Thursday, August 16, 2012

Quote of the day: Mario Rizzo

On signing the list of economists for Romney's economic plan:

"I interpreted signing as restricted to economic policy issues. The statement itself speaks only to economic issues. However, at the time, I didn't realize the degree to which people would interpret this as an endorsement of Romney overall. (Yes, the headline is "Economists for Romney" but somehow I thought it was clear that it was only economics.) I do not endorse his views on foreign policy, civil liberties and social policy. Endorsement of his economic policy proposals is to be viewed only in comparison to Obama's policies (and also his lack of proposals to restrain spending). This does not represent my deepest ideals or a comprehensive economic philosophy. I believe it is akin to choosing the less scratchy toilet paper. I am distressed that some people would interpret my action as selling out to the GOP establishment or such. I am not looking for a job with a Romney administration. (They would never offer, anyway. I can't keep my mouth shut.)"

I like that - "the less scratchy toilet paper". This is basically the way I see Obama's economic policy - not great but better than the Republican and Libertarian alternatives. It's true, though, that I probably warm more to Obama's other policies than Rizzo does to Romney.

This was a response to my surrpise that Rizzo - as a libertarian - would be on the list. So the ultimate justification from Rizzo is not unanticipated and I think makes a lot of sense. I've never been a fan of protest votes. I think it makes much more sense to shape the system itself the best we can. That's the system we'll be living under, after all.

I am also glad to see Rizzo express distress at suggestions that policy positions will be taken by profesional economists in pursuit of political power (certainly it happens, but the suggestion that this is notable or applicable distresses Rizzo). I hope this means that when it is suggested in the comment thread or elsewhere that Keynesianism is popular for this reason, Rizzo will be on my side of that argument

UPDATE: Brad DeLong ain't happy with Mario Rizzo, linking my post here. I'd share Brad's displeasure that any economist anywhere would endorse the relatively vague and unsatisfactory Romney plan - especially relative to the also imperfect Obama alternative - but I want to stress that I reposted Mario's quote here because I at least like his reasoning. I'm not a fan of his ultimate choice, but I am a fan of his more pragmatic willingness to engage the political reality that we actually have, rather than endorsing some third party candidate without a chance (if a third party candidate ever makes more headway, of course you may have more justification for backing him or her). Plus I just liked the "less scratchy toilet paper" line.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. Criticizing Rizzo or anyone is completely fair game, but you have to... you know... have an actual argument, not just a list of insults.

    2. Daniel

      It is an actual argument to say that you don't believe a word that someone says based on their motive and incentive to lie.

      Munger and Buffett don't read broker's reports that tout stocks, because of the incentive to lie. Go read Munger's great essay on the Psychology of Human Misjudgment.

      I take a great deal of pride in being able to discern who is lying about economics (and why), from who is trying to advance the ball in a positive direction.

      Go to SSRN and look at the work on deception and the discovery of deception. Some of us are highly skilled at such.

      Rizzo is engaged in deception. He writes solely to attract attention to himself. His defense of signing the Romney letter was duplicitous. Said simply, he was hoping that someone like you would comment, drawing attention to him.

      In sum, dogs know the difference between being tripped over and being kicked. You need to learn the same skill.

    3. Something tells me you don't know the work of Mario Rizzo very well.

    4. So let me get this straight AH...

      ...Rizzo does not support Romney. But he does like people blogging about him. So to get people to blog about him he made sure he got his name on a list of four hundred other names in the hopes that someone like me would - in a blog - be a little curious at why he is supporting Romney.

      Is that right?

      And that's why I am being "kicked" and not "tripped on"?

      This is more elaborate and bizarre than Tom Woods's conspiracy theories.

    5. Daniel

      You got played.

      Rizzo could care less about Mitt Romney or you. He signed the letter solely to draw attention to himself. He already had his cleaver "toilet paper" line at hand. He just wanted someone to give him the opportunity to use it, drawing more attention to himself. Your comment gave him the opening for which he was looking. As many others has written, his explanation makes no sense whatsoever.

      Grow up. Delong, Krugman, the big boys in the business realize that their are lots of people out there with agendas. Time for you to do the same.

    6. Everyone has an agenda, except you ... and the economists who share your agenda. ;)

    7. Catalan

      You are exactly right---everyone has an agenda and it is very important to understand the agenda of different people. For example, you write that, "I am a student at San Diego State University who loves economics and political science, but with no clear direction in life!" Who would pay attention to someone without direction and no agenda?

