Pollin, Gini, Retro, Ferguson, etc.

by Chris Sturr | May 10, 2013

Ok, here’s what’s been on the back burner; no image today because I am posting three videos:

(1) Pollin on R&R on the Real News Network:  A nice overview of the Rogoff and Reinhart controversy, by one of the co-authors of the paper that brought them down, frequent D&S author Bob Pollin:

And for laughs, in case you haven’t seen it: the appearance of Thomas Herndon, the grad student who co-authored the paper that took down R&R, on the Colbert show (sorry–these are two weeks old by now):

Part 1:

Part 2:

I love when he calls them “Rogaine & Braveheart,” and “Ren & Stimpy,” etc.

(2) Gini Critique:    As I mentioned in my last post, the theme for our just-out May/June 2013 issue is measuring economic indicators.   Our authors take issue with the official U-3 unemployment rate, the new supplemental poverty line, the chained CPI-U, and GDP.  I noticed an interesting piece criticizing the standard measure of inequality, the Gini coefficient, in this piece at Naked Capitalism.   (Ok, this was mainly just a plug for our new issue, but the piece really is interesting–focuses on absolute vs. relative inequality.)

(3) Retro Reports: My friend Harry Hanbury let me know about the short documentary he produced about the Mobro “garbage barge” controversy back in 1987, Voyage of the Mobro 4000.  It’s the first film to be released by the new company Harry works for, Retro Reports, which will take a critical look back at media media frenzies a years after they’ve dropped from the headlines.  It seems like a great project.  I’m hoping they’ll focus on some economic themes.

(3) Niall Ferguson on Keynes: You may have heard of another Harvard professor (besides Rogaine & Braveheart) getting a comeuppance:  historian Niall Ferguson had to apologize after claiming that John Maynard Keynes “was indifferent to the long-term implications of his economic theories because Keynes was gay and had no children” (quoting the NYT, not Ferguson).  In his apology he says that his disagreements with Keynes’ views have nothing to do with Keynes’ homosexuality, and that “It is simply false to suggest, as I did, that his approach to economic policy was inspired by any aspect of his personal life.”  But Brad DeLong dug up a 1995 piece by Ferguson in The Spectator in which he makes an equally egregious suggestion along just the same lines, this time claiming that Keynes’ position on the Treaty of Versailles derived from his homosexuality:

Keynes’s critique of 1919 Versailles Treaty was based on anything but dispassionate economic analysis. Few, if any of its readers can have appreciated how far the ideas contained in The Economic Consequences of the Peace… were actually inspired by members of the German peace delegation…. Still fewer knew that their appeal to him owed as much to his homosexuality as to his Germanophilia…

Supposedly, Keynes had a crush on one of the German armistice negotiators, Carl Melchior, and according to Ferguson, “there is no question that the attraction Keynes felt for [Carl Melchior] strongly influenced his judgment…”  (Credit where it’s due:  Matt Yglesias, whom I branded as a sweatshop apologist here, mentioned DeLong’s post on his blog at Slate.)

The great sex columnist Dan Savage picked up on this on his blog (a very short post titled The Treaty of Versailles Almost Never Comes Up During Gay Sex,  with the post only saying “But apparently there’s a gay position on it,” with a link to Yglesias’s post), which prompted this great, and nicely concise, remark in the comment section:

I love how Niall Ferguson talks about Keynes like he was some kind of traitor to Britain, even though his prediction that adopting a policy of crushing Germany’s economy would empower anti-peace politicians in Germany and lead to another war turned out to be, um, correct. The fact that Keynes got it right and the crush-the-Hun caucus got it wrong ought to lead Ferguson to consider the possibility that Keynes was brilliant, but of course it doesn’t, because Ferguson himself is wrong about everything that Keynes ever got right, so in order to prop up his fragile ego he has to gay bash him. Pathetic.

Hat-tip to Alejandro R. for the Savage post comment.

(4) Interview with Saez:  This Pathways  interview with economist Emmanuel Saez, expert on inequality, looks worth checking out.  One question he and the interviewer discuss is whether redistributional taxes are the right way to reduce inequality.

(5) Peterson Targets Youth:  Hat-tip to Dan S. for this item from the New Republic;  as if he hasn’t done enough damage, billionaire Pete Peterson is apparently showering prize money on college kids who show aptitude for scolding their peers about debt and deficits.

(6) Cleveland Abductees:  Ok, this is not really related to economics.  But Balloon Juice (which I need to check out more often), had a great item entitled Perhaps the Greatest TV News Interview Ever, featuring Charles Ramsey, the gentleman who kicked the door in of the house where Amanda Barry and two other women and a girl were held in Cleveland for ten years. The great part is at the end where he says that what tipped him off that something was wrong was that a pretty young white girl was running to a black man for help. The white local TV news interviewer’s reaction to this is pretty funny.  And someone in the comments section points out that Elizabeth Smart, who is famous for having been abducted and held herself, recently came out against abstinence education, saying it “teaches rape victims they’re worthless, dirty, and filthy,” according to this post at ThinkProgress.  All the more reason, commenters at Balloon Juice pointed out, for people to reassure the Cleveland abductees that they have value, which is what Charles Ramsey and other neighbors and well wishers in Cleveland seemed to be doing.  (His 911 call is also worth listening to. When asked if Amanda Barry needed an ambulance, he says, “She in a panic, bruh, she been kidnapped. Put yourself in her shoes!”)

That’s it for now.

–Chris Sturr

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