September 21, 2011

Obama, economists, ego, and IQ

Reporter Ron Suskind on Jon Stewart's show (in an excessively accurate transcript of extemporaneous speech):
"With Larry [Summers], Tim [Geithner] as well, but with Larry there's a seduction there.  You know Obama loves these high IQ guys, Larry is of course the top of the heap there, with sterling credentials, and he sort of ends up in what I call a 'Larry Summers Debate Society.'  
"Now I think Obama thought he'd sit about and judge who's the winner, he ends up just another guy at the table in a way, Larry saying I'll go first, you go after me.  It troubles people who are sitting there saying is that being disrespectful to the president.  Eventually you see the president's confidence sort of bruised, and frankly that's why 'confidence men' in the title."

And here's a quote about economists in general:
Most economists, it seems, believe strongly in their own superior intelligence and take themselves far too seriously. In his open letter of 22 July 2001 to Joseph Stiglitz, Kenneth Rogoff identified this problem: “One of my favourite stories from that era is a lunch with you and our former colleague, Carl Shapiro, at which the two of you started discussing whether Paul Volcker merited your vote for a tenured appointment at Princeton. At one point, you turned to me and said, “Ken, you used to work for Volcker at the Fed. Tell me, is he really smart?” I responded something to the effect of “Well, he was arguably the greatest Federal Reserve Chairman of the twentieth century” To which you replied, “But is he smart like us?” Economists have delusions of adequacy and a related assured self-confidence that they bring to any problem.

I spent a lot of time in 2005 defending Larry Summers, but the guy has a track record of being more trouble than he's worth. Getting kicked out of being president of Harvard is a pretty hard thing to accomplish -- Harvard likes to nurture the illusion of its institutional infallibility -- but Larry managed it. And, the feminists hate him, which is always going to be a big problem for a Democratic president who has to work with a lot of seething feminists.

So, why in the world did Obama hand the keys to Larry? Well, "Obama loves these high IQ guys," like, oh, say, Obama. It's not a coincidence that the only bit of national journalism Obama engaged in during the 1990s was to denounce The Bell Curve. IQ matters to Obama a lot.

Has anybody gone through life being told he's "brilliant" more often than Obama? John von Neumann? In the Daily Show video, you'll see that the first thing Suskind says as he starts the interview is that Obama is "brilliant." You have to say that sort of thing about Obama, even though there's not much evidence for it. Smart, sure. But brilliant is as brilliant does, as Forrest Gump's mom would have said, and Obama has never done much except self-promotion.

Not surprisingly, it turned out that Obama, much to his own surprise, isn't as smart as Larry Summers. He isn't even close. And that realization got poor Obama down, which let Larry walk all over him even more, which just exacerbated Summers contempt for Obama. Eventually, staffer Peter Rouse organized a coup against Summers and had him tossed out.

Another problem is that Obama isn't really the big man that he thinks he is. He has a big ego about his IQ and big personal ambitions, but he doesn't really have the overwhelming urge to bend other men to his will about other things. White people have flattered him so much ever since he arrived at Harvard Law School as a Potential First Black President in 1988 that he's never had to develop much willpower. Like in the race for editor of the Harvard Law Review, he's gotten ahead by having white people decide promoting him is the reasonable compromise choice. (Remember how during Roman victory parades, the conquering general was followed by a slave who whispered depressing facts in his ear? Obama should have had Congressman Bobby Rush follow him around whispering, "You ain't all that.")

In contrast, here's Tom Wolfe's description of a smart staffer's view of his real estate developer boss from A Man in Full:
"The Wiz looked upon [Croker] as an aging, uneducated, and out-of-date country boy who had somehow, nonetheless, managed to create a large, and, until recently, wildly successful corporation. That the country boy, with half his brainpower, should be the lord of the corporation and that [the Wiz] should be his vassal was an anomaly, a perversity of fate. . . . Or part of him felt that way. The other part of him was in awe, in unconscious awe, of something the old boy had and he didn't: namely, the power to charm men and the manic drive to bend their wills into saying yes to projects they didn't want, didn't need, and never thought about before... And that thing was manhood. It was as simple as that."

If Obama were white, he would have, with his admirable ability to lucidly lay out both sides of an argument, made a useful staffer. But our country has such a hunger for black male authority figures (but has been burned enough times before by more conventional ones) that it seized upon the unlikely reed of Barack Obama as the perfect combination of black and white. His lack of accomplishment could then be rationalized away as the tragic product of white racism: how could the poor man ever have a record of building or running much of anything when his skin color kept him from having any opportunity? Therefore, let's make him President!

Paul Graham says the one trait he most values when deciding which technology start-up founders to invest in is: "relentlessly resourceful." Those are not, however, the first words that leap to mind when thinking of Obama. He has many virtues, such as politeness and presentableness. He'd make an outstanding crown prince of a constitutional monarchy.

89 comments:

JJT said...

Steve Keen doesn't seem all that arrogant.

Maybe the profession isn't the problem.

Tommy Carlyle said...

Most economists, it seems, believe strongly in their own superior intelligence and take themselves far too seriously.

Train a parrot to say "Supply and Demand" and you've got yourself an economist.

Al Marshall said...

Train a parrot to say "Supply and Demand" and you've got yourself an economist.

And a pretty decent one, at that.

NLF said...

Is Obama brilliant? It all depends relative to whom. Compared to most black politicians, yes. Compared to most Republican politicians, yes. I mean W was a real moron, and McCain wasn't much better. And that Palin...

But is Obama brilliant compared to Jews who surround him? Not really. But brilliant or not, Obama has been very deft at reading and toying with the white mind. But then, PC and the cult of 'white guilt' made this easier for him. A lot of white people are constantly doped up on the 'progressive' soma--this is as true with conservatives who are soooo eager to prove they are 'racist' or 'antisemitic'. All Obama had to do was push the right buttons, and presto, white folks are jelly in his hands.
Not all blacks know how this game is played or how to play it though. Obama did it very effectively.

