Friday, June 8, 2012

Exploding Estonian cigars at Cato

I've watched a few videos of Dan Mitchell, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, explaining economic concepts. I found them underwhelming. But his recent blog post attacking Paul Krugman at Cato@Liberty really takes the cake, in terms of sheer confused incompetence.

Krugman started the discussion by noting that Estonia's economic recovery, touted by some as a poster child for austerity, has been so-so.

This simple statement, along with the graph, constitute the entirety of Krugman's post.

Mitchell's response is bizarre:
Krugman is very guilty of cherry-picking data. If you look at the chart that accompanies his post, Estonia’s economic performance isn’t very impressive, but that’s because he’s only showing us the data from 2007-present.

The numbers are accurate, but they’re designed to mislead rather than inform

Krugman's post, discussing Estonia's recovery from the 2008 recession, is misleading... because it only shows Estonia's recovery from the 2008 recession? What in the world? This statement is too bizarre, there must be some kind of explanation later in the article. ... But there's not.

And it gets worse:
But before exposing that bit of trickery, there’s another mistake worth noting. Krugman presumably wants us to think that the downturn coincided with spending cuts. But his own chart shows that the economy hit the skids in 2008 – a year in which  government spending in Estonia soared by nearly 18 percent according to EU fiscal data!

"Krugman presumably wants us to think that the downturn coincided with spending cuts." No, Krugman, like every sane person alive, "presumably" wants us to think that the downturn coincided with the worldwide recession of 2008. Has Dan Mitchell been living on Mars? Where is this incredible straw man coming from, the idea that Keynesians think the recession in 2008 was caused by cuts to government spending? This isn't even a technical economics mistake. Any person who has watched the news at some point during the last 4 years knows that the recession was caused by the housing bubble, etc.

I don't understand how someone like this manages to tie his shoes in the morning, much less get a degree in economics. Why does Cato employ this person? At best, he is a crank. At worst, psychotic.

Psychosis (from the Ancient Greek ψυχή "psyche", for mind/soul, and -ωσις "-osis", for abnormal condition or derangement) means abnormal condition of the mind, and is a generic psychiatric term for a mental state often described as involving a "loss of contact with reality". (Wikipedia)

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