How Progressive Are You

CAP has an online “Progressive Quiz.” Neat, but I think pretty problematic, basically for the reasons Ezra Klein outlines here. For example, one statement which you were asked to gauge your level of agreement on was:

“Government spending is almost always wasteful and inefficient.”

It seems odd to be asked to form an opinion on a matter that can be viewed objectively in specific terms. Of course, it’s up to the individual what constitutes “wasteful and inefficient,” but more importantly, this seems to basically miss the entire point. That is, if government spending is meeting a specific need that the private sector won’t, the efficiency of the spending is essentially secondary in nature. For example, Metro has a number of inefficiencies which require the use of stimulus money to avoid service cuts. But casting Metro’s deficit as a fundamental problem with government is the wrong way of looking at it. Rather, it’s basically in Metro’s “charter” to lose money — that’s why it’s a service the government provides. If a private entity could profitably run a transit system that met the needs of a city’s residents, then it’s like that these sorts of things would exist. Of course, there are issues beyond simple profitability — land use, for example — that tilt the variables in favor of government handling the job, but the basic issue is that if Metro wasn’t there to lose money, the entire transit structure would be vastly more inefficient (not to mention environmentally disastrous).

Of course, inefficiencies due to the different incentive structure that government agencies face exist, but focus


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