1. Steve responds here. He writes: "You are not among those calling me an ideologue Daniel and the post was really aimed at, or at least frustrated with, those who who HAVE called me (and others) those names even as their own policies keep failing and failing. You've argued in good faith for the most part... That said, I ain't apologizing for that post."
OK, well I know I haven't called Steve an ideologue. I've probably called some specific Austrians ideologues before, but I'm guessing I had good reason to. Correct me if I'm wrong but I don't think Steve's argument was "the people that call me ideologues are ideologues themselves!" his argument was "We know monetary and fiscal stimulus failed and anyone who continues to argue otherwise is an ideologue, a dogmatist, guilty of state idolatry, etc.". If that was his logic, it still seems pretty (1.) presumptuous in his claims about stimulus, and (2.) condescending in its accusations. But perhaps we should take the qualifier that he was only refering to people who accuse him of being an ideologue at face value. There's nothing wrong with the alternative logic he originally provided in the post of course. In fact it's better than the logic he provides here - believing something despite evidence to the contrary is being an ideologue. I just think Steve is wrong about there being evidence to the contrary.
2. Jeff Friedman, editor of Critical Review, emailed me yesterday to aprove of my response to Steve here. He asked: "Can we boil it down and say that in a world of immense complexity, where controlled experimentation is usually impossible and the number of possible relevant variables uncountable, one can never know whether, in the absence of a policy that has failed to achieve the political promises made for it, things would have been better--or would have been worse?"
In the strictest sense, I think the answer is "of course". But I don't think we can stop there. After all, everything we do or fail to do is pregnant with uncertain implications. There is no safe default position that we can run to when we recognize the sort of uncertainty we're dealing with. So while I agree with Jeff that "we can never know", my response question is "well can we get a decent sense of it?" and I think the answer is clearly "yes". This leads me to,
3. Bob Murphy's comment on my response post. He writes: "I've found another overconfident guy, Daniel, who just last week declared:
"[W]e already know what isn’t working: the economic policy of the past two years — and the millions of Americans who should have jobs, but don’t."
(I know what you will say, chill out, that's still funny.)"
The source, to spoil it for those who haven't clicked through, is Paul Krugman. It could have been funny if Bob found a line where Krugman calls huge swaths of other people ideologues with absolutely no basis (just like Steve does). That would be funny, although the intended irony would be blunted by the fact that I've always been happy to admit that Krugman does this all the time. What I find odd about Bob's post is that I've never expressed concern with confidence in a particular theory. I'm not one of those people who thinks we're lost in the wilderness and that macroeconometrics is impossible and it's all a rouse (ex post story-telling, in Russ Roberts' words). I've always thought that nihilism was misplaced. I recognize the empirical problems and think that understanding those problems is precisely what helps us navigate towards answers that we can be confident in (if not 100% sure of). Krugman has done a good job, in my opinion, in defending his confidence. He has done a much worse job on his interpersonal skills. I've found Steve's defense of his confidence lacking - which is precisely why I posed the question "how do you know what you know?" Because the confidence only seems to be based on "Obama and Romer and Bernstein said we'd be better and we're not better" and that - to me at least - doesn't seem to be the best way to approach answering the question.