Who is bullshiting who here?

25 January, 2015 at 15:48 | Posted in Politics & Society | 11 Comments

Larry Wasserman — statistics professor at Carnegie Mellon University — wrote a while ago on Deborah Mayo’s blog Error Statistics Philosophy:

First, I now think Franken was wrong. CNN and network news have a 
strong liberal bias, especially on economic issues. FOX has an 
obvious right wing, and anti-atheist bias. (At least FOX has some 
libertarians on the payroll.) And this does matter. Because people
 believe what they see on TV and what they read in the NY times. Paul
 Krugman’s socialist bullshit parading as economics has brainwashed 
millions of Americans. So media bias is much more than who makes 
better hummus.

bullshit-1-232x300Oh dear, oh dear. I’ve been following Krugman’s blog for years — how could I miss that he was not actually an economist, but a bullshiting socialist?

Let’s see what a somewhat more level-headed statistics professor — Andrew Gelman — has to say on his colleague’s, to say the least, somewhat bizarre statement:

Larry also writes of “Paul
 Krugman’s socialist bullshit parading as economics.” That’s another example of defining away the problem. I think I’d prefer to let Paul Krugman (or, on the other side, Greg Mankiw) define his approach. For better or worse, I think it’s ridiculous to describe what Krugman (or Mankiw) does as X “parading as economics,” for any X. Sorry, but what Krugman and Mankiw do is economics. They’re leading economists, and if you don’t like what they do, fine, but that just means there’s some aspect of economics that you don’t like. It’s silly to restrict “economics” to just the stuff you like. Just to shift sideways for a moment, I hate the so-called Fisher randomization test, and I also can’t stand the inverse-gamma (0.001, 0.001) prior distribution—but I recognize that these are part of statistics. They’re just statistical methods that I don’t like. For good reasons. I’m not saying that my dislike of these methods (or Larry’s dislike of Krugman’s economics) is merely a matter of taste—we have good reasons for our attitudes—but, no, we don’t have the authority to rule that a topic is not part of economics, or not part of statistics, just because we don’t like it.

Oddly enough, I don’t really have a problem with someone describing Krugman’s or Mankiw’s writing as “bullshit” (even though I don’t personally agree with this characterization, at least not most of the time) as with the attempt to define it away by saying it is “parading as economics.” Krugman’s and Mankiw’s writing may be bullshit, but it definitely is economics. No parading about that.

True, Andrew. Let’s have no parading. Wasserman’s shameless gibberish is one of the most viciously misleading bullshit I’ve come across for a long time.



  1. Well, the danger is that a lot of personal opinions, or ideologies, parading as economics, can induce the dangerous idea to people that you do not have to strive for success and hard work but wait patiently for economic policies that affect wealth redistribution. This is in my opinion the issue behind this debate. The Dutch today objected to QE from the ECB. Are we going to call this misleading bullshit too? Krugman and other operate fleets of (virtual) helicopters to drop money. They say to people what they like to hear or hope and gain popularity. No one who says to people you have to work harder is popular. Redistribution policies are popular but IT IS NOT economics. It is ideology.


    • Sorry, but economics is ideology, through and through.

  2. There are wiser men
    than Wasserman
    albeit his statistical tool
    has proven he’s within the confidence interval of being a damn fool
    and his bullshit analysis merits nothing more than the loo can!!!!

  3. Well, you might have added a little context.
    That one sentence about Krugman was me trying to sound annoyed and funny,
    but had little to do with the broader point I was making.

    Larry Wasserman

  4. I’m totally confused. Following this blog for a while and I’m convinced economics = ideological bullshitting. I’m pretty sure that’s the point you’ve been making over and over and over again.

    What Wasserman doesn’t understand is the media, and also human compassion. But he’s right about economics.

  5. Substandard thinkers
    Comment on ‘Who is bullshiting who here?’
    Lars Syll writes: “Sorry, but what Krugman and Mankiw do is economics. They’re leading economists, and if you don’t like what they do, fine, but that just means there’s some aspect of economics that you don’t like. It’s silly to restrict “economics” to just the stuff you like.”

    First of all one has to distinguish between theoretical and political economics. The goal of political economics is to push an agenda, the goal of theoretical economics is to explain how the actual economy works. In political economics anything goes; in theoretical economics scientific standards are observed.

    The core problem of economics is that the representative economist never could get out of the intellectual morass of political economics. This is why economics is a failed science.

    To say that what Krugman and Mankiw do is economics is at once true and false. It is like saying Ptolemy did astronomy. In a way he did but only until it was found out that his epicycles were just figments of the imagination.

    Krugman never realized that IS-LM is a figment of the imagination and — worse — that it is logically defect (2014). He obviously lacks scientific acumen. The problem is not that Krugman’s economics is politically unpopular is some quarters, the problem that it is cargo cult science.

    It is a minor irritation that Krugman or Mankiw are “parading as economics.” The real embarrassment is that political economics is parading as science.

    It is silly to restrict economics to what economists think is economics. Economists are in the state of manifest self-delusion (2013). As Joan Robinson said about the stuff that parades as economics: Scrap the lot and start again.
    Egmont Kakarot-Handtke
    Kakarot-Handtke, E. (2013). Confused Confusers: How to Stop Thinking Like
    an Economist and Start Thinking Like a Scientist. SSRN Working Paper Series,
    2207598: 1–16. URL http://ssrn.com/abstract=2207598.
    Kakarot-Handtke, E. (2014). Mr. Keynes, Prof. Krugman, IS-LM, and the End of
    Economics as We Know It. SSRN Working Paper Series, 2392856: 1–19. URL

  6. Lars: It’s too bad you didn’t bother to read the context of this joke by Wasserman,with reference to the puns of my deconstruction (of over a year ago) pertaining to Bayesian vs frequentists and nothing to do with economics.


    I think you should be far more concerned with your serious misdefining of p-values (see below):


    • Deborah: We’ve been over this before, and I thought we sorted things out then, so I leave it at that.
      Re Larry, let me just say that — if his remark on Krugman really was a “joke” — he is a far better statistician than humorist …

      • Actually, I am a pretty funny guy.
        But yes, I did write one stupid sentence that I regret writing.
        I would kindly request that, if you decide to devote a whole blog post
        to me in the future, perhaps read my research and comment on that
        rather than on one silly sentence I wrote on a blog.

        Best wishes

        • Regret taken, Larry. Let’s turn the page on the past and resolutely face the future 🙂

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