Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Getting Past Chapter 2

My macro class is proving to be a bit slow off the line—in three class meetings we have yet to make it out of the review of basic material from micro: supply and demand, equilibrium, PPF's, etc. I mean, we all know this stuff and agree on it, right?

But yesterday we got to something interesting: irony and a meta-commentary on economics itself. Whoa.

Innocently enough, we talked about some common problems that crop up in economic reasoning, including omitted variables and reverse causality (which is both less common and less problematic than affirming the consequent, but let's keep moving).

"Hey!" I thought, "I read examples of an economist making both of these errors just this week!"

The irony? They were made by the author of the textbook, on his blog. While Dr. Mankiw's post was ostensibly pointing out an ommitted variable bias in someone else's graph, it included problems of its own:

Smart parents make more money and pass those good genes on to their offspring.

Well, that's quite a statement. Paul Krugman jumped on it, and it was on! Well, as much as it's ever on between two world-renowned economists who are also Ivy League professors. Which is to say, lots of passive aggression and condescension.

Fiscal stimulus? Health care reform? Forget it. Apparently even after you earn your Ph.D., a professorship at Harvard or Princeton, tenure, and maybe even a Nobel Prize, you won't even agree with other economists about what's covered in Principles of Macroeconomics, Chapter 2. Which one of you wrote.

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