Monday, September 6, 2010

Econ Journal Watch reply is up!

Several weeks ago, I and several other bloggers were asked to draft a response to Buturovic and Klein's (2010) widely reported study concluding that libertarians and conservatives are more "economically enlightened" than moderates and liberals. Four bloggers (myself included) submitted replies, and they are now posted.

The original article is here - needless to say I think it leaves a lot to be desired and probably could never have been published in any other venue. I know that sounds harsh, but well - it is what it is. I think the authors know that too.

My reply is here. My approach was to focus on the most glaring and damning oversight of the article: their identification strategy. To put it plainly, their evidence supported multiple (contradictory) conclusions and they had no way to isolate the explanation they chose to report - and yet they reported it anyway. I also got the chance to quote Keynes and suggest that Bastiat's wisdom is often ignored by libertarians: both things I enjoy doing. All in all, I think it was a successful response.

The next best response (IMO) was by Rod Hill and it is here. Rod's was good, but he went down a road I deliberately avoided: getting into the weeds of the specific questions that Buturovic and Klein (2010) posed. It's not that that critique isn't valid - it certainly is and I stated in no uncertain terms in my piece that it was not an impressive or thoughtful survey instrument. But in such a short reply (they gave us up to 1,000 words), I didn't feel like I could adequately address each of the questions. And even then, the problem often wasn't with the "enlightened" answer that they identified per se - it was more the designation of other answers as unenlightened, as well as the general vagueness and poor wording of the questions. I'm glad Rod took up this angle - I did not in anticipation that others would, freeing me up to address the authors' identification strategy (or lack thereof), which I felt was more pressing anyway.

E.D. Kain's response is quite weak in my opinion. Kain alternately suggests that the survey was vague, subjective, but then goes on to say he agrees with the authors. Later he appeals to the idea that the economy is more complex than Buturovic and Klein (2010) present it (this is clearly true), and that Americans in general could be more enlightened when it comes to economics. The piece was diluted and directionless overall - not much to see here.

David Ruccio took an interesting, but I think ultimately limited approach in his critique. He reminded me of my sociology days - lots of talk of dominant discourses, hegemony, the marginalization of Marxian perspectives, and the exclusivity of neoclassicism dressed in the authority of "science". I can appreciate taking the concept of a "discursive framework" out for a drive every once in a while, but ultimately I'm one that takes the "science" in "social science" seriously. These are complicated questions, and perhaps even questions that are so complicated that we can't provide anything but a heavily caveated answer to - but they are still scientific questions for which there is a positive answer. Ultimately, Ruccio to me comes out as mired in ideology as Buturovic and Klein. He's somewhat more thoughtful than Kain, but still not a serious critique of the original article.

Buturovic and Klein will respond in the next issue, which I believe is set to come out in January of 2011. I'll of course share that when it comes out.


And remember - pay attention to your identification strategy!

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