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Ken Rogoff Loses It, Calls Criticism of Errors in Debt Paper a “Witch Hunt”

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Ken Rogoff has just shown how out of touch he is with reality and basic standards of professional accountability, as demonstrated in an interview published in the Frankfuerter Allgemeine, which is best thought of as a center-right New York Times. He’s come as close as Serious People do to foaming at the mouth, accusing those who criticized the discovery of errors in a widely cited austerity-supporting paper he wrote with Carmen Reinhart as being on a “witch hunt” and engaging in an “orchestrated attack…as in the 1950s under McCarthy.”

In the annals of over-the-top displays of a persecution complex, this ranks with billionaire Steve Schwarzman remark on an effort to close a tax loophole that benefitted him: ““It’s like when Hitler invaded Poland in 1939.” But as we’ll see later, this is far from the first time that Rogoff has made vitriolic charges when he’s run out of arguments, but this may be first time he’s had them published in such a high-circulation venue.

Recall the contretemps: Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff published a 2010 paper, Growth in the Time of Debt, which based on data from 44 countries that growth levels went negative once government debt to GDP ratios rose over 90%. This article was taken up eagerly by the pro-austerity crowd as definitive proof of the dangers of too much borrowing.

Yet a number of economists tried replicating the Reinhart-Rogoff results for years, with no success. Reinhart and Rogoff refused to share their underlying computations. Five years later, now that the Reinhart/Rogoff work is widely accepted as true, they finally sent their “working spreadsheet” to a graduate student at the UMass Amherst, Thomas Herndon. He found data omissions, Excel errors, and questionable data weightings. A paper authored by Herndon with Michael Ash and Robert Pollin, Does High Public Debt Consistently Stifle Economic Growth? A Critique of Reinhart and Rogoff, created a sensation, which was hardly surprising given the policy impact of the original paper and how extensive the mistakes were.

Dean Baker described the high human cost of the Reinhardt and Rogoff’s snake oil:

This is a big deal because politicians around the world have used this finding from R&R to justify austerity measures that have slowed growth and raised unemployment. In the United States many politicians have pointed to R&R’s work as justification for deficit reduction even though the economy is far below full employment by any reasonable measure. In Europe, R&R’s work and its derivatives have been used to justify austerity policies that have pushed the unemployment rate over 10 percent for the euro zone as a whole and above 20 percent in Greece and Spain. In other words, this is a mistake that has had enormous consequences.

And Reinhart and Rogoff’s responses have been, um, unpersuasive. They tried an initial rebuttal which verged on cringe-making. Even Paul Krugman, who had been striving hard to give Reinhart and Rogoff the benefit of the doubt, called it “really, really bad“. They then went to the New York Times op-ed page and didn’t have much more success. The thrusts of their argument were that other studies had come up with similar results, they can’t be blamed if eager conservatives claimed that their finding of a correlation meant causation, and really, they had never meant to suggest 90% debt to GDP was a big scary threshold.

John Cassidy, writing in the New Yorker, found the reply to be disingenuous, that they had used their paper to argue for the danger of debt and urge deficit cutting, and had not corrected prominent politicians, like the UK’s George Osborne, who had cited their work as justification for spending cuts. He concluded:

In the debate between the Keynesians and the Hooverites, they were clearly on the side of the latter. Trying to rewrite history won’t alter that.

Similarly, Matt Yglesias eviscerated the New York times piece:

But the fact is that this isn’t just some sad case of conservative politicians running around mischaracterizing a sober-minded study and then liberals overreacting in response. Ken Rogoff was writing op-eds drawing strong policy conclusions from this paper. He was delivering congressional testimony drawing strong policy conclusions from this paper. And it’s not as if he’s some political naif who stumbled down from the ivory tower into a partisan controversy he could never have predicted. He was research director at the International Monetary Fund and he knows how the game is played. He’s signed up as a paid speaker for the Washington Speakers Bureau. His “fees vary based on event location” but they promise that in exchange for your money “Kenneth Rogoff reaches beyond the theoretical and delivers quantitative proof from his frequently cited research and best-selling book to explain why our financial history continues to repeat itself-and just where the US and global economies are heading.”

But of course their is no quantitative proof. In a sense there never was, but the University of Massachusetts counter-paper helped expose how little quantitative proof was there. Now under attack Reinhart & Rogoff are retreating to much softer, much milder, much more defensible claims. And good for them. But that shows how much credit their critics deserve.

So what does Rogoff do? Grant an interview in the country that is the most enthusiastic practitioner of austerity voodoo, and ups the ante by branding his critics as partisan hacks (key parts translated in bold):

“A witch hunt” — Kenneth Rogoff over his Excel Mistake

“Eine Hexenjagd” – Kenneth Rogoff über seinen Excel-Fehler

Kenneth Rogoff hat gezeigt, wie schädlich Staatsschulden sind. Dann wurde ihm ein Excel-Fehler vorgeworfen. Jetzt verteidigt er sich: Die Geschichte sei ein orchestrierter Angriff von linken Bloggern gewesen, “wie in den 50ern unter McCarthy”.
He now defends himself: The story is an orchestrated attack from left bloggers,” as in the the 50s under McCarthy.”

Er hatte die intellektuelle Grundlage für die Sparpolitik in den Krisenstaaten gelegt: Kenneth Rogoff. Gemeinsam mit seiner Kollegin Carmen Reinhart hatte er ausgerechnet, dass Staaten mit hohen öffentlichen Schulden kräftig an Wachstum verlieren. Irgendwo oberhalb von 90 Prozent Staatsverschuldung bricht das Wachstum zusammen, so rechneten die beiden aus. Es war eine einfache Zahl, politisch gut verpackt, von einem ehemaligen Chefökonomen des Internationalen Währungsfonds – die halbe Welt glaubte ihm, sogar der deutsche Finanzminister Wolfgang Schäuble. In der Eurokrise einigten sich die Politiker auf Sparmaßnahmen, die viele Länder zu hart fanden.
Doch dann kam ein Student aus Massachusetts und entdeckte einen Excel-Fehler in den Rechnungen von Kenneth Rogoff. Er mischte noch einige eigene Einschätzungen hinein und behauptete, das Ergebnis sei falsch. Reinhart und Rogoff antworteten halbherzig – und verloren das Ansehen ihrer Ergebnisse noch schneller, als sie es gewonnen hatten. (Patrick Welter hat die Vorwürfe im Detail untersucht.)
[This section misrepresents the debate in the US and is a drive-by shooting at the UMass authors. It remarkably says that "student" found a "bug" in the spreadsheet and "mixed up his own beliefs" in the analysis. And it presents the failure of Reinhart and Rogoff to recover from the glaring natures of the mistakes by claiming that they had made only a half-hearted response. Thus the claim is that they lost the debate but really were correct]

Derweil triumphierten die Befürworter höherer Staatsschulden. Vor allem der keynesianische Nobelpreisträger und Blogger Paul Krugman, der sich selbst als links bezeichnet, griff Rogoff scharf an.
[Here Krugman is described as a Keynesian leftist blogger who attacked sharply. They do at least mention his Nobel Prize.]

