Monday Smackdown/Hoisted: The "Hastert' and "Hastertland" Paragraphs from Wooldridge and Micklethwaite's "The Right Nation"

Monday Smackdown/Hoistred: John Cochrane's Claim in Late 2008 That a Recession Would Be a Good Thing Deserves Some Kind of Award...

The fact is that by the end of 2007 the construction sector had rebalanced: there was no excess of people pounding nails in Nevada...


To: @johnmlippert: If I may beg a small slice of your attention...

I am tracking down John Cochrane's claims that (i) in your December 23, 2008 article you were "only... on a hunt for embarrassing quotes", (ii) he had "spent about 10 hours patiently trying to explain some basics" to you, and (iii) you took him out of proper context when you wrote: "'We should have a recession', Cochrane said in November, speaking to students and said in November, speaking to students and investors in a conference room.... 'People who spend their lives pounding nails in Nevada need something else to do'."

Do you by chance remember the larger context of Cochrane's "pounding nails" comment, and do you have any idea why he now claims that you took him out of context? Or what he thinks the proper context would have been?

I would be grateful for any light you can shed on this.

Yours,

Brad DeLong brad.delong@gmail.com


John M. Lippert: "Hi Professor DeLong.

Thanks for your note. Professor Cochrane’s complaint is something of which I became aware several months after we published our story in 2008.... The bottom line is that Bloomberg did not respond to Cochrane’s comments. He never sent them to us, despite my request that he do so.

When we became aware of his complaint, we saw no reason to make a correction. Cochrane made the ‘pounding nails’ comment at a Chicago Booth forum at the Gleacher Center in downtown Chicago in November 2008. It was part of an ongoing lecture series, as I recall. It was kind of a big event, with a couple hundred people. So they may have a recording that you can access.

Good luck with your inquiries.

Tks,

John Lippert


Just FYI, if I were John Cochrane I would not characterize my 2008 CRSP Forum Keynote as something "I did not write...". And I would not characterize accurate quotations from it as:

an attribution, taken out of context, from a http://bloomberg.com article, written by a reporter [John Lippert] with whom I spent about 10 hours patiently trying to explain some basics, and who also turned out only to be on a hunt for embarrassing quotes...

John Cochrane: How Did Paul Krugman Get It So Wrong?: "As one little example, take my quotation about carpenters in Nevada...

...Krugman writes:

And Cochrane declares that high unemployment is actually good: “We should have a recession. People who spend their lives pounding nails in Nevada need something else to do.” Personally, I think this is crazy. Why should it take mass unemployment across the whole nation to get carpenters to move out of Nevada?

I did not write this. It is an attribution, taken out of context, from a http://bloomberg.com article, written by a reporter [John Lippert] with whom I spent about 10 hours patiently trying to explain some basics, and who also turned out only to be on a hunt for embarrassing quotes.

Nevertheless, I was trying to explain how sectoral shifts contribute to unemployment. I never asserted that ‘it takes mass unemployment across the whole nation to get carpenters to move out of Nevada’. You cannot even dredge up an out-of-context quote for that monstrously made-up opinion. What is the point in conducting debate this way? I do not think that Krugman disagrees that sectoral shifts result in some unemployment, so the quote actually makes sense as economics. The only point is to make me, personally, seem heartless–a pure, personal, calumnious attack, which has nothing to do with economics...


Paul Krugman (2009): How Did Economists Get It So Wrong?: "Milton Friedman certainly never bought into the idea that mass unemployment represents a voluntary reduction in work effort or the idea that recessions are actually good for the economy. Yet the current generation of freshwater economists has been making both arguments...

...Thus Chicago’s Casey Mulligan suggests that unemployment is so high because many workers are choosing not to take jobs: “Employees face financial incentives that encourage them not to work... decreased employment is explained more by reductions in the supply of labor (the willingness of people to work) and less by the demand for labor (the number of workers that employers need to hire).” Mulligan has suggested, in particular, that workers are choosing to remain unemployed because that improves their odds of receiving mortgage relief.

And Cochrane declares that high unemployment is actually good: “We should have a recession. People who spend their lives pounding nails in Nevada need something else to do.” Personally, I think this is crazy. Why should it take mass unemployment across the whole nation to get carpenters to move out of Nevada?

Can anyone seriously claim that we’ve lost 6.7 million jobs because fewer Americans want to work?

But it was inevitable that freshwater economists would find themselves trapped in this cul-de-sac: if you start from the assumption that people are perfectly rational and markets are perfectly efficient, you have to conclude that unemployment is voluntary and recessions are desirable.

Yet if the crisis has pushed freshwater economists into absurdity, it has also created a lot of soul-searching among saltwater economists. Their framework, unlike that of the Chicago School, both allows for the possibility of involuntary unemployment and considers it a bad thing. But the New Keynesian models that have come to dominate teaching and research assume that people are perfectly rational and financial markets are perfectly efficient. To get anything like the current slump into their models, New Keynesians are forced to introduce some kind of fudge factor that for reasons unspecified temporarily depresses private spending. (I’ve done exactly that in some of my own work.) And if the analysis of where we are now rests on this fudge factor, how much confidence can we have in the models’ predictions about where we are going?

The state of macro, in short, is not good. So where does the profession go from here?...

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