More from the “Is our Pundits Learning” File

Not as much learning going on as one might like, to be honest.

While killing some time waiting for the rest of my family to meet me for dinner last night, I came across this USAT column by Glenn Reynolds (via Scott Lemieux) from before the election:  Column: Will cocooned liberals be surprised by Romney? (the piece was published on October 22nd).

Reynolds started thusly:

The documentary Hating Breitbart, about the late blogger and media gadfly Andrew Breitbart, opened this past weekend to packed houses. The theme of the film — and of Breitbart’s life — is how conventional “mainstream” media deliberately distort the news to benefit the policies and politicians they favor.

This was, of course, the kind of “logic” that led to the entire unskewed polls/poll denialist movement.  After all, the information in the MSM (defined, btw, as any media outlet that is not consciously conservative in orientation) is all run through a pro-Obama/anti-Republicans filter, yes?

Reynolds continued in the next paragraph with the following:

That’s no secret in the Obama era, of course, as the press’s efforts to boost, and then protect, the presidency of Barack Obama have become ever more obvious. But it’s still worth pointing out. It’s a problem for America, and it’s a problem for people on the right. But it’s probably a bigger problem for people with whom the media agree. That’s because they wind up living in a bubble, protected from contrary views, which means that they are perpetually caught by surprise when reality asserts itself.

Emphasis mine, because it makes a rather telling claim (especially in retrospect, but even at the time) and because it suggests that pre-election views should be affected by post-election results.

Now, since most people base their assessment of the news on incomplete understandings of complex events that are often open to interpretation, it is often easy to pretend like one is right about one’s views no matter what happens.  Further, it is easy to rationalize how reports contrary to one’s preferences are simply ideological distortions.

If only there was a clear-cut, pre- and post-event bit of evidence that was quantifiable and could give us a direct way of seeing which sets of analyses were accurate.

Hmm…

While I think about that, back to Reynolds:

Though we’ve been told over and over again by the press that President Obama, and his policies, are overwhelmingly popular with the American public, and that challenger Mitt Romney is an unlikable loser, this may turn out not to be the case.

In recent years, we’ve often seen that the truth on the ground doesn’t match the images presented in the press. Despite representations that it was a narrow fringe group composed of “bitter clingers,” the Tea Party movement handed the House of Representatives to the Republicans in 2010. And despite claims that it was washed up, the Tea Party movement has remained a force in 2012.

Now, despite being told by the press — and quite a few Republican pundits — that Mitt Romney didn’t have a chance, since his performance in the presidential debates things seem to be turning around. Reports of early voting and absentee ballots suggest that Republican voters are a lot more energized than we’d been led to believe. The polls are looking good for Romney, and he’s picking up all sorts of endorsements all of a sudden.

This has caused some Republican enthusiasts to suggest that what we’re seeing is a “preference cascade,” and they may be right.

What’s a “preference cascade?” In his book, Private Truths, Public Lies, economist Timur Kuran looked at the way “preference falsification” can distort societies, and then collapse suddenly.

The classic example is in a totalitarian society, where everyone has to pretend to love the Great Leader on pain of death. If the authorities manage it right, 99% of the populace can be ready to revolt — but won’t, because each individual thinks he or she is the only one who feels that way. This works until some event suddenly shocks the system, and people realize that they’re not alone. When that happens, things can go south in a hurry. That’s a “preference cascade.”

The United States isn’t a totalitarian society, but media bias has the same sort of effect: By privileging some views and suppressing others, the media give Americans, and itself, a distorted idea of reality. Then, when things crack, it’s a big surprise.

That may be what’s happening here. Obama was presented as unbeatable, and a lot of people believed it — until, suddenly, he looked kind of beatable after all. Once that happened, everything was different.

