Krugman’s blog, 10/1/15

There was one post yesterday, “Prisoners of Derp:”

Matt O’Brien recalls Michael Kinsley’s pronouncement, five years ago, that inflation was coming, and his doubling down two years later. Kinsley, it turns out, remains unrepentant and very annoyed at the people who said that he didn’t know what he was talking about.

It’s really quite sad. Kinsley is a very smart guy, who also happens to have given me my big break into journalism by hiring me to write for Slate. But now he’s a prisoner of derp.

I’ve seen this a number of times, mainly in economics, although it happens in other fields (especially climate science) too. Somebody with a reputation for cleverness looks at, say, macroeconomics, and imagines himself smart enough to weigh in — not realizing that there is a technical discipline here, and that he, well, has no idea what he’s talking about.

And he chooses the wrong side, for whatever reason. I think Kinsley was, more than anything else, motivated by that TNR/Slate “counterintuitive” thing — hey, Bernanke and Krugman act like experts, but I’ll show my cleverness by taking the opposite position. For someone like Cliff Asness, it was more likely affinity fraud: the inflationistas sounded like his sort of people, and he didn’t realize that they were peddling derp.

So what do you do when it becomes clear that you did, indeed, pick the wrong side? You could pull a Kocherlakota — admit that you were wrong, and revise your world view. But that’s very rare. The great majority of people who find themselves having made an indefensible argument respond as Kinsley has, by doubling down trying to defend the indefensible — and by getting angrier and angrier at the people who warned them that they were getting it wrong.




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