With apologies to Richard Hofstadter.
On reading “New Classical Kansas”, James Sexton comments:
What? Log? Why Log? Why not just “economic activity”, whatever that is?
Why all the babbling bs? ARIMA(1,1,1)? You believe that holds any meaning in relation to Kansas’ “economic activity”? Why?
Was there an expectation of huge growth in Kansas in response to the tax cuts? No. But, our unemployment is decidedly below the national average. You know, that’s like more people working and earning, and stuff. But, better, … well, worse in your point-of-view, people get to actually keep more of what they earned. This is an end, in and of itself. Kansas is fine. And, it will be more fine, because people get to keep what they earned, and are not forced by a government to give what they earned to people they don’t wish to give it to. In America, we call this “freedom”. It’s a strange concept, look it up.
Rather than celebrate this fact, the author wishes to convince people Kansas is economically declining. He does this by using a meaningless method … to whit …
Yeh, the old “log coincident indicators” …. well, I’m a believer!!!!
In a rejoinder to my comment, Mr. Sexton continues:
… To whit, tax cuts are an end in and of itself. Whether or not there’s increased economic activity, or even decreased because government is wasting less, is only secondary to allowing people to keep more of what they, themselves, had earned.
I would say the person who is burning books is the one least familiar with the concepts and precepts of individual liberty and freedom. Which, is appalling assuming it is an American writing the post.
One might very well wonder why I dwell on these comments. It’s because I think it’s an excellent example of anti-intellectualism in blogospheric discourse (a separate issue from trolls, discussed in this post).
Key attributes of blogospheric anti-intellectualism:
1. Anti-log-ism. I thought logs were taught in high school, but apparently the concept inspires vitriolic contempt. See Jim Hamilton’s post for a discussion of the usefulness of the mathematical concept.
2. Selective anti-metrics. Individuals will happily cite an unemployment rate (for Kansas) while disparaging coincident indicators (for Kansas). And yet, in the end, both series are estimates. And in fact, as Justin Wolfers discusses, the state-level unemployment rates (which Mr. Sexton cites so admiringly cites) are subject to particularly high levels of uncertainty.
3. Anti-statistical methods. The mention of an ARIMA(1,1,1) elicited a strong response by Mr. Sexton. In point of fact, I didn’t apply the model to Kansas but to US population; I was using the Kansas City Fed’s forecasts in the leading indicators to project Kansas economic activity, given they have more resources than I to devote to the project. I suppose that I would be criticized for “appealing to authority” had he actually understood what I did — this is another tendency of anti-intellectualism, although to his credit Mr. Sexton does not engage in it. (Apparently “appeal to authority” is okay if you ask your doctor about a prescription, but absolutely verboten if in any other context.)
4. Absolutist assertion of objective functions without any argument, to whit “…tax cuts are an end in and of itself.” This does not seem to based on a utilitarian argument; nor do “tax cuts” make an appearance in the Declaration of Independence, or in the Preamble to the Constitution. (I mention this latter couple omissions because Mr. Sexton asserts that all Americans must agree with his definition of freedom.)
On a separate note, I appreciated the contingency written in the last line: “assuming it is an American writing the post.” This line is redolent of another aspect of the blogospheric discourse.
Update, 8/3 1:20PM Pacific: Paul Krugman has more on anti-intellectualism in public policy discourse, here.