October 13, 2003

There Are Two Legitimate Astronomical Arguments

Jean-Philippe Stijns has provoked a train of thought about the style of argument of the Bush administration:

Let's take the shape of the earth first. I am not telling anything here that wasn't public. There were two legitimate astronomical arguments. One is that the earth is round. I certainly taught that in my astronomy class. The other argument is a bit more subtle. There are frightful things out there on the ocean: storms, hurricanes, giant kraken, large whales covered with vegetation that you think are islands and moor to them--but then they start to dive. Run into any of these and your ship sinks.

Thus sail out into the ocean, and you might very well find yourself falling off of the edge--that is never coming back. There is sound scientific evidence for doing as we did.

Posted by DeLong at October 13, 2003 08:09 AM | TrackBack


>NEW YORK, Oct 13 (Reuters) - Nobel-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz is best known for his scathing critique of globalization's effect on the world's poor...

>...the Columbia University professor's new book "The Roaring Nineties" says President Bill Clinton's economic team, in which he played a key role, doomed the very recovery they had tried to engender by equating the interests of Wall Street with those of the nation at large...

>...For the 60-year-old Stiglitz, the question of which philosophy should underpin the global economy goes way beyond the theoretical tug-of-war between unfettered markets and government regulation.

>"The battle is deeper than that. It has to do with what kind of society we want to live in," Stiglitz said...

>...As an antidote to free-market exuberance, Stiglitz closes by outlining what he calls a "New Democratic Idealism," which he defends as a humanist alternative to the zealotry of economic purists.

>His proposal foresees a continued reliance on markets but also an active government role in health, education and job creation. "There is an alternative vision, one based on global social justice, and a balanced role for the government and the market," Stiglitz writes..."

"Economist Stiglitz rips Clinton, Wall St, himself"; By Pedro Nicolaci da Costa


Posted by: Mike on October 13, 2003 09:36 AM


Mike you did not read far enough:

"As tough as the new book may appear on Clinton and his economic advisers, President George W. Bush's tax cuts and defense-heavy fiscal profligacy were not exactly the sort of deficit spending Stiglitz had in mind.

"I grade on a curve and while I'm harsh on Clinton, he deserves an A-plus compared with what came after," Stiglitz said."

Posted by: bakho on October 13, 2003 01:33 PM


Sorry to stray off topic from JP Stijns' amusing comment, but I can't help but wonder, if Stiglitz thought Clinton had lousy economic policy, even if he gets an A+ relative to Bush, who does he think had genuinely good economic policy? Could someone who knows a lot of U.S. economic history help me here?

Before we had Clinton, we had
-Bush, whom I don't think anyone would argue had particularly good economic policies, the deficit reduction package he had to accept, forced over him by congress, aside. (even if they weren't particularly destructive)
-Reagan, who eroded the social safety net AND doubled the debt-GDP ratio
-Carter: I'm not really sure exactly what he did wrong, but I can't find anyone who thinks he had good economic policies. (he appointed Paul Volcker and began deregulation, to his great credit and minor, dubious credit, respectively. I'm not sure exactly what he did wrong besides micromanaging the affairs of state and imposing windfall profit taxes on oil.)
-Ford: WIN buttons. Need I say more?
-Nixon: Wage-price controls.
-Johnson: Guns and butter.
-Kennedy: Imposed wage-price guideposts, and manipulated steel prices.
-Eisenhower: I think he generally didn't do anything too screwed up.
-Truman: Vascillated over price-controls.

As an economist, Stiglitz is more frustrated that he and his ilk didn't have more influence in the Clinton White House. Well of course, everyone feels they ought to have more influence, since they, unlike everyone else, have honest intentions and are "in the know." (The possible exception being the political controllers in the Bush White House, who genuinely do seem to be victorious in all matters of policy)

Though, I'm sure I mangled some of my history in the above summary of presidential econ, who was a better president, by Stiglitz's standards, than Clinton?

Posted by: Julian Elson on October 13, 2003 06:10 PM



Familiarity breeds contempt? Stiglitz knows exactly what advice Clinton received, and ignored. To the extent that some of the ignored advice now seems likely to have avoided some problem that has since cropped up, Stiglitz knows exactly (as exactly as anyone can) the cost of his own advice being ignored. Imagine being the piano teacher who has tried to beat the rubato out of a student's playing in a particular passage. Rubato in that passage is now far more offensive than in some other piece played by some other teacher's student.

As far as ranking goes, you've listed the errors of each president, without noting their successes. Relying on that approach, you won't be able to rank presidential economic policies very effectively. Kennedy cut taxes (fortuituously) and launched the "Kennedy Round." Those things are to his credit.

Posted by: K Harris on October 14, 2003 06:53 AM


If only Stijns had checked to see what the actual shape of the Earth was, he wouldn't look quite so much like those he is making sport of.

Really. "Round"?

Posted by: David Perron on October 14, 2003 08:21 PM


There's a fairy tale told to children that Columbu outfaced ignoramuses who thought the worlf was flat. In fact the Catholic Kings set up an expert comission that opposed the venture on the grounds that (a) the world was round as everyone literate knew (correct); (b) Columbus's estimate of its circumference was wildly off (correct); (c) ergo, Columbus would die of thirst before reaching Asia across 15,000 miles or so of open sea.

Columbus was just a lucky idiot with lucky idiot sponsors. The Bushies are betting they will get lucky too.

Posted by: James on October 15, 2003 03:41 AM


He who gives up freedom for security deserves neither.

Posted by: Finstrom Lisa on December 10, 2003 09:02 PM


Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God.

Posted by: Hartka Rebecca on January 10, 2004 12:58 AM


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