Niall Ferguson Is My Hero

Niall Ferguson’s recent Newsweek piece, which convincingly and dispassionately argues why the country ought not re-elect Barack Obama, has really irritated the liberal cognescenti. So much so, that progressive patron saint Paul Krugman took time from his summer vacation to lambast Ferguson for “multiple errors and misrepresentations” and to accuse him of presenting “unethical commentary.” What really is telling is that Krugman could only come up with one, not multiple, objections, which Ferguson roundly blows out of the water. Ferguson then concludes his rebuttal by suggesting that Krugman read “a wee bit more carefully before his conscience next starts blogging.”

Put simply, Krugman did not do his homework, an accusation Krugman often makes against his own political opponents. In essence, Mr. Ferguson artfully outsnarked the leading and most annoying progressive snark. Hear hear, Mr. Ferguson!

Ferguson then goes one step further and demolishes the way his liberal critics have responded to his intelligent and well-argued piece:

My critics have three things in common. First, they wholly fail to respond to the central arguments of the piece. Second, they claim to be engaged in ‘fact checking,’ whereas in nearly all cases they are merely offering alternative (often silly or skewed) interpretations of the facts. Third, they adopt a tone of outrage that would be appropriate only if I had argued that, say, women’s bodies can somehow prevent pregnancies in case of ‘legitimate rape.'”

The level of push back against Ferguson’s argument is telling. If the debate shifts back to the state of the economy, Americans may rightly conclude that President Obama’s economic stewardship has been less than adequate. Even worse, Ferguson is a tenured Harvard professor, which conflicts with the liberal world view that all conservatives are stupid, religious quacks. The furor has reached such an irrational fever pitch that bloggers are not only demanding that Newsweek fire Ferguson, but also that Harvard University should do the same. As Ferguson put it:

“The icing on the cake has been the attempt by some bloggers to demand that I be sacked not just by Newsweek but also by Harvard University, where I am a tenured professor. It is especially piquant to read these demands from people who would presumably defend academic freedom in the last ditch—provided it is the freedom to publish opinions in line with their own ideology.”

Frankly, this reaction is completely out of proportion to what Mr. Ferguson argued in his piece. While I do not agree with his conclusions on President Obama’s foreign policy, I think he is spot on with his economic analysis. Moreover, I think it is refreshing to finally see a high-profile magazine provide a conservative intellectual with a platform to present his views. Apparently, many on the left do not. They’d rather argue that all conservatives secretly believe in Todd Akin’s “legitimate rape” theory, which is about as ridiculous as the argument that all liberals secretly want to install a communist dictatorship.

In the end, the left’s hyperbolic response to a legitimate piece about the most important issues facing the United States is sad. The country should be debating these issues. Voters should be using objective statistics to assess the president’s economic performance (or lack thereof). Instead, we have LZ Granderson focusing on how most conservatives want to ban abortions in the case of “forcible” rape (as opposed to “regular” rape, of course), and the Vice President of the United States engaging in shameless race-baiting.

Our country is rapidly losing focus on what’s important, and the vilification of a prominent conservative academic is a case in point.

Fight on, Mr. Ferguson. Fight on.

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About Sean Patrick Hazlett

Conservative clean energy crusader, national security hawk, financial analyst, engineer, and former military officer.
This entry was posted in Blogging, Business, Defense, Finance and Economics, International Security, Leadership, Media, Policy, Politics, Socialism and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to Niall Ferguson Is My Hero

  1. Jeff Fordham says:

    I am too tired after 12 hours in the trenches to make an effort to blow any smoke up your ass Sean………So I am reposting some astute commentary I just read over at Krugman’s blog where he simply pointed out the misrepresentation of the facts in Ferguson’s paid for hatchet job.

    Before I post the commentary……..I pose this question to you ….mr. overlord of “ROAR”….. would the country be any better off today if John McCain and the ditzy wordsmith from Wasilla had been elected ?………….seriously ??………………and Ferguson’s “fight” goes about as far as his next paycheck…….and thats a fact.