Why are some very smart people willing to pretend that Obama is very smart? It could be for various reasons: the search for the great black hope(and change), the dream of anti-racist 'we are all equal' mantra, to show off that one rejects stereotypes such as 'blacks are dumb, whites are smart'.
But this sort of thing isn't all that unusual. There is a new documentary by Scorsese on George Harrison, a minor figure in rock music, but I bet a whole bunch of talking heads are gonna say he was a great artist, a great humanitarian, a great wit, a great visionary, etc. I think real talents like to overpraise lesser talents to show off how generous, nice, and decent they are. And it's appealing to the masses cuz if a minor artist like Harrison is such a big deal, maybe there's a bit of bigness in all of us. Notice how beautiful women will say a plain-looking woman is very good looking. Why do they lie? It makes them feel gool--and it makes them look nice and decent--than if they honestly said 'she is fat, gross and ugly'. Oprah is fat and ugly, but even beautiful fashion models will say she is a very good looking woman. Yeah, whatever.

Traditionally, whites looked down on blacks, and this has been deemed 'racist'. So, nothing is more cool and 'anti-racist' than a white guy looking up to a decent black guy(who counters the stereotype of blacks as lazy and/or crazy). So, white people often pat themselves on the back by overpraising black guys and over-criticizing white guys. It's proof that they're beyond tribal 'racism' and open to the merits of OTHER peoples. This attidude isn't necessarily bad but can be annoying when overplayed.
But blacks do this too. John Paxson was, at best, a decent player on the Chicago Bulls, but Michael Jordan talked of him as a very crucial and excellent player. This makes Jordan look good--a teamplayer, generous guy, etc. It also wins him the affection of whites who are sooo grateful that the greatest player to every play the game would think so highly of a white guy.

Freddy Rumson said...

Why precisely did Obama object to The Bell Curve?

Luke Lea said...

"Has anybody gone through life being told he's "brilliant" more often than Obama?"

The economist Paul Samuelson. He had some sort of superiority complex -- his Jewish mother maybe -- that was burst his freshman year at Chicago when he discovered there were guys in physics and math a lot smarter than he. It was such a traumatic experience that he switched to Econ., where he could bring his formidable mathematical genius to bear on an audience he could intimidate.

That was the beginning of the end of economics as a moral science. The old school, whose last representatives were Keynes and Friedman, truly brilliant men who expressed their thought in English prose, were no more able to stand up to the dazzling hieroglyphics of Samuelson and his acolytes than ordinary American honey bees to killer bees from Africa. It was victory by intellectual intimidation, ie, by erbal aggression, and has left the profession with the same superiority complex crossed with physics envy Samuelson brought with him from Chicago.

RKU said...

Most economists, it seems, believe strongly in their own superior intelligence and take themselves far too seriously...Economists have delusions of adequacy and a related assured self-confidence that they bring to any problem.

Maybe Obama should have had Steve Chu attend some of those meeting, even if he didn't have a clue about economics. Based on the academic history of that Summers fellow, I suspect he might have become much more subdued and respectful under such circumstances...

Steve Sailer said...

Samuelson is Larry's uncle, as was another Nobel economist, Kenneth Arrow. Both of Larry's parents were professors of economics.

Anonymous said...

Why do people keep saying Summers is brilliant? Why do you say that he's brilliant, Steve? What are you basing it on? Are you just basing it on the fact that other people in the media and elsewhere say that he's brilliant?

What has he done, demonstrated, shown, proven, invented, created, etc.?

He helped screw up Russia and ignored warnings from Brooksley Born about derivatives in the 90s, among other things. Of course he may have been perfectly aware of the negative consequences of these things and deliberately pursued these policies.

Anonymous said...

Has anybody gone through life being told he's "brilliant" more often than Obama? John von Neumann?

Von Neumann stole credit for the invention of the "von Neumann Architecture."

From William Aspray's review of the book "ENIAC: The Triumphs and Tragedies of the World's First Computer Company" by Scott McCartney:

http://www.siam.org/news/news.php?id=795

"Eckert and Mauchly were not able to complete the construction of the ENIAC until late 1945, after the war had ended. The machine's importance thus lay in its design rather than in its usage. The ENIAC was the first calculating machine to incorporate the high speed of electronics into a design with a scale large enough to solve important real-world problems. Moreover, their experience with the ENIAC led Eckert and Mauchly to work on a second machine, the EDVAC, with the capability to store and modify its own instruction---a machine that could be "programmed" in the modern sense. The EDVAC was not completed until 1952, long after Eckert and Mauchly had left the Moore School to form their own computer company. But the proof of principle of electronic computing shown by the ENIAC and von Neumann's famous technical report on the EDVAC's design inspired people around the world to begin to build computers. Eckert and Mauchly's commercial efforts were also important, spawning the UNIVAC line of computers."

"Von Neumann's name has been associated widely with the invention of the computer---the most common computer design, for example, is called "the von Neumann architecture." During the war, von Neumann, who already had a well-established international reputation as a mathematician, was much in demand. He led an itinerant life, traveling by train between Los Alamos, Aberdeen, and several other locations to consult on mathematical aspects of ballistics, shock waves, and weapon design. Los Alamos needed help with the numerical modeling of a triggering device for the atomic bomb, and von Neumann made several inquiries about the availability of high-speed calculating machinery for this purpose. Nobody thought to mention the ENIAC project to him, probably because Eckert and Mauchly did not have established reputations and the design seemed hopelessly ambitious. However, when Goldstine ran across von Neumann in 1944 on a train platform in Aberdeen, introduced himself, and told von Neumann about the ENIAC project, von Neumann took an immediate interest. Goldstine quickly arranged von Neumann's appointment as a consultant at the Moore School, adding yet one more job to his list of wartime consulting assignments.

