The Real Housewives of Academia
Jess and I are in an eternal struggle about what to watch on TV since she likes to watch the Real Housewives of [choose whichever city on the seemingly infinite list] and I prefer the history channel or, even nerdier, the science channel. However, I do give in sometimes and let Jess watch the housewives so I’ve seen my fair-share of episodes. Usually after watching the Housewives, I feel the need to purify myself with some rite of nerdiness, like reading my economics blogs. Except a strange thing has happened. Recently, the tone of the some of the economics blogs out there has made me feel like I never left the land of the Housewives to begin with.
Brad DeLong is a brilliant guy and his blog provides some of the best economic analysis in the blog format. But of all the mean girls on the economics blogosphere, I think he might just about be meanest. You don’t even need to search DeLong’s webpage for evidence of this. Just the past few entries alone have some great examples of the rancor which makes De Long one of the Real Housewives of Academia:
In this blog-post De Long refers to Eugene Fama, one of the father’s of modern financial economics, Robert Lucas, Nobel Laureate, and Richard Posner, often described as the greatest living Jurist, as the “stupidest men alive…”
In Brad De Long’s most recent post, he suggests that eminent U of Chicago Economist John Cochrane is failing to grasp “Econ-1 Level Stuff” which I think is Berkley’s equivalent of Econ 101 at most schools.
Here, De Long teams up with the other member of his economic clique, Paul Krugman to take more shots at Cochrane (actually this post was chronologically earlier):
The backstory is that Krugman has argued vis-a-vis Cochrane’s views: “It’s quite remarkable. And I mean that in the worst way: 80 years of hard thinking about economics, completely forgotten.” (http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/01/01/sad-things-wonkish-and-trivial/?pagewanted=all)
In his own post, De Long decides to step it up a notch:
“I would say that it’s not 80 years of hard thinking completely forgotten. I would say it’s more like 180 years of hard thinking completely forgotten.
So Brad meet your alter ego, Jill Zarin of the Real Housewives of New York
Now if De Long is the most aggressive, of the housewives, much of the vitriol is instigated by Paul Krugman. Paul Krugman just has a knack for not only disagreeing with his political opponents, but saying it in such a way that really gets people riled up.
Here is Krugman’s most recent column, an attack on the entire Chicago school of economics:
Here is Krugman suggesting that people like Fama and Cochrane have ushered in a “dark age of macroeconomics”:
(Incidentally this ‘dark age macroeconomists’ is primarily what’s taught in first year graduate school).
I could keep going with examples, but I think you get the idea. Now, I’m not an expert on the housewives, so for those of you who are, many of you might object to this, but from what I’ve seen Ramona always seems to be the instigator of a lot of what happens, so Paul Krugman, meet Ramona Singer:
Ok, so Paul Krugman and and Brad Delong represent the Keynesian clique on the Real Housewives of Academica. Cochrane is pretty much the other side of the coin (Bob Lucas doesn’t blog, John Taylor’s blog posts maintain a pretty dispassionate tone, etc.)
Cochrane’s strategy for responding the Krugman-De Long clique is to wade in occasionally with a pretty strong blast and then go back to his basic stance that they aren’t even worth responding to.
Here for instance, is one of Cochrane’s most recent salvos where he actually states as a New Year’s Resolution not to respond to any of Krugman’s posts in 2012):
However, when Cochrane chooses to attack, he hits hard, as in this 2009 essay on Krugman:
which is in entitled “How Did Paul Krugman Get it so Wrong”:
Given Cochrane’s sort of above the fray-attitude, which is definitely a sort of thumb-nosing tactic, coupled with the occasional call-to-arms and given that I made Brad DeLong Jill Zarin, this makes it very clear that Cochrane can be none other than Bethenny Frankel.
A few reflections on this post and the thoughts that led up to:
1) First of all, I respect all of the economists I’ve discussed here a lot. I just wanted to point out that they don’t always have much respect for each other in sort of a light way.
2) The vitriol on the econ blogosphere is a mixed-bag. At this point many people would bemoan the ad-hominem arguments and back-biting, but I have to say it gets you engaged. And the strong feelings which lead to personal attacks and bitter accusations are also the strong feelings that motivate these economists to produce in the first place…so if some bitterness is the cost of a robust market for ideas, then its a cost that is certainly worth it.
3) Nevertheless, I have even more immense respect for bloggers like Scott Sumner and Tyler Cowen who managedto express important ideas and disagree with their ideological opponents in a gracious manner. By the way, I am particularly fond of Sumner’s response to the latest blow up that led to this entry:
I would describe it as a good example of “Hate the methodology, not the economist.”
4) I know way too much about the Real Housewives
5) Point (4) aside, a lot of the enjoyment I get out of reading economics blogs may be similar to that which Jess gets from watching the Housewives, so I really should be more tolerant of it…or as Travis said in Clueless “OK, like, the way I feel about the Rolling Stones is the way my kids are going to feel about Nine Inch Nails, so I really shouldn’t torment my Mom anymore, huh?”
6) I know enough about the Housewives to know that putting Ramona and Jill in the same clique is a problem, but just ignore that issue, or feel free to suggest a better paring of economists-Housewives.
Brad De Long comments on my blog!!