12 Nov 2014

Cowen the Merciful

Health Legislation, Tyler Cowen 24 Comments

His take on Grubergate:

I’m not so interested in pushing through the mud on this one. It’s a healthy world where academics can speak their minds at conferences and the like without their words becoming political weapons in a bigger fight…If anything, I feel sorry for Gruber that he has subsequently felt the need to so overcompensate by actively voicing such ex post cynicism, it is perhaps the sign of a soul not at rest.

In the meantime, I’d like to see more open discourse, not less. Perhaps we should subsidize people who end up looking foolish, rather than taxing them.

My response on Twitter:

This reminds me of Tyler’s reaction to ClimateGate: IIRC he said it made him increase his Bayesian priors about the threat of anthropogenic global warming if academics felt compelled to do this stuff to get public support.

24 Responses to “Cowen the Merciful”

  1. Andrew_FL says:

    I often wonder if perhaps Tyler is actually an alien from a parallel universe where the statements he makes make perfect sense.

    No, that’s silly. There’s almost certainly no such thing as technology that allows communication with parallel universes.

    And that’s the only flaw in the above theory.

  2. Dan says:

    I feel bad that academics can’t admit they lied without facing backlash from those they lied to. What a terrible world we live in.

    • Yancey Ward says:

      Exactly. This is why I am so puzzled by Cowens post. Had Gruber made the comment as a mea culpa with a promise to never sin again, Cowen would have had a point, but Gruber wasn’t apologizing or being “overly cynical”- his comments were triumphal in nature as he was an active participant in the lies themselves.

  3. Raja says:

    There’s a book from 13th century philosopher Ibn Tufayl who basically states that philosophers,those who’re wise and the religious leaders, must refrain from telling what they understand to the general public. It is especially true, about religion. Organized religion as the masses comprehend it, is necessary for the masses, but wrong for people with understanding because it is not true.

    Is this the prevalent understanding of those in power? The above philosopher also worked for the shah or something at that time, but there could also be some truth to this.


  4. Josiah says:

    I’m all for open discourse. But lying is the enemy of open discourse.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Right, that’s why Tyler’s post is so odd. On the bright side, Josiah and I agree!

      • Josiah says:

        On the bright side, Josiah and I agree!

        Don’t worry. It won’t last.

  5. Major.Freedom says:

    Cowen is just asking to be subsidized.

  6. khodge says:

    Lying is totally inexcusable.

    The more problematic statement is that Americans (politicians, whoever) are too stupid is a sign of arrogance that belies any possibility of rational discussion. “Open discourse”, indeed! So much for trying to convince anyone that economics is a valid scientific discipline.

  7. Andrew_M_Garland says:

    MIT and economists everywhere should be upset. Are their ethics summarized as “Have degree and a tenured position. Will travel.” Are they gunslingers ready to obscure the message so that their employers can fool customers in government and business? Is MIT proud that Gruber used his knowledge to fool people rather than instruct them?

    What if Gruber had used his knowledge to write a stock prospectus so that it was technically correct but hid the bad points in language that would be interpreted as good points. He would go to jail for fraud.

    Gruber bragged that his approach fooled the CBO into incorrectly scoring the effect of O’Care. He wasn’t just fooling the ignorant. It seems that he used his knowledge and reputation to mislead a government agency advising Congress.

    As I see it, Gruber sold his reputation along with his skills. He should not have any reputation remaining to mislead people in the future. That is how these revelations are personal and go beyond a discussion of policy.

    • Major.Freedom says:

      All the more reason to abolish territorial monopolies. Right now I have no way to voluntarily opt out of a program I never consented to entering, one that was clearly brought about by lies and deceit, and one I know has had and will have harmful effects on innocent people, and avoiding swat teams coming to bash down my door and kidnap me.

      I must play along like I am in some sick and evil fun house ride.

      Pay no attention to those voices around the country that are saying government is a problem? Those are the voices of sanity in the open range insane asylum that is this country.

      • Lee Waaks says:

        Bow down to the Divine Right of Democracy, Major Freedom!

  8. Ben B says:

    Gruber is like a really good serial killer; he just couldn’t take it any longer; he needed people to know what a genius he is.

    • Major.Freedom says:

      Socialism kills more people than (non-socialist) serial killing. The FDA for example, by most studies, kills 40,000 people every year. And that does not even include the opportunity costs imposed by redirection of resources ans labor caused by state guns, that could have saved lives had those resources been devoted elsewhere on a free market.

  9. skylien says:

    Great answer to Cowen, Bob!

  10. Sean says:

    What is especially bad about his reaction is that he wants to focus on policy — precisely the thing which was being lied about! Okay, let’s talk about policy, but he’s allowed to lie about specific facts to win any debate.

    Between this and the “duality of tax” issue, I don’t see how anyone can be proud of the process of Obamacare. Deny that a political objection is valid by lying, and claim credit for refuting it. After it is passed, claim how sly you were for getting it through that way. Claim something is not a tax to get around procedural grading requirements and avoid political fallout. Claim it is a tax once it’s passed and in the court system, and no longer retroactively subject to those previous requirements. Why have those procedures in place at all?

  11. guest says:

    Regarding the third Gruber video that just came out:

    Costs cannot be passed on to consumers, so it’s Gruber who’s showing some economic ignorance:

    Papa John and “Passing On”

  12. GabbyD says:

    what is the lie exactly? isnt gruber just saying the govt wasnt transparent that tax cuts are the same as increasing spending?

  13. Teqzilla says:

    Cowen is very fond of this flippant and contrived novelty. Caplan is similar in seeming to value counter intuitiveness for its own sake.

  14. skylien says:

    You just need to listen to Nancy again:


    Wasn’t it so nice of them to package it so that you could later find out with a surprise what’s in it? Transparency is so boring… This way it’s “so very exciting” isn’t it?

  15. Ivan Jankovic says:

    C’mmon folks this is just a class war thing: Cowen is defending one of his people against us, pions and peasants. Gentlemen stick together., readers and (writers) of the NYT,, That’s all: class solidarity.

  16. Yancey Ward says:

    One has to wonder, however, how honest Cowen even is these days. I can’t imagine a Tyler Cowen preNYTimes columnist defending this in even a back-handed way. However, maybe having Cowen a seat on the editorial page is worth the lies.

  17. Andrew says:

    I feel sorry for Cowen for feeling sorry for Gruber.

  18. Vangel says:

    Tyler’s actions are perfectly predictable. He started out as a rebel type who was seen positively by Austrians and libertarians. Once he established that reputation he leveraged it into a rewarding career as a panderer to power. If an academic wants a long and successful career in our modern society s/he has to abandon reason,

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