The New York Times ran my favorite article so far from this election season on January 2. In it, economist David Leonhardt took a stab at describing the economic philosophies of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton based on the policy proposals they’ve made on the campaign trail. This is the sort of reporting I’d like to see a lot more of. The article had all of the attributes of the best political reporting we could hope for. The information is new, it’s useful to voters trying to decide among the candidates, and it’s the sort of analysis that requires both knowledge of economics and research to evaluate the candidates’ positions and see where they shake out philosophically, and it leaves you wanting to learn even more. In a campaign season distinguished mainly by coverage of the horse race, real analysis deserves to be recognized.
Here’s how Leonhardt summarizes the two philosophies:
The easiest way to describe Senator Clinton’s philosophy is to say that she believes in the promise of narrowly tailored government policies, like focused tax cuts. She has more faith that government can do what it sets out to do, which is a traditionally liberal view. Yet she also subscribes to the conservative idea that people respond rationally to financial incentives.
Senator Obama’s ideas, on the other hand, draw heavily on behavioral economics, a left-leaning academic movement that has challenged traditional neoclassical economics over the last few decades. Behavioral economists consider an abiding faith in rationality to be wishful thinking. To Mr. Obama, a simpler program — one less likely to confuse people — is often a smarter program.
It’s easy to find out how the candidates have responded to real issues that they’ve faced in the past, what I’m interested in is learning how they’re likely to respond to new problems that we can’t predict. This is the sort of analysis that can help.
Where’s the article contrasting the philosophies of the various candidates on foreign policy?