Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Assault of Thoughts - 5/10/2011

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

- Space policy goes federalist. I've talked a lot on here about how important it is that we're seeing substantial growth in the commercial space sector. I never really thought about state-level activites. This is probably something we'll see more of as our approach to space becomes increasingly decentralized.

- Barkley Rosser blames Skidelsky for the whole "central planning" brouhaha. I think this is somewhat weak. John Papola has basically picked up his economics from the internet, as I understand - and from people with an axe to grind on the internet. But Russ Roberts should know better. Clearly "they weren't saying" Keynes was a central planner. They have plausible deniability in spades. But people on both sides of the aisle have gotten the message they wanted to send: Keynes wants you to have overlords, Hayek doesn't. Skidelsky bothered me a lot with his quick approval of the first video too (which doesn't seem to have bothered other people as much). The first video essentially presents Keynes as "filling in the hole" with government spending, and while they meticulously present the Austrian theory of the interest rate they never present anything about liquidity preference. They also present high savings as a problem for Keynes when what was really the problem was low investment - making Keynesianism look like naive hedonism. That's not good communication of economics, which is ostensibly Russ Roberts's specialty. Skidelsky never raised any of these concerns with the first video either.

- Arnold Kling talks more about technological unemployment and specifically Amy Sue Bix's book here and here. I picked up her book a couple months ago but haven't gotten a chance to read it yet. In fact my book reading in general has lagged - gotta get back on that.


  1. Makes good sense to make space policy federalist.

    It will result in fewer astronauts from Ohio. ;)

    Actually, Skidelsky may have been mislead about the first video. And he may have changed his mind later. There was only a Part 1 commentary on Keynes' thinking posted in EconStories, but no Part 2.

    While we speak of Robert Skidelsky, could you give some comments on his semi-recent column, "Democracy vs. Finance"?

  2. Haven't read it, but I'll try to. Remind me if I don't.

    Generally I think Skidelsky is a good read - he does the Post Keynesian thing that you see a lot where he grossly generalizes mainstream economics and then knocks down the strawman. But aside from that he's pretty good.

  3. Boo hoo on Keynes.

    "Keynes wants you to have overlords..."

    Well, he does; thus all his half-baked conspiracy theories that must be stopped by the folks from Cambridge. Keynes can't both be a rampant elitist and think that overlords are a bad idea.

  4. and from people with an axe to grind on the internet.

    How do you know this? Why are they grinding their ax? What ax? What is wrong with learning economics from the internet?

  5. Everything is wrong with learning from the internet.

    99% of substantial, important, and meaningful economic concepts, I have learnt from textbooks in my room.

    On the internet, the same concepts are -

    a) either presented incorrectly
    b) or presented correctly but with a thick layer of nonsensical political rhetoric
    c) or misappropriated for irrelevant issues on grounds of pure political posturing

    My experience with economics is that I spend the real life reading books with solid useful information, and I spend time on the internet largely to correct misinformation and noise.

    eg. Many online progressives seem to have learnt their economics from Wikipedia articles, and here is one exact message I received from somebody on YouTube. (It was in response to a post where I just said, "Hazlitt's Economics in One Lesson was an entertaining read when I was 14 years old."):

    "People like Henry Hazlitt were wrong, because they believed in rational individuals with only utility-maximizing self-interest and did not give enough emphasis to externalities. Wikipedia is your friend. See criticisms of neoclassical economics."

    I vowed never to comment on YouTube again. And I didn't. And yes, the guy actually said he used his points from Wikipedia. And he is trying to refute somebody who actually read a book.

    Of course, such people equivocate and accuse ME of also being one who learns from the internet, and thus say it is fair play. I have lost count of the times when in arguments against state-run medical care, people accuse me of getting my arguments from mises.org and Google.

  6. sandre,

    What's wrong with learning economics from the Internet is that you can't then make relevant statements about the future of the economy the way that Kuehn, et al can. Kuehn's a scientist and Papola is just some clown with a camera.

    Oh, wait... never mind:

    "Economists forecast claims would fall to 440,000 from a previously reported 460,000 the prior week, according to the median of 44 projections in a Bloomberg News survey. Estimates ranged from 415,000 to 451,000."

    "Initial jobless applications increased by 24,000 to 484,000 in the week ended April 10, the highest level since Feb. 20, Labor Department figures showed today in Washington."

  7. re: "What is wrong with learning economics from the internet?"

    Nothing at all is wrong with that, sandre. Did someone suggest there was something wrong with that?

  8. You suggested it, Daniel. With a statement about Russ should know better - suggesting that Russ didn't learn it from the internet. Add to it the fact that you qualified your sentence with "ax to grind".

  9. Doesn't everyone have an axe to grind?


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