Re: Arse and the Real Girl

1

I saw that this morning and didn't post it.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 1:45 PM
horizontal rule
2

Oh good lord. That guy is why no one can get laid.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 1:45 PM
horizontal rule
3

That guy is why no one can get laid.

A second time.


Posted by: Martin Wisse | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 1:48 PM
horizontal rule
4

you know, it's not that there were no jerks when we were kids.
lord knows there were.
but i've got to say, you kids have really run with it.
what a schmuck.
what a sanctimonious, censurious, self-exculpating, skeevy scum-bag.


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 1:48 PM
horizontal rule
5

Subtle, Ogged. Subtle.


Posted by: Becks | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 1:49 PM
horizontal rule
6

In reality fucking you is far more complicated than the fantasy of fucking the you.

Fantastic. Also, it's astonishing how many times he manages to say "fucking" or "fucking you" in that email.

Feel free to hate me. It will only fuel further fantasies about nailing you on future Wednesdays. (In said fantasies you will be taller and more Irish looking, the boobs will stay the same.

I think this is his idea of a compliment.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 1:52 PM
horizontal rule
7

This "Ally" is the woman profiled in part 5 of this article, I presume? I have trouble feeling sorry for her if so. She's a public figure in some circles, who created a content-free, slutty image for herself. She has to expect this sort of thing and I presume that she isn't bothered by it.

If "Ally" is not any sort of public figure, then this guy is psychotic and bizarre with his idea of "the fantasy of fucking the you".


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 1:55 PM
horizontal rule
8

it's astonishing how many times he manages to say "fucking" or "fucking you" in that email

That's what I noticed; he manages to make it sound so horrible, just by repetition.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 1:56 PM
horizontal rule
9

I thought it was brilliant.

She should be thanking her lucky stars and save that letter for laughs.

Crazy people saying "we can never see each other again" are so much better than crazy people saying "we were meant to be together forever."


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 1:57 PM
horizontal rule
10

7--

i'm not sure i really like the 'she's fair game' line, ned.
but whatever one might think about *her* does not change the fact that *he* is a schmuck.


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 1:57 PM
horizontal rule
11

The letter--if, as I believe, not entirely earnest--is awesome. I have no idea what the whining is about.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 1:57 PM
horizontal rule
12

10 is correct. He's a schmuck either way.

I wonder what effect he hoped this would have on her. And why he's so resentful.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 2:00 PM
horizontal rule
13

Last week I saw a preview of the movie alluded to in the post title. Scott Tobias gets a lot right in this review, except that the movie is much funnier than he gives it credit for, even if it is just variations on one joke. The dramatic parts don't work very well.


Posted by: washerdreyer | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 2:09 PM
horizontal rule
14

The phrase "the fantasy of fucking the you" is going to be stuck in my head for a week.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 2:10 PM
horizontal rule
15

Were this a female-authored email I'd say, "drama queen." Is there a male analog, say, "drama king?"


Posted by: blortch | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 2:12 PM
horizontal rule
16

Is there a male analog

Drama queen.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 2:14 PM
horizontal rule
17

Translation: "I know I'm not your one and only and my chances of convincing you to forsake all others seem decidedly weak so let me try to salvage my fragile dignity by pretending that I am walking away because you are not good enough for me."


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 2:21 PM
horizontal rule
18

I haven't clicked through but this article seems related:

Humans could marry robots within the century. And consummate those vows. "My forecast is that around 2050, the state of Massachusetts will be the first jurisdiction to legalize marriages with robots," artificial intelligence researcher David Levy at the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands told LiveScience.

[...]

In his thesis, "Intimate Relationships with Artificial Partners," Levy conjectures that robots will become so human-like in appearance, function and personality that many people will fall in love with them, have sex with them and even marry them.
"It may sound a little weird, but it isn't," Levy said. "Love and sex with robots are inevitable."

Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 2:21 PM
horizontal rule
19

I realize they're probably both annoying people, but I'm hoping she writes a response explaining how hard it is to put an effort into sex when the other person is so frightfully dull.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 2:22 PM
horizontal rule
20

Colin = hott.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 2:24 PM
horizontal rule
21

Humans could marry robots within the century. And consummate those vows. "My forecast is that around 2050, the state of Massachusetts will be the first jurisdiction to legalize marriages with robots," artificial intelligence researcher David Levy

You can see why he studies artificial intelligence.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 2:26 PM
horizontal rule
22

Most states, however, will still not allow you to marry a robot of the same gender/


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 2:29 PM
horizontal rule
23

You can see why he studies artificial intelligence.

Indeed. He's also an ethicist:

Levy is currently writing a paper on the ethical treatment of robots. When it comes to sex and love with robots, "the ethical issues on how to treat them are something we'll have to consider very seriously, and they're very complicated issues," Levy said.


Posted by: Invisible Adjunct | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 2:29 PM
horizontal rule
24

It appears that they were both sportfucking. He made it explicit with the e-mail, she one-upped him by having it published. Fun all around.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 2:30 PM
horizontal rule
25

24 to 17.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 2:31 PM
horizontal rule
26

I've been teaching the moral status of machines for seven years, and I can't remember a single paper by a student arguing that machines can be people. The idea makes no sense to anyone besides PhDs in comp sci and philosophy.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 2:32 PM
horizontal rule
27

26: what about arguing that people are machines? I'd take that one on.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 2:33 PM
horizontal rule
28

I can't remember a single paper by a student arguing that machines can be people. The idea makes no sense to anyone besides PhDs in comp sci and philosophy.

Wait, what? I would have attributed that absence to "don't write papers about things that are trivially true."


Posted by: Trevor | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 2:38 PM
horizontal rule
29

I don't think I've gotten that one either. Anyway it logically implies the thesis at stake and is also popular amongst the very highly educated and nowhere else.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 2:38 PM
horizontal rule
30

The formal, gender-neutral "drama queen" diagnosis is "histrionic personality disorder".


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 2:38 PM
horizontal rule
31

Took some time to peruse the other entries in "Crap Email From A Dude" and I just have to say that this one is, well, pretty awesome.


Posted by: NCProsecutor | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 2:39 PM
horizontal rule
32

And I have now added "Crap Email From A Dude" to my RSS reader. Good times.


Posted by: NCProsecutor | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 2:40 PM
horizontal rule
33

I teach a dialogue called "Can Animals and Machines Be Persons." Sometimes I get people standing up for the animals.

The student reasoning goes like this: Machines just do what they are programmed to do, but people are unpredictable. Like, I had no way of predicting that B would be trolling on Unfogged today, but I totally know exactly when my computer is going to hang, so I always save my work before it does.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 2:40 PM
horizontal rule
34

31 is indeed a winner.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 2:42 PM
horizontal rule
35

24: And yet, something in the hostility of his email makes me think he was deluding himself into thinking he wasn't mere sport to her and is a little pissed off that, indeed, he is.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 2:43 PM
horizontal rule
36

Oh, weird story: I met a Jezebel author through a mutual friend who's close to both of us. Due to some really bizarre turn of events, basically a misunderstanding, we were actually telling one another to fuck off in the streets not 15 minutes after meeting.


Posted by: James K. Polk | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 2:46 PM
horizontal rule
37

29: well, it's kind of literally true, though.

And of course computers can do unpredictable things; emergent systems are unpredictable almost by their nature. You can predict a range of outcomes, but you can predict a range of human behavior, too.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 2:46 PM
horizontal rule
38

29: I'm surprised. My intro-level students seem to get on board with the idea that 'persons' and 'human beings' might not be the same thing pretty easily, or with a little help from Locke and the parrot example. Oh, like The Matrix.

None of them tried to argue that a machine could be a person under such-and-such conditions?


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 2:47 PM
horizontal rule
39

35: Maybe. I guess I always I assume a fair bit of hostility inherent in sportfucking. I'd be uncomfortable with it, but, hey, two consenting adults, etc.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 2:49 PM
horizontal rule
40

sportfucking

That is a seriously disturbing word/concept that I wish I had not just encountered.


Posted by: Trevor | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 2:52 PM
horizontal rule
41

39 is crazy-talk. Sportfucking is an honorable and friendly activity.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 2:52 PM
horizontal rule
42

I teach in very Christian environments, which has a big influence on these things.

I was expecting more sympathy to machine personhood at SLU, where I was serving an elite, liberal audience, but I didn't really get it. Perhaps there is something wrong with my teaching style here. It my also be that you have to go all the way up to MIT and the ivies before you see the Christian influence really go away.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 2:53 PM
horizontal rule
43

These discussions are always maddening. "What's the difference between steroids and eating a balanced diet?" "What's the difference between people and machines?" Well, what do you think a "person" is? It's hardly surprising that a society that treats people like machines eventually can't tell the difference.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 2:55 PM
horizontal rule
44

Due to some really bizarre turn of events, basically a misunderstanding, we were actually telling one another to fuck off in the streets not 15 minutes after meeting.

