“No Disagreement Whatsoever”

I continue to be fascinated by the parallels between economic and climate science and their internal debates.  Both sciences study horrendously complex systems where controlled studies to parse cause and effect are difficult if not impossible to structure.  And both seem to have the same pressures towards politicization, with very similar results.  With a few words changed, this could easily have been written by a climate skeptic about any number of Mann/Hansen/et. al. statements:

Mr. James Fallows
National Correspondent, The Atlantic

Dear Mr. Fallows:

This afternoon on National Public Radio you proclaimed that “there is essentially no disagreement whatsoever” among economists that more stimulus spending is necessary today [emphasis in the original].

You are misinformed.

Last year, hundreds of economists signed a petition, circulated by the Cato Institute, whose key clause reads “it is a triumph of hope over experience to believe that more government spending will help the U.S. today.”  Among the economists who signed this petition in opposition to ‘stimulus’ spending are three Nobel laureates in economics (Edward Prescott, Vernon Smith, and my colleague James Buchanan).  Others signers include Chicago’s Eugene Fama and Sam Peltzman, Harvard’s Jeffrey Miron, Texas A&M’s Thomas Saving, Cornell’s Rick Geddes and Dean Lillard, University of Virginia’s Lee Coppock and Kenneth Elzinga, Duke’s Michael Munger and Edward Tower, University of Rochester’s Mark Bils and Ronald Schmidt, Rutger’s Michael Bordo and Leo Troy, University of Southern California’s John Matsusaka and Kevin Murphy, and one of the world’s preeminent scholars of money and banking, Carnegie-Mellon’s Allan Meltzer.

Perhaps these economists and the many others who’ve signed this petition (including myself) – and who continue to speak out against what we believe to be the folly of ‘stimulus’ – are mistaken.  But for you to announce publicly that there is “no disagreement whatsoever” among economists that more stimulus spending is desirable is so wildly inaccurate that it borders on being irresponsible.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030

I compared macroeconomic and climate models in my Forbes column here.

55 thoughts on ““No Disagreement Whatsoever””

  1. Hasdrubal,

    Haven’t read the paper yet, but I certainly will. However, its long been apperent that while climate models and econ models have similar levels of scientific validity, economists are far more willing to talk about assumptions their models make, when and why those assumptions might or might not hold, etc., than climate scientists.

    I once attempted to talk about the limitations of climate models with Gavin Schmidt on realclimate…Oh. My. God. (And I hate that phrase, but I have no more appropriate reaction) In what appears to be typical behavior of climate scientists, all he could do is vaguely tell me how I’m wrong about the level of hard science that proves a1 through z1000 parameters that went into these models. He even once told me something like how he was confident in some set of parameters because if you changed them, you’d get “unrealistic” results??? But he had no why to actualy prove what “realistic” was supposed to mean, nor how tinkering with these parameters inside some “realistic” window couldn’t give him what ever desired result he was looking for. I don’t know if the man knows he’s full of crap, or if he is just so ignorant and myopic that he really believes what he’s saying.

    The phrase should really go:
    There are lies, damn lies, and climate models.

  2. Be fair, Wally. You were a fairly obnoxious poster on RC. I know you don’t or won’t see that in your own online persona, but you were dealt with in the way you were dealing and you didn’t come across particularly well either.

  3. A couple of years ago, Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, asked a statistician named Edward Wegman to produce a report that would cast doubt on climate change science, because Barton — then the chairman of the House energy committee — is less a citizen legislator than the whims of the oil and gas industries made animate and elected to Congress.

    The report criticized some statistics used to prove that the last century was the warmest one in centuries, which means it proved that global warming is pretend, in the eyes of most Republicans. (Although a follow-up report by the National Research Council “found that Wegman report-style criticisms of the type of statistics used in 1998 and 1999 papers reasonable but beside the point, as many subsequent studies had reproduced their finding that the 20th century was likely the warmest one in centuries.”)

    And also huge chunks of the whole thing were plagiarized — from the textbook written by one of the attacked scientists himself, and from Wikipedia.

    But in March, climate scientist Raymond Bradley of the University of Massachusetts asked GMU, based in Fairfax, Va., to investigate “clear plagiarism” of one of his textbooks.

    Bradley says he learned of the copying on the Deep Climate website and through a now year-long analysis of the Wegman report made by retired computer scientist John Mashey of Portola Valley, Calif. Mashey’s analysis concludes that 35 of the report’s 91 pages “are mostly plagiarized text, but often injected with errors, bias and changes of meaning.” Copying others’ text or ideas without crediting them violates universities’ standards, according to Liz Wager of the London-based Committee on Publication Ethics.

    Yeah, well. Wegman is under investigation by George Mason University. But Joe Barton! Joe Barton’s still with us. And the Republicans just took back the House, which means Barton has a decent shot at winning back the chairmanship of the House energy committee. (Though some other Republicans are slightly embarrassed by him, so you never know — it might end up being some other person in the pocket of the oil and gas industry who denies the existence of climate change.)


  4. ‘And also huge chunks of the whole thing were plagiarized — from the textbook written by one of the attacked scientists himself’

    Hoisted on one’s own petard. Happens like that, sometimes.

  5. Are you missing the point deliberately, kdk33, or just naturally? You do know that Wegman and Barton not only plagiarized but misinterpreted the textbook?

    Actually no, strike that. You wouldn’t. And you won’t.

    Typical denialist.

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