Question of the Day

| Mon Dec. 15, 2008 7:22 PM EST

QUESTION OF THE DAY....From professor Henry Farrell, responding to Robert Samuelson's latest maunderings in the Washington Post:

Should people pretend to take this sort of horseshit seriously?

Well? Should they? Argument for the affirmative: if you don't respond, horseshit takes on a life of its own because no one ever knocked it down. It may be an unwelcome task, but someone has to do it. Argument for the negative: Serious debate merely gives horseshit a stature it doesn't deserve. Laughing at it is much more effective.

Anyway, Samuelson's argument in today's column is that poor people have powerful advocates just like rich people, and he then suggests that the techno-wonks at the CBPP have the same kind of clout as, say, the Club for Growth. This is indeed laughable, but Larry Bartels tells us that it's even more laughable than you think:

I know of two systematic attempts to measure the relative influence of affluent, middle-class, and poor people on government policy. One is in the next-to-last chapter of Unequal Democracy, where senators' roll call votes are moderately strongly affected by the preferences of high-income constituents, less strongly affected by the preferences of middle-income constituents, and totally unaffected by the preferences of low-income constituents. That's the more optimistic view. My Princeton colleague Marty Gilens (in a 2005 article in Public Opinion Quarterly and a book-in-progress) has a parallel analysis focusing on aggregate poilcy shifts over two decades. He also finds no discernible impact of low-income preferences, but argues that middle-class people also get ignored when they happen to disagree with rich people.

Italics mine. So: mockery or wonkery? Which works better? Leave your vote in comments.