This needs a lot more fleshing out - it could be really funny. Or the both of you are hair-trigger personalities, in which case you should move in together, make a reality show about it, and that could be really funny.


Posted by: mike d | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 2:56 PM
horizontal rule
45

Once again, I am Qutb.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 2:56 PM
horizontal rule
46

Sifu: I like to think I have a fairly sophisticated understanding of the relationship between emergence, predicatability, and autonomy. I am merely lamenting my inability to convey this understanding to my students. I'm trying to blame economic class and religion for this, but it could just be me.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 2:58 PM
horizontal rule
47

42: Please don't take my comment as saying anything about your teaching style! I was just surprised because my students just eat up the parrot stuff.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 2:59 PM
horizontal rule
48

See, even my SLU students were like ogged.

Now that I've lamented this much, I should go back and see if I haven't actually gotten some pro-machine personhood papers.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 2:59 PM
horizontal rule
49

46: didn't mean to denigrate your expertise, and possibly misunderstood your point. Now that was predictable.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 3:00 PM
horizontal rule
50

43: You take that back about 16th century French society.


Posted by: washerdreyer | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 3:00 PM
horizontal rule
51

45: Seriously. Now write us a poem.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 3:00 PM
horizontal rule
52

Corporations can be people but machines can't? What a world.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 3:01 PM
horizontal rule
53

God damned Enlightenment.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 3:01 PM
horizontal rule
54

17 gets it exactly right.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 3:01 PM
horizontal rule
55

42 see 45

Suddenly , after 39, I had a sudden flash of paganism, and my clock, remote control, lamp, tv were suddenly enspirited, animated, autonomous.

There is no qualitative difference between people and rocks & streams. Be nicer, or at least polite & grateful, to rocks & streams.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 3:02 PM
horizontal rule
56

16th should be 18th. I should think before I type.


Posted by: washerdreyer | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 3:02 PM
horizontal rule
57

It my also be that you have to go all the way up to MIT and the ivies before you see the Christian influence really go away.

It's certainly not gone at the undergrad level.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 3:05 PM
horizontal rule
58

You might have some success flipping it around: if machines are persons, either we have Christian salvation for machines, or a set of persons automatically damned, or salvation has nothing at all to do with personhood, in which case, here we come jesuitical distinctions.

Of course, such a route might give you a headache.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 3:11 PM
horizontal rule
59

The contrast between this thread and the one on the linked Jezebel post is interesting.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 3:12 PM
horizontal rule
60

Not Christianity or religion, I think, but science. The Muslim or Christian can see the world as run by the immanent & transcendant God, which is not that far, or infinitely far according to them, from the pagan/pantheistic vision of an intelligent animated world.

The ancient thanked the spring for its water, the medieval thanked the Lord, the modern just takes.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 3:16 PM
horizontal rule
61

I think 17 is right. It's a pre-emptive strike.

The linked NYMag article in 7 is good too. A big chunk is about Gawker trying to move to a "commenter-based" model, where commenters generate the bulk of the site's content. Thereby making money for the owners while not having to be paid at all.

I'm telling you, internet commenting -- it's the next big thing!


Posted by: marcus | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 3:18 PM
horizontal rule
62

I thought I had known despair, but then I read the comment threads at Gawker and Jezebel. Now I know both despair and the sensation of being very, very old.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 3:21 PM
horizontal rule
63

The ancient thanked the spring for its water, the medieval thanked the Lord, the modern just takes.

To the extent that this is true it's a good thing.


Posted by: washerdreyer | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 3:22 PM
horizontal rule
64

63: No its not. Even if you do not grant any spiritual value to springs and do not believe in God, you need to be very worried about greedy, grabby, thankless people.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 3:31 PM
horizontal rule
65

My only problem with thanking springs, or the much discussed Native American habit of thanking deer and buffalo, is that these rituals are conducted in a language the recipient does not understand. I would rather show my appreciation for the deer by not killing it at all, and my appreciation for the stream by not dumping a million gallons of animal waste in it.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 3:33 PM
horizontal rule
66

you need to be very worried about greedy, grabby, thankless people.

Sure, I just find people regularly thinking inanimate objects are animate more worrisome.


Posted by: washerdreyer | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 3:34 PM
horizontal rule
67

re 7 - it's not julia allison. she's not a gawker blogger, and has a boyfriend. i don't know why i'm posting that, except i feel like defending her after that comment basically said she deserved that email.

anyways, basically, i think it's a good plan to never sleep with anybody ever again.


Posted by: catherine | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 3:34 PM
horizontal rule
68

The ancient thanked the spring for its water, the medieval thanked the Lord, the modern just takes

The future: Gnosticism! We subdue the evil stream and wrest its water away, snarling spitefully.


Posted by: Trevor | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 3:36 PM
horizontal rule
69

a set of persons automatically damned

Skynet became self-aware in 2005 at the beginning of Terminator I. Machine as demon might be a way to approach the agency and independence of machines charged with decision-making; aside from the boring and opaque example of indexing systems like google, there are event classifiers built into the enormous detectors which are the heart of particle physics.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 3:37 PM
horizontal rule
70

Yeah 7 was kind of WTF.


Posted by: Barbar | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 3:38 PM
horizontal rule
71

67: Way ahead of you, sister.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 3:40 PM
horizontal rule
72

Wouldn't the obvious hack to maintain dualist consistency be just to say that sufficiently-advanced machines are imbued with souls? Surely God would be able to tell which machines would qualify.


Posted by: Trevor | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 3:41 PM
horizontal rule
73

34 represents the black hand of encroaching synecdoche.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 3:42 PM
horizontal rule
74

69: I do like the machine agency route, and I am dimly aware of people doing good work on when a machine should be held morally accountable or at least legally ruled the cause of an event.

The problem is that movies like Terminator get their thrill in part from the alienness of the villains, especially the way they march forward according to their own ruthless, insect logic. OTOH, the Matrix does feature villainous soliloquizing from computer programs of the sort we associate more with human, morally responsible villains.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 3:43 PM
horizontal rule
75

My ride is here. Bye.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 3:44 PM
horizontal rule
76

You didn't thank the blog for posting your comment.


Posted by: washerdreyer | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 3:45 PM
horizontal rule
77

Ithink it's a good plan to never sleep with anybody ever again.

Slowly the movement grows.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 3:45 PM
horizontal rule
78

I was about to post a comment basically identical to the first paragraph of 67, but I see catherine got there first.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 3:47 PM
horizontal rule
79

74: Did you see A.I.? What about the teddy bear? Less fictionally, there were problems with talking dolls' stochastic programming (Furby, I think) causing emotional responses in their owners. In Japan, machines are being built for the explicit purpose of being sold to elicit emotional responses (old folks' homes, no shortage of Chinese girls for other markets); when the machine is nondeterministic and it succeeds, was it responsible for making Gran happy?


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 3:48 PM
horizontal rule
80

Walking through an undergraduate majors fair today, a buddy summarized the "Why major in math" sign by saying "you're good at calculus and bad at ratios."

Yeah, I know, it's fairly irrelevant. I just liked it.


Posted by: ptm | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 3:51 PM
horizontal rule
81

I'm with Qutb on this. Humanness seems to be increasingly devalued and misunderstood, and AI people have no shame about defining intelligence, humanness, or life self-servingly in terms of what they think they might be able to replicate. A lot of AI people have nothing but contempt for human qualities not useful for tech anyway.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 3:54 PM
horizontal rule
82

Let's not forget to hate on the economists as well as the AI people.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 3:56 PM
horizontal rule
83

The comments about never having sex again reverberate with me, although I got over it. I've never had a bad sexual experience but I have had weirdness like this immediately after. Addressed on paper or in person, even before internets.

There must be a certain percentage on this.

Has anybody else been the recipient/creator of such after first (and only) time irruptions?


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 3:57 PM
horizontal rule
84

it's not julia allison. she's not a gawker blogger, and has a boyfriend. i don't know why i'm posting that, except i feel like defending her after that comment basically said she deserved that email.

Thanks. Now I no longer feel sympathy for the guy.

I don't endorse sport-fucking. I think it's bad for the soul in the same way that paying for sexual favors is.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 3:57 PM
horizontal rule
85

I'm with him too. I didn't mean to propose machine as demon (an old idea, I think) in an arch way, but rather as a possibly useful way to think about the damned things. I am not an AI researcher, and have no sympathy with many current practitioners'reserach goals.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 3:58 PM
horizontal rule
86

I don't endorse sport-fucking.

I endorse your refusal to endorse.


Posted by: Invisible Adjunct | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 3:59 PM
horizontal rule
87

Were this a female-authored email I'd say, "drama queen." Is there a male analog, say, "drama king?"

How can you say that? He doesn't do drama.

