The Optional Society: An Essay on Economic Choice and Bargains of Communication in an Affluent World

Attraction Inequality and the Dating Economy
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Independently of the pecuniary question, schools and universities governed by the State are liable to a multitude of objections which those that are merely watched, and, in case of need, controlled by it, are wholly free from; especially that most fatal one of tending to be all alike; to form the same unvarying habits of mind and turn of character.

It is not clear to me that in the twentieth century, with the drying up of so many sources of private endowment, Mill would necessarily have frowned on extensive support of higher education from state sources. But it is very obvious that he would still have been foremost among those who seek, by one means or another, to insulate it as far as possible from direct operation and control from parliaments and ministers; and I suspect that he would have shown more approval to a tax system such as that of the United States, which provides direct and powerful incentives to gifts for educational and cultural endowments through its death duties, than that of Great Britain, which actively resists any movement in that direction.

In such circumstances, he argued, the case for government regulation of some sort was indisputable. Whether this should take the form of control of existing companies or of direct governmental operation, he held, was a matter to be decided on consideration of the technical circumstances in each case arising. So far as London water was concerned, in the absence of a suitable organ of London government, he favoured the appointment of a commissioner with elastic powers of reorganization and control. But the chapters are incomplete, and the question remains: what does this latest phase amount to?

It is very clear that there had been a sharp recoil from any sort of sympathy with revolutionary socialism in its totalitarian aspects. There is a sharp denunciation of all this in these chapters see especially II. So far as the more moderate and limited proposals for piecemeal experiment are concerned, I do not doubt that Ashley is right when he contends that there has been some retreat from the position of the chapters in the Edition: current; Page: [ xl ] third edition of the Principles. It would be wrong to suggest that there is now no sympathy: that is certainly not the case. But there is certainly much more caution and, I would judge, more inclination to insist on what can be done by reform within the institutional framework of the private property system.

I am reasonably clear that if the details of the treatment of the main problems of socialist organisation discussed respectively in the Principles and in these Chapters were placed in parallel columns and shown to some outside investigator, ignorant of the context of the query, he would judge the second column to show a position much less positive, much more sceptical, than the first.

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In the last analysis, however, more important than these nuances is the fact that the position of the third edition is by no means so strong as might be judged, either from the indications of change in the Preface or in the relevant passage in the Autobiography. The discussion of socialism in the chapter on property is not to be judged in isolation. And that, after all, should not be so surprising if we remember the famous passage in On Liberty alluding to these matters.

As we have seen, where there was no competition, Mill was not unwilling to experiment with municipal ownership and control. But on a future in which state ownership had become widespread, his verdict was unequivocal. And the evil would be greater, the more efficiently Edition: current; Page: [ xli ] and scientifically the administrative machinery was constructed—the more skilful the arrangements for obtaining the best qualified hands and heads with which to work it.

But taken by themselves, they would still represent a very significant achievement, a body of pronouncements on economic theory and the relations between economics and social philosophy which has no obvious rival among the productions of other writers on these subjects in the literature of the period. He meant, rather, that he had had his say, that the circumstances of his life had permitted him adequately to set forth his views on the various matters on which he wished to make a contribution. And that was surely true. He had indeed developed and elaborated a system of thought so comprehensive and impressive that it came to dominate, perhaps more than it should have done, the thought of his generation, and it is not surprising that eventually there should have been some reaction against it, a reaction which we can now see went much too far and ran the risk of losing much of great value.

It is for this reason that for a generation disillusioned with systems, he once more appears as a highly admirable figure: a man with a firm hold on the ultimate values of truth and justice and liberty, with strong principles and a strong belief in their applicability; yet, once the high spirits and arrogance of youth had been transcended, fair in argument, willing to learn from experience, empirical in practical judgment, experimental in action. In the intervening century that judgment has been altered, and Mill is far more often thought of as an economist than as a logician. By quantitative standard alone, the recent view has been more correct, for Mill cultivated his interest in economics more assiduously and constantly than any of his other interests.

His first published writings were the letters on the measure of value referred to by Lord Robbins p. In almost every one of the intervening years he wrote something of interest to students of economics, although seldom is it possible to say that an article or letters or speech is of interest only to economists, and hardly ever that it is of more interest to economists than to others. This situation presents the editor with an extremely difficult choice. The solution is, then, to gather here those writings in which the economic interest is paramount, and to place those in which it is secondary in volumes centring on, for example, political science and contemporary events.

Like other nineteenth-century authors, Mill thought no subject distinction necessary in collected volumes, and included in his Dissertations and Discussions essays on aphorisms and on Austin, on Coleridge and on currency. In these, the first volumes of the edition to be made up of short monographs, essays, reviews, and similar pieces, this policy of grouping by subject has guided us, and it is followed in each of the volumes of collected pieces throughout the edition. Letters, speeches, journals, and newspaper writings, however, are gathered by provenance and kind.

Mill himself expressed firm opinions on the republication of periodical writings. The remainder were either of too little value at any time, or what value they might have was too exclusively temporary, or the thoughts they contained were inextricably mixed up with comments, now totally uninteresting, on passing events, or on some book not generally known; or lastly, any utility they may have possessed has since been superseded by other and more mature writings of the author.

Whatever the justice of his comments at that time, they are not now valid. Whether the subject of study is Mill himself, nineteenth-century thought, or nineteenth-century history, the items in this volume are of interest and value. Individually, it may be, some of them are slight, but in the context of the volume and the edition each gives, at the very least, detail that otherwise would be lacking. It is unlikely that economists will question seriously the inclusion of any of the essays in these volumes; it is hardly to be expected, however, that the principles of exclusion will please everyone.

These are reserved for a volume containing all his newspaper writings: first, because that volume, read in conjunction with the Letters and the Autobiography, will give a clearer picture of the range of interests throughout his life than is otherwise possible; second, because, as intimated above, it is impossible to select among them without inconveniencing those wishing to study other aspects of his thought. For example, it would certainly be reasonable if space allowed to include here his leading articles on Irish problems in the late s; to do so, however, would be to reject the more reasonable policy of joining them with his other writings on Ireland—in this imperfect world, where all goes by approximation, it has seemed most reasonable to put them with his other writings for the ephemeral press.

