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« PhD in Economics -- Blast from the Past | Main | Macro Problems, Micro Explanations and Solutions »

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Thank you Pete! This was the best post I have read of yours to date, I think. I can appreciate it especially, of course, because I know the NEP crisis well and because I am such a strong believer in taking lessons from the socialist experience. But I think that anyone can see that this is a great post.

This reminds me of how Russell Roberts frequently talks about how economists operate under a philosophic bias. Because economies are so complex, it is often easy to site studies that support your view of the world, or discount studies that conflict with it.

This seems like similar theme. Obama draws reasonable and intelligent conclusions based on the lens through which he views the world. (Of course, his lens is skewed, and ours is clear!)

If we are right, and Obama leads the economy into destruction, our side will write studies demonstrating our claim, and his side will be able to discount our arguments.

I hope you are right that events vindicate Smith, Hayek, and Friedman's portayal of reality, but I'm cynical here. Wouldn't Roosevelt be viewed differently if the world works that way?

Philosopher Harry Frankfurt has a very serious article on what Barack Obama is good at:

http://www.gwinnettdailyonline.com/articleB5BD6D4417AF444DBD8F9770AA729B26.asp

Frankfurt explain why we are living in the age of b*llsh*t but he doesn't explain why the university educated social science and humanities "intellectual" class has such an enormous taste for b*llsh*t.

Pete, have you had a chance to read Obama's memoir yet?

Obama comes out of a left-wing cohort where "debate" wasn't part of the culture, where PC rules demanded that anyone who dissented from the intellectual consensus was excluded from the "cool club" of the left. Obama dramatizes this culture in his memoir, which people have established by interviewing those involved that much of it is made up fictionalizations of internal conflict which Obama seems to have experienced within himself.

At the NY Fed Geithner ignored / rejected Shiller's analysis as an official NY Fed committtee analyst telling him that a problematic bubble was growing -- then Geithner eliminated Shiller's position at the NY Fed.

These guys don't have any track record of understanding what is going on.

The key word here is "seems". It's been well established that Obama is a first class b*llsh*tt*r in Harry Frankfurt's sense of someone who tells people what helps him get what he wants, without any reference to how what he says relates to the true facts of the matter.

Pete writes:

"Obama seems completely sincere in his proclamation that he has enough on his plate dealing with two wars, a health care crisis, the need to improve education, bring us energy independence, and deal with a potential pandemic to also want take over the economy. He told everyone last night that he would have loved nothing more than to have come into office and not had to deal with the economic crisis, but had he not dealt with it as he did, we would have faced the collapse of the entire financial system."

Pete wrote:

"We want rigorous debate, we want all sides heard, we come at this with no ideological blinders on, but instead let good argument and evidence win the day. We listen hard, think even harder, and make up our minds based on reason and evidence. He uses this rhetoric so much, we believe it. [Economics] not by principle nor by interest, but [economics] as good conversation, where good is defined by the norms of academic debate in the ideal."

I just changed two key words in the quote above. That reminds me not of U of C but of someone else...

Obama is a very good lawyer. The sign of a very good lawyer is someone whose rhetorical skill enables them to state their position on an issue, show a reasonable understanding of all opposing positions, then repeat his original position except this time it is framed as the reasonable conclusion based on consideration of relevant information. In fact, the only thing that has been considered is how this position advances the progressive political agenda.

Don't be fooled. The University of Chicago has not come to Washington. Its politics as usual.

Is it possible that the dark side of the force may have clouded our thinking? How would we know if the president is really the Sith Lord we have been searching for, and not mearly a misguided but well-meaning politician? Sith Lords do not usually come out and publically announce they are Sith Lords. The council needs to search its feelings (and noses).

Richard Epstein and other witnesses say that Obama never participated in the intellectual culture of the U. of Chicago -- he didn't go to faculty events, he didn't chat with faculty in the faculty lounge, he didn't participate in faculty debates, etc., etc.

The only university panel event I have records of that Barack Obama participated in was one on education sharing the panel with Bill Ayers, organized by Michelle Obama.

Try a Google search. That's the only one.

Political actions are mainly signaling, because the public has so little of a cause-and-effect understanding of policies. Obama may simply be trying to signal intellectualism and reasonableness, but I think that is better than nothing.

We signal all sorts of things we don't really feel, like altruism for strangers, or a respect for the truth over our own theories. Yet the actions taken to signal these things do in fact help strangers and advance the understanding of our universe. A rich man may not care at all about the poor, but he gives to charity for what it signals about himself.

Similarly, Obama probably only wants power; I doubt he really cares how he gets it. However, our institutions have channeled his desire for power into signaling intellectual honesty, which means he will have to, even if only to a small degree, be intellectually honest.

I think this is a step in the right direction, even if only a very small step. Democracy does work - it just doesn't work very well.

"he didn't go to faculty events, he didn't chat with faculty in the faculty lounge, he didn't participate in faculty debates"

Yet he still had the chutzpah to refer to himself as a world respected authority on Hayek (despite never ever publishing an article in a refereed journal) on his website.

Shocking!

Martin -- it ain't brag if it's true.

Pete,

I just came across this article about Richard Posner questioning free market capitalism in his new book. I'm a law student and greatly respect Judge Posner's opinions/economic senses -- he always seems to be on the ball. So when I hear something like this from him, it really raises a lot of questions in my head that maybe "we" are on the wrong side of the argument. Of course, I'd like to hear your take on it (either here or in a separate blog post) -- I imagine others would also find this interesting. I haven't read Posner's book yet, but I'm looking forward to it.

Here's a link:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/04/20/judge-richard-posner-disc_n_188950.html

Have you guys read Jeffrey Friedman's paper "Popper, Weber, and Hayek: The Epistemology and Politics of Ignorance."

See
http://www.criticalreview.com/crf/jeffreyfriedman.html

It's very interesting for thinking about this sort of stuff. Though I don't agree with all of it by any stretch.

I know Pete has read it because Jeffrey gives him an acknowledgment.

I did not realize Obama was a world-respected authority on Hayek despite having published nothing on Hayek

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