If this really is happening to Obama, there’s a spot of irony to it, because that’s exactly what happened when he ran against Hillary Clinton in the primaries. Hillary spent years building up a facade of inevitability, and the press and pundits went along. Lots of other potential challengers didn’t even bother to enter the race and it looked like she had things sewn up, but then Obama started beating her, and, to everyone’s surprise, she didn’t look inevitable any more.

Will Romney do the same thing to Obama? We’ll see, but I think that’s the way to bet.

So, we actually have a couple of hypothesis proffered here.

1.  Obama was not as popular as media reports (based on polling, mind you) indicated.

2.  Given the privacy of the voting booth, voter’s hidden preferences would reveal a preference cascade in the direction of Romney.

Ends up we had a natural experiment on November 6, 2012 and the evidence collected from said experiment leads us to the rejection of these hypotheses.

As such, one would think that Reynolds, a supposed academic and public intellectual, might want to address the “bet” he was recommending in a subsequent column. In terms of his USAT archive, this would seem not to be the case.  A perusal of Instapundit does not seem to indicate a reassessment, either (but perhaps I missed it).  The hedging and weasel words, of course, provide a certain level of plausible deniability  if one is sympathetic.  I mean, after all, he did say “may be” and “if”.

Here’s the deal:  this is not about a gotcha moment over who won or lost, or even what was written prior to the election:  it is about how one reacts in face of evidence that contradicts one’s views.  If commentators are going to make claims about systematic bias, only to find incontrovertible empirical evidence that suggests the pre-election views in the MSM were correct, then one needs to do a bit of reassessing.

And so, we go back to Reynolds’ own words from above:  “they wind up living in a bubble, protected from contrary views, which means that they are perpetually caught by surprise when reality asserts itself.”  Well, it ends up that some folks were surprised, and they weren’t the folks that Reynolds’ asserted they might be.  But, again, the issue is less who was surprised, but why and, more importantly:  what was learned by said surprise?

Learning is important, and yet there seems to be a loss less of it going on than one might like.

Along those lines, albeit somewhat tangentially, the title of Reynolds’ piece, as well as its general thesis, made me think of this:

Just in case you don't have Flash installed on your computer...

(video here)

It is as if some in the conservative media have decided to respond to charges that they are creating a media bubble by simply doing the “I’m rubber, and you’re glue routine” (“You say we are in a media bubble?  Oh yeah?  You’re in a media bubble!”).  The bottom line is, however, that while this will play quite well with their audience, it actually is yet another bit of evidence of the bubble in question—and is an example of evidence-free arguments.  For while yes, there are  liberal outlets and attempts to create a liberal media industry like the conservative version, the bottom line is a) it is nowhere near as successful at it, and b) the Reynolds and the O’Reilly’s of the world like to pretend that all non-conservative media is the liberal version of Fox (another example here), but this conflates the largely commentary-driven nature of FNC and talk radio with mass media in general.

As I keep hammering:  the reaction to the polls and the analysis linked thereto prior to the election led a set of key actors to make wildly inaccurate assessments of reality.  The correct response to being wildly wrong should be to reassess one’s methodology.  This, however, does not seem to be happening.  Worse, if there is a move to continue to argue “no, there is no conservative media bubble, but man, have you seen that liberal media bubble?” then this shows that, indeed, certain pundits is not learning squat.  Or, worse, that they really aren’t interested in learning at all, and so calling them all the “conservative entertainment complex” is, indeed, the right designation.

May I point out, just for kicks I guess, that it is possible to have a philosophical point of view without making political commentary into equivalent of local sports radio?

FILED UNDER: US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. Geek, Esq. says:

    Glenn “Obama must resign” Reynolds is the glibertarian version of Dick Morris or Hugh Hewitt–a practictioner of anti-matter analysis which yields perfectly inverted analysis.

    I’d call him a hack, but that assumes he actually can recognize reality before disregarding it.

  2. MBunge says:

    Accusing others of what you are yourself are guilty of is not exactly some kind of revolutionary strategy. Like all techniques of propaganda and manipulation, however, it is built on the manipulator not believing his own crap. That’s where the right is failing.

