01 Dec 2012

Epistemic Closure: The Pot Calling the Kettle Krugman

Krugman 69 Comments

Paul Krugman November 30, 2012:

I gather that philosophers are upset over the use of the term “epistemic closure” to refer to the closing of the movement conservative mind – that’s not what they mean by the term. Never mind: that’s the term everyone is using. And recent reports are a reminder of just how closed that mind really is.

Start with Bruce Bartlett, who mentions in his mea culpa that when he asked conservative colleagues what they thought about some politically incorrect remarks quoted in the New York Times, it turned out that they were completely unaware of the whole thing – they didn’t read the Times, not even to find out what their enemies were saying.

Paul Krugman March 8, 2011:

Some have asked if there aren’t conservative sites I read regularly. Well, no. I will read anything I’ve been informed about that’s either interesting or revealing; but I don’t know of any economics or politics sites on that side that regularly provide analysis or information I need to take seriously. I know we’re supposed to pretend that both sides always have a point; but the truth is that most of the time they don’t. The parties are not equally irresponsible; Rachel Maddow isn’t Glenn Beck; and a conservative blog, almost by definition, is a blog written by someone who chooses not to notice that asymmetry. And life is short …

At this point I posit the Krugman Trilemma:

(1) Krugman has a cruel sense of humor.

(2) Krugman has no shame.

(3) Krugman has no memory.

69 Responses to “Epistemic Closure: The Pot Calling the Kettle Krugman”

  1. Blackadder says:

    Sometimes I wonder if the real Krugman is trapped in the basement of the New York Times building somewhere, and posts like these are his version of blinking out “T-O-R-T-U-R-E” in Morse Code.

  2. Daniel Kuehn says:

    1. A couple big conservative bloggers that we know Krugman follows have started up since he said that (and I don’t think he lumps a guy like Mankiw in with this).

    2. You miss another option: In March 2011 he didn’t say he didn’t read them because they were conservative. He said he didn’t read them because he knew of none that were worth taking seriously. Clearly he thinks the New York Times should be taken seriously. You may disagree with the assessment of what ought to be taken seriously, but you two can disagree on that without Krugman (1.) having a cruel sense of humor, (2.) no shame, or (3.) no memory.

    I think it’s a little hyperbolic – there’s stuff out there worth taking seriously. But as a broad stroke claim he’s not all that far off (particularly if you are not classifying guys like Mankiw in the conservative crowd).

    • Bob Murphy says:

      I actually wondered Daniel how in the world you were going to get out of this one. To say, “Our side is right” didn’t seem like an option to me, but I’m not Houdini.

      Daniel, some of us think the NYT is Pravda. From literally something I just saw today.

      Also Daniel, your defense doesn’t even work. Krugman added the crucial phrase “not even to find out what their enemies are saying.” THAT’s what made me run to my computer to make this post. He has absolutely no way out of this. Not even with your Jedi mind tricks.

      • Bob Murphy says:

        Oh wait, I’ve got it! Daniel you can say, “But Bob, Krugman is a scientist, unlike the freshwater guys. So he has no enemies, and is therefore under no obligation to read anything.”

      • Yosef says:

        Bob, Isn’t getting out of this one pretty easy?

        In the second quote, the punch lines are “Some have asked if there aren’t conservative sites I read regularly. Well, no. I will read anything I’ve been informed about that’s either interesting or revealing; but I don’t know of any economics or politics sites on that side that regularly provide analysis or information I need to take seriously.”

        The key word is ‘regularly’. Unlike the other side, who don’t read the NYT at all, he just doesn’t read conservatives regularly.

        (The really cool tricked is when Krugman is submerged in a water tank with his hands bound by golden fetters)

        • Bob Murphy says:

          You guys are astounding. Anyway Yosef you wrote:

          Unlike the other side, who don’t read the NYT at all

          Really? Like, they don’t read a Krugman column when they’ve been informed that he’s being particularly hypocritical?

          How in the world does Bruce Bartlett’s anecdote prove that no conservative ever reads the NYT even occasionally? That’s what Krugman has to be able to document, to have a hope of escaping this one.

          • xgsmmy says:

            Really? Like, they don’t read a Krugman column when they’ve been informed that he’s being particularly hypocritical?

            This is probably why people know Krugman “advocated” a housing bubble, but not that a week later he cited Dean Baker’s paper warning about a housing bubble. (Although it’s possible he really did, at least at the time, think that a housing bubble was better than the alternative.)

            I’m wondering what people you think Krugman should be paying attention to that he’s not. Krugman has claimed that the GOP today would reject Milton Friedman as a dangerous inflationist.

            He also has the recent example of Nate Silver to hold up as evidence. (Perhaps the left has acted similarly in the past? 2010? Maybe they were similarly deluded before that but a don’t think Nate was blogging then.)