By the time von Neumann joined the project, the ENIAC design was set and construction was well under way. Eckert, Mauchly, and others had already been meeting occasionally for more than half a year to discuss the design of the successor machine, the EDVAC. Von Neumann joined in on these discussions when he was available, every month or two. During an extended stay at Los Alamos, he wrote the Draft Report on EDVAC, which Goldstine distributed widely. Much to Eckert and Mauchly's annoyance, von Neumann's name was the only one to appear on the document. The report gave a lucid description of the functional design of the stored-program computer, using the abstract language and concepts of neural nets that had recently been invented by Warren McCulloch and Walter Pitts to emphasize the "logical design," rather than discussing specific engineering implementations. Once the war ended, von Neumann returned to the Institute for Advanced Study, where he ran his own computer project to test the value of the computer in scientific research."

Anonymous said...

@Lukea Lea:

Do you have any evidence at all for your biographical claims?

Samuelson performed at the top levels at Physics and Math at UChicago.

Keynes and Friedman were extremely well versed in mathematics and would not have had trouble reading Samuelson's magnum opus.

Anonymous said...

“One of my favourite stories from that era is a lunch with you and our former colleague, Carl Shapiro, at which the two of you started discussing whether Paul Volcker merited your vote for a tenured appointment at Princeton. At one point, you turned to me and said, “Ken, you used to work for Volcker at the Fed. Tell me, is he really smart?” I responded something to the effect of “Well, he was arguably the greatest Federal Reserve Chairman of the twentieth century” To which you replied, “But is he smart like us?”

http://finance.groups.yahoo.com/group/gang8/message/584

"I was down in Washington for some White House meeting, and had lunch with a member of the Council of Economic Advisors, Marina von Neumann Whitman. She asked me what I knew about Paul Volcker from our mutual years at Chase Manhattan. I said that at meetings he would never come out for a position, but would merely restate what other people had said. (Mr. A is saying that...Mr. B. is saying this.) Everybody believed that this was "wisdom," and thought he understood just what they were saying -- and hence that he agreed with them, but nobody really knew what he thought, because he never said anything HIMSELF either in disagreement or agreement, or about anything. "That's the man we want," Marina replied. And sure enough, a few months later Tall Paul was confirmed as head of the Fed."

Anonymous said...

"Why do people keep saying Summers is brilliant? Why do you say that he's brilliant, Steve?...
He helped screw up Russia and ignored warnings from Brooksley Born about derivatives in the 90s, among other things."

He's smart, so he was chosen to do big things, but no amount of intelligence can fix hugeass problems. It's like Hulk Hogan's a strong guy but if you recruit him to hold back a tsunami, he's gonna look stupid.
Summers has very high IQ and was a great student who earned all the credentials. But it filled him--and people like him--with hubris, making them think they can do everything.

Anonymous said...

By any measure Summers had a spectacular academic career. MIT at 16, Harvard tenure at 28, and the John Bates Clark medal, which is awarded to economists under 40 who have made a significant contribution to economics.

Anonymous said...

Do you ever get whiplash, you constantly bash the Liberal media but its indispensable to what you do yeah?

Anonymous said...

Not surprisingly, it turned out that Obama, much to his own surprise, isn't as smart as Larry Summers. He isn't even close. And that realization got poor Obama down, which let Larry walk all over him even more. Eventually, staffer Peter Rouse organized a coup against Summers and had him tossed out.

============================

Where is your evidence for this?

You are making stuff up!

Udolpho.com said...

Great post.

Anonymous said...

By any measure Summers had a spectacular academic career. MIT at 16, Harvard tenure at 28, and the John Bates Clark medal, which is awarded to economists under 40 who have made a significant contribution to economics.

That's nice but they aren't objective measures like prize awards such as the Longitude Prize or the X Prize.

What has he demonstrated, proven, invented, created, etc.?

Anonymous said...

Economists have delusions of adequacy and a related assured self-confidence that they bring to any problem.

I love you high iq hbd guys, but come on:

guys who never stop talking about IQ have delusions of adequacy and a related assured self confidence that they bring to any problem.

Lugash said...

I am Lugash.

Economists: Never in the field of intellectual conflict were so few so wrong and so little challenged about it.

I am Lugash.

Ray Sawhill said...

A good piece from Arnold Kling about the joke that is macroeconomics:

LINK

bjdubbs said...

To be considered brilliant, you need a Phd and then an opportunity to screw up in a really spectacular fashion. Larry Summers, Kissinger, Wolfowitz, McNamara, all brilliant. But why put someone in authority who spent most of their 20s in a library earning extra degrees? That's a self-selecting group who don't generally have good judgment (I can vouch for that personally).

Anonymous said...

Rouse coup against Summers:

The Revolt Against Larry Summers

"Summers had become even more cantankerous after Obama reappointed Ben Bernanke as Federal Reserve chairman, depriving Summers of the job he thought he both deserved and had sewn up. It was mild-mannered Obama adviser Pete Rouse who finally gave Summers the hook, penning a memo to Obama that made the case for his removal."

Antioco Dascalon said...

" He has many virtues, such as politeness and presentableness. He'd make an outstanding crown prince of a constitutional monarchy."
You may need to reconsider that opinion after looking at this:
http://photoblog.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2011/09/20/7862290-barack-obama-joins-open-government-partnership-for-group-photo

Anonymous said...

I was at Caltech/MIT around 1960. The guys who went into economics did just OK or worse in science and math and usually had more "polished" personalities. They were not the scientifically/ mathematically smart, creative guys.
Robert Hume

Peter A said...

He'd make an outstanding crown prince of a constitutional monarchy.

Good point, or President of a country like Germany where the Prime Minister holds the real power and the President is a figurehead. I think Obama would be excellent at that role.

Peter A said...

"What has he demonstrated, proven, invented, created, etc.?"

Accomplishments do not prove intelligence, nor does high intelligence guarantee accomplishment. Life is not that simple.

DYork said...

(Remember how during Roman victory parades, the conquering general was followed by a slave who whispered depressing facts in his ear? Obama should have had Congressman Bobby Rush follow him around whispering, "You ain't all that.")

Steve, Michele Obama already has that job.

Simon in London said...

I'd definitely rather have Obama as President than the typical African Big Man type like Marion Barry, or the wannabe El Heffe GW Bush.

