Sunday, September 25, 2011

LK on Hayek on Public Works

I am swamped right now and can't write much, but I did want to note that LK has an interesting post up on what Hayek thought of public works in a depression. He's curious what peoples' reactions are to it.


  1. Dan, I think you're arguing with a fake Don over there. It doesn't sound like him.

    Plus, Don is doing quite well from the money he gets from the Earhart Foundation and Koch Brothers

    As dis Karol Boudreaux:

  2. Are you the "anonymous" that goes around with these Koch comments? This one doesn't make a particularly strong causal argument but if you're the same anonymous commenter, other comments of yours make stronger causal claims, and often they're inappropriate.

    Don clearly has a point of view and the Koch brothers have a point of view. How much of Don's view is determined by his politics and how much is determined by objective consideration of the facts is unknown. Clearly a lot of what he says is pure normative claims - which is fine. Everyone's entitled to their opinion.

    The coincidence of his claims and Koch's views supports at least two causal explanations:

    1. The Koch brothers pay Don to say what they want him to say, or

    2. Don says what the Koch brothers happen to want people to think - so they support efforts that he would have pursued anyway.

    If the Koch brothers didn't exist, do you think Don would still think and say roughly what he thinks and says today?

    I think it's likely that he would.

    Therefore, the second causal story seems to me to be a considerably more likely explanation of what we observe. Sometimes pulling apart causality is tough. It doesn't seem all that tough in this case.

    Anyway - this post was about LK on Hayek and public works. Do you have an opinion on that subject? I haven't gotten a chance to read/think about it so I'm very open to thoughts at this point.

  3. Even though Hayek may have advocated a certain extent of government interventionism to alleviate the pain of a severe downturn, he "failed to draw the line" at what point and at what extent explicitly enough. While all ideologies and positions need to make exceptions and compromises in order to survive, Hayek didn't make those moves clear enough for his own argument's sake.

    BTW, it was not too long ago that Lord Keynes reviewed a paper by Michael Emmett Brady comparing and contrasting the respective approaches to uncertainty taken by Hayek and Keynes. The Hayekian approach to uncertainty may pose a problem to Austrian Trade Cycle Theory and Austrian capital theory...

  4. Hayek discusses stuff like this in the Road to Serfdom, so these comments aren't a surprise to anyone I would guesstimate. Keynes' view on the appropriate nature of the state is quite different from Hayek's, so that's the real issue that divides the two of them, not the mega special case of when an economy is in depression. The current way people are going back and forth on the stimulus is really a stalking horse for that larger debate - so whether Hayek agreed that on a very special episode of "economics" that you shouldn't miss that UI might a good idea in a very particular setting is sort of beyond the point to me. I stopped reading when I got to the part about the rap video; as I remember it Prof. Roberts (or the other guy) have said in the past that the videos aren't about these particular guys, but about the general approaches/ideologies they can represent. Do they over-generalize at points to make their point? Yeah, they do. So what. So do political cartoonists.

  5. OK, OK, I'll leave. Visit my blog at sometime.

    How do I know about Boudreaux? Because the Koch Brothers were caught red handed at the University of Florida:

    "Under the agreement with the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, however, faculty only retain the illusion of control. The contract specifies that an advisory committee appointed by Koch decides which candidates should be considered. The foundation can also withdraw its funding if it's not happy with the faculty's choice or if the hires don't meet "objectives" set by Koch during annual evaluations."

    As to whether he's a 'true believer', he'd be yelling his opinions on a street corner instead of appearing on Fox Business News and writing editorials that get into the WSJ without the Koch and Earhart money.

    Goodbye forever.

  6. Daniel's debates with Don Boudreaux have been long-running and very in-depth.

    If, at this point, Daniel were to simply say, "You know what, you are just a Koch operative", it would seem like him throwing the towel.

    Because if Daniel actually thought Don was not worth the time by virtue of his institutional donors, Daniel wouldn't have engaged him at all. So reducing this issue to Don's patrons now would be self-defeating.

    LK of the Social Democracy blog points this out to fellow people on his side all the time - he engages neoclassical, Chicago, and Austrian ideas, because he believes it's not just plutocratic funding but genuine belief behind those ideas.

  7. Sorry to continue the derail, but I think dismissing the role of Koch funding is hypocritical considering economists approach to everyone else.

    Just think 'academic choice theory'. Does the funding the Koch brothers give shift Bordreaux's views closer to the Koch's, if only slightly? Without it, would ideas like his be given the platform they are today?

    There may be genuine belief behind the ideas but the reason they're so prevalent is not because they are superior ideas; it's because their proponents are given the microphone.