            • Major_Freedom says:

              So if I advocate that you get robbed, then a day before you get robbed I “warn” you about it, does that exonerate me for everything I said prior?

              There is a whole slew of quotes from PK asking, in fact begging for lower interest rates from the Fed to goose the housing market.

              • xgsmmy says:

                MF, we already had this argument, but wanting lower interest rates is not the same as wanting a speculative bubble. I think in any economic boom you’d expect housing to be growing. (I’m not an economist.) (I realize that from an Austrian perspective you may say they are the same.)

                To see how they’re not, though. Even if Baker got his way and the Fed talked down the bubble, say in 2004, and the economy went into recession, they’d both still want lower rates.

                In any case, I acknowledged Krugman may have thought, at least temporarily, a bubble was better than the alternative.

                However clearly Baker did not. Krugman’s citing his paper a week after you say he called for a bubble should at the very least cast doubt on your theory.

                But even if Krugman wanted a bubble, by 2005 he recognized it had become a problem. This could be what I’ve seen called “privatized Keynesianism”. He wanted a bubble in the downturn, and when the bubble “overheated” wanted to deflate it.

                (Incidently, Krugman wanting “privatized Keynesianism” in the Bush years fits my idea that his not liking fiscal policy was because used to fear the bond vigilantes more. So maybe he preferred a temporary bubble to unemployment and a bubble to fiscal policy.)

              • Major_Freedom says:

                xgsmmy,

                I didn’t say low interest rates alone. I specifically said low interest rates in connection with housing.

                It’s not good enough that PK warned about a housing bubble. If the Fed raised rates then and there, when PK started warning about it, then there would have been a housing market bust, and we would all be here talking about how PK advocated for a housing bubble that later went bust. The only difference would be that the bubble and bust would have been somewhat smaller.

              • xgsmmy says:

                I didn’t say low interest rates alone. I specifically said low interest rates in connection with housing.

                MF, that’s why I said that I’d think in any recovery you’d expect housing to improve, so if you have some generic quote regarding lower interest rates and housing it’s doesn’t mean Krugman wanted a speculative bubble.

                It’s not good enough that PK warned about a housing bubble. If the Fed raised rates then and there, when PK started warning about it, then there would have been a housing market bust, and we would all be here talking about how PK advocated for a housing bubble that later went bust. The only difference would be that the bubble and bust would have been somewhat smaller.

                MF, what is it about my saying that his citing Baker’s paper one week after he supposedly advocated a bubble casts doubt on the interpretation that he wanted a bubble to begin with that you have a problem with?

                Again, maybe he really did want a bubble. Of course then it makes sense to criticize him for it.

                But even if he did want a bubble (or preferred it to unemployment) he’d still would have wanted lower interest rates without a bubble.

            • guest says:

              Believe it or not, Ron Paul actually saw the housing bubble in 1999:

              Congressional Record
              106th Congress (1999-2000)
              CONFERENCE REPORT ON S. 900, GRAMM-LEACH-BLILEY ACT — (Extensions of Remarks – November 08, 1999)
              http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?r106:E08NO9-0013:

              • With the economy more fragile than is popularly recognized, we should move cautiously as we initiate reforms. Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan (in a 1997 speech in Frankfurt, Germany and other times), Kurt Richebacher, Frank Veneroso and others, have questioned the statistical accuracy of the economy’s vaunted productivity gains.

              • Federal Reserve Governor Edward Gramlich today joined many others who are concerned about the strength of the economy when he warned that the low U.S. savings rate was a cause for concern. Coupled with the likely decline in foreign investment in the United States, he said that the economy will require some potentially “painful” adjustments–some combination of higher exports, higher interest rates, lower investment, and/or lower dollar values.

              • Such a scenario would put added pressure on the financial bubble. The growth in money and credit has outpaced both savings and economic growth. These inflationary pressures have been concentrated in asset prices, not consumer price inflation–keeping monetary policy too easy. This increase in asset prices has fueled domestic borrowing and spending.

              • Government policy and the increase in securitization are largely responsible for this bubble. In addition to loose monetary policies by the Federal Reserve, government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have contributed to the problem. The fourfold increases in their balance sheets from 1997 to 1998 boosted new home borrowings to more than $1.5 trillion in 1998, two-thirds of which were refinances which put an extra $15,000 in the pockets of consumers on average–and reduce risk for individual institutions while increasing risk for the system as a whole.

