Arnold Kling  

A Questionable Video

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I took a break from the basic economic concepts to record this video. I am leaning against encouraging my students to watch it. Regular readers of this blog may enjoy it.


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COMMENTS (8 to date)
Luke G. writes:

A nice summation of your views.

John writes:

This is a really great video, and I wish every professor/teacher would do something like this. First, because it's valuable to know where your teachers are coming from (I'm not a fan of pretending to be "objective" rather than just plainly stating your opinions while also providing students with the other side's POV). Second, because if someone had shown me a video like this when I'd first taken economics, I would have been able to ask more interesting questions in all my future econ classes. That way I might not have ended up learning more economics from bloggers like you, the other GMU profs (e.g. Cowen/Tabarrok), and Scott Sumner than I ever learned on my way to my Econ BA!

I would absolutely encourage your students to watch this video. Some of them might end up trusting you less knowing you're an "extreme libertarian." But overall I'd hope that it would help students realize that economics, especially macro, makes tons of bold assumptions that it's perfectly acceptable to question (though of course not in the middle of the AP test!).

Nick Rowe writes:

It's good. I think your students should see it. Partly because it lets them know your perspective, but mostly because it will really give them something to think about.

Picky points: your handwriting!! And at 7.20 you are a bit unclear.

Jeff writes:

I don't mean to be disagreeable, but somebody has to say this.

The video was far too long for what you had to say. It felt as if you had in mind only a rough outline of what you were going to say, and the rest was winging it as you went. Asking students to sit there while you speak and write very s-l-o-w-l-y with interspersed 'ah's and 'uh's while you are thinking about what to say next is wasting their time. If this is how you lecture in actual classes, you should improve your technique.

When I teach a class, I write down in HTML what I'm going to say almost word-for-word, and put it on a link the students can get to. They don't have to take notes, so they can concentrate on listening and asking questions. We cover more material without being limited by the speed at which people can take notes.

Powerpoint presentations are widely derided, but there's a reason why they are so popular. If your video had been done as a Powerpoint presentation, it could have covered all of the same points in less than half the time it took you to scribble stuff.

Lauren writes:

Hi, Arnold.

You lost my vote of confidence several times in this video, so I think it's a good decision to not encourage your students to watch it.

Let me say that the first time in the video that you completely and totally lost my vote to use this in any classroom was when you said, around the 2-minute mark: Let's call the mainstream people... technocrats.

The mainstream people in economics may be unusually populated by or unusually influenced by technocrats. But you can't compare apples to oranges. There is a very specific meaning to the word "technocrats," and I don't think that characterizes what is probably the middle, say, 40-60% of the distribution of economists you have started off by arranging on a scale between those who want more government and those who want less government.

It was completely reasonable to divide government policy advocates into those who want more government and those who want less.

But as a logical matter, to next label the middle ground as "technocrats" made no sense.

If you want to create a scale of technocrats, then amongst those technocrats there are those who want more government and those who want less government.

Between those who want more government regulation and less government regulation, there is maybe a middle ground of undecideds, agnostics, those who think firmly that some government regulation is warranted on either economic grounds or philosophical grounds, and those who think equally firmly that some government regulation is not warranted on economic grounds or philosophical grounds. "Technocrats" is not a middle ground between those who want more or less government regulation.

Lauren

Various writes:

I think it is an excellent video, and I agree with you that it isn't appropriate for your students, at least not in it's current form. FYI, I think you are covering 2 related but different topics in your video. The second is the more powerful, which I happen to agree with. That is that monopolies in general are dangerous. There are various reasons they are dangerous and specific characteristics of situations in which monopolies are okay versus situations where they aren't. You describe one of these in your video, specifically that the body of knowledge of the monopolists isn't very high. You could have brought up other factors as well, such as the sophistication level of those governed. For example, if we lived in a world populated by children, we would need folks in power to exercise more top-down power because the children would be incapable of making sound decisions.

The first subject is that economists have a wide range of views, which is something you'd expect in a field that deals with subjective measurements and a complex system (i.e., the world economy). You can approach this first subject very thoroughly, while not bringing up the concept of monopoly, which is more politically touchy.

AJ writes:

Maybe a nice summary of where you stand, but maybe of little use with students. First, it's really two ideas. The conclusion about the political spectrum can be supported (or opposed) on grounds other than the overknowledge of macroeconomics, although it's interesting that this is primary in Arnold's thinking. (We all tend to reason from what we know best and I tend to agree with Arnold on all this.) For example, if macroeconomists suddenly became humble or accurate in their own epistemology, would Paul Krugman and ilk suddenly argue for less government involvement and control?

Second, saying that a large body of thinking/doing/professionals know much less than they think they do (and therefore support more govt-action than they should) is really an experience and lesson that students should get from the ground up. Being told that is the case does little to convince or educate. Also, much of economics and its study of the interaction of incentives is very useful -- the key is really getting students to discriminate where the extent of economic knowledge is useful and where it is oversold.

AJ

ATF writes:

Much of what is said in that video — particularly the last minute and a half — is very good for students to hear. I'm about to take intermediate macro this fall, and I greatly appreciate this post and others warning me to take the stories I'm going to hear in intermediate macro with a gigantic chunk of salt.

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