The relentless drive & ability to bend other men's will to your own is a resource that can easily be horribly misused. It has to be tempered with a sense of responsibility which almost no African Big Men display, and is woefully scarce among Europeans for that matter.

Dennis Mangan said...

Summers is well known for an original piece of economic research, Gibson's Paradox and the Gold Standard.

http://www.goldensextant.com/Gibson%27sParadox.html

It's only one paper, but at least he was brilliant in one...

NOTA said...

Anon:

Larry Summers is routinely described as intimidatingly smart by other people who have worked with or talked to him, and who themselves are very smart. ISTR Tyler Cowan making some reference to Summers being brilliant, for example.

If you rise far enough in a demanding field, you will have the experience of no longer being the smartest guy in the room. That experience is humbling in much the same way, I think, that it's humbling for the woman who has always been the prettiest girl in the room to get older and realize she no longer is. (I watched my mom go through that in middle age, and it was damned hard for her--suddenly, a finger that had been on the scales of every interaction with men since she was a teenager was removed.).

At a guess, Obama was the smartest guy in the room pretty often at Occidental and certainly as a community organizer and probably also as a state senator. But he surely wasn't at HLS, though he did well there, and he certainly isn't when sitting in the white house, with super smart guys who are also subject matter experts in stuff he doesn't know that much about.

Now, my sense is that economics rewards impressively elegant arguments, much more than being right in the sense of repeatable, falsifiable observations or experiments. So it's a place where very smart people can make intimidatingly clever arguments involving a lot of math you've never seen before ("wait, what's an eigenvector, again?") that dont have much to do with reality. I think economics and philosophy both tend to collect super smart people who are good at making convincing arguments within some framework, but who aren't really in a great position to learn much about reality. Similarly, politics tends to collect people who are good at making convincing arguments and playing people to keep and gain power--again,without much reference to their arguments describing reality.

One of those really important lessons to learn early in life is that the guy who wins all the arguments isn't necessarily right--he may just be really good at winning arguments. (Reading a biography of Ayn Rand will drive this home nicely.).

The Anti-Gnostic said...

I guess this explains why Obama's administration looks so ... white.

Anonymous said...

A. Obama's not all that polite.

B. It's not that hard to seem "brilliant". I've been called brilliant all my life. I have no idea why. My accomplishments have never merited it.

Anonymous said...

@ NFL

Compared to his bandmates, perhaps, but few would refer to George Harrison as a "minor talent".

Anonymous said...

In public, Obama is like Muhammad Ali-lite of the 70s(when he became a cultural icon than a troublemaker), but behind closed doors, he is a Joe Louis micro-mananaged by 'people with high IQ'.

EYE OF HORUS said...

Economists are just Accountants who can't do Math, and Business Majors who Never Plan to Run a Business.
To be a Successful Economist, one needs to spout theories that have never Worked and suppress facts that Disagree with the theories...

FredR said...

I was getting kind of tired of these "how smart is Obama exactly" posts, but I have to admit that this is pretty good:

"He'd make an outstanding crown prince of a constitutional monarchy."

Rachelle said...

I continue to be surprised by the claim that Obama is smart.

How is it even possible for any smart person to pronounce 'corps' as 'corpse'?

How can anyone with an IQ above 110 mistakenly refer to 57 States?

How can any candidate for president say that he will serve for the 'next eight to ten years'?

How can any American confuse Pearl Harbor Day with the day we bombed Hiroshima?

For a 'smart' person, Obama seems incredibly ignorant.

I just don't think he is all that smart. He would probably make a pretty good shoe salesman.

Anonymous said...

None of these economists (Samuelson, let alone Summers) are in the same category as von Neumann or his brethren when it comes to intellectual power.

"Although I've had an acquaintanceship with scores of leading world mathematicians and physicists, I've been surprised at how little help I've been able to garner from presenting orally some unsolved puzzles to them. I should not have been surprised. It is not that a Birkhoff, or Quine, or Ulam, or Levinson, or Kac, or Gleason was incapable of clearing up my open questions. Rather it is the case that a busy mathematician has no motivation to waste his (or her) time getting intuitively briefed on someone else's models in the idiosyncratic field of mathematical economics. Fortunately, access to the good Harvard and MIT libraries enabled one to ferret out needed book expositions. And it was my good luck that Harvard's E.B. Wilson, only protege of thermodynamicist Willard Gibbs (Yale), provided essential hints that helped in the development of revealed preference and the anticipation of the inequalities techniques in post-1945 economics programming." Samuelson

Can you imagine wasting time on the mathematization of (that pseudoscience) economics during the 40s and 50s, when so much more interesting and real stuff was going on in math and physics and early computer science?

Trivia Question: What was Larry's major at MIT, before he moved on to greener pastures?

Kylie said...

"Do you ever get whiplash, you constantly bash the Liberal[sic] media but its indispensable to what you do yeah[sic]?"

Another commenter who should be posting under "Agenda" instead of "Anonymous".

Apparently, you really are dumb enough to think this is the only thing Steve could do and do well (better than anyone else, actually).

If tomorrow the country were organized along the lines Steve has suggested, I have no doubt he would find something equally interesting to absorb his time and imagination. In fact, I suspect Steve rues that he'll never have the time to explore all the avenues that interest him.

Kylie said...

@ Antioco Dascalon,

That photo is one of the funniest things I've ever seen. Thanks a million for posting it.

MQ said...

Come on, it's got to be ridiculous to say that Obama isn't "relentless and resourceful". Steve really has to get this "affirmative action president" meme out of his head. NO ONE hands you the presidency of the United States (OK, Gerald Ford and to an extent GW Bush might be exceptions). You cannot achieve that goal without being tough and resourceful. Obama played his cards shrewdly and made a tough, aggressive move in dethroning Hilary. It's perfectly correct that his race helped him, but only as one card that *he* (not other people!) deployed and played.

I agree he's outmatched due to lack of experience and so forth, but that's more due to the situation and the economy. It would take a truly great President to address our current situation, if it can even be done by Washington. He's not that. He would have been passable in normal times.

Dutch Boy said...