    Comment 1:
    It is strange and estranging that so many intelligent people are just discovering that Professor Niall Ferguson belongs to a history defying fringe.
    I ‘defy’ anyone to show me in which respect he can be said to be a “distinguished historian”. What historical thesis has he advanced that gives us a sustainable new perspective on a historical question?
    His mastery is to take an innocuous paragraph (On the risks of the US Debt, for instance), and to restate it over 300 pages as a book; replete with bouncy bromides and feckless banalities, already aggressively agreed by any public, written in a style as tautological as vapor.
    He has another mastery which is slamming his face into the armpits of the powerful, there to gain favour with unnamed, undefined initiatives, in a woeful mendicancy that he has parlayed into appointments at august institutions.
    You take leave from a reading of his book for fear of the onset of barking madness brought on by the anemic fact-ish claim, over-stated with hellish constancy.
    I disagree with nearly every policy advanced by Mr. Obama. However, it cannot be that so soon as the wind seems to be blowing against Mr. Obama of a sudden, Ferguson does not merely aim to follow the wind, but in typical form, he attempts to actually become the wind. That’s his bag…

    comment 2:

    I think on balance there are many things you can criticize President Obama for. But it seems fundamentally unfair not to place his performance in the context of the circumstances he inherited from his predecessor.
    Unemployment has been high, but it was 8.3% in Obama’s first month in office, with the economy shedding 750K jobs per month when Obama took over.
    We have run high budget deficits under Obama but we were already running $100B in the red per month before he took office.
    GDP Growth has been slow, but we are nearly at the same growth rate as during the Bush expansion, which also averaged well under 3%.
    China is growing faster than we are, but that has been true for the last 20 years. It’s hard to look at our European counterparts and claim that Obama has done so badly.

    Overall, I think it’s hard not to see things as slowly improving over the last couple of years. Governor Romney has to make a case that his policies will make things even better. A campaign that tries to saddle all of our current problems on President Obama is fundamentally an exercise in dishonesty.

    • Jeff,

      Ferguson admits that Obama inherited a mess. His argument is that Obama has shown no leadership since.

      Also, a quick point of fact: unemployment was 7.8% in January 2009, not 8.3%. It is 8.3% now.

      If McCain were President, the economy would absolutely be doing better because the healthcare bill would never have been passed (thereby keeping hiring elevated without adding uncertainty) and the S&P downgrade likely would not have happened. Of course, this is just my opinion since you cannot prove a counterfactual. You could argue the opposite and there would be no way for me to prove you wrong either.

    • Roger says:

      Sean,

      Are you sure your site shouldn’t be titled “Reflections of an Irrational Republican?”
      Can either side of the political spectrum tell the ABSOLUTE truth. I doubt it, because it doesn’t serve their personal agenda. This is absolutely true for both parties. Now I see this on you site. I say this because you praise the writing of a man who does this exact same thing as the rest of the political system does, that is to present facts in such a way that doesn’t theoritically compare apples to apples. Please read this article, ” A full fact check of Niall Ferguson’s Very Bad Argument Against Obama.”

      The url: http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/08/a-full-fact-check-of-niall-fergusons-very-bad-argument-against-obama/261306/

      Roger

      • “Are you sure your site shouldn’t be titled “Reflections of an Irrational Republican?””

        Ferguson addressed all of these comments here, which I cited in my original piece in this massive paragraph:

        “My critics have three things in common. First, they wholly fail to respond to the central arguments of the piece. Second, they claim to be engaged in ‘fact checking,’ whereas in nearly all cases they are merely offering alternative (often silly or skewed) interpretations of the facts. Third, they adopt a tone of outrage that would be appropriate only if I had argued that, say, women’s bodies can somehow prevent pregnancies in case of ‘legitimate rape.’”

        Before you come to my site and insult me, I ask that you read my entire argument first and view the links, especially the ones that highlight entire paragraphs.

  2. nickgb says:

    As I posted over at our blog in response to your comment, Ferguson’s defense is weaksauce:

    I wouldn’t go that far. Ferguson says a lot of things that look bad because they are presented without context, O’Brien points out that in the correct context it’s not as big a deal, and Ferguson says “But I was technically correct, I only lied by omission!” The Basel III standards are a good example, he says the banks aren’t meeting the standards, O’Brien says that the standards aren’t in place yet, and Ferguson’s response is “So what, they haven’t met the standards!” Well sure, but that’s less alarming when you realize the standards aren’t in force yet…

    Meanwhile, this is especially bad: “I picked the high point of January 2008 because it seems to me reasonable to ask how much of the ground lost in the crisis have we actually made up under Obama. The answer is not much. You may not like that, but it’s a fact (exhibit 3).”