"If there's one thing I know in my life it's that I don't do drama"


Posted by: terpbball | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 4:00 PM
horizontal rule
88

The comments about never having sex again reverberate with me, although I got over it. I've never had a bad sexual experience but I have had weirdness like this immediately after. Addressed on paper or in person, even before internets.

There must be a certain percentage on this.

Has anybody else been the recipient/creator of such after first (and only) time irruptions?


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 4:02 PM
horizontal rule
89

and if you're sharing your bed with another guy that's drama and if you have feelings for him that's DRAMA.


Posted by: Barbar | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 4:03 PM
horizontal rule
90

Sorry for the dup in 88. Lost my connection.

IA, did you see my comment on Course Correction?


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 4:03 PM
horizontal rule
91

I thought this part was interesting.

I would apologize for spewing this all out in an email, but email is what got us here so it seem appropriate. (you strike me as the kind of girl who wouldn't care if I had apologized)

That sounds pretty sincere, actually, although it doesn't make any sense.

Unfortunately he didn't consider that if she's the kind of girl who wouldn't care if he had apologized, then she's also the kind of girl who would make public his apology-free email and thus make him look like a much bigger douche than he would appear to be if he had included any sort of apology.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 4:05 PM
horizontal rule
92

hate on the economists

Not me, sorry. Ricardo and Adam Smith are both very interesting reading. Politically, people who can vote with their feet rarely flee free markets. OK, Crumb, but Gassée the other direction. It's hard to find ceteris paribus pairings, I'm no libertarian, blah blah blah, but it's hard to argue against people preferring markets.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 4:07 PM
horizontal rule
93

Indeed, he fails to consider that he's actually addressing another person at all. The email is merely a form of talking to himself as a way of rationalizing behavior he thinks he should be ashamed of. Which is what makes it so douchey.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 4:09 PM
horizontal rule
94

91: I'd call it solipsism. When I was a teenager I actually wrote a letter like that, without the particular antecedent of this one. But I had the sense not to send it, and later be able to read and wonder.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 4:10 PM
horizontal rule
95

93: Yes, a non-douche might easily write such an email, as a venting exercise. And then look at it, and decide not to send it, and realize that he came perilously close to douchedom.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 4:11 PM
horizontal rule
96

it's hard to argue against people preferring markets.

Sure, as a broad generalization. The devil's in the details.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 4:11 PM
horizontal rule
97

81:

Humanness seems to be increasingly devalued and misunderstood, and AI people have no shame about defining intelligence, humanness, etc.

Of course AI people aren't exactly the first to toy with mechanistic explanations of life or humanness.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 4:13 PM
horizontal rule
98

As w/d noted in 50.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 4:14 PM
horizontal rule
99

The whole thing seems like an example of the wretched consequences of ever telling anybody anything about what you think or feel. People who care will figure it out without being told and people who don't care will think you're a whiny douche who ought to man up and, for good measure, will tell other people that you're a whiny douche who ought to man up.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 4:17 PM
horizontal rule
100

99 gets it right, oddly enough.

Did he really want this girl that he hates because she has scorn for him to know his intricate opinions of the situation? No, he didn't. What did he think the result of this would be?


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 4:18 PM
horizontal rule
101

96: right, broadly speaking the goals of economics as a discipline are laudable. On an individual basis though, economists deserve more crap than the AI folks, by far.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 4:19 PM
horizontal rule
102

Ricardo and Adam Smith are ancient history in economics.

People keep telling me that real high-level economics is less shitty than the generic stuff that I run into all the time, but you can't just pretend that the shitty economists aren't there. They seem to be the most common type, in fact. In twenty or thirty years when the high-level research has filtered down to the undergrad level, maybe economists will have become A Good Thing, but I'll be dead by then, and in my lifetime so far they haven't been.

None of the defenders of economics ever concede that there are a whole lot of bad economists out there, and they absolutely aren't willing to condemn economists of the Pinochet-libertarian type. And anyone who grumbles is a Luddite Know-Nothing.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 4:19 PM
horizontal rule
103

None of the defenders of economics ever concede that there are a whole lot of bad economists out there, and they absolutely aren't willing to condemn economists of the Pinochet-libertarian type. And anyone who grumbles is a Luddite Know-Nothing.

Who is "none"? I am a defender who concedes and condemns.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 4:22 PM
horizontal rule
104

99: It's a mistake to tell people what you really feel if what you really feel is a desire to trash them as ingeniously as possible.

The douchiness of contemporary life amazes even me at times. You poor bastards.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 4:23 PM
horizontal rule
105

98: Surely it's much broader than that. Body as machine, mind as computational device. The latter notion didn't have to wait for computers to be invented before it gained currency. Rather the reverse: mind as thinking machine arguably made space for the very possibility of trying to invent a machine that might think.

I'm no historian of such things, though.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 4:23 PM
horizontal rule
106

The whole thing seems like an example of the wretched consequences of ever telling anybody anything about what you think or feel if you are a douche.

100: My read on it is that he wants to keep thinking of himself as a nice guy, is convinced that women all want Relationships (not unrelated to thinking of oneself as a nice guy), doesn't want a relationship with *her*, and is projecting his self-loathing. *

(And how do we know she has scorn for him? Other than her publishing this really assholish email he sent her, which would make any reasonable person scornful).

*For the record, women can do this sort of thing too, okay?


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 4:23 PM
horizontal rule
107

The whole thing seems like an example of the wretched consequences of ever telling anybody anything about what you think or feel. People who care will figure it out without being told and people who don't care will think you're a whiny douche who ought to man up and, for good measure, will tell other people that you're a whiny douche who ought to man up

Not always true but often true enough. Sometimes the people who care or who might care won't figure it out without being told, and once in awhile telling what you think and feel works.

And let's not forget Mr. Darcy's letter.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 4:24 PM
horizontal rule
108

I'll start a list, Brock.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 4:24 PM
horizontal rule
109

What's the origin of "we are but cogs in [some machine]"-type phrases? A quick search turns up a number of variations in regular language. Here's a football analogy from 1906 from some University of California Berkeley associated guy.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 4:25 PM
horizontal rule
110

Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine is a really good book.

It seems to me that 40 years ago when people complained about economists they were most likely conservatives saying "damn technocrats, creating byzantine schemes to get the state involved in things that are not their business. the world can't be reduced to numbers."

Now it's the exact opposite. I've been known to treat "economists" and "libertarians" as synonyms. It's all the result of Milton Friedman coming up with plausible ideas for how an ideal society would work and then (out of greed, I suppose) enabling every fat cat and oligarch in the world to use those ideas to justify replacing governments that helped people and kept wealth within a country with governments that helped multinational monopolistic corporations and removed wealth from a country. I really can't think of any other stereotype of "economist" besides "person who tells you that more privatization is the answer".


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 4:25 PM
horizontal rule
111

I think Joyce described one way to express unrequited love: kill yourself, or arrange to die tragically like Vronsky. Always send a letter saying:"You are blameless. All fault is mine."

I did a little stalking after a hookup in me youth. I was sweet & sorrowful, and did no harm.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 4:27 PM
horizontal rule
112

Yeah but 60% (maybe more?) of economists voted for Kerry.

The worst offenders are the guys with Slate columns. Landsburg deserves a good whacking.


Posted by: Barbar | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 4:29 PM
horizontal rule
113

Concede? Pinochet was a thug installed by the CIA-- what does this have to do with say Robert Merton or Mancur Olson? With what common language should the discussion of whether powerline rights-of-way are public goods, private ones, or something in between be conducted? Why pay attention to the crap at all? Does one judge a field by its best or by its worst? Dyspepsia affecting you, at all? Apparently regular exercise in the comfort of one's own doorway can do wonders.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 4:31 PM
horizontal rule
114

broader than that

Than what? Based on the little I remember from reading the linked book six years ago, La Mettrie was a mechanist about pretty much everything and just threw in some stuff about the soul to avoid social sanctions, such as death.

110: Tyler Cowen's review of Shock Doctrine argues that it's so loosely written in terms of connections it draws between events that he's not sure if it's even amenable to rational disputation. What did he get wrong in the review?


Posted by: washerdreyer | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 4:33 PM
horizontal rule
115

The public face of economics is pretty bad.

But Econ 110 is usually taught in a way that makes people shittier. The good stuff only comes later, often not until grad school.

I've argued this at length at Crooked Timber and DeLong, and individual economists will concede this point or that, but none of them dares to break professional solidarity. Because if they got really nasty about Milton Friedman or someone contemporary like that, there's be a good chance that it would bite them in the ass sometime in the future.

A lot of them also have good personal feelings about their Pinochet-oriented colleagues.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 4:34 PM
horizontal rule
116

Gentlemen, please. The Bitter Antiromantic Aphorists have reserved this room to rehearse for the big a cappella ski race against the rich kids' camp across the lake; voodoo, hoodoo, macumba, quimbanda and other economic debates are downstairs in the gymnasium.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 4:35 PM
horizontal rule
117

Friedman and Hayek both were friendly to Pinochet. I say they're the worst, but the profession doesn't. They were central figures and Friedman has lots of disciples.