I believe the proper description of Croker's attribute is "conmanhood."

Anonymous said...

"Our country has such a huge hunger for black male authority figures..."

No it doesn't. I certainly don't, and NONE of my many and broad acquaintances do (and we're not talking about the old Pauline Kael joke here neither). I mean that we don't "hunger" specifically for black male authority AS SUCH. For instance I know lots of people who were duped by Obama but that was because they hated Bush and preferred Dem politics generally, and the smartypants black guy thing seemed like a neat historical bonus. But they'd all have voted for Hillary if Obama hadn't been available, and wouldn't have noticed much difference. Well, at first, I mean.

Maybe it used to be cool to see Morgan Freeman play the president in the movies, or Will Smith as a USAF pilot, but only in the *movies*, and really only for the novelty value. It was a vacation from the usual experience of blacks. There was a time when an all-white power cast was starting to taste a little too triumphal (I mean in pop culture), and so things like The Clash having The Furious Five open for them just seemed like a good thing to do. But now that say Will Smith is a little too triumphal himself (and on the basis of a lot less), it's starting to get old.

I'm indifferent to authority figures in general, don't "hunger" for them in any shade or hue, but my brief and fleeting experiences with black authority figures have taught me to hunger for them, specifically, about as much as I hunger to swallow a cactus. If somebody is a useful and effective leader, white or black, fine -- but please, nothing categorical. Nobody I know --and I've lived a rather full and broadly-populated life-- has such a hunger on those terms, nobody gets weepy about it -- not even the gals, except insofar as they're already conditioned/predisposed to vote for anything with a D stamped on it. Factory pre-set.

Now, all of those People Who Don't Control the Media, they may well have a different (and subtler, more-long term) view.
A hunger of a different sort, one might surmise.

Anonymous said...

Robert Schiller, the one economist who has a right to be arrogant, seems quite humble in TV interviews.

Unemployed White Guy said...

Antioco Dascalon, I think Steve meant to write clown prince.

Anonymous said...

The cynical move for Obama would've been to surround himself with dummies or with smart guys who are retiring and unassertive. The fact that he didn't do this makes me think somewhat better of him as an individual.

Anonymous said...

Egonomist.

Anonymous said...

So what goes by the name of Obamanomics is really Summersaults.

ELVISNIXON.com said...

Did Larry Summers benefit from Affirmative Action?

jody said...

enough of this topic for now.

beowulf said...

"Now I think Obama thought he'd sit about and judge who's the winner, he ends up just another guy at the table in a way, Larry saying I'll go first, you go after me.... Eventually you see the president's confidence sort of bruised..."
Good Lord, do you think Ike Eisenhower ever had his confidence sort of bruised by a staffer?
The biggest problem here is Obama's supremely stupid (like bombing Pearl Harbor-scale stupid) decision to hire Geithner and Summers to bail out Wall Street instead of Paul Volcker and his crew to clean out Wall Street. So much folly has resulted from that one decision.

Beyond that, Democrats always come into the White House rejecting the hierarchical "chain of command" staffing model favored by every Republican since Eisenhower. The Dems's preferred model of a flat "spoke and wheel" with the President at the center just doesn't work (as Bill Clinton belatedly realized), it overwhelms even the smartest president with too much information. If Bill Clinton couldn't drink from that fire hydrant, there's no way Barack Obama can.

Wahrheit said...

"Von Neumann stole credit for the invention of the 'von Neumann Architecture.' "

And that's your evidence for what? Von Neumann performed, over and over and over in a huge variety of fields from pure maths to mathematical physics, information theory, game theory and the practical mathematics of atomic explosions. Frankly, the dude's left pinky had more practical success that Larry Summers brain.

If economists are so smart, why did the Bomb actually blow up, while the economies of the US and Europe are in the toilet? You could say that it's because politicians screwed it up, which would be a fair point. You could say the economy is more complex than atomic physics, fair point.

But don't try to tell me any of 'em are as smart as von Neumann, Feynmann or a host of others.

not a hacker said...

But blacks do this too.

More often it's the opposite, like Isiah Thomas saying Larry Bird would be "just another player" if he were black.

Anonymous said...

I for one, thinks Steve's analysis is spot on.

Jamie said...

"Most economists, it seems, believe strongly in their own superior intelligence and take themselves far too seriously."

Steve, imagine if you were a geophysicist, and most people on the street still believed that the Earth is flat - it would make you feel pretty smart too.

Case in point: just this morning, on tv: support for increasing taxes on corporations is significantly higher than for increasing taxes on individuals (about 10% higher, 60+ vs 70+ approval rate). As someone quipped: if there was a tax on cows, some people would believe it will be paid by cows.

Btw., I'm not an economist.

Paul Mendez said...

I mean W was a real moron...

W was often wrong, but he is not stupid. There's a huge difference.

Whiskey said...

But WHY the drive for a Black President? WHY when Hollywood presents it, in film after film, does the American public or significant parts of it say, "heck yeah, THAT's a
President!" The standard view of a lot folks here is that people are just sheep and will do whatever mind-control technique "evil geniuses" use on them. I find that pretty questionable.

Steve can attest as a Brand Marketer that its damn hard to make people switch from Coke to Pepsi, or vice-versa if they have a preference. People are not just robotic boxes where the proper input makes them do things.

My view is that the decline of standard White masculinity based upon organizational compromise in the gender-integrated workforce AND general gender social equality has led White Professional women to view non-Whites in particular as the "magic solution" to non-Dominant men AND social status climbing. Which occurs in men but less than classic power-patronage.

Anonymous said...

John Paxson was, at best, a decent player on the Chicago Bulls, but Michael Jordan talked of him as a very crucial and excellent player.


You're wrong. Paxson was more than just "at best, a decent player on the Chicago Bulls". He was in fact a "crucial and excellent player", one who won the 1993 NBA finals for the Bulls via a three-pointer with four seconds left.

Whiskey said...

As far as Obama being smart or not, he's not SKILLED at his job. Which is politics.