    Mike

  3. Geek, Esq. says:

    Also, notice how Democrats all freaked out when Obama had a terrible debate–because we were able to recognize that Obama was in fact having a terrible debate.

    One very telling moment was when Reynolds and the rest of the lilly-white race baiters who guest blog for him were orgasming over Tucker Carlson’s attempt to N!ggerize Obama with a 5 year old tape, it took Ann Althouse of all people to tell them that collectively they were looking very, very “ugly.”

  4. legion says:

    Glenn is also another one of those people who have a great deal of education, but haven’t actually learned anything from it. Witness his inability to note that a) “we” didn’t bomb London or Stockholm, b) World War II was about 70 years ago, and is of rapidly decreasing relevance in city infrastructures nowadays and c) that’s still no excuse for our not doing squat to improve our own major cities’ infrastructure in those intervening decades.

  5. gVOR08 says:

    But, but, both sides do it.

    People have done small studies of pundit accuracy on verifiable predictions. There was a tendency for liberals to be more accurate, but the big takeaway was that accuracy was correlated to success. Negatively. Success comes from telling an audience what they want to hear, not from being right. (Steven, you may be doing this wrong.)

    One study ranked a dozen or two big name national pundits. IIRC Paul Krugman was the most accurate.

  6. john personna says:

    @Geek, Esq.:

    Technically Democrats split 66/33 (iirc) on the first debate. Most thought he lost, but not all.

    I prefer to think that the 33% were the careful listeners ;-), YMMV.

  7. Geek, Esq. says:

    @john personna:

    Well, Plouffe, Messina and Axelrod were amongst the 66% . . .

  8. mantis says:

    It is as if some in the conservative media have decided to respond to charges that they are creating a media bubble by simply doing the “I’m rubber, and you’re glue routine”

    It is exactly that, and the Romney campaign adopted this strategy as well.

  9. Andre Kenji says:

    @legion:

    Glenn is also another one of those people who have a great deal of education, but haven’t actually learned anything from it.

    No, that´s not the point and there is a reason why *Professor* Steven Taylor likes to blog about Reynolds. Several of these media hacks are in fact pretty good academics. Thomas Sowell academic writings about race are REALLY good, but his newspapers columns are pretty dumb. Paul Krugman as a professor is pretty good, much better than his writings in the NYT, where he picks bizarre fights with countries in Eastern Europe. As Daniel Drezner pointed out, Niall Ferguson´s only Academic History Book is pretty good, but he makes money by telling audiences what they want to hear.

    It´s pretty bad for academic institutions if intellectuals writes articles with no relevence, just telling people what they want to hear instead of writing meaningful articles about policy. One can argue that being a Law professor in a medium sized university is the job that anyone requested from God, but Reynolds can get far more money being a hack than any top rated legal scholar can imagine.

  10. mantis says:
  11. legion says:

    @Andre Kenji:

    Several of these media hacks are in fact pretty good academics.

    That may very well be, but the group of people that know that about Reynolds’ academic abilities is limited to the people who take his classes & review his legal articles. Whereas the group that sees how terrible he is at expressing himself intellectually comprises most of the people who read political blogs – not an earth-shaking number, I’d wager, but still more than the former…

  12. michael reynolds says:

    The right is more religious. Religion requires a willing suspension of disbelief. The purpose of that disbelief is to allow adherents to ignore certain realities, death in particular, and to accept as real what are clearly fantasies: heaven. Is it likely that those who have been raised to suspend disbelief and to believe only what they want to believe then transfer that negative skill set to politics? Of course.

    The GOP has long-since been heavily influenced by the most primitive types of religion, by biblical literalists, by fundamentalists more broadly, by Mormons and other evangelical (read sales-oriented) denominations. There’s an alliance between people who believe patent nonsense, and the GOP. From this we get a market, and that market is served by talk radio and Fox News.

