Ghosts of Christmas Past

Brad DeLong summons up the spirits and words of seven freshwater samurai, and uses them for target practice. After quoting and critiqueing them, DeLong adds:

The scary thing is not that Levine, Cochrane, Lucas, Prescott, Fama, Zingales, and Boldrin are wrong--people are wrong all the time. The scary thing is the level at which they are wrong: these are all freshman (ok, sophomore) mistakes--yet the seven include two past (and a year ago I would have said three future Nobel laureates in Economics).

If this doesn't frighten you, you aren't paying attention...

There is a bizarrely childish character to much of their discourse. Levine:

It is a daunting task to bring you [Paul Krugman] up to date on the developments in economics in the last quarter century...

He could more transparently have just printed "I am a childish asshole" on his own forehead.

Eugene Fama:

"Sorry, but I’m not familiar with [Hyman] Minsky’s work" and "Haven't seen it [Paul Krugman's article]. I pay no attention to him..."

I like some of the stuff in the comments too, though there is a lot of repetitive fluff from the freshies. Here is one of my favorites (posted by hackenkaus):

I don't know much about economics, but I can recognize a pathological academic culture when I see it. Since this crisis began I have not seen a quotation from a leading freshwater economist that did not include a bit of sophomoric snidery directed at those outside the cult. Snickering at speakers during talks, only third rate schools teach that stuff, I don't think so and so is worth paying attention to, etc. My guess is that this sort of behavior did not pop up overnight, and is used as an enforcement mechanism within their little circle. I can imagine the effect it would have on a graduate student or young faculty member trying to establish themselves. Wouldn't want Lucas snickering during our seminar would we? I've seen this sort of thing happen in other disciplines but not to this degree.

It ought to worry string theorists that they have their own tendencies to sophomoric snickery.

From Jeffrey Davis, a post after my own heart:

The situation reminds me of the climax to The Lord of the Rings. Once the Ring was destroyed, Sauron evaporated and his minions collapsed into terror and madness. Once the real estate bubble popped and the world went to the brink, the idea of rational actors and efficient markets was destroyed. Now, the minions of Reaganism have collapsed into madness and terror. So from the subalterns and yeomanry we get "birthers", "death panels", and communism with the support of banks. And from the "apex", freshwater economics.

This won't end well.


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