Jetzt allerdings ist Rogoff in die Offensive gegangen. Er fühlt sich als Opfer einer “Hexenjagd”, sagt er in einem Interview mit dem Magazin “Capital“. „Das war keine Debatte. Das war eine haltlose persönliche Attacke, von Leuten mit einer starken politischen Agenda.” Er sieht einen orchestrierten Angriff von linken Bloggern und Lobbyisten “wie in den 50ern unter McCarthy”, der seine gesamte Arbeit diskreditieren sollte. “Es gab keinen Kampf. Das war ein Massaker.”

“That was no debate. That was an unyielding personal attack, from people with a strong political agenda,” he said in an interview with the magazine Capital. He sees an orchestrated attack from left bloggers and lobbyists, “as in the 50′s under McCarthy,” which should have discredited his whole work. “There was no battle. That was a massacre.”

“Mein Kernergebnis steht: Sehr hohe Schulden sind verbunden mit niedrigerem Wachstum”

Der Fehler sei peinlich, sagt Rogoff, aber er hätte keine große Bedeutung. Seine Gegner hätten ihn “aufgeblasen und bewusst falsch interpretiert und polemisiert”.
His opponents had “distorted and consciously falsely interpreted and polemicized his work.”

Rogoff hält noch an seinem Ergebnis fest. “Der wichtigste Punkt ist, nach der ganzen polemischen Hitze, dass mein Kernergebnis steht: Sehr hohe Schulden sind verbunden mit niedrigerem Wachstum”, sagt er. Und: “Wenn irgendjemand denkt, dass Rekordschulden in Ordnung sind, dann liegt er falsch. Die Geschichte lehrt das Gegenteil”, so Rogoff. Den europäischen Schuldenstaaten rät Rogoff immer noch zu einer schnellen Umschuldung.
Rogoff still defends his results. “The main point is, after all the polemical heat that my main result is: Very high debt is associated with lower growth,” he says. And: “If anyone thinks that record debt in order, then he is wrong. The history shows the opposite, “said Rogoff. Rogoff recommends that the European debt remains on track with rescheduling.

Now this is all remarkable tripe. First, the discovery of the error created a firestorm across the econoblogosphere that extended to the mainstream media; even sites like ars technica wrote about the Excel error. But the fact that the reaction was so fast and pronounced was hardly surprising. There have been other pitched battles among economic blogs; for instance, many aspects of the crisis were debated hotly before the crisis and during it (examples: “how much fiscal stimulus do we need” in early 2009 and the long-running argument over the health of Social Security and Medicare). So rapid dissemination and intense discussion are hardly the sign of a conspiracy; that’s how active Internet communities operate. The reaction was strong because the paper was so prominent and the authors had resisted releasing the underlying data to economists who thought the results looked wrong.

And the idea the left in America is either powerful or capable of acting in a concerted enough manner to warrant the label “orchestrated” is ludicrous. The left spends at least as much time in circular firing squads and debating who is “left” versus “liberal” versus “Vichy left” versus “progressive” versus “Democratic party hack” as it does shooting at the right. The only efforts that rise to the level of being “orchestrated” are when Team Dem rallies the usual suspects like MSNBC and MoveOn to start messaging on specific topics. I suppose no one told Rogoff that Obama and anyone with enough money to pay for serious lobbyists is already on board with the austerity project, so any criticism is by uncoordinated agents, not by the Big Faux Leftie Cabal known as the Democratic Party. And it should also be noted that Krugman’s criticisms were actually pretty mild and well argued.

But Rogoff has gone off the rails before. I strongly urge you to read a post by Bill Black that describes some of Rogoff’s past dustups. Here’s an important extract:

The original feud was most famously between Stiglitz and Rogoff. Stiglitz, who led the movement at the World Bank to throw off its support for austerity, memorably claimed that IMF was staffed with “third rate” economists. Rogoff famously blasted Stiglitz in a July 2, 2002, “open letter” (only months after Stiglitz was made a Laureate) that, inter alia, referred to him as a “loose cannon” who had “slandered” the IMF staff, slammed him for refusing to “admit to having been even slightly wrong about a major real world problem,” suggested he was so arrogant that he doubted that Paul Volcker was “really smart,” admitted that Stiglitz had a few ideas with which the IMF would “generally agree” because most of them were “old hat,” described Stiglitz’s most recent book as “long on innuendo and short on footnotes,” derided him as pretending to see himself “as a heroic whistleblower” when he was actually peddling “snake oil,” described Stiglitz views as being most analogous to Arthur Laffer’s “voodoo economics” (cleverly and deeply insulting on multiple levels), accused Stiglitz of lacking faith in markets and having faith in increasingly democratic governments (“you betray an unrelenting belief in the pervasiveness of market failures, and a staunch conviction that governments can and will make things better”), and ended with a wonderfully nasty “compliment” that compared Stiglitz to a famous scholar who suffers from often disabling mental illness (“Like your fellow Nobel Prize winner, John Nash, you have a ‘beautiful mind.’ As a policymaker, however, you were just a bit less impressive.”) To top off this list, Rogoff told Stiglitz that he should pull his book from publication because it “slandered” a senior IMF official.

But those are only the gratuitous insults that Rogoff launched at Stiglitz. His real attack was that Stiglitz had done incalculable damage to the developing world by criticizing the IMF and by opposing austerity as “battlefield medicine” for nations thrown into severe recessions.

In your role as chief economist at the World Bank, you decided to become what you see as a heroic whistleblower, speaking out against macroeconomic policies adopted during the 1990s Asian crisis that you believed to be misguided. You were 100% sure of yourself, 100% sure that your policies were absolutely the right ones. In the middle of a global wave of speculative attacks, that you yourself labeled a crisis of confidence, you fueled the panic by undermining confidence in the very institutions you were working for. Did it ever occur to you for a moment that your actions might have hurt the poor and indigent people in Asia that you care about so deeply? Do you ever lose a night’s sleep thinking that just maybe, Alan Greenspan, Larry Summers, Bob Rubin, and Stan Fischer had it right—and that your impulsive actions might have deepened the downturn or delayed—even for a day—the recovery we now see in Asia?

Recall that this was written in 2002, so the hilarity of summoning the support of Greenspan, Summers, Rubin, and Fisher for one’s financial policies was not apparent to neoclassical economists. In any event, Rogoff’s claim is that the “impulsive” Stiglitz’s criticism of the IMF during the Asian crisis endangered the economic recovery essential to “indigent people in Asia” because it could have reduced “confidence” in the IMF’s policy of imposing austerity as “battlefield medicine” for Nations that were in sharp recessions.