    The bubble begins in church. It’s religion that prepares the intellectual ground for the steadfast denial of reality. Fortunately the country is growing more secular, and not all believers are of the fanatic variety.

  13. rudderpedals says:

    It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it! — Upton Sinclair

  14. Geek, Esq. says:

    @Andre Kenji:

    Paul Krugman’s punditry is different from that like people like Sowell in that he has, you know, said things that turned out to be true.

  15. mattb says:

    That shot of O’Reilly really brings it into perspective. To @MBunge’s point, the core of what O’Reilly and Reynolds, among others, is in no way new.

    What seems to me to be somewhat unique about the current CEC, from a media studies perspective, is rather that its propagandizing have become transparent to the point of self-parody. O’Reilly’s talking points remind me of how the CEC constantly reassures its audience that the very fact they partake of the CEC is proof that they (the audience) are independent thinkers who cannot be swayed by the media.

  16. john personna says:

    @michael reynolds:

    It might be a little more chicken and egg than that. The evangelicals grew out of farm revival circuits, and then went mass media, bypassing the more established (city) religions which had made their piece with chancellorship and knowledge.

    Sadly, the country/evangelicals out-competed the city/traditionalists.

  17. john personna says:

    heh, sloppy spell checking put “chancellorship” in place of “scholarship.”

  18. @john personna:

    heh, sloppy spell checking put “chancellorship” in place of “scholarship.”

    I was trying to figure that one out! 🙂

  19. bookdragon says:

    As someone one a far less polite blog tends to say when taking apart rightwing pundit’s ramblings: you have to remember that it’s Always About Projection.

  20. grumpy realist says:

    Hence my not-entirely-tongue-in-cheek suggestion: after an election, rank the pundits by their rate of accuracy in prediction. The ten worst pundits will have to take a solemn vow of silence for the next five years–no writing, no appearing on talk shows, no publications whatsoever. We’ll let them file tax returns and write letters to relatives. That’s it.

  21. John H says:

    Michael and John,

    All that you say of religion’s effect on politics is almost certainly true, but you let those of us who escaped those clutches off too easily. We’re casting scorn on the “both sides do it” theme, but the simple truth is that we all do it. We are all subject to bias, special reasoning, memory tricks and the other flaws of our imperfect constitutions. The neurologists keep showing us that our internal models of our world are not all that solidly connected to objective reality. Religion, extreme political systems and pseudoscience all derive from the same irrational roots. That they are often bound together should surprise no one. We have an advantage in our greater acceptance of reason and the scientific method for now, but we do not own them and there are many on our side of the argument who readily turn to the irrational.

  22. Facebones says:

    Pundits will only make better predictions if there are consequences for their craziness.

    If Dick Morris was told tomorrow that if he screws up again like he did with his “Romney Landslide!!!!” prediction he’d be evicted from the Fox green room, then I guarantee that his prognosticating would improve dramatically.

    But, it’s not about accuracy. It’s about reassuring your audience and telling them, yes, you are right. Everyone else is crazy.

  23. swbarnes2 says:

    @John H:

    The neurologists keep showing us that our internal models of our world are not all that solidly connected to objective reality.

    And yet the rocket scientists keep landing robots on Mars. We have methods which are capable of distinguishing true from false. It’s just that one of the two major parties of this country refuses to use that methodology.

  24. stonetools says:

    I must say, reading rigt wing pundits since the election has been an unending buffet of schadenfruede. Every time I think I am over it, I get another big helping. Thanks, Steven.
    I hope to get a similiar amount after the 2014 elections. Since it looks like the wingnutosphere has learned little, there is a good chance of this.

  25. John H says:

    @swbarnes2:

    Pretty much my point. But since many of those rocket scientists are religious or hold right wing political views, I wouldn’t use your example. Being able to apply reason and science when it doesn’t conflict with your world view is easy.

  26. Murray says:

    @Steven L. Taylor

    The flaw in your argument Steven is that you use as premise that pundits are motivated by fact based defense of ideological beliefs.