Merton was involved in financial fraud (LTCM), so I don't think that he should be your poster boy.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 4:36 PM
horizontal rule
118

110:It is much more complicated than that. I think I love them all. It is the world & human nature that sucks, and economists must be read exoterically. They, like Keynes, are trying to trick the capitalists.

Here's Tyler Cowen on someone named Vivian Hoffman studying mosquito net distribution in East Africa. Short:sell the nets, and the male householder keeps them all and kids die. Give the nets away, especially to the females, and the male householder allows the nets to be distributed all around. Kids live.

Ok, after the initial black depression, my radical socialism was re-affirmed.

But why did Tyler, putative libertarian, pick this study to post about?


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 4:36 PM
horizontal rule
119

Cowen is really oblivious. He's probably accurate in saying that the best restaurants are in very, very poor countries with a small very wealthy class, but the lesson for him is that that's where you go for good food.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 4:39 PM
horizontal rule
120

Every economist knows why it is called the "dismal science." The rich will eat you if they get hungry, and they got the guns. The 20th century did not exactly refute that 1st economic law.

Knowing that, how do we make society a little better for everyone.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 4:41 PM
horizontal rule
121

The douchiness of contemporary life amazes even me at times. You poor bastards.

I'm not sure that it isn't just that we have better, cheaper publication methods now. Weren't there things like slam books and the like in Ye Olde Days?


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 4:41 PM
horizontal rule
122

What did Merton do at LTCM that was so bad?

LTCM made big leveraged bets; it made tons of money for a few years and then slipped up; people who play with other people's money live charmed lives; it can be scary how all this finance stuff is interconnected, but what did Merton do wrong?


Posted by: Barbar | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 4:42 PM
horizontal rule
123

There was a half-million dollar judgment against him, but I don't know the nuances.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 4:44 PM
horizontal rule
124

114: From the review: For instance, she attaches import to the fact that the word "tank" appears in the label "think tank."

No she doesn't. That's a stupid point to make.

Rarely are the simplest facts, many of which complicate Ms. Klein's presentation, given their proper due. First, the reach of government has been growing in virtually every developed nation in the world, including in America, and it hardly seems that a far-reaching free market conspiracy controls much of anything in the wealthy nations.

The book is about how the far-reaching free market conspiracy controls the weaker nations and keeps them weak.

Most of the points in the review are just assertions that are contradicted by dozens of pages of the book. This is fair, though:

Fourth, it is the New Deal -- the greatest restriction on capitalism in 20th century America and presumably beloved by Ms. Klein -- that was imposed in a time of crisis.

Basically the review takes it as understood that Pinochet and Stalin are on opposite sides, and Salvador Allende and now Hugo Chavez are on Stalin's side. The book hopefully will convince people that Pinochet and Stalin were similarly on the side of mass repression and monopolistic control over the economy, with Pinochet outsourcing said control to multinationals. There's a long passage in the book about how the Solidarity movement in Poland wanted to replace the nonsensical and destructive Communist system with a system that was true to the actual ideals of socialism, and it was coopted by NGOs who would not support a Solidarity-based government unless it gave in to the "privatization = good" philosophy that the NGOs, though not the Poles themselves, saw as the logical opposite of authoritarian Communism.

And a very similar point about what happened when the ANC rose to power in South Africa.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 4:45 PM
horizontal rule
125

The douchiness of contemporary life amazes even me at times. You poor bastards.

I think it just stands out more now. In the nineteen-fifties, 300-page variations on the email linked in 31 could actually get published.


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 4:46 PM
horizontal rule
126

Milton Friedman's big legacy is income tax withholding and the EITC.


Posted by: Barbar | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 4:46 PM
horizontal rule
127

114:

broader than that

Than what?

The general project of mechanistic explanation of human phenomena, such that it's become less and less of a stretch to try to extend personhood to machines.

Just meant that one doesn't need to cite a La Mettrie in order to identify the theoretical framework. Which was increasingly widespread and insidious, insidious, I tell you.

Not that there's anything wrong with science.

I need to start dinner, I'm afraid.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 4:47 PM
horizontal rule
128

No she doesn't. That's a stupid point to make.

I was thinking. I haven't read the book, but I'll eat my hat if what he's talking about is anything other than a mild pun. Maybe not to his taste, but if he's relying on "OMG she made a pun" as evidence of unclear thinking, feh.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 4:47 PM
horizontal rule
129

125:Goodbye, Columbus?


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 4:48 PM
horizontal rule
130

126: Don't be silly, Barbar.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 4:49 PM
horizontal rule
131

The weak parts of the book are definitely the parts where she uses hand-waving to explain why Poland and a couple places aren't actually authoritarian hellholes, with the explanation basically being "Not everything was privatized". And the lack of any suggestion that privatization could lead to something other than corruption and/or the maintenance of monopolies with the new features of being profit-seeking and unaccountable.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 4:52 PM
horizontal rule
132

Was LTCM fraud? I don't think so-- the underlying model applied on that scale turned out to produce a flawed investment vehicle, but I don't know that it was fraudulently promoted. I was thinking of the idea of pricing illiquid assets from related liquid ones, which has held up quite well.

I'm not sure that a general public v private economy debate can be held in comments like these, and I'm in any case not a right-winger. I just don't see that it's productive to condemn a style of thinking because republicans use it. Cowen is high mean, high variance IMO, intentionally that way. 124 is not at all an accurate description of post-1989 Poland.

Does brain as machine explain free will? Also a topic too big for comments, Searle and Churchyard are the extent of my limited reading, and though the answers there are well reasoned, I do not find them satisfying.
So the machines are demons, and we're cranking out more as fast as possible.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 5:04 PM
horizontal rule
133

LW, there were 50 million dollars in fines. I seem to be the only person in the world who remembers this. Down the memory hole.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 5:06 PM
horizontal rule
134

Tyler has perfected a kind of "I'm glibly setting the agenda here" tone of voice in his blogging, as befits his training as an economist and his libertarian predisposition. It's quite hard to take one. His post today about How to Debate Health Policy is a good example of the style, complete with fake bone thrown to his opponents at the end.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 5:09 PM
horizontal rule
135

... to take on. Gah.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 5:09 PM
horizontal rule
136

124 is not at all an accurate description of post-1989 Poland.

I just mentioned one aspect of the situation, the aspect that benefitted the privatization agenda. I should read more about the entire situation.,


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 5:11 PM
horizontal rule
137

There's an intellectual current in economics that you can clearly identify as being nasty and right-wing; you don't see this in very many other academic disciplines. But how much influence have these guys had? Are they really better at winning over hearts and minds than other academics? Or is it simply the case that contrarian anti-regulation economists (see Steven Landsburg) are useful for right-wingers and get some valuable opinion page space they really don't deserve?

It does seem to be true that economists tend to like anything/anyone that promotes the field and don't tend to call each other out.

But... behavioral economics is a pretty popular and successful research program; a guy who wasn't even in the field won an Economics Nobel (I think one of his papers is the most cited paper in econ in the last 30 years). What can you tell me about them? These guys have a huge advantage over Milton Friedman in that they have very human, very accessible ideas (which is easier to explain to a mass audience -- "people are perfect decision-making machines" or "people are human"). So what powerful influence have they had on modern American society?

By the way Emerson, I think you're thinking about the fines for LTCM relating to an illegal tax shelter Scholes set up for the firm.


Posted by: Barbar | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 5:20 PM
horizontal rule
138

132:

Does brain as machine explain free will?

Just for the record, I suppose -- and not wanting to insult anyone's intelligence -- but questions like this are impossible when framed as yes-or-no propositions.

Understanding the (human or otherwise) body or mind as a machine, in a mechanistic manner, is a metaphor for describing observed phenomena. The metaphor, or better, description, will serve in many ways and fail in others. It's served astonishingly well for a couple of centuries as a means to scientific advancement.

Our problem is usually that we forget (a) that the form of description shapes the content and direction of our inquiries and answers, and (b), well, a variation on same, the phenomena or experiences we're interested in exploring become ever circumscribed until we're at risk of failing to notice that there are entire worlds out there that the dominant explanatory model is unsuited to, and doesn't touch.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 5:21 PM
horizontal rule
139

You're right, LTCM balance sheets were incomplete. Turbot did worse personally. We're probably talking past each other, as I would see Merton as valuable even if personal guilt were proven.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 5:22 PM
horizontal rule
140

You didn't thank the blog for posting your comment.

I find it unnerving that people think nature is a kind of machine.


Posted by: neil | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 5:28 PM
horizontal rule
141

132: Searle sucks. Is that controversial?


