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Bush and Kerry: the final debate

Both guys are good debaters and they were able to learn many facts and numbers and present them in a rather convincing way. I am always surprised by the people who say that both candidates - and perhaps all politicians - are stupid, evil, or perhaps they even suffer from a serious learning disorder.

If I imagine any of these critics in the role of Kerry or Bush, they wouldn't perform comparably well. What would these critics say if they were asked about virtually any question that is relevant for the Society?

Bush tried to smile throughout the debate and his facial expressions (that used to often be confused) have been moderated quite successfully - clearly, this is something that his advisers and friends convinced him to do. His laughter was less loud than in the previous debates. Kerry's style of rhetoric was very similar to the first two verbal battles even though some of his answers were too long again. Well, Kerry is almost certainly a stable debater, but he still seems to be an opportunist on actual policies and opinions. And they seem to be a bit more important after all.

No doubt, both guys are fighting hard to win the votes of undecided voters, and perhaps even some voters who are supposed to vote for the opponent. That's especially clear in the case of Kerry. Do you remember the second debate? Kerry mentioned that he would deal with an issue (I forgot what was that, perhaps the work with the Allies?) much like Ronald Reagan; Bush, on the other hand, said that he wanted to do some others things (and I really forgot what was that) like during Clinton's era.

These unexpected comments are always entertaining, but there were other entertaining moments in the third debate - especially when they had to describe that their wives - both Laura Bush as well as Teresa Ketchup - are smarter; their wives are in charge; and all of these important guys "married up".

Well, one thing is to try to attract the neutral and conservative voters by praising Ronald Reagan. It is a completely different question whether one should trust Kerry when he distributes these comments. Much like Bush, I still don't quite trust Kerry. As Bush said, Kerry has voted to raise taxes 98 times. That's a horrible record, I would say. The taxes are already too high (at least the taxes that I must pay are very high, not sure about you) and too progressive. They should be lower and more flat. (And the idea to replace the IRS by sales taxes is pretty cool, is not it?)

But it's not just about the record. If I were a voter, Kerry would repel me also by some of his own statements (although some other statements would be OK or even appealing).

For example, I find it irritating when Kerry keeps on complaining about "Bush's tax cuts for the rich". Sorry, but this is not a candidate of the whole American nation. It is a left-wing candidate whose agenda is to damage a whole group of citizens (and corporations) whose existence and well-being is incidentally pretty important for America's performance - especially because they are the creators of new jobs. He knows very well that the number of the people below the average is more than one half - and it always will (because the very rich shift the average above the median). All of them, rich and poor, have the same vote, and it just seems easier to get votes by attracting the poor.

I would say that this is only a way to attract those poor who have decided that they would always remain incapable to be better off and who always want to rely on redistribution of resources - and there is not much difference between Kerry and the left-wing populist policitians in Europe and elsewhere. (Well, Kerry is the most left-wing senator according to some counting of his votes.) But even the poor Americans are usually able to think differently - simply because America gives everyone the framework for realizing their dreams of various kinds, a freedom for their "upward mobility". Be sure that Kerry won't win the support of all the people below some income level!

Bush's fiscal responsibility does not look great if we only look at the numbers. Clinton's surplus has changed into deficits. The interest rates are still kept at a much lower level than during the end of Clinton's era. Well, but we should realize that Bush is not responsible for most of the unhappy facts that contributed to the current situation. First of all, the recession already started in the Fall of 2000. Second of all, Bush had to deal with 9/11 and with mess in companies such as Enron - neither of these things was Bush's fault, I think. The war in Iraq was probably not a great news for the budget either, and this questionable decision, if it were wrong, was Bush's fault. But the oil is now 100 percent more expensive than in 1999 and it is not necessarily just a consequence of the war in Iraq.