    Notice that he’s picking a high point a year before Obama took office and holding Obama against THAT number instead of, say, the number when he actually started having any influence. How is that fair? How is that relevant? It’s hackery, and he has no response to it beyond “Well, I wanted to pick a high point because I wanted to, even if there’s so real justification…”

    • Nick,

      These are all weak points by O’Brien. Ferguson was doing what economists call a peak-to-trough analysis in choosing January 2008. He is simply using the economic peak as a frame of reference and is clear about his timing. His figures aren’t inaccurate. O’Brien is shamelessly calling something that is a matter of opinion a factual error, when it is anything but. His point on Basel III is a ridiculous nitpick that does nothing to weaken Ferguson’s argument.

      I find it very disturbing that no one on the left has tackled Ferguson’s core arguments. Instead they are going out of their way to undermine his credibility or call for his firing. DeLong demonstrated particularly childish behavior for someone who should know better as a Berkeley professor. Who calls another academic an “ass” simply because that academic disagrees ideologically with them?

      Krugman, O’Brien, DeLong, et all aren’t debating Ferguson’s core arguments because even they cannot torture the data enough to say anything other than what it says: the economy has underperformed under Obama. Since they cannot dispute Ferguson’s core thesis they attempt to undermine Ferguson’s credibility (ad hominem) and create a bunch of red herrings to distract readers from the core issues (i.e., the pointless contention about Basel III).

      • nickgb says:

        That’s absurd. You can’t use a peak to trough measurement that starts a year before someone takes office to attack their performance in August. If one guy runs a mutual fund into the ground then another guy takes over and stops the bleeding, do you then fire that guy because a peak to trough analysis shows a huge loss? Of course not.

        That’s the big point, Sean. Ferguson is laying out a case against Obama that is based on a lot of irrelevant points. When these authors point out that his points are misleading or wrong, they ARE attacking his central thesis. He lays out premises in support of not electing Obama, they attack his premises. I don’t understand why you think that isn’t the same as engaging his “core arguments”.

        For example, Ferguson’s Basel III argument is this:
        “It is five years since the financial crisis began, but the central problems—excessive financial concentration and excessive financial leverage—have not been addressed.

        Today a mere 10 too-big-to-fail financial institutions are responsible for three quarters of total financial assets under management in the United States. Yet the country’s largest banks are at least $50 billion short of meeting new capital requirements under the new “Basel III” accords governing bank capital adequacy.”

        Ferguson’s argument is that Obama is to blame because irresponsible financial institutions STILL haven’t met these standards. When someone points out that those standards, which Obama pushed for, haven’t taken effect yet, that effectively counters the argument that Obama is to blame for banks not meeting them. I’m at a loss to understand how you think that isn’t addressing the argument.

        • “That’s absurd. You can’t use a peak to trough measurement that starts a year before someone takes office to attack their performance in August. If one guy runs a mutual fund into the ground then another guy takes over and stops the bleeding, do you then fire that guy because a peak to trough analysis shows a huge loss? Of course not.”

          That’s your opinion. Dr. Ferguson can use any argument he damn well pleases so long as he is clear about the time horizon and why he chose to analyze that particular period, which he did. But that’s been my point all along. The left is framing differences of opinion as factual inaccuracies, which they aren’t. Regarding your mutual fund argument, most people would disagree. In fact, since most people are risk averse, they would likely withdraw there money from that mutual fund regardless of who was running it if it did not return their capital in a reasonable time period.

          “When these authors point out that his points are misleading or wrong, they ARE attacking his central thesis. He lays out premises in support of not electing Obama, they attack his premises. I don’t understand why you think that isn’t the same as engaging his “core arguments”.”

