Results for “devalue and dismiss”
6 found

The “devalue and dismiss” fallacy, methodological pluralism, and DSGE models

One of the most common fallacies in the economics blogosphere — and elsewhere — is what I call “devalue and dismiss.”  That is, a writer will come up with some critique of another argument, let us call that argument X, and then dismiss that argument altogether.  Afterwards, the thought processes of the dismisser run unencumbered by any consideration of X, which after all is what dismissal means.  Sometimes “X” will be a person or a source rather than an argument, of course.

The “devalue” part of this chain may well be justified.  But it should lead to “devalue and downgrade,” rather than “devalue and dismiss.”

“Devalue and dismiss” is much easier of course, because there then will be fewer constraints on what one can believe and with what level of certainty.  “Devalue and downgrade” keeps a lot of balls in the air and that can be tiresome and also unsatisfying, especially for those of us trained to look for neat, intuitive explanations.

Enter DSGE models.  There are plenty of good arguments against them.  Still, they provide a useful discipline and they pinpoint rather ruthlessly what it is they we still do not understand.  We can and should devalue them in a variety of ways, and for a variety of reasons, but still we should not dismiss them.  Better yet than “devalue and downgrade” might be “devalue, downgrade, and…yet…de-dogmatize,” because these models usually point out the limits of our understanding.  Those models defeat us, and thus it is odd when we attempt to portray the situation as us defeating them.

Note that very smart people are often good at “devalue and dismiss” because they can come up with a lot of good reasons to devalue the arguments or frameworks of others.  But still they should not leap so quickly to the “dismiss.”

I would mention that Alex, while he did criticize DSGE models yesterday, also appreciates their uses.

Addendum: Here is Chris House, defending DSGE models.

How much did Fannie and Freddie cause the financial crisis?

Rortybomb summarizes some of the “not much” case (piling on here); see also Brad DeLong, Paul Krugman, David Min, and others.  He wonders what the non-spinners think and I will tell him what I think:

1. It is not denied that the mortgage agencies were guaranteeing about half of all U.S. mortgages right before the crisis  (Yet somehow they had not so much to do with the crisis?)  And the crisis was not just about subprime.  The mortgage market remains screwed up to this day, with no clear end in sight.

2. There is also the more ambitious claim — not necessarily true but not obviously dismissable either — that leverage would have been much, much lower in American real estate markets without the mortgage agencies.  It is hard to judge such counterfactuals, but arguably lenders would have demanded more money down and offered fewer 30-year fixed rate mortgages.

3. Arnold Kling has a good response to the delinquency chart which is circulating.

4. Following the crisis, banks recovered and paid back virtually all of their bridge/bailout.  The mortgage agencies remain hundreds of billions in the red.  And yet the agencies had not much to do with the crisis?

5. It is wrong to suggest that the agencies caused the crisis in the sense that I will cause myself to eat breakfast cereal this morning.  One can debate which weaker notion of cause might be appropriate, but I will just say that the mortgage agencies made the crisis much, much worse.

I don’t yet see that the counters to Wallison and Co. should budge me from this position.  I would prefer that they start by acknowledging (or challenging) #1 and #4 and then trying to talk their way back to what they see as the truth.  As it stands, I see a lot of “devalue and dismiss” being applied to the messengers, rather than focusing on what the agencies did or did not do in the broader scheme of things.  From my quiet sofa seat in Fairfax, VA, it ain’t a pretty picture.

How much should you criticize other people?

I mean in private conversation, not in public discourse, and this is not to their faces but rather behind their back.  And with at least a modest amount of meanness, I am not talking about criticizing their ideas.  Here are some reasons not to criticize other people:

1. “Complain less” is one of the very best pieces of wisdom.  That is positively correlated with criticizing other people less, though it is not identical either.

2. If you criticize X to Y, Y wonders whether you criticize him to others as well.  This problem can increase to the extent your criticism is biting and on the mark.

3. Criticizing others is a form of “devalue and dismiss,” and that tends to make the criticizing people stupider.  If I consider the columnists who pour a lot of energy into criticizing others, even if they are sometimes correct, it isn’t so pretty a picture where they end up.

