Mittwoch, 17. April 2013

FTalphaville über "Causa RR"

Kurzes Update zur "Causa RR". 

FTalphaville mit einer ausgewogenen Einordnung des Falls. Gerade wegen der Diskussion über die (Nicht-)Beeinflussung der Politik durch den ursprünglichen Aufsatz:
"1) Everyone will have a good laugh at the excel error, but as Mike Konczal just tweeted, the exclusion of certain years for certain countries was the most problematic issue — both because of its impact on the Reinhart & Rogoff findings and because it is so methodologically complex. Then again you could argue against any alternative weighting for neglecting (let’s say) demographic differences and so on. The point is perhaps that it’s very tricky to boil things down into a pat policy conclusion in any case.
2) It’s very difficult to know whether the Reinhart & Rogoff finding actually changed the course of policy that was yet to be decided, or if it was simply used as a post-hoc justification for policy that was inevitable anyways. The paper certainly did provide intellectual justification for austerity advocates, but beware of exaggerated claims. It wasn’t the only paper to arrive at such a conclusion, and the R & R study had come under plenty of previous criticism.
Still, a case to consider — Olli Rehn’s citation of “serious economic research” (this paper) when defending “fiscal consolidation” in Europe this year, including the 90 per cent debt figure. Rehn’s stance was widely criticised in some detail at the time, of course. But we have to admit, it’s very easy for a politician to answer back with a single figure like this, whether or not the figure originally wagged the dog and inspired policy in the first place. And it’s problematic when public officials fail to appreciate the extent to which papers like these need vetting.
3) R&R will come under tremendous, renewed pressure and criticism for their finding, and it will mostly be justified — but it’s important to be fair. Their main conclusion (page 23 of the paper) really was poorly worded to suggest that debt buildups were more likely to increase an economy’s vulnerabilities without regard for specific circumstances. (And yes, it is quite possible that there are specific circumstances that do bear out what R&R conclude.) They also neglected to mention that the causality could run in either direction. Furthermore the authors were sometimes just as careless in how they presented the findings. But they were never the demonic advocates of austerity they were made out to be. That’s no excuse for the errors in their findings or their consequences, but it should be noted.
4) We also think that the criticism of this finding should be kept separate from judgements about their earlier book, “This Time is Different”, which as far as we can tell remains a highly valuable contribution to the study of finance crises.
5) Remember this recent paper by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson on whether economists should consider the political outcomes of their advice? We’d love to get their thoughts on where the Reinhart & Rogoff case fits."

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