Bryan Caplan  

Case in Point

Econlog Makes WSJ's Top List... Carroll's Bet Proposal...

The WSJ names Marginal Revolution as "Top of the tree" among econ blogs, and adds "The comments tend to be of unusually high quality too."  As if to test this compliment, Tyler asks:

When it comes to the idea of "early intervention," and the claims that it offers very high rates of return, does [James Heckman] have serious published critics?

Check out the largely excellent responses.  My favorites:

From Eric Falkenstein:

Why isn't Head Start relevant? For a couple decades, everyone thought it worked. Now, it appears to have no effect after first grade [link]

From rapscallion:

These claims of super normal returns are based on a few small-sample, quasi-randomized studies. Why focus on these small studies (the Perry Preschool program involved 123 kids, Abecedarian had 111) and ignore the big, more relevant stuff like Head Start?

Also, yes, Heckman has revised down his earlier claims of ginormous returns to a more modest 7% or so [link]

From econjeff:

[R]ecent Heckman is a bit less enthused than earlier Heckman. For example, the main point of the Heckman (and students) re-do of the cost-benefit analysis from Perry Preschool is to bring the estimated effects into the domain of the realistic. They are still big by the standards of public programs but, unlike the ones sometimes advanced by the Perry people themselves, they do not elicit laughter as a first reaction. Also, my sense is that recent Heckman is pushing, as the evidence suggests, early interventions many for disadvantaged kids, not all kids. That is, after all, where the evidence is.

Hail MR!

Comments and Sharing

COMMENTS (3 to date)
fundamentalist writes:

I'm not a fan of MR because it doesn't seem like an economics blog to me. MR is a lot like Freakonomics and I don't think Freakonomics was about economics. It's about interesting statistics and trivia, but there is very little economics on it. This post on early intervention is an example. What does it have to do with economics? And what economics MR occasionally mentions often promotes bad theory.

david writes:

MR is sometimes more theoretical. TC once did a walk through Keynes's GT, which of course made every Austrian commenter's head explode with every post. Particularly the one which went, IIRC, "and with that Austrian capital theory falls off the map".

If you are not at least open to views outside your pet school of thought, then MR will frequently promote "bad economics", esp. since TC doesn't stay within one school.

EconLog is not quite Austrian either; Kling is the most sympathetic but he rejects some elements, preferring a neoclassical approach to institutionalism (as Acemoglu, etc. do it). Caplan is famously neoclassical and Henderson is non-theoretical on the blog. But since EconLog generally picks fights with the left rather than the right, commenters don't notice as much.

fundamentalist writes:

A case in point: look at MR's list of top articles for the year. Only 3 out of 12 are about economics. I would think that you ought to have half your articles be about economics for you to be considered an econ blog.

I don't mind MR posting heterodox economics. As david wrote, none of the writer for this blog are Austrian. Caplan rarely deals with economic issues, so I don't care. But Kling and Henderson often come to the same conclusions as Austrian econ. But MR doesn't just post differing views; he supports bad economic theory and attacks good theory when he occasionally posts about economics.

Austrian econ isn't my "pet" school. That suggests an irrational, emotional attachment. I earned my MA in Keynesian/neoclassical econ. However, the school's biggest mistake was allowing me to take a class in development economics where I found that a whole lot of what they taught in macro was just flat wrong. Much later I learned Austrian econ. I promote Austrian econ because I think it best describes how economies work. Other theories are just wrong.

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