4. If X criticizes Y, it may get back to Y and Y will resent X and perhaps retaliate.

5. Under some moral theories, X is harming Y if X criticizes Y, Y doesn’t find out, and Y faces no practical penalties from that criticism (for an analogy, maybe a wife is harming her husband if she has a secret affair and he never finds out about it).

Here are some reasons to criticize others:

4. Others may deserve the criticism, and surely there is some intrinsic value in speaking the truth and perhaps some instrumental value as well.

5. Criticizing others is a way of building trust.  In a three-way friendship with X, Y, and Z, if X establishes that he and Y can together criticize Z, that may boost trust between Y and X, and also increase X’s relative power in the group.  Criticizing “Charles Manson” doesn’t do this — you’ve got to take some chances with your targets.

6. Criticizing others may induce people to fear you in a useful way.  They may think if they displease you, you will criticize them as well.

7. Perhaps something or somebody is going to be criticized no matter what.  If you take the lead with the criticism, that is a signal of your leadership potential.

What else?  Is there anything useful written on this topic?

Daniel Frank on me, his introduction to Tyler Cowen

He has written a very nice appreciative post, and I regard his interpretations as accurate, here is an excerpt from it, perhaps it is an introduction to the last ten or so years of what I have been writing here:

…I wrote this post because the area Tyler influenced me the most and what I think is his greatest strength is something few discuss; his ability to deal with emotional and intellectual insecurity.

For context, when I first started reading Tyler’s writing as a teenager 15+ years ago, I was upset at how apolitical, non-partisan and unemotional he was. Sure he had all these great ideas but the world was filled with silly people who needed to be taken down a notch. Tyler never did that and eventually I realized he was right. Tyler’s equanimity and the way he tries to confront his own insecurities and flaws (that all humans have) is what, in my opinion, makes him so unique. By spending so much time reading his work, Tyler’s demeanour has rubbed off on me and made me a much better thinker.

Here are a selection of some of my favourite Tyler Cowen posts that capture his unique way of thinking:

Pushing the Button

https://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2008/11/imagining-the-b.html

When describing a person/group/idea that you dislike, if you feel the need to attack them, it is akin to pushing a “button” that makes you temporarily dumber. You don’t want to be pushing the button yourself or in fact, spend time around/reading others who do.

The Fallacy of Mood Affiliation

https://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2011/03/the-fallacy-of-mood-affiliation.html

When reading about an issue, people frequently identify with a mood and depending on how that mood resonates with that issue, they will artificially create a set of arguments to match and justify the mood.

Devalue and Dismiss

https://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2014/01/the-devalue-and-dismiss-fallacy-methodological-pluralism-and-dsge-models.html

“a writer will come up with some critique of another argument, let us call that argument X, and then dismiss that argument altogether. Afterwards, the thought processes of the dismisser run unencumbered by any consideration of X, which after all is what dismissal means. Sometimes “X” will be a person or a source rather than an argument, of course. The “devalue” part of this chain may well be justified. But it should lead to “devalue and downgrade,” rather than “devalue and dismiss.”

Tyler Cowen’s 12 Rules for Life

https://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2018/01/tyler-cowens-12-rules-life.html

1. Assume your temperament will always be somewhat childish and impatient, and set your rules accordingly, knowing that you cannot abide by rules for rules sake. Hope to leverage your impatience toward your longer-run advantage. 3. When the price goes up, buy less. Try to understand what the price really is, however, and good luck with that. 7. Learn how to learn from those who offend you. 9. I don’t know.

Why Do People Hate the Media So Much

https://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2016/09/people-hate-media-much.html

“No matter what the media tells you their job is, the feature of media that actually draws viewer interest is how media stories either raise or lower particular individuals in status.” “The status ranking of individuals implied by a particular media source is never the same as yours, and often not even close.” “A good rule of thumb is that if you resent the media “lots,” you are probably making a number of other emotional mistakes in your political thought.”

