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April 17, 2014

Paul Krugman Gets Pwn3d Like a Loudmouth in a Woody Allen Movie

There's a famous scene in Annie Hall when a blowhard idiot pontificates about Fellini and Marshall McLuhan. Woody Allen (or "Alvie Singer") becomes increasingly annoyed by the boor, until he at last pulls the actual Marshall McLuhan out from behind an obstruction.

Marshall McLuhan then tells the guy he's an idiot, and that he "know[s] nothing of my work."

Why am I telling about you this? It's on YouTube:

Then Woody Allen turns to the camera and says, "Boy, if life were only [really] like this."

Well, sometimes life really does work like this.

Sometimes an egregious blowhard really does get pulled aside by the man whose work he is (wrongly) pontificating about and get told that he knows nothing of his work.

It just happened to Paul Krugman.

Krugman's been commenting on the work of Dan Kahan. Kahan's a professor of law at Yale who writes a lot about "cultural cognition," which is just the idea that individual people will tend to think, reason, and decide according to the patterns instilled in them by the cultural cohort within which they reside.

In other words, partisans tend to parrot like-minded partisans.

Although I'm sure it goes beyond actual political partisanship, to general social and philosophical outlook.

So Lesser Krugman, Ezra Klein, had written about this (himself getting big parts of it wrong, naturally), and then Paul Krugman wrote about Klein writing about it, and Krugman's main complaint with Ezra Klein was that he hadn't been partisan enough in his analysis.

Whereas Kahan describes cultural cognition as affecting, of course, both the left and right, Krugman insisted that No, it almost entirely affects the right, Becuz Theyre Dumb.

By the way, Klein was already pretty partisan about this, briefly acknowledging the phenomenon on the left, before turning with considerably more brio to talk about how dumb the right is.

But Krugman said, basically, Nah, you shouldn't have even conceded that much. Look we're just better. Period.

And do you know what happened next?

Magic happened next.

Kahan himself considered Krugman's "empirical proof" that the left was less subject to the effects of cultural cognition (group think), and... laughed out loud.

He really says that. Well, he says "guffawed."

Okay, I've finally caught my breath after laughing myself into state of hyperventilation as a result of reading Krugman's latest proof (this is actually a replication of an earlier empirical study on his part) that ideologically motivated reasoning is in fact perfectly symmetric with respect to right-left ideology.

Rather than just guffawing appreciatively, it's worth taking a moment to call attention to just how exquisitely self-refuting his "reasoning" is!

There's the great line, of course, about how his "lived experience" (see? I told you, he's doing empirical work!) confirms that motivated cognition "is not, in fact, symmetric between liberals and conservatives."

But what comes next is an even more subtle -- and thus an even more spectacular! -- illustration of what it looks like when one's reason is deformed by tribalism:

Yes, liberals are sometimes subject to bouts of wishful thinking. But can anyone point to a liberal equivalent of conservative denial of climate change, or the “unskewing” mania late in the 2012 campaign, or the frantic efforts to deny that Obamacare is in fact covering a lot of previously uninsured Americans?

Uh, no, PK. I mean seriously, no.

You know nothing of my work, Krugman.

I won't detail Kahan's refutation of Krugman's re-writing of his work. You can read his own words for that.

But his main point is that Krugman misses the point entirely. Krugman asserts, at the outset, that progressive beliefs must be correct, and therefore, anyone holding those beliefs must be better at reasoning.

Not so, Kahan replies -- you've missed the whole point of my work. Entirely. You can measure reasoning, but you'd measure reasoning by actually measuring reasoning, that is, taking the partisans of both sides and seeing how they react when presented with a provably true but ideologically discomfiting piece of evidence.

Instead, Krugman just assumes Progs R Smarterer because, you know, Progs R Smarterer.

That Krugman is too thick to see that one can't infer anything about the quality of partisans' reasoning from the truth or falsity of their beliefs is ... another element of Krugman's proof that ideological reasoning is symmetric across right and left!

In other words, Paul Krugman, posing as a Champion of Empiricism and purely-rational thought, himself discards the need for actual empirical evidence on a key point because it gels with the conclusion he already had in mind -- and thereby proves he's more infected tribal thinking than anyone else who's entered the discussion.

Thus directly self-refuting himself, and disproving the very claim he seeks to "prove."

For in fact, that "the other side" is closed-minded is one of the positions that partisans are unreasoningly committed to.

And this close-mindedness more and more frequently takes this form:

1. You are a racist, moronic, barely-human monster.

2. For evidence of such, see point 1.

3. The fact that you won't accept this proof proves that you are close-minded and hostile to "new ideas."

4. Which in turn proves -- as if it needed further proof! -- that you're a racist, moronic, barely-human monster.

If you want to read more of Kahan's theorizing on "motivated reasoning" (that is, what we usually call "reasoning backwards," figuring out the evidence and logic backwards from the conclusion you've begun with, you can read this.

More quotes at Volokh.

Thanks to @rdbrewer4 for this.

Why, this Paul Krugman is worth every penny of the $25,000 per month CUNY is paying him to serve as a Paris-Hilton-like brand ambassador for their studies in income inequality.

Who better to declaim about income inequality than a guy making $25,000 per month as a show-up-to-a-few-of-our-parties-and-collect-a-check side-gig?

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posted by Ace at 03:02 PM

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