24 Dec 2012


Potpourri, Scott Sumner 27 Comments

==> Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Seeing how much it has bolstered my career, Greg Mankiw and Gene Callahan both try to catch Keynesian bloggers in self-righteous contradictions. I actually don’t think Mankiw’s point works very well, since Krugman clearly refers to “recovery” in his recent post whereas in 2003 the US wasn’t in recession. (Anyway, look at the catfight he started with DeLong.) Gene’s gotcha was pretty good, though.

==> A Time article (I think? the URL has “swamp” in it?) that mentions the Austrians, if derisively. So we’re at least past the “First they ignore you” phase.

==> Jeff Tucker looks back on the Laissez-Faire Club, one year into it.

==> John Cochrane is angry, or cynical, or something. Anyway, he’s sarcastic about the Fed, so I like it.

==> Joseph Stiglitz sounds a lot like Sheldon Richman in this article, saying the Fed’s actions are helping the fat cats but hurting the average saver. Joe, duck! Sumner’s gunning for your head!

==> I can understand libertarians who oppose both gun control and the Drug War. I can understand right-wing conservatives who oppose gun control but support the Drug War. I can understand left-wing hippies who support gun control but oppose the Drug War, because they don’t really see the connection. But I never thought I’d read an economist who supported gun control in the same article that he opposes the Drug War.

==> I posted this article on Facebook and all hell broke loose.

==> If you’re bored, look at David R. Henderson busting Crooked Timber on a ridiculously misleading post. (David wasn’t as harsh in his commentary as I am being.)

==> I am starting to think that Gene is right, that having discussions about evolution is pointless. In the comments of this post, I had to stop banging my head against a brick wall for fear it would reduce my changes of reproduction. (Believe it or not, I don’t even agree with Gene’s conclusion on this particular argument! But his critics didn’t seem to have the faintest idea of the modest point I was trying to make. I am starting to doubt they possess consciousness.)

27 Responses to “Potpourri”

  1. Major_Freedom says:

    Did you intend to link to an article of David R. Henderson?

    • Ken B says:

      Free speech for me but not for thee over at Econlog. As a bonus I make an error on the thread MF. Consider this rarity as Christmas gift.

      • Major_Freedom says:

        Meh, I don’t consider your errors as gifts, because all humans make mistakes from time to time.

        Show me a man who cannot help but give to charity, and I’ll show you someone who isn’t gifting others via altruism.

        You should have seen the mistake I made the other day on Sumner’s blog. I linked to a chart on Poland’s NGDP growth, and said it fell slightly in 2008-2009, before someone told me that was a chart in US dollars, not Polish zloty. I almost seppuku’d.

        • Ken B says:

          There’s a saying, close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. I bet it would count with ritual disembowelment!

  2. Jonathan M.F. Catalan says:

    I didn’t read the Stiglitz piece, but he makes the same point in The Price of Inequality. In the book, he seems to waver; on the one hand, the bailouts were necessary, but on the other hand they helped ‘the rich’ at the expense of ‘the poor.’ Lately, he seems to only make whatever points the general profession have discredited, including his advocacy of a ‘democratically accountable’ central bank and his argument about the Fed (although this last one resonates more with Austrians). He even goes back on arguments he’s made in the past. For example, in some of his coauthored papers on banking he stressed the importance of charter value, which is an anti-competive theory. In the book, though, he advocates smaller, more competitive banks. He talks about ‘cognitive capture,’ but I think he’s been ‘captured’ by the occupy movement, to the point where he dismisses most of the academic work which points in the other direction.

  3. Ken B says:

    We have evidence on the evolution of consciousness Bob. Its early absence, its presence only in evolved biological specimens, and other vertebrates with lesser mental skills. We don’t have fossil records of pain, lust, or blue either; do you really argue they didn’t evolve?

    • Major_Freedom says:

      Evolution is restricted to causality. B prevails because it was naturally selected by process A. In other words, A caused B.

      But teleology is distinct from causality. But that is only, IMO, how our minds must think. If there is an evolutionary process of causality that is responsible for consciousness, “I am myself”, we can never know it the way we know evolutionary phenomena in Darwin’s pigeons, or human genes.

      There is a difference between existence, and positing existence.

    • Joseph Fetz says:

      Ken, have you ever read Julian Jaynes’s book on the subject? It’s kind of out there, but interesting.

      For some reason I get the feeling that I’ve asked you this before.