Other exclusions may be illustrated by examples. The major weight of the article, however, bears upon political rather than economic questions, and so it is gathered into the volume of Essays on Politics and Society. These are hard examples—both essays were seriously considered for inclusion here—and it is hoped that the reader will be able to see similar reasons for other exclusions.

XII Aug. One other unfortunate gap should be mentioned: the manuscript of the work submitted by Mill in to the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge has disappeared without record. See Edition: current; Page: [ xlvi ] Francis E. Mineka, ed. The reasons for grouping essays by subject within the edition apply with less force to arrangements within individual volumes.

Chronological ordering, which allows a clear view of development of interest and idea, and fixes periods, appears best. Most of the items in these volumes were not republished by Mill: he included three of them in the first edition of Dissertations and Discussions; 2 and five were republished in by his step-daughter, Helen Taylor, in the fourth volume of Dissertations and Discussions we do not know if Mill himself had a hand in the selection. The volume of Essays on Some Unsettled Questions of Political Economy was also republished by Helen Taylor, in , without significant alterations; the fifth essay in this work is a revised version of an article in the Westminster Review.

In establishing our text, we have ignored later republications, as they have no textual authority. Most of the major articles appeared first in the great reviews, nine in the Westminster including the one republished in the Essays on Some Unsettled Questions , five in the Fortnightly, and one in the Edinburgh.

In Appendices see p. Specific details about the texts will be found in headnotes to each item. These are not, of course, designed as essays on the text. Five chapters on Socialism. Earlier versions, and those in which he may have had a hand though published Edition: current; Page: [ xlviii ] after his death , are collated with the basic text, and the resulting substantive variants are given as footnotes. The variants derive mainly from the republication of essays in Dissertations and Discussions; other sources are corrections by Mill in his own copies, and the two manuscript fragments mentioned above.

It is likely that the essays in the first two volumes of Dissertations and Discussions were revised at the same time see xlvin above , and since Mill in the Preface to the first volume explains that he made no attempt to bring the essays into full coherence with his views in , it is not surprising that there are very few major alterations.

Mill did little rewriting for the second edition of Dissertations and Discussions; only fourteen of the variants, minor in nature, derive from that edition. The changes are best studied in their context, but a few general comments may be made. They are almost all corrections of misprints and misreadings found in the periodical versions; the two manuscript variants at pp. One interesting speculation: in a passage on p.

Apart from the variants reflecting the changes made in quoting the first of the Essays on Some Unsetled Questions in his Principles see headnote on p. Method of Indicating Variants. All the substantive variants are governed by the principles enunciated below, except for a few special cases, in which self-explanatory footnotes are given in square brackets and italics. These are of three kinds: addition of a word or words, substitution of a word or words, deletion of a word or words.

Addition of a word or words: see g-g. Information explaining the use of these abbreviations is given in each headnote, as required. Any added editorial information is enclosed in square brackets and italicized. Substitution of a word or words: see a-a. Here the different readings, in chronological order, are separated by a square bracket. Deletion of a word or words: see i. To avoid four levels of text on the page, a different method has been used to indicate the few changes in the notes supplied by Mill. Dates of footnotes.

Here the practice is to place immediately after the footnote indicator, in square brackets, the figures indicating the edition in which the footnote first appeared, if it was not in the first version. If no such figure appears, the note is in all versions. Punctuation and spelling. In general, changes between versions in punctuation and spelling are ignored. For the sake of purists, it might be noted that, given the obvious intrusions by the printer in other writings of Mill where we have the manuscript, and given the range of different periodical and other sources from which the items below are taken, there is insufficient reason to adopt accidentals from the earliest version, in Edition: current; Page: [ lii ] contravention of our normal acceptance of the latest version as copy-text.

Those changes which occur as part of a substantive variant are included in that variant, and the superscript letters in the text are placed exactly with reference to punctuation. As alterations in terminal punctuation indicate at least a slight change in emphasis, these are included, as are changes between italic and roman type.

Other textual liberties. The practice of heading articles in the reviews simply by an article number and the titles of the books under consideration makes it necessary to affix new titles in many cases. Similarly in other cases the original is inadequately titled, for example in the evidence before parliamentary committees. The dates added to the titles are those of first publication. The original footnotes to the titles, giving bibliographic information, have been deleted, and the information is given in the headnotes.

Typographical errors have been silently corrected in the text; the note below lists them. Also, in accordance with modern practice, all long quotations have been reduced in size, and the quotation marks removed. These pieces are taken out of the normal chronological order and appended for special reasons.

Appendix C is the examination paper for Girton mentioned above. For easy reference, the questions asked by members of parliamentary committees are treated as quotations under individual names. Not counting these or general references to Statutes and Parliamentary Papers, Mill refers to over publications in these papers, seventeen of which in whole or part or ostensibly he reviews, and from sixty of which he quotes. As would be expected, his most frequent citations are of Adam Smith and Ricardo, followed by those of McCulloch especially in the early essays , Edition: current; Page: [ lv ] Tooke, and Malthus.

There are fewer references to James Mill than one might expect, and only one to Senior. The collation with sources demonstrates further the trouble printers had with his hand, and displays his facility in translation from the French. The suppressions in quotations are of minor importance; worthy of note are his excisions of complimentary references to himself This Appendix serves as an index to persons, books, and statutes, so references to them are omitted from the Index proper, which has been prepared by R.

Constance Allen, my editorial assistant, R. Schoeffel and R. Davidson, the copy editors, and Professor F. Priestley, the General Editor, have helped expunge errors, the remainder of which must be debited to my sad account. To them, and to the members of the Editorial Committee of the Collected Works, my grateful thanks. It is also a pleasure to admit my indebtedness to the printing staff of the University of Toronto Press, whose struggles with an often unruly manuscript have never disrupted our relations. Westminster Review, II July, , Unsigned; not republished. By William Blake, Esq. London, Murray, There never, perhaps, was a period which presented to the political economist so many interesting objects of enquiry as that which has occurred during the continuance, and since the termination of the late war.

Peace, instead of its accustomed attendant blessings, seems to have brought calamity and distress upon almost every class of society; and the circumstances in which we are placed appear to be so peculiar and anomalous, as scarcely to admit of a satisfactory solution. We have seen landed proprietors without rents; farmers and manufacturers without a market; the monied capitalist ready to lend, and the merchant not wanting to borrow; a redundant capital, yet a redundant population; and the industrious poor compelled to apply, like mendicants, at the parish workhouse.