      Take Hayek and Friedman. Both had, foremost, an agenda to be "great." Thus, both attacked Keynes for only by being different would anyone take notice of either. Thus, the writing and speaking of both is more like a good preacher than a great economist. For example, as many many have written and commented, when you get to details there is nothing to Hayek. All hat, no cattle, just cynical criticism made solely to draw attention to the writer.

      Look at all the super-silly "libertarians" and gold bug crowds, today, or the free banking or competing currency or audit the fed wack jobs, or those with Taylor rules or NGDP targeting. All of these people are totally intellectually dishonest and are doing nothing but attempting to draw attention to themselves, for we know that none of these "fixes" will work because people will change and alter their conduct.

      Any honest observer would admit that, past Keynes, we really know next to nothing about economics. The reason is very simple. Man is mostly irrational and our knowledge is very limited, almost to the point of being next to nothing. Said differently, we know that life is the psychology of the madness of crowds, but know next to nothing about what to do about it.

      Look at the farce taking place now over the discussion of the federal budget and what deficits we will have in 20, 30, 40 years. What absolute madness. Any reader of the Bible knows, "Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself."

      All the current budget projections, etc., are meaningless, for many reasons, one of which is technology. We know, for example, that we are very close to the point where economic growth will become a straight line up (20-40) years, which will occur when machines are totally robotic (when machines can build and repair themselves, once programed). In that economy labor will not be an input. A Caterpillar factory will make tractors limited only by the raw materials and energy available. And, these machines will most likely have no drivers or operators, etc.

      No one has economic models that consider such changes, so why are we worrying today about federal budget deficits in 2075. The answer is that, because we don't know a thing about tomorrow, our minds are programed to assure us that the sun will come up and it will be like today or better yet, about the golden times past. Sorry guy, but true Art, now forgotten by our culture, reminds us that today is as good as it gets.

      By contrast, Smith and Keynes had ideas that were new and their only agenda was to get them into public view. Thus, if you want direction in life, read the greats beyond Smith and Keynes, the Bible, Shakespeare, Marcus Aurelius and the Greeks, study truly Great Men (Washington, Hamilton, Franklin, Lincoln, FDR, Truman, Eisenhower, Patton) who did great things with their lives, look at great art (go to a Monet exhibit and look at one of his triptych, painted in his 70s.

      Ask yourself, What would a Washington or Hamilton or Franklin think of a greedy narcissists like Hayek, Ayn Rand, or Paul Ryan? Or, better yet what would Washington think of a flip flopper like Romney?

  2. I still don't get it, probably I miss something. Rizzo does not endorse the statement as is on economic grounds. Rizzo does not agree with most of Romney's policy, so there is no political affiliation (which would make the signature understandable, even if he doesn't agree with the wording).

    Yet he has signed the Statement.


    1. As he said, he seems to think Romney is the lesser of two evils.

      Why is this so hard for people to understand?

    2. I understand that. But the Statement does not read "We reluctantly endorse Governor Romney's plan as it is the lesser of two evils, but honestly, it's pretty bad." It reads "We enthusiastically endorse Governor Mitt Romney’s economic plan..."

      As I say, if you were politically affiliated with Romney's camp this would be nitpicking. Over-the-top statements are part of the campaign game: in a public and collective statement you can only fully endorse a candidate, or not at all.

      But Rizzo says that he is doesn't agree with Romney on other topics, either.

      If given the choice between pest and cholera you don't go around stating:"Cholera!! And enthusiastically so! Cholera is great! Uhmmm, but wait... that's not at all what I mean, really."

      If you choose to sign such a thing you should at least not go around afterwards and tell how you didn't mean it! If you don't mean it, don't sign it in the first place...

    3. Hahaha! How about that:

      Sorry... couldn't resist...

    4. Rizzo didn't write the letter. He had the option to sign it. In lieu of something better, he chose to.

    5. Yes, thanks, I got that. He signed it and afterwards felt urged to clarify that he doesn't actually believe what it says. So he shouldn't have signed it. If he signs he should at least stand by it. That's all.

      Because the fact itself that probably no one on the list is 100 % convinced by what the Statement says would not exactly be a surprise. That's the simple tradeoff in endorsing a collective statement. But if you have to issue a comment ex post that directly contradicts the Statment you signed from the very first sentence, something has gone wrong - and it's not the Statement.

  3. I'd like to add that the demonstrated economic policies of the GOP are a combination of looting and deliberate destruction. They've spent a lot of effort making this clear and not honestly deniable (see the Bush II administration and the Tea Party's behavior for the past four years).

    We are not in a case where one party's economic program is somewhat better or worse; we are in a case where one party clearly believes that it profits by trashing the country.


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