  8. Wow, and this blog seemed kind of interesting at first.

  9. Here is the problem with the Koch allegations that are all over the internet: it's essentially an ad hominem attack. I'm not even talking about Don's case here, but just in general.

    Even if we had 100% undeniable proof that someone was on the Koch payroll, how does that invalidate their argument? It doesn't! Calling someone a Koch operative is an easy out. It's completely intellectually lazy.

    Disagree with someone's views? Fine. Explain why they are incorrect. Simply attacking their character does nothing to rebut their argument.

  10. Rian,

    You just have to ask to question - if the Koch brothers were funding lib-prog issues would they be a problem to lib-progs? No.

  11. You don't have to leave anonymous! It's just that when I think an argument is a bad argument, I try to explain why. You can stay and continue to make what I think is a bad argument, and I'll continue to feel that way unless you find some way of convincing me (unlikely in this particular case). Or you can change your mind and agree with me. There are lots of options other than you leaving.

  12. Cahal -
    If you argument is that the Koch brothers construction of a libertarian infrastructure makes more libertarians (and may even have a positive feedback loop on existing libertarians), I would agree with you.

    But I don't think what I'm arguing contradicts the way that economists' look at the world. When I want to buy a loaf of bread I don't go to a liquor store and keep paying them money until it's lucrative enough for them to just bake me a loaf of bread. When I want to pay money for a loaf of bread, I go to someone that's already producing bread.

    I'm not arguing that the Koch brothers are in the market for objective economic analysis. I agree they are in the market for libertarian analysis. I simply think there is a ready supply of libertarians willing to provide that analysis. I don't think Koch money generates libertarians from scratch, from a malleable supply pool.

  13. If anyone cares, I'd take Koch money to produce research if they gave it to me.

    I'm not sure if they would give it to me and I'm not sure how long they'd continue to give it to me (I think some of my work they'd be fine with), but I've got no problem with being funded by people with an agenda. The problem only comes in if there are any strings attached that necessitate it be my agenda. This is a very careful line to tread with funders. So far I've been lucky in that I've never had to compromise on something that makes me uncomfortable. Then again, I'm also usually comfortable with "on the one hand... on the other hand" conclusions that make these things work (and are usually more responsible anyway).

  14. Well, it could be that there is a reservoir of libertarians out there:

    So this sets up the situation where there were always libertarians (and atheists) they just didn't live in societies where that sort of thought was healthy. Or at least that is one way one could tell it.

    Anonymous Basterd

  15. I wonder what he's implying with that last line. I don't see the connection one way or the other.

  16. I just checked the Discovery blog.

    "I am a libertarian-leaning atheist, in case anyone cares."

    No. No one cares. Not in a biochemical and anthropological blog post. ;)

  17. He's speculating for the same reason that I speculate on it.

    And there does seem to be a strong connection between atheism and libertarianism; at least anecdotally. Neurotypicals do seem to have a harder time being atheists or being libertarians.

    Anonymous Basterd

  18. Well I know you agree with him Anonymous Basterd. I just don't know where you or he are getting that. Not that I'm arguing "neurotypicals" (what a bizarre word!) are MORE likely to be atheist. I've just never noticed a connection.

    I think this is along the lines of Gary Gunnels insisting to me that the more logical a thinker you are the more likely you are to be a libertarian. People see what they want to see. Gary has said this about atheists and libertarians too. Bob Murphy has said that Christianity and libertarianism go hand in hand, and there are others at LvMI who agree. I think people are seeing connections because they want to see connections.

  19. Daniel,

    This is going to be a bit rambling...

    It isn't a bizarre word once you get used to it; there are a diversity of brains out there (like there is a diversity of lots of stuff - like cars) formed by all sorts of happy and unhappy accidents. In light of that way of looking at the population of brains out there the whole rationality debate amongst economists (you mentioned that sometimish ago) seems just odd to me because it doesn't apparently take that diversity into mind.

    Yes, people see what they want to see, so what? It is a reasonable conclusion to me. You can attack that if you want to, but there is a large population of atheists who happen to be libertarians of a type (and not the LvMI type) - you've got four or five sub-types of libertarians out there in the broader political, etc. ecology of the world. And yeah, to me, the logical position is atheism and libertarianism as a lot of fairly like minded people understand them; for me it is how I am happiest and most fulfilled when it comes to the issues related those ways of thinking. But even if that doesn't seem logical to you, even if you think X religion is awesome, or X way of living in a community that makes lots and lots of choices for you based on what experts think, I really don't care. Believe those things and live that way, and I'll live the way I want to live. Now a lot of people find that attitude to be narcissistic, but I always find that once you dig a bit into the whole mythology of the community, etc. that it isn't nearly as wholesome or what have you as advertised.

    Anonymous Basterd


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