04 Dec 2013

Am I Reading This Right?

Scott Sumner 13 Comments

Dang, I think the chickens are coming home to roost from all the times I called Scott Sumner “insane.” In an update to his post on Williamson Scott writes:

Update: Kudos to Bob Murphy for getting there before I did. I wonder if the quickness someone gets to the problem with Williamson’s argument is inversely related to the technical skills that person possesses.

Taken literally, that’s a super backhanded compliment. But Scott usually makes self-deprecating jokes about how he can’t do math. So did he really mean “I wonder if the time it takes someone to get to the problem is inversely related…” ?

13 Responses to “Am I Reading This Right?”

  1. Scott Sumner says:

    Not sure I follow that. I just meant that I’m pretty non-technical, and you are even more so (I assume).

    • Bob Murphy says:

      I actually am feigning outrage, Scott. But strictly speaking, it sounds like you’re saying I was quicker than you, because you have more technical prowess.

    • Ken B says:

      “you don’t have to be crazy to understand this but it helps.”

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Oh so you DID word it correctly.

      I don’t think there’s any way I come out ahead on this. If I break out my technical street cred I look like a jerk, and if I just ignore it I’m seen to be admitting I’m just a verbal hack.

  2. Mule Rider says:

    I view Scott Sumner as being on intellectual par with Mike Norman. That sums up just about how seriously I take him.

  3. Peter says:

    Just curious (I am an engineer): In the field of economics, what would be considered good “technical skills”?
    I assume it is similar to “fundamentals” versus “technicals” (cup and handle nonsense and all that) in stock trading, i.e. “keynes” (technicals, C + I + G + X – M = Y and all that) versus “mises” (fundamentals) ?

    And no worries, not looking for a career change…

    • Ken B says:

      Judging from this result, the ability to parse Paul Krugman correctly.

      • Matt Tanous says:

        There is no ‘correct’ parsing of Krugman. There is only whatever parsing works for the point you are making. Krugman says too many contradictory things for there to be anything else.

        • Major_Freedom says:


          • Matt M (Dude Where's My Freedom) says:

            Krugman is the modern day Rorschach test for economics and political pundits. Everyone looks into the same random mess and what they claim to decipher tells you something meaningful about the reader, but not about Krugman himself…

            • Major_Freedom says:

              That explains the Bible.

    • Martin says:

      Mankiw, did a post on what sort of mathematics – I presume this is what you mean by technical? – you need for economics these days and a typical undergraduate aiming to be placed at a good school will need to take

      Linear Algebra
      Multivariable Calculus
      Real Analysis
      Probability Theory
      Mathematical Statistics
      Game Theory
      Differential Equations


      At a fancy graduate school you will then learn some more and will learn to apply it to some problems. I am not very fancy – and not even doing purely econ – so the fanciest thing I have done is setting up a problem as an optimal control problem.

  4. Cody S says:

    Whatever it is you think about what Krugman said, you’re a moron.

    Krugman is the only non-moron, because he clearly doesn’t think about what he says.

    Mostly, he just thinks about how tragic it is that other people are allowed to earn money, or own things.

    Also, (pure conjecture) probably beards.

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