          Not one person has been able to attack Ferguson’s core premise successfully, which is Obama promised a number of things on the economic front that his lack of leadership failed to deliver, including a specific unemployment rate (6% vs. 8.3% now) and explicit growth assumptions regarding passage of the stimulus and Obamacare (which have since been revised downward). No one has effectively debunked those core arguments. They are dancing around the edges, attacking the man’s opinions, but they cannot change the fact that Obama has failed to deliver on targets he or his cabinet explicitly set for themselves.

          “For example, Ferguson’s Basel III argument is this:
          “It is five years since the financial crisis began, but the central problems—excessive financial concentration and excessive financial leverage—have not been addressed.

          Today a mere 10 too-big-to-fail financial institutions are responsible for three quarters of total financial assets under management in the United States. Yet the country’s largest banks are at least $50 billion short of meeting new capital requirements under the new “Basel III” accords governing bank capital adequacy.”

          Ferguson’s argument is that Obama is to blame because irresponsible financial institutions STILL haven’t met these standards. When someone points out that those standards, which Obama pushed for, haven’t taken effect yet, that effectively counters the argument that Obama is to blame for banks not meeting them. I’m at a loss to understand how you think that isn’t addressing the argument.”

          This just makes my point. The key argument here is that after a lot of hemming and hawing about excess financial leverage and concentration, the financial industry is now more concentrated than ever and is still over-leveraged. And the best argument that left can come up with is that the Basel III requirements aren’t mandatory yet. So what? Shouldn’t the banks be working toward this goal? Hasn’t it already been 3.5 years? Moreover, the argument doesn’t bother to address the fact that banks are more concentrated today than they were when Obama took over (due mainly to smaller bankruptcies, but also to the spiraling costs of Dodd-Frank, which make it cost prohibitive for regional banks to compete with the big ones.) But the progressive wing just dodges the issue with an argumentation that boils down to “Look shiny object here”; We good, Ferguson bad.

          • lbwoodgate says:

            “No one has effectively debunked those core arguments. They are dancing around the edges, attacking the man’s opinions, but they cannot change the fact that Obama has failed to deliver on targets he or his cabinet explicitly set for themselves.”

            This is really just another straw man argument Sean. If this is his premise then can we assume that Ferguson has a full proof system of economics where all things can be predicted accurately, say something silly along the lines of “ergodicity”? Ergodicity means “that no matter what happens in the world, in the end, everything will reach a point whether things stop changing. That point is called the ‘equilibrium.’ At the equilibrium, everyone will end up with a certain amount of money. The amount of money that everybody gets at the equilibrium depends on how talented they are, and not on anything that happened before. So if you rob a bank, it won’t matter because when you get to the equilibrium, if you’re stupid, you will still have the same amount of money you would have had if you didn’t rob the bank.” SOURCE

            Economics is an imperfect science and always has been. It has become less discernible since math equations are now used more commonly to try and prove assumptions that aren’t always connected to all of the variables in play. Since most people have problems with math they make the assumption that the guy who does use it must be really smart. But being smart and having some precise knowledge that will determine exactly how future economic outcomes will play out are two different things.

            No one really knew how deep and long this recession was going to be and that includes Ferguson. As bad as the economy is now, I do seem to recall that some tried to predict it would turn out a lot worse than it has at this point. So if you’re saying that Obama’s leadership skills are inadequate because he guessed wrong on unemployment rates, is Ferguson willing to vouchsafe that Romney will get it all right? And can we lay bets on it that he will be willing to cover? If he’s not and Romney is the only other choice voters have this fall, why should we risk our futures on a premise that is weak from the beginning?

            To me, Obama’s leadership skills came into question when he failed to ask for and fight for a bigger stimulus package that would have done, I think, a better job of generating jobs and creating a more rapid recovery. But that too is an assumption and it, like Ferguson’s, along with 75 cents will get you a cup coffee for sure.

            • “To me, Obama’s leadership skills came into question when he failed to ask for and fight for a bigger stimulus package that would have done, I think, a better job of generating jobs and creating a more rapid recovery. But that too is an assumption and it, like Ferguson’s, along with 75 cents will get you a cup coffee for sure.”

