Has Tyler Cowen Updated His Priors on Wealth Concentration and Inequality?
Noah Smith has documented the “anti-Piketty crusade” by Tyler Cowen, Chairman and General Director of the Koch-brothers-funded Mercatus Center. (The post seems to have gone missing from Noah’s site [pourquoi?]; here’s Google’s cached version.)
The latest from Cowen is here, joining in the right-wing chorus desperately trying to debunk the long and widely documented increase in wealth inequality (documented by many researchers using many data sources and many methodologies).
Cowen and the GMU crowd are big fans of Bayes, so I thought I’d ask him if all that research had shifted his beliefs. He replied, though not to the point, it seems to me. The conversation:
Steve Roth May 25, 2014 at 4:55 pm
Bayesian prior: wealth inequality in the U.S. (or, choose your country) has been unchanged since 1980. (Call this “50/50″.)
New information: read every study of wealth inequality from the last ten or fifteen years.
Does Tyler Cowen move his priors from 50/50? How far? This post seems to suggest: no, and zero. That right?
Tyler Cowen May 25, 2014 at 5:02 pm
Try reading the excerpted paragraph at the very end of the post.
May 26, 2014 at 2:09 pm
Of course I did read that (more than once). But I don’t think it answers my question.
Does all the research on wealth inequality and concentration that you’ve read over the last decade or two (including that based on the somewhat sample-challenged SCF data) shift your priors from “50/50”?
Maybe he didn’t see my last comment, almost a day later, and that’s why he hasn’t replied.
Cross-posted at Asymptosis.
Maybe wealth is unequal, maybe it ain’t. THE question IS, “What’s in his wallet???”
I read cowens blog on a regular basis, and although his commenters have strong anti-piketty bais, cowens own writings resemble nothing like a “crusade”. In fact i would suggest you would be much better served with argumentation, which he tends to do very well. One of Cowens central themes is a disdain for the distortion of logical or well reasoned argumentation by tribalism. He readily admits it is virtually impossible to totally escape it’s influence, since we as humans are not inherently rational, but he does make an effort at scrubbing his biases, and he does this by qualifying his arguments based on how sound he can sustain the component arguments. Name calling, which you seem to use here, does not engender confidence that your convinced of the strengths of your arguments. It’s a shame, because what we need is good argumentation on all sides of this discussion. But when name calling is prominent in a post, then it’s hard to take seriously as anything beyond tribal baiting.
Seriously? Point to the name Mr. Cowen was called as I do not see it. I do see a reporting of a conversation and Mr. Cowen’s background.
bingo, mike…most economists benefit from inequality..
we saw the same self interest with Krugman, who tried to shift the focus of Occupy Wall Street from the 1% to the 0.1%…
Maybe the name calling is the factual phrase Koch-brothers-funded. Is it a pejorative yet?
I would wonder why not – I don’t even think Nova is as good since they started writing the checks.
Re the “name calling” in this post (and I’m not sure I’ve ever read such a non-name calling post), it seems that it’s not only the ultra-rich who are such delicate flowers, but their minions as well.
Now there’s a little name-calling, though supported by reality.
@Suburban Bush Man:
As others have pointed out, no names called here….
“cowens own writings resemble nothing like a “crusade”.”
Did you not read Noah’s post?
“he does make an effort at scrubbing his biases”
He does do that some, and is brilliant at giving that impression that he always does it. Mike Sankowski points out how:
Act all reasonable and thoughtful and judicious about findings that don’t seriously threaten your belief system, while dissing those that do, without giving your reasoning, thought, and judgment.
e.g., Not actually answering my question.
This leads folks (including me for many years, and I would suggest you) to draw the very (mistaken) conclusion that you draw here.
A brilliant rhetorical strategy, perfect for giving the impression that Mercatus is reasonable, thoughtful, and judicious. Which it decidedly isn’t.
Mr. Cowens gets (or used to get) respected notice from blogs I read, such as Brad DeLong’s, so I gave him a try a few years ago. The first post I read took the position that universal health insurance was a bad idea (this was while the ACA was being negotitated in Congress). I wrote a comment asking why European countries with universal health insurance spent less than the U.S.A. on health care and had as good or better results. I also did not get a reply. (Unless it was after I ceased reading his blog.)