After the still omnipresent for some reason Fareed Zakaria penned an essay questioning both the relevance and applicability of economics as academic discipline, economist Lawrence Summers takes to the Post to defend his profession—delivering an impressively understated carving-up of "friend" Zakaria's musings.
Because Fareed is so thoughtful and echoes arguments that are frequently made, he deserves a considered response.
Fareed ignores large bodies of economic thought, fails to recognize that economists have been the sources of most critiques of previous economic thinking, tilts at straw men and offers little alternative to economic approaches to public policy.
Among Summers' more pointed objections: that although market crises are by their very nature "inherently unpredictable" economists did indeed warn about "risks" to the financial system before the 2008 near-collapse of those systems, and that post-crisis failures were failures of policy, not of knowledge.
Fellow economist Brad DeLong, however, both agrees with Summers and does not, pointing out that while there are "a very many good economists worth listening to", there seems an equal number of "unprofessional" claimants willing to put their names to ideas seemingly based more on ideology than expertise. Specifically, he names nine that made grand economic promises to support the recent Republican tax cuts, despite seemingly implausible presumptions that, after being demonstrably not borne out, the same authors appear to be "not so curious" as to why "their modeling approach had gone so wrong."
It seems that every Yellen is offset by Holtz-Eakin, every Rajan by a Taylor, every Shiller by a Barro, every Krugman by a Boskin, and so on. And how is a Fareed Zakaria or a Binyamin Appelbaum supposed to disinguish those who have knowledge from those who have only ideology, or indeed from those who can and do switch their approval and disapproval of policies on and off upon changing demands from changing political masters?
On this date at Daily Kos in 2003—War opposition still increasing:
Yet another poll is showing increased opposition to Bush’s new war in Iraq. The USA Today/CNN/Gallup Poll has opposition at 43 percent, up from 38 percent Jan 10-12. Actual support from the invasion is at 52 percent.
Of course, those numbers could move over to the "support" column if either the US or UK present evidence of Iraqi non-compliance. As of yet, all we’re hearing is the same "trust us, we have evidence" bullshit, while all CIA leads to the weapons inspectors have come up empty.
There may also be movement in the polls following the president's SOTU address, though it will be interesting to watch how long any such "bounce" will last. And it will also be interesting how the markets react, not just the Wednesday after the speech, but two weeks out. Bush may claim to ignore polls, but it'll be increasingly difficult to ignore his Wall Street supporters. War jitters alone continue to pound the market today.