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The Use and Abuse of Monetary History

Wednesday Hoisted from (Other People's) Archives: Ethics of Macroeconomics Edition

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Something to remember.

Paul Krugman:

A Brief Note on Macroeconomics and Ethics: I want to acknowledge Karl Smith’s very gracious and brave response to my piece on economics in the crisis. And I’d also like to add a small further thought….

[D]isagreement will happen. Economics is a hard subject, people will come to different provisional conclusions, and some of them will, in retrospect, turn out to have given very bad advice. That’s a shame but not a sin…. Ken Rogoff and I differ seriously on the relative risks of public debt and failure to spend on job creation. One of us is wrong, which means that the other is giving bad advice…. But this is an argument in good faith.

What bothers me, and should bother you, about much of this debate is that it pretty clearly is not in good faith. Too many economists and commentators on economics are clearly playing for a political team; too many others are clearly playing professional reputation games. Their off-the-cuff reactions to policy issues were wrong and foolish, and I think they know in their hearts that they messed up; but instead of trying to remedy the fault, they’re trying to defend the property values of their intellectual capital.

And that really is a sin…. This really matters to millions of people, and refusing to think clearly because you don’t want any negative thoughts about the papers you and your friends have been writing the past few decades is unforgivable.

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