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Thursday, May 27, 2010

David Andolfatto: Avoid Making Bold Assertions on the Basis of a Single Model

David Andolfatto responds to my recent posts and sets me straight about his beliefs on fiscal policy and other matters. It turns out that I didn’t represent them accurately, something I try to avoid. As he notes below, he is neither for nor against fiscal policy, and remains agnostic about its use. His main point is that different models give different conclusions, some such as Woodford and Eggertsson are quite supportive of fiscal policy while others are not. His objection is about taking the word of one model over another when we really don't have the evidence to know which model is best. That's a fair point. I should also acknowledge, as many people have pointed out, that it’s possible to find shrill, over the top attacks on all sides of the debate on macroeconomic policy:

Taken Out Behind the Woodshed, by David Andolfatto : Been out of commission for a while. (Had Lasik surgery on Monday -- I can actually see now -- which will no doubt please those who accuse me of blindness). And I have just now read the replies to my previous two posts. Not very pretty. I'll have a few things to say about this. Before I begin though, I would like to take a moment to thank all my supporters out there: thanks...you've both been great!

When I originally contemplated the idea of Macromania, I thought it might be a cheap and interesting way to learn a few things. By and large, it has turned out to be a successful experiment (for me personally, at least).

But not everything in the experiment has turned out well. My more thoughtful postings were met with thoughtful replies, followed by fruitful discussion. My more childish personal attacks on people I did not even know were met by counterattacks of a similar nature by people who do not even know me. I am now reminded of a useful Bible lesson: As you sow so shall you reap.

There is nothing wrong, I think, with the harsh criticism of an idea. Having a stupid idea does not make one stupid. But it is another thing altogether when one criticizes a person. And here I confess to having gone too far. There are probably times and places where personal attacks might be justified, but I don't want Macromania to be a venue for that sort of activity. Nothing good comes of it.

So I would like to clear the air. Both Paul Krugman and Brad DeLong deserve far more respect that what I afforded them. (Let me also toss Ron Paul in there, who has at times found himself in my crosshairs). My ego is not so large as to expect that they would welcome an apology from me. But I would like to apologize nevertheless, for the record, if for nothing else.

And while I'm clearing the air, I would like to reply to Mark Thoma's post here. Mark takes some justified jabs at me. But he also misrepresents me along a few dimensions. Again, for the record:

[1] I am neither for nor against fiscal stimulus in the form of government purchases to combat a peacetime economic crisis (I have repeatedly said that I am an agnostic whose beliefs on the matter vary over time as I am exposed to more evidence). I have, in fact, made arguments elsewhere in favor of fiscal policy as a redistributive mechanism (but sadly, in my view, redistribution is never mentioned in this debate; it's all about the effect of G on Y).

[2] What I am against is the practice (perhaps it is unintended or simply a product of my imagination) of seducing the public into thinking that our "science is settled" on any given question. Greg Mankiw's more cautious approach as exhibited here teaches us how to persuade without being dogmatic.

[3] I have never, as far as I can remember, disputed the logic of fiscal stimulus in a NK model with zero nominal interest rates. But the NK model is not the only game in town. There are competing frameworks (for example, the so-called New Monetarist framework) that are no less plausible and may deliver very different answers to the same policy question. We need to keep an open mind and avoid making bold assertions on the basis of a single model.

OK, now let's go do some economics.

    Posted by on Thursday, May 27, 2010 at 01:08 PM in Economics, Fiscal Policy | Permalink  Comments (48)


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