Before broaching a theory to explain an alleged fact, it would have been better if Mr. Blake had first ascertained whether the fact itself was real. To us he appears to have pursued a contrary course. He first started a theory; and because it suited his theory that there should be universal distress, he persuaded himself that universal distress existed. We confess, however, that it has hitherto escaped our observation.

We neither saw nor heard it, except in the cant of the agriculturists. Distress among the landlords, there undoubtedly was: as much distress as is implied in the necessity of contracting the expenses to which they had become habituated in the days of that good fortune, which was altogether unlooked-for and unearned, and of which, had they studied general principles, instead of scoffing at them, they would have foreseen the speedy termination. All classes, however, not directly or indirectly connected with the land, were so far from partaking in Edition: current; Page: [ 4 ] the agricultural distress, that they were actually in the enjoyment of unexampled prosperity.

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A few years before, the manufacturers complained of distress: but then, rents were high, and landlords insolent. Similar vicissitudes of distress and prosperity—to-day, agricultural prosperity and manufacturing distress—to-morrow, agricultural distress and manufacturing prosperity, may be expected to recur again and again without end, unless our corn laws should be repealed, or the seasons should cease to vary. Even Mr. Blake cannot assert it without contradicting himself. The great fluctuations, however, which have taken place during the last thirty years, in the prices of agricultural produce, are highly interesting phenomena, and every plausible attempt to explain them is worthy of some attention.

The ability, moreover, which Mr. Blake has displayed, even in the support of what we deem erroneous doctrines, and his general acquaintance, in which he is excelled by few, with the science of political economy, give an importance to his errors, even greater than they derive from the nature of the subject: since, if it can be shewn that even he could urge in their defence no arguments which may not be satisfactorily refuted, the true doctrines on this subject may be considered as placed beyond the reach of dispute.

There are three causes, to some one, or more, of which, the fluctuations in prices have been attributed:. Tooke, in his excellent work on High and Low Prices, enters into a detailed examination of these three suppositions; and arrives at the conclusion, that the variations in prices were owing, in some degree, to the alterations in the currency, but mainly to the seasons, and in no degree to war, except in as far as it tended to obstruct the supply of imported commodities.

In this opinion we fully coincide. To take even a cursory view of the evidence upon which it is founded, forms no part of our present purpose, and we must be content with referring the reader to Mr. Blake has adopted the theory of war demand: and upon this hypothesis, he endeavours to account, not only for that portion of the fluctuations in prices, which Mr. Tooke ascribes to the seasons, but even for that portion which Mr.

Tooke in conjunction, we believe, with all other political economists, except Mr.

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Blake ascribes to the alterations in the currency. Blake, in fact, denies that any depreciation whatever took place during the Bank restriction: and to prove this, is the ostensible object of his pamphlet. We have witnessed a depression of the exchanges, to a degree, and for a continuance, that has been unexampled. We have had the market price of gold exceeding the mint price, far beyond the limits that could have occurred if the Bank had been paying in specie.

We have seen the legislature compelled to pass an act to make Bank notes a legal tender, in order to prevent an avowed difference between payments in gold, and payments in paper. And all this accompanied by a general rise of price in most of the articles of consumable produce. Now, I have no hesitation in admitting, that all the symptoms just enumerated, are indications of an excess of currency, and of depreciation: and, further, that an over-issue of currency could not exist for any length of time, without producing these symptoms.

I have, however, perfectly convinced my own mind, that all the results above specified, may have arisen from causes not necessarily connected with an alteration in the value of the currency; and moreover, that such other causes are not hypothetical merely, but have been in actual operation. These other causes, it seems, are to be sought for in the war expenditure of government. I have very little doubt that the whole of these appearances may be traced, and will be found to have originated, in the enormous expenditure occasioned by the late war, the extent of which has perhaps had no parallel either in degree or duration, and never before has been combined with a restriction on payments in specie by the Bank.

By object is, to shew, that these effects not only may have arisen, but must have arisen, from such an enormous and continued expenditure, although the currency had remained in its most perfect state, and had been invariably kept to the due proportion which it ought to bear in relation to the commodities to be circulated by it.

In order not to perplex the argument, [he continues,] it will be advisable to divide the subject into two distinct parts: in the first of which, I shall endeavour Edition: current; Page: [ 6 ] to prove that the adverse exchanges, and the excess of the market price above the mint price of bullion, were mainly caused by the large foreign expenditure of government:—and in the second, that the general rise in the price of all consumable produce was the necessary effect of circumstances connected with the war, and the increased internal expenditure of government.

Blake has divided his work into two parts, corresponding with these two divisions of his subject. As the second part is of far greater importance than the first, because it includes the peculiar features of Mr. Blake ascribes the high premium on foreign bills to the increased demand for them on the part of government during the war, for the purpose of foreign payments. It might be asked, Why, after the premium on foreign bills had risen so much as to exceed the expense of transmitting bullion, when debtors would of course find it more advantageous to discharge their debts by the transmission of bullion than of bills, bullion was not sent abroad, and the equilibrium by that means restored?

In answer to this objection, Mr. Blake admits, that if the Bank Restriction Act had not then been in operation, the process which we have described would actually have taken place. As, however, no gold could be procured at the Bank, it was necessary to apply to the bullion-broker; who would consider that, by exporting bullion, and drawing a bill against it, which he could sell at a premium, he would gain the difference between the premium and the cost of carriage.

If, therefore, instead of exporting his bullion, he consented to sell it to an exchange broker for exportation, it must be at a price which would afford him at least equal profit. And thus, according to Mr. Blake, bullion rose in price, and gave rise to the supposition that our paper currency was depreciated; whereas in fact, it was not paper which fell, but gold which rose. This reasoning, we fear, will not bear examination. There can be no doubt that an absorption of bullion, either from a sudden government demand, or from any other cause, may raise the price of bullion, and depress the exchanges for a few days, or even for a few weeks; but it is well known by what process these effects are corrected.

A sudden enhancement of the value of the precious metals, which is tantamount to a sudden fall in the bullion values of all commodities, infallibly remedies itself, by causing an increase of exports, and a proportional diminution of imports. The steps of this process are so very generally understood, that we shall not weary the reader by tracing them. Blake himself does not call in question the general principle.

