Believe those who are seeking the truth. Doubt those who find it. Andre Gide


Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Krugman and DeLong Circus

Love them or hate them, they certainly make for fun reading. Personally, I find both of these characters fascinating because I cannot tell whether they are being serious, or whether they're simply play-acting.

I try to resist an overwhelming temptation to view Krugman as clever but evil, and DeLong as decent, but somewhat dim. Who knows...perhaps we are all these things some of the time?

DeLong certainly appears to have a lot of "energy." Not a focussed energy, but energy nevertheless. Where he finds the time to manage his blog Grasping Reality with Both Hands, I have no idea. In any case, you have to love the subtitle:

The Semi-Journal of Economist J. Bradford DeLong: Fair, Balanced, Reality-Based, and Even-Handed.


You've got to be kidding me, right? Believe me, he may be many things, but he certainly ain't no economist!

O.K., that was supposed to be a joke. But really, does the guy really believe that "fair and balanced" crapola? Can you believe that he really believes this?

Anyway, it should come as no surprise that DeLong loves Krugman almost as much as he loves himself. Here is Brad's review of Krugman's The Accidental Theorist. I quote:


Of all the books of short essays that Paul Krugman has written, I think that this is the very best: you can learn an awful lot of economics from this book, for Krugman's usual clarity and force of argument is raised to a higher power in this book.

Hmmm...well, I'm willing to grant that one may indeed learn a lot of awful economics from Krugman. I'm just kidding (again). I've read many (older) Krugman articles and found them good enough to assign to my classes. The Krugman-Helpman text on trade theory was leading edge. He won his Nobel prize for his work on trade theory, after all.

Precisely how this makes him an authority on macroeconomic theory, I'm not exactly sure. Paul just wants to talk about macro because it's more fun, I guess. I am reminded of when William Vickrey won a Nobel for his work on auction theory. Rather than talk about issues in the area of his expertise, he too spent all his time pontificating on all things macro. Go figure.

Anyway, DeLong tells us that we can learn a lot of economics from Krugman. You will be forgiven for wondering whether DeLong can even tell whether he is learning economics or not. DeLong is, as far as I can tell, an historian. Sometimes he is a good one. Sometimes, he is not so good. But whatever one's view of his abilities as an historian, I have come across no evidence that would lead me to believe that he has any deep understanding of modern macroeconomic theory. I'm not sure how he passed his macro core exam.

This little love affair runs both ways. Here is Krugman "chiding" DeLong (i.e., smacking down Cochrane): Brad DeLong's Foolishness.

It looks as if DeLong was trying to figure out Cochrane's model (have to give him credit for that, at least). But hold on there Brad, Paul says that you shouldn't be doing that: Cochrane has no model to speak of!

Ho boy, this is rich: Paul Krugman complaining that John Cochrane has no model! Since when has Krugman ever let a (serious) model temper or change a prior point of view?

Krugman complains that Cochrane does not understand the "logic" of Keynesian models. Krugman, evidently does understand this logic. This is the same Krugman who called Robert Barro a "bonehead" for not understanding Keynesian logic (see here). That would be the same Robert Barro who, along with Gene Grossman, struggled mightily to formalize the Keynesian logic (Barro-Grossman model, AER 1971). I believe that Barro also serves up the Keynesian model later on in his text (explaining that the issues that arise there are more advanced, hence the reason for why they are saved for later).

Where is the evidence that Paul Krugman has ever thought deeply about the theoretical foundations of Keynesian theory? (Maybe there is some and I have just missed it). As far as I can tell, his "deep" understanding goes no further than an elementary Keynesian cross (OK, OK, maybe he knows a bit more than this).

So, what do I take away from all this? Well, I conclude that it should be clear enough that this dynamic duo are primarily interested in pushing their own pet political agendas; they have no interest in pushing the frontier of economic theory (they apparently know how the world works, so there is evidently nothing left to learn). Nothing wrong with this, of course. They are at their best at calling out the absurdities of some claims made by the "lunatic right." Nothing wrong with this either.

Nothing wrong, that is, except when they label these activities as "fair and balanced" or as "rooted in rigorous theory." That's just plain dishonest.

20 comments:

  1. To me, this mostly shows your ignorance of the things both have written. Try this for example:

    http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/12/29/optimal-fiscal-policy-in-a-liquidity-trap-ultra-wonkish/

    That pretty much discredits your main theme. Krugman is actually pointing the way for people like Woodford and Eggertsson to use the NK structure to examine fiscal policy, i.e. this fully recognizes the difference at the zero bound and how that changes policy in the NK model (the inability to offset increases in the real rate). If people had read his work on Japan (you've read it all before criticizing, right?) they could have avoided reinventing the wheel.

    I'll spare you the vast amount of additional evidence -- the post clearly shows your a priori bias and I doubt it would do much good. But your assertions are demonstrably wrong (OK, you added weasel words everywhere, but that just admits you are criticizing without full knowledge of what you are talking about).

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  2. Hi Mark:

    I appear to have left you offended in some manner. Oh well, I hope we can still enjoy a beer together some time.

    I certainly have never pretended to read everything these guys have written. Good lord, has anyone?

    In any case, you criticize me, perhaps justifiably so, for not giving the duo enough credit. Fine. But if you want a crack at being "fair and balanced," I invite you criticize their weasily attacks on academics of the highest integrity. (Or do those attacks conveniently slip your radar?)

    Krugman pretends he knows Keynes, but he most certainly does not. If you read the General Theory carefully, you'll see that the mechanism that Keynes talks about has nothing to do with sticky prices (he is talking, quite clearly I think, about coordination failure).