It’s hard to resist the impulse to consult the a DSM IV after something like that, particularly when you read Rogoff’s diatribe above in combination with his charge of McCarthyism. That’s an insult to the intelligence of anyone with even a passing familiarity with that ugly period of history. Being charged by McCarthy of Communism (or his other target, homosexuality) was often a career-ender and even led to suicides, including those of Robert La Follette and Senator Lester Hunt.

So has Rogoff suffered anything more than a well-deserved dent to his reputation and ego? He’s still a professor at Harvard. He still gets interviewed by top newspapers. I highly doubt the Big Faux Leftie Cabal has managed to deny him media or op-ed slots. Perhaps his speaking fees have fallen off a tad as a result of bad press clips?

It reveals quite a lot about Rogoff’s sense of proportion to see him on about McCarthyism and his misguided sense of victimhood when the policies he helped legitimate produce outcomes like hospitals in Greece running short of medicine and having to reuse sheets, or the exodus of 13% of the population of Latvia to find work, or as many as 146 million Europeans falling into poverty by 2025?

What brought the end of McCarthy’s rein of terror was when the Wisconsin senator smeared a junior member of the legal team representing the Army on national television. The lead counsel Joseph Welch upbraided McCarthy, ending with the now-famous “Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”

The same question could just as well be posed to Rogoff.

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  1. s spade

    Great stuff, particularly the German. I recommend that Rogoff go on American television and defend himself in German. If that doesn’t work, perhaps he can have the UMass student arrested for slander. Whoops, that pesky truth defense.

    This guy is a professor at Harvard? Students go $300,000 in debt to listen to him? In English or German? Harvard must have changed a lot in the past 50 years. We listened to Galbraith, who not only knew everything but had a sense of humor, too.

    1. steelhead23

      J.K. Galbraith is a relatively unsung hero of mine. He was a great proponent of a mixed economy (yes, government does do some things better (or more economically efficiently) than does enterprize). Rogoff – not so much.

    2. Benedict@Large

      There is a LOT of money in preaching bogus economics these days, and the imprimatur of Harvard excels like no other in attracting such funds. Consider yourself lucky to have attended the university and its economics regimen in its better days. These days it is home to an economic professor who whines when he is caught pedaling bogus results, a history professor who tries to pass himself off as an economics professor, and an economics professor whose freshmen students walk out in disgust over the bias of his representations. A sad end, but inevitable when one is more concerned with one’s endowment than with one’s students.

  2. sufferinsuccotash, stupor mundi

    I have to admire Rogoff’s restraint here. At least he didn’t compare his critics to the KGB or Gestapo. But of course mentioning that last organization might have triggered guffaws from the interviewer. On that side of the water they do know what real dictatorships are all about.

    1. Stan Musical

      I trust you’re being sarcastic about his “restraint.”

      He appears to be a typical authoritarian personality. Can’t brook any disagreement.

      Germans in my experience of living there have in general a (bow-to-) authority mindset, it’s deeply ingrained, so no surprise his story plays well especially in bank-town Frankfurt.

      Re Gestapo comparisons I’d avoid Nazi-themed jokes in Germany, still don’t seem to go over well; I’d give them another 50 years. I once joked to a German acquaintance that I was going to entitle my memoirs of my time in the music world “Mein Kampf als Musiker.” He was not amused.

      BTW “Einschätzung” is more correctly an estimation, not a belief, i.e. has a more specific meaning of a reckoning based on estimation.

  3. Mcmike

    Classic modern conservative retreat pattern:

    … Um, ok, so maybe there’s no data to support my opinion after all, but i still know i am right. And besides the people who oppose me are mean and unfair, and, um, commies with an agenda…

    … Now where’s my ball, i wanna go home.

    1. PaulW

      Objection! There’s nothing conservative or traditionalist about these modern conservatives. They’re mostly war mongering eliteists who want to change everything in society, which is not conservatism. Like the Reform Party in Canada becoming the Conservative Party. Are people really that stupid? So please no more pot shots at traditional conservatives using Conservative Quislings. After all, liberal commentators aren’t much better. Maybe in 50 years they’ll come clean about their hero Obama. If we’re lucky.

      1. Massinissa

        Its not as if the right hasnt been spending the last better part of a century calling the USSR a ‘socialist’ state when it was never anything of the sort. If the word ‘conservatism’ is tainted for a few decades, whether rightly or wrongly, I certainly wont cry over it.

        And yes, modern liberalism is thoroughly bankrupt. But that has no bearing on the bankruptcy of modern conservative ideology, whether or not its ‘real’ conservatism or not.

        And anyway, if you have not noticed, most of the viewers on this site do not identify as ‘liberal’, nor are they obama supporters. Have you not noticed the dozens of poignant articles on Obamacare?

      2. Mcmike

        Yes, I use the term “modern conservative” ironically.

        See: “the stages of simulacra”

        Nevertheless, that is what the people advocating this crap call themselves.

    2. anon y'mouse

      well, if you keep mentioning that he is a Harvard economist, eventually he’ll cry Uncle (class warfare).

      it seems to be all the rage these days.

  4. Walter Map

    Let’s see …

    “Unable to accept constructive criticism in the spirit intended.”

    “Unwilling to maintain a minimum standard of professional decorum. Lack of personal integrity.”

    Before he was just wrong. Now he’s a whimpering little twit. The brat gets caught screwing up and acts out like a two-year-old. Sending him to his room without supper isn’t going to cut it. The guy needs a spanking. Spare the rod, spoil the child, I always say.

    Time to go after his job. That’ll give him something to cry about.

    1. Dan B

      “Time to go after his job.” I hear you, Walter, but Rogoff’s been doing his job. Rogoff/Reinhardt is connected to TINA, which is connected to buttressing a decadent and falling class structure and political-economy. Yesterday, Yves wrote about the dominant paradigm being -a la T. Kuhn- unable to solve problems. Rogoff-Reinhardt is a reflection of this failing paradigm’s defenders and their deep commitment to that worldview because TINA.

      1. Walter Map

        You know what Rogoff’s biggest problem is? Reality is against him. That puts him at a tremendous disadvantage, and all his whining doesn’t change that.

        He’s dug himself into a hole and just won’t stop. Fine. Hand him a bigger shovel.

      2. James Levy

        Academics at a certain level of the hierarchy are used to declaiming and asserting without being effectively questioned. Academia is one of he most class-conscious and hierarchical institutions around. It has an unbelievably elaborate pecking order. And people at its top know how to use their positions to badger and dismiss those below them. I once saw a bunch of Chicago and Cornell profs dismiss an argument solely on the grounds that the man who made it was at SUNY Stony Brook–obviously, if he was worth listening to, he wouldn’t be stuck in a place like that! I’ve seen the way search committees treat Ivy League applicants, and those from “lesser” schools. The Ivy Leaguers are spoken to as colleagues, the men and women from “lesser” schools bullied and put on the spot (when I was a grad student in PoliSci before I switched to History I was stunned and appalled at the behavior of my teachers when I sat as a grad rep on a major search committee).

