Economists Do It With Models

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Be Careful What You Wish For, Economist Party Edition…

June 12th, 2014 · 7 Comments
Policy · Uncategorizable

Okay, so my last post mentioned my desire for an Economist political party, but I don’t think that this is what I had in mind:

(See here if you are feeling procrastinatory and want to watch the second part of the segment.)

First off, I can’t help but focus on the fact that Rate My Professors is apparently fair game for information sleuthing, so, in all probability, the student review that said I would make a good wife if only I learned how to cook will come to light if I ever become famous and/or infamous. (And yes, I’m still pissed that the little sh*t incorrectly assumed that I can’t cook.) More generally, this story is making the ambivalence center in my brain hurt. Let’s take a quick inventory:

  • David Brat is in fact an economics professor at Randolph-Macon College, and he has a Ph.D. in economics from American University. (Yay!)
  • David Brat also has a degree from the Princeton Theological Seminary. (a bit odd given the other facts, especially the Ayn Rand thing that we will get to, but neither here nor there)
  • The above facts imply that the Tea Party isn’t entirely terrified of intelligent and/or educated people. (Yay!)
  • None of the economists I talked to had any idea who David Brat was before this event. (technically not terrible, but potentially worrisome) I’ll let you all judge his CV for yourselves.
  • Accoring to TPM, “Brat is also the director of the school’s BB&T Moral Foundations of Capitalism Program, a bank-branded program intended to give “free-market principles” — and Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism in particular — a leg up in the classroom.” (*facepalm* Am I the only one who finds it hilarious that anything having to do with the moral foundations of capitalism has a corporate sponsor? I am incredibly suspicious of these sorts of programs and centers because I feel pretty strongly that good scholarship can’t promise to give anything “a leg up.” In addition, Brat does realize that Ayn Rand was an atheist, right? I kind of want this to be a dealbreaker in my pro/con analysis, but most people gave Alan Greenspan the benefit of the doubt regarding his Ayn Rand obsession, so I will try to withhold overall judgment.)
  • As the above article’s comments note, we can now look forward to the existence of a “Brat PAC.” (Yay! I like bad puns.)
  • Regardless of how you feel about his policies, you have to admit that Eric Cantor is kind of an obnoxious twerp. (Yay!)
  • It’s pretty appealing to root for the underdog (seriously, Cantor, more on steak than Brat spent on his whole campaign?), and, as one who studies incentives, it’s nice to see effort be rewarded and entitlement be punished. (This reminds me of the Coakley/Brown election for Ted Kennedy’s senate seat in Massachusetts where Democrat Martha Coakley made arrogant comments about how shaking hands with people outside Fenway Park was beneath her and subsequently lost to Republican Scott Brown in a very blue state.) (Yay!)
  • Brat’s position is that Cantor is too liberal, specifically where immigration reform is concerned. I’m pretty sure I read somewhere that Brat wants to build a giant fence. (Yikes, especially since this suggests that Brat doesn’t fully appreciate the opportunity cost involved in resource utilization.)
  • As Justin Wolfers notes, Brat is one of very few politicians who will actually admit when he doesn’t have an answer for something. (Yay!)

Overall, I don’t think I agree with Brat’s ideology (though I will admit that he does have his moments), but I do think that he’s better than the Tea Party label suggests. That said, I am frustrated that one side effect of this development is that everyone watching cable news is getting the phrases “Tea Party,” “economics professor,” and “Ayn Rand” in close proximity over and over, so I do understand and feel the desire to point out that this guy’s views don’t represent those of the typical economist. Especially as far as immigration is concerned.

The more I read about this, the more interested I become in how UNH’s Dan Innis will fare in his Congressional bid.

Tags: Policy · Uncategorizable

7 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Nels Ekelund // Jun 12, 2014 at 7:11 pm

    In fairness to Brat, I’m not sure any of us sully appreciate much of anything.

  • 2 J.D. // Jun 12, 2014 at 7:11 pm

    Jodi, you’d make a great wife even if you couldn’t cook because you’re just great to begin with.

  • 3 Jeff // Jun 12, 2014 at 8:39 pm

    Re: “because I feel pretty strongly that good scholarship can’t promise to give anything “a leg up.”

    I think this is a big part of why the liberals are against unabashed free market principals in general. In the Colleges you might hear about free market principals “except for externalities”, but by the time you become a pundit the externalities are replaced with at best, “wink wink, nudge nudge”.

    In other news, I was glad to see Eric Cantor lose, but you have to admit it’s a bit sad when it happens to someone with so much steak in the matter.

  • 4 econgirl // Jun 12, 2014 at 8:51 pm

    @ Nels: Always appreciate your comments, the bonus snark in particular. 🙂

    @ J.D. NOT. THE. POINT. But thanks!

    @ Jeff: Externalities and other other assorted market failures, yep. Given that such things exist, I find the arguments that veer into “all free markets all the time” quite lacking. I don’t think that one has to be a liberal to feel that way. And I really want to know what that much steak looks like.

  • 5 Wilson Dizard // Jun 13, 2014 at 1:18 am

    1.) The House already has at least one member who has worked as an economist: Florida Democrat Alan Grayson, who also is an attorney.

    2.) Barack O’Bama worked for a short time for Business International. That company later changed owners and now forms part of The Economist Intelligence Unit. O’Bama reportedly didn’t enjoy writing financial & polical articles.

    3.) Professor Brat claimed repeatedly during his campaign that Rep. Cantor favored legislation that would grant “amnesty” to some out-of-status immigrants/illegal immigrants. The proposals Brat was referring to fall far short of amnesty. Brat also told voters that the undocumented/illegal/out-of-status resident population totals 40 million. The most reliable current estimates of that demographic group’s size range between 10 million and 12 million people; the most likely figure is around 10.5 million. The highest estimates ever used routinely by anti – immigration policy advocates was 20 million; even those lobbyists acknowledge that the Great Recession reduced the number of undocumented immigrants. [Source for Brat’s “40 million” claim: The Washington Post, June 11, 2014; pp. A25, op-ed column by Harold Meyerson]

    4.) Figures don’t lie but liars figure.

  • 6 Wilson Dizard // Jun 13, 2014 at 2:15 am

    This is an authentic question, related to the words above, “to be fair.” In your opinion, which of the following two forms of behavior is the less fair, or the more unfair, or, the more despicable:

    1.) Prof. Brat’s use of wildly inflated figures for the size of the US out-of-status immigrant community, along with his linked insinuations of bigoted racial stereotypes about illegal immigrants? or

    2.) Rep. Cantor’s investment in an exchange-traded fund that aggressively shorts short-term US sovereign debt instruments, during months when he personally was jeopardizing the full faith & credit of the US by leading the negotiations in opposition to debt ceiling limit increases; and also, during those same weeks, holding lengthy repeated meetings with campaign contributors who worked as investment managers”trading the yield curve, ” who stood to earn millions from information Cantor provided; both actions on Cantor’s part comprising brazen conflicts of interest?

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