Thursday, May 10, 2012

If you run across a Republican congressman, he or she is more likely than not as dumb as a post

This would be terrible.

I guess it's not surprising given the "pillar of economic thought" in the House is affiliated with a group that's suspicious of empirical economic science generally.

This makes me really mad.


  1. I'm sure that there is an a priori method out there to determine the number of flush toilets that a person has.

    1. :)

      For those not familiar with the ACS, there is considerably more at stake here than flush toilet counts. I think stickman knows that - just making a joke - but for those who don't know how valuable this data is I want to clarify it's not all seemingly banal stuff.

      I'm using ACS data for my petroleum engineer analysis and will be for another paper we've got planned if this Sloan money comes through. The shame is, it's just gotten really good. It started a little over a decade ago, it wasn't until the mid-2000s that it got really small geography data, and the last two years have just added some educational variables that I'm finding invaluable.

  2. Mad enough to kill, Daniel, mmmm?

    1. "Fiat Money: How Else You Gonna Kill 600,000 Americans"

      he is already or about to be killing every day -- mad, happy, or sad it doesn't matter-- you "reasonable" guy you

    2. Fiat Money: How Else You Gonna Kill 600,000 Americans?

      yes -- mad -- sad -- happy -- apparently it will not matter -- as long as he works he will kill

      am I the only one laughing every time DK calls Murphy a reasonable guy

  3. Whoa, your going Delong-Krugman on our asses now! I know this would be catastrophic for your precious papers, but come on, there ARE reasonable people who agree with the bill.

    Let me put it this way. If I think that "active" government policy like demand management, welfare, public goods creation, etc., are counter-productive for society, then isn't it reasonable to argue that the data that's used to guide their implementation is unnecessary?

    If you think that Republicans are bunch of morons for not understanding the benefits of the policies listed above, then fine. At least we're getting to the heart of the argument. But IF a person holds that most policy (of the sort above) is a bad idea, then it's CONSISTENT to argue for a discontinuation of that kind of program.

    1. The title is excessive, it is true. In response to an excessive bill.

      I think you're going too far when you say "there are reasonable people who agree with the bill". Or put it this way - if such people are reasonable as people, their support of this bill is unreasonable.

      If you're anything other than an anarchist, it's unreasonable to want to cut modern data collection that gives policymakers up to date information with which to make decisions.

      If you are an anarchist, I'd file anarchism under "unreasonable views that otherwise reasonable people can hold". Take friend of the blog, Bob, just above this comment. Very reasonable guy. Happens to hold a bunch of unreasonable views :)

      Just my two cents though.

    2. And to anticipate/clarify - I fully expect Bob has the same view on me and lots of other people, and that's just fine.

    3. "Anarchist" in no way oppose "free market" data collection (they I hear like modern stuff too)-- they are however in favor of cutting all "political/gov't policymakers" -- you know but muddle this -- not honest

      supporting the passage of a bill such as the above falls more in line with your "reasonable" people position than it does the "unreasonable anarchist" one -- again: your paradigm should lead you too find the republicans in this situation more reasonable than any anarchist would

      a anarchist should be no more excited for moderate rollback of the collecting of statistical data than he or she should have been excited for a repeal of Glass Steagall -- you over simplify Anarchist leanings for convenience -- what appears in the short to be less state in one area often leads too more state in other area's most likely giving us more overall state

      Anarchist are not idiots (yes DK insert joke) -- they don't think this in any meaningful way is a move towards the banishment of Gov't Statistics -- no more than Glass Steagall's separation of commercial and investment banking could have been viewed as a stepping stone towards closing the FED and establishing free market banking -- sorry Jesus Huerta de Soto

      I would think that this republican half measure coincides with the "reasonable" rhetoric you so regularly espouse -- I know you do not really think the majority of republicans voting this way when asked privately would tell you they seek a abolishment of all gov't statistics -- you don't think they really think we would be better off with no BLS -- you think this because you think them "reasonable"

      realizing that you find disgust in "compromising" (argument stagnating policy)-- makes you by your standards radical-- I mean unreasonable -- you can't have it both ways DK

    4. Well I'm glad you and I agree that anarchists aren't idiots and I'm glad we agree that they wouldn't be satisfied with cutting the ACS.