              This has always been Krugman’s argument as well, and it is, frankly, impossible to prove either way. I’d argue that it was Obama’s loss of focus on the economy when he pursued healthcare reform. Either way, both propositions are difficult to prove either way, as is whether Romney would do any better.

              This is all my very long way of saying that all your points are fair ones.

  3. Joe says:

    “…I think he is spot on with his economic analysis.”
    You are as good at picking economics experts as you are at picking heroes.
    http://www.businessinsider.com/niall-ferguson-has-been-wrong-on-economics-2012-8

    • This article proves my point. At no point does it actually address Ferguson’s arguments. It is an attempt to undermine his credibility. Were Ferguson’s predictions wrong on these points in the Business Insider article? Of course. If my sole goal was to undermine the credibility of someone I was trying to vilify, I could find any number of predictions that failed to come to fruition. As an example, the Economist Magazine predicted a housing bubble in 2004. The magazine was right, it was just four years early. Inflation will come. It inevitably does when you print money. The problem is that it is difficult to predict when. Ferguson said nothing at all inconsistent with settled monetary theory. His timing was just off.

      • Joe says:

        Sean,

        It is not true that “At no point does it actually address Ferguson’s arguments.”

        The very first point of the link addresses one of Ferguson’s main arguments. I’m not sure how you could have missed it since it is accompanied by a huge colorful graph taken straight from Ferguson’s own article.

        In Ferguson’s article he writes:
        “The failures of leadership on economic and fiscal policy over the past four years have had geopolitical consequences. The World Bank expects the U.S. to grow by just 2 percent in 2012. China will grow four times faster than that; India three times faster.”

        He is saying that Obama has been a failed leader because China and India are predicted to grow much faster than the US in 2012 and China’s GDP will soon surpass the US’s. However, the link points out that this reality “..seems totally inevitable at some point, regardless of who is President.” Then the link provides the very chart taken from Ferguson’s own article.

        Is this not correct? Is this not a fair point to attack Ferguson on? Is Ferguson correct, in your opinion, that China and India are growing faster than the US because Obama is not a good leader?

        As far as the rest of the link, you surely must understand that many of Ferguson’s arguments in his article are based on economics. If he had a good understanding of economics, he would have a good track record of economic predictions, no? You seem to be saying “just because a man was wrong again and again in the past doesn’t mean he is wrong now” and you are correct. Even a broken clock tells the correct time twice a day. However, it is more likely that someone who has been wrong again and again in the past is wrong now.

        I could understand your objection to bringing up this point if Ferguson’s article was about film, or art, or the decline of the family unit. However, the article’s central points hinge squarely on Ferguson’s interpretations of economic data. Why is it not fair to point out that he doesn’t seem to understand economic data very well?

        Also, “Inflation will come” is no more a prediction than “rain will come” or “death will come”, nor is it what Ferguson said. Read the first section again, in Ferguson’s own words:
        I predicted a “painful tug-of-war between our monetary policy and our fiscal policy, as the markets realize just what a vast quantity of bonds are going to have to be absorbed by the financial system this year”.

        He made a very specific prediction about interest rates in 2009, not some general prediction about inflation. He was wrong not because his prediction was made too early, but because he had a flawed understanding of the economic situation.

        Here is another example of his failure to understand basic economics, in his own words, taken straight from his article. I’ve taken the time to transcribe the relevant point in the interview for you (it’s at about 4:22 in the video from Bloomberg):
        “The point I made in the piece was that the stimulus had a very short term effect, which is very clear if you look, for example, at the federal employment numbers. There’s a huge spike in early 2010 and then it falls back down.”

        Source: http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/2012/08/open-mouth-insert-foot-going-viral/

        He is saying the federal hiring spike was due to the stimulus, but it was actually due to census hiring.

        Is he not wrong about this? Is this not a valid point to call him out on? Did he not use this (flawed) argument in his article?

        There are (sadly) many other examples of this type of flawed argument in his article, as have been enumerated by others. I’m sure you’ve seen the links, yet you continue to defend him. I honestly can’t understand how you justify this. Ferguson builds his case that Obama has not lived up to his promises and that he is a failed leader based on a series of arguments. When these arguments are proven to be incorrect, you call it “ad hominem” and “red herrings”.

