Tuesday, February 17

Non-Keynesian macroeconomist "not equipped to debate"

There is no disagreement that we need action by our government, a recovery plan that will help to jumpstart the economy.
— President-elect Barack Hussein Obama, January 9, 2009
In response, the Cato institute took out an ad in the Times and the Post which reads:
With all due respect Mr.President, that is not true.

Notwithstanding reports that all economists are now Keynesians and that we all support a big increase in the burden of government, we the undersigned do not believe that more government spending is a way to improve economic performance. More government spending by Hoover and Roosevelt did not pull the United States economy out of the Great Depression in the 1930s. More government spending did not solve Japan’s “lost decade” in the 1990s. As such, it is a triumph of hope over experience to believe that more government spending will help the U.S. today. To improve the economy, policymakers should focus on reforms that remove impediments to work, saving, investment and production. Lower tax rates and a reduction in the burden of government are the best ways of using fiscal policy to boost growth.
I too believe this, and I meant to post about it earlier but Yglesias reminds me via this curious anecdote from UC Davis Economics Department Chair Greg Clark:
Recently a group of economists affiliated with the Cato Institute ran an ad in the New York Times opposing the Obama’s stimulus plan. As chair of my department I tried to arrange a public debate between one of the signatories and a proponent of fiscal stimulus — thinking that would be a timely and lively session. But the signatory, a fully accredited university macroeconomist, declined the opportunity for public defense of his position on the grounds that "all I know on this issue I got from Greg Mankiw’s blog — I really am not equipped to debate this with anyone."
He's certainly more qualified to debate the stimulus than an average joe like I am -- indeed I'm not even knowledgeable enough to know how much I don't know.

But if you think you're unequipped to "debate with anyone" I really don't see how you can justify signing an open letter to the President which gets waved by Republican congressmen on the floor of the House and Senate.

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