More on Moore

John Fund thinks I am afraid of Stephen Moore (and that I am an economist). He is wrong on both counts.

Speaking of the Fed, John Fund asked the following this week over at NRO:  Who’s Afraid of Stephen Moore? And Why?

Apparently, one of the answers is me:

Economist Steven Taylor sneers that “by all appearances, Moore opposes mainstream fiscal theories because he simply doesn’t understand them.” Taylor concludes that Moore “is not an economist, he is an ideologue and a pundit,” because he is not “a trained academic economist” with a Ph.D. in the field.

Well, first I am not an economist, and second, the first quote is from Jonathan Chait, whom I quoted (the conclusion, however, is from me, yes).  As such, I find the Fund piece more than a bit amusing (given its sloppiness on the one hand, and perhaps the first time I have been described as “sneer[ing]” on the other).

Third, I am not afraid of Moore.  I am opposed to under-qualified ideologues being places in positions of power.  It isn’t personal (and this concern isn’t linked to just Moore, but to pretty much all of Trump’s appointees).

Fourth, I see no reason why a given administration can’t find someone philosophically appropriate with a Ph.D. or some other exemplary experience/training/ability to place on the Fed.  Beyond that, yes:  I think a Ph.D. trumps a masters degree.  Is that really a controversial position? (I am aware, by the way, that the current Fed Chair, Jerome Powell, also lacks a Ph.D. in economics, but his resume at least suggests someone qualified to sit on the Fed).

Back to Fund’s piece, which follows one from his semi-quoting of me above:

There we see the guild mentality in full. It turns out that current Fed chairman Jerome Powell also lacks a Ph.D. in economics, and for most of the Fed’s history its chairs were not economists. But Powell is a favorite of the Beltway guild system and so is immune to such criticism.


What’s really astonishing about the hysterical reaction to Moore’s appointment to the Fed is how much it reveals the intellectual insecurity and clannishness at the heart of the Washington policy community. Why else would they be so scared of one man challenging their preconceived wisdom?

The framing here is so utterly ridiculous. The objections to Moore are not because he isn’t in “the guild” or that he is some maverick out “challenging…preconceived notions.”  Rather, the objections are that he is an under-qualified hack (just follow the links in my original piece on this subject to find ample evidence to back the claim).

In conclusions, you know who else notes that Moore isn’t a Ph.D. economist, and even suggests that that makes him not an economist in comparison to others on the Fed?  That would be Stephen Moore:

I am not a PhD economist. Maybe there are too many PhD economists over at the Fed.

He goes on the interview to describe himself as an “economics policy person” rather than an “economist.”

UPDATE:  I meant to mention the following from an actual economist (one who served in the GW Bush administration), Greg Mankiw:

Steve is a perfectly amiable guy, but he does not have the intellectual gravitas for this important job. If you doubt it, read his latest book Trumponomics (or my review of it).

It is time for Senators to do their job. Mr. Moore should not be confirmed.

Thanks to William J. Luther @WilliamJLuther for bringing this to my attention on Twitter. 

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


  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Ye shall be known by thine enemies. Or at least those who speak ill of you. Well done Steven, well done.

  2. Kathy says:

    Well, I should mention the description of Moore as a pundit is wrong. A pundit is an expert in a particular subject or field who is frequently called on to give opinions about it to the public.

    Assuming Moore gives opinions in anything other than ideology, which might qualify as en “expert,” he’s no pundit even if he’s treated as one by the media 🙂

  3. Kathy says:

    BTW, Steven, going by the premise in the piece you quoted, where opposition equals fear, now you can proudly state John Fund fears you.

  4. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    Fund’s defense is pathetic at best; however, Moore is a member of Fund’s guild, if you will, and is therefore entitled to the best defense that Fund can offer. Additionally, pathetic as that defense may be, it will suit the other members of that guild–who will regard it a pointed and thought provoking. (Bonus points for putting you, a well-known liberal, in your place. /s )

  5. Ben Wolf says:

    If NRO had any sense they’d criticize you for invoking the author of Mankiw Morality, in which it is explicitly rational for economic actors to commit fraud.

    Lovin’ it.

  6. mattbernius says:

    @Ben Wolf: For the record Ben, as far as I can tell it was myself, not Stephen, who referenced Mankiw’s rejection of Moore – in the original post that the NRO was critiquing. I do see Steven added Mankiw’s critique to this post.

    Btw, what are your thoughts on Moore?

  7. Ben Wolf says:

    @mattbernius: You don’t read so good.

    ALSO, if I want to insult someone, I don’t veil it.

  8. Gustopher says:

    Beyond that, yes: I think a Ph.D. trumps a masters degree. Is that really a controversial position?

    When I was interviewing software engineer candidates at my last job, I would always ask the PhD folks to solve some problem that in part has some icky bit manipulation, since it was something outside their area of specialization, but in their broad area of expertise. And almost invariably, they would produce something that was entirely functional, and almost entirely unreadable.

    PhD code. Because they are smart enough to hold 23 different things in their head, they don’t break a problem down into simpler, testable units. (This was a running problem at the company — lots of code that was only maintainable by the original authors)

    PhDs train people differently. They’re good in some cases, but bad in others. I think we would want a mixture on the Fed, to avoid overspecialization and over emphasizing their narrow areas of expertise. Sometimes the stupid person in the room is the most valuable.

    Moore is the wrong type of stupid though.

  9. MattBernius says:

    @Ben Wolf:
    Fair (here is your upvote). Steven updated his post after my initial read (I usually click into comments after my first read and the update was above the fold line) and I had not seen his reference to Mankiw on this page.