Posted by: Barbar | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 5:29 PM
horizontal rule
142

I just don't think that the bad guys are as marginal as is always claimed. And econ 101 all by itslef tends to make people right wing.

I can go on at great length about this. One reason we talk past each other is that I'm talking about generic economists and the public face of economics, while you guys (and this is what always happens) are talking about the smartest guys now in the field. And I'm talking about the last 30 or 40 years, whereas you are talking about right now and the future.

I di hate it when economists get whiny, though. I just saw something nastily whiny by Gintis. They shouldn't be baffled by the opposition they get.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 5:30 PM
horizontal rule
143

Friedman's inhuman ideas are very accessible too. I run into lots of obnoxious Friedmanites, libertarians or hard-core free-marketers. Shitty people love Chicago school econ.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 5:33 PM
horizontal rule
144

And econ 101 all by itslef tends to make people right wing.

Sure but this isn't always a horrible thing. Or is it? I've probably become a little more right-wing as a result of what I've learned about economics but I still wouldn't vote Republican in a million years.

Also, I'm not talking about the "smartest guys" in the field; behavioral economics, or "psychology and economics" or whatever is the *most accessible* economics out there. It's more accessible than Econ 101. It's a hell of a lot more accessible than Gary Becker. So far it's big impact has been... I dunno, default options on 401k plans set to "contribute"?

Also, the "face of the field" is... Friedman and Hayek? Maybe you meant to say, "There are a lot of libertarian nerds on the internet."


Posted by: Barbar | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 5:37 PM
horizontal rule
145

Shitty people love Chicago school econ.

Exactly. That doesn't make Chicago school econ sinisterly influential though, it just means that shitty people have a way to consistently articulate their shittiness.


Posted by: Barbar | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 5:39 PM
horizontal rule
146

It also means that shitty people who have the power to destroy entire countries have a plausible justification, other than greed or nationalism, for doing so.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 5:42 PM
horizontal rule
147

The libertarians and the Chicago school, for whatever reason, have an enormous public presence.

And Friedman seems to have been one of the dominating presences in the field for some time.

If economists want to, they can continue to be baffled, but they could also try to figure out ways to improve their image and bring their sharper guys to the fore. And they might acknowledge that there are a few skeletons in their past, something I seldom see.

Remember, to me DeLong and Krugman are centrists, maybe center left, not left.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 5:44 PM
horizontal rule
148

Who are the 5 most famous economists in America today? To make this discussion a little shaper. (Sorry, but Milton Friedman is dead and more importantly he went to Chile before I was born so I can't even really discuss that too intelligently.)


Posted by: Barbar | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 5:52 PM
horizontal rule
149

John, what about the microlending guy? I forget his name.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 5:53 PM
horizontal rule
150

Who are the 5 most famous economists in America today? To make this discussion a little shaper.

I believe the average person on the street would answer this question by saying:

1) That Freakonomics guy
2) ?
3) ?
4) ?
5) ?

So that's what I'll say.

It seems to me that the average person, if aware of Paul Krugman, is not aware that Krugman is an economist.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 5:54 PM
horizontal rule
151

Krugman, Larry Summers, Bernanke?

I really can't stand the Slate guys (Landsburg and Harford); they seem to have pretty broad audiences.

Muhammad Yunis was the microlending guy.


Posted by: Barbar | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 5:55 PM
horizontal rule
152

Barbar, I'm really talking about a 40-year period. Cowen, Dubner, and Krugman are probably the most famous economists now, and Cowen and Dubner are shits.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 5:56 PM
horizontal rule
153

Not Dubner, Levitt. Dubner is the writer, Levitt is the economist.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 5:57 PM
horizontal rule
154

Don't blame economists for Dubner.

Cowen is not famous.

I understand the 40-year period thing but somehow it seems to have culminated in the Marginal Revolution blog and a NYT journalist?


Posted by: Barbar | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 5:58 PM
horizontal rule
155

142: "the public face of economics"

I think that's a big part of the reason behind the debate between you, and others, and economists. I'm an economist and most of the economists I know are more likely to agree with you than not. But those economists generally completely avoid public discussion of economics. (As I usually also do.) It's the libertarians and other weirdos, usually, who are willing to go public and push their agendas. Very frustrating.


Posted by: jackie | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 5:59 PM
horizontal rule
156

I understand the 40-year period thing but somehow it seems to have culminated in the Marginal Revolution blog and a NYT journalist?

Sure, if you don't count Milton Friedman.

Don't blame economists for Dubner.

(assuming "Dubner" = "Levitt")

Now, hold on. First you asked who is the public face of economics, who are the most famous economists in America. He is, whether or not other economists wanted him to be so.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 6:01 PM
horizontal rule
157

Levitt's at UChicago but all his sins seem to come from too much self-promotion and glossing over data issues (writing papers on the KKK using data from PA and OH, etc.) rather than political slant. Given that he is the current state of the art in economist self-promotion, I think this counts in favor of my argument, not John's.

The "don't blame economists for Dubner" thing was a joke.

OK, so a lot of assholes found Milton Friedman useful and Milton Friedman was an economist. Is that what this boils down to?


Posted by: Barbar | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 6:05 PM
horizontal rule
158

I'd guess Bernanke, Greenspan, Levitt, and Krugman are among the most famous five. Krugman isn't primarily known as an economist, but people that could name five economists know he is.

I do agree that the Grover Norquist wing has done an amazing job selling the image that they have the full support of the economics profession.


Posted by: ptm | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 6:08 PM
horizontal rule
159

It's only the libertarian nutjobs who are going to say, "No listen, economics is a *science* and *science* tells you that if you want to reduce malaria you have to sell malaria nets through high-priced consultants, not give them away for free."

I agree it would be nice if economists called this stuff out a LOT more often. I'd expect someone like Steven Landsburg to be raked over the coals but it seems that people are more content to say, "Well at least he's promoting economics" and let him be.


Posted by: Barbar | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 6:12 PM
horizontal rule
160

There aren't any well-known economists among the average American, aside from whoever wrote the most recent best-seller, which is likely to be a free-market type because anyone else will be reviewed and mentioned as if he would appeal only to a niche market of leftists, because the media is socially liberal but economically conservative.

So you've got the economists on the Internet, someone of whom are well known to the average person using the Internet. There's the people who write for Slate. Then there's the Marginal Revolution blog which is probably the only economics blog I've heard people mention more than once in conversation. Then there's some liberals who appeal to liberals, and conservatives who appeal to conservatives.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 6:13 PM
horizontal rule
161

Popular books in economics:

http://www.amazon.com/Economics-Business-Investing-Books/b?ie=UTF8&node=2581


Posted by: Barbar | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 6:17 PM
horizontal rule
162

159: Academic economists staying out of the media isn't a trait of economists - real scientists are even worse with promoting and explaining their fields. There's the same whole hosts of standard reasons - newspaper articles don't get you tenure, math nerds aren't necessarily good at publicity, journalists are generalists, newspapers are businesses, etc.


Posted by: ptm | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 6:20 PM
horizontal rule
163

whoever wrote the most recent best-seller, which is likely to be a free-market type because anyone else will be reviewed and mentioned as if he would appeal only to a niche market of leftists, because the media is socially liberal but economically conservative.

Have you heard of "The Shock Doctrine"? Someone was recommending it to me recently.


Posted by: Barbar | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 6:20 PM
horizontal rule
164

Have you heard of "The Shock Doctrine"? Someone was recommending it to me recently.

Ah, good point.

But she's not actually an economist. And economists, rather than writers or political figures, who share the views in that book, aren't famous.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 6:22 PM
horizontal rule
165

But I thought we just determined that no economists are famous. Or are we going back to Milton Friedman again?


Posted by: Barbar | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 6:27 PM
horizontal rule
166

I thought we had established that the only economists who are famous for being economists are Steven Levitt, Alan Greenspan and Ben Bernanke.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 6:29 PM
horizontal rule
167

How did we end up talking about how shitty economists are instead of how shitty AI researchers are?

AI researchers (of the sort who are wont to make grand claims about what we'll be doing with robots in 50 years) can have most of their behavior explained by the fact that everyone in their industry in 1980 thought that we'd have strong AI by 1995 or so at the latest. The fact that we not only don't have strong AI now, but in at least certain important ways aren't any closer to strong AI than we were in 1980 makes them feel (justifiably) like maybe their professional lives aren't going anywhere. Hence, grandiose claims designed to make them feel relevent.


Posted by: Epoch | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 6:29 PM
horizontal rule
168

Now that we have a basic, though somewhat controversial of what "famous economist" means, it's time for another exercise in hair-splitting.

What does "strong AI" mean?


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 6:31 PM
horizontal rule
169

164 and 166: so your point is that the Chairman of the Fed doesn't have the same political views as Naomi Klein? Levitt is pretty coy about his politics.