But he endeavours to prove this case to have been an exception. His argument principally rests upon the obstacles thrown in the way of exportation by the anti-commercial decrees of the French government. Because these obstacles greatly enhanced the cost of conveying goods from this country to the continent, he assumes that they counteracted the effect which the rise in the value of bullion would otherwise have had in promoting exportation. Some estimate, [says he,] of the extent of these difficulties, and of the expenses of sending goods to the continent, may be formed from the fact that during the Milan decrees, the insurance against the risk of seizure in the ports of the Baltic could not be effected for a less premium than from 20 to 30 per cent.

Note to p. The expense of exportation may have attained any amount, and the argument might not be affected by it. The question is, not what was the expense, but whether the profit exceeded the expense. It is necessary here to call in some chronological considerations. Down Edition: current; Page: [ 8 ] to the year , the difference between paper and gold was a mere trifle.

So early as the close of the year , the obstacles to direct commercial intercourse between this country and the continent, were as great as at any subsequent period. From these facts, two inferences may be drawn. This renders Mr. In the years and , notwithstanding the enhanced expenses of transit, exportation proceeded not only to its usual extent, but to an extent rather exceeding the average of the preceding four years: as is apparent from the following table.

At the end of this period, it is to be observed, that the exchange was nearly at par, and gold nearly at the mint price. Then came, according to Mr. Blake, a sudden rise of the value of bullion, not only relatively to paper, but relatively to commodities: a rise, let us suppose, of 10 per cent, equivalent to a fall of 10 per cent in the bullion values of commodities. There can be no doubt, that if this 10 per cent were the whole of the profit upon exportation, and the charges exceeded 10 per cent, no exportation could take place.

But, in the present case, the 10 per cent, instead of being the whole of the profit, was exactly 10 per cent superadded, to a profit already sufficient. Nothwithstanding the obstructions to commerce, goods could be exported and sold with the ordinary profit, while they remained at their Edition: current; Page: [ 9 ] former value in the home market. It follows, that when goods fell 10 per cent below their former value, the profit upon their exportation must have been increased by 10 per cent. They could already be exported with the ordinary profit; they could now be exported with the ordinary profit, and 10 per cent more.

It will not be maintained, that an occurrence took place which must necessarily have added 10 per cent to the profit upon exportation, and that an increase of exportation was not the consequence. A rise of three, two, or even one per cent, in the value of bullion, would have sufficed to produce such an exportation of goods, as would have speedily sunk bullion to its former level.

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This reasoning appears to us conclusive. It proves that gold neither did, nor could, experience a rise of any duration as compared with commodities, by reason of the government expenditure. The conclusion, however, does not rest solely upon this basis, strong as it is.

Let it be supposed for a moment, that gold rises in this country 10 per cent; or which is the same thing, that all commodities fall 10 per cent, as compared with gold. This effect would correct itself, partly, as we have observed, by promoting exportation; but partly also by discouraging importation.

If some commodities, which were before too dear, are now cheap enough, to be exported; there are some commodities also, which were imported before, but which, having fallen in the home, without falling in the foreign market, can be imported no longer. The exports therefore would be increased, the imports diminished, and gold would be imported, until prices, in both countries, were restored to their former level. Suppose, now, that from any cause whatever, an increase of exportation should become impossible: the same result which was formerly brought about by two causes, increased exportation and diminished importation, would now be brought about by the latter cause only.

Merchants might be prevented from exporting at a profit, but they could not be forced to import at a loss. The imports must be diminished: and as the inducement to diminish them would only cease, when the influx of gold had sunk the metal to its former value, a much greater diminution would be necessary, than would have been required if the current of gold had been swelled by an increase of exportation. If then we were to grant to Mr. Blake the full value of his assertion, that the obstructions to commerce prevented any increase of exports, the refutation would not be, on that account, the less complete.

He will scarcely contend that anti-commercial decrees prevent commerce from being diminished, however much they may prevent it from being increased. He may urge, indeed, that the imports were not in fact diminished, or not to the extent which would have been necessary to restore the value of gold. This we admit: and we regard it as a decisive reductio ad absurdum of his Edition: current; Page: [ 10 ] own argument. It must, we think, be allowed, that if bullion rose in value, and the exports were not increased, the imports must have been diminished. If then it be true that the imports were not diminished, one of two things must necessarily follow.

Either bullion did not rise, or, bullion having risen, the exports were increased. Both suppositions are equally fatal to the hypothesis of Mr. If Mr. Blake should still hold out against arguments to all appearance so convincing, there is one fact, which we think, even he himself will acknowledge to be decisive. In the years and , all obstacles to exportation were removed; and in consequence of speculations on supplying the continental market with goods which had long been partially excluded from it, exportation was going on to an extent almost unexampled.

If, therefore, Mr. Yet so far was this from being the case, that gold was in that year at its highest elevation, being nearly 25 per cent above the mint price. On what principles can Mr. Blake explain this? We leave it for his consideration. There is one fact, to which Mr. This, however, only proves what no one ever denied; that a great and sudden disturbance in the ordinary state of the interchange between two countries, does not rectify itself all at once. The fall of the exchanges was evidently owing to a speculation upon the profit to be derived by supplying government with bills at a high premium, for immediate transmission to the continent.

It was a speculation such as no one who could trace the connexion of cause and effect would have made, since it was easy to foresee that the foreign payments would eventually be performed, by the transmission, not of bullion, but of goods. Had the war continued somewhat longer than it did, this would soon have been experimentally proved. But in consequence of the speedy termination of the war, the foreign expenditure of government did not take place to the extent which had been anticipated, and the exchanges and the price of gold speedily returned to their former level.

The attempt, therefore, to prove that the high price of gold and the low exchanges were the effect of war expenditure, in whatever light we regard it, appears equally abortive. Not content with maintaining his own position, Mr. Blake steps out of his way to combat one of the most important principles in the theory of foreign commerce, as laid down by Mr.

Ricardo; a principle which, by the way, we are almost led to doubt whether he fully comprehends. Ricardo, whose opinions upon subjects connected with political economy will always be received with the deference due to one whose writings have so much contributed to the advancement of the science, entertains such very peculiar notions on the subject of exchanges, that I do not see how he can attain a correct view of the bearings of this question: for he seems to maintain, in all his publications, that the variations of the exchange arise solely from the variations in the comparative value of the currencies of different countries, and does not admit that the exchange is dependent upon the balance of debts and credits.

