Monday, December 3, 2012

Jefferson was a nasty sonofabitch


On a certain level we all knew it already because we all knew he was a life-long slave owner. I find it somewhat interesting that reading Jefferson talk about it in his own words seems to be making it real for people (didn't we already know how terrible he was on this count when we first learned that he owned human beings?).

As for his legacy, I think the point some people are circling is that while there's quite a bit we don't like about Jefferson there is a lot to like about Jeffersonianism - that special brand of American liberalism that belongs to Jefferson as genuinely as his slave ownership does. There's certainly a lot I like about Jeffersonianism.

In that sense, I think we file Jefferson with Heidegger. Which means people are probably never going to ultimately agree about him.


  1. Hehe. My spam filter thought commenter AH was spam. I did not delete that myself.

  2. Daniel,

    I know that you don't like hearing from me, for the truth hurts, but this article exactly reflected my POV about Jefferson. You took me to task in an earlier post for such and you owe me an apology.

    Anyway, I am calling it quits on my comments, for which you will be thankful, no doubt. I have licensed someone to on occasion comment in my place.

    You will no doubt reject my reasons for stopping commenting, but they are very simple.

    Economic blogs have burned themselves out as being any useful tool for Modernity. The reason is that Economics, as a profession, has not found enough hard science to throw out of the club all its false practitioners (Taylor, Cochrane, Williamson, the list is too long). Blogging has shown the public the wisdom of Twain (there are lies, damn lies, and then there is economics). What economic bloggers now write on any side is correctly seen, save for Noah, as noise.

    Delong has pretty much called the path forward from here. Obama and the Senate are engaged in a war to end the GOP as anything but a regional political party. The field of battle is not the fiscal cliff, it is the debt extension or roll over. Someone for Obama has finally come to understand that the way to kill off the GOP is to force it to make its unacceptable demands for agreeing to the debt extension and then calling the bluff. (Obama's true incompetence as President was shown when he failed to repeal the law, when he had the votes, leaving the entire nation vulnerable to GOP extortion. That he failed to do such is what concerned me the most when I voted). What I fear is that whoever that person is, Obama will backtrack from when the Senate democrats start meowing.

    Going forward, someday you will come to recognize that you scorned my offer of real wisdom, for I am a very moderate certain of the road Federalist.

    Like golf, economics is a game played on a six inch course between one's ears. It is about confidence and how to create confidence, not about the flavor of the day (NGDP targeting or "electronic" money). It is not that easy. You would learn more economics by reading Shakespeare and the Bible, if you could find the experiments to refine the wisdom of either.

    Best of luck. You will need such.

    1. It's not so much that I don't like hearing from you as it is that they get repetitive and I feel like I know what you think more than I know wh you think it.

      I had no particular aspirations for being a useful tool for Modernity here.

      I am not sure you have the Twain quote right.

    2. Daniel

      Thank you for the reply.

      I repeat myself because, being a student of persuasion, I know how powerful a tool repetition happens to be. In fact, repetition is the principle tool at the core of the G.O.P.’s political strategy. Tell a lie often enough and people will start to believe it. There is no harm in reminding.

      That you had no aspirations for being a useful tool for Modernity doesn't mean that I could not use commenting on your blog for that purpose. I got you to comment on Jefferson, after all. Remember, if you don't know who the mark is, that means the mark is likely to be you.

      As for the Mark Twain quote, I have revised Twain using the same propaganda techniques used by, for example, libertarians or followers of Hayek and Friedman. Twain may have used the word statistics but what he meant was "economics." "There are lies, damn lies, and then there is economics, and the worst case is economic blogging."

      Look around at all the economic blogs. They are at best lies, for they are driven by the ambition of the writer, who wants to attract attention, to be a public voice, so one has to filter out the incentive caused bias for starters.

      I love Brad Delong and agree with Krugman on politics, but still read both only when in heavy filter mode.

      There are damn lies (Taylor and Cochrane so openly seeking a political appointment from Romney).

      And then there is the science of economics which is not science at all (Williamson, with his non-existent model that predicts inflation).

      Beyond that, there are the legions of propaganda tools for racism, narcissism, and greed. Glen Beck, Karl Rove, Cafe Hayek and scores of libertarians and freidmanites. I pity any who read these people, I really do. Who would read Stalin on May Day parties? Or Peggy Noonan.

      That brings me to my concluding remarks. I really decided to stop posting when you ended anon. comments. Munger (Psychology of Human Misjudgment) explains that neither he nor Buffett read any writing which is the product of a writer infected with incentive caused bias. He refers to such as being a filter.

      If I were going to read an economics blog in the future, I would want it and all the comments to be anon., assuring myself that the writer had to win on the merits and was not playing to a particular partisan crowd. Nick Rowe says there are no new ideas in the economic blogs. He is right.

      Anyway, best of luck with your studies.


    3. re: "I got you to comment on Jefferson, after all. "

      Nah. I read the article before you mentioned it... I think from a link at Crooked Timber or something like that. I decided to post it when Cowen picked it up. It's a pretty good sign of whether people will be talking about it in the near future.

    4. AH: "Nick Rowe says there are no new ideas in the economic blogs."

      Did I say that? Maybe another Nick Rowe? Maybe I wasn't sober at the time?

    5. Well, you certainly were not talking about yourself. :)

      You're the idea man, Nick.

    6. The inference was drawn from comments on Noah's site under the Post, Will econ blogging hurt your career?

      Spreading new ideas was not mentioned and you mentioned the negative, "opportunity cost, and all that," followed by this statement: "It takes me hours per day, and a lot of mental energy. But then I probably wouldn't have a very productive alternate use of my time anyway."

      My expectation is that people writing who are tired, with nothing better to do, are unlikely to be at their best (i.e., no new ideas)

      FWIW, the blogs have become, to me a repetitive as I have been. I arrived at the conclusion I arrived at on the basis of the circumstantial evidence you provided.

      If I am wrong, I apologize.



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