      • Ken B says:

        No, but I have often been tempted to. As a big fan of Homer etc my prior is against him, but the idea does seem to fit a lot of things. Did you like it?

        Someone called it “either brilliant or crazy. “

        • Ken B says:

          Kindle, ten bucks. Damn you Fetz, the last thing I need is another book! Ah we’ll, I’ll just get this instead of The PIG depression book … Keep me from running up too much a deficit burden …

        • Major_Freedom says:

          Genius tends to be not very far removed from crazy.

        • Joseph Fetz says:

          To be honest, when I first read it I thought that is was poorly done. The bulk of his theory is based upon ancient writings, so there is a lot ambiguity there. However, he also provides some research to back his claims, but I don’t know that you can say that since a certain part of our brains currently respond to certain stimulus that that was the dominant part in the past, and using Homer and the Bible as the proof is a tough sell.

          It was certainly an interesting read, and I’ve read some of the more recent studies and experiments influenced by his work and they’re pretty good. He’s influenced some great work, so that is something that I respect.

          To me it is kind of like reading a Pinker book; it’s engaging, the writing is good, the ideas are very interesting, and you don’t regret reading it, but you can still get a sense even though the author is very smart, he hasn’t quite put all of the pieces together, and there are a few holes.

          I don’t need to necessarily agree with everything in it to enjoy a book and I did enjoy Jaynes’s book.

    • Blackadder says:

      We don’t have fossil records of pain, lust, or blue either; do you really argue they didn’t evolve?

      Blue evolved?

      • Bob Murphy says:

        Blue evolved?

        Yes, it used to be more of a lime, but that hue died out.

      • Ken B says:

        Blue is a perception, not a property of your coat. Not all animals see blue.

        • Blackadder says:

          Not all animals can see the sky either, but nevermind that. I’ll grant that the subjective experience of blue isn’t something (all) animals experience. But I thought that Gene’s point was that blue objects appear a certain way to us isn’t explained by evolution.

          • Ken B says:

            And Bob’s point was about fossilization. If you balk at blue substitute exasperation.

          • Ken B says:

            Gene argues evolution cannot not just does not but cannot explain how consciousness arose. That depends on what consciousness IS doesn’t it? If it’s the sort of thing that makes minds more efficient then it cam certainly be an adaptation. Gene needs to show it cannot be advantageous, and that requires a more careful consideration of what it really is.

            • Bob Murphy says:

              Gene argues evolution cannot not just does not but cannot explain how consciousness arose.

              That sentence rendered me unconscious.

              • Ken B says:

                Oops. Here are the missing commas: ,,,,.

                Sorry to induce comma coma.

            • Major_Freedom says:

              I thought Callahan’s point was that evolution says we don’t need consciousness (intentionality / teleology) to explain human life and other life.

              • Ken B says:

                Intentionality is needed to do anything with brains, even rudimentary ones. Maybe even with simpler organisms. Why does a sunflower follow the sun. Gene and Bob confuse evolution and materialism with a denial of mental states or adaptation that embody purpose. That’s just their misunderstanding.

  4. Keshav Srinivasan says:

    Bob, the case for gun control is made mainly on utilitarian grounds: the argument is that access to guns leads to a lot of harm to other people. The case for the war on drugs is mad partially on utilitarian grounds, with arguments that drugs lead to impaired judgment and harm to public health, but it’s motivated in large part by moralistic (or deontological) considerations, namely the notion that drug use is inherently immoral behavior. So can’t you imagine a liberal, supportive of utilitarian arguments but skeptical of moralistic arguments, putting more stock in gun laws than in drug laws?

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Keshav, right, that’s why I’m saying a non-economist liberal who holds those positions doesn’t shock me. But an economist who opposes the Drug War because he realizes it causes gang violence, and then also supports gun control?!

  5. guest says:

    I posted this article on Facebook and all hell broke loose.

    “How can it be permissible? …”:

    Robert Palmer – Simply Irresistible


  6. Daniel Kuehn says:

    FWIW, I didn’t comment on your clarification because I thought your criticism of the sentence you zeroed in on was more reasonable.

    I don’t think it’s a big problem – certainly we organize what little we can observe about the world based on theories we’ve already accepted. But yes, he didn’t “know” that.

    I imagine one can say some about human self-awareness as art and things like that evolved… but I don’t really know our prehistory well enough to say for sure.

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