Assorted links


4. Mankiw should open up his class to the public for the day.


#4 has a parsing failure on the part of the person writing the article: it claims the students cite "biased instruction matter" as a reason for the walk-out, but "matter" is a verb, they're only citing "biased instruction".

7. Let bridges fall down...because the idea that the government should do it's freaking job is a novel concept.

I'm rather tired of the whole ideological infrastructure argument. It's time for a truce. Conservatives and non-doctrinaire libertarians will concede that the government, even the federal government, has a role to play in building and maintaining infrastructure. And progressives will stop claiming that infrastructure is some sort of magic word that will single-handedly boost GDP and bring us to full employment.

If we get rid of the "ecosystem" of laws around infrastructure construction and let it be built at sane pricing levels, I'd be all for it. But so much infrastructure spending is to lawyers, bureaucrats, and "preferred" entities that you can spend tens of millions (and often more) before a shovel ever hits dirt.

The Golden Gate Bridge was built ahead of schedule and below budget. Can one imagine any infrastructure project actually not being a vast multiple of its initial budget nowadays?

Sure. In China.

HAHAHA. good joke. Thanks.

There are two rough categories within the government can not fulfill it's basic responsibilities: by not spending on a basic responsibilities (while not privatizing the responsibility), or by spending too much on non-critical distractions. By constantly arguing for more aggregate money without systems and institutions of proper oversight is to call the latter and beg for the former.

Re #1:
How inexpensive would it be (from a pure fiscal cost perspective) to turn interstates into rail bed? String some wire and lay some rail and it seems you could get 200mph trains on the cheap. Maybe run one set of tracks in each of the four lanes: high-speed in each direction plus freight in each direction.

Pretty good follow up to the incoherent letter written by the ec10 walkouts

That's a lot of words to say "these idiots don't know what they don't know and want to throw a fit because of it"

I mean, if that guy is right, they're whining because Harvard teaches micro before macro and they either don't know that or know the first thing about Keynesianism. Which is fine when you're a freshman as long as you shut up ans listen.

# I fail to see how customers walking out on a vendor counts as garbage behavior.

# 4 that is

Almost 7 billion people manage to not take Mankiw's class without disrupting it.

Next time the bus driver slams on the brakes too hard in traffic, just go ahead and open the emergency exit and walk out in protest.

On the Google Reader complaint, I use Chrome, and within Chrome, there's an extension called "minimalist for Google Reader" which allows for things like "Hide header" and "make links blue" and custom widths for the navigation sidebar and the main section too. You can also design your own theme if you don't like the color scheme. It goes a long way to fixing the visual problems with the new design. It's possible that this extension exists for Firefox, Opera and Safari, but I don't know. It's worth looking for it, or something similar.

I'm one of the few who actually liked Google Buzz, because it expanded the number of people who were paying attention to what I shared in Google Reader. Google+ now does that even more. It's still not a large number, but I like the division I've got where Google+ is my network for interesting articles and intellectual discussion and facebook is my network for social events and interactions. They are very different things, and IF "circles" or "lists" were very easy to manage, I'd use them for that purpose, but for now, I like the division I've established between my two networks, and Google Reader is an indispensable part of that.

Sorry, I just realized that, after reading these two posts in Google Reader, I conflated them when I got to the site, and left this comment on the wrong post. My apologies. I'll repost this there with slight editing to fit the conversation.

Mankiw prefers simply to contradict reality at the expense of having any sort of decent rhetorical ethos. I wonder why he doesn't allow comments on his blog; perhaps because his rhetorical takes on things tend to be ridiculous and he can't handle the criticism. He's as bad as, if not worse than, Niall Ferguson, that bastion of id**cy.

Niall Ferguson: just pull that one out of your hat, did ya'?

Mankiw once allowed comments. Something was apparently written once that went over the line and he stopped the comments. That was a few years ago. I don't know what it was since I had not gone to his blog for awhile.

He disabled the comment section because it was a cesspit of incompetent liberals saying stupid things.

I guess if more liberal voices start commenting here we're all in danger of having our privileges taken away?

Probably not unless they do the equivalent of signing up for a class and then disrupting it.

(There probably should be a market in classes, and whenever liberals want to reform their bailywick academia, I'm ready to listen.)

#4. Disappointed to see this incendiary tone on MR. It's also difficult to see why their walkout is so objectionable. Silly, maybe, but it's very difficult to see why I should detest it so.

It's the slippery slope. Why should students walk out/disrupt a class they've signed up for, simply because various things are objectionable to them? Many things are objectionable to 20 year olds!

Let me give you an example, or several, having to do with sexism: "Your language is sexist" is one legit. complaint students can make about an instructor. "Your language might be construed as sexist" is ambiguously legitimate, and may not be grounds for complaining or walking out. "Your language is insufficiently anti-sexist" is arguably not a legitimate complaint. I'd say that the objections to Mankiw are akin to the third example.

There's a lot of talk about tolerance from people (predominately) on the left. But there's a bit less support for the airing of views that aren't "correct"...

Microeconomics is not voluntary for many majors (although it should be for all non-social scientists). Students even in engineering are often forced to take it.

However, economics should be taken last and after you have finished all your important courses, because the methodology is so different from real science, being, as it is, a pathological science.

I'm still missing why it's "garbage" behavior. Sure, it's weak, and Mankiw's blog post below definitely makes them look dumb, but I found Tyler's comment rather histrionic given the gravity of walking out on a class, especially given the usual measured tone of the blog. (I don't think I ever walked out, but I definitely did not hide my crossword puzzle in boring classes.)

I think maybe Tyler has a biased view. Not as a libertarian or someone who doesn't support OWS, but because he is an econ teacher and if it happened to him he might be offended or just pissed off by the disruption. Even if it did only last 2 minutes.

Yes. I agree. Also, it's somewhat of an insult to enter into a classroom and then leave right when the prof starts talking. Imagine if you had a math prof you didn't like, and so you organized 50% of the students to walk out one day. It's insulting the prof.

