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Desc:Interesting debate between Friedman and three left-wing academics.
Category:News & Politics, Science & Technology
Tags:Iceland, Friedman, libertarian, economics
Submitted:manfred
Date:08/23/07
Views:1556
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Comment count is 5
OldScratch
Friedman's responses were very disappointing. The Scandinavian questions were to the point, while Friedman's answers had little or nothing to do with economics, but, as in the case of Hahn's paper, simply attacked the credibility of his detractor. I felt Friedman largely avoided addressing some very valid questions.

Friedman reminds me of the experience a German friend had with an American, fellow researcher in his lab in Frankfurt. The researcher was a Harvard grad, and recent PhD. In the words of his German colleagues he was 'full of shit', smart, but without a mature grasp of his subject; never the less he was very American, cocky and competitive. He would argue incessantly, and mix truth with clever, but unfounded, speculation, while doing what Friedman did - turning the questions to his advantage and attacking his questioner. The Germans had never dealt with such an unaccountably confident bullshit artist. I recently asked my friend how this guy was doing, and he said, 'Much better. He can discuss things more openly and clearly now, and without so much arrogant bullshit. We gave him the German makeover.' 'What is the German makeover?' you might ask. Not really sure, but it probably involved butt rape.
Feyd
That doesn't seem to be the case. The academics said "This guy's work says you're wrong." Friedman simply pointed out that the critic was debating a point of econometrics, not economic theory. He also noted that the statistician used experimental and not generally accepted methods to base his criticism. He didn't attack the detractor's credibility, he only said that over time the scientific community and continued work would decide whose methods were more rigorous. The academics essentially threw others' papers at Friedman and said "This guy says you're wrong, how do you respond to that?" and Friedman's response was very level: "So far his work doesn't make that case, and time (and effort) will judge which set of theory better reflects reality.

OldScratch
No, Feyd. Can you draw the line between econometrics and economic theory? Econometrics is simply economist-speak for statistics. Most important findings in economics use statistics. Hahn's critique (and other critiques of Friedman) raise interesting questions. Let's take an analogy: if a famous mathematician were confronted with an error in his work, and instead of walking us carefully through his original hypothesis, and pointing out how he is correct, or conceding that he was mistaken and correcting his findings, he simply says, 'Well, the guy who criticised my work isn't working within a valid branch of mathematics, and, in any case, history will prove who is right or wrong, and he is probably gay anyway...' then he is avoiding the question, and avoiding the sort of debate that allows disciplines like economics and mathematics to grow. At the very least, I would have expected Friedman to give a summary, and address the criticism on some level. Particularly if he had a solid refutation of Hahn. Then again, I have always felt that the words 'social' and 'science' should never be used together in the same sentence. Friedman's sad performance reinforces my doubts about the 'dismal science'.

Feyd
There is a difference between statistical methodology and economic theory that is based in those statistics. Economic theorists have teams that are relied upon to be rigorous with and familiar with their statistics. At the time of the interview the methodological criticism used was very new and not generally accepted. Friedman did not say that Hahn's statistics were invalid, he said that they were new and experimental and that it was too soon to see if they were valid and rigorous. Friedman also admitted that he is not a statistician himself and therefore not qualified to give an informed opinion on a very new paper using very new methods.

I have no idea what you wanted out of him here. He gave his perspective, and the three ambushed him with very new work outside his field and said "This means you're wrong," which is a) incorrect, as pointed out Hahn's statistical criticism only dealt with a small portion of Friedman's book, b) unproductive, as it asked a theorist to argue statistical method, and c) unfair, as Hahn's work did not have enough credibility to be taken as a superior or even reliable source of complaint. There was no reason to give a refutation of Hahn and they were asking the wrong person to do so. Their tact is like asking an Epidemiologist to defend the work of his statistical team based on some weird statistical complaint that was just published a month ago.

This video says nothing about anything; except perhaps, that academic debate is about as respectable as a flame-war with fewer epithets.

Billy Buttsex
Introduction by Waldo from Where's Waldo
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