    The pundits, at least the type you are talking about, have learned long ago that to build an audience who will massage their egos and fill their wallets they needed to cultivate a bubble not burst it. Crazy is a very lucrative market and the last thing they want is for their public to get a grasp on reality.

    I will concede that in the process some of said pundits may very well have started to believe their own line of crap.

  27. stonetools says:

    @michael reynolds:

    To be sure , there are lots of irrational atheists. Just look up Communism. There are also right wing atheist crackpots like Ayn Rand.

    There are plenty of rational religious belirevers too. Holding rational polititical beliefs doesn’t map to atheists.

  28. @Murray: Sadly, you have a point.

    Of course, I find Reynolds more than frustrating in this regard, as he is supposed to be an academic, but I think he decided to be a pundit many years ago.

  29. Rob in CT says:

    Also, rational is not the same as “reasonable.”

    You can have a belief system that is rational and coherent… and it can be awful.

  30. Andre Kenji says:

    @Geek, Esq.:

    Paul Krugman’s punditry is different from that like people like Sowell in that he has, you know, said things that turned out to be true.

    1-) Krugman in 2006 said that Democrats had no chance of winning the Congress.

    2-) He used Italy as a example of why high debt to GDP ratio should not be a problem.

    3-) He likes to uses foreign countries for political football. That´s inaccurate and even offensive.

    4-) Frankly, I´d rather have inane predictions any time of the day than people pushing bad policies. Democrats do not have a good answer to Republicans on debt and taxes, and part of the problem is precisely because Krugman is their economic guru. Krugman is a serious scholar, his column and his blog are not.

    William Kristol should be chastised by pushing for war over war, not by giving inane predictions.

    5-) Yes, I really like when he faces George Will on the This Week roundtable.

  31. john personna says:

    @swbarnes2:

    Or with a little more cognitive dissonance, people applaud the Mars landers while rejecting the same institutions’ conclusions on climate.

  32. Rob in CT says:

    So your response is that Krugman is sometimes wrong in his predictions? Or what, exactly?

    I don’t think the guy is an infallible Oracle, but up against the punditry of a guy like Reynolds? Come on.

    Of your list, the one I specifically recall is #3, and that was in response to various other folks holding up various countries as examples of the triumph of austerity. It started, IIRC, with Ireland. Then is was… what, Poland?

  33. john personna says:

    @stonetools:

    California’s Prop. 37 was the most recent illustration of science rejection on the left.

    The U.S. National Academy of Sciences (not a fake organization, a real one founded in 1863) came out against the legislation, but “food pundits” simply ignored their rationale.

    (The rationale, as I understand it is that (a) no harm has been demonstrated in real use, and (b) Roundup(TM) has actually displaced more harmful pesticides.)

  34. legion says:

    @Facebones:

    Pundits will only make better predictions if there are consequences for their craziness.

    There _are_ consequences. Gullible billionaires who only want to be told the sun shines out their collective arses pay them lots of money for their craziness. That’s the consequence.

  35. JohnMcC says:

    @Andre Kenji: “Liberals do not have a good answer to Republicans on debt and taxes…”

    en.wickipedia.org/wiki/United_States_public_debt

    The charts there will demonstrate that during a period of high regulation and high taxation on upper incomes and strong labor unions, somehow the national debt amazingly shrank dramatically. That is during the period of Mr Eisenhower and Mr Kennedy and Mr Johnson’s terms. And then Mr Reagan was elected in 1980 whereupon the national debt began a skyward movement interrupted only by the years of Mr Clinton’s presidency.

    You have no idea how simple it is to answer Republicans on issues of debt and taxes.

    Do you know who the last two Presidents are who brought balanced budgets to Congress? Would you suspect they were both Democrats? I thought not. But they are Mr Johnson and Mr Clinton.

    Facts.

    Take your rhetoric to where that is all that counts.

