Tuesday, November 29, 2011


My apologies to those who frequent this blog and by doing so "contribute to our national paralysis." In his NY Times column yesterday, former editor-in-chief Bill Keller laments that one of the downsides of the internet is that it brings out the worst in economic commentary, distracting us from the unifying principles of "mainstream economics." If the only ones to comment were "serious scholars," then we could solve our national economic problems quickly. Instead, "lesser economists are thrust forward for their moment of fame as witnesses on behalf of dubious claims." As an example, he cites the 132 economists who agreed that Speaker Boehner's policy approach would "do more to boost private-sector job growth in America in both the near-term and long-term than the ‘stimulus’ spending approach favored by President Obama."

Reputable number-crunchers like Moody’s Analytics and some top-tier economists of both parties said Boehner’s statement would have little or no impact on the short-term employment problem. So who were these 132 economists? With a few exceptions they were academics from off-the-beaten-path colleges (no offense to Dakota State University), bloggers (the Calafia Beach Pundit?) and economists from devoutly libertarian think tanks.

And he went on to say:

Surely this dilution of authority contributes to our national paralysis. At the very least it befogs the discussion and fosters a pervasive cynicism.

I hasten to add that while Bill Keller and I graduated from Pomona College within a year of each other, I would like to think my training in philosophy (under the expert hand of the late Professor Fred Sontag) allowed me to keep a more open mind. Wisdom and experience do not come only to those in positions of "authority."

UPDATE: Another of the 132 signers of Boehner's letter writes a devastating critique of Keller's use and mis-use of economic theory in his Forbes column.


Anonymous said...

Don't mind the NY Times. The economists it likes are cheerleaders for their team, or the Washington Consensus.

Benjamin Cole said...

Bill Keller only diminished himself with such snotty and unbecoming commentary.

The Internet is where economics discussion is taking place these days, from Krugman to Calafia Beach to Money Illusion.

And on the Internet, if a blogger has a fact demonstrably wrong, he is called out--unlike print journalists who can hide behind the opaque page, and only have to survive some voluntarily printed letters to the editor, if that.

I congratulate all economics bloggers for educating the rest of us, and engaging in the rough-and-tumble environment of the Internet.

Often I disagree with Calafia Beach. But I always learn something.

And that puts me one up on Bill Keller.

Public Library said...

The NYT post is a good reflection of central authority gone awry. Bernanke and the rest of governmetn need to exit stage left. Their reign of folly should end sooner rather than later.

Best quote I've heard since 2008: Capitalism without bankruptcy is like Catholicism without hell.

It simply does not work!

Kurt said...

I don't understand Keller's comments, except perhaps as a general whining and wishful appeal to authority. His comment regarding paralysis and cynicism seems particularly off target. I find Scott's commentary to be anything but cynical, in fact, quite the opposite. His analysis is quite encouraging and empowering. On the other hand, I know of know greater source of cynicism than the current administration.

Cabodog said...

We are the media.

Don Harrison said...

If we always bowed to authority, as Mr. Keller thinks we should, we would still -- at best -- be saluting the Union Jack and singing "God Save the Queen" or -- at worst -- knapping flint. Thank God for Calafia Beach, Carpe Diem, Brian Wesbury and all the rest who dare to challenge conventional wisdom.

PerformanceSpeaksForItself said...

The arrogance of the NY Times is stunning. I have to mute their commercials when they're played on Bloomberg. They seem to really like the smell of their own farts.


TradingStrategyLetter - Weekly Summary said...

For my purposes you are a top 3 read!

Anonymous said...

If you have attracted the scorn of the NYT, you are definitely doing something right!

Jack Schannep said...

I find your posts among the very best (reliable and accurate) that are available...anywhere. From time to time I remind my Subscribers to look in on you as your information is helpful and illuminating. Keep up the good work.
Jack Schannep

Jack Schannep said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bob said...

Superb comments by everyone. Bravo!

Keller is the Kool Aid. He hath drunk form himself. :))


vg said...

Bill Keller is a moron. How well has that "Trust Goldman Sachs" mentality worked out? NOT WELL. We are in the trouble we are in BECAUSE of these "leading economist"'s ideas. Frankly, I've found your analysis and ideas to be very sane (and sage) in the couple years I've been reading your blog. You are "signal" in the midst of the "noise". Keep up your lesser-known, amateurish, how dare you not be a good sheep analysis.

vg said...

And just who died and made Bill Keller and authority on authorities? Who does he think HE is? JUST a journalist; that's all. What does a journalist know? Not much these days.

marmico said...

Grannis, kindly produce your credentials as an economist.

Your signature eight years ago endorsed and ushered the biggest bust in your lifetime.

tom said...

You are my first stop for economic insight, then comes Carpe Diem from Mark Perry. And do not be dismayed by the NYT slam, it only means that you are doing something of value and are making a positive impact. Keep up the great work, happy holidays!

Bob said...


Please explain how the GWB Jobs and Growth plan "ushered" in today's fiscal malaise.

(my bet is you will not respond)


Mark Alexander said...

Are you kidding me! I visit your blog nearly everyday to get insightful economic commentary. Not that I agree with 100% of what you write, but to insinuate that a blogger is of lesser value than 'notable' economists or Moodys is ridiculous. I don't even bother reading the junk that moodys spews out. When was the last time they made any worthwhile forecasts?
The valuable information you provide daily (FOR FREE !) is at the top of my reading list.
Please do not stop the excellent work!

Douglas said...

Scott, you and I may not agree on much, maybe the superiority of Apple, but Keller is a blowhard, even if we all have the same alma mater. I'd tell you not to pay much attention to Bill, except I am pretty sure you don't. I come here BECAUSE we don't agree on much, how else will I be challenged? Keep forging on regardless.