            • Bob Murphy says:

              xgsmmy wrote:

              This is probably why people know Krugman “advocated” a housing bubble, but not that a week later he cited Dean Baker’s paper warning about a housing bubble.

              xgsmmy: Hypothetically speaking, suppose I showed you an authentic, public exchange between Krugman and a fan, where the fan asked Krugman in, oh I don’t know, 2006 let’s say, if Greenspan had done the right thing in generating the housing bubble, and then Krugman said “within limits” that yes, he had done the right thing.

              Would you then change your mind? I know your side is the one that’s open-minded.

              • xgsmmy says:

                Hypothetically speaking, suppose I showed you an authentic, public exchange between Krugman and a fan, where the fan asked Krugman in, oh I don’t know, 2006 let’s say, if Greenspan had done the right thing in generating the housing bubble, and then Krugman said “within limits” that yes, he had done the right thing.

                Bob, I know the quote you’re talking about.

                I’ve acknowledged that Krugman may have thought the bubble was preferable to unemployment. In my reply to MF, I called it “privatized Keynesiansim”.

                But even without the bubble Krugman would have wanted lower rates.

                In the late 90s we had a stock bubble and the economy was really good. I don’t think it’s contradictory to think the bubble is troubling but not want the economy to be worse or to have Greenspan raise rates across the board.

                Austrians seem to think there is because in 2001-2002 they’d apparently wanted higher rates as at least a second best option to the gold standard whereas Krugman may have thought lower rates and a bubble is better than higher rates and unemployment even if he still thought the bubble troubling.

                Baker, has suggested that Greenspan should have “talked down” the bubble. So even Baker didn’t want higher rates in response.

              • xgsmmy says:

                To put it another way, saying Krugman wanted is a housing bubble in 2002 is as fair as saying Austrians wanted higher unemployment in 2002.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                Except Krugman actually wanted the Fed to goose the real estate market, whereas Austrians actually do not want unemployment.

              • xgsmmy says:

                Except Krugman actually wanted the Fed to goose the real estate market, whereas Austrians actually do not want unemployment.

                MF, I believe I’ve read Austrians saying higher unemployment is necessary at least in the short term. They’ll say trying to reduce unemployment will cause even more unemployment later, but this is remarkably similar to the Keynesians saying cyclical unemployment will turn into structural unemployment.

          • Ken B says:

            +1

            None of BB’s consults read a particular thing. PK dimissed all his ‘conservative’ crtics with a blanket sneer.

            Here’s a thought experiment to see who’s more openminded here: someone challenge Krugman to a debate. If PK’s critics are right he’ll deny they have anything to discuss. I know, I know, what are the odds?

          • Yosef says:

            Bob, in the Bruce Bartlett piece he writes:

            “Some [at a right wing organization] were indignant that I would even suspect them of reading a left-wing rag such as the New York Times.”

            I think that is what Krugman has in mind when he says the other side don’t read the Times

          • Bob Murphy says:

            BTW, I was wrong in my comment above when I said:

            “How in the world does Bruce Bartlett’s anecdote prove that no conservative ever reads the NYT even occasionally?”

            I have now read Bartlett’s article, and he does in fact say that the conservatives he talked to, were offended at the suggestion that they might have read a NYT article. So, BB does indeed establish that they don’t EVER read the NYT.

            • Yosef says:

              Bob, you wrote “I have now read Bartlett’s article, and he does in fact say that the conservatives he talked to, were offended at the suggestion that they might have read a NYT article. So, BB does indeed establish that they don’t EVER read the NYT.”

              So, given that in contrast to those conservatives, Krugman does not become indignant at the suggestion of reading the other side, and simply said he doesn’t read them regularly, do you agree that the there is no problem here?

              • Bob Murphy says:

                Nope Yosef. Krugman doesn’t read conservative sites “to see what the enemy is saying.” So he is still guilty of what he’s accusing movement conservatives.

                My point was stronger before, but it still holds.

              • Yosef says:

                Bob, but the quote you have of Krugman says he doesn’t read them regularly, not that he doesn’t read them at all. So how is he guilty of what he is accusing the other side of? Now I really am confused.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                Yosef, that is a desperate stretch. Krugman can’t possibly know that conservatives NEVER read the NYT. Krugman is complaining that conservatives didn’t read the particular “politically incorrect remarks” in the NYT. That does not imply he is saying they never read it. it is sufficient that he complains they didn’t, because he admitted he avoids conservative blogs.

              • Yosef says:

                Major_Freedom, the conservatives mentioned by BB in his article were indignant at the suggestion that they would read the NYT. I am not stretching things. Bob even admitted he was wrong on that.

