The Nonsense Problem: Brad DeLong does a lot of work meeting a challenge from Kantoos, who insists that neither Brad or I have done justice to John Cochrane’s arguments. And what Brad finds is… nothing that makes a bit of sense.
Well, there are pieces of it that make sense. Of those pieces of Cochrane I quote, (A) is coherent but turned out to be factually wrong, (B) is simply wrong on a basic Econ-1 theory level, (C] is simply wrong on a basic Econ-1 theory level, (D) is not an argument but a rant, (E) is largely right, (F) denies that the correct (E) is true and is incoherent, (G) is correct, (H) is misleading, (I) denies that the correct (G) is correct--until its last three sentences, which appear to say that (G) is correct but that fiscal expansion is less effective than quantitative easing, but does not say why. (J) is coherent but factually wrong, and (K) is not an argument but an evidence-free ideological rant, as is (L). But the correct pieces are almost invariably head feints that are then declared to be wrong, and I cannot find a consistent underlying picture of how the economy works.
So I endorse Paul's:
This indicates, I think, a key problem in these debates. People like Kantoos or Tyler Cowen start from the presumption that when people with the right credentials, like Cochrane, or Jean-Claude Trichet, or Robert Lucas make strong statements, that they must have a defensible model behind their assertions. And so if someone like me or Brad says that there is no such defensible model, we must be engaged in a “rant”, treating these people unfairly. But sometimes people with impressive credentials do talk complete nonsense…. So what purports to be a demand for fair-minded argument ends up, in practice, being a demand that we pretend to find a coherent position where none exists, that we basically invent a high-minded debate out of thin air. I understand that many people find the notion of a world in which Nobel Laureates and ECB presidents declare that 2+2=5 very unappealing, and that they wish we lived in a different and better world. But we don’t — and it’s not my job to create the illusion that we do.
And then Paul says that he will continue to break crockery when he thinks that it is appropriate to do so:
Update: I realized that I also wanted to say something in response to the concern trolling, the “if you were more moderate you’d have more influence” stuff. Again, this amounts to wishing that we lived in a different world. First, there is no such thing in modern America as a pundit respected by both sides. Second, there are people writing about economic issues who are a lot less confrontational than I am; how often do you hear about them? This is not a game, and it is also not a dinner party; you have to be clear and forceful to get heard at all.