I'm sure Mankiw is a nice guy and not a bad person, and he's obviously highly intelligent. Bad people are people who go out and kill others etc. If I have criticisms of him I should enter the field and prove him wrong. But I don't care to, and besides, I think it's already been done to some degree.

I think the left needs to work on its tactics. Instead of dumping fake blood on the stage of neoconservative speakers, duct taping mouths and so on during Israeli speakers, form groups and work on changing laws. Instead of "walk-outs," educate people about the failure of economics. I understand that the left feels the deck is stacked against them (media, the government, the law, etc.), but still.

There's also the fact that academia isn't just a profit center. Many profs truly care about people being "enlightened." If you look at some of the original intellectual protesters from Vietnam they were mathematicians, linguists, chemists, engineers, etc. Academics have actually gone up to bat for the left a few times and it's harder for news organizations etc. to dismiss them as a bunch of cranks. So I don't think the left should be too mad that one economics professor just doesn't happen to agree with them.

Why would the left think that reasonableness is an effective strategy? The Tea Party is known for its lack of reasonableness (think of the signs at demonstrations, figureheads like Palin et al) and became and remains a potent political force.

It does disrupt the class.

To be honest, I'd probably be mad if right-wingers disrupted a class that I happened to like in, say, political science or history, which have "liberal" reputations.

A better idea would be to start a study group dedicated to all the problems of microeconomics, or purchasing a copy of debunking economics and mailing it to Mankiw, or what have you.

LOL. At least Mankiw is taking it well:

"Ironically, the topic for today's lecture is the distribution of income, including the growing gap between the top 1 percent and the bottom 99 percent. I am sorry the protesters will miss it." Maybe they'll cover the gini coefficient. "

And for that matter I never really understood why right-wingers get so upset that many social sciences supposedly have a "liberal" bias. Right-wingers complain far more about this than the left does. Right-wingers have their social sciences/humanities (economics, international relations, military classes), leftists have ours (all the other ones). If you have evidence something is wrong enter the discipline and prove yourself through the peer-review process, or just shut up.

well, I imagine it has something to do with the split being more like 50-50 in econ and IR (although I don't believe the right has a majority there anyway, GMU and UC are famous for being exceptions) and 95 to nearly zero in most of the others, and that most of the others form a considerably larger part of the academy.

But I agree it's a silly thing to complain about when the problems aren't really systemic.

Since when is international relations right wing? Genuinely curious, I wouldn't have really guessed it had much of an ideological bent. Pro-globzliation and kinda neoconish or what? I've never taken a class on the subject.

Careless and Pragmaticon:

The dominant paradigm in international relations is the realist paradigm which says that states exist in an anarchic system of states and thus undermines IGOs like the UN and the European Union. The underlying concept of realism is the balance of power. Wars occur because of the breakdown of the balance of power or to uphold the status quo. Basically, there isn't any imperialist war that couldn't be justified by the balance of power, but all revolutions and responses to imperialism are considered unjust (when we attack, we're defending ourselves, when they attack, they're committing "international terrorism," when we respond, we're responding to terrorism, when they respond, they're committing terrorism, and on it goes). States are like billiard balls hitting one another and war can actually uphold stability instead of weakening it.

The US in the cold war is justified by this balance of power. The attack against Nicaragua in the 80s would be justified by this theory, even though it's hard to see how one little state changed it would upset the balance of power. Furthermore, a subset of the balance of power is hegemonic stability theory which means that a superpower like the United States is actually a good thing. Many realists only opposed US involvement in Iraq because it was a counter to US interests in the long run; they certainly had no moral qualms about taking out Saddam Hussein. But they also believe that prudence, not abstract moral principles, govern the universe, and that we cannot confuse moral aspirations with the moral laws that govern the universe (Morgentahu).

The problem with realism is that its assumptions about human nature aren't necessarily true. Theories such as the Nuclear Deterrence Theory assume all states are rational actors, whereas a leftist would argue nuclear weapons be destroyed. Neorealists modify the assumptions of the realists (such as fear rather than lust for power being a guiding assumption), but still assumes that the actors are states and the problem is war. IR, esp realism, could be considered the science of war/force.

The liberal response to this is all about trade and democratic peace theory, and cooperation instead of force. Under this system, wars could be justified if you're expanding democratic-capitalism. Juan Cole, a liberal critic of the Iraq war, supports the war in Libya, for instance. However, this is not the dominant paradigm. IR professors such as Michael Glennon and law professors such as John Yoo provided a justification for the Iraq war; Glennon, international law is "hot air" and Yoo, that the war was justified according to international law. And Nixon, Henry Kissinger, Sun Tzu, Machiavelli, Hobbes, and so on could be seen as realists.

So yes, IR can be seen as providing a justification for capitalist expansion through wars and trade etc.

Given that realism is the most popular theory in IR I don't see how IR doesn't have a right-wing slant. Their assumptions of human nature (rationality, power) are just like those in economics (perfect competition) and they may lack coherence. They don't focus on inequality but the quest for power and so on. It certainly isn't a hotbed of leftism, in any case.

Power reigns.
All great powers have a military capability
States can never be certain of others intention
Survival is the primary goal
States act rationally

The best way to ensure survival? Become the most powerful state in the system.

Theories such as Marxism, Feminism, constructivism are only discussed as discredited theories. The idea that bankers and capitalist interests caused WWI for instance is completely discredited. Conspiracy theories are of course not taken seriously. Anti-intellectual conservatives may see some Marxist professor or marxism on a reading list, and think college students sit around and read Marxism, Chomsky, Zinn. But that's not true. It's just that in all social sciences courses, it's important to understand history, which may include Marxism.

