Monday, June 13, 2011

Bachmann-Pawlenty Showdown Could Define Economic Policy

Michelle Bachmann declares candidacy for President

As the GOP Presidential field met in New Hampshire to compete for the hearts and minds of conservative Americans, Michelle Bachmann had a blockbuster announcement:

She's widening the field. The previously-six man field -- Ron Paul, Rick Santorum, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney and fellow Minnesotan Tim Pawlenty -- now has a seventh member.

“This is the first day of taking our country back,” Bachmann announced. “I’ve worked very hard to bring your voice to the halls of Congress. Now, I want to take your voice into the White House, where it hasn’t been heard for a very long time.”

As it pertains to economic policy -- which will be the defining issue of the Republican primary -- Bachmann is every bit as qualified to carry the standard for the Austrian school of economics as any other candidate. This would only serve to facilitate the speculation-promised showdown with Tim Pawlenty, who favours the similar-yet-genuinely-distinct Chicago school of economics.

Austrian school economics focuses on the price mechanism. The Chicago school directs its attention toward the principles of monetarism.

The traditional battle of economists has, of course been between the adherents of Friedrich Hayek and those of John Maynard Keynes. Now, the GOP may be set to settle in for a year-long debate on who correctly interprets the theories of Hayek; a year-long debate pitting Ludwig von Mises against Milton Friedman.

Some will criticize this as distracting from what they regard as the more important Keynes-Hayek debate. But this should be considered an extremely welcome debate.

One thing that Bachmann cannot afford to do is take the Sarah Palin route. She can't fall back on intellectually-lazy "common sense" pronouncements. She needs to keep the ideas flowing. While her critics desperately try to turn the conversation toward whether or not she's stupid, Bachmann should continue to focus on something her critics don't have: ideas.

Naturally, they won't like it. People who have no ideas generally avoid -- to the point of outright refusal -- to talk about ideas.

If she takes full advantage of the advantages a Presidential run will present her with, Bachmann has the opportunity to mold the economic debate in ways that will confound these same critics. They'll rely almost exclusively on lazy ad hominem attacks. If Bachmann can stay above them, she could be the definitive candidate in the 2012 Republican primary.

But that's only if Pawlenty opts to engage on behalf of his Chicago school contemporaries. Bachmann only has the opportunity to mold the debate if Pawlenty takes her on.

This will force the other Republican candidates to sharpen their policies. Which makes the Tim Pawlenty-Michelle Bachmann showdown so pivotally important for the Republican Party.

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