Now we will take upon ourselves to assert that Mr. Ricardo never maintained so preposterous a doctrine, as that the exchange is not dependant upon the balance of debts and credits. What he maintained was, that the balance of debts and credits among the countries of the world, is dependant upon the comparative values of their currencies, and in the ordinary state of the intercourse between one nation and another, when their mutual transactions are of a purely commercial nature, and when neither goods nor gold are exported and imported for any other purpose than that of deriving profit from them; the proposition of Mr.

Ricardo, is, in our opinion, strictly true. And this, we think, a very slight consideration will suffice to show. There is a certain state of the precious metals throughout the world, to which they have a constant tendency to approximate: a state in which their value, although not equal in all countries, differs only in proportion to the unavoidable differences in the cost of conveying them from the mines, and in which, therefore, they cannot be exported from one country to another with advantage.

When the precious metals are distributed in this manner among commercial countries, their imports and exports exactly balance one another, and the exchange is at par. Let us now suppose that the exchange between England and some other country, say France, has become unfavourable to England: and let us consider, what may be inferred. In the first place, it is evident, that a balance of the precious metals is due from England to France.

England, therefore, must have imported more than she has exported: in other words, it does not suit her to pay for the whole of her imports by means of goods.

Communication in the Real World

Now this is in itself a proof that the habitual distribution of the precious metals has been disturbed. Had it been otherwise, it would still have been, as before, more profitable for England to pay for her imports in goods than in gold. She now exports gold; formerly she exported goods only: gold, which was before a disadvantageous remittance, has now become an advantageous one. One of two things, therefore, must have happened: gold must either have fallen in England, or risen in France. In either case, the variation in the exchange is caused by a variation in the comparative values of the two currencies.

It does not enter into our present purpose, to refute all the objections which have been brought against this theory; but one objection, which has Edition: current; Page: [ 12 ] been urged by Mr. Blake, as it is extremely plausible, is worthy of a concise refutation. It is easy to conceive an intercourse between trading nations of the following description. England might send hardware to Spain, Spain might send wool to France, and France send wine to England; in which case the respective debts and credits would be liquidated through a circuitous remittance, known technically by the term arbitration of exchange.

The direct exchanges, however, between England and Spain would be in favour of England; between Spain and France, in favour of Spain; and between France and England, in favour of France. If these exchanges are to be considered as indicating a corresponding difference in the value of the respective currencies, it would follow that the currency of England was more valuable than that of Spain; that of Spain more valuable than the currency of France; and the currency of France more valuable than that of England: that is, A greater than B, B greater than C, and C greater than A, which is evidently impossible.

This reasoning, as it appears to us, is wholly founded upon a misconception of the facts. The case is, that the exchange between England and Spain would not be in favour of England, nor that between France and England in favour of France. The exchange would, in all the three countries, be at par. And we are surprised that Mr. Blake, who is not only an acute reasoner but a practical man, should not be aware that this would necessarily be the case. The exchanges in any country, in England for instance, do not depend upon the balance of her commercial transactions with one country, but upon the balance of her total commercial transactions with all countries.

England may export to Spain, without importing any thing in return: she may also import from France, without exporting the value of a farthing to that country. But it does not follow, either that her exchange with Spain would be favourable, or that her exchange with France would be unfavourable. She would pay her debt to France with bills upon Spain: and it is abundantly manifest, that if the balance due by Spain to England, was exactly equal to the balance due by England to France, the supply of bills would precisely equal the demand, and the exchanges would neither be favourable nor unfavourable to England, but would be exactly at par.

The first part of Mr. Having proved, as he thinks, that the high price of gold, and the depression of the exchanges, do not afford any conclusive evidence of a depreciation, Mr.

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Blake informs us, that the only remaining circumstance from which the existence of a depreciation was inferred, the high range of general prices, remains to be accounted for. One of the causes which he considers to have been instrumental in producing this phenomenon, is taxation: but, if we may judge from the very elaborate attempt which follows, to trace up the greater part of the effect Edition: current; Page: [ 13 ] to a very different cause, Mr. Blake himself does not attach much weight to the influence of taxation, in occasioning the high prices. We shall therefore content ourselves with repeating a remark which has been made by Mr.

The whole of the taxes, which existed during the war, including land-tax, tithe, and poor-rate, with the exception of the income-tax, continued without any diminution, down to the summer of The lowest point in the depression of prices was thus attained, before a single tax, by which prices could possibly be affected, was taken off. If taxation had raised prices, taxation would have prevented them from falling.

How can that be the cause of the high prices, which equally subsisted when prices were at the lowest? The cause, however, to which Mr. Blake principally ascribes the high range of general prices, affirmed to have existed during the war, is a supposed extra demand, which he considers to have been produced by the war expenditure of government. Upwards of five hundred millions of capital were borrowed and spent by government from to inclusive.

This sum was employed, partly in the purchase of commodities, partly in the hiring of soldiers, sailors, and various other classes of unproductive labourers. The large sums thus expended in the purchase of commodities, would not, he thinks, have been so expended, but for the war; and he considers it to have raised prices. The sum which was expended in the purchase of labour raised wages; and the increased funds thus placed at the command of the labourer, constituted in his hands an additional source of demand, which still further raised the prices of commodities.

A strong stimulus was thus given to production, and a great extension to consumption. On the peace, this stimulus ceased: the extra demand generated by the war expenditure no longer had any existence: prices fell; producers were ruined; and the consequence was, a great diminution of production. Two fallacies are involved in this reasoning: first, that of supposing that expenditure, as contradistinguished from saving, can by any possibility constitute an additional source of demand: and secondly, that of conceiving that capital which being borrowed by government becomes a source of demand in its hands, would not have been equally a source of demand in the hands of those from whom it is taken.

A mass of capital which is lent to government, and an equal mass which remains in the hands of the capitalist, are both consumed, and both, possibly, within the same space of time. The difference is, that the first, when consumed, leaves nothing behind it, the other, leaves in its place another Edition: current; Page: [ 14 ] capital not only equal, but greater: for, having been productively consumed, it has been re-produced with a profit. Both, while the consumption is going on, are equally sources of demand: but no sooner is the one consumed, than the demand which it afforded ceases to exist: the other continues to afford a demand, which instead of diminishing, continually increases, as often as the capital is re-produced with a profit.

