Wednesday, February 27, 2013

I sometimes get the urge to pick up Amity Shlaes...

...the copy of The Forgotten Man on my shelf, the new Coolidge book in the bookstore.

She writes about things that interest me. She also has a different perspective and it's always good to read different perspectives.

But thankfully, Brad DeLong pulls me back from the brink.

The trouble with Shlaes is that although she writes history - and probably is pretty good at tracking down that history - she always seems to have a moral-of-the-story she wants to give you and in fact it's always the same moral-of-the-story. Having a thesis or viewpoint is one thing, but having a political statement you're always trying to get across is fairly worthless in a historian.


  1. Oddly, on this topic, the quotes DeLong gives seem to be saying exactly what Shlaes said: Coolidge knew there was a bubble, but didn't think it was his job as president to fix it. I don't see a single thing that contradicts here story in a single one of the quotes.

    My conclusion: Shlaes is one of the people on DeLong's enemies list, and so he smears her. Totally typical DeLong bullshit.

    1. Hmmmm...

      I thought I read about Coolidge, who according to Amity Shlaes did not deign to interfere with the Fed or the markets, pretty directly pressuring the Fed and making influential statements to market participants on this very issue, shocking a lot of people at the time!

      I think DeLong is on a list of yours and while you two may have legitimate issues to duke out it's coloring your take on other questions.

    2. Agreed. Mellon thought his job was to keep the bubble going and that Coolidge thought his job was--rather than informing himself and being a president--to defer to Mellon. That seems to me to be what Galbraith meant when he said that Coolidge neither knew nor cared: he did not care that the country was headed for what he thought would be disaster enough to try to avert it, he did not know enough about the situation to feel as though he could challenge Mellon, and he did not brief himself up to a state where he could decide whether Mellon was right or not.

      Galbraith 73, Shlaes 0

      Brad DeLong

    3. No you don't:

      "Whether the amount at the present time [of brokers' loans] is disproportionate to the resources of the country, I am not in a position to judge accurately…. [S]o far as indicated by an inquiry that I have made of the Treasury and so on, I haven't had any indications that the discount was large enough to cause particularly unfavorable comment…"

      This is supposed to be Cooldge PRESSURING the Fed, rather than just judging that is was not his job as president to interfere?!

      Well, you two have a very odd view of "pressuring," I must say!

      And, yes, I have "issues" with DeLong, such as, he calls good friends of mine whom he has never met "psychopaths." Don't you have issues with that sort of BS, Daniel?

    4. This comment has been removed by the author.

    5. Wiki says that a psychopath is a personality disorder that has been variously characterized by shallow emotions (including reduced fear, a lack of empathy, and stress tolerance), coldheartedness, egocentricity, superficial charm, manipulativeness, irresponsibility, impulsivity, criminality, antisocial behavior, a lack of remorse, and a parasitic lifestyle.

      Now this is beyond the narcissistic greed many see in all Libertarians/Austrians, but the shoe seems to fit some a lot?

      As regards Coolidge, Did Lincoln respect the autonomy of either Stanton or his generals?

      There is a very simple formula here: Either Shlaes or Callahan = casuistry

    6. I've been to the Coolidge homestead in Plymouth Notch, Vermont; they make fantastic cheese there.

      As for calling someone a psychopath except as a sort of throwaway glib insult, anyone who thinks they can seriously diagnose someone over the internet is not doing themselves much of a service and they certainly shouldn't be taken seriously.

    7. It seems to me that Coolidge - like any historical figure - is being used for current day axe grinding.


      I'd call Shlaes a journalist. I read "The Forgotten Man"; it didn't read anything like the academic history that I prefer it read like most popular history reads.

    8. Ya I know she's not a historian, but even popular history usually has a thesis rather than such an overtly political message.

    9. Not really. Popular history tends the laden with one or another message or another. You probably don't read enough of history but really that's what publishers want apparently; kind of a hook. To me they are often just really long editorials.

    10. Geez you're reminding me of an old commenter we used to have now (maybe you're him - I've suspected before that he's back under other pseudonyms).

      1. I know your position. Don't lead a comment with "not really" and then just restate your position. If you lead with "not really" you ought to actually have evidence.

      2. You're moving the goal post here. Of course popular history has a message. That was a point I had already made above. But Shlaes always carries a very overtly political message, and that's NOT something you usually get in popular history.

    11. evidence or argument, of course

    12. I only have my experience of what I've read. Shlaes to me is kind of run of the mill as far as pushing a particular morality tale based on my experience.

      No reason to get hostile.

      I have no idea how to respond to the first part of your comment. Flattered?

    13. Not getting hostile I'm just pointing you you're not giving me much to work with and you're moving the goal posts on the claim. I hope I can be critical without being perceived as being hostile.

    14. TLSB

      who thinks they can seriously diagnose someone over the internet---

      what would be your diagnose of the following people, just from information on the Internet

      1) Hitler
      2) Nixon
      3) Bork
      4) Scalia, esp. after his comments this week on the VRA and the farce of him wearing a Thomas More Hat, to honor a man who burned heretics at the stake

  2. First comment but I know you don't like anons ...February 27, 2013 at 4:18 PM


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    1. :)

      Should be dealt with now. I get tons of them every day, they just usually don't slip through the filters like these.

      A couple weeks back I ended the widely despised sign-in process (it had a CAPTCHA, etc.). Ever since that time my email has been barraged with spam, most of which has been filtered out. It is the price of a more commenter-friendly blog!

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