    And yes, I have a bias. But at least I admit it.

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  3. First off,

    Who the hell is David Andolfatto? Sounds like a character out of the Sopranos or something. Please be content to be a nobody with a Ph.D in the world of economics, and criticize the intellect of others AFTER you have read all their works.

    Second,

    You do realize that admitting you have a priori bias immediately discredits anything you have to say about Krugman or DeLong even if they are biased as well.

    Third,

    I'm only an undergraduate in economics so I'm not the best qualified for analyzing who's right or who's wrong, but man you come off sounding like such as asshole. If you don't think Krugman or DeLong passed elementary macro, yet if Krugman managed to win a Nobel and teaches at Princeton what does that imply about your profession?

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  4. I am writing a short article introducing a collection of Krugman's essays and would be interested in criticism of his work. I mean substantial criticism, not ad hominem attacks. Didn't find any here. Can someone suggest a better source?

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  5. "But really, does the guy really believe that "fair and balanced" crapola?"

    I've been watching Delong's blog banner wording change for years. You need a sense of irony to interpret it.

    "Fair and balanced" is (why do I even have to explain this) an allusion to the hey-I'm-honest-as-the-day-is-long style of self-promotion you see in rightwing media.

    "Reality-based" -- surely you know the story behind that one?

    No? You've never heard about that before?

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  6. "And yes, I have a bias. But at least I admit it."

    As opposed to that cryptic Paul Krugman. I mean, look at his blog title: "The Conscience of a Liberal."

    I wonder: is PK trying to hint to us that maybe he's a ... well, maybe some kind of liberal? Wait, I need a microscope for tea leaves as small as these.

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  7. I think "fair and balanced" is intended as a parody of Fox news' similar claim.

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  8. Interesting. You attack famous economists to try to drive traffic to your site. With any luck, you'll get to 50 'Followers'. Pathetic.

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  9. It is difsicult to be so stupid. The DeLong title is a joke.. a joke against a well-known disgusting news organization.

    It is really amazing... psss.. yes you, the guy writing this blog... head to google and type "fair and balance"...

    I hope you never do something serious like planes or drill oil.It is scary.

    I am still cracking.. I love when people like you made these kind of mistakes. They show who you really are: "Deleted"

    Pathetic

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  10. So what was Chochrane's model?

    I don't study economics, please enlighten me.

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  11. About sticky prices...

    I didn't get the sense (and I'm just a lowly undergrad so don't take my sense too seriously) that Dr. Krugram was saying (in the post Dr. Thoma linked to) that price stickiness is the cause of underproduction equilibrium in the Keynesian model. He was saying that price stickiness normally gives Monetary policy its force -- which is right. Then the question turns to what do you do in an underproduction equilibrium -- normally you have both fiscal and monetary policy to work with, but at some point monetary policy can't do enough to reach full employment.

    Now Barro (in the quote from the bonehead post) does, to me, seem to be suggesting that price stickiness leads to underproduction, and that monetary policy can be used to fix that (which it normally can). Krugman replies not that price stickiness can sometimes still be a problem, but that even when prices do adjust it won't lead to full employment.

    I'm sure I probably got it all wrong but I'm still a bit confused why you have accused Dr. Krugman of thinking that the Keynesian model is about price stickiness.

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  12. Krugman has not only read the General Theory multiple times, but he has even published an Introduction to a recent reprint of the book...

    http://www.pkarchive.org/economy/GeneralTheoryKeynesIntro.html

    In addition, Delong wrote a Macroeconomics textbook, which was published by McGraw Hill.

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  13. Yes, Delong is totally dishonest - I have never seen him grasp reality with more than four tentacles on his blog, yet he claims eight!

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  14. David Andolfatto said...
    "Hi Mark:

    I appear to have left you offended in some manner. Oh well, I hope we can still enjoy a beer together some time."

    The famous non-apology apology. You shot your mouth off, and shot it off at two bloggers who've got a record for the past decade which would stand with the record of any economist.

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  15. It was Barro and Herschel Grossman, not Gene Grossman who worked on disequilibrium macro models.

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  16. Don't want to do anything ad hominem, but you really just seem like a douche bag.

    Seriously- this is how I feel about a lot of right wing people right now; they are spoiled selfish brats that do not care what the current reality is dictating. They've got their story ("theories") - and they are sticking to it (them).

    No matter that current events shows it is not working- blame the media. No matter that their theories are shown to be bunk by true academics - accuse academia of being biased. Or, of not having read the fundamental texts that underly the textbooks they wrote on those subjects.

    Give me a break. These immature attempts to pick fights and discredit people (however unsuccessfully, as is the case with this blog) that you guys with your preconceived notions try all the time are just so tiresome. In the face of piles of evidence you find a reason to stick to your guns and shoot the messenger (of truth).

    Have fun being stuck in a selfish, adolescent mindset. I just hope you don't take all the rest of us down with you, douchebag.

    Damned. The whole world must be really

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  17. Delong changes his blog title somewhat whimsically. The title was certainly a joke which, apparently, you didn't get.

    At one point recently it was "Grasping Reality with All Eight Tentacles"

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  18. Oh mine, David, how did you manage to make all these commentators come out of the woodwork and "feast" on you? It's quite amusing reading the posts this month. Well, I say, let them feast while they can, in 10 years or so when the current Keynesian tide naturally subsides they'll be back in their holes. I only hope we learn something in the process and such (online) debates do help - how often would such conversations take place otherwise?

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  19. Er, William Vickrey died three days after being announced as the 1996 Nobel winner.

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