Look: I am eager to learn stuff I don't know--which requires actively courting and posting smart disagreement.

But as you will understand, I don't like to post things that mischaracterize and are aimed to mislead.

-- Brad Delong

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Everything that appears on this blog is the copyrighted property of somebody. Often, but not always, that somebody is me. For things that are not mine, I either have obtained permission, or claim fair use. Feel free to quote me, but attribute, please. My photos and poetry are dear to my heart, and may not be used without permission. Ditto, my other intellectual property, such as charts and graphs. I'm probably willing to share. Let's talk. Violators will be damned for all eternity to the circle of hell populated by Rosanne Barr, Mrs Miller [look her up], and trombonists who are unable play in tune. You cannot possibly imagine the agony. If you have a question, email me: jazzbumpa@gmail.com. I'll answer when I feel like it. Cheers!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Math, Logic, Real Data and Rational Discourse

For entirely different reasons, Paul Krugman and Menzie Chinn call out reality-denying conservatives (there is no other kind.)


A number of my recent blog posts have involved pointing out adding-up constraints: you can’t have some people spending less than their income unless others spend more than their income, all the world’s currencies can’t devalue against each other, etc..
 And judging from the responses, basic arithmetic makes people very, very angry.

My point that if you expect debtors to pay down their debt, someone must be prepared either to increase debt or to reduce assets, leads to hysterical accusations of immorality. My point that a weak dollar is a strong euro and vice versa leads to accusations that I want everyone to become Zimbabwe.

It’s kind of funny; it would be even funnier if denial of arithmetic weren’t contributing, in a very real sense, to our economic problems.

To be fair, many of the hysterical attacks involve claiming that I said things I didn’t.No, asserting that someone needs to spend more doesn’t mean that debt never matters. No, declaring that competitive devaluation does no harm isn’t the same as claiming that you can always print money without limit, and never suffer inflation. But the way my correspondents slide away from the points I’m actually making is itself revealing: it shows that they can’t bring themselves to think clearly about the actual state of affairs in the world economy right now.

I guess if you want to think in terms of simple slogans — saving good! strong currency good! liberals bad! — arguments to the effect that the world right now won’t fit those slogans is disturbing. And the solution is to yell a lot.


In other words, it is hard to discern actual evidence for the extreme supply side proposition that tax rate cuts increase tax revenues, when examining the data (and knowing which data are relevant). Now, we know that many things are going on at the same time, but as a matter of fact one cannot say that income tax revenues rose immediately after the beginning of implementation of EGTRRA.*

. . .

I know there are some who believe argument by mantra is the way to go, but I think constructive debate should be informed by appeal to data.

What is striking is their final statements: well supported assertions that right-wingery has a pretty serious problem with reality.
* EGTRRA is the 2001 Bush Tax Cut.  Chinn has a great graph.


Suzan said...

Thanks for this one, sweetie.

How are you doing?


Jazzbumpa said...

I am doing OK. Pension plus SS keep us afloat.

I get to make a lot of music.

My grandchildren are healthy and smart, and most of them live nearby.

Life is good, except for the externals.


BadTux said...

Logic and reason are the enemies of faith, and close to 3/4ths of Americans say they value faith more than anything else in their life. Is it any wonder that the majority of Americans refuse to listen to logic and reason about economic issues, when they similarly refuse to listen to logic and reason about everything else in their life?

- Badtux the Cynical Penguin

BadTux said...
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