Jonathan Bernstein has a post wondering where the “liberal hack economists” are:
You know what the Democratic Party is missing? Hack economists (or pseudo-economists) that go around talking about how terrific the president’s program has been, and how Gadzooks the economy sure is growing now. I seem to remember plenty of Republican hack economists who spent at least the first half of 2008 denying that a recession had started…where are the Democratic hack economists cherry-picking numbers to point out how terrific things are now? The most prominent Democratic pundits on the economy — people such as Paul Krugman and Robert Reich — certainly don’t hesitate to remind people about how terrible they think Bush was, but they also are clearly pessimists about the economy right now. I’m not saying that I agree or disagree, but just that I find it odd. I don’t think it’s true across all issue areas. On foreign policy, for example, I think there are plenty of people eager to talk about how much safer the world is now that Bush/Cheney have been replaced by Obama/Sanity.
I wrote about “optimism inversion” back in January 2009, noting that over the previous five years liberal commentators had been consistently more pessimistic about the economy than conservative ones. I saw three factors at work:
- I believe left-wing politics and pessimism are generally correlated traits.
- Left-of-center commentators are generally smarter than right-of-center ones and pessimism was the correct position.
- People inclined to be hostile to the incumbent administration are naturally disposed to believe that disaster looms around the corner.
I then noted “at some point after the inauguration, the valence of factor (3) will switch and I wonder how much force that’ll have in pulling things along.” It seems, in general, to have had very little influence. As a general matter, I think that both (1) and (2) are underrated features of public discourse. I also, despite factor (2) and the fact that I’m pessimistic about the next 24 months worth of economic outlook for the USA, generally think that left-of-center people are too pessimistic about the trajectory of human affairs.