Drezner/de Long/Krugman update

DeLong updates; so does Drezner. [My original post on the controversy, with links, is here.]

DeLong admits that his description of Drezner was … over-enthusiastic … and that Krugman’s piece was either inarfully or too-artfully written in not making clear that “worst in 20 years” characterizes some but not all of the data. Drezner concedes that he should have charged Krugman with error rather than distortion.

I’m glad to see this dispute between two people whose work I admire return to civility and creep toward agreement. I’m still not convinced that Drezner (or Luskin) has actually detected error in Krugman’s work, as opposed to a difference of opinion in how to interpret some hard-to-read data.

One reader characterizes my reliance on the professional credentials as an “argument from authority.” We all learned in grade school that arguments from authority were bad, right? Part of that nasty old Aristotelian/scholastic tradition that Galileo and Copernicus and the other Good Guys had to fight against? Rah-rah, science! Boo, hiss, Middle Ages!

But we’re not in grade school any more, are we?

Actually ignoring fact and argument on the mere say-so of some Great Man is, indeed, a bad move. But giving appropriate weight to different opinions based on the expertise behind them is a sensible tactic in the ongoing Bayesian process of trying to conform one’s opinions to the world-as-it-is.

Every once in a while the amateur is right and the professionals are wrong. But it’s only every once in a while. Most of the time, when people who know about a subject disagree with people who don’t, it’s the ones who know that have it right. As Damon Runyon said, “The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong. But that’s the way to bet ’em.”

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

One thought on “Drezner/de Long/Krugman update”

  1. Now this is bad economics

    The opportunity cost of debating Brad DeLong over the operationalization of data sets is that truly stupid popular economic writing can slide by unscathed. Like the Senior Senator from New York, Chuck Schumer, who on Tuesday co-authored a New York…

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