Thursday, January 29, 2009

The War of the Economists

This should really be worrisome. Right and Left are taking home the same lesson from the criticisms DeLong and Krugman have made against the Chicago Boys trashing logic in their eagerness to destroy everything.

Will Wilkinson | Cato | The War of the Economists:
"what doesn’t arise in my mind is a sense that some of these guys really know what they’re talking about while some of them are idiots. What arises in my mind is the strong suspicion that economic theory, as it is practiced and taught at the world’s leading institutions, is so far from consensus on certain fundamental questions that it is basically useless for adjudicating many profoundly important debates about economic policy. One implication of this is that it is wrong to extend to economists who advise policymakers, or become policymakes themselves, the respect we rightly extend to the practitioners of mature sciences. There is a reason extremely smart economists are out there playing reputation games instead of trying to settle the matter by doing better science. The reason is that, on the questions that are provoking intramural trashtalk, there is no science."

I don't know if there's "science", but there's actually some pretty good theory and well-digested, well-interpreted historical experience. [Wilkinson actually has had several posts subsequent to the one above -- interesting stuff].

Neil Sinhababu | The American Prospect:
"So I'm just Joe Philosophy Professor watching Krugman & DeLong vs. the Chicago Schoolmen about whether we need fiscal stimulus, with Nobel Prize winning economists* on either side. And I'm thinking: How many fields are there in which a big practical question pops up and the Nobel-level guys are on opposite sides yelling at each other?

It's not that there isn't disagreement in other scientific areas, but the level of disagreement we're looking at here is something really different. They aren't dickering over some minor proposal or detail. They're talking about whether or not we should dump nearly a trillion dollars' worth of stimulus money into the economy. And it isn't a question that should be sitting at the far cutting edge of research, like how many dimensions your string theory needs to have. The raison d'etre of the discipline is to deal with stuff like this."

Again, some of these Chicago boys are just polluting the discourse with utter, indefensible nonsense. And, all these intelligent folks can get out of it is that is some kind of catty playground spat, and further evidence that economics has nothing useful to tell us about the biggest crisis in the global political economy in 70 years.

This is a really dangerous consequence of what the Chicago Schoolmen are doing. It would be like a faction of the American Medical Association declaring, in the midst of global epidemic that vaccines or antibiotics are useless or contra-indicated.

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