Friday, September 11, 2009

John Cochrane spanks Paul Krugman

silly (Via Greg Mankiw). Here's one of my favorite swats:
If you believe the Keynesian argument for stimulus, you should think Bernie Madoff is a hero. Seriously. He took money from people who were saving it, and gave it to people who most assuredly were going to spend it. Each dollar so transferred, in Krugman’s world, generates an additional dollar and a half of national income. The analogy is even closer. Madoff didn’t just take money from his savers, he really borrowed it from them, giving them phony accounts with promises of great profits to come. This looks a lot like government debt.

If you believe the Keynesian argument for stimulus, you don’t care how the money is spent. All this puffery about “infrastructure,” monitoring, wise investment, jobs “created” and so on is pointless. Keynes thought the government should pay people to dig ditches and fill them up.

If believe in Keynesian stimulus, you don’t even care if the government spending money is stolen. Actually, that would be better. Thieves have notoriously high propensities to consume.
Cochrane also provides substantive and reasoned counterfactuals. For instance:
Of course the idea that any of us do what we do because we’re paid off by fancy Wall Street salaries or cushy sabbaticals at Hoover is just ridiculous. (If Krugman knew anything about hedge funds he’d know that believing in efficient markets disqualifies you for employment. Nobody wants a guy who thinks you can’t make any money trading!) And given Krugman’s speaking fees and how much the looney right likes him, it’s a surprising first stone for him to cast.
And some interesting theories about a transition from economics to politics:
To my mind, Krugman left the world of economics when, in the California electricity crisis, he argued that supply curves slope down; that a price cap, desired by his political constituency, would increase electricity supplies. That position served the political goal no matter how tortured the economics. This is more of the same.
Here is the close:
I like it when people disagree with me, and take time to read my work and criticize it. At worst I learn how to position it better. At best, I discover I was wrong and learn something. I send a polite thank you note.

Krugman wants people to swallow his arguments whole from his authority, without demanding logic, or evidence. Those who disagree with him, alas, are pretty smart and have pretty good arguments if you bother to read them. So, he tries to discredit them with personal attacks.

This is the political sphere, not the intellectual one. Don’t argue with them, swift-boat them. Find some embarrassing quote from an old interview. Well, good luck, Paul. Let’s just not pretend this has anything to do with economics, or actual truth about how the world works or could be made a better place.

Krugman merited a Nobel prize for his work on international trade.

When he wanders outside his field without checking with those who know more, bad things happen, as it would with any of us.

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