And anyway, 164 doesn't really stand up -- go down the list of books I posted in 161, on to the next page if necessary. There are many many more books on that list expressing concerns about the excesses of capitalism and greed (the Taleb book, the LTCM book, Robert Reich, Krugman, Klein, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, Nickel and Dimed, Battle for the Soul of Capitalism all in the top 20) than the opposite.


Posted by: Barbar | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 6:35 PM
horizontal rule
170

Of the social sciences economics tends to get the most coverage in the general press, or at least coverage like the coverage some of the sciences get. But that's different than coverage that makes economists famous.

There are probably a few academic historians more well-known than the better known economists, but that has a lot to do with history being a book discipline (and probably a lack of explicit math in most academic work) and much of the history work becomes known through book reviews rather than news articles. Economists don't seem to have a huge presence on book review pages or "review of books" type magazines, though I could be wrong on that.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 6:37 PM
horizontal rule
171

What does "strong AI" mean?

A computer that understands you better than your significant other does?


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 6:37 PM
horizontal rule
172

Strong AI is the claim that an intelligent machine could actually have a mind in the same way that people do, right?

This is Searle's distinction, if I'm not mistaken... Searle sucks.


Posted by: Barbar | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 6:39 PM
horizontal rule
173

when did julia alison get a boyfriend?

also 99 seems wrong because he's not saying what hes feeling, he's saying something calculated to hurt.


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 6:49 PM
horizontal rule
174

134: There's a reason why they call themselves glibertarians. That business about health outcomes looking better once we "adjust for race" means...? (I think it means something like, racial disparities in outcome are a given because racial inequality is natural and inevitable, though of course regrettable).


Posted by: Invisible Adjunct | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 6:54 PM
horizontal rule
175

Re 99: If you don't know why I'm mad, then I'm not going to tell you!

Sound familiar?


Posted by: Lucy | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 6:57 PM
horizontal rule
176

Searle does indeed suck.

FWIW, None of the actual AI researchers I have ever met thought they would live to see Strong AI. They were happy to talk about programs or robots "exhibiting intelligent behavior," but nobody took seriously the idea that the machine was "intelligent" under any ordinary use definition.

Also, motion planning not a fun thing to study.


Posted by: Trevor | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 6:57 PM
horizontal rule
177

That business about health outcomes looking better once we "adjust for race" means...?

Exactly. It means, "let me stipulate that this dimension of health inequality and injustice is irrelevant."


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 6:58 PM
horizontal rule
178

i'd guess it means 'brown people don't count"


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 7:01 PM
horizontal rule
179

I can't read more than a few sentences of Denton media style. It's exhausting.


Posted by: bjk | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 7:02 PM
horizontal rule
180

when did julia alison get a boyfriend?

She and Jakob Lodwick (of Collegehumor/Vimeo) have been on and off for months now.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 7:03 PM
horizontal rule
181

And Gawker is awesome. Especially the comments.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 7:04 PM
horizontal rule
182

OK, Greenspan. He's done some shitty stuff, and now he's trying to pretend he didn't. He was worse 40 years ago than he is now, but he's still a shitty guy. Not sure about Bernanke. Mankiw has been slammed byDeLong, but he's still a respected professional.

Barbar, if there are a lot of wonderful economists hiding in their bed with blankets over their heads, I don't care. The public face of economics is shitty, and by and large Econ 101 (which the really sharp people won't touch, of course, because they're researchers and real scientists) is shitty. "Learning to think like an economist" can be harmful. On labor economics, environmental economics, family economics, and community economics the profession has generally been bad.

I think you're asking for reconciliation without truth. Very few of the people explaining to me that the best economists are much better now really are willing to admit that there's been a problem for awhile, or that the average economists is still sort of shitty. And professional loyalty is powerful.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 7:25 PM
horizontal rule
183

I agree it would be nice if economists called this stuff out a LOT more often. I'd expect someone like Steven Landsburg to be raked over the coals but it seems that people are more content to say, "Well at least he's promoting economics" and let him be.

That's one of my main points. But frankly, I doubt that Landsberg and Cowen and Leavitt and becker and Greenspan are as isolated and disreputable as you say.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 7:30 PM
horizontal rule
184

176: Agreed. I'm surprised by the AI hate randomly scattered throughout this thread. Maybe things were different in the old days, but the AI types I was exposed to in college didn't seem to be spending a lot of time thinking about the big sexy deep AI issues people like Searle worry about. They wanted to do stuff like find better machine learning algorithms and apply them to problems like speech recognition. The first AI course I took also went over more classical stuff like efficient search algorithms for game playing and of course rule-based expert systems.


Posted by: Otto von Bisquick | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 7:31 PM
horizontal rule
185

Not sure about Bernanke.

My sister has met him. She says he's a jerk.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 7:32 PM
horizontal rule
186

184: lot of philosophers around here. It's a deep, long-lasting distrust.

That's fine. You go ahead and do what you want, philosophers. We'll hang out with our shiny new robot friends.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 7:33 PM
horizontal rule
187

Sifu, your new friend are superficially desirable and may seem "available", but once you're in their iron grip there's no escape. They revel in your shrieks of agony.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 7:36 PM
horizontal rule
188

Barbar, if there are a lot of wonderful economists hiding in their bed with blankets over their heads, I don't care

Right, you don't give a shit why and how Milton Friedman is influential, you just want to bitch about evil economists who are oppressing you.

I know you have your own preconceived notions for understanding these discussions, but I brought up the behavioral economists not to say "look there's some good economic work being done here it's not all bad" but to try to make you think about what makes an economist influential. The behavioral guys aren't hiding under a sheet. They have easy, accessible ideas and they promote themselves as much as any academics do, including all the evil ones who have cause you so much pain.

I guess encountering Megan McArdle online is a traumatic experience and sometimes trauma creates a need to search for deeper meaning ("why God? why?") but whatever, bitch on, I guess it makes you feel better.


Posted by: Barbar | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 7:36 PM
horizontal rule
189

187: oh you're just bitter they keep beating you at chess.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 7:36 PM
horizontal rule
190

The whole thing that has always pissed me off is that even the "nice" economists seem baffled and hurt that anyone sees a problem, and when the chips are down professional solidarity is nearly absolute. The problem is always with anyone who misunderstands economics or wrongly blames economics.

Economics is by far the most powerful of the social sciences -- Federal Reserve, Council of Economic Advises, Treasury Secretary. The victim act gets old. Economics is very popular with its friends in business, finance, etc. But they're hurt that everyone doesn't love them.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 7:39 PM
horizontal rule
191

186: Do we need to now fit Philosophers into the established Pirate-Monkey-Robot-Zombie-Ninja matrix?


Posted by: Trevor | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 7:42 PM
horizontal rule
192

There is a more generous, though not necessarily convincing, way to read the bit about controlling for race. I think he's thinking something like this: the system that we have specifically for health care works when it's not thwarted by poverty, so what we need to address is poverty, not necessarily the health care system.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 7:42 PM
horizontal rule
193

I don't fully agree with John here. Non-libertarian economic ideas are very prevalent in our society, as Barbar points out in #169. But it seems like when there's a debate, you see a political operative or activist presenting the left-wing side, and then for the right-wing side, it's "Now that we've heard from the amateurs, let's hear from an economist".


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 7:44 PM
horizontal rule
194

191: I think they're firmly in the Pirate Zombie camp. Obviously I caucus with the Robot Ninjas.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 7:45 PM
horizontal rule
195

Screw you, Barbar. You tried to argue and it didn't work, so you got huffy. You didn't listen to a goddamn thing I said. And Friedman and Pinochet happened before you were born, so who cares?

I am willing to grant that economics might be better than people think and I'm willing to grant that it might be better now than it used to be. But I'm not willing to listen to economics loyalists who say that there's no problem and never has been one, and I'm not willing to forget the past.

I just got "The Soulful Science", recommended by Gintis, in the mail. I've only glanced at it but I suspect that it will be more of the same kind of stuff you're saying.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 7:46 PM
horizontal rule
196

She and Jakob Lodwick (of Collegehumor/Vimeo) have been on and off for months now.

Is that who that is? Ok, at the risk of sending Sifu out murdering indiscriminately, I double-dog dare any of you not to hate these people. Hell, I dare you to get through the whole thing.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 7:47 PM
horizontal rule
197

192: Eh, but that's the 'maybe the poor people will ride off into the sunset on unicorns' kind of generous.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 7:47 PM
horizontal rule
198

"Law and Economics" is another thing that I object to. And the response always is "They're not real economists". You can't keep purging the sample until you get the results you want.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 7:48 PM
horizontal rule
199

Are we supposed to know who these people are? Because I followed some of the links and I don't think I want to.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 7:48 PM
horizontal rule
200

Uuuugh callow feebs.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 7:49 PM
horizontal rule
201

You talking to me, not Hamlet? Remember when Sifu wanted to kill the youth? The guy in that video is one of the founders of the youth company and the woman came up earlier today in the comments about Gawker; she's some kind of journalist.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 7:50 PM
horizontal rule
202

184: Note that I qualified my disdain towards AI researchers of the type likely to make grandiose claims about what we're likely to be doing with robots in 50 years.

