Tuesday, 6 July 2010


It's time for another episode of "Worthless American Pundits" (previously featuring Charles "Can we ever know for sure bombing innocent brown people won't reduce terrorism?" Krauthammer). This time around, it's Mr David Brooks. Take it away, Dave:
Many economists say we need another stimulus bill. They debate about whether the stimulus should take the form of tax cuts or spending increases, but the ones in your party are committed to spending increases.
Well, "debate" might be too strong a term here, but OK, let's go with it:
These Demand Siders have very high I.Q.’s, but they seem to be strangers to doubt and modesty. They have total faith in their models. But all schools of economic thought have taken their lumps over the past few years. Are you really willing to risk national insolvency on the basis of a model?
First of all - and given the state of American economic discourse, this is critical - anyone calling Demand Siders dogmatic and immodest in comparison to those pushing for another round of tax cuts needs to go fuck themselves without delay. Krugman et al might not actually turn out to be right this time around, but the idea that any mistakes they make might have been avoided if only they'd been so reasonable and humble as those who are convinced as an article of faith that the US is behind the Laffer curve is as insulting as it is foolish.

Secondly "all schools of economic thought thave taken their lumps" is a term straight out of the false equivalency playbook: since no viewpoint is foolproof, they can all be considered equal. You know, like how if I toss a coin and call heads, I'm just as unreliable a predictor when it comes down tails as the guy next to me who guessed it would turn into a peacock.
The Demand Siders don’t have a good explanation for the past two years.
As Steve Benen points out, they most certainly do have a good explanation, it's just that Brooks doesn't understand it, or is claiming not to. He's not an expert, you see, which is why this entire column is dedicated to the argument that just because you're an expert, it doesn't mean you're necessarily right.

Which, y'know, d'uh. These people aren't Gods. But Brooks and his ilk always frame the discussion this way. "Why should we automatically believe an expert is right?". The formulation that's important, and Brooks is desperate to avoid, is very different "Why would you argue experts aren't likely to be right because non-experts don't agree?". Benen is annoyed over Brook's suggestion that Demand Siders are recommending a dangerous game:
[T]hreats about "national insolvency" from additional stimulus are silly.
Well, I wouldn't know, though it seems to me any attempt to solve this crisis carries attendant risks. That isn't really what's wrong with Brook's article, though. Brook's piece is worthless because he lacks the understanding and/or intellectual honesty to compare the risks of the strategies he's decrying with the strategies he's recommending. If he wants to tell me why the risks he wants to run are less likely and/or serious than the ones Krugman is prepared to accept, that would be different. But Brooks lacks the chops for that, of course, so instead he's reduced to arguing that because one approach is risky and potentially flawed, his alternate course of action can be deemed superior without inspection.

That on its own terms would be intellectually lazy and probably somewhat dishonest, but when you combine it with Brooks telling those more knowledgeable and more experienced, and who have put more work into the problem, that they're being "arrogant", one rather feels that he's pushed himself into the realm of outrageously pompous and self-deluded mendacious charlatans. Y'know, again.

Doubtless there will be many other pieces like this, from many other people, arguing that obviously superior experience, knowledge and intelligence is immediately worthless in the hands of someone who can't persuade "the people" (by which David Brooks means: David Brooks). Reading this kind of article is akin to watching a drunkard push Mozart away from a piano, whilst screaming his playing will entrance the audience far more because he'll be hitting the keys with monkeys that are on fire.

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