    When I realized my mistake I updated my post to remove the jab. I apologize for that misplaced jab. I also apologize for not making the initial edit more transparent.

    You didn’t answer my question about your opinion about Moore.

  10. Guarneri says:

    I realize the piece is about Fund and Moore. But given the long term track record of the Fed the notion that those vaunted PhDs have performed well is simply laughable.

  11. Gustopher says:

    From the esteemed Mr. Mankiw:

    Steve is a perfectly amiable guy, but he does not have the intellectual gravitas for this important job. If you doubt it, read his latest book Trumponomics

    I believe that publishing a book called Trumponomics is considered qualifications enough for this administration.

    On a related note, I would encourage our hosts and com mentors who have written books to start churning out “nonfiction” books with titles like Trumptopia: Universal Health Care From A Pro-Business Government That Is NOT Socialism, The Trump Way, Barriers: From Hadrian’s Wall to Trump’s Wall, El Trumpo Grande: How Hispanics Have Embraced Trump And Become Real Americans, and Trumpcology: Ridding Our Planet Of Carbon, Oil, Coal And Other Darkies

    If he wins re-election, we might want to try for infiltration. He doesn’t care about policy, just being loved.

  12. Teve says:

    Remember when Trump told Gary Cohn to fix the debt by just printing more money? that was one of his solutions. Another one of his solutions, if memory serves, is that the government could borrow money, hold it, make money on the interest, and then pay it back.

  13. Teve says:

    @Gustopher: cool plan! My book will be called Black Beauty: How Donald Trump Saved America With Clean Coal And Also Got Us To The Moon Better Than Kennedy Did and Obama Was An Urban Thug Loser If You Know What I Mean (I Mean He’s Black).

    Couple of spots on with Doocy and Kilmeade and I’ll be head of the EPA.

  14. mattbernius says:

    So again, as I asked Ben, do you think Moore is qualified?

  15. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @mattbernius: Crickets.

  16. Gustopher says:

    @Teve: I was thinking something slightly more subtle.

    Here’s the formula:
    – Take a crazy left-wing idea, like brown people aren’t terrible, or global warming, or Medicare For All.
    – Pick a title that has Trump in it, preferably modifying the name of some field.
    – Find a Trump tweet that supports it. There’s always a Trump tweet.
    – Use an advanced technique called post-truth-narrative to tie this crazy liberal idea to Donald Trump, as if he supports it.
    – Use lots of Republican framing, whether it makes sense or not. When Democrats promote Medicare For All, they just mean all the people in the cities because they don’t even consider the real Americans.
    – Claim liberals are coopting that idea, and destroying it through lukewarm proposals. This is probably Rule #4 in Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals which those horrible liberals are using.
    – Add a footnote that Democrats claim to not be antisemetic, and that they use their support of Saul Alinsky as proof, but that Saul Alinsky isn’t even really Jewish, and does not support the state of Israel. His real name is Phil Allah Lewinsky.
    – Churn out 200 pages of text. We’ll get it to 300 with large fonts and margins and graphs. The text isn’t that important, but don’t use Lorem Ipsum (unless you are referring to the legal practice of lorem ipsum which was applied by strict constitutionalists like Anthony Scalia, and which some libtard scholars claim is gibberish)
    – Make up some graphs. Up and to the right for anything Trump related. If you are completely stuck, don’t label the axis, or just use months in power vs. year or something.
    – Promote the book on right wing websites, talk radio, social media, Fox, etc.

    Within 6 months, we can confuse the issue, whatever it is — Democrats are the real racists, after all — and then another six months later the author is a renowned expert in the field and in the cabinet, implementing liberal policies while claiming to piss off those mealy mouthed liberals.

  17. Ben Wolf says:


    1) You can take your upvote back.

    2) Moore is much a fool as Jerome Powell. Yellen had been the worst Fed Chairman of my lifetime, until Trump decided to go one better on the weak-and-incompetent scale. Now we’d be lucky to have her back. The foulness of Taylor’s quoting Mankiw (and by extension yours) is that he is morally and intellectually equivalent to Steve Bannon. Except Mankiw has through his career enabled orders of magnitude greater social and personal damage.

  18. Hal_10000 says:

    @Ben Wolf:

    The foulness of Taylor’s quoting Mankiw (and by extension yours) is that he is morally and intellectually equivalent to Steve Bannon.

    What on Earth are you on about? Mankiw is a respected Harvard economist, a former Presidential adviser and anti-Trump. Bannon … is not those things.

  19. grumpy realist says:

    At some point even rich people will discover that incompetence causes problems. Such as having an incompetent pilot in your private jet. Sure, your estate can sue his estate–is that what you are looking forwards to?

  20. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    Stephen Moore could have a Ph.D in Economics(There are lots of idiots with Ph.D).

    He still would be an inappropriate choice to the Fed. The problem is that he was wrong about everything, has problems with taxes and problems with temper.

  21. To be clear:

    1) I was never arguing that a Ph.D. was the sine qua non of being appointed to the Fed, just that Moore is clearly not an academically trained economist.

    2) Yes, sometimes a person with an MA (or even a BA or whatever) is the better person for a given job that a Ph.D.

    3) Moore’s problem is not, as @Andre Kenji de Sousa notes, his lack of a degree, it is the body of his career that disqualifies him.

  22. wr says:

    @Hal_10000: “What on Earth are you on about? Mankiw is a respected Harvard economist, a former Presidential adviser and anti-Trump. Bannon … is not those things.”

    When your political idol is Pol Pot, everyone who doesn’t favor sending intellectuals to re-education camp is a Fascist.