The Corner

Politics & Policy

March Mailbag

1. In response to this post, about the Fed and fiscal stimulus: “So are you saying that deficit spending is a free lunch because the Fed will keep inflation from happening? You say [extra government spending] won’t ‘raise economic output’ but what’s the harm of it if you’re right?”

I see at least three potential harms. First, higher debt means higher interest costs. Without those interest costs, the government could spend money on something useful or taxes could be lower. Second, higher debt means a higher risk of an unmanageable federal debt. Third, the argument of the post implies — although I should have stated it explicitly — that you end up with a roughly one-for-one trade-off between the private sector and the public sector. That is, if federal spending increases and the Fed keeps it from increasing inflation, the private sector will be smaller than it otherwise would be. There are circumstances in which that trade-off is worth making (for example, if the national defense is dangerously underfunded) but in general the market allocation of resources is vastly preferable to their political allocation.

2. This post, about a Democratic congressional candidate’s rhetoric on abortion, drew this response: “How is it not religious to say that a ‘human embryo or fetus is a living human organism?’”

Science is capable of telling us, with no need of help from specific divine revelation, that the human embryo or fetus is neither dead nor inanimate. Science is capable of telling us, as well, that the embryo/fetus is an organism rather than a functional part of another organism, the way a living human skin cell is a part of another organism. And science tells us, finally, that the organism is of the human species.

As I said, science can’t tell us what to make of these facts; it takes an extra-scientific argument to establish whether it means that we owe the human embryo legal protection because it is a living human organism. But about the fact of its meeting that description there can be no scientific doubt.

3. I am not sure what elicited this email; maybe this article.

“You conveniently overlook the main reason we don’t have commonsense gun laws. The Citizens United decision allowed the NRA to buy off too many politicians.”

Did you think we had common-sense gun laws before 2010, when Citizens United was decided? By that point, public support for a ban on handguns had already been falling for five decades. Our country was already home to hundreds of millions of guns. The ban on “assault weapons” had expired six years previously. A Democratic president with large Democratic majorities in the House and the Senate made no move to reinstate the ban either before that decision came down or in the months immediately following it. Whatever effect Citizens United had on gun politics, it’s not a major reason that proponents of gun regulations have been unsuccessful.

Ramesh Ponnuru — Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg View, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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