Let me say that I do think that the presidents should try to keep the budget balanced and Bush simply can't get an "A" for this subject; well, Bush explains that he thinks that there were more important priorities. But it sounds rather ridiculous to listen to the criticism from Kerry. It is pretty clear that Kerry's proposal to give the health insurance to everyone would itself double the deficits - and this is not the only plan of Kerry of a comparable magnitude.

It's not just a matter of huge amounts of money that would have to be paid for these plans. It may be more important to realize that these plans would undermine the free market system in various areas, and the free market system often equals the advantage of America over other countries. Bush's plans to privatize various parts of this system may be good ideas.

I also liked Bush's answer about the shortage of flu vaccine - when he encouraged others to save the flu shots for others who are more vulnerable. No one is obliged to listen, but I believe that the president should be the source of such advices that are meant to help everyone - or those who need it most. Such comments should occur even if the president is not being asked because this job is a part of the leadership.

As you can see, Bush would probably win my vote if I were voting in the USA, as the more trustworthy person who understands the motors underlying the American society better than his opponent. But let me make it clear that I don't think that Kerry would be a universal disaster. If you're an American, vote for whomever you want.

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reader Anonymous said...

Reading exercise for you, O co-creator of the Second Superstring Revolution.

1. Peddling Prosperity by Paul Krugman 1994 (?)
(Nice non-partisan (unlike current incarnation in NYT) summary of major macroeconomic theories. Debunks both left's and right's false illusions.)

2. The Age of Diminished Expectations, Paul Krugman 1997 (?)
(Good survey of drivers in economy, American economy in particular)

3. The Coming Generational Storm, L Kotlikoff and S Burns 2003
(Stuff on Generational accounting)

For someone who was at the forefront of superstring revolution while a grad student, all these are easy but very instructive pieces. And you will be surprised by subtleties in economics, and will be able to figure out for yourself the fraud from the real thing.

reader Anonymous said...

To the anonoymous above,

That's the Third Superstring Revolution, the Second's already happened:)

Anyway, to something that attracted my attention in Lubos comments:

For example, I find it irritating when Kerry keeps on complaining about "Bush's tax cuts for the rich". Sorry, but this is not a candidate of the whole American nation. It is a left-wing candidate whose agenda is to damage a whole group of citizens (and corporations) whose existence and well-being is incidentally pretty important for America's performance - especially because they are the creators of new jobs. He knows very well that the number of the people below the average is more than one half - and it always will (because the very rich shift the average above the medianLike Lubos I am not a American citizen, but if I were to vote, this issue would weight heavily on my mind.

I heard the statement early in the debate when Bush mentioned Checks and Balances in society, and for me this would be pretty hard if there is no opposition to current methods of large corporations with run away policies that do not remain in check.

When I seen 911, I didn't have to be a Amercian citizen in order to have ideas put to my mind for consideration. This was most damaging issue to what runnaway governements could do without some of those check's and balances in place.

As to the poor, if large coporations did not recognize the liberties of the citizens of that United States, would this not have become some other form of government then the one that truely represented the people? Just a thought

reader Luboš Motl said...

I only became a grad student after the peak of the 2nd superstring revolution.

Let me tell you that the label "non-partisan" has no positive value in my eyes. I don't care whether someone tries to paint himself as partisan or non-partisan; I care about the content.

By the way, even if Krugman paints himself as non-partisan, he is still a liberal and a Keynesian economist - and I apologize, but Keynesianism is garbage.

Krugman's books are probably entertaining, but according to the reviews I've read, they only criticize everyone else on all sides, without giving too much of a coherent description of the true mechanisms in economy and without a vision (except for a kind of fuzzy diluted Keynesianism). He shows that the information produced by the left wing and by the right wing is often twisted towards a goal - what a surprise - but he does not present any goal or a key idea of himself.

Most likely, I could not stand Krugman's opposition to "practical economists" either. In my eyes, economics is not really a rigorous natural science, and all of its evaluation of reality, values, and policies is (and inevitably must be) flavored by political and moral assumptions. I don't have any data that would indicate that the "academic economists" like Krugman have better results in predicting various things than the economists who are not ashamed to be practical. And in fact, the only true value of economics, in my eyes, are its potentially positive practical consequences.

