02 Oct 2014

Russ Roberts Has Nothing For Which to Apologize

Economics 17 Comments

Adam Ozimek launches this odd complaint against RR:

He’s an economist who regularly complains that economics is less scientific than it thinks, and says things like he doesn’t think economists really know what much more about the world than we did 50 years ago. But then Russ also has perhaps the best economics podcast in the world where he interviews leading economists about their research. It’s true Russ often provides a voice of skepticism, pushing back and asking hard questions. It’s a great part of the podcast. But the vast majority of the time Russ is clearly having people on because he thinks we can learn from hearing about their research. He’s hardly constantly disagreeing with them like you’d expect if he thought most of what they have done doesn’t tell us anything.

It begs the question, if economists haven’t really learned anything in the last 50 years then why in the world would you spend so much time interviewing economists about their research? Why not interview economic historians about what economists were saying 50 years ago? There is a huge disconnect between Roberts’ intensely skeptical attitude when he makes sweeping statements about the field, and the content of his detailed conversations with experts, and really the entirety of his Econtalk project.

I don’t see any problem here; I agree with all of the views Ozimek attributes to Russ, and I also think Russ does a great and valuable thing with Econtalk. There’s no question-begging or other type of problem here.

Here’s a hint of why: An economist from 50 years ago would know exactly what I mean.

02 Oct 2014

Uncivil War

Humor, Scott Sumner No Comments

Matt Bruenig:

I am not really sure what Scott Sumner is all about these days. Many years ago, he was like “monetary policy should utilize an NGDP target” and people were like “that’s an interesting thought.” But now, he’s kind of gone into mission creep mode where he comments on things that he’s not so knowledgeable on.


Like the first post, this new post utilizes what I am going to call the Grandpa Sumner style. It took me a while to figure out how to describe the way he argues, but it finally hit me that it’s the way a low-information grandpa talks about things.

For instance, instead of saying “since 1967, the poverty rate has not declined, as you can see from this linked data,” he says stuff like “isn’t the blogosphere full of progressives complaining that the poverty rate is just as high as in 1967?” Instead of saying “if we cut transfer programs, the poor would bring down so much more market income that there would be no difference in poverty as you can see from this link,” he says “don’t the progressives always tell us that in the bad old days the rich aristocrats did little work, and the poor worked extremely long hours, because they had to do so to survive?”

You wouldn’t expect this out of a competent economist who theoretically can look up stuff to see if it’s the case, but Sumner becomes Grandpa Sumner on everything that isn’t NGDP targeting.

To which Sumner replied: “Matt seems to have forgotten to take his meds, as his newest post is one of the silliest I’ve ever read.”

I think Scott cleverly refuted the ‘Grandpa’ label with that remark. Grandpa Sumner wouldn’t use the word “meds,” and when facing silly posts he’d say, “Is that boy on the pot?”

01 Oct 2014

Tax Treatment Bask

All Posts 4 Comments

I have a client who wants to know if there is some kind of clearinghouse document put out by an “official” source that explains changes in the tax treatment of assets. For example, there was a major change in the treatment of real estate in the 1980s, etc.

Any ideas?

01 Oct 2014


Potpourri 56 Comments

==> I wish Mises happy birthday.

==> In this post (and comments) David R. Henderson seems to agree with Jeffrey Rogers Hummel that the Fed’s ability to control interest rates is very exaggerated. Then you’ve got Larry Summers criticizing the Treasury for offsetting the Fed’s moves to cut long-term interest rates. Are David and Jeffrey saying Summers, Bernanke, and 75% of the investors are totally wrong for thinking the Fed can influence rates by, say, adding $2 trillion in bonds to its balance sheet? If the Fed announces, “We are going to raise the fed funds rate to 0.75% in February,” are David and Jeffrey saying they will fail? (I’m not being sarcastic, I am honestly trying to understand what their position is.)

==> Incidentally, the best line from that Summers story: “[Cummings] recounted the story of President Johnson’s summoning the Fed’s chairman, William McChesney Martin, to his Texas ranch, slamming him against the wall and telling him, “Martin, my boys are dying in Vietnam, and you won’t print the money I need.””

==> Can’t remember if I posted this? Dan McCarthy, after further review, says the invasion of Normandy stands.

==> Yet more evidence that the Canadian fiscal turnaround in the 1990s did NOT rely on loose money.

==> Joe Salerno on the bubble economy.

01 Oct 2014

Tom Woods and I Talk Austrian vs. Chicago, Bitcoin, Gold Standard

Austrian School, Bitcoin, Chicago School, David Friedman, Shameless Self-Promotion, Tom Woods 1 Comment

Here’s his blog post with various formats, below is the YouTube version.

29 Sep 2014

Economic Fallacies 1 of 4

Economics, Shameless Self-Promotion 49 Comments

I did four guest lectures for Liberty.me back in July/August. Here’s the first one; I don’t know if they eventually will all be made public. They asked me to go through my book The Politically Incorrect Guide to Capitalism, which I was happy to do because I haven’t publicly lectured on a lot of these topics. Some of this will be standard fare for most of you, but I imagine I’ll put a spin on certain points you’ve never heard before (unless you read the book, that is).

29 Sep 2014

Harry Reid on ObamaCare Being Just a Step in the Right Direction

Conspiracy, Health Legislation 22 Comments

I know I linked to news reports at the time this interview occurred in the summer of 2013–in which Harry Reid unambiguously says his goal is a single payer system that gets private health insurers out of the picture–but I don’t remember if I ever posted the video of it (which wasn’t available when the story broke). In any event, watch this entire clip, it is quite revealing. It shows that those of us warning that the ACA is a stepping stone to single payer aren’t being “paranoid” as the critics allege.

29 Sep 2014

Science and Religion

Religious 85 Comments

I think I have posted on this before, but repetition never hurt anyone…

I don’t think it actually makes sense to say that God violated the laws of physics. If matter behaved in a certain way that went against what otherwise seemed to be the rule, then the “rule” was wrong. That’s ultimately what it means for there to be a law of Nature. This isn’t my Christian apologist view, this is Richard Feynman in The Character of Physical Law. (Feynman wasn’t talking in the context of God of course.)

So when I think about the miracles of the Bible, I actually think if agnostic scientists from today were alive back then and observed them with their instruments etc., they would say, “Ohhhh, that’s not really a miracle. God wasn’t guiding the wise men to Bethlehem, see, there was a supernova in that galaxy…”

Or consider the plagues that struck Pharaoh and the Egyptians when Moses led the Israelites out of bondage. A bunch of them “fit together.” For example, suppose for some “natural” reason, something happened to make the river get a huge chemical imbalance so that it turned blood red. This then drove all the frogs out of the river, who overran the Egyptian households. Then the disturbance in the ecosystem caused lice and flies to soon follow. They brought disease and killed a bunch of livestock, and gave everybody boils.

Or what about Jonah getting swallowed either by a giant fish or a whale? Here I would think “whale” would be much more likely, and that he could have been in the back of the throat rather than inside the stomach, because I would think somebody would run out of oxygen in there for three days?

So anyway, this is the way I approach these Biblical stories. I think there were definitely “miraculous” things that happened and were described in print, and that this is one way God tells His story. But to me, it is even more of an accomplishment if these miracles occurred while the underlying atoms obeyed what we now think of as the standard laws of physics.