        For men like Rogoff being challenged is a nasty shock. That his “inferiors” at UMass would do the challenging must seem the height of impertinence. I mean, if they were worth listening to, wouldn’t they have jobs at Harvard, too?

        1. Lonely_in_Dallas

          Oh PLEASE! You are talking about “soft sciences” where everything is subjective and there is no ground truth. Do really think that in mathematics or physics people can get away with making unsubstantiated assertions and then browbeating their critics? This is why I have such contempt for economics as a subject. Unlike psychologists or social scientists, who are relatively more candid about admitting that their own personal biases inevitably creep into their conclusions, economists pretend to be discovering observer-independent truths, as in physics or chemistry. Also, as Yves pointed out in one of her posts, economists are the only ones with a seat at the policy-making high table, which they then parlay into personal wealth (witness the reference above to Rogoff registering himself with the Washington Speakers Bureau). Ultimately economists covet only this: influence and wealth. That puts them in a separate category from both the hard scientists (mathematicians, physicists, biologists etc.) and the rest of the social scientists.

          So long as your comments are restricted to academics in the social sciences including economics, I agree. But please do not try to tar ALL academics with the same brush.

          1. James Levy

            I never meant or implied the natural sciences were anything like this. My Ph.D. is in History, and it is the Humanities and Social Sciences of which I speak. I was attacking this Economist and the History and PoliSci people I have been around in my profession.

            BTW, I think History can be grounded in facts. I am no postmodernist. I just think that inference and interpretation always have a place in History, but falsification or distortion do no, and yes, I think there is a demonstrable difference between fact-based interpretation and deliberate obfuscation.

            1. JerseyJeffersonian

              Economics today would like to think of itself as more of a “hard” science, and would like to shuffle off its past denomination as a “social” science. But along with that arguably hubristic self-definition comes the responsibility TO MAKE PUBLIC YOUR DATA AND COMPUTATIONS, just like the professionals in the generally acknowledged “hard” sciences do. Otherwise, if you don’t provide the essential stuff needed for peer review, you are relying on your own personal cult of personality and/or ideological orientation to carry the day. Sounds like Prof. Rogoff’s modus operandi to me.

              And yes, nitty gritty historical studies should indeed be fact based. I recall accompanying my wife to the Germantown Historical Society in Philadelphia so that I could help take digital photographs of news items from archived newspapers from the mid-18th century that were relevant to developing her argument for research upon which she was engaged. Citations for these items were supplied in her endnotes, thus satisfying the need for supplying the reader with a verifiable evidentiary trail.

              1. s spade

                Economics isn’t science; it’s theology. The assumptions have no grounding in reality and the mathematics is second rate. The whole thing went wrong beginning with Marshall, and even Keynes only tip toed around exploding the professional nonsense. Apart from Keynes and Veblen there is nothing in the economics of the past one hundred fifty years that is worth reading. Well, maybe Joan Robinson.

        2. Yves Smith Post author

          The status issue is a big one, and one that I neglected to work into the post. That’s no doubt the reason for the Rogoff delusion of an “orchestrated” attack. After all, how else could such a reversal take place, that a paper from a second-tier institution (only because the only place heterodox economists can get a tenured slot is off the beaten tracks), and worse, one where the lead author was a GRAD STUDENT, get taken seriously and become widely publicized?

          Economics, unlike any real science, has an explicit hierarchy of journals. Rogoff is an editor of one of the top ones, I believe the AEA’s journal.

          1. Lonely_in_Dallas


            Even in “real sciences” there is a hierarchy of journals. But there are significant differences: (i) Whether or not a paper gets published in a top journal depends exclusively on its content and not on its authorship. In mathematics especially, there are many examples of “unknown” persons becoming famous overnight by solving an important problem. (ii) Journals don’t exist merely to advance a “school of thought.” In fact “schools of thought” don’t even exist in the real sciences. (iii) Usually, Editors serve for a fixed term and then hand over to another researcher, in contrast to Economics and other such subjects where a journal is like a personal fiefdom of a quasi-permanent Editor.

            Thanks for conceding that economics is not a real science, which is something I have been saying for a while now.

          2. John Jones

            Is earning an economics degree pointless these days?

            Were does one go to learn keynesian economics or
            something based on facts?

            And how do you tell what you are learning is correct?

            1. s spade

              The degree is pointless unless your purpose is to serve the establishment. The best economic writing these days comes from Steve Keen and Michael Hudson. The best way to understand Keynes is to read Keynes. Start with the essays. The General Theory is a difficult book. The Treatise on Probability is a great book. It explains the difference between uncertainty and risk. Had those responsible for the banking sector bothered to read it, the financial crisis might have been avoided.

    2. Mcmike

      Rogoff will most certainly fail up into a rich corporate sinicure. Being a hack for the elite has its rewards.

      Pretending to be outraged is part of the kabuki, in the military, it is akin to laying out a smokescreen to cover your retreat.

  5. Dryly 41

    Appreciate you pulling this altogether as it is so much more than just the Excel error. And the impact of the error has caused enormous damage to real people in Greece and Spain who are in Great Depression status with no way out. Not even an apology from Rogoff and Reinhart. Where is the intellectual honesty and moral integrity? Well, Harvard also has N. Gregory Mankiw and Nial Ferguson.

    1. James Levy

      Intellectual honesty implies a consciousness of doubt and uncertainty. My observation is that doubt and uncertainty are impediments in academia. The trick is to make a bold, splashy, smart, and methodologically au courant assertion and push it as publically and forcefully as you can. Right a whole bunch of articles that are variations on this theme, and present papers far and wide. Nod in the right directions, insinuate yourself into the orbit of “players”, and watch your career prospects soar.

      Overall, although this does not apply universally in academia, success in America is of a piece. You must be energetic, aggressive, self-promoting, and sure of yourself. You must survive the subtle and not-so-subtle humiliations of graduate school while retaining a bullet-proof ego. You have to be able to both conform and stand out (you use your confident personality and strong opinions to stand out, all the while conforming to the dictates of the system). You can ponder the personality type best suited to this process. He looks like Larry Summers.

    2. Mcmike

      ha ha lol… “excel error.” It is so cute and deferential of the establishment to call it that; a little whoopsie maybe caused by a brand new intern or an overzealous junior staffer or an old fart with thick thumbs. Professional courtesy I guess.

      “The one thing worse than a knee-pad Tory is a chickenshit liberal. The type that can not say ‘shit’ even when his mouth is full of it.” — Edward Abbey

    3. Yves Smith Post author

      I did clearly state there were multiple errors: “data omissions, Excel errors, and questionable data weightings.”

      The Excel bit added to the interest in the story outside the core econ/policy community. It provided an easy hook/headline, even if the Excel problems weren’t the biggest source of problems with the paper.

      1. Mcmike

        Oh indeed, the real crime is usually in the weightings, assumptions, and exclusions.