        You seem to believe that liberals don’t like the article because it was written by an educated man and makes a convincing case that they don’t agree with. The reality is that liberals don’t like the article because it is misleading and builds its case on flawed arguments. That it was written by a man who should know better and that it was the cover story for a major news magazine is all the more frustrating. If it were an article by Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck or Sean Hannity, I don’t think there would be near the same reaction. I see parallels to the Newsweek cover of Michelle Bachmann that conservatives got so upset about, except if we then found out that her picture had been photoshopped to make her look crazier than in real life.

        In the end, I don’t understand why you are able to see the flaws in the foreign policy arguments, but not the economic ones.

        • “Is this not correct? Is this not a fair point to attack Ferguson on? Is Ferguson correct, in your opinion, that China and India are growing faster than the US because Obama is not a good leader?”

          That is a gross oversimplification of Ferguson’s argument. Ferguson goes on to note that: “By 2017, the International Monetary Fund predicts, the GDP of China will overtake that of the United States.” His point is two fold. First, China will become a more powerful nation relative to the United States (as measured in economic output) much faster because of President Obama’s power economic stewardship (i.e., suboptimal GDP growth). Second, Obama’s naivete in international affairs as failed to hedge the “inevitable” emergence of a Chinese peer competitor. His first point is sound. His second point is arguable, as it is an opinion backed by facts.

          “As far as the rest of the link, you surely must understand that many of Ferguson’s arguments in his article are based on economics. If he had a good understanding of economics, he would have a good track record of economic predictions, no?”

          Just by way of background, Dr. Ferguson taught BGIE at the Harvard Business School, a class consisting of case studies of real-world macroeconomic problems. Anyone who’s taken a smattering of macroeconomics course is taught that when the Fed loosens monetary policy (i.e., prints money), the dollar tends to depreciate relative to other currencies. Combined with normal economic growth patterns, a currency tends to inflate. To curb inflation, the Fed tightens monetary policy by raising bank reserve ratios (i.e., the percentage of a bank’s assets that it must keep on hand) and sells Treasury bonds on the open market (thereby removing dollars from the economy, depressing bond prices and raising treasury yields – i.e., interest rates). Ferguson’s predictions were entirely within the realm of sound macroeconomic theory. The problem is that when interest rates are near zero, things tend to behave strangely, which is why economists are still arguing about when inflation will happen. Moreover, Ferguson’s enemies are cherry-picking when he went wrong, but don’t bother to concede when he’s been right. Moreover, again, they are not attacking his argument. They are attacking his credibility, which is the definition of ad hominem. That’s like me arguing that Obama is a terrible President because he didn’t lead anything before he became President – a piss poor argument based entirely on ad hominem.

          “He is saying the federal hiring spike was due to the stimulus, but it was actually due to census hiring.

          Is he not wrong about this? Is this not a valid point to call him out on? Did he not use this (flawed) argument in his article?”

          No, he’s not wrong. Census hiring had an effect, no doubt. However, the effect was not as large as you might think. This study indicates that census hiring could impact the unemployment rate by only “several tenths of a percentage point”.

          “When these arguments are proven to be incorrect, you call it “ad hominem” and “red herrings”.”

          But no one has proven them to be incorrect. They’ve merely called Ferguson’s statements of opinion as factual inaccuracies. And that’s my point.

          “You seem to believe that liberals don’t like the article because it was written by an educated man and makes a convincing case that they don’t agree with.”

          That’s because it’s the truth.

          “The reality is that liberals don’t like the article because it is misleading and builds its case on flawed arguments. That it was written by a man who should know better and that it was the cover story for a major news magazine is all the more frustrating.”

          Yet no one has been able to point out such a flaw successfully. Is it not true that Obama’s economic team promised the country 6% unemployment by this point in his administration? Has not the economy grown much slower than the President’s rosy economic projections?

          “If it were an article by Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck or Sean Hannity, I don’t think there would be near the same reaction.”

          Of course not. Both are not credible. Ferguson is, and that’s what scares the hell out of the Krugman’s of the world.

          • jlhartman says:

            Sean,

            No need to educate me on the zero-bound. Dr. Ferguson could use a refresher though. It doesn’t change the fact that he was wrong (on that point and numerous others).