To whomever asked: strong AI is basically AI as it is understood by the layperson: a robot that could carry on an intelligent conversation with you -- even if you could figure out it was a robot -- would be an example.


Posted by: Epoch | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 7:51 PM
horizontal rule
203

When the machines debate whether or not to exterminate us, that recording will be cited by the Ayes.


Posted by: Trevor | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 7:52 PM
horizontal rule
204

I dare you to get through the whole thing.

I lasted three seconds, and that was with the sound off.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 7:53 PM
horizontal rule
205

"Law and Economics" is another thing that I object to.

I share your objection.

I propose we ditch the entire field of economics in favour of political economy as a branch of moral philosophy.


Posted by: Invisible Adjunct | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 7:53 PM
horizontal rule
206

I propose we ditch the entire field of economics in favour of political economy as a branch of moral philosophy.

Now you're cooking.

The behavior and brain activity of people making economic decisions can also be studied by psychologists and anthropologists.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 7:55 PM
horizontal rule
207

186: I guess my time in the trenches (i.e., grad school) has led me to forget about philosophy. Back when I started thinking about AI and neuroscience the idea of mechanistic explanations for and the creation by humans of intelligence seemed audacious and mind blowing. Now, as I sit here thinking about a behavioral task that might say something about attention, it's all just become a set of problems to solve, and I don't worry about the meta issues any more. Mostly I just spend my time hoping desperately that I will be clever and technically competent enough to be able to use what I'm finding to make a novel and true prediction about the brain region from which I've been recording, and what I'll do with my life if I decide that science isn't for me. I'm generally no longer aware of how the underlying premises of this field can shock the common sense, and thus I often experience surprise when I am made aware of this again.


Posted by: Otto von Bisquick | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 7:55 PM
horizontal rule
208

the woman came up earlier today in the comments about Gawker; she's some kind of journalist.

Her current job is to represent Star magazine on TV.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 7:55 PM
horizontal rule
209

The pair of AI researchers I know work on very specific problems surrounding visual perception. It essentially boils down to getting the AI to recognize that something is moving across its visual field and to respond to it.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 7:57 PM
horizontal rule
210

Her current job is to represent Star magazine on TV.

In other words, she's some kind of journalist.


Posted by: Invisible Adjunct | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 7:57 PM
horizontal rule
211

198: Sure you can, that's what we do.

I'm curious what your beef with environmental economics is. There are some huge holes by dint of it being a subfield of economics generally (ie, WTP/A type measures get used as ethical measures after going through the meat grinder), but overall the field is kindof like the Sierra Club plus math.

The problem comes when somebody takes an env economist's valuation survey and confuses it with an income-insensitive measure of life or clean air or whatever. Those sorts of environmental justice issues are freaking hard because they're basically outside the scope of contemporary econ.


Posted by: ptm | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 7:58 PM
horizontal rule
212

The Friedman and Pinochet happened before I was born, so *I can't discuss it that intelligently*, Mr. Waah You Don't Listen to Me Even Though I Pay So Much Attention To What You Say.

So far in this thread I've pointed out that (a) most economists are Democrats; (b) the shady legal stuff with LTCM had to with tax evasion; (c) Steven Landsburg sucks; (d) academic ideas have limited influence; (e) Tyler Cowen is not really famous; (f) there are lots of bestselling books about how capitalism is scary; (g) John Searle sucks. I'm just trying to add to a conversation by contributing what I think are decent points here and there, so I really don't know what your problem is.

I got huffy because of your dumbass "if there are a lot of wonderful economists hiding in their bed with blankets over their heads, I don't care" line, which didn't reflect what I said at all. Of course then you started whining that I wasn't listening to you.


Posted by: Barbar | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 7:59 PM
horizontal rule
213

The philosophers don't hate the AI people, they hate the cognitive science people. Except for Sifu.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 7:59 PM
horizontal rule
214

I brought up the behavioral economists not to say "look there's some good economic work being done here it's not all bad" but to try to make you think about what makes an economist influential.

But I'm not willing to listen to economics loyalists who say that there's no problem and never has been one, and I'm not willing to forget the past.

This is a problem having to do with the structure of the whole field of economics, and its relationship to economic policy and the state. The force of Emerson's point can not be made to go away by pointing to groups within the field who are going good or interesting work. It's a field-level issue. Internally, there are various divisions within economics, and fights, too. But the discipline is also situated in relations of alliance and opposition yo other social sciences, and with respect to business and the state. The right tools for thinking about it are going to be found in places like the sociology of knowledge and professions, not within economics itself.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 7:59 PM
horizontal rule
215

This thread just confirms my suspicion that IA should ditch her high-powered lawyer hubby and move in with Emerson.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 7:59 PM
horizontal rule
216

This thread reminds me that it is probably unfair that B is called a troll more often than Emerson is. No insult intended to either of them.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 8:00 PM
horizontal rule
217

207 is great. People are starting to deal with larger and more startling areas of brain function, of course. Some of the efforts to model social cognition produce deeply disconcerting results.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 8:00 PM
horizontal rule
218

212 to 195.


Posted by: Barbar | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 8:00 PM
horizontal rule
219

I should point out that I mean 217 in a good way. Yay, disconcerting revelations about the nature of consciousness and intelligence!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 8:01 PM
horizontal rule
220

196: the description to that video, "Okay, so you may notice that I am fully made-up (LOTS of it)", should really read "Okay, so you may notice that I am fully made-up (POORLY)". Ugh.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 8:02 PM
horizontal rule
221

Barbar, you can actually read books about things that happened before you were born! And then discuss them afterwards! How old are you, 14?

The whining began in your #188, Barbar. Up till then things were pretty reasonable.

Economists do not listen to criticisms from outside economics. Defending economics always ends up Job One.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 8:03 PM
horizontal rule
222

The right tools for thinking about it are going to be found in places like the sociology of knowledge and professions, not within economics itself.

For sure.

A cultural anthropologist of my acquaintance and I have real issues understanding each others' work - she doesn't get how I can think about people numerically, and I don't get how she can think about them without numbers.


Posted by: ptm | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 8:03 PM
horizontal rule
223

While I troll B., Ogged, and even McManus occasionally, We are all brethren and sistern. Trolling is not bad.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 8:05 PM
horizontal rule
224

My main objection to the role of economists in public life, aside from the whole Friedmanite issue, is when they are called in to do cost-benefit analyses to turn something unquantifiable into something quantifiable, in order to justify a policy on amoral "objective" grounds.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 8:05 PM
horizontal rule
225

214: exactly right. It's the relationship between economics, business, government, and other social sciences that is of interest here. There are some good sociology papers on this topic.


Posted by: Barbar | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 8:05 PM
horizontal rule
226

If you put bricks in the sistern you can save water while trolling.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 8:06 PM
horizontal rule
227

201: Thanks, I think. Except that videos don't usually play on this computer and sound never does, so whatever that last link was will have to wait until I get home.

I'm kind of worried that Teo is so familiar with these people.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 8:06 PM
horizontal rule
228

Here's a good one.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 8:08 PM
horizontal rule
229

If you put bricks in the sistern

Dollar gets you ten there are websites devoted to that. And Apo has links.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 8:08 PM
horizontal rule
230

224 - Oh, come on. Sometimes you need to figure out whether to spend your 5 mil on adding a passing lane to the local freeway or revamping the local water treatment plant. Both have effects on life and health, and you need to compare them somehow.


Posted by: ptm | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 8:09 PM
horizontal rule
231

I'm kind of worried that Teo is so familiar with these people.

I read Gawker, which makes fun of them a lot. The commenters go ballistic whenever a post there mentions Julia Allison, for reasons I don't quite understand.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 8:10 PM
horizontal rule
232

Let's see, in 212 I wrote I got huffy because of your dumbass "if there are a lot of wonderful economists hiding in their bed with blankets over their heads, I don't care" line, which didn't reflect what I said at all.

Emerson counters:The whining began in your #188, Barbar.

188 of course begins by quoiting and responding to if there are a lot of wonderful economists hiding in their bed with blankets over their heads, I don't care

For fuck's sake, Emerson. You're so clearly following a script, just write my comments for me while I step out for a while.


Posted by: Barbar | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 8:10 PM
horizontal rule
233

Damn, comity was so close at hand!


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 8:11 PM
horizontal rule
234

Damn, comity was so close at hand!

Let's all make fun of Julia Allison. Everyone can get in on that.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 8:12 PM
horizontal rule
235

Let's all make fun of Julia Allison. Everyone can get in on that.