Let me also remind you that Krugman has not won the Nobel prize this year, despite those many people who claimed that it was a done deal.

reader Luboš Motl said...

For the second commentator. Hi! Could you be less mysterious about the corporations and how do they violate the liberties of the US citizens and what's not in check? It's not quite easy for me to understand this mysterious stuff. The US corporations have never violated my liberties, as far as I know, and I don't have to be a US citizen. ;-)

reader Anonymous said...

Well, if you think tax cuts can stimulate economy, then you believe in Keynesian economics :)

But there are other ways to stimulate economy including government spending. Then, it becomes a matter of personal philosophy how best to do that.

Keyenes' idea (now refined/explained by the New Keynesians including Greg Mankiw the current CEA chief at the White House) is basically simple, but subtle. Without his insight recessions would be very mysterious and we would have had more Great Depressions. Economics, aka the Diamal Science, is much abused in public discourse, but is a much better understood science than you think. And there is not as much disagreement among economists as is widely thought.

For a nice condensed explanation, with a real-life baby-sitting coop example, see (again Krugman, sorry!)

Regarding Nobel Prizes in Economics (and Peace), well, I would not put too much stock on that. Anyway, Krugamn has one that is something even harder to get than the Nobel Prize, the John Bates Clark medal, awarded to only one economist every two years under 40.

reader Luboš Motl said...

That's a very nice trick to convince me that I am a Keynesianist myself. ;-) But Keynesianism is, for me, based on the assumption that freedom does not lead to higher employment, and that alternating cycles with different macroeconomic conditions are helpful. Finally, the most important general assumption is that strong and very diverse macroeconomical interventions are essential for the development of economy. Nope! There is roughly one number that Alan Greenspan should decide about, and everything else should be decided by the economy itself.

reader Anonymous said...

For the second commentator. Hi! Could you be less mysterious about the corporations and how do they violate the liberties of the US citizens and what's not in check? It's not quite easy for me to understand this mysterious stuff. The US corporations have never violated my liberties, as far as I know, and I don't have to be a US citizen. ;-)Maybe it's a lower class perspective:) Health Care, does it provide the sustenance equally regardless of which class you belong too?

A democratic society with those checks and balances would be able to moderate some middle of the line polices that would be conducive to all people. We, I guess, would just have to recognzie this?

Without Lech Walensa where would Poland be today, or the continue reformation of the Soviet Union, as it exists now?

Checks and balance are really interesting things if you consider the ideas of those Harmonic Oscillators, as disseminating throughout societies, as a pre conceptual basis of some idea? How would this then disemminate through out this society?

So where do these ideas come from?:) They brew at a deeper level of society that unconsicously finds manifestation in events, such as this election. So, we shall see? :)

reader Luboš Motl said...

Very nice, but even if I understand that you probably want a free healthcare for everyone, it's still very unclear how is this plan related to the hypothetical suppression of civil liberties by the US corporations. ;-) Well, the further links to Lech Walesa and the harmonic oscillator don't make the previous mysterious dualities any more comprehensible to me. :-)

reader Anonymous said...

Lech Walesa – Nobel Lecture*Lech Walesa:During his latest visit to the land of his fathers, Pope John Paul II had this to say on this point:"Why do the working people in Poland - and everywhere else for that matter - have the right to such a dialogue? It is because the working man is not a mere tool of production, but he is the subject which throughout the process of production takes precedence over the capital. By the fact of his labor, the man becomes the true master of his workshop, of the process of labor, of the fruits of his toil and of their distribution. He is also ready for sacrifices if he feels that he is a real partner and has a say in the just division of what has been produced by common effort".What has gone unnoticed, is that the tides of monetary shifting sands/dollars can easily be shifted when the wind blows in the right direction. If this was easily recognized in corporate values, it has also been recognize by those that, "of the fruits of his toil and of their distribution." .:)

reader Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

reader Luboš Motl said...