Let us consider his career: Needed to file court challenge preventing his mentor from running for State Senate, needed to unseal the Ryan Divorce Papers for Senate, needed to have a compliant media fawn over him as Jesus 2.0 in the Presidential Race.

This is not triumph over adversity. This is not the classic, Clinton-eque failure, learning, and re-tooling to provide a lot more patronage to middle class/swing voters.

Obama has shown no ability, whatsoever, to blend in and find acceptance as one of their own, from the White middle class. His contempt and disgust, and his own manner of acting "imperial" like a big-shot rapper, intent on showing how much of a big man he is, accounts for a good deal of his eroding poll numbers. Middle Class White people do not like Presidents who act like big-shot Rappers.

Obama is good at appealing to Black and Rich White Leftist disdain for the suburbs (see "not taking the Train to New Rochelle," "not joining the corporate world," etc.) but that is where the votes are.

Obama is like a running QB in the NFL. His skills are not what he needs to be successful. He's President not Mayor of Chicago.

Edgeworthy said...

@Luke Lea

You know Luke, many of us think the world of Milton Friedman, and it does his rep no good to have fools like you degrade his rep by suggesting he was non-mathematical. His work on the consumption function was as technical as most of the leading work in his day. Friedman also received the Bates Clark medal from his peers.

His virtue was that he combined technical savvy with deep wisdom and a capacity to persist at a time when his big ideas were controversial and deeply unpopular with the mainstream.

But anyone familiar with Friedman's academic work will know that he did not "just use words."

Mondragon said...

"By any measure Summers had a spectacular academic career. MIT at 16, Harvard tenure at 28, and the John Bates Clark medal, which is awarded to economists under 40 who have made a significant contribution to economics."

A large part of those academic accomplishments can be attributed to Summers' unprecedented academic family connections.

I second Anonymous' regarding Summers' supposed brilliance. What evidence is there that cannot be attributed to connections?

josh said...

"...such a hunger for a black male authority figure..." Wow you really know how to shame a guy! (Just a bit OT but did you see the pic of the two Unitarian "ministers",(lesbians I think but with Unitarians its hard to tell),weeping tears of despair upon the execution of the black murderer while there was nary a peep about the execution of the white guy! Not a peep,Jerry!!!As I understand it the white guy was a criminal who got robbed by his black henchman,and so decided to teach him a lesson. The lousy ADL--sorry Komment Kontrol,but Ive read their magazine,its a hate whitey fest--ran with it and we saw the results. Imagine if black guys worked for the Mexican los drogos cartels,with the way THEY handle turncoats!)Jews dont respect Obama because they know they created Him. The females who complained they were not taken "seriously" (You can always tell the difference between the Ugly women and the sexy ones in government:"Take me SERIUOSLY!!" say the feminists. "TAKE me,SERIOUSLY" say the pretty ones!)are just dullards who have had their not-so-pretty behinds kissed throughout their academic careers, and the Jews get weary of keeping up appearances behind closed doors. "Look that shit is for the goyim,Ok,so just shut up and stop bothering me!" Oh...Obama,yeah. Kids not too bright. Expect a TRUTH grenade lobbed forthwith. (But I admit it,I enjoy Truth!)

Lucius said...

I know Wolfe is kind of a guru around here, and maybe he does have some claim to be the contemporary Thackeray-- but all this "manhood" talk of his is queasy-making nonsense.

It's not broad-shouldered Ethan Edwards supermacho manhood that convinces people to buy things they don't want. It's insinuation, beguilement, or trickery.

In short: it's a host of conventionally 'feminine' traits-- or at least, something far from a spartan set of rugged qualities.

Wolfe's blunt, reductive appeals to "manhood" and "status" are boorish. Worse, they make him sound like a sycophant. In fact, I'm hard pressed to see how extoling a Claudius for being manly isn't inherently Rosencrantz-like to begin with. And, as Camille Paglia suggests, sycophancy is a kind of spiritual sodomy. Which makes Wolfe something of a susceptible bugger.

Anonymous said...

"If Obama were white, he would have, with his admirable ability to lucidly lay out both sides of an argument, made a useful staffer."

http://goo.gl/zrJJj

Anonymous said...

Obama and Summers: Obummers.

And they are to star in a brilliant British movie: To Sir with Shove.

Anonymous said...

Now Obama knows how the Winkles felt in Summers' office.

Luke Lea said...

re: Milton Friedman

Edgeworthy said...

Dear Edgeworthy,

Sorry I created the wrong impression. I am a big fan of Friedman's -- and was a long-time correspondent to boot, not bad for a professional carpenter/landscape gardener; say what you will he was not a snob.

Anyway I regard Friedman together with Keynes as as one the two most important economists of the 20th century, and they both communicated primarily in plain English prose. (Well, Keynes's prose was not so plain: he was in fact a master of the English literary prose to a degree Friedman did not even attempt. Yet it didn't stop him (Keynes) from writing a treatise on probability which demonstrated a degree of mathematical aptitude and sophistication Samuelson could not approach.

You cannot be a good economist in my opinion without being good logician and having a geometrical imagination. The calculus on the other hand is ruinous -- absolutely ruinous -- for the very fundamental reason that it assumes algebraic relationships that do not in fact exist. The law of diminishing returns, for instance. It can be represented in general terms as a concave curve on a graph (or convex from below if you prefer). It cannot be represented as a real, continuous function for the simple reason that human behavior is labile. We are not elementary particles, being neither all alike nor governed by precise mathematical laws.

Friedman was a good statistician, which is something else again, particularly if you don't assume a normal distribution, which he didn't. He and Keynes both complained about the misuse of mathematics by post-WW II academic economists. And they were not alone.

I hope this clarifies.

Anonymous said...

Summers had become even more cantankerous after Obama reappointed Ben Bernanke as Federal Reserve chairman, depriving Summers of the job he thought he both deserved and had sewn up.

You always hear Summers being described as "brilliant" but Bernanke is never described in such glowing terms. If anything Bernanke has a negative rep due to the economy being bad during his chairmanship even though it's not really his fault and there's probably not much he can do, and despite Summers having more high-profile screw ups (I'm not aware of Bernanke having any).

