Sunday, September 25, 2011

Bully for the Baltics?

Paul Krugman slaps down Tyler Cowen hard for repeatedly claiming that Ireland's recent performance is evidence against Keynesianism.  This is a followup to Brad Delong's similar complaints.  I don't notice any response from Cowan yet; normally, he is very quick to respond.

Very gratifying.  Tyler is brilliant, smug, and a leading Koch tool.  His job as an economist seems to be more to maintain a drumbeat of propaganda than to do any research of significance.  If anybody has any evidence of the significance of his work (such as status by numbers of citations) I'd be interested to hear it.

Take for example his latest book, "The Great Stagnation".  It is a classic example of lying with statistics.  Cowen claims that our innovation is stagnating because median GDP/capita is not increasing the way it used to.  But mean GDP/capita has been increasing steadily.  The difference is because increases in GDP over the past 30 years have gone almost exclusively to the rich.  This is clearly spelled out in There Is No Great Stagnation, Only Great Redistribution by Kindred Winecoff.  It is disgusting that Tyler relies on a trick that we teach students about in grade school (the difference between mean, median, and mode), and even more disgusting that so many people have considered his claims seriously instead of denouncing the trick.  Why would he do this?  Simple class warfare tactics: if you convince people that wealth is not there, instead of being redistributed to the rich, they will not be able to fight back.

Cowen generally adopts denialist tactics for economic positions his masters oppose; if you cannot refute it legitimately then spread fear, uncertainty, and doubt.  (FUD)

I follow Cowen's (and Tabarrok's) high-volume blog "Marginal Revolution" daily.  It's full of disgusting shout-outs to the libertarian faithful (such as "Markets in Everything") and links to the latest libertarian propaganda.  But some leads from there are very useful or interesting: Cowen is well characterized as an infovore and popularizer.  That's his good side.

"It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!"
Upton Sinclair

Addendum: Tyler responds in The luck of the Irish.  In typical fashion, he moves the goalposts, and tries to make it a discussion of what Krugman predicted.  Instead of defending his own position about whether Ireland's recent performance is evidence against Keynesianism.  This may be good rhetorical strategy, but it is dishonest.  To distract from the dishonesty, Tyler makes a show of "honestly" admitting his own predictions were wrong too (after a whole post claiming Krugman's were wrong.)

Saturday, September 17, 2011

That's what freedom is all about: taking your own risks.

That's how Ron Paul described his campaign manager's early, uninsured death.

However, "When he died on June 26, 2008, two weeks after Paul withdrew his first bid for the presidency, his hospital costs amounted to $400,000. The bill was handed to Snyder's surviving mother (pictured, left), who was incapable of paying. "

This is a classic case of libertarians claiming that they are taking their own risks, but somebody else ends up having to pay.  There is a simple reason why libertarians routinely lie this way: their ideology claims they are independent, but the reality of human socialization is that we are interdependent in many ways.  Through families, churches, friendships, professional associations, employment, etc.  We routinely and informally assume responsibility for each other.

Recently, Brad DeLong wrote Economic Anthropology: David Graeber Meets the Noise Machine... where his comment was:  "Indeed. It really looks from the anthropologists that Adam Smith was wrong--that we are not animals that like to "truck, barter, and exchange" with strangers but rather gift-exchange pack animals--that we manufacture social solidarity by gift networks, and those who give the most valuable gifts acquire status hereby."

I think DeLong is in error because the barter and gift paradigms are often both used.  They are not exclusive.  The error is to claim only one applies or that they are exclusive, and I doubt Adam Smith makes either of those particular errors.

When we are involved in gift networks (such as families) we are not independent: others are relying on us for future gifts and we "owe" for past gifts.  This is one of the great blindnesses of libertarian ideology, and it explains why libertarians will not see as problems what normal people see as problems.  One of my favorite examples is drug usage.  That's why this Brain on Drugs public service announcement about heroin seems comical to libertarians, but makes sensible people cry.  Gift networks are very emotion-laden.  I haven't worked it out yet, but I think this ties in with the idea of  libertarianism as applied autism.