                Look, let me try and combine the two Krugman quotes, and tell me if it is a fair combination, and if so what the problem still is:

                Krugaman: “The conservatives are in such a mental bubble. BB says they even become indignant at the suggestion of reading the NYT. They don’t even do it to see what the enemy is thinking. Now, I don’t think conservative ideas are worth much, but at least I read them. Just not regularly. Life is too short…”

              • Major_Freedom says:

                Yosef, there is no symmetry. You’re talking about one source, the NYT, whereas on the conservative side there are dozens, if not hundreds of sources. If Krugman admits he doesn’t read most of them, and out of the ones he does, he only reads them when he is sent a link or whatever, then it is still hypocritical to chastise one’s ideological opponents of not reading the NYT. There are probably many conservative sources that Krugman never reads.

                Why can’t Krugman’s opponents not reading the NYT be the same as Krugman not reading conservative blog X.com? Why can’t Krugman’s opponents being too busy to read every source including the NYT, be the same as Krugman being too busy to read every conservative site including blogX.com?

                If Krugman’s opponents are in a “mental bubble” for not reading the politically incorrect stuff in the NYT, or the NYT in general, then isn’t Krugman in a mental bubble for not reading conservative source blogX.com?

              • Yosef says:

                Major_Freedom, I am sorry, but no, the NYT is not the equivalent of conservative blog X.com. Yes, conservatives aren’t expected to read all liberal sources. But the NYT, for all it’s flaws, is still a major paper of record. It has won more Pulitzer prizes than any other news organization. It’s website is the most popular newspaper site. It is the third largest newspaper behind USA Today and WSJ. The WSJ is the conservative equivalent of the NYT, not random blog X.

                If Krugman says he doesn’t read conservative blog X, to see the other side, but mocks conservatives for not reading the NYT to get the other side, that is totally legitimate. If Krugman said he doesn’t read the WSJ, and then mocked the other side for not reading the NYT, then I would say that’s an issue.

      • xgsmmy says:

        Daniel, some of us think the NYT is Pravda. From literally something I just saw today.

        Bob, the headline got fixed. (There’s a correction notice, it wasn’t just scrubbed.) And there’s a follow up blog post.

        • Bob Murphy says:

          xgsmmy, I didn’t read the original article, I was relying on GR’s summary. But with that context, and reading the blog post you linked to, the NYT is still being incredibly dishonest.

          If they are saying “Tax rates in 2013 will be lower than during the 1980s” and the way they get that result is to compare them to 1980, before the Reagan tax cuts kicked in, then yes that is incredibly, utterly dishonest. The fact that they originally had “Reagan” in the headline, when he hadn’t even taken office in 1980, is just icing on the cake.

          To top it all off, “my side” is regularly denounced for being dishonest and misleading. Give me a break.

          • xgsmmy says:

            Bob, if you look again you’ll see them say this: “Tax rates at most income levels were lower in 2010 than at any point during the 1980s.”

            So people did pay less taxes during the Reagan years. However they point out that the upper income brackets did at times pay less than they do now under Reagan.

            That said, I definitely see where you’re coming from on this one. It seems like exactly the type of thing Krugman would jump were it coming from the other side.

            • xgsmmy says:

              Sorry, I meant people paid more in taxes under Reagan than they do now.

      • Daniel Kuehn says:

        I know some people think the NYT is Pravda. That’s why I said “you may disagree with the assessment”.

        I feel quite comfortable saying that it’s nuts to think that the NYT is Pravda.

        I don’t think the “know your enemies” point has anything to do with epistemic closure, does it? The point seems to be, they don’t inform themselves – they are epistemically close. And they don’t even do it as a strategic matter!

        Most Americans did not read Pravda when the USSR was around. That does not make them epistemically closed because to be honest it was garbage. You want to be epistemically open? Read Marx. Or even Lenin. Pravda is unnecessary.

        Spooks in the CIA did read Pravda, as a “know your enemies” exercise.

        Those seem like two different points, no?

        • Bob Murphy says:

          I don’t think the “know your enemies” point has anything to do with epistemic closure, does it?

          Krugman certainly does!! Arrrggggghhhh you guys are too much. Krugman says, “These guys are so close-minded!! Ha ha they don’t even read the NYT can you believe it?! Not even to find out what their enemies are saying?!!

          Oh by the way as a general rule I don’t read any of their stuff because they’re so wrong.”

          Then Daniel says:

          (1) That’s fine, because Krugman is right.

          (2) I don’t see that the “enemy” line had anything to do with being close-minded. Krugman has a nervous tic.

    • Keshav Srinivasan says:

      What new conservative blogs are you referring to?

      • Daniel Kuehn says:

        I was thinking of Cochrane and Williamson, which Krugman clearly reads. Although now that I look at the blog Williamson has been going a little longer than that. Still, I think he’s really been a major player in the blogosphere only in the last year or so.

        • Bob Murphy says:

          Daniel I have it on strong authority that since Bruce Bartlett asked conservatives that question about political correctness, they all started watching Bill Maher. So Krugman needs to issue an apology.

