Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (WPNI Edition)
Thou Hast Conquered, Galilean! Or Maybe Not.

That Was Scary!

So I innocently clicked on a link and found myself reading Donald Luskin. That hasn't happened before. Memo to self: be sure to check the "status" bar before you click.

It was a near-run thing. After reading a paragraph and a half, the Stupidity Rays emanating from the LCD screen had nearly paralyzed me. I was barely able to press the "back" button before unconsciousness overtook me...

Here's what I found: a defense of the corrupt Peter Ferrara and Doug Bandow:

Donald Luskin: Peter Ferrara and Doug Bandow for taking money from indicted Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff, allegedly in exchange for writing op-ed columns favorable to Abramoff's clients. Yes, the immediate intuition is that these men's ethics were compromised here. But, really, this is a little issue. Where's the beef? Everyone -- think-tankers, op-ed writers, etc. -- gets paid by someone. And those who pay, naturally, choose to pay scholars and journalists who tend to already agree with them. It seems unlikely, then, that Ferrara or Bandow would have written anything different whether or not Abramoff paid them.

Luskin genuinely does not seem to understand -- I am not kidding, he genuinely does not seem to understand -- that the big issue is Ferrara's and Bandow's hiding who was paying them. If Ferrara and Bandow (and the others) had written, at the bottom of the op-eds they sent to newspapers, "this op-ed was commissioned and paid for by Abramoff Associates as part of its paid lobbying effort for client X," there would be no problem here--and Bandow wouldn't have been fired from Cato, and Ferrara's Institute for Policy Innovation might have a reputation that was not flushed down the toilet.

Luskin does not seem to understand -- I am not kidding, he genuinely does not seem to understand -- that Abramoff pays for results. If Ferraro and Bandow would have written the same things without Abramoff paying them, he wouldn't have paid them.

And Luskin does not seem to understand -- I am not kidding, he genuinely does not seem to understand -- how things work over here in the reality-based community. Here in the U.C. Berkeley Economics Department we've looked at fifty files for the assistant professors we're going to be hiring over the next couple of months. The one question we never ask is "Does he or she agree with us?" The two questions we always ask are "How interesting is the topic?" and "How good is the work?" We want people who will help us teach and will help teach us--whether they are students of Joseph Stiglitz or Martin Feldstein or Larry Katz or James Heckman. I know I'm proud to have played a (alas, very small) part in the education of Randy Kroszner and Robin Hanson, both far to my right. I know that Hal Varian is proud to have played a part in the education of Dean Baker, far to his left. The key for us is something it never occurs to Luskin we might care about: the quality of the work, not the allegiance to a particular group of politicians--for, as Max Sawicky wrote yesterday, "If you don't think the Democratic Party doesn't have the same potential for lyin, cheatin, and stealin [as the current Republican Leadership], you are gravely misinformed. The only constraint on the abuse of power -- besides an opposition lurking in the wings -- is an engaged, informed public..."