Revisiting the Manzi-Chait

Reading Tyler Cowen’s take on the debate between Jon Chait and Jim Manzi about growth rates in Europe, I’m struck by the inability of the smarter kind of right-of-center commentator to type the sentence “the thing that Jim Manzi wrote, that Jon Chait said was false, is in fact false.” Instead there’s an immediate desire to shift the terrain to some other points of comparison.

The general structure of these arguments goes like this:

  1. Rightwinger A: Your liberal policies will saddle America with Europe’s slow growth rates!
  2. Liberal: Actually, Europe’s growth rates aren’t slow.
  3. Rightwinger B: The US and Europe are different in all kinds of ways, your comparison is invalid!

There’s a problem here, obviously.

It’s very true that it’s hard to conceive of an apples-to-apples comparison of American policy to European policy. I don’t even know how you would specify a hypothetical that properly captures the impact of linguistic diversity on Europe. But the point liberals have to make about this is that there’s no evidence that high tax rates, as such, strange economic growth. Some of the richest countries on earth have the heaviest tax burdens.