Monday miscellany

In general, we think the strongest cases use multiple forms of evidence, some addressing the weaknesses of others. For example, immunization campaigns are associated with both strong “micro” evidence (which shows that intensive, well-executed immunization programs can save lives) and “macro” evidence (which shows, less rigorously, that real-world immunization programs have led to drops in infant mortality and the elimination of various diseases).

  • Here’s an interview with the author of a book arguing that the Obama administration’s stimulus was a huge success. Includes this quote:

Unemployment actually topped 8 percent the month the stimulus passed, which obviously wasn’t the fault of the stimulus. Recoveries after financial cataclysms are always ugly. But when you spend $800 billion on an economic recovery package, and the recovery stinks, people don’t tend to look past that…. That said, the national media should have tried to look past that, but it didn’t, because the national media sucks at covering public policy.

Think of a good experimental design: randomised control variables, holding everything else constant, etc. Now think of the worst possible experimental design. Imagine something that engineers or psychologists might dream up over beers for a laugh, or to illustrate what not to do. That’s what economists face. It’s as if our lab assistants (the fiscal and monetary authorities) were deliberately trying to make our (economists’) lives as hard as possible. They do this, of course, not to spite us, but to try to make everyone else’s lives as easy as possible. To get a good experimental design for economists, both the fiscal and monetary authorities would need to be malevolent.


08 2012

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