  3. guest says:

    Murphy would totally beat Krugman at a game of Simon.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      That’s a great comment there, Christopher. (Actor reference.)

      • guest says:

        A little help, please?

        (I’m so sorry.)

        • Bob Murphy says:

          There’s an actor Christopher Guest. Stupid joke, don’t worry about it. I was just saying I liked your comment.

          • guest says:

            LOL.

            You had me looking up actors who were in movies that had the Simon game in it.

            (Turns out there are some people looking for the name of an 80′s movie [or short film] where a kid beats a Simon-type game and he goes through a portal.)

            This is funny, by the way:

            Close Encounters “Simon” game
            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VuGKA-TndRw

  4. Blackadder says:

    A couple big conservative bloggers that we know Krugman follows have started up since he said that (and I don’t think he lumps a guy like Mankiw in with this).

    Mankiw’s blog started prior to March of 2011, and Krugman was clearly aware of its existence (here, for example, is a 2009 post in which Krugman condemns Mankiw for suggesting that we might not have see fast catch up growth).

    In March 2011 he didn’t say he didn’t read them because they were conservative. He said he didn’t read them because he knew of none that were worth taking seriously. Clearly he thinks the New York Times should be taken seriously.

    And clearly the folks that Bruce Bartlett mentioned didn’t think the New York Times should be taken seriously. That’s precisely the point.

    • Daniel Kuehn says:

      Right and right. I’m saying I don’t think he counts Mankiw in that crowd… he has started reading guys like Cochrane and Williamson since then (although it looks like Williamson was around a little earlier too).

      I agree – that’s precisely the point. Krugman is saying they are nuts for thinking that, right?

      Unless everyone is thinking that “epistemically closed” strictly means “I know this is a great news source but I refuse to read it”. Creationists genuinely think Darwin is rubbish. I think we can still call that “epistemic closure” even if they are sincere in their assessment.

      • Blackadder says:

        I’m saying I don’t think he counts Mankiw in that crowd… he has started reading guys like Cochrane and Williamson since then

        You are saying you don’t think Krugman considers Mankiw, Cochrane, and Williamson’s blogs conservative?

        Creationists genuinely think Darwin is rubbish. I think we can still call that “epistemic closure” even if they are sincere in their assessment.

        “Epistemic closure” is not a synonym for “wrong.” It’s about shutting yourself off to opposing points of view.

        I know that Krugman has recently been reading Chris Mooney’s The Republican Brain (I know this because I read Krugman’s blog). Mooney’s book (which I’ve also read) goes into a lot of detail about the human tendency to engage in motivated reasoning: we uncritically accept arguments and evidence that we find congenial; we dismiss those with which we disagree. Mooney thinks conservatives are more prone to engage in motivated reasoning than liberals, but he’s quite clear that this is a psychological tendency everyone is subject to, and liberals still do quite a lot of it.

        Saying “I don’t need to listen to the other side, because they never have anything serious to say” is not logically contradictory, but it ought to raise some red flags given what we know about human psychology. Saying this while simultaneously complaining that “the other side doesn’t listen to us and says we’re not serious” suggests a certain lack of self-awareness on the speaker’s part.

      • Bob Murphy says:

        Daniel Kuehn wrote:

        Unless everyone is thinking that “epistemically closed” strictly means “I know this is a great news source but I refuse to read it”. Creationists genuinely think Darwin is rubbish. I think we can still call that “epistemic closure” even if they are sincere in their assessment.

        Daniel, your perspective here is giving me the willies in its implications. This isn’t even about Krugman any more.

        No, you are absolutely wrong if you call a Creationist epistemically closed just because he rejects Darwinism. You can call him *wrong* or a *fool* or *willfully ignorant* if you want, but that’s not at all what “epistemic closure” means in the Krugman sense.

        Only if a creationist says, “I don’t need to read those atheist biology books, because Darwin is from the devil!” can you use the term.

        But if someone reads all of the standard stuff and then rejects, and especially if he gives you a bunch of reasons for doing so, then you can just say he is wrong. You can’t say he’s epistemically closed.

        And you certainly can’t *condemn* him for being so, if you yourself don’t read the sources that he points to as being “definitive refutations of the textbooks you want me to read.”

        • Major_Freedom says:

          Speaking of “epistemic closure”, isn’t it ironic that DK is almost certainly as we speak learning and making use of econometric models that presuppose constancy between independent and dependent variables, despite the fact that the learning process itself presupposes a lack of constancy in the human mind and hence in human action, and yet, having said all this, he refuses to reject such constancy assumption even in the face of its imternal contradiction? That is epistemic closure.

          • xgsmmy says:

            Not again, MF. What economic models are you talking about exactly? In what way do you think they’ll be shown wrong because of the learning process?