But I haven't seen any reason to believe Summers is more "brilliant" than Bernanke. How do we know that Bernanke isn't more "brilliant" than Summers? Summers seems to garner that reputation by sheer force of will by being more aggressive, power hungry, domineering than the modest and mild mannered Bernanke.

Luke Lea said...

If anyone wants to see how a really smart guy with no chip on his shoulder uses math and logic to tease out meaningful economic insights, check out Roger Myerson's Nobel Prize lecture. There is a link to it on his Wikipedia page.

You might also be interested in a recent Bloomberg interview with Meyerson on video in which he advocates a couple of years of 8% inflation as the best way to get through our current economic crisis. You can find it on Google.

Anonymous said...

I still remember that isteve post about the libertarian economist who thought the 'free market' would 'fix' california's population at.. oh, 300 million (for california that is)
"smart" people become very stupid when they adapt any ideology as a panacea.

Anonymous said...

Obama played his cards shrewdly and made a tough, aggressive move in dethroning Hilary.

Did he dethrone her or was she dethroned for him?

Anonymous said...

You always hear Summers being described as "brilliant" that could be the "Goldberd said rothstein said leobowitz is brilliant" jewish ethnic networking circle that Kevin MacDonald mentions in C.ofC. (Does CofC make it past komment kontrol?)

Reg C├Žsar said...

I like how everybody here knows Summers well enough to refer to him as "Larry".

How can anyone with an IQ above 110 mistakenly refer to 57 States? --Rachelle

When one's Evil Plan is to make seven more as soon as possible. Funny how Puerto Rico and those sparsely-populated not-quite-territories got their own commemorative quarters in 2009-- and they're all Democrat, don't forget.

Hawaiians like Obama are tired of being the last state, forever.

How is it even possible for any smart person to pronounce 'corps' as 'corpse'?

Well, now that the U.S. Marines have embraced the replacement of "Don't Ask" with "Don't Question", "corpse" might be the more appropriate pronunciation.

Anonymous said...

"Trivia Question: What was Larry's major at MIT, before he moved on to greener pastures?"

He had the required credits for a physics degree, and by all accounts did pretty well there.

He was always conflicted about economics/physics, and eventually chose his familial profession.

Anonymous said...

So Bates Clark Medal winner and "smartest guy in the room" (among lawyers and economists) = "by all accounts did pretty well" with undergraduate physics ;-)

Svigor said...

But WHY the drive for a Black President? WHY when Hollywood presents it, in film after film, does the American public or significant parts of it say, "heck yeah, THAT's a
President!" The standard view of a lot folks here is that people are just sheep and will do whatever mind-control technique "evil geniuses" use on them. I find that pretty questionable.

Steve can attest as a Brand Marketer that its damn hard to make people switch from Coke to Pepsi, or vice-versa if they have a preference. People are not just robotic boxes where the proper input makes them do things.


Whiskey, you've got to be the king of soft pitching. (But don't worry, America is full of morons who insist on their own special snowflakeness by denying the power of the media to mold and shape them (and more relevantly, society in general), so you'll always have a broad constituency for it - in fact, I read a MARKETING BOOK once that devoted quite a bit of space to lampooning these morons; "conservatives" seem especially vulnerable to this special snowflake thinking)

Coke and Pepsi both have marketing campaigns. They get to duke it out on a level playing field. Duh. HBD/White Ethnocentrism and Equalitarianism/BRA are not at all analogous because Equalitarianism/BRA get money and HBD/White Ethnocentrism get lawsuits and investigations and harassment. Duh.

My view is that the decline of standard White masculinity based upon organizational compromise in the gender-integrated workforce AND general gender social equality has led White Professional women to view non-Whites in particular as the "magic solution" to non-Dominant men AND social status climbing. Which occurs in men but less than classic power-patronage.

Your view is silly. You've had to make it racially-specific to ward off questions about why, under similar circumstances, Yellows are not affected as Whites are. And you offer no real explanations, you just whistle past the graveyard. Your whole "theory" is all assertion, zero explanation. You basically just say "this is the way it is, because, er, it is." Tell us, what is it about the DNA of Whites that makes us subject to these afflictions? What is it about Yellow DNA that renders them immune? You talk about the "decline of standard White masculinity" - what about Yellow masculinity? It's clearly lower than White masculinity (and White men have masculinity to burn relative to Yellow men) yet, the negative outcomes attach to Whites, but not Yellows. Why?

Now, I'll give the ever-so-simple answer to your oh-so-stupid question:

But WHY the drive for a Black President? WHY when Hollywood presents it, in film after film, does the American public or significant parts of it say, "heck yeah, THAT's a
President!"


Because the writers set it up that way, duh. Thus Dennis Haysbert and a narrative of uber-competence (rather than, say, Eddie Griffith and a narrative of corruption) vs. Gregory Itzin and a narrative of corruption (rather than, say, Charleton Heston and a narrative of uber-competence).

Duh.

needed to have a compliant media fawn over him as Jesus 2.0 in the Presidential Race.

So the media is decisive...until it isn't. Thanks, Obi-Wan.

Truth said...

...and so things like The Clash having The Furious Five open for them just seemed like a good thing to do...

The Furious Five? How old are you anyway?

Truth said...

"Obama,yeah. Kids not too bright. Expect a TRUTH grenade lobbed forthwith. (But I admit it,I enjoy Truth!)"

Well thanks Josh; I have nothing to add on this one, but I'll be sure to ridicule you ASAP to make up for it.

Anonymous said...

As to President Obama's notion of his ability--if if there is a strong dynamic involving narcissism
and psychopathic dispositions--his
self esteem would be his own estimation of what he can consistently seem to be. It goes no deeper than that.

Anonymous said...

