Over the weekend, I had started writing a post titled “When Will [economist Paul] Krugman Have His Creationist Epiphany?” It was inspired by a comment left on a Krugman post about “the Great Ignorance which seems to have overtaken much of the economics profession — the “rediscovery” of old fallacies about deficit spending and interest rates, presented as if they were deep insights, the bizarre arguments presented by economists with sterling reputations.”
While Krugman argues this is due to flat-out ignorance, a commenter made a great point (italics mine):
This is a point I’ve kept making to Brad – you’re not really “tag-teaming”, you’re still maintaining professional courtesy with these people. How long can that continue? How long do you go on saying that people are “good economists” when they keep on maintaining arithmetic fallacies, and when they clearly fail the only meaningful test of what it is to be an economist – which you correctly identify as the ability to reason about the economy as a whole. At some point there surely needs to be a clean break with the past, and a whole lot of people who currently hold down jobs as economics professors need to be consigned to the same dustbin of history as the physiocrats and mercantilists. I only bring this up because as the world’s most prominent economist and as someone who has no need for the social infrastructure of economics to bolster his credibility, you’re basically the only person in the world who can actually make this split…
I think anyone who has dealt with creationists regularly will agree with that statement. That’s why I think many, though not all, biologists have reached a consensus on how to act. Rather than treating it as a dichotomy–engage them as equals and grant them legitimacy, or ignore them–most have started to engage them, but emphatically not treat them as equals (because they’re not–they’re fucking morons). And it’s been reasonably successful.
Back to economics, there are three possibilities:
- Macroeconomic ignorance is due to cognitive malfunction (i.e., they’re stupid). I don’t think this is the case.
- Faculty really are that ignorant. I wouldn’t rule that out in all cases, but many probably are.
- This is willful ignorance. That is, data are ‘selectively remembered’. Related to this, willful ignorance may have taken such a hold on some economics departments such that they have become the economic equivalent of the biology department at Liberty University.
So I wonder when, like many biologists, Krugman was going to realize that much of the problem was behind door #3. But I see hope!
Today’s column calls global warming denialism “treason against the planet.” Krugman (italics mine):
…if you watched the debate on Friday, you didn’t see people who’ve thought hard about a crucial issue, and are trying to do the right thing. What you saw, instead, were people who show no sign of being interested in the truth. They don’t like the political and policy implications of climate change, so they’ve decided not to believe in it — and they’ll grab any argument, no matter how disreputable, that feeds their denial.
Indeed, if there was a defining moment in Friday’s debate, it was the declaration by Representative Paul Broun of Georgia that climate change is nothing but a “hoax” that has been “perpetrated out of the scientific community.” I’d call this a crazy conspiracy theory, but doing so would actually be unfair to crazy conspiracy theorists. After all, to believe that global warming is a hoax you have to believe in a vast cabal consisting of thousands of scientists — a cabal so powerful that it has managed to create false records on everything from global temperatures to Arctic sea ice.
Yet Mr. Broun’s declaration was met with applause.
Given this contempt for hard science, I’m almost reluctant to mention the deniers’ dishonesty on matters economic. But in addition to rejecting climate science, the opponents of the climate bill made a point of misrepresenting the results of studies of the bill’s economic impact, which all suggest that the cost will be relatively low.
Still, is it fair to call climate denial a form of treason? Isn’t it politics as usual?
Yes, it is — and that’s why it’s unforgivable.
I think once Krugman realizes that much of the economic criticism is just as stupid and denialist as global warming denialism, things will get interesting….