        But it was my understanding that the excel errors were pretty significant, in terms of formula mistakes that led to favorable wrong answers. Isn’t that correct?

  6. craazyman

    This is How We Do Economic Research in Magonia

    It occurred to me this morning — in that absent-minded way things you’re not even thinking about become suddenly known in their full trueness through accidental revelation — that everybody could be right.

    It may well be that growth slows when debt gets to 90%, then it goes to zero, but only if you don’t pile on more debt.

    But, if you do, it picks up again! That makes sense. It’s like in the old days when you shifted from 2nd to 3rd gear out on the highway. You slowed for a moment, as the transmission dis-engaged, then you accelerated when the higher gear kicked in.

    There’s no need for all these economists to be arguing with each other. They should join forces and try to calculate just how much more debt we need to get the engines roaring. My guess is probably a lot, but it may not be the same debt we have now. That’s always a problem that defies mathematics.

    1. craazyboy

      Sure craazyman, numbers are numbers and debt does add to annual GDP. So more is more! Excel can even do that without blowing up.**

      Any good Keynesian can show how spending money leads to more aggregate demand. You can do it with cheap interest rates too, even at the same time! This means the economy will be driven to full employment to satisfy this demand. See?

      Only problem I see is we have to wait for full employment in Asia to happen first. This is about 3 billion people, so you could use that figure and estimate how much debt we need and how long we need ZIRP. But I think we will have to wait some time before the positive impact will be felt here in the US.

      ** I am somewhat sympathetic about exploding spreadsheets. I did that myself when I stuck ZIRP into my pre 2008 retirement planning spreadsheet. Said sumthin about “divide by zero error” in the part that calc’d how much money I will need for retirement. Dunno if that is serious or not. Probably nothing a 10 bagger or two can’t fix.

      1. craazyman

        If it’s somebody else’s debt there’s probably not enough of it, if it’s my debt and I owe it, it’s too high.

        We have to cancel my debt and bring that number down under 90%, then load up somebody else with debt so they can shop, that’ll git things movin’.

        When things start movin’ then even I can take on more debt again and help out with the shoppin’. That’ll get things really movin’ fast!

        After a while, when things are really really movin fast, we’ll all pay down our debt and we can all be rich at the same time. Who could possibly argue with that?

        1. craazyboy

          Hardly anyone! Being out of debt and flat ass broke feels like being rich!

          I mean, as long as you still have a 40-50 hour a week job and the government doesn’t say you owe them $100K now. That would be the spoiler. But economists say that can’t happen because there are multipliers. Believe in multipliers – they will make you happier!

  7. jack ryan

    This is NOT a witch hunt, you and Reinhart published a paper with suggestions about austerity and a 90% threshhold that has ABSOLUTELY screwed up the European recovery and you’re upset that they’re going after you? You should be ashamed of the austerity that you and your consultant gigs ushered in and the disasterous consequences.

    1. anon y'mouse

      just add this to that bank dude the other week who was screaming about being lynched like black people in the south.

      time for a series—”Ridiculous things said by Money Men.”

      add it to the new (unwritten) book—”Fairy Tales told by Economists.” how to allegorize the rational choice, efficient markets equilibrium stuff into princesses and knights might be a bit difficult. but at least we can have a witch. there’s always a witch.

  8. plantman

    Wow. Great stuff.
    Thanks Yves.

    You’d think that after being battered by his mistakes and miscues, Rogoff would want to call it a day. But Nooooo…

    Instead, he puts a big bullseye on his back and runs out on the firing range again.

    This is how a big ego corrupts one’s better judgment.

    There must be a contest between Rogoff and Ferguson to see who is the biggest moron alive, an honor which used to be awarded Thomas Friedman almost without competition.

    I’m putting my money on Ferguson. He’s definitely got the edge on Kennie boy.

    1. James Levy

      In Britain Ferguson had “contrarian Senior Lecturer” written all over him, but here the make him a full professor at Harvard. Military historians had a field day picking apart The Pity of War, but instead of hurting him, it got him the job at NYU. Then, he writes a paean to imperialism that ignores 50 years of postcolonial and subaltern historiography and they make him a full prof at Harvard.

      Well, if they could make Elena Kagan Dean of their Law School for being Hilary Clinton’s lawyer, I guess anything is possible. Provide proper service to the Power Elite and all things are possible.

      1. Mcmike

        This failing up phenom is no bug; it’s a feature. This is no accidental peter principle interia. It is every bit a deliberate system of rewards for selling out and sucking up. The institutions that don’t play this game are those with some integrity, which means they are few and getting fewer, as the borg of soft corruption tirelessly coopts what it can and destroys the rest.

      2. Synopticist

        There’s a wierd alchemy, where some brits who have manifestly failed and ended up in semi-disgrace over here can re-invent themselves in the US, and get a huge and completelly undeserved promotion soon afterwards.

        Piers Morgan is an even better example than ferguson.

        1. James Levy

          Americans fall for them if the accent and demeanor are just right. Tell Americans how terrific they are with an educated Home Counties accent and the world is your oyster.

          A few years back I took a gander at the Princeton History Department roster. Four Oxbridge grads there, all with DPhils. Now, Oxford and Cambridge do award Ph.D.’s, which is a superior degree. And for years London, Manchester, and Durham have been turning out history grads as good as Oxford and Cambridge. But Princeton had fallen for the Oxbridge mystique. My guess is that if the same people had a Ph.D. from Exeter or Hull or East Anglia, they wouldn’t have gotten an interview, no less a job.

    2. El Guapo

      As bad as Rogoff is Ferguson wins that contest hands down. I doubt there is a more abominable person on the planet.

      1. John Mc

        Well, let us not rule out David Brooks or Thomas Friedman. The Greg Marmalade and Doug Neidermeyer of pundit lunacy

  9. John Mc

    Another example of the white male privileged (from the established dominant culture) victimhood.

    “So has Rogoff suffered anything more than a well-deserved dent to his reputation and ego? He’s still a professor at Harvard. He still gets interviewed by top newspapers. I highly doubt the Big Faux Leftie Cabal has managed to deny him media or op-ed slots. Perhaps his speaking fees have fallen off a tad as a result of bad press clips?

    It reveals quite a lot about Rogoff’s sense of proportion to see him on about McCarthyism and his misguided sense of victimhood when the policies he helped legitimate produce outcomes…”

    This calls for a list of victimhood. Here are 5
    1) Jamie Dimon
    2) Kenneth Rogoff
    3) John Edwards
    4) Ken Lay
    5) Mitch Daniels

  10. Calgacus

    Go back to chess, Ken. I was astonished when I learnt that GM Rogoff, who as a kid was praised by Bobby Himself, and idiot “economist” Rogoff were one and the same person.

    “On the chessboard lies and hypocrisy do not survive long. The creative combination lays bare the presumption of lies; the merciless fact, culmination in checkmate, contradicts the hypocrites.” – Lasker

    Who knew spreadsheets were so much like chessboards?!

