I'm just wondering. Lately he seems to be getting pretty cagey. Listen to what he wrote in his last post:
"I get depressed reading many of the comments in my blog. People ranting about the Rothchilds. Complaining that I’m getting my hands dirty trying to make central bank policy a bit less bad, trying to help the millions of unemployed. They stand on the sidelines without a spot on mud on their clothing, insisting we need to destroy the central banks. Bring on mass liquiditation. Destroy everything and a new and more pure and more beautiful economy will rise from the ashes. Some are the very same people who suggest 9/11 was a CIA plot. It smells of the 1930s. God I hate ideologues."
What really suggests that he's somehow dragging ass lately is that he hasn't written in a three days which is not at all like him. Don't get me wrong-he did say that he'd take a little time off for some projects. But he often says this and usually he ends up taking off no time.
You wonder which commentators he was talking about? There was a commentator, Gabe, the other day who claimed that you had to watch out when you read the Economist becasue "the Rothschilds own it."
That was a moment of serendipity. More generally everyone who reads Money Illusion knows that the most annoying commentator around is Major Freedom who just can't grasp that he's not quite as brilliant as he thinks he is. He seems to think that lack of civiliy and conision is a proof of his alleged brilliance rather than a major strike against it. Really the worst part is his lack of concision. You'll never meet a more long-winded blowhard.
He fails with presentation which he doesn't get. So I can't blame Sumner for being tired of Major's endlessly longwinded often very insulting posts were he declares his own brilliance and everyone else's mediocrity. His poor presentation means that even if his extreme Rothabardian Austrian Business Cycle Theory of the economy were right, he's not going to be the one to convince anyone.
However, it does seem to me that Sumner is often unfair with much more reasonable posters. He gets points as he always has for answering each and every comment-lately he sometimes misses Major which is totally undersandable. But he often doesn't really answer questions too well especially if they have any kind of critical edge to them. I think he's getting worse which again underscores the idea that maybe he's getting burntout.
It's always been true that when you ask him a question it's best to ask only the one you really want answered because if you put in more he'll always answer the most tagnenital, unimportant quibble-if he doesn't like where you're questions are going.
Here's an example. A commentator named Mathieu left this coment which clearly was challenging but with a point:
"You should just take the time to aknowledge the argument properly, I just can’t figure out how you can think those pikes in debt levels in the 30s and now are coincidences. Do you think debt to GDP ratio can increase forever? If not, the change in debt needs necessarily to decelerate, which will trigger a crisis. From that point, it’s a positive feedback loop on the way down, we’re in a dynamic system and the causality is circular. The solution can’t be asking the banks please lend more. It’s just like your saying the drop in nGDP is coming out of nowhere, it’s not an explanation, it’s a description and it’s not predictive at all."
"I know your well intentionned but if you willingly blind yourself in order to avoid challeging a theory you believed all your life, your part of the problem, not the solution."
"You’re complaining about ideology but you doesn’t seem to realize the whole idea of equilibrium came out of an ideology in the first place. It has been useful to some extent since it has promoted liberty which is a good thing, but you can’t base science on an ideology. Equilibrium is nowhere to be found in the real world since time never stops, it’s a fundamental property of complex dynamic systems. When such a system breaks down, it will come from uncontrolled positive feedback loops, you don’t need any exogenous factors to find an “explanation”.
"The bottom line is that Keen comes up with a model which can explain the crisis and it’s consistent with the datas without having to arbitrarily adjust the parameters and rely on shocks coming from the heavens. Moreover, it did predicted the crisis and can prevent it from happening again in the future. I just hope Max Planck could be proven to be wrong : ” Science evolves one funeral at a time”
Mathieu's comments were on the long side. However he did ask some interesting questions. Scott comes back with:
Mathieu, You said;
“if you willingly blind yourself”
"I find that people who start off with personal insults tend to leave the most ill-informed comments, and yours is no exception. Anyone who has studied EC101 knows that correlation tells us nothing about causation. There are a huge number of variables that are highly correlated with business cycles. NGDP is one, and debt is another. I happen to think there are lots of good models explaining.why NGDP shocks affect output, whereas that’s not the case for debt."
I don't know that it was a personal insult. It really wasn't personal it was a theoretical argument It was simply a question of why he doesn't consider points of view outside the NeoClassical box-no doubt those are never welcome. It does seem to me that Sumner's tolerance for comments he doesn't agree with is on the wane lately. He tends to give anyone Keynesian short thrift. Anyway I thought Mathieu did a decent job responding to that:
"I didn’t meant to be insulting, I think you ignore the “if” at the begining of the sentence. A lot of economists are willingly blinding themselves about heterodox theories, with no valid arguments. Here’s for example Bernanke about Minsky in his essay on the Great Depression :
“Hyman Minsky (1977) and Carles Kindleberger (1978) have … argued for the inherent instability of the financial system but in doing so have had to depart from the assumption of rational economic behaviour.” A footnote adds – “I do not deny the possible importance of irrationality in economic life; however it seems that the best research strategy is to push the rationality postulate as far as it will go.”
Anyway it's been weird without him posting for three days. He could be burnt out-or maybe he's about to hit the big time-who knows?
I do think Sumner is too quick to play the "you're ignorant" card if questioned on certain theoretical ideas he takes for granted like rational expectations, and EMH or for that matter that the fiscal multiplier is considerably larger than zero.
Between his time off and Morgan Warstler's strange scarcity this week, well, as Seinfeld once said: "The system is breaking down!"