            Also, you are quite mistaken about the definition of ad hominem. Ad hominem is attacking a person’s character, not attacking their credibility. An ad hominem attack would be “Niall Ferguson is a womanizer, what does he know about economics?” or “Niall Ferguson only makes these arguments because he is trying to get a position on the Romney cabinet.”

            Attacking a person’s qualifications and general understanding of the subject upon which they are speaking is not the same thing at all.

            “Not as large as I might think” is a bit weak. And the study you linked to was written in February of 2010 and tries to predict the numbers. Why cite a study that was written before the fact? The link I provided shows employment number both with and without census hiring and appears to be conclusive. If you have evidence to dispute it, please share.

            And everyone knows why the administration’s forecasts from 2008 have not come to fruition: the recession was much deeper than anyone realized back then. Even Ferguson acknowledges this reality:

            “The president’s supporters will, of course, say that the poor performance of the economy can’t be blamed on him. They would rather finger his predecessor, or the economists he picked to advise him, or Wall Street, or Europe—anyone but the man in the White House.

            There’s some truth in this. It was pretty hard to foresee what was going to happen to the economy in the years after 2008.”

            • “Also, you are quite mistaken about the definition of ad hominem. Ad hominem is attacking a person’s character, not attacking their credibility. An ad hominem attack would be ‘Niall Ferguson is a womanizer, what does he know about economics?'”

              Or it could be as simple as calling him unethical, which Krugman does, no?

              “Attacking a person’s qualifications and general understanding of the subject upon which they are speaking is not the same thing at all.”

              But attacking a person’s qualifications is attacking their character. Wikipedia cites the following examples of ad hominem. More specifically, it fits under the credential fallacy.

              Examples:

              “Candidate George’s proposal about zoning is ridiculous. He was caught cheating on his taxes in 2003.”
              “What would Margaret know about fixing cars? She is a woman.”
              “What makes you so smart and all-knowing that you can deny God’s existence? You haven’t even finished school.”
              “Your fashion opinion isn’t valid; you can’t even afford new shoes.”
              “Your exposition is highly correct and valid, but you don’t have enough academic certification.” (an example of the Credential fallacy)

              “‘Not as large as I might think’ is a bit weak. And the study you linked to was written in February of 2010 and tries to predict the numbers. Why cite a study that was written before the fact?”

              Ok. Fair enough. I was short on time. That said, there would need to be more than 1 million people working in the Census to move unemployment numbers by more than a percentage point.

              “And everyone knows why the administration’s forecasts from 2008 have not come to fruition: the recession was much deeper than anyone realized back then.”

              Then the administration should have made a more conservative forecast. It’s their fault, not Niall’s, that they didn’t achieve their targets. And they were WAY off, on the order of 25% off.

              • jlhartman says:

                This is entering the realm of the absurd at this point. How exactly are one’s qualifications the equivalent of their character? If I am qualified to deliver CPR, how does that say anything about whether I am honest or trustworthy? Similarly, if I am dishonest and untrustworthy, how does that say anything about my ability to save someone’s life?

                Also, questioning someone’s qualifications, subject expertise, and past record is not the same as questioning their credentials or lack thereof. Having a CPR certificate does not necessarily mean I will be able to save someone if the situation arises, just like I might be able to save someone’s life even if I don’t have CPR certification. None of this makes it irrelevant or out of bounds to point out that (CPR certificate or not), every one of the 700+ persons I’ve performed CPR on in the past has died. This is especially true if I were to write an article titled “Strategies for saving someone’s life using CPR” and get it published in a major weekly news publication.

                Such is the situation with Ferguson. The attacks were on his past record and general understanding of economic theory, not his credentials. Nobody is questioning his status as a tenured professor or his PhD. Similarly, nobody is saying he is wrong because he lacks the correct PhD. The argument was, and has always been: “Ferguson has a history of misreading economic situations, so it is plausible that he has misread the current economic situation”. I agree with you that this does not directly address Ferguson’s arguments in the article, but neither is it Ad Hominem.

