Scandinavian policies is that it would make people happier. These countries (despite having terrible winter weather and almost no daylight then) are clearly happier than the U.S. The EconTalk host, though, just dismisses happiness research out of hand. Nice.

Maybe look at life expectancy, as it is hard to say you're better off dead. People in Denmark live three years longer than the U.S.; Sweden four years longer. 

What really gets me, however, is child poverty. One in every seven children live in poverty in the United States; this is not the case elsewhere. (For more, please see Why Does the Richest Country in the World Have So Many Poor Kids?)

So my question to the economists is: Would you rather your next child (or grandchild) be born at random into circumstances in the United States or Scandinavia? (John Rawls Veil of Ignorance, discussed here.) That should be your judgement of a country's social and economic policies. 

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