Posts by Bart Janssen

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  • Speaker: Inequality: Too big to ignore, in reply to BenWilson,

    I could very reliably see that it was the opening of the hand that caused the rock to fall to the ground, not the other way around, just from the fact that causation can’t flow backwards in time.

    Which is great for a relatively simple system such as a rock and your hand, in the presence of a single large gravitational source, in a non-viscous fluid.

    But macroeconomics? No way any experiment is simple enough to eliminate any doubt. Many sepaarte experiments with overlapping conditions can strongly support a hypothesis (that is exactly what the OECD and their economists are saying BTW). But nailing cause and effect level proof, no way.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3472 posts Report Reply

  • Speaker: Inequality: Too big to ignore, in reply to Matthew Poole,

    “Proof” to the standard required by economists *cough* could be achieved with a single subject, but actual scientific analysis to the point of being able to claim causality means controlled observational experiments. Willing to be contradicted by Bart, as our resident expert on “the one true scientific method”, but as I understand it you are on really shaky ground to make a change to conditions for a single subject and then claim causation of any observed outcome.

    humphh

    It is usually really hard to establish causation except in the simplest systems. For the most part science works on a cycle of observation
    "hey these things seem to happen together"
    through hypothesis
    "hey what if this causes that"
    through experiment
    "lets wiggle this bit"
    observation again
    "hey it happened again, you go stand under that bit and I'll try it again"
    failed experiment
    "how was I to know you standing there would make it do that"
    new hypothesis
    "this causes that except when Fred stand under it"
    new experiment
    "woot ...see it did it again"
    reviewers
    "you forgot to account for Fred's body odour problem"
    new experiment
    "I know the water blaster hurts but it's the only thing that will remove the smell"
    publication
    "Beer!"
    ...

    The best you get is hypotheses that are consistent with repeated observations. Most hypotheses include some kind of cause and effect statement or inference and most hypotheses survive only until the experiment that disproves them.

    But even then when a hypothesis survives a long time most scientists are nervous about hard cause and effect statements.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3472 posts Report Reply

  • Speaker: Inequality: Too big to ignore, in reply to BenWilson,

    Try a drug, observe effect. Try raising dose, observe effect, try dropping dose, observe effect. There’s hundreds of variables they can’t control, but over time, a pattern emerges, whether the drug has the desired effect, and what side effects it has.

    But Ben you seem to be suggesting that such an analysis has not been done.

    The OECD has access to economic indicators and political policies for nearly every country in the world over many decades. Their experts, yes I know they are merely economists, have looked at the data and concluded that there is a correlation between inequality and economic growth. They have concluded there is a plausible cause and effect relationship.

    For some reason you are treating their statements as if they have done no analysis at all and have no experience and knowledge at all.

    I get that you are playing devils' advocate but at some point it just becomes denial.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3472 posts Report Reply

  • Speaker: Inequality: Too big to ignore, in reply to simon g,

    How could we let this happen?

    It's not just ignorance. It's also selfishness. The public voted for tax cuts and got them. The direct consequence of those cuts was in increase in the wealth of the rich and the simultaneous cutting of social welfare systems that help to lift the income of the poor.

    The logic was by making the rich richer the economy would boom and the poor would become wealthier too. This is in effect the exact experiment that Ben is talking about in reverse.

    Six and a half years later and the rich are indeed richer and the gap is wider - exactly the intent of the tax changes. The question of course is, did the economy grow? Well yes, it did. But the OECD says it grew less than it should have and the government says, no it didn't.

    There is a circularity in the arguments but in the end as a lay person when it comes to macroeconomics I am faced with believing Key and his caucus or believing the OECD and their team of experts in the field.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3472 posts Report Reply

  • Speaker: Inequality: Too big to ignore, in reply to BenWilson,

    It seems to me that in theory, economic experimentation is possible

    To be fair governments are constantly experimenting. The problem is multiple variables are almost always changing simultaneously. Hence the problem determining cause or effect.

    You end up with "yes you improved the economy, but not because you reduced inequality but because of X Y or Z other things that changed and inequality only changed because you improved the economy"

    You can waste time and effort trying to convince people with that view or you can simply change the government to one that believes in fairness in the first place.

    If you can show examples in both directions it gets more likely that you can ascribe one to cause and the other to effect.

    But getting evidence that will convince a rich businessman that it's a good idea for them to pay more tax is nigh on impossible.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3472 posts Report Reply

  • Speaker: Inequality: Too big to ignore, in reply to BenWilson,

    How do we know which causes which?

    You can't do a controlled expt, nobody will let you.

    But you can observe societies where inequality has changed and observe changes in economic growth. Since multiple societies have shown the same correlation it becomes less likely that there is another factor driving the relationship since the different societies tend to vary in the other factors.

    However, there is no clean single variable experiment, so there is always sand available in which people can bury their heads.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3472 posts Report Reply

  • Speaker: Inequality: Too big to ignore,

    Oh you and your silly facts.

    Our government has polled the people of New Zealand and found that they want us to continue to make the rich richer and the poor poorer – far be it for us (rich bastards) to argue with the will of the people.

    Quite simply this government has shown utter contempt for evidence showing that its ideology is false and I see no indication that any change will occur in the next three years.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3472 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Public Address Word of the…, in reply to weka,

    and still affecting the political process and media in NZ?

    Is it? Really? What has actually changed?

    Sure, we discuss it. And yes most folks here think it's one of the biggest political events for decades (including me). And yet it has changed nothing. Same govt, same media hacks, same bloggers dishing out lies, same TV commentators, same dickheads on The Panel, same urgency.

    And as far as I can tell the majority of kiwis are just fine with that.

    I totally agree it will almost certainly be WOTY. But that apparently doesn't count for anything outside this bubble.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3472 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Public Address Word of the…, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    I’m sorry but it has to be Dirty Politics possibly the #dirtypolitics version or the verb as Giovanni suggests. The PAS thread with this heading started in August, is still active and today is up to 156,000 views. Is that a record?

    A big part of me agrees, odds are I'll vote for it. But then two things strike me, first is that while it got a little bit of notice outside NZ, it really is a local issue. Most of the planet would just go, Huh?

    Not that that should matter, this is a local competition, it is after all about what NZ cares about. Which brings me to my second problem with dirtypolitics this year.

    The majority of New Zealanders didn't care enough to get rid of the dirty politicians - how can a word be a word of the year if it had no real effect even in New Zealand.

    If it had made a difference to politics sure. If it had changed a government definitely. But it didn't do either of those things this year ... sadly.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3472 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Public Address Word of the…,

    On the local political scene two things stood out for me

    Mandate

    as in "we had a mandate to do whatever the F we liked"

    and

    "Everyone does it"

    When presented with yet more reprehensible behaviour, as if that was some reasonable excuse ... or even true.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3472 posts Report Reply

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