Understanding International Conflicts: An Introduction to Theory and History, 7th edition (good book but it'd probably help to read the links above first)
The Origins of the First World War, Joll, third edition
The Origins of War 1914, Albertini
Tragedy of Great Power Politics, John Mearsheimer

700 words and you forgot to address the argument. You really think that the majority of IR professors are conservative and/or Republicans?

And you're simply wrong to claim that the "liberal response" is things like democratic peace theory. They're considered the "liberals" compared with the "realists" but that's not a pegging on the US political scale, it's a statement of IR philosophy, and one that's been expressed by Democratic and Republican presidents.

Of course, I wouldn't be surprised to learn that democratic peace theory supporters tended to be further to the left than the average of their realist colleagues.

So you've got a leading realist like Mearsheimer, of the UC, dumping Bush and "enthusiastically" voting for Kerry and bitching about the American empire.

Extremely interesting stuff, thanks.

"If you have evidence something is wrong enter the discipline and prove yourself through the peer-review process, or just shut up."

So should the OWS protestors become Wall Street traders and prove themselves or just shut up?

"Right-wingers complain far more about this than the left does"

Ummmm, maybe because the vast majority of academia is liberal, while the conservative at Harvard really irks the left.

And he's not even all that conservative, while the academic left is pretty liberal.

See my comments above. It's an exaggeration that academia is this bastion of liberalism. Economics for example is full of right-wing claptrap and the departments are often funded by big corporations, including places like Harvard. Really economics should be broken off from academia and treated like an institute of religion that receives outside support.

Of course, professors have gone up to bat for anti-war students and protesters and so on. So what? Notice how even one area that right-wingers don't completely control, they're furious. Students insulting Mankiw is far less worse than right-wingers with their "academic codes" and bylaws that attempt to force professors into a certain mold.

And the justifications for all imperialist wars is pretty much hogwash. Even typing a summary of IR kind of pisses me off. Notice how conservatives defend a strong, powerful entity attacking a weak, small one. Such as Nicaragua or tiny little Laos.

Whether it's a Texas conservative judge beating a little girl or a failed Texas business man plunging the world into an assault against a dilapidated nation, it's extremely wrong and immoral.

What IR would look like if it were actually leftist:

"Some defenders of the strategy recognize that it runs roughshod over internationi law but see no problem in that. The whole framework of international law is just "hot air," legal scholar Michael Glennon writes: "The grand attempt to subject the rule of force to the rule of law" should be deposited in the ashcan of history -- a convenient stance for the one state able to adopt the new non-rules for its purposes, since it spends almost as much as the rest of the world combined on means of violence and is forging new and dangerous paths in developing means of destruction, over near-unanimous world opposition. The proof that the system is all "hot air" is straightforward: Washington "made it clear that it intends to do all it can to maintain its preeminence," then "announced that it would ignore" the UN Security council over Iraq and declared more broadly that "it would no longer be bound by the [UN] Charter's rules governing the use of force." QED. Accordingly, the rules have "collapsed" and "the entire edifice came crashing down." This, Glennon concludes, is a good thing, since the US is the leader of the "enlightened states" and therefore "must resist [any effort] to curb its use of force."

"Nevertheless, the September 2002 unveiling of the imperial grand strategy justifiably sounded alarm bells. Acheson and Sofaer were describing policy guidelines, and within elite circles. their stands are known only to specialists or readers of dissident literature. Other cases may be regarded as worldly-wise reiterations of the maxim of Thucydides that "large nations do what they wish, while small nations accept what they must." In contrast, Cheney-Rumsfeld-Powell and their associates are officially DECLARING an even more extreme policy, one aimed at permanent global hegemony by reliance on force where necessary. They intend to be heard, and took action at once to put the world on notice that they mean what they say. that is a significant difference."

"The target of preventive war must have several characteristics:
1. It must be virtually defenseless.
2. It must be important enough to be worth the trouble.
3. there must be a way to portray it as the ultimate evil and an imminent threat to our survival. "
Noam Chomsky, Hegemony or Survival.

Right-wingers: cowards who pick on the defenseless.

The way for the OWS protesters to "prove themselves" would be for them to establish alternative communities. This was my point. That the left should provide some examples of alternatives to capitalism instead of staging walk-outs.

As long as you realize you're Scottsmanning virtually the entire American politically successful left, SB.

For example, this paper describes that for African Americans there are positive outcomes from corporal punishment on factors such as schoolyard fights.

The interpretation that Po Bronson put on it was that white parents do it wrong. The black kids gets a quick swat. The white kid pushes his parents who don't want to spank to the point where their is much angst, guilt, and judgment around the possibly more brutal and emotional beating. An un-realistic view of corporal punishment is self-fulfilling. Parents don't enjoy hitting their kids for the most part, and sometimes they hate it too much. I am personally against corporal punishment btw, but I rarely judge others.

The Marxists will say, preventing schoolyard fights is just supporting The Man and his capitalist institution! ;)

"Five of eight longitudinal studies that controlled for initial
child misbehavior found predominantly detrimental outcomes of spanking. However, those
detrimental outcomes were primarily due to overly frequent use of physical punishment.
Furthermore, apparently detrimental outcomes have been found for every alternative disciplinary
tactic when investigated with similar analyses. Such detrimental associations of frequent
use of any disciplinary tactic may be due to residual confounding from initial child
misbehavior. Specific findings suggest discriminations between effective and counterproductive
physical punishment with young children. More research is needed to clarify the role
of spanking and alternative disciplinary tactics in control system aspects of parental discipline."

I don't judge people for not being experts in corporal punishment ;) Even the experts conclude that more study is required. I do judge people for propagating certainty and expertism in contradiction to the experts ;)

Way off topic, but I find this fascinating. Go to table 2. All discipline strategies correlate with worse behaviors. The worst? Therapy.

"Garbage" is a bit... no, a lot too strong.
Who cares? Why is this a big deal?
If you reversed it, and a group of conservative students walked out of a class with a liberal slant, I would feel the same way - as in, who cares?