  11. trop

    I read both NYT and FAZ, so I thought I’d weigh in on the “which is best thought of as a center-right New York Times” comment

    FAZ is probably left of the NYT on most issues. FAZ is centre right for Germany.

    It’s just on economic policy right of the NYT, but in Germany everyone except “Die Linke”(which is generally considered far left) is pro austerity. One of the founding myths of Germany is that the Inflation of the early 1920s led to Hitlers rise of power. Schools don’t teach Brüning much.

    Left and Right are always positions of perspectives, NC is US based, so calling them centre right might give off the false impression that they are compareble to the lunatics which deny Evolution and Climate science, the FAZ embraces both.

    The FAZ would further never give people who are anti-Abortion or anti-Gay a plattform to spead a hateful worldview. And the FAZ believes that universal health care is a good thing, which is another indication that relative to the US right they are pretty left.

  12. BigRed

    A few short comments:
    1) maybe I am simply too far left but I stopped trying to read the FAZ years ago because of their strong right-wing spin on just about anything (their sunday edition, FAS, is a different matter for some reason), so I am not sure that “center-right” is appropriate. In my opinion, the Süddeutsche Zeitung ist center-right (and comes closest to the NYT in Germany).

    2) the subheader begins with “Kenneth Rogoff hat gezeigt, wie schädlich Staatsschulden sind. Dann wurde ihm ein Excel-Fehler vorgeworfen.”, i.e. “KR has shown how damaging public debt is. Then he was accused of an Excel-error.”
    So while FAZ gives him room to vent, it also sets the stage by giving his claims the appearance of fact and downplaying the data manipulation. You yourself point out the mispresentation of his critic’s work. So to my mind that interview is akin to the WSJ giving him an op-od…echo-chamber material.

  13. $$$

    harvard has given the USA:
    Larry Summers-supply sider
    R&R -supply side anti keynsian
    N. Ferguson – anti krugman anti keynsian anti reality
    These are just isolated incidents, no pattern here, move along (just like the political assassinations in the US over the last 5 decades)

  14. Synopticist

    I don’t want to sound like a religious conservative, but this sort of thing happens when a culture loses its’ sense of shame.

    Obviously he’s too narcissistic and arrogent to feel any sort of embarresment himself, but that’s not the only source. He should have been disgraced, blackballed insulted and humiliated by one of the only two groups he cares about, his fellow academics. (no point in saying who the other group is).

    All he’s suffered is some mild criticism from the likes of krugman and De long, whereas what was needed was a line of respected public figures calling him a f*ckin liar and a hoax.

    1. Ronald Pires

      The reason Rogoff wasn’t called a “f*ckin liar and a hoax” by most of his contemporaries is that most his contemporaries are f*ckin liars and hoaxes too. The entire profession, lead by its academics, ran off the track three decades back, and together haven’t driven a straight spike since.

      1. Einstein-Heisenberg-Feyman

        I think you’re casting too wide a net. I completely agree with your premise–as does Paul Krugman who, contrary to the derogations launched at him, WILL reconsider his view when confronted with contradictory data–that economomics lost its way after it abandoned Keynesianism.

        I also think that economics does have intellectual legitimacy. The problem is that part of the established academic junta (i.e. the neoclassicalists at Uni of Chicago, Harvard, et al.) has infused political partisanship into their field. To state you are a Keynesian is to be deemed a “leftie” when in fact Keynes, judge by standard au-courant, was a proponent of mixed economies with the government assuming a greater burden of economic production during recessions and a smartly-regulated free market assuming the burden of production during boom times (and even then the gov’t still assumed the financing of ‘Public Goods’ because of conflicts of interest, externalities, or risk mitigation).

        That’s a VERY reasonable stance, one that doesn’t necessarily have to politicized. The irony of people like Rogoff and Reinhart is that they are diminishing the intellectual rigidity of their profession. Anti-intellectualism isn’t just about Tea baggers spewing ideologically false aspersions about ‘Socialist’ Obama, but also a fundamental attitude of insincerity towards the integrity of your work and, by extension, your profession.

        I have my occasional beefs with Paul Krugman, but he’s usually spot-on in his critique of his profession and of the contemporary economic policy in general. See: “A Dark Age in Macroeconomics” and also his piece on the death of intellectual integrity in economics (beginning with the neo-classical school and supply-side snake oil).

    2. James Levy

      You don’t have to be a religious conservative to believe in ethical behavior. And the shaming should be a result not of his mistake, but of the arrogance and equivocations that came after the mistake.

      These are the signs of a culture that no longer hunts for the truth as best it can ascertain it, but is all about staking positions and using those positions for personal gain. Rogoff should have said, “well, I made a mistake and seem to be wrong. Let’s all put together our knowledge and get this right.” Such words are never uttered by anyone in powerful positions today, and that is why we cannot solve our problems and are on the fast track to civilizational breakdown.

  15. FederalismForever

    Rogoff may be a jerk, and the original Reinhart/Rogoff conclusion (that there is a sharp drop-off in growth after the 90%-to-GDP threshold is crossed) was far too strong, and based on an inescusable Excel error to boot. But none of that disproves a weaker version Reinhart/Rogoff’s claim: that economic growth tends to slow after government debt rises above 90% of GDP. Moreover, our largest creditor (China) and all of the ratings agencies embrace this weaker view, or a close variant of it. We can debate with them all we want about whether this view is correct, but if large government debt levels result in a credit rating downgrade, or a serious move to replace the dollar as the world’s reserve currency, very large real-world consequences could follow.

    Justin Fox of Harvard Business Review offers a more balanced view of the Reinhart/Rogoff saga, and concludes:

    “My reading of Reinhart-Rogoff, Herndon-Ash-Pollin . . . is that rising debt loads do weigh on growth. Yes, there’s causation at work in both directions: low growth results in bigger debts — which has clearly been the case in the U.S. over the past couple of years. But attempts to separate that effect out by looking at growth rates well after a spike in debt do indicate slower growth after higher debt. And for economists of every school but so-called modern monetary theory, it’s logical that big debts would eventually eat up resources and slow growth.”

    Three recent studies have backed the weaker version of Reinhart/Rogoff.

    1. In April 2011, Swedish economists Andreas Bergh and Magnus Henrekson (both of the Research Institute of Industrial Economics at Lund University) found a “significant negative correlation” between size of government and economic growth. Specifically, “an increase in government size by 10 percentage points is associated with a 0.5% to 1% lower annual growth rate.”

    2. In “The Impact of High and Growing Government Debt on Economic Growth: An Empirical Investigation for the Euro Area,” in European Central Bank working paper, Number 1237, August 2010. Cristina Checherita and Philipp Rother found that a government-debt-to-GDP ratio above the threshold of 90-100% has a “deleterious” impact on long-term growth. Additionally, the impact of debt on growth is nonlinear – as the government debt rises to higher and higher levels, the adverse growth consequences accelerate.

