KEN ROGOFF: The Bloggers Are On A 50s McCarthyism Witch Hunt Over My Spreadsheet Error

Ken rogoffREUTERS/Eduardo MunozHarvard Professor and Economist Kenneth Rogoff speaks during the Sohn Investment Conference in New York, May 16, 2012.

Remember back in April when a
UMass graduate studentfound
a major Excel errorin the foundational pro-austerity paper of the post-financial crisis era?

Well one of the authors of that foundational paper — Harvard economist Ken Rogoff — is still upset over what he calls a “witch hunt” propelled by “left bloggers.”

If you recall, after Ph.D candidate Thomas Herndon found the error in the maths behind “Growth in the Time of Debt,” a paper from which governments have drawn austerity-based policies, Rogoff (and his co-author Carmen Reinhart) kind of pooh-poohed the whole thing.

Economists (and bloggers!) like Paul Krugman and Dean Baker piled on, the thought being that Rogoff and Reinhart were at best being nearsighted and at worst actively disingenuous. Plus, the whole thing just festered even more because R&R’s central thesis (that high debt to GDP ratios leads to long periods of slow growth) had been co-opted by many austerious governments looking for an economic bitter pill.

Here we are months later, and Rogoff has given an interview to the German newspaper Frankfuerter Allgemeine (picked up by Naked Capitalism). Here are some nuggets from the interview (translated):

  1. He now defends himself: The story is an orchestrated attack from left bloggers, “as in the the 50s under McCarthy.”
  2. His opponents had “distorted and consciously falsely interpreted and polemicized his work.”

  3. “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.

Yves Smith of Naked Capitalism calls the interview “remarkable tripe,” adding that “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.”

Read the full post at Naked Capitalism »

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