FYI - I am a professor and I teach undergrads and teaching is a major factor in my annual performance report (my yearly evaluation for promotion etc.). Honestly, I would laugh if students did a walk-out in my class. I can't be responsible for the views of the students - I can only focus on creating an excellent course and teaching an excellent class. I'll look forward to hearing why Tyler is so upset.

I don't think the big deal is the walk out per se, I think the big deal is the amazing arrogance in the reasoning for walking out on Mankiw's class.

From the open letter explaining the walkout:

"A legitimate academic study of economics must include a critical discussion of both the benefits and flaws of different economic simplifying models. As your class does not include primary sources and rarely features articles from academic journals, we have very little access to alternative approaches to economics. There is no justification for presenting Adam Smith’s economic theories as more fundamental or basic than, for example, Keynesian theory."

This is like a physics 10 student accusing their professor of having sinister motives because he only taught them Newtonian mechanics without giving quantum mechanics and string theory an equal hearing. That's shows just how little they actually know about the subject and jhow arrogant they are in what they think they know about the subject.

You have to walk before you can run, and Mankiw's textbook is showing you the basics of crawling, complaining that an introductory course isn't using primary sources and published articles? That's just laughable.

I think there is a broader issue in undergrad econ that the way it is taught simply turns off most students. Imagine if you were in a course that stated that if you used a few key assumptions that are not actually observable in the real world, you can show that the world is how it ought to be. If you thought there was something wrong with the world, you might think there was something wrong with the course--especially since graduate econ undermines all the conclusions from undergrad econ. I had to suffer through my fair share of undergrad econ courses where the grand goal was showing optimality--but it's really the methods, rather than conclusions, that are important. Personally, I'm more worried about the students who had already taken the class and showed up to replace the protestors. Don't they have anything better to do with their time?

Outstanding dissembling by Successfulbuild. The only control I've ever noticed in academia has been anti-conservative and political correctness, and anti-military.

So, you have to convince me that I'm a fish and can't sense the water that is all around me. Good luck with that.

"Notice how even one area that right-wingers don’t completely control, they’re furious."

What, academia? Noone is furious. It's just that everyone can see that it is relatively liberal. Maybe not relative to the far left, but that's not what reasonable people are talking about.

Next, journalists aren't relatively liberal?

When that chick's husband went to work for Obama, my reaction was "keep your job, everybody knows, nobody cares."

"The way for the OWS protesters to “prove themselves” would be for them to establish alternative communities. This was my point. That the left should provide some examples of alternatives to capitalism instead of staging walk-outs."

Totally agree. And, of course, they'll figure out that it is damn hard, especially having to run everything through a committee with no positive ideas and infinite veto capacity.

How many physics classes do you have to take before you get beyond "Assums an airless, frictionless environment...?" Simplifying assumptions are there for a reason.

I agree, though, that it's it’s really the methods, rather than conclusions, that are important. That was stressed in my school once you got out of the basic classes and into the coursework for your major.

It's because he's a teacher and if it happened to him he'd be very embarrassed.

If he's as powerful as they make him out to be, then why would he care?

Economics, by the way, is majority Democrat. We can talk about how Obama is to the right of Reagan, Krugman is a middle centrist, and Democrats are right-wing, but let me drop some acid beforeheand.

"There’s also the fact that academia isn’t just a profit center. Many profs truly care about people being “enlightened.”"

But none do it for free, do they? The system is a monetization scheme. Well, the grad students do it for free, but that's not really a ringing endorsement of the system. We could talk about how the system is screwed up, and I take every opportunity to do so. But you can't convince me that it is a conservative system when it is in almost every way not. First, it's is majority liberal and certainly majority liberal run. Bill complains about corporate funding, but I'd guess it is >50% government funded (probably much greater, and certainly greater than 50% controlled, funding does not equal control dollar for dollar). It's a pretty esoteric argument to say that the government is really a conservative construct. Property rights are not respected in academia to the degree they are outside it. That might be the reason for tenure in the first place. I could go on. It's basically a Marxist laboratory.

"Whether it’s a Texas conservative judge beating a little girl or a failed Texas business man plunging the world into an assault against a dilapidated nation, it’s extremely wrong and immoral."

A lot of pathos here. First off, would there ever be a justification to belt a little (16 year old) girl? The answer would be almost by definition yes if (1) as a parent you could get no help (and the government doesn't help parents in any way) or (2) the child risked even greater danger to herself or others. Whether this is what happened in Texas it is hard to know, but the kid released the tape 7 years after the event when she had no obligation to deal with the parent any more.

Secondly, we created the term "neo-con" for a reason, and that was before the wars turned sour.

I forgot to add (3) the child only responds to physical punishment. And within (2) is the assumption that on net the physical punishment is not as psychologically damaging as the alternative punishment and the behavior going uncorrected. There are studies that show this can be the case. I took a kid for shots yesterday and they cried for 10 seconds and then stopped and smiled at the nurse. Physical punishment can be less psychologically damaging than other psychology-laden alternatives, and most parents are not equipped with training or resources to enact the best possible discipline.

So, in cases where the behavior must be changed, and it can only be changed by corporal punishment, then tautologically it is justified. The obvious example is a child who repeatedly runs into the street and only stops when spanked. Most parents cannot feasibly move to where there are no streets. This is not the case in the Texas issue it seems, although in other cases a 16 year old can be a danger to others not just themselves, but those are details, not tautology.

7. I thought this was going to a short clip of someone's bare ass.

Right. It was a long clip.

But seriously, they can have their day. I just couldn't get past him telling Colbert that Republicans want bridges to fall down. If the government is not doing it's basic job, then probably what you need to do is make sure they are doing their job rather than complain about the people who are complaining about the government failure.

If "biased instruction matter" is a "reason for walking out" who would ever attend a social sciences class?

