[UPDATE: I added the Paul Romer one, and clarified Landsburg’s position.]
I hope all of you take this in the proper spirit. Especially if you follow me on Facebook, you know that every once in a while I like to step back and point out the big picture. To be clear, I fully understand what’s going on in each of the below links, and I’m not criticizing the economists in question.
Rather, I’m just pointing out how odd we are.
==> Austrians famously think that there’s too much math in economics, and that it obscures the logic of the underlying theory. But we are always lectured that to be scientific, you have to be precise, and math is the way to be sure about what we’re saying as economists–you don’t want to slip in some assumption verbally without realizing you’re doing it. So anyway, Paul Romer and Brad DeLong are now really mad at those jerks from the Chicago School who sneak in mathematical assumptions into their papers without explaining verbally how their models work. Can’t these Chicago guys realize they are undermining the scientific method when they do this?
==> A pretty serious debate among serious macroeconomists right now concerns NOT whether raising interest rates is a good or bad idea, but which direction (price) inflation would move in, if central banks suddenly raised interest rates significantly. And when the leader of the dominant view responds to the minority viewpoint, some really sharp guys try to explain to other economists exactly what the response was, but admit they’re not really sure they understand it. Again: This is an argument over whether raising interest rates will cause price inflation to go up or down; really sharp economists can’t even 100% convince themselves of why they believe in their answer to that question.
==> I am a pacifist and yet I recently wrote a column on the most efficient way to wage war.
==> Steve Landsburg spent an hour thinking about it, and still couldn’t explain why giving all the available elite public school slots to only white kids–because they are white–would be unfair.
==> Edmund Phelps proudly announced that, if given the choice to wipe out half the humans who ever lived, he would not do it. (Because of classical music, of course. Duh.)