So Bates Clark Medal winner and "smartest guy in the room" (among lawyers and economists) = "by all accounts did pretty well" with undergraduate physics ;-)

Somewhat different skills needed. Theoretical Physicist Steve Hsu estimates that to be a productive theoretical physicist you need to have quantitative abilities at the 1 in 100,000 level. Summers likely has a g in that range, but a quantitative ability in the one in 10,000 range. All this criticism is amusing, since most people can't fathom what such smarts mean. If it were coming from Ron Unz, Steve Hsu, or Greg Cochran it would be one thing, but coming from some anonymous person who is almost surely of a much much lower IQ than Summers, all it evokes is more rolling of the eyes.

Anonymous said...

The question about how bright the President is might , in his instance, relate to a deeper and more immediate question of whether,
because of mental disorders that might lurk behind a "Mask of Sanity",he is unusually inconsistent in his levels of intellectual functioning. As far as surrounding himself with mediocrities in order to look big---it can work both ways--to be linked to genuinely gifted people in order to seem part of their group. Bill Ayers is mentioned often enough regarding the President. But, Ayers aside, just who has ever been on any enduring basis a "best friend" to the President? What close elective friendships has he ever had that endured beyond his location in a particular setting?

Charlotte said...

"At a guess, Obama was the smartest guy in the room pretty often at Occidental and certainly as a community organizer and probably also as a state senator."

Smartest? Why? Why? I just don't get this insistence even in non-PC places like this. We don't have any writings by him on anything except himself and his "blackness", and that was ghosted by a genuinely smart, but mentally ill white man. His speeches are written for him by a 25 yr old white man, and he can only talk from a teleprompter; he has appalled various leaders and diplomats with his emptiness and lack of any direction or qualities of leadership; he can, from certain insider accounts which I have reason to believe, talk voluably only about sports and himself. He puts his feet on up on the furniture with his shoes on. He sits and slouches while eating ice cream cones in Asia, the lady who served it to him, standing behind him looking like a Scout mom. He acts like a 12 yr old when his mind programming is not on full blast. He could never have seemed like the smartest person in any setting that had many people to right of the Bell curve. He could never have seemed anything other than mediocre.
He is, and I can't believe people here cannot see it, totally a media creation. Even Bush had more achievement on his resume. I loathed him while he was president, and laughed at his speechism, but even he seems smart compared to Obama, who will go down as the most stupid, lazy and irrelevant POTUSes in the history of this. I just wish he would go back to the Black Lagoon of Chicago politics, safe & sound and outahere.

Anonymous said...

Regarding what a lot of people have voiced about Samuelson ( Summers uncle ), I have to agree, he has a high opinion of himself, and the orthodox Keynesian economics he helped to build at MIT Department of Economics. Samuelson by an interview I read this summer that was conducted in '03 truly believes that econ is a science like molecular biology or chemistry, he also rambled on like a person truly in love with the sound of his own voice. It didn't help that the interviewer was a sycophantic buffoon from a Big 12 school ( unlike most of the other economists interviewed in the volume, whose interviewer were younger versions of themselves, meaning they taught at elite schools. ) If Summers has even half his uncle's self confidence, he would probably be insufferably arrogant to the just smarter than average White House types that fill every administration.

David said...

>Smartest? Why? Why?<

Because of Social Darwinist assumptions held by almost everyone. The "Big Guy in Charge" must be Big in every way - including brain power. When he clearly ain't, cognitive dissonance, agonized questions, and long posts result.

Steve is on the right track with the Wolfe quote. But here's a caveat: Crokers, to the extent that their success is due to their efforts, are smart. They make something in the real world, even if they don't employ the best vocabulary or use the right finger bowl. Politicians, on the other hand, can be successful on sheer animal magnetism and animal instincts, sans what you'd really recognize as intelligence.

We need to see political power as something distinct from economic power - nearly impossible to do in this age when the govt. picks so many winners and losers. Economic power = balls + smarts (e.g., Croker). Political power = balls, give or take smarts. That said, I don't think Obama is even politically powerful, though he's POTUS. He's a puppet. The people who put him there, who wrote his books and write his teleprompter addresses and (allegedly) "outfox" him to get their way - they are the powerful ones.

Anonymous said...

Svigor said...

"Your view is silly. You've had to make it racially-specific to ward off questions about why, under similar circumstances, Yellows are not affected as Whites are. And you offer no real explanations, you just whistle past the graveyard. Your whole "theory" is all assertion, zero explanation. You basically just say "this is the way it is, because, er, it is." Tell us, what is it about the DNA of Whites that makes us subject to these afflictions? What is it about Yellow DNA that renders them immune? You talk about the "decline of standard White masculinity" - what about Yellow masculinity? It's clearly lower than White masculinity (and White men have masculinity to burn relative to Yellow men) yet, the negative outcomes attach to Whites, but not Yellows. Why?"

Because the yellows do not control shit, duh. How can you have a "negative outcome" when you have nothing to begin with. And stop getting all butthurt every time somebody brings up the fact that the average black person has 100 times more masculinity than the average masculinity-challenged white geek, such as yourself. No amount of whinging is going to make you more manly.

Anonymous said...

Ref: Charlotte 9/25 12:15 a.m.
It is scary how much of a media creation he appears at times to be.
One task of our national security apparatus--the FBI, very centrally--is to insure what's real and not real about him--if for no other reason than to be sure some weaknesses or mental / character defects have not brought him under the control (blackmail, etc.) of a major foreign power. The fellow just seems to invent and reinvent "reality" via his use of language. He's like a major figure in some classic, enduring TV ad.

Anonymous said...

I think President Obama is smarter, more accomplished, and more resourceful than you give him credit for. One can reference a recent Prof. DeLong post on his accomplishments.

However, I agree with the nut of the argument that Prof. Summers is smarter than Obama in raw analytic skills. I'm sure President Obama has run into these types of folks all his life. It's to President Obama's credit, the degree to which he defers to best-of-breed experts on topics.

His minor sucess is the degree to which he deferred to expert macroeconomists on managing the economy, his significant failure is the degree to which he didn't listen to them out of hubris or middlebrow reelection folk wisdom.

Hopefully Anonymous
http://hopefullyanonymous.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

Bloomberg detractors are invariably close relatives of schoolteachers, except the fringe who still think he's Uncle Martian.