Interesting article about Germany, mainly its finding that German flexibility saved the day. Which is at least refreshing, because the German economy has grown quite flexible in response to having to compete globally. (Though the software company I work for has had Zeitkonten for something like 15 years, and it was an idea more or less taken over from one of our customers - this idea is nowhere near as recent as the article suggests.)

But what the article misses is that Kurzarbeit isn't about the worker per se - it is about keeping a company in operation during a bad period. Which is precisely what the period explored in the article was, with many companies going out of business - well, that is, companies not in Germany. Which helped fuel the unbelievable export boom of the last couple of years, since a number of competitors that German companies used to face had disappeared. Which is a fine explanation of why the latest unemployment rate in the Bundesland where I live is 3.7%. Which isn't even the lowest in Germany - the Bavarians take that prize.

No German businessman has ever had any qualms about benefitting from the competition's short sighted stupidity. There is a reason why Kurzarbeit as a response to economic difficulties is now entering its second century of existence, after all. And it isn't about reducing unemployment.

They complained about both "his lack of teaching" and his "biased instruction". Well done, kids: you really want more of the teaching you disparage?

P.S. His blog used to take comments: when I teased him by asking him to lay off the technical stuff and just tell me how to pronounce his surname, he took it in very good sort. (The answer was ManQ.)

p=0.5 that Tyler is being a bit tongue-in-cheek. It's too much on the nose as they say.

On the Californian HSR being a financial wreck: It may well be, but massive cost over-runs alone are not sufficient reason to say so.

The Euro Tunnel was a financial wreck, but in the long run it will still produce more social benefit than it cost, because even if the companies (or governments) running it go bankrupt, the tunnel still exists.

The depreciation rate is not constant for all forms of capital. When it is sufficiently lower than the rate of inflation, it can be good to engage in "bad" investment.

#4 "garbage"?! Strong words.

"The Euro Tunnel was a financial wreck, but in the long run it will still produce more social benefit than it cost, because even if the companies (or governments) running it go bankrupt, the tunnel still exists."

That is literally the worst analysis of cost/benefit I have ever seen.

More of these type projects!

One of the things that they objected to is the high cost of Mankiw's textbook. Maybe now I get the reason behind Tyler's irritation. God forbid this spreads to GMU......

That's a possible material interest. There may also be the threat to the status interest of a teacher? As you know the old guard in the profession are a bit touchy about status. However if it's just an ideological interest in the objection to recycled anti-capitalist garbage I'm all for it !

Good point, see above where I say

p=0.5 that Tyler is being a bit tongue-in-cheek. It’s too much on the nose as they say.

Is the Mankiw book more expensive than Tyler's text?

No wonder Larry Summers is such a @#$!@%

4. I'm trying to figure out what the appropriate headline for this walkout would be.

"Privileged Kids Protest Privilege By Denying Their Privilege for One Hour"?
"OWS Protesters Seek Economic Change By Ignoring Economics"
or maybe,
"Protesters Prefer Signaling Economic Knowledge Over Gaining Economic Knowledge: 'Class signals are more likely to get me laid with hipster chicks, something Mankiw is unqualified to teach,' explains one protester"

Maybe I'll add: "Unhappy Internet Poster Unhappy with Formatting Problems."


"Rebel Without a Clue"

"Harvard kids cut class, psychologically unable to do it non-megalomaniacally"

3. "His '09 performance in Germany was .11 quicker than the 9.69 he ran at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the fattest chunk ever taken off a world record at that distance."

Doesn't this mean there are further gains to be made? It seems like they should be getting smaller and smaller if we have reached a limit. I remember a study that suggested physiologically it's possible for humans to be faster than they are.

Half the article was saying that nobody knows anything much about how sprinting works, the rest was claiming to be able to use this lack of knowledge to make firm predictions.

Instead of claiming overcapacity, Lu should say there is a misallocation of capacity. some roads in China are terribly congested, while others, as he mentions, are scarcely traveled. likewise, China is building high speed rail instead of more regular passenger rail, and building expressways in rural areas with money that could dig tunnels, widen bottlenecks, and expand bus rapid transit in large metros. if the chinese have such a high value of time that they need high speed rail for intercity travel, it makes no sense to leave them stuck in endless congestion on their intracity trips.
sadly, it sounds like China has adopted Europe's preference for infrastructure jewelry like hsr and America's arbitrary "geographic equity" in allocating expressway mileage, instead of judging each project individually in terms of passenger miles, freight, and commute time saved.
ignoring cost-benefit analysis is widespread globally, and it's the biggest source of lost opportunities on the planet, in my opinion.

OWS supporters:

"Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Rep. Jerrold Nadler, two of the most liberal pols on Earth, are urging Mayor Bloomberg to crack down on the Wall Street protest ... They want enforcement of laws against 'excessive noise' and 'public urination' and are asking for 'the excessive number of barricades' to be removed."

Barricades were gone as of lunch today. Some noisy protesters in the morning. About 20 in total, all but one men in their 20's. They had brooms to "clean up Wall Street". I liked that touch. Epstein's restaurant (mentioned in the article) is in our building. I've no doubt the barricades hurt, but I thought the place over-priced. We only ate their on opening day, and then went back to our usual place.

re #4. I am appalled that tyler thinks it's "garbage behavior" to walk out of biased neoclassical garbage. it's one thing to teach neoclassical economics. it's another to teach as if alternatives have never existed. i mean from reading greg mankiw's textbook you get no sense that classical economists (adam smith, david ricardo, thomas malthus, john stuart mill, etc) even existed as a distinct school of thought. not to mention mercantilists, marxists, institutionalists, german historicists, keynes's writing himself, post keynesians, structuralists and on and on. to yell at students because they want an academic space to learn about alternative economic doctrines and not a very narrow body of theory that (especially at the introductory level) has absolutely nothing to do with the world they see around them. i think the history of economic analysis should be the first economics class anyone ever takes in college. i am very lucky to be at a college that offers it.