    3. In The Real Effects of Debt, published by the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) in Basel, Switzerland in August 2011. Stephen G. Cecchetti, M. S.Mohanty, and Fabrizio Zampolli determined that “beyond a certain level, debt is bad for growth. For government debt, the number is about 85% of GDP.”

    Again, whatever the merits of MMT in THEORY, if it is not embraced by our largest creditors or the rating agencies, very large real-world consequences could result if external debt levels are too large. We can argue with them all we want about whether they really should be so concerned about all the debt we’ve issued and will issue, but if our arguments fail to prevent them from downgrading our debt or moving away from the dollar, of what use are our theories?

    1. jurisV

      Error bars anyone? And maybe a side of “confidence limits”?

      FederalismForever: I would pay attention to your claim of a “weaker version of Reinhart and Rogoff” if you or those articles you reference would discuss the “confidence limits” of their regression on the data of R&R — as well as discuss their data selection and manipulation. I still hold to my assessment that it’s garbage posing as “scienciness.”

      Thanks in advance.

    2. Benedict@Large

      Excuse me? MMT is wrong because it’s right but no one knows? And as for MMT being right “in THEORY”, I’d suggest you check the record. Back to its founding (~1996), it has an unbroken string of correct, PUBLISHED predictions. That the mainstream, itself with a laughable record of predictions, ignores this is not the fault of MMT, and one’s own errors should not be excused simply because “everyone does it”.

      1. FederalismForever

        I’m not saying “MMT is wrong because it’s right but no one knows.” Rather, I’m saying that even if MMT is completely and totally correct in every way, this is IRRELEVANT if, e.g., China (or our other creditors) and/or the ratings agencies don’t agree that MMT is correct and conform their actions and decisions to MMT principles.

        The fact is, we live in a word where the rating agencies have immense power. Right or wrong, it’s just a fact. Not only do their ratings affect government debtors, but many private contracts have clauses which are triggered by rating downgrades. To my knowledge, NONE of the rating agencies has ever embraced MMT. (Please correct me if I wrong on this.) Rather, their reasoning and analysis overwhelmingly indicates that they embrace the weaker version of the Reinhart/Rogoff view. If they base their decision to downgrade on this (incorrect) Reinhart/Rogoff view, of what use would it be to point out, post-downgrade, that their decision was based on a flawed model?

        A similar argument could be made about China’s attitude towards our mounting debt. I have not seen any indication from any official China publication that they have been convinced of the correctness of MMT theory, and are now less concerned about our rising debt levels. In fact, every indication is they are growing even more concerned about this, and are exploring plans to be less reliant on the dollar. To take just one possible scenario: what if all of this results in the dollar no longer being the world’s reserve currency? Should that occur, establishing that MMT is “correct” would be a purely Pyrrhic victory.

        All of this may be a way of saying that, for MMT to work in the “real world,” the rating agencies, our largest creditors, etc., have to agree that it is correct and apply its principles to their decision-making.

        1. Kraken

          The Fed has been using MMT every month to the tune of 85 billion dollars. The creation of debt doesn’t seem to be a problem if it is being transferred to proper financial entities.

    3. JerseyJeffersonian

      Hmm, there seems to be a bias toward the unquestioned goodness of “growth” in your cited studies. But it might be worthwhile to examine the possibility that the idea that “growth” being replaced by a more equitable distribution of wealth and access to social goods would yield salutary results. In the US, this would seem to my mind to be the case.

      I grew up in a community where the city fathers just wanted to see “growth”; what they got was a spreading, purposeless birdsplat of increasing population with little to no thought given to the fiscal or societal consequences of metastasizing suburbanism on the quality of life of the citizens of the community. They got their “growth” alright. But only after decades of this did anyone in authority come to question the health of the resulting community as a social construct.

      On a bigger scale, “growth” without concern for either distribution of wealth, or the sustainability of the infinite “growth” paradigm of modern capitalism in ecological terms, is idiotic. It’s the logic of the super-rich: if $1 billion is good, $100 billion is unquestionably better. Not if it results in social distortion and unrest, or ecological collapse it isn’t.

      1. FederalismForever

        Well, if Reinhart/Rogoff and the other studies I sited are right, continuing to increase our debt levels to an ever greater percentage of GPD would likely lead to less “growth”.

        I think your general point has merit. A related issue is revising the definition of “GDP” – or maybe doing away with it altogether. Maryland’s Governor Martin O’Malley has advocated a “Genuine Progress Indicator”:

    4. EricT

      Wow, you haven’t read any of the Rebuttals to R&R’s work. You have the causation backwards. A government that grows( or increases its budget ) is usually in response to an economic downturn. We call that the social safety net and it grows when the economy slows down. Not only does the safety net growth increase the debt levels, but tax receipts also see a downturn in a slower economy, which also grows the debt. The debt grows in response to an economic slowdown not the slowdown occurs because of debt growth.

      1. FederalismForever

        [I will finish your paragraph for you]: And then, once the slowdown has ended, and we find ourselves with a high debt-to-GDP ratio, R&R and those three other studies support the view that growth from that point onward will tend to be lower.

        I have read rebuttals to R&R, and am perfectly willing to concede that the initial economic slowdown is the cause of the debt increase (not vice versa). But when the slowdown ends, and we still have a high debt-to-GDP ratio, what happens then?

        1. Calgacus

          The debt grows in response to an economic slowdown not the slowdown occurs because of debt growth. This misses the fact that the best way to get a large and burdensome debt is to have austerity. slowdown–>austerity–> bigger debt &stagnation. Bigger than slowdown–>autostabilization–>recovery. Much bigger than slowdown–> active policy response, new deal deficits–>strong recovery. France in the 30s is a good example. Austerity, gold standard, bigger debts and deficits than FDR’s USA, but no recovery.

    5. s spade

      This is nothing but nonsense. Growth itself is largely nonsense, because no attention is pad to what is growing and whether or not it is sustainable. You want growth? How about having all the married women stop sleeping with their own husbands and start sleeping with their neighbors’ husbands, for money. Growth skyrockets.

      The economy has crashed because of individual debt, not Treasury debt. None of these economists has the intellectual power to blow himself up.

      1. anon y'mouse

        you think that isn’t happening now? we’ve got public school teachers in bankrupt cities seeking sugar daddies over the internet in order to pay for supplies for their students, at least according to tabloid-style MSM rumours on that same internet.

        every few years after the collapse of the USSR they would have a little expose’ on how college professors were selling themselves in train stations at night to have enough to eat. we’re pretty much there.

  16. jurisV

    Wow R&R again — zombie economics refuses to die!

    Cathy O’Neil (aka “mathbabe”)has a great post today about the question of: is economics a science? This refers to an op-ed by Raj Chetty in the NY Times defending the “science” of economics.