  36. john personna says:

    @Andre Kenji, @JohnMcC:

    For what it’s worth:

    Do you hear that? No? Listen closer. There. That. That, coming from Louisiana, is the sound of the end of trickle-down economics. Economists have known for a while that personal marginal tax rates, and in particular those on the rich, don’t seem to have much of an effect on the economy. As we wrote in September, even Reagan’s economist did not find any evidence that the Reagan recovery had come from the Reagan administration’s personal income tax cuts. Over the last four years, apostate Republican thinkers such as Bruce Bartlett and David Frum began to agree. Then most of America did. Even a group of CEOs of major corporations came around to the idea that raising tax rates on the rich would not hamper growth.

    But no sitting Republican politician joined them, certainly none with big plans. Until this week. Bobby Jindal is both: governor of Louisiana and a strong prospect for 2016. On Monday he told Politico, “We cannot be, we must not be, the party that simply protects the rich so they get to keep their toys.”

  37. swbarnes2 says:

    @john personna:

    California’s Prop. 37 was the most recent illustration of science rejection on the left.

    If the left’s most harmful science-denying policy is about more labeling, then there’s no comparison to the damage done by science denialism on the right.

    And Prop 37, of course failed to pass in a pretty blue state.

    Vaccine denial is also high on the list of science denialism that does real damage, but conservatives like Bachmann and Trump support that too. It’s not solely a liberal failing.

    Anti-evolution policies pop up all over the pace in conservative school districts and states. Climate change denial is now official policy in Virginia. Liberals do not implement a fraction of the number of policies based on their irrational anti-science bents.

  38. john personna says:

    @swbarnes2:

    It may have failed to pass, but I was assaulted signs and bumper stickers!

    My subjective experience 😉

  39. OzarkHillbilly says:

    May I point out, just for kicks I guess, that it is possible to have a philosophical point of view without making political commentary into equivalent of local sports radio?

    No.

  40. Andre Kenji says:

    @Rob in CT:

    So your response is that Krugman is sometimes wrong in his predictions? Or what, exactly?

    No, what I´m pointing out is that Krugman is a very good economist. He wrote very insightful academic papers. But when he assumes the role of the pundit, Krugman is too simplistic and he sometimes promotes terrible policies. He also can be terribly predictable, he is also too partisan(One of the things that I miss from the Bush Era is that Krugman´s columns made more sense at the time).

    I never saw a good academic paper authored by Glenn Reynolds. On the other hand, Paul Krugman has a better financial reward by saying what Liberals wants to hear than by writing good academic papers. To Glenn, saying what Conservatives wants to hear gives fair more money than he could even dream by being a Law Professor.

    Daniel Drezner pointed out about that, fair better than me:

    http://drezner.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2012/08/23/intellectual_power_and_responsibility

  41. grumpy realist says:

    @Andre Kenji: It’s all too tempting to be a pundit if you have an intellectual reputation to provide at least the modicum of support. Much easier; no need for data-gathering, checking one’s theories against reality. Just gas on whatever you want to, secure that your reputation as a “professor” or “Nobel Laureate” will protect you against all criticism.

    (A certain number of Nobel laureates in physics fall victim to this–the older one gets, the more fruitcake the ideas generated. E.g. Shockley and his racial IQ mania; one of the other Nobel laureates had his quantum consciousness guff.)

  42. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Hmmmmm….

    Where is Jan? Jenos? Tsar? Eric Florack? GA?

    I wonder why they are not participating in this discussion?

  43. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @grumpy realist:

    It’s all too tempting to be a pundit if you have an intellectual reputation to provide at least the modicum of support. Much easier; no need for data-gathering, checking one’s theories against reality. Just gas on whatever you want to, secure that your reputation as a “professor” or “Nobel Laureate” will protect you against all criticism.

    As a somewhat regular reader of Krugman I want to point out that he spends a great amount of time gathering data, arranging it in ways that are readily understandable, and quite often goes back and checks reality against what he predicted.