There is only so much stuff you can put into an intro course. I wish the textbooks would have more history of thought. It would be great to have more on Marx and the Austrians. But I doubt that Mankiw's textbook is much different on this score than most of the books that are used in intro books. And my guess is that Harvard does have a history of thought class but EC 10 would likely be a pre-req.

I could not find a history of thought class but there are classes that seem to teach alternative views

Economics 1017. A Libertarian Perspective on Economic and Social Policy

Economics 1018. Cultural Economics

Economics 1030. Psychology and Economics

Economics 1032. The Packing Problem: The Behavioral Economics of Scarcity

it's easy to teach history of thought when you explain the historical origins of all the ideas in the textbook.

re cyril thanks for looking that up. i find it beyond pathetic that there is no history of economic thought class at harvard. GO IVY LEAGUE!

Look harder..there is a history of economic though course

my apologies. i should have looked myself instead of taking cyril's word for it. that does not disqualify my original point.

Andrew, thanks. Nathan, you're welcome

All I said was that I could not find one.

This link for example

Does not show the history of thought class and it is from the departmet itself. The following link is where I started

Then I clicked on 2011-12 and the thought class is not there. I did not see it in the 2010-11 year either. It is listed for 2009-10, though. Here is the pre-req

Prerequisite: Graduate-level course in microeconomic theory. Ec 2010a and b, Ec 2020a and b, or equivalent.

Andrew, so you know the pre-req for the course you linked? I don't see one. Credit Level it says
"Graduate and Undergraduate." That makes me think that EC 10 would not be enough

I doubt there is a is a regular history course. There is also a history of american capitalism course as well as several other seminars that would be appealing. Try searching the history department rather than econ:

oh now i get it. it's not even in the economics department and doesn't count as an economics class! wonderful. so to get a good understanding of economics at harvard... i need to major in history! gotcha. i feel luckier and luckier every day to be in a school that has actual economics courses that teach things actually relevant to the world around me.

Why would you need to major in history. A student could just take the relevant history courses as electives

ok nevermind, there are also quite a few offerings in the econ dept as well.
* Generating the Wealth of Nations
* World Economic History
* The Historical Origins of Middle Eastern Development
* Historical Perspectives on Economic Ascendancy

Would you really want your entire intro to physics course be about Aristotle and phlogiston and crystal spheres? Makes perfect sense for that to be a history class.

Yes, and while we're at it let's have physics classes include Aristotelian science. Teach the controversy!

You need to NOT compare Economics with Physics or any physical science. Economics has in NO WAY proven itself to be at that level. Until it does it's completely fair game to demand teaching of alternative thoughts. Don't dress this up as teach the controversy, economic theory as it stands today as largely failed as is simply defend by ideologues and people who don't want to admit they've wasted their careers.
Unlike the physical sciences which have proven time and again to have progressed far since the days of Aristotle it is not at all clear that economics has progressed much since the days of Adam Smith.

His analogy isn't all that bad, even if it is true that economics doesn't have the same rigour as physics. The point is simply that this is an intro class. Elementary concepts are presented. Time is limited, so there has to be some kind of choice about how to get basic economic ideas across to students. Recall that the point that was being addressed was whether Mankiw (and other mainstream economics teachers) have been omitting some crucial topics. Do you really think that an intro class should displace the basic discussions of "What is opportunity cost?" or "What are the factors of production?" (because that *is* what they talk about in intro!) in order to spend more time discussing various "heterodox" opinions? That really can't wait till later? It's some kind of injustice, in fact, if they have to wait? (Worthy of a walk-out apparently!)

No I really cringe at that analogy, I don't think economics is scientific at all - I think it's largely ideologically driven. And note Rowz isn't complaining about teaching economic history or history of economic thought in an introductory class - he's implying that the idea of teaching history of economic thought in any economics course period is as laughable as teaching the history of natural philosophy in a physics course, which it is not - economics is not really a science.

The other thing is economists, despite being much less successful at explaining their realm of interest then physicists tend to be about 100 times more arrogant about their discipline. I have a feeling, like many introductory economics professors, Mankiw doesn't go about his class in a humble way but instead insists that Econ 10 is THE TRUTH (with a capital T).

why not? the history of scientific analysis is just as important as the history of economic analysis. have you ever read the structure of scientific revolutions? it does everyone good to know that their theories have a historical and ideological basis and one must be very aware about the assumptions your model makes and to be critical of the preceding generation of research. einstein's physics was born out of a critique of newtonian physics which was born out of a critique of scholastic astronomy and so on and so forth. how do you think useful science is produced?

Who says The Structure of Scientific Revolutions is right? Karl Popper called it the defense of mob rule. Exposing the historical and ideological basis of something only means half the job is done. Proving it right, or finding the areas where a model or theory has predictive power is another matter.

You do realize that Mankew is a keynesian?

New Keynasian, there's a bit of a difference. Besides I know a lot of commentators on this blog don't want to admit this but the bankers are not paragons of the free market you all seem to think they are - they WERE bailed out and they are now essentially guaranteed by the government no matter what they do. None of the criticisms I see about OWS on this site make any sense in light of that fact, except if you're simply just apologists for rich people (and a lot of you guys are) and don't really care about an actual free market.
With this in mind it's totally legitimate to criticism guys like Mankiw and point the figure at them because Mankiw is a very prominent economists who teaches at one of the top universities in the world and whose textbook is very widely used in undergraduate courses. It was guys like Mankiw who were really pumping up the ideological arguments for finance back in the 2000s and supported bailouts. The man makes a fortune peddling a textbook filled with theories and models that gave a lot of ideological cover to high financiers and have proven themselves to be largely failures - it's really not at all clueless flailing to put a hefty portion of the blame on guys like Greg Mankiw.

The content of Mankiw's book, in its basic economic content, deviates little from that of Krugman's intro text, or those of various others. So are they all equally blameworthy? Apologists for capital? (That old chestnut.) Or perhaps you're just pouring a lot of dirty smoke into the air.