From this it may be seen, how fallacious every argument is, which proceeds upon the supposition that a fund becomes a source of demand by being spent, while it would not have become so by being saved.

Free Thought Lives

A loan is a mere transfer of a portion of capital from the lender to the government: had it remained with the lender it would have been a constant and perennial source of demand: when taken and spent by the government, it is a transitory and fugitive one. Blake maintains, that the capital borrowed by government is not removed from a productive employment, but would have lain dormant in the hands either of the lender or of some one else, in the shape of goods for which no market could be found.

This he considers himself to have proved by a species of reductio ad absurdum. He argues that if a sum amounting to upwards of twenty millions had been annually withdrawn from productive employments,—if the whole of the five hundred millions which were expended by government during the war, had been really subtracted from the capital of the country, production would have been diminished to that extent, wages would have been lowered, millions of people thrown out of employment, and misery and desolation would have overspread the kingdom.

Such a state of affairs, [says he pp. The funds which gave subsistence to twenty millions of people, cannot have disappeared without our being aware of the loss; and during a period when, instead of distress from want of employment, we have witnessed the greatest activity in every department of industry, every symptom of increasing capital, increasing wages, and increasing population, affording the strongest evidence of prosperity and wealth. There must either be some gross and radical error in the theory that leads to such absurd results, or, in making the application of the theory to the actual circumstances of the country, some material fact must have been overlooked that has either corrected or mitigated the desolation that would otherwise have ensued.

From this language it may be inferred, that Mr. Blake is ignorant of the arguments of those whom he professes to refute. They have never contended that the capital of the country was actually diminished to the extent of the funds spent by government. Their assertion has always been, that the Edition: current; Page: [ 15 ] accumulation going on in the hands of individuals was sufficient to counteract the effect of that wasteful expenditure, and to prevent capital from being diminished. The same accumulation would have sufficed, but for the government expenditure, to produce an enormous increase.

It being evident, that the capital expended by government is not a new fund suddenly called into existence, but a fund which already existed, in the hands of the producers; Mr. Blake is forced, as we have seen, to assert, that it existed in the form of goods, for which there was no demand. This compels him to maintain the fallacy of the universal glut: a fallacy of so much consequence, that a more than ordinary degree of attention is required for its examination. To avoid the suspicion of misrepresenting any part of Mr.

The political economists of the present day have endeavoured to shew that profits never permanently fall in consequence of the competition of capitalists, lowering price by over-production. They admit that there may be a partial glut of particular commodities, from miscalculation of the wants of the market; but that over-production can never induce a general glut, and that profits will not fall from this cause, but will be regulated by the rate of wages, and the rate of wages by the quality of the last land taken into cultivation.

This doctrine, I think, has been pushed a little too far. It proceeds upon the assumption that every addition to capital necessarily creates its own demand; but in applying the theory to the actual circumstances of mankind, some inseparable conditions appear to me to have been overlooked. It takes for granted, that new tastes, new wants, and a new population, increase simultaneously with the new capital; a supposition which is not consonant with the fact.

The advocates of this theory contend, that demand and supply are correlative terms, and must always exactly balance each other. That any commodity being in excess proves the efforts of the capitalists to have been misdirected, and that there must be a corresponding deficiency in other things. Nothing can be more clear than that, in order to make a demand, you must have an equivalent to offer in exchange. Something must be produced to demand with.

In other words, the terms demand and supply merely express that one sort of supply is exchanged against another sort of supply. This is perfectly true as far as both sorts of supply are wanted for consumption. If one set of capitalists produce a given quantity of cloth beyond their own immediate wants, and another set of capitalists produce an equivalent quantity of corn, also beyond their wants, the surplus quantity of corn may be exchanged against the surplus quantity of cloth, and thus afford a profitable market to each other.

But this proposition implies that there is not more corn and cloth in the whole than the two classes of capitalists want to consume. If more than that is produced, the surplus is absolute waste on both sides; and all the labour thrown away. I shall be asked, no doubt, does not this arise from miscalculation on the part of the producers? Undoubtedly it does, but it is not an excess of one commodity, and a deficiency in another.

It is an excess of both. Why then were the corn and the cloth produced? For this plain reason: neither the corn grower, nor the cloth maker, could know that there would be an excess, till the excess occurred. Each Edition: current; Page: [ 16 ] depended upon a market, and was mistaken. If every thing could be foreseen, mankind would not miscalculate, and there would be no overstocking of the market. But they do miscalculate, and the market is overstocked. When savings are devoted to re-production, each manufacturer employs the additional capital in fabricating that class of commodities which he has been in the habit of making.

But if there was already more than sufficient, the addition must still further increase the excess. How is it possible for this process to continue without a fall in prices, and a lower rate of profit to the capitalist? The argument which proves that there never can be that general want of market which is described in the above passage, possesses a greater degree of cogency than is often found in the moral sciences.

Bob Casey, or Sen. Michael Bennet support something like this? At least 10 — 12 Democratic defections in the Senate doomed the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill, and that happened when Democrats held 58 seats in the Senate with two Independents who caucused with the party. This ought to tell you something.

Moreover, a significant number of important Democrats and coalitional actors have recoiled from the resolution. The member New Democrat Coalition — the largest Democratic caucus in the House — has already signaled their opposition. In sum, the Green New Deal resolution much less any actual legislation has a long way to go before it could even win a vote in the Democratic caucus, much less in the United States Congress. If the legislative record since is any guide , research by political scientists James Curry and Francis Lee suggests that your chance of passing Green New Deal legislation without Republican support is probably no more than about 4 percent.

And if you somehow manage to do so because you eliminated the filibuster rule, you better hold on for dear life. Any Republican congressional majority in the future will be well-positioned to wipe the Green New Deal off the map. Some of you concede that the Green New Deal is unlikely to pass in the th Congress even if Democrats take both branches of government in What then?