    She call it “scienciness.” Here’s an awesome excerpt from her post:

    “In other words, I’d have no problem with economists if they behaved like the people in the following completely made-up story based on the infamous Reinhart-Rogoff paper with the infamous excel mistake:

    Two guys tried to figure what public policy causes GDP growth by using historical data. They collected their data and did some analysis, and they later released both the spreadsheet and the data by posting them on their Harvard webpages. They also ran the numbers a few times with slightly different countries and slightly different weighting schemes and explained in their write-up that got different answers depending on the initial conditions, so therefore they couldn’t conclude much at all, because the error bars are just so big. Oh well.”

    I think her made-up story pretty much explains the bullsh’ness of the R&R paper — and in a very civilized fashion. Thank you Cathy O’Neil !!

  17. Hugh

    Modern economics is a charlatan pseudo-science. It’s a con of kleptocracy. And the first rule of any con is never admit the con. When Rogoff’s charlatanism was exposed, his first response was to attack his critics and his second was more charlatanism.

    One of the reasons our elites so heavily credential themselves is to project an aura of legitimacy and good faith so that when pressed by their lies, deceptions, and evil they can seek the benefit of doubt from us. Rogoff is a huckster and worse, a criminal. They all are. They steal from hundreds of millions, billions if we look worldwide. They steal our homes, our jobs, our pensions, and our wealth. And how many of us do they kill and sicken each year with their schemes: no insurance, crap insurance, pollution, defective products, imperial wars, wealth destroying bubbles, endless debt? Tens of thousands? Hundreds of thousands?

    We are in a war, and yet we act like we are in a debate. Rogoff is not an over the top clown, even if he acts like one. He is an over the top criminal. His whole class is. This should not be where our analysis ends. It should be where it begins. Rogoff is not some silly man. He is a silly, evil man.

  18. Murky

    Two things:

    1. Yves makes an excellent case about what’s wrong with Ken Rogoff and his economics. And I mostly agree.

    2. But there is a some very willful bashing of Rogoff here by the commentariat. “This guy is a professor at Harvard?”. “He’s just a whimpering little twit.” “The brat.” “A hack for the elite.” “Biggest moron alive.” “Jerkoff.”

    Thanks folks! I now have reason to find something redeeming in Ken Rogoff. Just to be contrarian to public beatings.

    1. Ronald Pires

      Professor Rogoff has only himself to blame. Instead of accepting that he mad a mistake, he keeps digging his hole deeper, while passing out shovels to those who would fill it back in with him interred.

    2. Mcmike

      It’s a public shaming. Not a beating.

      Although bringing back tar and feathers has a certain appeal.

      If our institutions weren’t so corrupt, and would self-police rather than perversely promote, we would not need a bushel of rotten tomatoes.

    3. s spade

      It’s probably relentlessly fair minded people like you who resurrected Nixon. Anyone who isn’t furious about all this either hasn’t thought about it or is cashing in on it.

  19. KYrocky

    Keep it simple: Rogoff is a liar and academic fraud.

    The fact that it took him YEARS to share his “data” sent up giant red flags. The post by Bill Black illustrates what a personal and professional dick Rogoff is. But from their selective manipulation of the data, in addition to their Excel error, it is apparent that their study gamed to produce a desired result. And it was no accident that their result coincided directly with the Austerians wishes and just the time U.S. debt was approaching Rogoff and Reinhart’s 90% cliff.

    1. Synopticist

      I would suggest they were waiting until the 2012 election before allowing anyone to see the falsity.

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      It’s even better than that….

      Reinhart gave the data to Herndon, remember? A grad student. She must not have been thinking, given how keen the interest in data was. I guarantee the assumption was, “Oh a grad student. Probably for a presentation in a statistical methods course. Sure, why not.”

      1. EricT

        I think it was released in response to the stimulus, to kind of reinforce the idea that stimulus spending doesn’t grow the economy. Even more interesting, is if you look at the debt to GDP levels about the time of the R&R study, you will notice that the magic 90% level is pretty close. Its as if we are being fed a steady stream of organized propaganda, to have many different sources reinforcing one common message. Like a conspiracy. Ah, I’m just being paranoid.

        1. anon y'mouse

          no, according to the new DSM you have a persistent, bothersome belief which is a mental disorder because of the tenacity with which you cling to it, not because belief itself is untrue.

          pass the Abilify.

  20. Julio Huato

    Perhaps most ironic, is that Rogoff views himself as somebody so cruelly persecuted by rabid right-wingers that he is forced (against his deepest convictions) to deny his membership to the Communist Party. :-)

  21. skippy

    GDP is now largely a synthetic metric and increasing in that quality And as such, formulas and models are quite arbitrary and distanced from past observations, the future is here – today – input the future – as GDP. BARF~

    The market has become a series of quasi-fixed-time temporal data containing complex temporal events and if R&Rs methodology and mathematics is any guide, “The Mother of Quantum Events” is lurking – everywhere – at the same time.

    Skippy… One day…. there might be a Rwandan moment in Academia. Allowing social philosophers (economists) to access high order mathematics and theoretical physics (mostly computer entry – cant grok it for the life of them) and in an Edward Bernays manner… slap Science on it… will end badly. GDP = Virtual Moi – Retch~~~

  22. tiebie66

    In the interests of fairness, perhaps the truth is stranger than fiction?
    “I do not comment on the substance of this debate here, leaving it in Reinhart and Rogoff’s capable hands. Instead, I note an earlier and less-known incident in which my own (joint) work came under criticism by economists at UMass– one of whom, Michael Ash was involved in both cases– and where there are a number of almost uncanny similarities to the more important current debate. ”

    Perhaps NC readers have already read this piece and there is nothing new here? If so, my apologies.

  23. Paul Tioxon

    The scientific community uses peer review. A peer, reviewed his work, as is normal, and found mistakes of a substantial nature. The Witch Hunts took women and murdered them by burning them to death, drowning them, beat them rocks, raping them, strangling them, I think you get the idea. Rogoff is a thumb sucking cry baby. A panty waist infant. He pooped his pants and called it research and some caught a whiff and low and behold!! He made a lot of mistakes. Like a monday morning assembly line plant Chevy, a total mess due to the recovering hung over and slightly concussed young widget twisters. Except he works in the placid confines of the Academy, with a secretary and research grad students and still, sloppy sloppy, sub par, bush league product. I am shocked and appalled.

    1. anon y'mouse

      let us not be sexist. I believe just as many men were doled out the witch treatment as women. and probably even more men than women were burned as heretics, when in reality they were the political dissidents of their day.

      we would do well to keep all of this in mind.

      1. Paul Tioxon

        Thank You Shulamith Firestone or Susan Faludi, Warlocks are the dudes, witches are the females, so what is Rogoff. Other than persecuted?

        1. anon y'mouse

          that wasn’t an admonishment! hahaaa…

          he thinks he’s some grand wizard being stoned, but I think it’s more like he’s a fat cardinal being pelted by the peasants for his hypocrisy and rich living while extolling the piety of being poor or something.

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