I'm not defending Paul Krugman necessarily either (I said guys like Mankiw - in which I mean prominent economists in general). However the idea that Mankiw is just some professor expressing his views like any other social science professor is patently ridiculous. Aside from a major textbook he's also served in top economic advisory positions in a Presidential administration where he did in fact actively advocate on behalf of big finance and push more deregulation as well as cheer-lead for the Bush taxcuts. He then used his prominent position in the economics world to push for unconditional bailouts and continue to be a cheerleader for the big banks even after the disaster in 2007-2008 and the subsequent bailing out.
Mankiw is an apologist for big business and the wealthy in general and hes used his considerable influence to push for these disastrous policies, it's really not blowing smoke to put part of the blame on people like Mankiw (and other prominent economists).

Get over it. You aren't being sensible. You are just ranting about the Ivy's and mentioning your own college. i) NO one course can properly provide an introduction worth having to the figures you mention. ii) Nor should they, necessarily. I have a colleague who teaches contemporary Rhetoric. He teaches argumentation theories provided by contemporary writers and philosophers. There are no Greek rhetoricians taught in his course. Nor should there be. Yet know-little students sometimes complain. "Hey how come there's not any Demosthenes?" It's not a course on ancient Greek rhetoricians!

How much of the German labor market “miracle” might be attributable to export sales to the PIIGs?

1. If only there existed methods of transportation that allowed people to travel swiftly from one place to another without the need for tracks.

Combined with Alex's post on education, is this the most comments posted on MR over a 24 hour period? And I think, we are only in hour 18 or so.

If I walked out on professors I disagreed with, I would have never gone to class. Suck it up!

You call the threatened student walk-out from Harvard's Economics 10 course "garbarge behavior". But if some customers of this course are unhappy with it, then why shouldn't they try to bargain with the seller to make it more to their liking, by threatening a walk-out that might damage the seller's reputation? The buyers are not free to merely stop buying the course, because the seller bundles it with other products that they want. After all, is it from the benevolence of the economist, the historian or the chemist, that students expect their education, or from their regard to their own interest?

For this particular course, and this particular professor, OWS protesters walking out of class may well improve "the seller's reputation."

because Mankiw did not cause the crisis.

because it is disrespectful to the institution of teaching.

it is like going up to your grandmother who doesn't like alcohol and shooting vodka in her face.

we musn't lose respect, even if we disagree with someone.

Prof Mankiw isn't some random fool, he has spent time and effort in understanding something.

calling this a buyer seller interaction is misleading.

Well it's not clear that people like Mankiw didn't have a hand in causing this crisis. These prominent academic economists like Greg Mankiw really did lead credence to a lot of the ideologies that paved the way to the financial crisis - how many Goldman Sachs bankers came through Mankiw's class and were influenced by him? Probably more then a few.

On his blog, he also acts as an apologist for the Wall Street elite.

Exactly - AND his blog doesn't even allow comments - I mean that just really grinds my gears, this guy operates a blog where he gets to expound his views while at the same time he has his own widely-used textbook and a platform at Harvard and the guy won't accept ANY criticism, he just lives in his Ivy League bubble. All these other econ professors with blogs have no problem with comments, but this guy is just a pompous ass.

The book is a bit pricey, even though it is 888 pages and probably a lifetime reference.

But more importantly, these schmucks are at Harvard. If they aren't the 1% then for being so smart they are really freaking stupid.

If you want to leave comments on a blog, there may be another way to do that.

He calls it "garbage behavior" because he's a rent-seeking parasite showing solidarity with a fellow rent-seeking parasite.

Yeah really. Mankiw is just a parasite peddling pseudoscience at a high price with tenure at an Ivy League school to give him the shimmer of legitimacy. Sure if you were teaching a respectable discipline such as math, physics, biology, literature, etc. this might be different but you have to remember the guy is basically charging students thousands of dollars, PLUS forcing them to purchase his book and on top of that teaching them the modern equivalent of astrology.

Calling economics "astrology" but literature "respectable". Yeah.


Glad to see Tyler actually take a stand on something. Would have expected something like "Some students' jimmies are a bit rustled over Mankiw's class! Do they have a point?", with a hyperlink.

But no, they're idiots. Complete ****ing idiots. All of them. And it's good to see them called out.

Yeah taking a STAND for his fellow economics professors. Oh those poor, persecuted, tenured Ivy league economics professors

Don't you know, academia is really controlled by not only is Mankiw a conservative, but the funked up system is also the fault of conservatives. Conservatives are so powerful and clever, they pulled a jedi mind trick making everyone think that it is predominately liberal. Thankfully, these Harvard populists will show the way!!!

Who is talking about Liberals Vs. Conservatives? You people on this blog are so single-minded - everything is Liberals Vs. Conservatives for you people, get real. I'm mocking the idea that defending any kind of tenured Ivy League professor (liberal or conservative) from students walking out of their class is "taking a stand".

4. Must be all those thousands of hours playing the violin - turned their brains to mush. Get them into law school asap!

Walking out of class is garbage behavior?

I'd say bundling a course with a textbook in order to extract consumer surplus from students for your own enrichment is worse.

This exactly!

If only we could get some progressives on the faculty...

At least they presumably wouldn't know enough about economics to understand that what they do is wrong.

Ignorance is something, I guess.

If a class is required and no substitute is allowed, that needs to be taken up with the department. If the protesters are ignorant of how the world works, that's fine by me, I believe ignorance is an excuse for most things except for willful ignorance.

How is Walking out of Mankiw's course garbage behavior? Mankiw is a pompous ass (who doesn't even allow comments on his blog) and most of what he teaches in his economics course is probably just a lot of the cartoon models from his textbook with little to no basis in reality. Who could possibly be embarrassed about walking out of his class? I say throw a banana cream pie in his face while the students on their way out.

you help to restore my faith in humanity.

