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My apologies to those who frequent this blog and by doing so "contribute to our national paralysis." In his NY Times column yesterday, former editor-in-chief Bill Keller laments that one of the downsides of the internet is that it brings out the worst in economic commentary, distracting us from the unifying principles of "mainstream economics." If the only ones to comment were "serious scholars," then we could solve our national economic problems quickly. Instead, "lesser economists are thrust forward for their moment of fame as witnesses on behalf of dubious claims." As an example, he cites the 132 economists who agreed that Speaker Boehner's policy approach would "do more to boost private-sector job growth in America in both the near-term and long-term than the ‘stimulus’ spending approach favored by President Obama."

Reputable number-crunchers like Moody’s Analytics and some top-tier economists of both parties said Boehner’s statement would have little or no impact on the short-term employment problem. So who were these 132 economists? With a few exceptions they were academics from off-the-beaten-path colleges (no offense to Dakota State University), bloggers (the Calafia Beach Pundit?) and economists from devoutly libertarian think tanks.

And he went on to say:

Surely this dilution of authority contributes to our national paralysis. At the very least it befogs the discussion and fosters a pervasive cynicism.

I hasten to add that while Bill Keller and I graduated from Pomona College within a year of each other, I would like to think my training in philosophy (under the expert hand of the late Professor Fred Sontag) allowed me to keep a more open mind. Wisdom and experience do not come only to those in positions of "authority."

UPDATE: Another of the 132 signers of Boehner's letter writes a devastating critique of Keller's use and mis-use of economic theory in his Forbes column.

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