In a recent post at his blog, Scott gave the title, “Please, do buy. You won’t regret it.” He first linked to a post about bubble theories that were promulgated in 2009-11, and said they had recently been refuted. Then he talked about property values in Dubai. My question: Is Scott just saying “buy a house in Dubai, you won’t regret it?” or is he saying more generally, “Go ahead and buy the U.S. stock market and Treasuries, the alarmists have been crying wolf for years”?
(Incidentally, you can’t just say, “Bob, why not ask Scott what he meant?” The reasons are twofold. First, if a writer phrases things in a way that leads readers to believe he “surely” meant X, then he can’t get out of culpability if strictly speaking, technically he didn’t claim X for sure. [Krugman does this a lot–I think on purpose.] Second, Scott has said that–consistent with his weird post-modern view of what truth is–the meaning of a writer’s post depends on what the readers thought he meant, not what he intended to mean. Now it’s possible he was being tongue in cheek when he wrote such things, but it’s not my fault if he meant it as a joke and I didn’t get it–see how that works?)
Now for the more general Sumner claim that I find radically wrong, though it will be much harder to falsify because it is so open-ended. Here’s Sumner at EconLog:
My grandma was born in 1890 into a middle class family in small town Wisconsin. Her home probably lacked indoor plumbing, most home appliances, electric lights, telephone, TV, radio, car, etc., etc. Slightly improved from life in ancient Rome. She lived to see jet air travel, computers, atomic bombs, antibiotics, and died the week they landed on the moon.
I was born in a world of indoor plumbing, atomic bombs, jet air travel, home appliances, computers, cars, telephones, TV, radio, antibiotics. I’ll turn 60 this year, and live in a world of indoor plumbing, atomic bombs, jet air travel, home appliances, computers, cars telephones, TV, radio, antibiotics, plus the internet and cell phones. Yeah, I’d say change is slowing down, really fast.
!!! Meanwhile, back at the Hall of Justice, Scott Alexander recently had a post quoting from leaders in the field who thought that the danger of Artificial Intelligence turning against humanity was something that should be seriously studied. The U.S. military already has flying killer robots, and they’re working on ground-based ones too. We have seen the inventions of the blockchain and 3D printing. Sumner casually dismisses the internet and cell phones as not a big change during his lifetime, whereas I think future historians will mark that as a very significant milestone–especially if they phrase it as “smart phones” rather than cell phones. These things are always hard to see when you’re at Ground Zero–remember Krugman’s line about the internet?–but it’s arguable that the Arab spring uprising was due to social media.