Macroeconomic Hippie-Punching: Brad DeLong interprets the Keynes-bashing opening of Ken Rogoff’s latest as strategic hippie-punching (see definition 2.2), designed to soften up his readers for the easy-money, debt-forgiveness message that follows.
Maybe that’s it, or maybe it’s just personal ire at some of the hippies. Either way, though, there is a question about whether it’s an effective strategy. I don’t think so.
The usual form of macroeconomic hippie-punching in recent years has been the pro-stimulus or anti-austerity article that opens with several paragraphs of the dangers of long-term budget deficits and the importance of a medium-term debt strategy — often with a specific condemnation of Those Who deny the importance of such — followed by a discussion of the reasons why slashing spending right now is a very bad idea. And I’ve watched the response: the centrists who are the presumed audience read the first three paragraphs, say “Yes — the hippies are all wrong!” and never get to the part saying that, well, actually, the hippies are right on the important stuff.
To some extent this is just about the fact that the hippies have indeed been right across the board on macro, the same way they were on the Iraq war. But it’s also about journalistic messaging: if you have a point you want to get across, you should always, always, put it right up at the front, and get to the qualifications later. The patient reader who will wade through your preemptive hippie-bashing to get to the good stuff is a myth — just as much a myth as the reasonable centrist who can be won over by hippie-bashing in the first place.
Urban Dictionary: Hippie punching: 2. The practice common among establishment centrists of ritualistically denigrating progressives in order to win over imaginary swing voters and David Brooks. Sometimes misinterpreted as a boneheaded political mistake, it's actually a sign of deep and unselfish commitment to pleasing owners and professionals even at the cost of losing elections.
After a pleasant afternoon of drinking antifreeze, Vaughan and Christian decided to go down to the fair-trade market for some hippie punching.
After a pleasant afternoon of tongue-kissing insurance lobbyists, David Axelrod decided to go down to the Washington Post for some hippie punching.