Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Brad DeLong Redefines "Seriousness" Beyond Recognition

by Ken Houghton

The standard for the word seriousness has, apparently, become using a phrase that doesn't mean what you would think it does.

In this corner, PhD #1, J. Bradford DeLong, lets Sebastian Mallaby define "economic seriousness." The result is predictable, though not pretty:
In the 2004 election, the Kerry-Edwards ticket forfeited its claim to economic seriousness by opposing trade deals such as the Central American Free Trade Agreement.

One would hope that DeLong—who has previously documented (PDF) and podcast that the gains from NAFTA do not approach what was promised—would know better.

Out of the fear that he doesn't, we present Ph.D. #2, Duncan Black discussing the difference between Free Trade (the economic concept) and "free trade":
And, unlike the axis of Mallaby and Friedman, I understand that not every treaty with the words "free trade" on the cover has all that much to do with "free trade." Even if one is basically pro-free trade, one can object to such things on the grounds that they don't go far enough (still protecting Big Sugar), or that they include unrelated intellectual property protections. [link in original]

CAFTA makes NAFTA look "fair and balanced." If DeLong is seriously endorsing the idea that not objecting to CAFTA should be considered "economic seriousness," both his and Berkeley's reputations are going to take a serious hit.

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I suspect Berkeley will survive.
Jeremy: Agreed. I don't think the effect at issue is Brad DeLong's reputation, but rather the implications for Democratic candidates' viability.

As I'd mentioned in another comment recently, Brad is aware of the problem that the Clintonomists/Rubinonomists inadvertently carried water for the wingnuts who gave us Bushonomics.

So the deal with these trade agreements is that the aggregate benefits are relatively small and the distributional consequences are such that the public, esp. elements of the Democratic base, might reasonably (as in, there's a model!) say No Thanks. For whatever reason, the high-powered academic policy advisers can't figure out that it isn't worth playing to the Washington Post op-ed page over the Democratic electorate.

(If the recent NYT profile of Larry Summers is accurate, Summers may be a step or two ahead on this front.)
To be clear, I sincerely hope that both Berkeley and DeLong can survive. (Though this is hardly the first time DeLong has let doctrine get in the way of perceiving the reality; fortunately, he does this one his blog, not in his papers.)

Otherwise, What Tom Said, including the part about Summers. (If you look at some of Summers older papers on JSTOR, you can see the trend.)
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