A progressive Democratic president, by this telling, would use their bully pulpit to highlight the climate emergency and hammer congressional opponents of the Green New Deal. This either forces Republicans to capitulate in order to save their seats or puts the issue at the top of the political agenda in , electing a large number of new legislators committed to the Green New Deal in the th Congress If legislative support is still insufficient for victory, a general election dominated by the Green New Deal will deliver the additional votes in the Senate necessary to get it through in the th Congress First, using the presidential bully pulpit to hammer the political opposition and heighten partisan conflict is a recipe for disaster.

Or George W. Even putting aside the deep ideological disagreements that divide the parties, when the president stakes his reputation on a political fight, in a zero-sum political system, an ambitious minority party almost has to oppose him. To join him would mean joining his reelection campaign, and putting their own jobs, not to mention their chances of regaining the White House, at risk.

Getting legislation through Congress is far better achieved by quiet persuasion done behind the scenes than by pounding the pulpit. Second, your faith in the transformative power of presidential barnstorming to mobilize public opinion is greatly misplaced. While a number of considerations explain the inability of presidents to move public opinion in their direction, the most important is that the public preference for more or less government always moves against that of the incumbent president.

Given the incredible ambition of the Green New Deal, the public blowback against an administration trying to move it is likely to be substantial. Third, your faith in the ability of progressives to employ hardball tactics to compel moderate Democrats to support the Green New Deal is likewise misplaced. Moderates are reluctant to embrace extreme policies like the Green New Deal for a reason ; in competitive states or districts, those policies prove politically toxic , particularly given the pattern of movement in public opinion identified by Stimson. And as far as the ability of progressives to use threats to force fellow Democrats to give in to their political demands an ambition floated by Rep.

Ocasio-Cortez that excites a lot of your crowd , you would seem to have learned the wrong lessons from the Freedom Caucus. It proved unable to enact substantial conservative legislation in the th Congress, and the GOP nominated an unorthodox former Democrat for the presidency who appeared to have few strong ideological preferences. You should be running away from this model of political engagement, not running towards it. Moreover, you risk turning the Democratic Party into a leftist clone of the Republican Party , where an activist base angrily demands the politically impossible from its legislators.

We know what follows from that; a constant spiral of increasingly extreme uprisings and purges driven by frustration and anger over perceived betrayals of the cause by party leadership. In what upside-down universe, for instance, is Sen. Why launch a high-profile assault on former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg really, get a load of this , a climate hawk whose work via Bloomberg Philanthropies has done more to decarbonize the U.

Nor are mainstream environmental organizations and former Vice President Al Gore worthy of crosshairs on their backs. Fourth and finally, political windows of opportunity open only unpredictably and rarely, and they tend to close quickly. Your strategy assumes the contrary; that they can be forced open through raw political force and kept open by the same. If a window of opportunity for ambitious climate action opens in , then climate activists will have to be prepared to take advantage of it in short order before it closes again.

You may be proven correct, but like political scientist Matt Grossmann, I doubt it. I suspect that the present surge in progressive sentiment has less to do with a long-term swing to the progressive left than with the utterly predictable public response — per Stimson — to the most hard-right and politically noxious presidency in modern times. In , liberals thought their day in the sun had finally arrived with the election of Barack Obama, only to have their hats handed to them in the midterms, in part because of their passage of the quite-moderate Affordable Care Act.

In these cases, I — like you — read too much into swings in public opinion because it is easy to confuse thermostatic public response to incumbent administrations with secular changes of underlying ideological sentiment. Consequently, they push their political champions to deliver more than is politically possible and overplay their hand.

Yet you talk as if climate change will serve as a catalyst for an ideologically charged, DSA-inspired mass electoral uprising. Organizing interest groups that can mobilize supporters is far more practical than planning for mass electoral uprisings. And happily for you, interest groups can be deployed to good effect even if they represent minority policy preferences e.

Being able to mobilize a hundred or so kids for protests in congressional offices is not the same as being able to mobilize millions of voters to pressure politicians to embrace the Green New Deal. And overcoming Republican intransigence is the only way that ambitious climate policy is ever going to come to fruition. You are wrong, however, to think that grassroots activists can force legislators to bend to your will.

Policy change is not reliably driven by electoral outcomes or public opinion. It is instead a product of intense insider activity to overcome profound status quo biases in the political system—biases that are not easily moved by external political pressure or material resources. A review of the political histories of the most significant policy changes over the past 70 years a universe of legislative enactments finds that only 2.

Only 9. And only I find no issue areas where policy outcomes are primarily a product of public opinion, media coverage, or research trends. Insular policymaking via cooperation among political officials and interest groups is not merely a type of political conflict; it is the typical form of policymaking across the issue spectrum.

Perhaps the most critical problem with your strategy, however, is your fundamental misunderstanding of the American political landscape at the proverbial 50,foot level. Fantasies of total progressive victory at least on the economic front are difficult to imagine in wealthy societies, because the wealthier a society is, the more adverse it is to redistribution at the margin. To put it in a manner that might resonate with you, getting excited about transient public opinion survey data and electoral outcomes is akin to confusing weather for climate.

We know empirically that, as we get richer, the demand for redistribution declines. Moreover, as wealth increases, the number of people who can self-insure against social risks increases as well, reducing demand for government-provided social insurance. Part of this is by choice e. The GOP cannot discipline its more extreme members, cannot protect moderate members from primary insurgents, and cannot stand up to its more militant coalition members with minority political preferences e. Accordingly, they dissipate electoral advantages by policy overreach.

The close competition between the two parties is thus a residue of the different strategy each party employs, with the Republican Party being more inclined to go for broke to serve their coalition members and the Democratic Party being less willing to do the same. The Green New Deal, however, would represent a reversal of the only thing that has been keeping the Democratic Party competitive in American politics: taking a smaller policy premium in government. By this light, the midterm election is best interpreted as what happens when the Democratic Party tries to take a significant policy premium; first with the Affordable Care Act and then with the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill.

If anything, the Democratic Party is probably in a slightly worse position now to move the Green New Deal than it was before the election of Donald Trump. If by some miracle the Green New Deal were to pass, it would be unlikely to stick due to the near certainty of ferocious political blowback. It does you no good if you pass the Green New Deal, moderate Democrats all take a beating in the next election, and Republicans come in and reverse it … along with a lot of other liberal policies as well.

That ideas can move the world? Do that, you say, and we can do what today seems impossible. There are two problems with your argument. First, it misunderstands how public opinion is formed. Instead, the concept of the Overton Window came into this world only a bit more than a decade ago as a fundraising tool for a Michigan-focused libertarian think tank called the Mackinac Center.

