Sunday, October 3, 2010

Assault of Thoughts - 10/3/2010

"Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assault of thoughts on the unthinking" - JMK

- We've had an anonymous commenter post several times recently, and I'd like to remind commenters that Evan and I prefer you at least use a consistent pseudonym. It's hard to attribute ideas if you stay anonymous. Plus anonymity doesn't make for a very friendly community atmosphere. Anyway, this anonymous commenter recently tried to take me to task for calling the repeal of the 17th amendment "out there". I'd like to remind him that I am in support of repealing the 17th amendment and have said as much on this blog. It's still a very radical idea. That seems to qualify it for calling it "out there". Has our anonymous commenter ever publicly proclaimed and provided a reasoned defense for repealing the 17th amendment? There are a lot of "decline narratives" paraded around about what is wrong with America. I think most are overwrought, but one area where we have clearly gone downhill, in my mind, is the way in which we've weakened federalism. And again - if the commenter was a regular member of this community rather than an anonymous heckler he would know about this view of mine. Repealing the 17th amendment is not at the top of my list of things to advocate, but if it were ever seriously entertained I think it would be very good for righting the balance of federal and state power, and I'd probably get a lot more active in supporting it.

- Robert's Stochastic Thoughts reviews what Keynes wrote about Pigou and the classics in response to a post that Scott Sumner had up recently. Robert is a little sharp in his response, but I think he ultimately makes a good point. Keynes didn't gush about Pigou in The General Theory, but he didn't really insult him either. What he pointed out was that Pigou represented the clearest attempt to lay out a theory of unemployment consistent with what Keynes thought were the most important undercurrents of the classical theory. People often reply "well the classics didn't really believe that version of Say's Law". If you actually take the time to read Keynes, he never says they do. Indeed if you read the whole chapter and not the hand full of sentences people always cite, Keynes actually says that it would be hard to catch any of the classics writing anything as blatantly as Keynes just expressed - but they theorize as if they did. They pay lip service to the nuance, and then they build their models as if they believed in a strong version of Say's Law. That was Keynes's argument.

- Troy Camplin, a regular blogger at Coordination Problem, has a new blog up on Austrian economics and literature (HT Rafe Champion). I have not really enjoyed interacting with Troy in the past, so I'm not sure exactly how I'm going to like this. He's very much of the "Mises is amazing and he will change your life, and Keynesians are cultists" variety, at least in my experience. Still, I'm going to follow the first couple posts and see how this goes. I've recently become interested in the relationship between economics and literature, which is extremely unusual for anyone that knows me. Before I started reading more Lovecraft stories it had been years since I read any fiction at all. I just don't read the stuff. I'm not so much drawn to what Camplin seems to be doing here - literary analysis and commentary guided by economic principles. What I've become interested in is the economic thought of intelligent non-economists, particularly writers: what they get right, what they get wrong, etc.. Because ultimately non-economist cultural figures probably play a major role in shaping how societies think about the economy. Anyway - I am going to keep tabs on the blog and post anything interesting if it comes up.

7 comments:

  1. "If you actually take the time to read Keynes, he never says they do. Indeed if you read the whole chapter and not the hand full of sentences people always cite, Keynes actually says that it would be hard to catch any of the classics writing anything as blatantly as Keynes just expressed - but they theorize as if they did. They pay lip service to the nuance, and then they build their models as if they believed in a strong version of Say's Law."

    Well, if they don't write it that way how can they build their models that way? Seems like Keynes is trying to have his cake and eat it too.

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  2. Oh, and it seems to me that if you don't like anon comments then simply remove that option. Constantly whining about them while allowing them is sort of lame at best.

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  3. You don't think it's possible to speak in broad strokes about an economy capable of general gluts, demand deficiencies, and monetary disequilibrium - but then when you go to formal modeling write it down in later chapters as a strict trade-off world where any spending crowds other spending out?

    How is that "having a cake and eating it too"? What are you talking about Xenophon? People do this all the time. People pay lip service to this kind of general glut and say they don't believe the "straw man Say's Law" - but then they bitch about "where is the money coming from" and "every dollar spent by the government is not spent in the private sector". You see it all the time. And when you point it out to them they turn back to insisting Keynes's account of Say's Law is a straw man and no one believes it.

    The whole point is that nobody blatantly says it how Keynes said it - but they act as if it were true.

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  4. 30b6c0772eaeba21ef6b5f37b7ad34ecOctober 3, 2010 at 6:12 PM

    Aw, I don't post much (I just discovered this blog so I am not the mentioned heckler) but I hate assuming identities online because I don't want to be held responsible for the stupid things I say.

    Maybe I'll just post with a random md5 hash, that seems like a good compromise.

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  5. Would folks really rather us simply disallow anonymous comments? We like to keep this place as open as possible, and within that openness to give reasons for our views on certain things. In most cases, we think that at least a pseudonym makes blog dialogues much more constructive. When a conversation becomes particularly frustrating because of confused anonymities, we'll reinforce the fact that anonymous posting is detrimental to conversation. But we're not going to go all red tape on everyone just because we're right and you all are wrong.

    That doesn't strike me as "whining". But in any case, find another damn blog to comment on if it's too whiny for your tastes. Don't just continue to come back and whine to us about it (see how I turned that around? Clever, eh?).

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  6. ...I'm happy to revisit the comment policy with Daniel, though. It would just seem like too much of a pain to moderate comments like that. I can't imagine anyone would actually want us to do it, anyway.

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  7. I think there may be a setting so that people can't comment anonymously. The reason why we haven't done it is (1.) I have no idea how to do it, and (2.) it's only been an issue every once in a while.

    Plus, some people have trouble with the blogspot sign in - I think we're perfectly happy with posting with an anonymous username and then providing a signature (real or a not) in the comment itself.

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All anonymous comments will be deleted. Consistent pseudonyms are fine.