100 Economics Question of the Day: An Intermittent Blog: Understatement of the Century

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Understatement of the Century

In the continuing Economists-cage-match, Duncan Black puts into words (a bit too glibly, perhaps) what often bothers me about Brad DeLong's arguments:
This, in a nutshell, is the worldview of the Sensible Liberal. It's the belief that there are Sensible Policies concocted by Wise Men (and women), preferably ones with advanced degrees, which are Right and True and Good. Wise Men may disagree a bit about the means, and we should throw a few conferences to hash these differences out. Politics and ideologues who do not share the ideology of the Wise Men, who of course are not really tainted by ideology, get in the way of enacting policies which are Sensible.

It's a dangerously wrong view of the world.

As they say in the blogsphere, read The Whole Thing.

Especially, though, see DeLong's post that inspired the reply, since the discussion (with himself) is not unreasoned:
First, I think...that the benefits of using government policies to strengthen unions (while they are certainly there) are much smaller than Paul [Krugman] judges them to be.

This is perhaps a matter for discussion as described, though one notes that many of DeLong's cohorts (and himself) are perfectly willing to argue for R&D credits that don't benefit workers either directly or proportionately while making such statements.

The second half of the argument is more clear-cut, though.
The events of the past decade and a half have convinced [Paul Krugman], I think, that people like me are hopelessly naive, and that the Democratic coalition is the only place where reality-based discourse is possible. Thus, in his view, the best road forward to (a) make the Democratic coalition politically dominant through aggressive populism, and then (b) to argue for pragmatic reality-based technocratic rather than idealistic fantasy-based ideological policies within the Democratic coalition.

He may well be right.

Xenos, in comments, finishes the job of hanging DeLong's hide to the shed (De Long tanned it himself), but is short by two orders of magnitude.
"He may well be right."

Understatement of the year. [typo corrected]

(Cross-posted from Marginal Utility, where Tom continued the concept with more discussion and data.)


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