My First Post!
This is a link to Brad DeLong’s blog and his article from July 22nd entitled: “The Heritage Filter: Does America Have a Future in Which There Are Smart Conservatives?”
As for the particular argument put forth by the Heritage Foundation in this instance, it’s true that the argument is not very good. In fairness to the people at Heritage, the minimum of the figure occurs before the passage of President Obama’s healthcare bill and there is a short period where employment actually increases more rapidly than it does after the act has been passed. But that is definitely not sufficient to establish a trend and Brad DeLong and Matthew Yglesias have the right of it that the Heritage Foundation’s methodology makes very little sense. Though I would like to point out that the graph Heritage presented is actually the first derivative of employment. True the two numbers at the top of Heritage’s chart are representative of the second derivative, but if you’re going to make fun of people’s mathematical ability and their intelligence, it’s best to be attentive to detail. However, this isn’t really the issue I want to write about. Assessing the employment consequences of President Obama’s Healthcare plan will clearly require a much more rigorous methodology and the debate on that will probably continue for many years.
What bothers me about this post is the assertion that somehow intelligent conservatives are being “filtered” out. As anyone who lives in Washington, D.C. knows, lobbying firms, be they conservative or liberal, tend to make use of simplistic figures and arguments in their materials. Neither Republicans nor Democrats are on a moral highground when it comes to the quality of the arguments their lobbyists make.
Brad DeLong ends his post by bemoaning the winnowing out of smart conservatives…but clearly there’s no dearth of smart conservatives. In the economics world, Robert Lucas, Gary Becker, John Taylor, Scott Sumner, Greg Mankiw, and Richard Posner (debatably a conservative these days, but I’ll count him for this one) immediately come to mind. And I simply don’t think there’s any evidence that smart conservatives are a dying breed. Really there are so many smart people on both ends of the political spectrum that I think it is clearly false that intelligence favors one political side over another. Obviously, the average conservative probably thinks that conservatives are smarter and the average liberal probably thinks liberals are smarter. But Brad DeLong is far above average when it comes to intelligence, so it’s strange he would make such an average argument. There is no way that he will respond to my little blog on his major blog, but if he were to respond to this he would probably bristle and say, “NO AT THE END OF MY POST I SAID IT’S IMPORTANT WE HAVE SMART CONSERVATIVES. SEE I’M NOT IMPLYING ANYTHING.” Perhaps the last sentence of his article gives him some wiggle room, but the main purpose of the entry isn’t just to criticize a stupid report from a lobbying outfit, it’s an attack on conservatism in general and at the very least most people who read his blog will take from it the message that conservatives are stupid.