            • Major_Freedom says:

              What do you mean “not again”? Do you tire of reading a truth or something?

              What specific economic models am I talking about? Every falsificationist economic model the users of which claim they are discovering economic theories, as opposed to economic history.

              It’s not so much about being shown wrong only after the results of the testing of the models are observed, but rather it is about being wrong in the very methodology itself. Again, as I explained earlier, the positivist methodology presupposes constancies in the people being studied, and yet at the same time the researcher is denying such constancy applies to himself (since he is claiming to be learning from utilizing the positivist methodology, and learning implies lack of constancy).

              xgsmmy, for some reason or another, your whole demeanor towards this seems to be one of denial and rejection, that you seem unwilling to accept what is rather straightforward. Is this an issue of throwing away what you paid good money to learn? Why the intellectual barrier?

              • xgsmmy says:

                Is this an issue of throwing away what you paid good money to learn? Why the intellectual barrier?

                I’m not an economist or philosopher of science, MF, so no. And so it’s possible, if not likely, I’m wildly off base, but still you couldn’t name one model and how you thought it would be proved wrong by learning. So it’s a bit rich to claim you’re speaking eternal “truths”.

                It’s not so much about being shown wrong only after the results of the testing of the models are observed, but rather it is about being wrong in the very methodology itself. Again, as I explained earlier, the positivist methodology presupposes constancies in the people being studied, and yet at the same time the researcher is denying such constancy applies to himself (since he is claiming to be learning from utilizing the positivist methodology, and learning implies lack of constancy)

                And I believe this is wrong, although, since you wont be more specific it’s difficult to know what you mean.

                You seem to be assuming it’s possible to “beat the model” in a way that the person who comes up with the model can falsify the model themselves.

                If not however, I still don’t know what you mean as all of science assumes the possibility of being wrong.

                You seem to believe reasonably that people’s behavior may change over time so that a past outcome may not hold in the future and this somehow gets turned into you saying people are so unstable and unpredictable that they can’t be modeled at all.

                Now, there is the secondary issue of models causing the outcomes they wish to predict, but saying a model will cause it’s predicted outcome is itself a prediction.

              • Dan says:

                This article might help you to better understand what MF is trying to explain to you. http://mises.org/daily/940

              • Major_Freedom says:

                but still you couldn’t name one model and how you thought it would be proved wrong by learning. So it’s a bit rich to claim you’re speaking eternal “truths”.

                Why are you inferring from a lack of something, that I am unable to do that something, as opposed to choosing not to do that something? There are literally thousands of models that satisfy the criteria I laid put above. Every econometric model, every model of independent and dependent variables with constants in front of the regressors. Pick one!

                And I believe this is wrong, although, since you wont be more specific it’s difficult to know what you mean.

                So you don’t know what I mean, but you believe it’s wrong anyway. Speaking of mental barriers!

                No xgsmmy, it’s not good enough that you “believe it is wrong”. At some point, you’re going to have to reconcile your beliefs with reality.

                You seem to be assuming it’s possible to “beat the model” in a way that the person who comes up with the model can falsify the model themselves.

                No xgsmmy, I specifically said the problem doesn’t arise only after the model is tested, such that model is “falsified”. I said that the problem arises in the very methdology itself. In other words, the problem arises BEFORE the outcome of the test even takes place!

                The problem is claiming non-constancy, i.e. the potential to learn, in a model that presupposes constancy and hence no learning.

                If not however, I still don’t know what you mean as all of science assumes the possibility of being wrong.

                Incorrect. The positivist methodology has no internal testing of its own epistemological pronouncements. The positivist method cannot be used to prove or disprove the validity of the positivist method itself.

                Much like a tree cannot be used as the only means to understand trees, and requires additonal, transcendent to trees logic and methods to understand trees, so too the positivist method cannot be used as the only means to prove itself.

                You seem to believe reasonably that people’s behavior may change over time so that a past outcome may not hold in the future and this somehow gets turned into you saying people are so unstable and unpredictable that they can’t be modeled at all.

                Not at all. if people were that unpredictable, then not even entrepreneurs would be able to anticipate consumer preferences. No, what I am actually saying (please stop that weasal tactic of “you seem to be saying…”) is that anticipating consumer preferences is an art, not a science. You cannot learn in textbook a formula that can enable you to do in economics what physicists do in the laboratory. And it is not even a question of degree. It is a question of kind, because the physicist works with things that do behave according to constancy, since atoms and molecules don’t learn. Humans on the other hand do learn, so we are fundamentally different and the methods of physics and chemistry cannot apply.

                Now, there is the secondary issue of models causing the outcomes they wish to predict, but saying a model will cause it’s predicted outcome is itself a prediction.

