Friday Roundup, November 2nd

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  • Todd Zywicki reviews in Law and Liberty’s Books section Neil Barofskys’s Bailout: An Inside Account of How Washington Abandoned Main Street While Rescuing Wall Street.

It is now cliché to recite that a conservative is a liberal who has been mugged by reality.  Reading Neil Barofsky’s Bailout: An Inside Account of How Washington Abandoned Main Street While Rescuing Wall Street one keeps expecting that at some point he will draw the obvious conclusion from his sordid tale of serving as the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief (SIGTARP): that political opportunism, personal ambition, and special-interest influence will be inherent in any government activity, especially bailouts specifically designed to pick winners and losers in the marketplace, and if you don’t want politics, dishonesty, and special-interest influence, then don’t put government in charge of handing out $800 billion to politically-powerful interest groups.  Setting up a piece of cheese of that size to be handed out through the political process is going to draw rats to the feast.

Yet throughout his tome, Barofsky repeatedly remains shocked to find politics at the heart of the TARP process.  Even at the end he seems to believe that such programs can and should be insulated from political pressure—all that is necessary is to put people like him in charge and allow them to do what is right.

I worry that people have sunk too deeply into folk Keynesianism, in which economic activity consists of jobs and spending. Spending creates jobs, and jobs create spending. So let’s send everybody back into the city to work and spend. Instead, I would be inclined to shut down the hair salons and the boutiques for a few days longer in order to clear the roads to bring in generators and repair workers. . . .

  • Just what Michigan needs: In “The Last Gasp of Union Power,” Richard Epstein reports on the attempt to amend Michigan’s Constitution in favor of collective bargaining.