Krugman on Reinhart-Rogoff: data bent by the black hole that is our political/media system
Posted by Charles II on May 3, 2013
The fact is that Carmen and Ken are fine economists. Carmen has been doing terrific empirical work on banking crises for a long time. Ken is arguably the world’s leading international macroeconomic theorist. In fact, the main reason I knew that the case for fiscal policy remained strong even in the context of New Keynesian models was that I carefully read the canonical text by Obstfeld and Rogoff.
So what happened here? My interpretation is that after writing a very good book, R-R dashed off a careless paper on debt and growth that was so much what the VSPs wanted to hear that it made them instant celebrities in a way they hadn’t been before — and they didn’t know how to say stop the merry-go-round, we want to think about this a bit harder. The temptation involved was one of fame and becoming a part of the alleged real world, not some crude mercenary consideration.
The Reinhart-Rogoff rehabilitation tour has been really depressing. There are a number of routes they could have gone; unfortunately, they seem addicted to the notion that they can end the discussion by arguing with straw men.
There should be a serious investigation of how these errors crept into Reinhart and Rogoff’s work. They have been a poor example to younger researchers of the proper response to finding error in one’s work, responding with arrogance and defensiveness when they should have apologized for all the harm their work has caused.
But Krugman doesn’t think they should be accused of fraud, and–at this point–neither do I. Even though the selective use of data ought to be scrutinized very closely.
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