                OK, fair enough, but I don’t recall saying that.

              • xgsmmy says:

                Why are you inferring from a lack of something, that I am unable to do that something, as opposed to choosing not to do that something?

                Yet, once again you refused to give one concrete model that you believed would be falsified by learning. Note the second part of that, it’s not just naming a model, but saying how it will falsified.

                This itself is a prediction, though, which may explain your reticence. For your suggestion to even make sense you apparently have to claim humans are so unpredictable they can’t modeled at all, even for a time. Which you seem unwilling to do.

                No xgsmmy, it’s not good enough that you “believe it is wrong”. At some point, you’re going to have to reconcile your beliefs with reality.

                You seemed to have missed that I said why I “believe” it’s wrong after saying that.

                Your position is funny. You claim a absolute certainty about a radical skepticism so much so that you feel confident attacking me for not knowing a priori that you are correct but after expressing my doubts about your position with reasons you attack me for suggesting it’s possible you could still be right.

                No xgsmmy, I specifically said the problem doesn’t arise only after the model is tested, such that model is “falsified”. I said that the problem arises in the very methdology itself. In other words, the problem arises BEFORE the outcome of the test even takes place!
                The problem is claiming non-constancy, i.e. the potential to learn, in a model that presupposes constancy and hence no learning.

                No, I don’t think so MF. What do the assumptions of the model have to do the methodology used to obtain the model. Maybe you have a special definition of methodology that you’re working with?

                I know there are “learning models”. So you’ll say what? These models are wrong because of learning?

                Incorrect. The positivist methodology has no internal testing of its own epistemological pronouncements.

                It seems you’ve set up a strawman here MF: the positivist philosopher-economist.

                Imagine I’m an epistemological anarchist. I don’t see how this changes anything I’m saying. I don’t care how you get to your conclusions. I’m not saying your conclusions are “the truth” or are not problematic in some way. Only that they could, in theory, be used to make useful predictions.

                You might say we can never be sure, but you can never be sure you’re not a brain in a vat either, we must muddle through regardless.

                Note that saying a prediction is useful or seemingly accurate is not the same as saying it’s good or you should be happy about it. Or even that you shouldn’t deliberately try to behave differently to confound the model.

                No, what I am actually saying (please stop that weasal tactic of “you seem to be saying…”) is that anticipating consumer preferences is an art, not a science. You cannot learn in textbook a formula that can enable you to do in economics what physicists do in the laboratory. And it is not even a question of degree. It is a question of kind, because the physicist works with things that do behave according to constancy, since atoms and molecules don’t learn. Humans on the other hand do learn, so we are fundamentally different and the methods of physics and chemistry cannot apply.

                MF, you’ve set up another strawman regarding “anticipating consumer preferences”, as talking about something like what will the inflation rate be is vastly different from what kind of product should I make.

                Regarding physics you’re just repeating yourself. Did I claim molecules are known to “learn” or that humans aren’t?

                When physicists come up with new ideas do they learn how to do that in a textbook?

                Nobody said doing good economics wasn’t harder than physics. If you want to argue it’s a different “kind” of science, many people would agree. The problem is the rather radical statements your words imply but you’re unwilling to say outright.

                When I use words like “seems like” I’m not being “weasely” but expressing doubt. We’re having an off the cuff discussion and you “seem to think” (do I know what you think, no) this is a scientific journal. Sorry if my grammatical style offends your sensibilities, Mrs. Post. Would you rather I phrase all these things as questions? Would that annoy your sense of propriety less?

  5. Transformer says:

    “At this point I posit the Krugman Trilemma:

    (1) Krugman has a cruel sense of humor.

    (2) Krugman has no shame.

    (3) Krugman has no memory.

    How about

    (4) Krugman’s doesn’t regularly read conservative material , but he does reads articles that he has “been informed about that’s either interesting or revealing”. He believes conservatives don’t even do that, and it costs them.

    • Matt Tanous says:

      Krugman doesn’t even try to find out what his “enemies” are saying, and then derides conservatives for not even trying to find out what their “enemies” are saying…..

      Also, this requirement about whether it is “interesting or revealing” is coming from someone who refuses to debate other economists because to do so would be to “give them a platform” for the things he disagrees with….

      • Transformer says:

        Maybe I’m missing something about Krugman and the other economists that Bob Murphy disagrees with ( like David Beckworth who he did this to yesterday) but he always seems to want to take the least charitable version of what they post and mock it.

        I would much prefer that he took the most charitable view and showed what was wrong with that.

        I’m actually quite sympathetic to his economic views – I just wish he would be more serious sometimes and not play to the crowd so much – but perhaps that’s his niche market. I will acknowledge that it is entertaining.

