Math Has Become Politicized

Russ Roberts on Paul Krugman:

Krugman is a Keynesian because he wants bigger government. I’m an anti-Keynesian because I want smaller government. Both of us can find evidence for our worldviews. 

Paul Krugman, responding:

Russ Roberts may choose his economic views because they support his political prejudices. I try not to. Maybe I sometimes fall short — but I try to analyze the economy as best I can, never mind what’s politically convenient […]

Roberts’ comments perfectly exemplify what I’ve been thinking for a while now. As I see it, there are two types of economists: political and empirical. Political economists start with their political beliefs and then “find evidence” to back up their ideologies. Empirical economists look at the numbers objectively and then figure out what’s best. They don’t start with pre-drawn conclusions (e.g. “smaller government”). They start with an open mind and aren’t afraid to recommend an economic policy that runs antithetically to their political beliefs.

That we have certain economists who put politics ahead of math isn’t a problem in and of itself. The problem is that most of our politicians surround themselves with like-minded political economists. Now we’ve come to the point that when a group of empirical economists publishes numbers that don’t align with a politician’s political views, said politician derides the organization as a “reactionary socialist institution”.

If we want to get out of the mess we’re in, numbers need to come first — not politics.