Richard Epstein is Amazing

While commuting today, I listened to this podcast with Richard Epstein, on Econtalk (Russ Roberts’ invaluable series on economics-related topics). I highly recommend this, and the other podcasts in the ongoing series.

Whenever I hear Epstein speak, I’m incredibly impressed by the way he has so much information organized so well and explained so clearly and thoroughly. I realize that he’s a professor who is used to outlining and lecturing about complex technical material, but this is something extraordinary. Even if he were referring to notes, which I doubt, his ability to first describe the outline of what he’s going to explain, and then to explain it in long but perfectly executed sentences packed with information is just incredible to me.

Perhaps people like John Stuart Mill were able to think and speak like that in the 19th century, but very few people manage to do it today.

And They Have A Plan?

There was an intriguing Op-Ed in the Wall Street Journal last week comparing many of the Obama administration’s “plans” to that of the famous South Park underpants gnomes whose plan was:

Phase 1: Collect underpants.
Phase 2: ?
Phase 3: Profit!

It’s true that if you listen to the speeches and observe the policy prescriptions, the plans (e.g., diplomacy, health care, green “investment,” budgets, auto industry) do look a lot like that of the gnomes.

But, I don’t think Obama or his advisers are idiots.

I think that they believe that most of us are idiots.

I think they believe that their policy agenda is enlightened, and it doesn’t really matter how they get it. They think their ends justify almost any means. They have no problem lying about what causes will have what effects, or about what numbers will add up, or even about what their intentions are (net spending cut???). They’re confident that enough people will be gullible, or economically illiterate, or just generally innumerate enough to let them succeed in doing what they “know” will be best.

I don’t know about you, but I think it’s pretty disturbing.

I’m very confident that they’re wrong about what’s best.

I hope they’re wrong that enough of us are foolish enough to let them force it on us.