      Let me get some clarification on your position, though - you do also agree with me that anarchists would want the ACS cut, right?

    5. "Anarchists" oppose the existence of the ACS -- just as I assume they oppose the current existence of Walmart (eminent domain -- government backed fiat loans and so on and so forth) -- this position does not mean "they" spend "their" time running all over town putting out old flames

      I'm aware some do

      that being said -- a "anarchist" is probably not (if you pressed him or her) predominately concerned with cutting the ACS -- IRS -- and so on in the way your question implies -- they I suspect are more concerned with eliminating the departments necessitating the "offshoots" evolving existence

      I am not evading: you asked if I think anarchists want to cut the ACS "yes I do" -- but -- it is important to keep in mind that I think the majority of anarchists care less about cutting the ACS than they do about business shackling government laws -- they prefer market shackles -- a "anarchist" might say remove the state and who knows the ACS might be called Facebook -- "the future is from my view uncertain"

  4. re:"If you're anything other than an anarchist, it's unreasonable to want to cut modern data collection that gives policymakers up to date information with which to make decisions."

    Not at all. You just have to believe that the costs of data collection exceed the benefits. Clearly you think the benefits/cost ratio is big, but I think a decent case can be made that that's not so obvious; and you don't have to be an anarchist to make it.

  5. re:"Not at all. You just have to believe that the costs of data collection exceed the benefits. Clearly you think the benefits/cost ratio is big, but I think a decent case can be made that that's not so obvious; and you don't have to be an anarchist to make it."

    Yes, you're right. You don't have to be an anarchist to believe that since the house GOP is a prime example of what you're talking.It also illustrate Daniel's point completely of a bunch of people being completely unreasonable for ideological reasons. If you really believe the costs of the data collection and its uses exceeds any potential benefits then I would like to see an elaboration beyond simply internet austrian platitudes.

  6. It's simple. Look, if you start from the premise that the net welfare gains from a given policy are negative, or minuscule at best, than the data that informs their implementation is probably going to be of relatively little value. Moreover, in so far as there is an endogenous relationship between data and policy, then you can even make the case that it's of negative value (e.g. if it's existence in some way prompts or motivates certain policies that reduce welfare).

    But take it a step further. Suppose that for political reasons we're going to get certain policies no matter what our wishes may be. I think most would argue that having data for those polices would obviously be of net value. But I'm not even convinced that that's necessarily true. In my experiences with econometrics and data, the rule tends to be that, what we already know or agree on, the data confirms, and what we don't know or can't agree on, the data will rarely provide much insight - and whatever insight it may provide, it's rarely transferable into practical efficiency gains. And to be clear, I'm not in favor of dropping empirical economics, not in the least, but I think far too much confidence is placed in it's value. I think it's useful for confirming sound and reasonable insights (or at least not rejecting those insights), but I'm not convinced that it's really useful as some kind of planning guide.

    And in so far as there are costs from collecting, storing, and analyzing the data (not to mention having people answer the surveys), I think a case could be made that those costs outweigh whatever benefits we think there may be. It really comes down to estimating the gains and losses, which, ironically, is a matter for empirical economics!

    But the whole point is that you don't have to be crazy to think that that kind of data collection is of obvious benefit. You may greatly disagree about the estimates we'd find if we were to look into the matter - but the point of disagreement lies in those estimates, not some sort of moronic ignorance.

  7. There is a long history of the government misusing all sorts of data to hurt individuals. It's not crazy or stupid to want to keep private information out of government hands.

  8. "I think it's useful for confirming sound and reasonable insights"

    Frank Knight used to say that doing empirical economics is a lot like proving water runs downhill.


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