Monday, December 10, 2012

Conservatives Embracing Science, While the Left Balks

Accepts Science 


Rejects Science/Thinks He Knows Better

Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida) and Pat Robertson, both pictured above, have made news recently, both embracing the scientific consensus that the earth is 4.5 Billion years old.   As Senator Rubio, a Roman Catholic,   put it:  "Science says (the earth) is about 4.5 billion years old.  My faith teaches that's not inconsistent. . . . God created the heavens and the earth, and science has given us insight into when he did it and how he did it."   Mr. Robertson, a Southern Baptist and the Chancellor of Regent University, put things this way:

"Bishop Ussher [who opined that the Earth was created in 4004 BC] wasn't inspired by the Lord when he said that it all [creation of the Earth and Man] took 6,000 years. It just didn't. You go back in time, you've got radiocarbon dating. You got all these things and you've got the carcasses of dinosaurs frozen in time out in the Dakotas.  They're out there. So, there was a time when these giant reptiles were on the Earth and it was before the time of the Bible. So, don't try and cover it up and make like everything was 6,000 years. That's not the Bible."

Mr. Robertson's remarks won the praise of national luminary "Bill Nye the Science Guy," who expressed hope that Mr. Robertson would continue to press his view on the age of the Earth.  Previously Mr. Nye had argued that the belief that the Earth is 6,000 years old "threatens science."

Unfortunately, some public officials still reject basic scientific teachings.  For instance, as previously explained on this blog, President Obama's repeated claim that tax cuts caused the recent "Great Recession" contradicts basic economic science of the sort taught to thousands of college freshmen each year in the United States and around the world.  More recently, Vice President Biden (pictured above) joined the anti-science chorus, claiming, again contrary to basic economic science, that tax cuts and increased spending during the G.W. Bush Administration caused the Great Recession.  Here's what the Vice President said, during his debate with Congressman Paul Ryan.  According to the Vice President:

"And, by the way, they [Republicans] talk about this Great Recession [of 2008-2009] as if it fell out of the sky, like, 'Oh, my goodness, where did it come from?' It came from this man [Congressman Ryan] voting to put two wars on a credit card, to at the same time put a prescription drug benefit on the credit card, a trillion-dollar tax cut for the very wealthy. I was there. I voted against them. I said, no, we can’t afford that."

Like President Obama's claim about tax cuts, Vice President Biden's claim that deficit spending caused the recent recession is economic nonsense, akin to a claim that the Earth is flat or the center of the Universe.  Just as there is a scientific consensus that the Earth is 4.5 Billion years old, there is a longstanding scientific consensus that increasing the deficit, whether by tax cuts, increased spending or both will stimulate aggregate demand, increase employment and increase the nation's real economic output.  See e.g. N. Gregory Mankiw, Macroeconomics, 296 (7th Edition 2010) (explaining how tax cuts increase the budget deficit and thus aggregate demand and national output); Rudiger Dornbusch and Stanley Fischer, Macroeconomics, 73-83, 401-11 (2d Edition 1981) (explaining how tax cuts and spending increases can increase aggregate demand and thus national output).  The only exception is for cases in which the economy is already at full employment.  In such cases, deficit spending cannot increase output but can only result in inflation.  However, so far as I know, no one contends that the economy was at full employment when, say, Congress enacted the so-called Bush tax cuts in 2001.  In the same way, the economy was at less than full employment when President Kennedy proposed across-the-board tax cuts in an effort to "get the economy moving again."

Of course, there are other reasons to oppose budget deficits and the resulting increase in the national debt.  For instance, government borrowing to encourage consumption can crowd out private investment, thereby partly (but only partly) offsetting any resulting increase in national output.  A nation could decide to forgo higher GDP in the short run in the hopes that, in the longer run, increased private investment will increase national productivity and thus potential national output.  But it bears emphasis that this argument against increased deficits assumes that such deficits increase national output, contrary to Vice President Biden's assertion.

Oddly the economics profession has been relatively silent in the face of this Administration's rejection of basic economic science.  To be sure, hundreds of economists endorsed Mitt Romney in the recent general election.  Six of these individuals were past recipients of the Nobel Prize in Economic Science.  However, so far as I know, no such economist has called out President Obama or Vice President Biden for their rejection of basic science.  This is surprising, because the rejection of economic science can have serious real world consequences for millions of ordinary Americans.  (Imagine if, instead, the President and Vice President claimed that vaccinations do not work or that smoking does not harm your health.  Surely the relevant scientific professionals would (properly) be up in arms.)

Perhaps the economics profession needs its own "Bill Nye the Science Guy" to shame public figures who reject basic economic science.