Let me tell you that on my screen, there is an icon of a garbage bin under each comment. If a comment is real garbage, I click at the garbage bin to keep my blog basically clean.

For example, I just removed an anonymous and insulting comment from a person who wants to "reevaluate" our opinions about physics according to my opinions about economy and politics. I think that this is disgusting enough - and similar to the behavior of totalitarian regimes we used to have in Europe - so that the anonymous person who wrote it should be really ashamed and grateful that I am not gonna investigate who was it.

reader Anonymous said...

Some other anonymous person :)

Sorry to hear about the recent obnoxious post. Is there no way for you to filter it before it ever appears in the first place? Some kind of word filter, so you do not even have to read whatever kind of garbage?

My fear is that you will stop blogging because of idiots out there. That will be a real tragedy because I for one find your views on theoretical physics very interesting and entertaining (though I am not motivated to drop whatever I am doing and start working on string theory yet :) )

All the best.

reader Luboš Motl said...

Nope, I will not stop blogging because of guests who disagree! ;-) The real reason may be time, or more entertaining work.

Before the comment was erased, I had to think for a couple of minutes because censorship is always unpleasant. But comments like "because you flaunt with your stupidity about economics and politics, your physics opinions will be reevaluated" are not quite welcome, and they may become examples that would lead this blog in an unwanted direction.

Nevertheless, this blog is now set in such a way that guests like you are always welcome and given the room to express their reactions, even if they post anonymously, and the only extra policy is that a small percentage of unfriendly comments can be "hidden".

It's not expected that most guests will agree with everything on this blog! Everyone has the right to hold an incorrect opinion! :-)

reader Luboš Motl said...

One more comment for the person whose comment I erased.

Physics is really independent of politics, and politics can't blackmail physics. The physicists in the past held many different opinions.

For example, Werner Heisenberg, who was born on December 5th like me, became very excited with these youth Nazi organization. He supported NSDAP in the 1930s and remained a sort of supporter - and the leader of the Nazi atomic bomb in which case he completely failed.

Despite of these rather strange opinions, he discovered one of the deepest insights about the 20th century physics.

On the other hand, relativity was labeled "Jewish pseudoscience" because the Nazis did not like Einstein's background and his opinion. Nevertheless, relativity was another super major breakthrough in the 20th century physics.

I assure you that if someone decides about the validity of scientific conjectures according to his political (dis)agreement with the scientists, he is likely to reach very wrong conclusions in many cases.

reader Anonymous said...

"Meanwhile, Dick Cheney as a member of Congress from Wyoming voted to raise taxes 144 times. If 98 tax-hike votes make Kerry a far-out liberal, than Cheney would have to be placed somewhere in the ideological vicinity of Che Guevara."

Also see the LA Times

reader Luboš Motl said...

Let me say that I agree that it *is* painful, if Cheney has voted like that, and it certainly makes his ticket with Bush less appealing for people like me. On the other hand, it's not the only fact that will decide the elections.

reader Anonymous said...


I'm curious. You say that your taxes are too high.

Is there any nonzero value X such that if your taxes were X you would not believe them to be too high?

If the answer is no, then I'm afraid this thread is dead :)

If the answer is yes, then what principle do you use to determine X?

reader Luboš Motl said...

Come on. ;-) You know very well that there is no (and there cannot be) a scientifically calculable exact bound beyond which we start to say "the taxes are too high", and you cannot blame me for the non-existence of such a sharp "principle to determine X". The boundary between reasonable taxes and high taxes is continuous and psychological, and the numbers I say below are sort of random, determined with some accuracy.

I would find taxes acceptably high if the sum of all of them were always below say 20 percent. Now I got a 1100 dollars of reimbursement for something, except that it was taxed, so I only received 700 dollars at the end. Of course, one can believe that I will something else back from the IRS at the end (not too much, according to simple counting), nevertheless such things just should not happen.

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