                It would truly be a different campaign race if neither candidate were allowed to be judged on their past performance. After all, Romney’s whole campaign (and Obama’s whole line of attack) is centered around his qualifications based on past performances, whether at Bain, in Massachusetts, or at the Olympics in Salt Lake. Similarly, his whole attack on Obama is based on the president’s (supposedly) poor past performance getting the economy back on track. It is no more ad hominem to attack Obama’s record on jobs creation as a basis for voting against him than it is to attack Ferguson’s record on economic predictions as a basis for ignoring him.

                In any case, this is getting silly at this point. The fact that we can’t even agree where the boundaries of disagreeing are does not speak well for the future of bipartisanship. Nonetheless I hope you’ll blog a bit more in the future, I do still value reading your thoughts, as incredulous as I may find them at times. Did anything ever happen with that survey you sent out a while back? I’m behind the times on my national defense perspectives and the election is just around the corner. Cheers, -Joe

                • “I agree with you that this does not directly address Ferguson’s arguments in the article, but neither is it Ad Hominem.”

                  Fair enough.

                  “Nonetheless I hope you’ll blog a bit more in the future, I do still value reading your thoughts, as incredulous as I may find them at times. Did anything ever happen with that survey you sent out a while back? I’m behind the times on my national defense perspectives and the election is just around the corner. Cheers, -Joe”

                  Thanks for the kind words, Joe.

                  I probably haven’t written more about national security policy because I frankly don’t have anything to complain about. 😉

                  Aside from Obama’s reaction to the Arab Spring (Egypt and Libya lost to Islamists), I think Obama’s been making the right moves. He tripled drone strikes in Pakistan, he’s waging a covert campaign against Iran’s nuclear program, and his withdrawal from Iraq was relatively orderly. Additionally, his response in Saudi Arabia to the Arab Spring was sheer genius, if what I believe happened, in fact happened (I am speculating here that the US government helped the Saudis wage a covert cyber campaign against regime opponents to help the Saudi royals remain in power). He also hasn’t done anything stupid let intervening in Syria like Clinton did in Kosovo. Sometimes it’s perfectly fine to like the Gestapo slaughter al Qaeda and vice versa.

  4. lbwoodgate says:

    I won’t add to the counter points that others like Jeff, Joe and Nick have aptly done and where denial seems to be part of your response Sean. But I do have one question from regarding this comment of yours.

    “They’d rather argue that all conservatives secretly believe in Todd Akin’s “legitimate rape” theory, which is about as ridiculous as the argument that all liberals secretly want to install a communist dictatorship.”

    Knowing as we do now that the Republican National platform holds the view almost identical to what congressman Akin, Ryan and others have said about abortions – that there is no “legitimate” reason for them – how do you and others who feel differently plan to oppose legislation that promotes this all or nothing approach? Do you think there are sufficient numbers in your Party to promote legislation that allows for abortion in the cases of rape and incest? I know Romney has said that this is his “current” stand but we have seen how quickly his views can change we they have to.

  5. It’s troubling to me how many people are willing to overlook poor performance in a president on the grounds of their political allegiance.

    Let’s be honest: Obama has not met his promises. There is no way around that statement.

    It’s not the first time that a president hasn’t lived up to expectations, of course. And there’s always an element of the previous administration’s legacy when that happens.

    But Bush is not the Devil, nor Obama the Second Coming. You can’t blame everything bad on Bush or the Republicans, and take credit for everything good as something that occurred explicitly because of the man in the White House.

    You can’t say “the recession was worse than anybody actually knew”; it’s not relevant. The job of the president does not change simply because the situation is worse than he anticipated. You can’t say that the pace of recovery was faster than the last two recessions; you’re dealing with a bit of an apples/oranges comparison there. not to mention a case of cherry-picking your recessions for comparative purposes.

    Face it; Obama hasn’t done a very good job. You can cite obstructionism, partisan politics, optimistic projections, external factors, but accounting for those variables is part of the job.

    Would Romney do a better job? I have absolutely no idea. I don’t vote for Republicans or Democrats in either case, since I feel that the two party system leaves me rather starved for choices.

    Hell, I believe that the party system as a whole has an erosive effect on democracy.

    But let’s not kid ourselves on an objective analysis of Obama’s performance.

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