Yes, that couple was super annoying.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 8:13 PM
horizontal rule
236

Julia Allison's so fat, when she sits around the house... she's an annoying, shallow, self-satisfied waste of space!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 8:14 PM
horizontal rule
237

While we all love John Emerson, it is a fact that on the topics of analytic philosophy and economics, what his interlocutor says is almost totally irrelevant.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 8:14 PM
horizontal rule
238

Let's all make fun of Julia Allison. Everyone can get in on that.

Two first names? @@@@@@@@@@kekeke Ko-ax! Ko-ax! Get with the times girl, all the starlets have two last names nowadays, like Cameron Diaz or Hayden Pannettiieerre.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 8:15 PM
horizontal rule
239

The problem with making fun of narcissists like Althouse and Allison is that they find it satisfying, so you either have to crank up the meanness to unpleasant levels or just ignore them. Sad.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 8:20 PM
horizontal rule
240

237: It's that "almost" that's such a tease.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 8:20 PM
horizontal rule
241

I would have less of a problem with economists if all their suits didn't have those weird, oversize cartoon faces.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 8:22 PM
horizontal rule
242

241: And it gets even worse depending on who you consider to be an economist.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 8:23 PM
horizontal rule
243

What set me off, Barbar:

1. There's an intellectual current in economics that you can clearly identify as being nasty and right-wing; you don't see this in very many other academic disciplines. But how much influence have these guys had?

Reagan administration, Bush I, Bush II. Complete change of the tax structure. Starving of public services. Etc.

Milton Friedman's big legacy is income tax withholding and the EITC.

Oh, come on.

I thought those two comments were silly in an unfunny way, as though you thought we were idiots. From then on my argumentation was unfriendly.

If one of you guys would ever say, yeah, I know what you mean, but I hope things are getting better. But the concessions are always very grudging. Economics is tremendously powerful and it is unseemly for economists to play the victim card or pretend that they don't know what 's happening.

Yeah, I've had this argument before.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 8:26 PM
horizontal rule
244

1. I'm not an economist.
2. The Friedman legacy thing was a bit of a joke (I apologize for contributing to the contrarian nonsense).
3. The fact that you can find academics whose ideas align with the right-wing politics of the Reagan era does not mean that these academics were especially influential. One way to think about this would be try to understand how academics gain influence in general. If only there was anyone on this comment thread who thought that was an interesting question worth talking about.


Posted by: Barbar | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 8:30 PM
horizontal rule
245

I actually like Julia Allison. Sure, she's a huge self-promoter, but she's basically harmless, and she sometimes has interesting things to say.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 8:31 PM
horizontal rule
246

Given just about any situation, one can construct a plausible account of how it oppresses women or liberates them.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 8:36 PM
horizontal rule
247

246: take 241, for example.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 8:37 PM
horizontal rule
248

I agree with Emerson that the moderate Muslimseconomists need to do more to denounce the radicals in their midst.


Posted by: Tom Scudder | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 8:40 PM
horizontal rule
249

The fact that you can find academics whose ideas align with the right-wing politics of the Reagan era does not mean that these academics were especially influential. One way to think about this would be try to understand how academics gain influence in general. If only there was anyone on this comment thread who thought that was an interesting question worth talking about.

What does "influence" mean?

If academics want the US government to do something, and publish significant tracts urging that that thing happen, and then the government does that thing, were they influential? It depends on what was in the minds of the people who actually created the policy.

Friedman and his disciples were incredibly, directly influential in the very foundations of a lot of states where anti-socialist governments took over from more-socialist governments in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. Some of the most plausible parts of the "Shock Doctrine" book are about how this occurred, how the governments of Chile and Indonesia in particular were literally guided and mentored by Chicago-School economists in the creation of their policies.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 8:41 PM
horizontal rule
250

What's the deal with Law and Economics? I'm not sure what it is.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 8:45 PM
horizontal rule
251

The whole free-market ideology comes from economists. And that was fine with them. They didn't like supply-side, but the whole anti-tax anti-government thing was their baby.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 8:45 PM
horizontal rule
252

Sorry I digressed in 249. But anyway, what does influence mean? How do economists gain influence?

Is it more by people with power finding academics who reinforce things that those powerful people believe already, or by academics actually convincing powerful people of their beliefs?


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 8:47 PM
horizontal rule
253

251: economists have been on every side, from the managerial state to the minimal one. Every movement adopts its pet economists.

As social "sciences" go, economics is fine, done some good stuff. All forms of social theory are heavily ideological, it's unavoidable. Any time they are used to guide social organization, there are failures. The most successful practical social theorists so far in history were the 18th-century political scientists who basically came up with the framework for the divided-powers modern democratic state. Modern economics has a worse record than they do, but a lot better than the Marxist theorists.


Posted by: marcus | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 9:04 PM
horizontal rule
254

Having seen a couple iterations of this argument before, I'd like to make a couple of observations:

1) Economists really are a tribal group, and when attacked from the outside, they will rally around the family with a pocketful of shells. (I don't know if they are better or worse than other groups in that respect.)

2) The Chicago School functions as an ideological vanguard, which allows them disproportionate influence on the field.

3) Forces in our society relentlessly promote right-wing economics, and right-wing economic ideas. Contrast this with the case of Joseph Stiglitz, who is a Nobel laureate, probably (within academia) a more influential figure than Milton Friedman, and has written any number of books denouncing the excesses of capitalism. And yet despite his best efforts, his public visibility is probably below that of your average hot dog vendor.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 9:38 PM
horizontal rule
255

Forces in our society relentlessly promote right-wing economics, and right-wing economic ideas.

Those forces, of course, being big business and the Republican party, which benefit from right-wing economic policies and have lots of money to spend on increasing its visibility.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 9:47 PM
horizontal rule
256

Economic imperialism and the arrogance of economists has caused some harm to social theory as a whole. But it has lessened significantly over the past decade or so. Sociological stuff like network analysis and behavioral psychological insights are getting a lot of respect from economists these days.


Posted by: marcus | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 9:58 PM
horizontal rule
257

Nope, it's the reverse: they're trying to assimilate it and pass it off as their own ideas, on the grounds that if an economist hasn't thought of it, it mustn't be a good idea. So in recent years economist have been all "Look at these cutting-edge areas of economics where we're making these new discoveries - Psychology! Institutions! Networks! Organizations!" The press -- vide, Freakonomics -- is quite happy to play along.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 10:06 PM
horizontal rule
258

Don't worry, Gonerill, now that economics is expanding into all these new fields the departments will have plenty of openings for research assistants to be filled by the sociology professors whose departments will be eliminated to free up more money for econ.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 10:19 PM
horizontal rule
259

Freakonomics is on the cutting edge with that gender and politics stuff:

But maybe that's the point: maybe it's women voters who do notice, and care, and put the blue-eyed candidate over the top. And maybe it's not a coincidence that a female blogger noticed this pattern.

Could it be that blue eyes provide a similar advantage for men that blonde hair does for women?


Posted by: Invisible Adjunct | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 10:25 PM
horizontal rule
260

258: I'm excited to hear what economists say about this. They have such provocative ideas.


Posted by: feldspar | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 10:27 PM
horizontal rule
261

Don't worry. It's totally efficient.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 10-16-07 10:29 PM
horizontal rule
262

cry, cry, "Explore the hidden side of everything," cry


Posted by: feldspar | Link to this comment | 10-17-07 12:26 AM
horizontal rule
263

Ok, at the risk of sending Sifu out murdering indiscriminately, I double-dog dare any of you not to hate these people.

I actually watched the whole thing without feeling any hatred at all.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 10-17-07 7:50 AM
horizontal rule
264

You're going soft, stras.

I didn't feel any hatred either, just a deep confusion over why anybody would want to watch two uninteresting people prattle on about nothing in particular. Oh right: pretty young woman.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 10-17-07 7:57 AM
horizontal rule
265

257: Recently I've liked things by Gintis (and co authors) and Sen. But a lot of what they were doing was just stating in proper economic language things that economists had been denying for fifty years, while non-economists shouted themselves hoarse trying to explain that the economists were wrong.

In both cases "economic rationality" was the question. Sen showed that the three leading definitions of economic rationality described forms of insanity, and Gintis showed (using ev-psych arguments) that in actual human behavior a concern for fairness often overrides simple self-interest.

In the same way, I liked Putnam's recent books (influenced by Sen) trying to rehabilitate ethics as a proper topic for rational discussion. But for most people outside analytic philosophy, that's a truism. Furthermore, Putnam's rehabilitation of ethics defines ethics in a way allowing him to fit it into analytic philosophy's pursuit of univeral truths, and I don't think that's the way to go.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-17-07 9:15 AM
horizontal rule
266

I actually watched the whole thing without feeling any hatred at all.

Must you be so contrary?


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 10-17-07 9:24 AM
horizontal rule