Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Assault of Thoughts - 12/28/2011

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

- Tyler Cowen asks why India's PISA rankings are so low. A better question is whether we should even be using PISA rankings. Hal Salzman and Lindsay Lowell provide a dose of skepticism about these metrics here.

- This J. Scott Armstrong paper on regressions has been making the rounds. I have not read it yet, but people seem to think it's good. The basic message seems to be a correlation is not causation point, and then some ideas about restricting the number of variables in a forecast. I can't speak to the latter, but I'm generally skeptical of economic forecasting anyway. The former point about correlation and the role of regression is something that I think econometricians are well aware of anyway. I think critics get a little too zealous on this. The point is that causal assertions (1.) are not proven by regressions, but they are framed by regressions, and (2.) clearly any causal claim has to originate from an underlying theory - not from a regression coefficient. People clearly shouldn't be confusing causation with correlation. I don't think they are, generally. But people also should not be causation agnostics. Don't be afraid to make causal statements, just know that it's not given to you by your regression. Your grounds to make a causal statement are given to you by underlying theory, and confirmed by an empirical analysis that is cognizant of problems of endogeneity and spuriousness.

- Brad DeLong points out that Rick Perry is not a fan of states' rights when the state in question is my own state of Virginia.


  1. I checked the WSJ article linked by Tyler Cowen, and then I saw that WSJ solicited remarks from...a human resources department executive?

    ...and that man discusses how to improve education on the basis of job and skill training?


    Businessmen need to stop giving opinions on education, because this is not their field and it will never be their field. The purpose of education is NOT to function as a job placement program or a job skills training programs. Jobs and trades already have those facilities on the job.

    Education is about transforming a person incapable of thinking into a person capable of thinking. It's why Napoleon decreed that all the French school students must learn the classics. He wanted to transform Frenchmen into thinkers. Not just send them to the coal mines and keep them productive!

    Once again, Wall Street Journal fails at understanding the meaning and purpose of a proper human life.

  2. X points out that Y is not a fan of states' rights when the state in question is Z state. This federalism thing makes hypocrites of anyone unless you don't expect consistency in federalism.

  3. Hi Daniel,

    What do you think are some of the more common problems with published regression analyses? Any advice on how a lay person can spot them?



  4. Daniel,

    This is off topic, but I think you might be interested. A little while back you were talking about ABCT and over-investment. Well, Joe Salerno put out a paper back in April discussing that issue. I don't remember anybody ever posting it, so here it is...


    The internet has done a lot to democratize and give a voice to people who didn't have it before re: economics and political economy.

  6. Vader, is there any particular reason why you're using a proxy server?

  7. My response to that is, what is a proxy server? I'm not really sure why you would want to know.

    FYI: I'm not the person who set up the internet connection in my house, my housemate did.

  8. Forget it. It's not a proxy, it's your supposed website.

  9. Nice comments on education, Prateek.

    Dennis Baker


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