        • Richard Moss says:

          Transformer,

          “…but he always seems to want to take the least charitable version of what they post and mock it.”

          Least charitable version? Really? How charitable of you to say so …

        • Bob Murphy says:

          Transformer wrote:

          Maybe I’m missing something about Krugman and the other economists that Bob Murphy disagrees with…but he always seems to want to take the least charitable version of what they post and mock it.
          I would much prefer that he took the most charitable view and showed what was wrong with that.

          Whoa hold on there, good sir. I *did* offer the most charitable explanation of this Krugman post: He may have genuinely forgotten his earlier writings on conservative blogs, so he honestly doesn’t realize what a hypocrite he is.

          That is truly the most charitable interpretation here. You can clearly see (if you aren’t epistemically closed) how absurd the other explanations offered thus far in these comments have been.

          • Ken B says:

            Once again Bob, different charity. You are talking about a moral judgment of PK. Transformer is talking about construal of ambiguity.

            • Bob Murphy says:

              Am not.

              • Transformer says:

                You know, in the spirit of interpreting what people say in the most charitable light I’m going to concede this one.

                My above comment was unfair.

  6. Matt Tanous says:

    “Rachel Maddow isn’t Glenn Beck”

    Finally, Krugman is right about something. One is an economically illiterate liberal feminist who openly despises freedom and has a merely rhetorical attachment to peace (when the other side’s in power), and the other is neoconservative crybaby, who has a merely rhetorical attachment to economic liberty (when the other side’s in power).

  7. Saturos says:

    Is there somewhere I can access a compendium of “list of things that Krugman has been wrong about/backflipped on/misrepresented his opponents on/revealed his own ignorance about” that is complete and properly vetted?” Yes I realize it might fill several hard drives but I’d still really like to see it

  8. Cody S says:

    Hypocrisy is only a fault if the same rules apply to everyone.

    PK may be closed-minded.

    But he is the hero.

    • Tel says:

      Hypocrisy is only a fault if the same rules apply to everyone.

      I think I’ll get that on a T-Shirt.

      It’s nice and confrontational.

  9. Bob Murphy says:

    Everybody who is arguing with me about what “epistemic closure” means: Click through and look at Bruce Bartlett’s discussion. It is clear that it means (my words, not BB’s) “sealing yourself off from opinions that differ from yours, making it impossible for you to ever realize you may be wrong.” So it is different from merely *being* wrong. It means that you adopt a strategy that will allow your error to persist.

  10. William Anderson says:

    Bob,

    From what I can tell, Krugman simply means that to disagree with him is to be wrong. There can be no other definition. Furthermore, there can be no argument regarding overall Keynesian theory, except to quibble about the fine points of how much “stimulus” to inject into the economy. (Note: MORE “stimulus” always is preferred to “less” stimulus. When in doubt, spend.)

    I always am struck by the logical fallacies Krugman employs, which I guess is a sign of our educational times. Any logic that Krugman does use always is based upon assumptions that violate basic laws of economics, such as the Law of Scarcity and the Law of Opportunity Cost. Furthermore, his causality (when he employs it) seems to be suspect. For example, markets generally don’t work very well in Krugman-land, but then he wants us to believe that the current drop in interest rates somehow is reflective of the market and that investor behavior justifies his own view of why interest rates are low.

    In shameless self-promotion, I also have my post from Krugman-in-Wonderland in which I take on his view that any dissenters from his position not only are wrong, but also evil (because their insistence upon believing wrong economic doctrines is willful and not grounded in any legitimate analysis).

    http://krugman-in-wonderland.blogspot.com/2012/12/is-rejection-of-liquidity-trap-doctrine.html

  11. Kay says:

    so, closing of the american mind, except not from the educational system, but rather the propensity for professionals to loligag exclusively through their favorite comfort-zone niche content providers. fascinating to watch which think tank is putting out what thought product ™ that most papers regurgitate, esp when the administration or the elite is laying the groundwork for new longterm policy shifts/programs/wars. The NYT is probably best viewed as a special adjunct to the official state dept and unofficial elite dept. npr, during war ramp up time, is the pentagon broadcasting to your frontal lobe and amygdila.

    the thing i found perplexing is the maddow/beck reference. like many reporters at npr or that hideously insufferable aural rag “the world”, her credibility takes a hit whenever there is the occasional curve ball. one expects beck to be beck, entertainment. both are “responsible” to their masters, but one has better manners. (the other could use some time with trish baldridge!) bloggers without masters who pay attn to who is saying what and **when** are the ones with potentially valuable insights. krugman is a paid spokesperson whose opinion could turn on a dime if master required it, so he gets some credit for reading outside his storygroup … he’d be foolish not to! it cannot be comfortable!

Leave a Reply