  44. Ebenezer_Arvigenius says:

    The right is more religious. Religion requires a willing suspension of disbelief. The purpose of that disbelief is to allow adherents to ignore certain realities, death in particular, and to accept as real what are clearly fantasies: heaven. Is it likely that those who have been raised to suspend disbelief and to believe only what they want to believe then transfer that negative skill set to politics? Of course.

    That confuses suspension of disbelief and ignorance. ‘Suspension’ by definition requires knowledge about the suspended belief. Heck I’m religious. Doensn’t make me reality-blind despite everything Dawkins the old hack chooses to believe.

  45. Console says:

    @Andre Kenji:

    Democrats do not have a good answer to Republicans on debt and taxes

    Ha!

    I’m afraid to even ask what the question is.

  46. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Console:

    I’m afraid to even ask what the question is.

    The question is, “Why does anyone listen to the GOP on debt or taxes?”

  47. bk says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    Where is Jan? Jenos? Tsar? Eric Florack? GA?

    Maybe they moved to Chile?

  48. legion says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Bingo. If you ask someone like K-Thug or Nate Silver “Where do you get this stuff?” they’ll tell you. Ask them to show you their work and they will.

    I triple-dog-dare any talking head to put George Will or Dick Morris on the spot and have them explain the math behind their ludicrous assertions that Romney would get over 300 EVs.

  49. bk says:

    Speaking of law professors that have political websites filled with absolute drivel, it’s hard to beat that Jacobson guy from Legal Insurrection for pure wrong-headed crap.

  50. Barry says:

    @Geek, Esq.: “Paul Krugman’s punditry is different from that like people like Sowell in that he has, you know, said things that turned out to be true. ”

    My attitude now is that anybody who criticizes Krugman (overall, not just on the odd individual issue) is challenged to show me an economist with better accuracy.

  51. Dave says:

    @Andre Kenji:

    Krugman is too simplistic and he sometimes promotes terrible policies

    Please be more specific. Krugman can be somewhat arrogant (but show me an expert who’s really good in their field who isn’t), but he’s seldom simplistic. He usually just points out certain facts that are true (or not) and people read a whole lot into him making those points and assume he’s arguing something he’s not. Actually I think Krugman is often one of the most misread pundits out there. As for promoting terrible policies, that’s too vague to even respond to, but I think you know that and are simply venting – not making a point.

  52. Barry says:

    @Andre Kenji:

    “1-) Krugman in 2006 said that Democrats had no chance of winning the Congress.”

    (1) Link?
    (2) That’s a political prediction.

    2-) He used Italy as a example of why high debt to GDP ratio should not be a problem.

    (3) Link?

    3-) He likes to uses foreign countries for political football. That´s inaccurate and even offensive.

    (4) Link?
    (5) Also, this is a bullsh*t comment – cough up something more specific, and wrong.
    (6) If he offends you, that’s not a sign that’s he’s wrong.

    4-) Frankly, I´d rather have inane predictions any time of the day than people pushing bad policies. Democrats do not have a good answer to Republicans on debt and taxes, and part of the problem is precisely because Krugman is their economic guru. Krugman is a serious scholar, his column and his blog are not.

    (7) Proof, other than by assertion.

  53. Barry says:

    Oh, and as I said above – who is better than Krugman?

    Name the guy.

  54. Andre Kenji says:

    @Dave:

    Krugman can be somewhat arrogant (but show me an expert who’s really good in their field who isn’t), but he’s seldom simplistic.

    If that´s is not being simplistic I don´t know what being simplistic is:

    http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/09/13/paul_krugmans_baltic_problem

  55. Andre Kenji says:

    @Barry:

    If he offends you, that’s not a sign that’s he’s wrong.

