On behalf of Professor Emeritus Edgeworth Boks, I would like to welcome Kausfiles and MSN Slate readers. I would also like to thank Mickey Kaus for awarding us the coveted first prize in his Krugman Contest. Before I explain why I believe the Krugman Contest was important, let me tell you a little about Dr. Boks.
Presently, Dr. Boks is busy working on the latest refinement of his 1986 refinement of his 1972 refinement of his of his 1967 refinement of his seminal game theoretic model of 37 pigs in a poke. Otherwise, he would have responded personally. I am Dr. Boks research assistant, P.S. Babcock. (When I get my Ph.D., I'll be entitled to a first name).
The esteemed Dr. Boks did not submit the winning Krugman quote. Dr. Boks does not know how to use the internet. Thus, he does not read Kausfiles. Or MSN Slate. Also, he does not know how to type. (I type all his correspondence for him). Nevertheless, he deserves credit for this prize because I am his research assistant. Everything I say, do, write, or think is his property. Dr. Boks does not keep abreast of current events or the new media, nor does he understand how to use any device invented after 1974. He has never owned a business or worked at a job outside the university. He is too busy constructing mathematical models that explain to us how we produce things.
He is the quintessential economist.
I describe Dr. Boks habits of behavior because they illuminate the purpose of the Krugman Contest, as I see it. We economists do not predict well. We are clever and creative sometimes. But we do not really know what will happen next. Arguably, 80% of macroeconomics is nonsense (and everyone disagrees on which 80% that is). The assumptions upon which our models are built are laughably absurd. Every now and then, we gain a bit of traction on an issue or a possible causal mechanism and this enables us to offer an enlightened guess. It is worth doing, of course, and may even be noble work at times, because there is always the possibility of finding answers that will make for a better world. But our best models are constantly being falsified, and our predictions should carry that caveat. Always.
An economist who offers predictions, insistently, fiercely, furiously, nastily, about things we do not predict well, and who impugns the reputations of thinkers who disagree with him, is displaying partisan zeal. Period. He may well be a brilliant economist, but does an excellent job of hiding it at these moments. He writes in his capacity as zealot or evangelist, not as scientist. The economy may get better or it may get worse. But to insist on one or the other, and to belittle those who presume to disagree on something so preternaturally unpredictable, is to invite justified ridicule...
...and might just lead someone to name a contest after you.
Thanks, Mickey. (And now it's back to typing up Dr. Boks grocery list....)