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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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

How Important Is Hayek?

Art reminds us of one of Krugman's posts from a couple weeks ago, with this PK quote:

"David Warsh finally says what someone needed to say: Friedrich Hayek is not an important figure in the history of macroeconomics."

PK goes on to point out that Hayek's current relevance is almost purely political rather than economic, with the implication that it is a distorted view of Hayek that the current crop of right wingers uses to oppose anything that smacks of progressivism. Warsh, in the link above, is more blunt, or as PK puts it, "cruel."

To be clear, this bluntness and/or cruelty is not leveled at Hayek himself, but rather at those who would self-servingly re-animate him as a conservatard caricature.

Warsh: "But the claims conservatives are making about the role he played as an economist are beginning to smack of Ruizismus. That is, they have jumped a caricature out of the bushes late in the day and claim that their guy ran a great race."

Warsh took a lot of heat in comments - which he accepted with almost saintly forbearance - from right wingers who misread his post. These are not stupid people. Their misreading comes from ideological blindness - an insidious form of self-induced, willful ignorance.


My comment at Warsh's place, from earlier today:

I’m later than late to this post, and took the curious route of reading the comments first. That made the post itself quite a revelation. Having no dog in this fight, it’s pretty easy for me to see that it is far from the hatchet job that several other commenters imagine it to be.

It’s not clear whether the point is to damn Hayek with faint praise or to praise him with faint damnation. But there is some attempt at balance, and it is clear that accusations of ad hominem are rising from fevered imaginations. An unbiased reader will note that mention of Hayek’s divorce was in the context of “Thereafter he labored under five distinct handicaps,” which is actually giving him a bit of cover for decades of relative obscurity.

Re: the n-gram chart, (linked in comment 24 by Paul Wolfson) it’s easy for an objective observer to note that Hayek had gone absolutely nowhere for 30 years before his Nobel reception tickled a modicum of interest. Then Reagan/Thatcher supply-side-ism – however irrelevant – gave him a boost, for about a decade. Since then, even with Beck’s hucksterism, it been flat-line, at best, for well over a decade.

The decline of Keynes and Friedman over that same span may well reflect the general dumbing-down of practically everything in a sound-bite age dominated by professional liars like Gingrich, Limbaugh and Murdoch’s entire stable, and dim-wits like Paul Ryan, Michelle Bachman and Rick Perry.

Even in his grave, poor Keynes has been ad-hominem-ed to death. More so that any other currently dead economist. Well, except for Marx.

So – are we screwed, or what?


1 comment:

Suzan said...

I love it, jB! Thanks for the telling quote (before I read the whole essay(s).

to smack of Ruizismus. That is, they have jumped a caricature out of the bushes late in the day and claim that their guy ran a great race

And, yes, we're screwed.

Over, under, sideways, down.

You've gotta take some credit on the side of re-education as your blog is prime reading for those whose economics background leaves something to be desired.

The decline of Keynes and Friedman over that same span may well reflect the general dumbing-down of practically everything in a sound-bite age dominated by professional liars like Gingrich, Limbaugh and Murdoch’s entire stable, and dim-wits like Paul Ryan, Michelle Bachman and Rick Perry.

But maybe if Europe can be rescued . . . somehow . . . we'll survive to argue about the Thatcher-Reagan 30-years-and-counting continuing economic catastrophe another day.
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