Well, you gotta crawl before you can walk, and before you can understand the real world with its information asymmetries, moral risks, externalities, and uncertainty, you have to know the basic model. Never mind, your so-maligned "cartoon models" are ladders to be discarded once you get to the roof.
And now, I'll vent my emotions:
You ignorant, oversimplifying twit.

isn't vindictive spite irrational? conform reality to the model Nico!

but seriously, why is teaching econ 101 like you're not learning the truth and their are alternative ways to view these issues so controversial? we're not asking for neoclassical supply and demand models be kept away from undergraduates, just that their limitations be acknowledged. is that so wrong?

7. Disturbing.

RE #1 (California Rail project): A cliche waiting to happen or this Should be posted on every major Program Managers wall:

Major programmes generally have the following characteristics:

Such programmes are inherently risky due to long planning horizons and complex interfaces.

Decision making, planning, and management are typically multi-actor processes with conflicting interests, making stakeholder management crucial.

Technology and designs are often non-standard.
Often there is overcommitment to a programme, or to a certain programme concept, at an early stage, resulting in "lock in" or "capture," leaving alternatives analysis weak or absent.

Due to the large sums of money involved, rent-seeking behaviour and principal-agent problems are common.

The programme scope or ambition level will typically change significantly over time, resulting in scope creep .

Statistical evidence shows that such complexity and unplanned events are often unaccounted for, leaving budget and time contingencies sorely inadequate.

As a consequence, misinformation about costs, schedules, benefits, and risks is the norm throughout project development and decision-making, including in the business case.
The result is cost overruns , schedule delays, and/or benefit shortfalls during project implementation with consequent risks of non-viability.

Agree, but when people low-ball you then you call them on it and you apply a multiplier on unreliable proposals. That's what people are doing. If big dig projects always come in at 3x it is not being an anarchist to say "3x." And when things like light rail have a zealous booster base, it is not being an anarchist to talk about viable alternatives. And to demand a wide "profit" safety margin to make up for cost overruns and benefit shortfalls is not being an anarchist, it's common sense informed by past experience.

Funny, but you realize getting up for popcorn in a movie theater is different, right?

The behavior that Tyler suggests in his book is not getting up for a popcorn, but expecting and wanting to walk out of a movie that you've paid for, even planning an appointment in the middle so he can walk out. He suggests that he can always read a review instead, but if he discovers the movie is better than expected, he may stay. I don't see how that's much different than walking out of a class that you've paid tuition for, and planning to attend a protest march outside instead and catching up what you missed on lecture slides. If the students discover that the particular class is better than expected, as Mankiw cleverly suggested he would be teaching about income inequality, then they may stay. I don't think either behavior is "garbage."

It is obviously different. His goal is not to disrupt the movie, and he most likely does not disrupt the movie. He rarely comes on here and makes a big deal of walking out of a movie.

If the OWS kids wanted to just not go to class, they could just not go to class. It is NOT their goal to just not go to class. It is their goal to disrupt it and make a big deal about it.

I also don't understand the "garbage" term, but he hasn't expanded on that.

At least they presumably wouldn’t know enough about economics to understand that what they do is wrong.

Mankiw should be embarrassed that he purveys pseudoscience to students paying in the mid five figures.

Anyway, farewell and thanks to Bill Niskanen.

4. He should just bring a couple of TAs to class. After the participants in the walkout have walked out, station the TAs at the doors to not let anyone in. Then have a small quiz, something like:

1. What is 1+1?
a) 2
b) 2
c) 2
d) 2
e) any of the above

Then, if feeling generous, make the quiz 10% of the total grade. If feeling ungenerous, make the quiz 50% of the total grade.


A. Mankiw is a New Keynesian. He most definitely shows this bias in his textbook.
B. The open letter states:
There is no justification for presenting Adam Smith’s economic theories as more fundamental or basic than, for example, Keynesian theory.
C. Therefore, they must be claiming that they want more classical or neo-classical economics to be taught. That is the only logical conclusion I can make of it.

Alternatively there is the “no logical conclusion” option that the students did even bother to look up the fact that their prof is a New Keynesian. In addition, they are unable to distinguish class content from political preferences. Much like many a conservative can’t recognize that fact that even though Paul Krugman can be a political hack as well, it doesn’t diminish the fact that he is a wonderful economist.

And I say New Keynesian or not has nothing to do with it - Mankiw still has used his prominent position to shill for the big banks and their bailouts. I goes well beyond simple ideological labels here, Mankiw has long been an advocate, from his high perch, of an essentially crony capitalist system and whether or not he believes there should be a bit of fiscal or monetary stimulus or not is really irrelevant.

And I say whether or not he is a political hack has nothing to do with it. His politics does not necessarily give credence to the argument that his textbook or the teaching of his class is horribly biased by poltics. I don’t agree with a good amount of Mankiw’s policy prescriptions, but I have used his textbook for four semesters of Principles of Macro. It is not horribly poltically biased. (Maybe they have a point about it being expensive.) As hard as it may be for some to believe, there are people in the world that can do a decent job of separating their own personal beliefs from the content of their courses. It is never perfect, but no one is.

I suppose the question comes down to whether they are protesting the man, the course, or the economics profession. Protesting the course itself might not be fair I suppose but protesting the man and the profession is.

Fair enough if that is what they are protesting. I might not agree with their position on the state of the profession, but they have the right to protest it if they want. Of course they should be protesting most econ classes then.

Protesting the man, well I can see your point to some extent, but as others have mentioned if every student walked out of a class taught by a professor who they thought was objectionable based on his or her actions, then there wouldn't be a lot of learning going on. The distinction in the case of your argument is that you attribute great harm done by the man. Therefore, the action is warranted in this case, where it might be not in cases where the person did less harm. I don’t completely agree with the axiom, (what he advocate wasn’t always the best idea, but we are in the mess we are in for more reasons than that), but your logic is more or less sound starting from the axiom that he did great harm.

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