Tyler Cowen:

Don’t let those switches distract you. My point is simple: it is very hard to find examples of successful fiscal stimulus driving an economic recovery. Ever. This should be a sobering fact.


But wasn’t the statement he made just kind of ridiculous?

Not only ridiculous — in context it was vicious.

I am a murderous Luddite populist, so of course I fail to understand why people like Cowen are tolerated just because they are competent professionals and fairly pleasant people.

There are lots of Godwinian examples of charming, pleasant people who were fundamentally horrible and vicious. Enough said.

As for competence, who cares? Scientific economists, who have been jerking everyone else around for god knows how long, have just now calmly decided that they don’t know what the fuck is going on. No skin off their asses, they’ll still have their jobs and their lives. An interesting problem indeed. Possibly the most interesting problem since the Great Depression. In the end it may be a good thing for the biz — economists will be more necessary than ever.

There’s an enormous body of physics consisting of definite, reliable answers to definite, consequential questions. On these questions there aren’t schools of thought or nuances of interpretation. That’s why physics sets the standard for successful sciences.

Economics just isn’t like that, and for that reason it would not be reasonable to hope that anyone, once certified, could ever be driven out of the profession because of incompetence, malpractice, malfeasance, misfeasance, nonfeasance, conflict of interest, fraud, misprision, malice aforethought, or any other goddamn thing. This is because to do so would be entirely arbitrary and unfair, because when the chips are down, economists can’t be sure they know anything. They’re nothing but ideologues and mercenary advocates, but with more math and more data.