Posts Tagged ‘faith’

Christian faith and reason

Friday, December 16th, 2016

This is the promised second letter to the editor from today’s Financial Times. A reader from Berlin responds – beautifully – to Anjana Ahuja

science under siege

Tuesday, December 6th, 2016

The conflict between scientists and political leaders (secular and religious) in some countries is moving toward levels that were common centuries ago, writes British-Indian science journalist Anjana Ahuja. The coming change of government in the USA is but one example, though a surprising one.

Four centuries ago, Galileo caught the unwelcome attention of the Roman Catholic Church. In 1616, his conviction that the Earth went round the Sun, contrary to the geocentric view of the universe, simply irritated theologians; by 1633, the astronomer was under house arrest and forbidden from propagating his beliefs, a situation that prevailed until his death in 1642. It might have been worse for a heretic: he could have been burnt at the stake.

Scientists may well feel the heat from those in power once again. Donald Trump, US president-elect, established his anti-science credentials by declaring climate change a Chinese hoax. In Mike Pence, he chose a running mate who seems not to believe in evolution. One science blogger said Mr Trump

Adam Smith as political caricature

Thursday, November 19th, 2015

One of my pet peeves is conservatives and libertarians who claim to adore liberal philosopher Adam Smith (1723-1790), so reveal a complete failure to understand his writings. New York Times journalist David Leonhardt expresses the same complaint.

He believed that government had a crucial role to play in a well-functioning economy. It should finance and run good schools, as well as build roads, bridges and parks, he argued. It should tax alcohol, sugar and tobacco, all of which impose costs on society. It should regulate businesses to protect workers. And it should tax the rich


Friday, April 24th, 2015

Long ago, during the presidency of George W. Bush, American satirist Stephen Colbert coined the term ‘truthiness’. In an FT column this week, British economist John Kay looks back on the evolution of truthiness, and the role it plays in political debate on both sides of the Atlantic.

We are all subject to confirmation bias

balanced-budget fundamentalism

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

Oxford University economist Simon Wren-Lewis writes on his blog that balanced-budget fundamentalism – the belief that government budgets must be balanced, regardless of the state of the economy – is stronger in Europe than it is in the United States. This should worry Europeans because “fundamentalism … that denies the principles of macroeconomics … is doing people immediate harm”.

Europeans, and particularly the European elite, find popular attitudes to science among many across the Atlantic both amusing and distressing. In Europe we do not have regular attempts to replace evolution with

Solow on the sad state of macroeconomics

Friday, February 21st, 2014

Further to my earlier post (19 February) on Arnold Kling, here is a message that Kling’s PhD thesis adviser – Robert Solow – delivered at Joe Stiglitz’ 60th birthday conference in 2003.

So how did macroeconomics

economics as faith (10)

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014

I have long wondered why a brilliant economist like Arnold Kling, who has a PhD from prestigious MIT, never worked in academia. Now I understand. He was a heretic who lacked faith in the doctrine of rational expectations.


I remember reading once that it is still not understood how the giraffe manages to pump an adequate blood supply all the way up to its head; but it is hard to imagine that anyone would therefore conclude that giraffes do not have long necks. At least not anyone who had ever been to a zoo.

economics as faith (9)

Friday, April 26th, 2013

Economists are not always wrong; nor does the real problem lie with dodgy data. The mistake comes when policy makers invest the findings of a faith-based discipline with the certainties of science. They would do better to rely on common sense and observed behaviour.

Philip Stephens, “The New Deal for Europe: more reform, less austerity“, Financial Times 26 April 2013.

FT columnist Philip Stephens is commenting on controversy surrounding errors found in the work of Harvard professors Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff. His statement is interesting, even though the second sentence contains an error. Certainties are characteristic of faith, not science. Faith-based statements by definition cannot be proven wrong. The conventional wisdom of science can always be overturned with new data, or new ways of examining old data.

Reinhart and Rogoff, in a NY Times op-ed, emphasise that they are scholars, not faith-based economists. They learn from errors and seek to advance science, but cannot prevent others from using their work to support political causes.

[W]e view ourselves as scholars, though obviously given the prominence of book [sic], and the extraordinary circumstances of the financial crisis, politicians will of course try to use our results to advance their cause. We have never advised Mr. Ryan, nor have we worked for President Obama, whose Council of Economic Advisers drew heavily on our work in a chapter of the 2012 Economic Report of the President, recreating and extending the results.

In the campaign, we received great heat from the right for allowing our work to be used by others as a rationalization for the country

Mankiw on debt and growth

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

Greg Mankiw has posted five observations “on the coding error found in one of the Reinhart-Rogoff papers”. The most important, in my opinion, is #3:

I believe that high levels of debt and deficits are a negative for the economy in the long run.

Paul Ryan and Ayn Rand

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

Early in his Congressional career, Paul D. Ryan, the Wisconsin representative and presumptive Republican vice-presidential nominee, would give out copies of Ayn Rand