Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Assault of Thoughts - 5/23/2012

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

-  Happy Birthday Bob Murphy!

- And speaking of Bob, he's got three more posts on Krugman, measuring austerity, etc. The first one is a pretty traditional "Krugman Kontradiction" of his which - as usual - I think is pretty weak. He tries to catch Krugman inconsistently discussing bailouts, automatic stabilizers, and stimulus. The case is pretty simple though - bailouts were a critical recovery policy but can in no way be considered fiscal stimulus (and were never called fiscal stimulus by Krugman), and automatic stabilizers and stimulus packages both are fiscal stimulus but it's reasonable to talk about each separately. The only contradiction Bob establishes is that over the course of four years Krugman has used the phrase "big government" to refer to different things at different times... meh. The second post I agree with: deficits have long been used as a measure of the fiscal stance by Keynesians. I'd argue it shouldn't be the only measure, but it's obviously an important one because it says something about government participation in the loanable funds market. Finally, he has a post up on on the subject.

- Ryan Murphy has a good post on Hayek, but I'm not sure he thinks I should think it's a good post on Hayek. A few good points I think most reasonable people should accept: (1.) Hayek can be hard to parse; (2.) Road to Serfdom shouldn't form your whole conception of Hayek; (3.) if your march to socialism doesn't get you to socialism obviously Hayek is going to think you've heeded him by stopping the march to socialism. That's a plausible thing for Hayek to argue. It's plausible for others to argue that they were never marching to socialism in the first place. Nothing jumped out at me as something I disagree with in terms of the interpretation of Hayek in this post. I disagree, of course, that "the logic" (to use Ryan's words) that got you to a social democracy ever represented a rejection of individualism or The Great Society in the first place. One last point - Ryan notes of Hayek's discussion of Communism and Fascism that "in many circles today it is almost banal". I'd add that in many circles in 1942 Hayek's observation was banal. Calvin Hoover, an economist at Duke who would eventually associate with Keynesianism, made this point in a number of widely read books many years before Hayek. Keynes of course also tied the totalitarians (fascists and communists) together and specifically cited their mutual rejection of individualism before Road to Serfdom. Needless to say, Keynes was not a minor intellectual figure in Britain in 1942.

- Mark Thoma shares Herb Gintis's excellent defense of the way that market exchange makes people more moral (or, perhaps a better way to put it, is that moral progress and liberal social institutions go hand in hand).

- A disappointing post from Peter Boettke. Maybe it's just me, but when I read Pete accusing the other side of pushing the "economics of illusion" and being driven by ideological imperatives to "distort" the truth, it sounds like he's excusing himself from the discussion. This isn't a general "there are people out there who do this" claim. There are people out there who do this, so that's fine. This gets pretty specific. This is exactly the sort of post that made me completely give up on Russ Roberts, so I hope it's just a fluke or a moment of passion for Pete.

- Jonathan Catalan has good thoughts on free banking here.


  1. Hoover's only books before 1944 were published in 1931 and 1933.

    The only possible book you could be talking about is _Germany Enters the Third Reich_, 1933.

    Have you read the book?

    1. What I think you mean to say is "Hoover's only books before 1944 that I saw on Wikipedia were published in 1931 and 1933".

      I was specifically thinking of Dictators and Democracy (1937), but I believe the earlier books basically make the same argument (the 1931 book is on the Soviet Union). Dictators and Democracy is a compilation of articles from the Virginia Quarterly Review that Hoover wrote through the early thirties. I should double check, but I believe I've read all the constituent articles of that book. Certainly most of them. I haven't read the other two books but I've read other reviews of them, as well as other articles to this effect from Hoover in economics journals. Hoover had a great deal of authority because he lived in Russia and Germany for a while during this period.

      I need to dig up the source, but my understanding is he discussed his view about the similarities between Russia and Germany with Keynes in the 30s, Keynes agreed strongly and was one of those who encouraged him to publish his ideas on it.

      I'm sure Hoover isn't the only one to note this much earlier than Road to Serfdom, but he is a case that I am particularly familiar with.

  2. If you read Sandel's piece, you'll see that Gintis' "reply" to Sandel is no such thing. He doesn't seem to have read the piece he was commenting on. For example, Sandel discusses what he calls "corruption," by which he means that some goods are changed, degraded in virtue of being provided by markets. You can't buy a friend, for example. Gintis's response: economists talk about corruption all the time - just look at Acemoglu and Robinson's book showing how corruption reduces economic growth. Huh?

    1. I didn't read the whole Gintis response, but the passage quoted by Thoma seems to be a reply to Sandel's section on "non-market norms" and it seems to be a fine response to that point.


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