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What can Brad DeLong tell us about “Real Social Democrats”?

June 6, 2011

Brad DeLong, as often happens, is way off target in his recent post “Real Social Democrats Worry about the Long-Run Deficit”:

…in the long run, either the government raises enough revenue to keep its deficit small enough that the debt-to-GDP ratio does not explode, or the market will do something to the economy and the government–and that something is something that we will not like at all.

To pretend that bringing the long-run spending and long-run taxing plans of the government into rough balance is not an essential task of economic policy is to work to end economic prosperity, and to end social democracy as well.

DeLong is a self professed neoliberal, a philosophy that’s destroyed much of social democracy over the past decades.  So it’s more than a bit doubtful DeLong can tell us what it means to be a real social democrat.

Contra DeLong, I’d suggest real social democrats are those who worry about just one over-riding problem: the domination of wealth throughout global society and its irreconcilability with the very possibility of social democracy.  Those who claim to be social democrats yet support cuts in existing social democratic programs while laughing at the very thought of their further expansion are not real social democrats.  They’re co-opted neoliberals.

To worry about deficits and future threats from “markets” is to completely surrender to the logic of capital.  The objectivity of this logic isn’t something which can be determined within the purview of economic “science” since economic theories can be pulled off the shelf to support any world view.  In short, economics is not a science.  DeLong’s version of neo-classical economics is nothing more than a theory justifying the domination of wealth.  Real social democrats reject these theories for what they are – apologetics for power – and instead reach into their own bag and pull out theories which support a social democratic world.  Functional Finance and Modern Monetary Theory are good examples and there are many others.

Real social democracy is not compatible with unbridled markets and worries about long run deficits are phobias that can only exist in such worlds.  Brad DeLong should stick to what it means to be a real neoliberal.

4 Comments
  1. Jim, as almost always your post is right on the money! DeLong is a mutant neoliberal robot who is programmed to confuse real social democrats by occasionally pretending to be a social democrat and thus blurring the definition of what constitutes social democratic thinking.

    DeLong likes to play on his imaginary superior knowledge of the history of economics. Now in regard to the need of roughly balanced budget over the business cycle or the long run (how long is this run?) my simple answer is: with notably rare exceptions the federal government of the United States of America always run a deficit.

    And this happened for good economic reasons. One of this notably rare exceptions happened on the watch of Brad DeLong — which he is never tired to remind us — and which was followed by a recession very typical for any of these rare exceptions because the private sector was starved of financial assets by the thrifty Brad DeLong. This guy is only a living joke.

  2. Will Richardson permalink

    If Keynes really said in the long run we are all dead, how can he be co-opted as advocating balanced budgets over any cycle?

    Isn’t reference to an arbitrary long run fiscal constraint a shibboleth for political theoconomic belief?

    Surely one inference from history is that societies that do nothing to promote a true ‘we are all in it togetherness’ by supporting the weak while keeping the wealthy subject to a higher authority than mere wealth are doomed to what I call socio-political economic entropy, an ever increasing vicious circle/cycle of increasing wealth/debt inequality and rigidity.

  3. Will,

    Very good point. There’s no particular reason to think a balanced budget over “the long run” is any more likely than a balanced budget over a week, month, or year. Economists such as DeLong who straddle between neoliberalism and a faux Keynesianism do great harm as their theories promote the “ever increasing vicious circle/cycle of increasing wealth/debt inequality and rigidity.”

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