29 November 2008

Bill Kristol is Still an Idiot

It has been quite some time since I have commented on Bill Kristol - the pathetic excuse for an "intellectual" who still is peddling bullshit as an opinion page columnist at The New York Times. In any case, here is Kristol's latest insult to his readers' intelligence. And here is a response from Dani Rodrik - who is way smarter and way, way more polite than me. The bottom line? Bill Kristol has little if any grasp on the real world.

One might add (and so, I will) that, quoting Lincoln, Bill (not "Mr.") Kristol urges us to "think anew" and then recommends that we rely on ideologues like Hayek and Schumpeter, whose slogans mask much of what we might really need to know. He would more appropriately have recommended Dani Rodrik [1] [2]; but, that, of course, would not comport with the ideological posture that prevents Bill from acting on his own advice.

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Blogger Stan B. said...

Once I thought that no one could infuriate me more than George Will (who for reasons unknown fancies himself the direct intellectual successor to Thomas Jefferson) when it came to "mainstream" Republican pundits. But little chicken shit, chicken hawk Mr. Kristol really induces my gag reflex like no other.

01 December, 2008 00:58  
Blogger John Clifford said...

I don't get it. What Kristol wrote was that no one in power seems to have a clue about how to fix the economic mess; the Democrats all want to use massive amounts of government spending to get us out, and the Republicans (having thrown up their hands) are all over the map. Sounds like a pretty good summary of what's been going on to me.

Kristol's recommendation that the Obama Administration look beyond their comfort zone to see what economists whom aren't favored by the Dems might have said about the subject (how to recover from economic crisis) seems like common sense to me, as well. If the people in Washington knew how to fix what was going on, it wouldn't have broken in the first place.

So, where's the bullshit? Does anyone really think the solution is going to come from Washington? At least, as long as they won't admit what the problem is? I don't see this as a Democrat thing, or a Republican thing, it's a political insider thing. IMO the only way to fix this is to get rid of a permanent political class... and I don't see that happening.

07 December, 2008 04:38  
Blogger Jim Johnson said...


Thanks for the comment. here are some thoughts and observations:

First, as Rodrik points out in the older post to which I link, Kristol is in fact a pompous windbag and this is not a recent development. (I've commented on that before - nepotism produces mediocrity and Bill is a good example.) This pomposity reveals itself (among other ways) in his
willful blindness to the conditions under which the majority of Americans live. I say willfully, because a quick search easily generates the sorts of figures Rodrik offers. In short, Kristol is notoriously cavalier in making empirical claims that are not even false. He is not a liar, he is an ideologue who is more or less completely uninterested in whether what he writes bears any relationship to the truth.

Second, Bill's ideological posturing becomes clear when he recommends that the Obama-ites take advice from Schumpeter and Hayek, two especially right wing economists. The problem, of course, is that neither of the two have anything obvious to say to us re: the current mess. Schumpeter is more famous for his (typically misunderstood) views on democracy and for the logo "creative destruction" he applied to capitalists. A cute phrase, that. But what the capitalists are destroying so creatively in the current context is the lives of my neighbors and yours. Do we just invoke his slogan with a shrug?

Hayek, best known for his famous prediction that the welfare sate would lead willy-nillly to communism, is only slightly less irrelevant. (I think what we need now is really unfettered markets! Have we learned nothing from armchair observation?) His true insight is about the capacity of markets to aggregate widely distributed knowledge-information. There are at least two major problems here. One is that the financial markets have actually been generating opacity (say in the forms of securitized derivatives, the content of which cannot be disaggregated and inspected for actual - versus mathematical - risk). That is something that actually subverts Hayek's basic faith. Second, a few years back the Nobel committee gave the economics award to the Stiglitz-Akerloff-Spence troika for having demonstrated that markets work extremely poorly in the presence of incomplete information.
The bottom line is that markets do not produce the conditions that are presupposed for their own efficient functioning. The financial mess suggests just the opposite - no capitalists have any incentive to worry about how markets operate as a systematic institutional arrangement. They have incentive to make a profit and they will sell you any snake oil they are allowed to sell.

So, the bullshit is that Kristol, who seems to know nothing about economics, recommends irrelevant texts based primarily on their ideological pedigree (these guys are right wing even among economists!). Economists know quite a bot. Not everything, but a hell-of-a-lot more than Kristol gives them credit for. and we don't need to know everything to know something. among the things we know is that Hayek & Schumpeter are not much use to us here.

PS: I hope you understand that I am using bullshit in a 'technical' sense. If you trace my posts on Bill, you will see what I mean.

PS2: I leave aside Bill's reference to Keynes because (i) pretty much everyone is a Keynesian on this and (2) his remark is a rhetorical one - meant to invoke another less than mathematical economist even if he is a liberal.

07 December, 2008 11:21  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jim, you're spot on. Schumpeter and Hayek are completely irrelevant to the current economic crisis. That Kristol would evoke these names is a testament to his ignorance.

John, I have to admit it annoys me when people say this the fault of the "political class." Politicians did not create the largest housing bubble in history, in order to spin off a superabundance of complex financial instruments, off of which they made a killing. This mess is the making of investment banks, and mortgage firms, running wild in an unregulated environment, period. How we got here is no mystery, and how we get out isn't a mystery either. Proclamations like "the only way to fix this is to get rid of a permanent political class," is just empty rhetoric.

08 December, 2008 20:24  

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