21 March 2012

Quote of the Day - Rumsfeld

"We know there are known knowns: there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns: that is to say we know there are things we know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don't know we don't know." 
—Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Defense Department briefing, 12 Feb 2002.

10 March 2012

What Matters (and it's not crossword puzzles)

Paul Krugman
What bothers me, and should bother you, about much of this debate is that it pretty clearly is not in good faith. Too many economists and commentators on economics are clearly playing for a political team; too many others are clearly playing professional reputation games. Their off-the-cuff reactions to policy issues were wrong and foolish, and I think they know in their hearts that they messed up; but instead of trying to remedy the fault, they’re trying to defend the property values of their intellectual capital.
And that really is a sin. This is not an academic game, where tempers run high because the stakes are so small. This really matters to millions of people, and refusing to think clearly because you don’t want any negative thoughts about the papers you and your friends have been writing the past few decades is unforgivable. [emphasis added]

"This is not an academic game."
"This really matters to millions of people."

The point that Dr Krugman makes here is invaluable. If only students were required to handwrite these two sentences a thousand times as a condition of their admission to an economics program, and were then required to repeat this exercise at the start of each academic year, maybe we'd all have a lot less semi-informed quasi-academic econ-speak with which to contend.

Besides the dilettantes who approach the subject with the same gravity that they'd bring to a crossword puzzle, we also mustn't forget the corporate water-carriers whose noise Dr Krugman and others so often lament.

Unfortunately, this battle is not new. Yann Giraud:
Yet, the same Paul Samuelson had written to his friend Alvin Hansen a couple of years before, in the midst of the Phillips curve controversy, the following sentence: "Milton F. is a bloody nuisance. In the end he is not right in his provocative stands, but it takes valuable time rebutting his arguments." He even added: "Having just returned from UCLA where (as in Virginia and Washington) the place is jumping with energetic libertarian nuts, I realize that so much of one's scientific life has to be occupied in sterile debate." [emphasis added]