    That´s not the problem. Krugman usually cherry picks data and examples to fit his narrative, and that´s a very poor line of reasoning because each country has it´s own characteristics. Only if you don´t know anything about Foreign countries that you see no problem with that:

    http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/09/13/paul_krugmans_baltic_problem

    Krugman’s main line of argument has been that more fiscal stimulus is always needed as long as a significant output gap exists. But in Cyprus and Slovenia, very substantial fiscal stimulus generated minimal growth. Neither country would be suffering from its current financial conundrum had it not followed such a policy. Spain would probably be safe as well.

    Krugman’s disregard for the risk of sovereign default is perplexing. His main line of thinking seems to be that Europe has a growth problem, not a debt problem, and he appears to believe that a fiscal stimulus can always overcome the threat of the increased public debt burden. Even in the case of Greece, which had a gross public debt of 165 percent of GDP at the end of 2011, he failed to notice the danger but financial markets declared that the country’s public debt was excessive. Slovenia’s public debt of 50 percent of GDP, for instance, is more than the markets accept, as its bond yields have exceeded 7 percent.

    It is difficult to understand how Krugman can ignore the structural reforms that are urgently needed in Europe. All the southern European countries have overregulated labor markets that have caused persistently high unemployment. In Spain, it is easier to get a divorce than to sack a worker — which explains in part why companies are very reluctant to hire new ones. But to Krugman, unemployment is merely a matter of lack of demand: “The urge to declare our unemployment problem “structural” — a supply-side problem of some kind, not solvable by the “simplistic Keynesian” notion of just increasing demand — has been quite something to behold,” he wrote on June 8.

  56. Console says:

    @Andre Kenji:

    You don’t see how any of that could simply be a pretense that uses a financial crisis to push neoliberal reforms (reforms that won’t and haven’t solved shit) instead of dealing what actually happened?

    I mean come on…, that post pretty much implies that spain would have been fine if only it hadn’t bailed out it’s banks. This is like the sort of revisionist history that goes on in america when conservatives pretend GM could have just gone through some normal bankruptcy during the height of the financial crisis.

    And don’t get me started with the idea that nations with no control over their currency are in the same boat as nations that aren’t. Plus, America has a better recovery than every single country listed in that article. Latvia is supposed to be some sort of economic miracle when they have 15 percent unemployment and a GDP still below their pre-recession peak. Years of misery because of this ridiculous upper middlebrow obsession with deficits.

  57. Console says:
  58. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Console: Data, arranged in a way that is readily understandable, checking reality against what he had previously said.

  59. john personna says:

    @Console:

    I agree that answering “he said” economics with “she said” isn’t a real improvement. If you are going to fault Krugman for convenient national comparisons, you don’t reference someone else making convenient national comparisons.

    Krugman has a better record of success that most econ pundits. It might be fair to balance that with some skepticism for the whole thing, some economic agnosticism, but no, there is no point bringing in guys with worse or no track record.

  60. Barry says:

    @Andre Kenji: I’ll pass up on commenting, because it appears that this particular argument is dead.

    However, I am waiting for the guy who’s a better economist than Krugman.

  61. Dave says:

    @Andre Kenji:
    I’m afraid this is exactly what I was referring to. Krugman simply points out that Latvia’s recovery is not quite a cause for triumphalism (see his charts), they’re doing better than Greece/Spain, but that’s about it. Sorry, but that’s not picking a fight (unless you consider looking at the data picking a fight). On the other hand I think the Foreign Policy article you refer to does have an axe to grind. They notably did NOT refer to the unemployment rate in Latvia at the time or GDP. Wonder why?

  62. rudderpedals says:

    @Andre Kenji: Drezner seems really fixated on the Baltics. Why is he so parochial? Krugman brought the Icelandic and Swedish resolutions up a bunch of times to contrast those country’s resolutions of banking crises with the Baltic states’ approach.

  63. Barry says:

    @Dave: “Sorry, but that’s not picking a fight (unless you consider looking at the data picking a fight).”

    For many right-wingers, looking at the data is indeed unfair, wrong, and cheating.