This gem is also linked to in the original post expressing the idea: “So much of debate, including political and economic debate, is about which groups and individuals deserve higher or lower status”

How Public Intellectuals Can Extend Their Shelf Lives

https://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2020/02/how-public-intellectuals-can-extend-their-shelf-lives.html

There is in fact much more, again here is the link.

Tyler Cowen’s 12 rules for life

After reading Jordan Peterson’s 12 rules, a few people asked me what my list would look like.  I would stress that what follows is not a universal or eternally valid account, but rather a few ideas that strike me in the here and now, perhaps as the result of recent conversations.  I suspect the same is true for everyone’s rules lists, so please keep this in perspective.  Here goes:

1. Assume your temperament will always be somewhat childish and impatient, and set your rules accordingly, knowing that you cannot abide by rules for rules sake.  Hope to leverage your impatience toward your longer-run advantage.

2. Study the symbolic systems of art, music, literature. and religion, if only to help yourself better understand alternative points of view in political and intellectual discourse.  Don’t just spend time with the creations you like right away.  Avoid “devalue and dismiss.

3. When the price goes up, buy less.  Try to understand what the price really is, however, and good luck with that.

4. Marry well.

5. Organize at least some significant portion of your knowledge of the world in terms of place, whether by country, region, or city.  If you do that, virtually every person will be interesting to you, if only because almost everyone has some valuable knowledge of particular places.

6. When shooting the basketball, give it more arc than you think is necessary.  Consistently.

7. Learn how to learn from those who offend you.

8. Cultivate mentors, and be willing to serve as mentors to others.  This never loses its importance.

9. I don’t know.

10. Heed Cowen’s Three Laws.

11. Do not heed Cowen’s Three Laws.

12. Every now and then read or reread Erasmus, Montaigne, Homer, Shakespeare, or Joyce’s Ulysses, so that you do not take any rules too seriously.  The human condition seems to defeat our attempts to order it.

*The Deerslayer*, an appreciation

Yes,I mean the book by James Fenimore Cooper.  I am reading it for the first time and it is much better than I had expected.  Mark Twain’s mockery of Cooper led me wrong, as I let it turn me away from being an appreciator.  And for all the more recent talk of the book being archaic and racist, I am finding it surprisingly sophisticated, for instance:

“Why, then, does the pale-face use them [rifles and powder and bullets]?  If he is ordered to give double to him that asks only for one thing, why does he take double from the poor Indians who ask for no thing?  He comes from beyond the rising sun, with his book in his hand, and he teaches the red-man to read it; but why does he forget himself all it says?  When the Indian gives, he is never satisfied, and now he offers gold for the scalps of our women and children, though he calls us beasts if we take the scalp of a warrior killed in open war.  My name is Rivenoak.”

The white settlers are perplexed and dumbfounded in response.

The Deerslayer himself is a kind of naif, frequently confronted with new situations and trying to figure out the boundaries between man and nature, between man and woman, what law might mean across differing civilizations, and which of the rules apply or do not.  He is continually experimenting with one point of view and then moving on to the next, though I suspect by the end of the book he will settle somewhere.

It seems he is attracted only to the Delawares (Native Americans) and he doesn’t quite know what to do about that.  At least up through my p.196.

It’s also about the loss of innocence, and to what extent violence is an inevitable part of history, some of the plot line being drawn from Homer’s Iliad.  The protagonist is called Deerslayer to highlight that he has not yet taken human life.

There was, by the way, a 1920 German silent movie version of the book, with Bela Lugosi playing the role of Chingachgook.  “This was the first part of the two-part Lederstrumpf silent film.”

And: “While on his death bed, the Austrian composer Franz Schubert wanted most to read more of Cooper’s novels.”

It has a good amount on the evolution of property rights and also how to, verbally, make credible or enforceable agreements.

I’m find this book much fresher and more stimulating than my recent reread of the well-worn Crime and Punishment.  Twain’s essay, while full of talent and his good humor, is actually one of the most harmful and misleading pieces of literary criticism ever penned.  You can take it as a model for what to avoid in life and in your intellectual thought — what I call “devalue and dismiss.”  Appreciate, there is so much to appreciate in books.  Do not devalue and dismiss.