I don’t know anything about law and economics, and I think it’s great that Richard Posner is admitting he was wrong about everything, but James Kwak (via Brad DeLong) is right that this is strange:
BusinessWeek has a curious review (curiously titled “Slapped by the Invisible Hand” . . . which is the title of Gary Gorton’s book). Here’s the funny bit:
“Posner, who less than a year ago began his dissection of the crisis of 2008 with A Failure of Capitalism (Harvard, May 2009), has enormous credibility when he casts a skeptical eye on Wall Street. As an influential free-market thinker, he helped shape the antiregulatory ideology that inspired so much public policy since 1980. Belatedly he admits error.”
Wait a sec. Being wrong for decades gives you “enormous credibility”? So if, say, James Inhofe were to admit that he is wrong and that climate change is occurring, then he would suddenly be an important voice on what to do about it?If James Gilleran (former director of the OTS) were to write a book about the problems with lax regulation and what needs to change, would you buy it?
Come on, Kwak, who are you going to listen to, a very serious person like Richard Posner or crazed hippies like Paul Krugman and Joe Stiglitz?
I’ve said this a million times, I know, but it’s striking how much media-political assessments of success and seriousness have become decoupled from any kind of reality.
who reads BusinessWeek for the book reviews ?
i thought it was all about the hot chartsngraphs…
actually: Stiglitz and Krugman (and Jeffrey Sachs, too) prove the point in Posner’s favor to a degree. For years, the two were very traditional neo-liberals fully accepting of the Washington Consensus. What makes them “generally” more credible than Posner is the critical eye directed at their old world view, even though they (and especially Krugman) have never gone back and said they were sorry for the nasty stuff they said about the more critical economists who have been proven right over the last 20 to 30 years.
Posner is also hurt because he has written some really crappy and just plain dumb ideas that get a patina of legitimacy because of who he is.
polish your strengths.
Inhofe kind of already is an important voice on what to do about climate change, in the “do exactly the opposite of what he says and you’ll never go wrong” sense.
They’re showing a Politico “Newsroom” meeting on Reliable Sources right now. What a bullshit factory.
“That’s just nitpicking, isn’t it?”
It’s a form of the “even the liberal New Republic” argument, but a little more fact-based: if I go up to a Stalinist professor (there still are two or three in this country) and say “Even Pete Seeger has repudiated Stalin,” I’m making a smarter move than if I try to persuade said professor with a book by Irving Howe. In other words, “credibility,” to these editorialists, means “persuasiveness,” as judged by willingness to recant. People who were right all along are just know-it-alls, eggheads, and dweebs: repudiating one’s former views shows Strength of Character, whereas having been consistently right makes you an object of endless resentment.
the classical rhetorical device.
i used to think like you, but then i had a change of heart/mind/facebook relationship status.
its effective, persuasive, not particularly authoritative however.
People who were right all along are just know-it-alls, eggheads, and dweebs: repudiating one’s former views shows Strength of Character, whereas having been consistently right makes you an object of endless resentment.
This. Its the Cult of Character.
Veteran, Great War of Yankee Aggression
Dunno if admitting to being wrong gives you credibility, but I am willing to give credit and praise to those willing to admit it. Its better than the Bill Kristol tactic of just doubling down on or airbrushing past mistakes.
Bruce Bartlett is one I admire now- he is candid and honest enough to say openly that his earlier theories about supply side economics either were wrong, or not applicable to the current times.
Which separates scientific thinkers from hacks- the former change their opinions when facts and evidence change; the latter just turn it up to 11.
Wait. Isn’t that kind of the basis of this blog?
@Veteran, Great War of Yankee Aggression:
I completely agree that it speaks well of Bartlett and Posner as human beings that they are willing to do this.
But I still don’t trust their predictions. I’ll go with people who were right the past few decades.
I wasn’t gonna say anything . . .
I remember reading how, in 2000, when Bush was talking about the need for tax cuts, Posner supposedly felt the rates should be left alone because we were on a solid fiscal path. Or maybe he realized this in the last year or so. Regardless, that’s the sort of intellectual honesty that does give him some credibility. I mean, what other prominent economic conservatives can you imagine saying something similar?
Posner is the most important non-SCOTUS judge since Learned Hand, and possibly the most important one ever. I’m not on board with trashing his entire reputation off hand. He has “enormous credibility” for a reason, and I think, as a card carrying liberal, it’s disingenuous and just plain wrong to lump him in, even by implication, with Inhofe.
If every conservative (and some liberals) was half as intellectually honest as Posner, we’d still have problems as a country, but it’d be easier to fix and address them.
Attacking Posner is like insisting on washing off the dirty but functional kitchen table in a house about to be foreclosed upon.
OTOH, I have a soft spot for Posner, so maybe I’m biased.
I think intellectual honesty is different from “hey, he’s right’
To be clear, I’d follow Krugman in a heartbeat before Posner. I just think Posner’s sort of been tainted by the Bush and tea party stink, and he’s a better sort of conservative than that. The type of opposition that liberals should have, not the idiots out there now.
