Arnold Kling  

The Knowledge-Power Discrepancy

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Susan Hockfield writes,

Rebuilding our manufacturing capacity requires the demolition of the idea that the United States can thrive on its service sector alone. We need to create at least 20 million jobs in the next decade to offset the effects of the recession and to address our $500 billion trade deficit in manufactured goods.

Oh, please. Pointer from Russ Roberts.

A generous interpretation would be that she is engaged in subtle lobbying on behalf of MIT. But I would think that the MIT economics department would be embarrassed by the piece.

Her status as President of MIT would suggest to most readers that she knows what she is talking about. She doesn't. Her op-ed exemplifies what I said I feared in my Where I Stand video. People who have expertise, but who fail to appreciate the limits of their expertise.

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COMMENTS (12 to date)
Mr. Econotarian writes:

"Rebuilding our manufacturing capacity"?

What about "Rebuilding our agricultural capacity" so we can get back all those hundreds of thousands of agricultural jobs we lost since 1860?

Larry Doffman writes:

exactly @Mr. Econotrarian. People who are pining for the old days of higher employment numbers in manufacturing probably have no idea that the US's output is higher than ever, it just doesn't require the manpower it once did (read technology,productivity increases,etc.) - just like our agriculture output is higher but doesn't require the manpower it once did.

Modern day luddites.

Shangwen writes:

Plus, she's a neuroscientist as well as an Ivy League president. I predict a plum job for her as a Health Care Overlord (Overlady?) in Obama II. That way, she can rebuild America's lost capacity for mustard plasters and insulin coma therapy. A wise choice.

mtraven writes:

The MIT committee on manufacturing that Hockfield started last year (and from which her op-ed draws) includes MIT economists including at least one Nobel winner (Robert Solow). I found this out with about 10 seconds of googling.

jb writes:

"Susan Hockfield, a neuroscientist, is the president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a director of General Electric."

Having read the piece and the above info, where do you think Hockfield expects (public) investment funds to flow in the event her crusade is embraced?

Arnold Kling writes:

I could not find the economists to whom you referred. But at the link, the article said,
"because of automation and rapid productivity gains, the sector is unlikely to yield many new manufacturing jobs." That sounds like the way an economist would look at it.

Too bad she didn't say that in her op-ed, where she seems to imply that we ought to seek to create 20 million new manufacturing jobs.

Shayne Cook writes:

A common denominator ...

It seems to be a universal indicator that those who have little grasp of the problem, but who nonetheless have formulated a "solution", heavily rely on the phrase, "We need ....".

I'm often left wondering what "We" they are referring to, as "I" rarely or never "need" what they are proposing.

Chris Koresko writes:

Shayne Cook: It seems to be a universal indicator that those who have little grasp of the problem, but who nonetheless have formulated a "solution", heavily rely on the phrase, "We need ....".

Interesting. I hypothesize that one can identify a statist by his tendency to refer to the federal government by the word "we". If that's true, then someone who proposes a federal policy using the phrase, "we need to..." would indicate a clueless statist. What do you think?

mtraven writes:

Jeeze, it's one thing to be blind to reality, another to be blind to text that is right there in front of you:

But the challenges facing manufacturing are perhaps greater than those of the 1980s, said Robert Solow, a professor emeritus of economics, Nobel laureate, and vice chairman of the first MIT manufacturing committee

So, please, let's consider the basic point of this post falsified -- that only the economically ignorant would be so foolish as to advocate a policy to encourage domestic manufacturing.

That is independent of whether such a course is wise, or whether the president of MIT is motivated primarily by economic self-interest, or whether the use of "we" indicates cryptofascism.

Seth writes:

Better yet, let's create 20 million neuroscience and college president jobs over the next decade.

Arthur_500 writes:

I believe the economists in the Soviet Union were also dealing with a need to find 20 million jobs for its residents. By collecting those needy residents they employed them in factories throught the Soviet East.

Such bliss should come to American Workers and I am sure enlightened leaders such as Ms. Hockfield would support such a move.

Shayne Cook writes:

To Chris Koresko ...

Generally, I concur. I recognize any use of the "we need ..." phrase as indicative of arrogance above all else. It's insulting.

And it's too often used concurrent with an author's apparent lack of understanding of either the situation or the ramifications of their proposed "solution[s]" to the situation - which is indicative of ignorance.

The effects of the arrogance/ignorance combination are rarely satisfactory.

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