It was then launched into popular culture by a rather unhinged novel in by former Fox News personality Glenn Beck. Before I go any further, a disclosure: While the Overton window hypothesis was cooked up by deceased Mackinac executive Joe Overton , his colleague Joseph Lehman helped write it up and gave it public birth. Lehman is an old colleague of mine whom I got to know when we both worked at the Cato Institute Lehman was Vice President of Communications there for a brief period of time , and he served as a member of the Niskanen Center advisory board from December through August What the prophets of the Overton window fail to fully appreciate is that radical ideas only gain purchase if they are subsequently adopted by a significant number of political elites influential journalists, politicians, public officials, academics, experts, and politically pregnant cultural agents.

That is, ideas only have power if they prove compelling to influential, educated people who directly or indirectly traffic in ideas for a living. Ideas outside the boundaries of normal political discourse are outside of the Overton window for a reason: they have failed a market test. The problem is not necessarily that they have been abandoned by true believers or given too little voice.

The problem is that they have been judged unconvincing by the elites who, in turn, are instrumental in shaping public opinion. It is certainly true that ideas can wax and wane in popularity, moving into and out of the so-called Overton window. The important point, however, is that this movement occurs only because something happens to make those ideas more or less attractive to political elites. Accordingly, the fundamental problem I have with your Overton window argument is that it assumes more agency on your part than is warranted. You are akin to the director of a sales department that is marketing a product your prospective customers have rejected for decades.

Even if you do manage to move the Overton window, what then? Your rhetoric reminds me of the famous transition from Seinfeld. There is a mountain of academic evidence demonstrating that changes in mass opinion have little relationship to changes in public policy. Finally, you run the risk of discrediting both yourself and your ideas — and in a larger sense, the entire cause of ambitious climate action — by doggedly pushing the Overton Window with radical-fringe arguments that leave political elites and public intellectuals cold.

Political elites often conclude that people living on the other side of the Overton window are kooks not worth paying attention to. The price that radicals often pay is intellectual exile and political irrelevance. Knowledge of the Overton window is not a secret weapon that allows you to dismiss political reality. Nor is it a roadmap for reliably overturning the same. I fear that, by spending so much time upfront taking issue with your strategies and tactics — the problems of which are so profound and interrelated that it takes a lot of time to unpack — I may leave you with the impression that my complaints about the climate policy initiatives forwarded in the Green New Deal are secondary.

That is not the case. Despite the fact that I agree completely with your ambition, your sense of urgency, and your desire to fully decarbonize the economy on a rapid pace, you need to rethink how you propose to get from here to there. Because right now, your roadmap for climate action is a hot mess. Let me count the most obvious problems. For an excellent discussion about why this is flatly impossible, see an analysis published this month by J.

Granted, the Green New Deal resolution is ambiguous on this matter, but that ambiguity appears purposeful and thus presents a real problem. These technologies are as climate-friendly as wind and solar power, and they make decarbonization much easier to achieve. If climate change is truly a global emergency and it is we need to do everything we can to stop it.

Embrace of nuclear power and carbon capture and storage should be made clearly and explicitly. Third, you leave off the table a host of policy tools that climate hawks routinely reach for when game-planning cost-effective decarbonization. The resolution is silent, for instance, about the critical need for carbon pricing something that, in case you missed it, is strongly embraced by the very same IPCC reports you routinely cite to justify ambitious climate action.

It is likewise silent about the facilitation of denser urban construction, which has a huge impact on greenhouse gas emissions. The resolution has nothing to say about the need to return to the Paris Agreement. It is silent about the need to increase our financial contributions to the developing world to assist in decarbonization abroad. Every party actor becomes a veto player. One advantage of working across both parties is that fewer groups get to be veto players and thus extract a high price for their cooperation. And the more groups that can extract a high price, the more likely that the whole thing collapses from the weight of all these demands.

Besides, cost-effectiveness has been used as a shield against ambition in the past. Fifth, your means of paying for all of this is to simply print currency and to heck with inflation and the national debt. It has been fiercely criticized by just about every mainstream economist who has offered an opinion e. Otherwise, you show yourselves to be no different than your opponents.

Hugh Rockoff, Rutgers University

Long before today's electronic media made us aware of articulate "world An Essay on Economic Choice and Bargains of Communication in an Affluent World. The Optional Society: An Essay on Economic Choice and Bargains of Communication in an Affluent World. By Folke Dovring and Karin Dovring. The Hague.

When zealots of whatever stripe enter the realm of public policy, they almost invariably gravitate towards the weakest arguments, the dodgiest data, the most problematic theories, and the most dubious but convenient set of assumptions. It is absolutely critical that we have a well-vetted, politically attractive, ready-for-prime-time legislative package ready for the th Congress if a window of opportunity opens after the election. Putting together ambitious legislation like this, however, takes years.

A center of political gravity needs to be created around one of the many possible ways forward so that climate activists are united. Influential stakeholders outside of the NGO community need to be fully bought-in. Complex policy matters need to be carefully thought through, requiring an iterative process of engagement with hundreds of various political and policy experts given the dispersal of knowledge. Politically critical trade-offs need to be experimented with and tested.

Preliminary iterations of the package need to be debated in public in order to modify proposals in response to feedback. Politicians need to be made comfortable with the package, and for the typical, risk-averse politician, comfort takes time to build when so much political capital is on the line. The intense political and policy negotiations, compromises, and analyses required to do all of this occur primarily in the context of drafting actual legislation.

That is why successful legislative initiatives are usually iterative products of legislation introduced in previous Congresses. Unfortunately, I see few signs of that happening. Instead, I see a replay of the failed efforts to pass health care reform in previous Congresses. In —, for instance, a clear window of political opportunity was open for health care reform, but liberal health care advocates were split on what reform ought to look like. Before they could resolve matters, the window of political opportunity unexpectedly closed with the midterm elections, and, to their chagrin, it did not open again for more than a decade.

In , the window of opportunity for health care reform finally opened again, but health care advocates had failed to do the necessary work in the intervening 15 years. The Clinton administration tried to put together a health care reform package on the fly, but was unable to successfully do so before the window of opportunity closed once again with the midterm elections.