Yes, he would. Does this question even need to be asked? No offense to James Kwak, he may have just accidentally fallen off the turnip truck or something, but to even ask this question proves that he should basically never turn on his computer ever again (unless he’s just planning to play flash games or something).
There is no more useful narrative than the “now he’s seen the light” narrative. You see it in in all issues, on all sides of the issue. Liberals bring out their former conservative whipmasters from time to time, and evangelicals bring out their former satanists……..and these are the people who are most effective rhetorically. Allies find them fascinating and opponents find them disturbing.
Everyone still has the right and maybe even the obligation to be pissed off at Posner, but you cannot doubt his usefulness now if he were to make himself a zealot for financial reform.
@John W.: read Posner’s recent turd on public intellectuals. the man is a hack. his views on human sexuality are abhorent. he has masked his grotesque views under the guise of strict mathematical necessity, but it is all crap.
As for being a judge, i think he is as good as a “conservative” judge gets. he generally has a good and fair demeanor on the bench.
i dislike his public thinking, but i have a soft spot for him because he was my first appellate panel and wrote the opinion in my client’s favor — and it was not a slam dunk for a conservative jurist. easterbrook, by contrast, is just an ass, period.
Posner admitting unregulated (financial) markets are a bad idea is a Nixon going to China moment. If Inhofe admitted he was wrong about global warming he would, indeed, carry great credibility because if even Inhofe can’t maintain a position like that, it must clearly be wrong.
To piggyback on what @Veteran, Great War of Yankee Aggression said, I think that a person that so vociferously fought for a particular policy or mindset to come out and say, “Man, was I wrong.” does lend a certain amount of credibility.
Every now and then, I find myself needing to check my instant cynical reflex and actually try to objectively evaluate things.
Having said that, “enormous credibility”, should be reserved for those that weren’t so catastrophically wrong in the first place.
@RareSanity: see Baker, Dean.
I mostly agree, and certainly re Krugman, but when was Stiglitz firmly in the Wash Consensus camp? I know he was a big-wig economist at the World Bank.
Baker was onto the housing bubble before almost anyone else, maybe excepting Shiller.
He was also right about the dot com bubble.
Yep, the Easterbrook contrast has always loomed large in my assessment of Posner, even prior to his come-to-Keynes moment. Easterbrook only seems to reach the correct result as a matter of chance (“even a broken clock . . .”); his thinking is bad law and bad economics, purely politically driven. It’s like Scalia with Milton Friedman giving cover rather than some distorted view of the Constitution’s framing, the results-oriented decision making of a political operative. I’ve never liked Posner’s assumptions or approaches, but at least he applied them fairly and with an even hand.
I’ve read Posner’s assertion that he isn’t a philosopher but a consumer of philosophy; I assume he thinks of economics in the same way. The problem is someone accepting an orthodoxy and not getting it can be WRONG. As Justice Holmes had dissented in Lochner, “The Fourteenth Amendment does not enact Mr. Herbert Spencer’s Social Statics”–economic theories are not good legal principles or principles of justice. In Lochner, it was the laissez faire Kool Aid of the day trumping the constitutional powers of states to regulate. Like they say on BSG, “All of this has happened before and all of this will happen again.” The Roberts Court will bear this out.
Posner still thinks dumb things after his come-to-Keynes experience. Like that courts are a bad venue to make decisions on whether medical malpractice has occurred. If the muppethuggers would police their own profession and toss out the quacks responsible for a disproportionate amount of malpractice, he might have a point. The Texas experience of malpractice tort reform is illustrative — the stats on care and injury/mortality are no better, costs of care have risen the same as they have nationwide, and the only people better off are malpractice insurers and to a small extent malpractice-premium payers.
Bruce Bartlett, though–he cool.
This is something I’ve never understood at all about this medical tort reform garbage—we’re supposed to cap MD’s liability, in return for…nothing?
i think the argument is that capping awards will reduce the amount of insurance doctors need, and will reduce the amount of purely-defensive procedures and tests they perform – if doctors aren’t afraid of being sued into oblivion, they won’t be in perpetual CYA mode, ordering tests which are clearly unneeded, but which would be lawsuit bait, should the unexpected happen (i don’t know who defines “clearly” or “unexpected”) . thus, we’ll spend less on health care.
So the argument goes, and this is supposed to carry on to pass on cost savings to all of us. Texas shows this to be a lie.
The policy answer seems really clear to me when the numbers are that a few individuals are responsible for most of the malpractice — if you can’t drum them out of the profession, you’re perpetuating a system where the institutions of medical practice are going to have to bear the costs of sheltering them, or the medical profession ignores the consequences of the harms its members perpetrate on its patients and the patients are supposed to just suck up being maimed or killed. Not much talk about fixing this part of the problem, and it’s disgusting.