Thursday, August 1, 2013

Ezra Klein is an honorary economist...

...and Dean Baker isn't even honorary - he is one!

And their criticisms of Summers are very different from, much stronger, and much more nuanced than the criticisms of the non-economist left, in my experience.

Read my whole post, please. I have never said that all criticisms of Summers from the left are unreasonable. He was my third choice after Yellen and Romer, after all - precisely for some of the reasons you people are citing.

What I'm saying is that a lot of my liberal non-economist friends do have this weird propensity to despise Larry Summers and Brad DeLong is right - they do treat him like a right winger. And based on my own experiences 90% of them say he hates women, or Cornel West, or that he wants bankers to get rich, or that he wants to pollute Africa. There is definitely cause to criticize Summers on each of the incidents that inspire these complaints, but the criticisms by the non-economist left are usually blown way out of proportion (he does not think women are idiots, for example, as bad of an argument as that was). The areas where we can criticize him certainly don't seem to me to be the most important entries on the list of things to consider in the next Fed chair.


  1. You just won't quit on this nonsense, will you?

    The "left" hates him because he actually *is* a right winger - compared to themselves. No one on the left would believe the tripe he says about women - and if he had said "black" instead of "female", we wouldn't even be having this discussion. We all know the racist who knows better than to open his mouth - and Summers is the sexist who has learned not that women are inherently equal, but that he should keep his mouth shut about his beliefs. No one on the left believes a word he says about economics because he believes in the dominant neo-liberal paradigm, which has been CONSISTENTLY wrong. And you don't need a degree or ten in economics to see that. The foundation of your entire argument is an appeal to authority - the plebes can't judge a brilliant man like summers, their opinions aren't educated and intelligent like "true" economists, so we should keep it to ourselves, we're being "irrational." Spare us.

    You're supporting a guy who has consistently failed upwards his entire life, and just because YOU can't understand why people on the left aren't enthralled with his gravitas doesn't mean our judgements aren't correct. In any case, we couldn't be more wrong than Summers has been for as long as we can remember.

    PS. Some of us think being a sexist disqualifies you as an effective leader. But some of us actually believe in that "equality" crap. I know, silly hippies and all that.

  2. As a pretty smart person on the lefty side of things who hangs around with other pretty smart people, usually left-leaning, I'd say that in meatspace, I probably don't know more than a couple of people who have much of an opinion AT ALL about Larry Summers.

    So I'm kinda skeptical of your trying to make some point based on what your liberal non-economist friends have to say about Summers.

    It's easy to slander a group based on "liberals say this" or "conservatives think that." Surely you can find some semi-influential liberal voices online (and hopefully someone with more cred than, say, Jane Hamsher) that are saying the things your liberal non-economist friends are saying.

    If you can't, it's just more BS about what other people supposedly think, some more strawman slander.

    1. Oh spare me. Nobody's slandering anyone.

    2. "What I'm saying is that a lot of my liberal non-economist friends do have this weird propensity to despise Larry Summers and Brad DeLong is right - they do treat him like a right winger. "

      Look at what Summers does whenever he's in a position, rather than what he says when he's between positions. He consistently acts like a right-wing hyena.

      And frankly, he's not smart, in the world we're discussing, where being an Ivy League professor is entry-level. Every claim that I've seen about his intelligence is (a) anecdotal, with no evidence and (b) involved pseudo-intellectual debate, as opposed to actually accomplishing things.

  3. Unfortunately, people have a propensity to think in terms of shortcuts. The left as much as the right. And the shortcuts are usually rhetorical. Delivery is everything to the lay observer, and Larry Summers's delivery reminds the left of the prototypical "right wing hyena." But go beyond the manner of presentation and to the meat, and Larry Summers is very much a conventional Keynesian in terms of his values. His academic work, at its height, was original and influential, and that, along with his legendary ability to dominate a room, give him a well-deserved reputation for brilliance.

    When you come right down to it, I don't think he's far to the "right" of darlings of the left like Paul Krugman (who's written, not wrongly, about the benefits of sweatshop labor in the developing world) and Joe Stiglitz. The difference is primarily temperamental-- Stiglitz has a populist streak and will embrace the goals (if not the means) of Occupy Wall Street. Larry Summers won't be caught dead at an Occupy rally. But the committed left, like pretty much the entire right, wants boogeymen. They'll embrace someone like Elizabeth Warren for her outspokenness (ignoring that, intellectually, she doesn't hold a candle to Summers), but blast Summers for "not caring for the little guy", his stated positions to the contrary be damned.

    I'm not sure Summers is a better choice than Janet Yellen-- as a monetary economist, she probably has more relevant experience and a slightly stronger track record than Summers, and there is something to the "doesn't play well with others" knock on Summers as administrator, but positioning him as some kind of new age Greenspan or right-wing boogeyman is just steaming nonsense.

  4. I'm good with 'slander' having been too strong. But let's put it this way: you're using your friends as a basis for disparaging a larger group of people without any solid basis. Can we agree on that?


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