Thursday, January 03, 2013

The Greatest Economic Writers of Our Time

Hayek is dead.  Milton Friedman is dead.  Paul Krugman is riddled with populist partisanship.  Who from the dismal science of economics remains to guide the intellectually impoverished, inform the semi-rational agents, and herd the sheep of modern democracy?

Herein the Freakwenter announces the winners of the never-before-announced Greatest Economic Writers of Our Time Award.  This is a prestigious and rare award, appearing only once every generation or so on this blog.

The first award goes to Steven E. Landsburg, whose concise analysis of Ebenezer Scrooge includes every economic insight that ever passed through the pen of the Freakwenter, even before the Freakwenter's birth.  Unfortunately, like the old Scrooge, Landsburg is a purely rational thinker, having no heart.  Thus it seems appropriate to name a second, relatively human, award winner.

The second award goes to Gregory N. Mankiw, author of this recent eat-this-truth-or-we-will-all-die column in the NYT.  Unfortunately, Mankiw has yet to gain 501c3 status for spending so much of his time in public service, running a blog on economics.  I urge his followers to send him cash in the mail.

7 Comments:

Anonymous Reddup said...

Why do you discount Krugman for partisanship but not Mankiw?

Mankiw has been an adviser to Mitt Romney for the past 6 years, and before that he was head of George W. Bush's CEA. He was very publicly in favor of Bush tax cuts despite Bush's enormous expansion of federal spending (due to Iraq and Afghanistan). Now he's suddenly telling us to take the medicine?? How rich.

In general, why is it bad for a macroeconomist to endorse one party over the other? If Krugman believes that certain policies are bad the Tea Party promotes those policies, why shouldn't he speak against the Tea Party?

11:45 AM  
Blogger Freakwenter said...

@Reddup: Great points. I discount Krugman instead of Mankiw precisely because I am partisan. I agree with Mankiw more than Krugman. I have no idea which of these two great writers is actually more "partisan."

In defense of the consistency of Mankiw's tax positions, his tax-increase suggestion is qualified as "Ultimately, unless we scale back entitlement programs ...". It is not inconsistent for Mankiw to ask a pro-Obama middle class to pay for the policies that they vote for. As for Bush's war spending, did Mankiw actually support that? If so, I would reconsider the award.

12:17 PM  
Anonymous reddup said...

I don't know if he supported the invasion of Afghanistan or Iraq; the Iraq war started in March 2003, Mankiw became CEA chair in May 2003, and Bush Tax Cut, part deux also passed in May of that year. So he must have known he was supporting a policy that would cause a large increase in the federal deficit and debt.

Mankiw was also CEA chair when Bush *expanded* entitlement programs in December 2003 (Medicare Part D). Mankiw did not seem to have a problem at the time with the extra spending (http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2011/03/greg-mankiw-budget-arsonist-screaming-for-a-firehose.html - not sure about source quality), yet now he's all for fiscal discipline. Seems awfully skunky to me.

12:48 PM  
Anonymous reddup said...

So to answer your other point - who is this pro-Obama middle class? I'm guessing most people who voted for Obama did not vote for George W. Bush, who with Mankiw as his chief economic adviser, increased federal spending by 70% and reduced tax rates dramatically.

So Obama voters---all Americans really---have to pay for new Obama policies as well as crappy George W. Bush/N. Gregory Mankiw policies.

12:55 PM  
Blogger My Freakwentness said...

@Reddup: Your source http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2011/03/greg-mankiw-budget-arsonist-screaming-for-a-firehose.html is highly alarming indeed. I would like to rescind the award immediately if this represents a large fraction of Mankiw's contribution to humanity.

One minor caveat: If I remember correctly, the national debt was considerably smaller at the time Mankiw was making policy decisions, and everyone has learned much about the fragility of the U.S. empire since then.

Supposing the award committee cancels Mankiw's award, we'll be looking for a replacement ...

1:51 PM  
Anonymous reddup said...

Tyler Cowen? http://marginalrevolution.com/

6:03 PM  
Anonymous Mountaineer said...

I love the first paragraph.

6:32 PM  

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