The Mezunian

Die Positivität ist das Opium des Volkes, aber der Spott ist das Opium der Verrückten

It’s Official: Noah Smith’s a Troll Economist

I’ve begun to feel bad ’bout my article mocking moderate liberals for their recent election failures, not ’cause I mocked moderate liberals—that part I still stand by—but ’cause I mocked some article wherein Noah Smith praises mainstream economists for, by his own account, fucking up the economy by being corrupt liars. Looking back, I should’ve taken this as subtle sarcasm, since clearly no one who is an assistant professor @ a prestigious college—if your college doesn’t just hand out coupons for digital cameras for diplomas, I consider it prestigious—could write this article unironically…


This article is not from his usual den o’ faux-nerdy obnoxiousness, but @ the den o’ the pasty-faced known as Bloomberg. Said article has a not-@-all-arrogant title that seems to imply Smith’s humble goal o’ being the the world’s ultimate arbiter on who deserves what. Since “free” market economists supporting economic authoritarianism is the rule mo’ than the exception, that’s not the odd part; no, the fun part must be built up like fresh pancakes…

1st we start with some fun strawmanning:

There’s a common myth that standard economics predicts that people are paid an amount of money equal to the value of the things they produce. Actually, this isn’t true – in fact, the idea doesn’t even make sense.

It’s a good thing this common myth was 1 you made up, then. Most critics assume economists assume that workers get paid based on the value they give, since that is what a logical society would do—though as we shall see, Smith doesn’t think our current economy does. I don’t know any leftist who assumes workers are all just independents who do everything themselves. In fact, that sounds mo’ like a laisez-faire fantasy, if anything. Would be awfully difficult for the evil capitalists to exploit them if said capitalists didn’t actually exist.

In standard economics […] you get paid an amount equal to the amount that the company’s production increases when it hires you.

Which employers surely know, since every business comes with a special “value-creation” meter that can predict just how much value a worker will create before that worker actually does anything. This proves that labor has nothing to do with value-creation, as those scurvy-dog Marxists claim, since they don’t even work to create value: just having their name on the business’s employee list is ’nough to inspire the computers that actually do all o’ the work to feel mo’ confident & to work harder.

People generally don’t produce things individually. They produce things together, with the assistance of capital such as machines and buildings.

It’s ’bout time someone finally told market-critics this. As we all know, leftist critics o’ mainstream economics routinely view the economy as nothing mo’ than independent individuals in some Robinson Crusoe world, nor do they ever acknowledge capital’s involvement in the economy. That’s why Marx’s most famous work was called Das Kapital—’cause as the 1st sentence will tell you, “Das Kapital ist eine bürgerliche Lüge.”

So when a company hires you, its marginal productivity changes, because your presence affects the marginal productivity of everyone else at the company.

I just imagine Smith snickering as he typed this. It’s true, too: a common thought that pops into workers’ heads is, Man, if only I had some guy standing near me, his warm breath streaming down my neck, I’d work so much harder! This empty space is just so distracting!

In other words, in a competitive, classical economy…

O, good, we can just stop here, since we’re not in that kind o’ economy, so its dependent variables can be safely ignored.

Market economists always do that shit, too. They’re like those too-good-to-be-true ads that get you hyped, only for the microscopic print to admit, “only applies to competitive economies,” when “competitive capitalism” is right up there with “benign dictator” or “communism that hasn’t utterly fucking failed” as 1 o’ those elusive concepts that’s s’posed to distinguish it from the evil versions that have actually ever existed in reality.

He brings up this chart that shows that worker productivity & wages generally matched during the mid-20th Century, also commonly known as the “Golden Age” o’ capitalism.

All right. Then he goes into a perfectly normal description o’ how average & marginal productivity differ ’cause… wait, what?

No economic model says that people get paid based on average productivity. If they did, there would be no income left over for capital — no profits, rents or interest. We’d be living in a sort of a [sic] Marxist world, where labor is the only thing with any value.

OK, now go back & look @ that graph he just brought up ’gain—the 1 where average productivity & what people were paid matched so closely.

We must credit Professor Noah Smith, for revealing the government myth o’ the “Golden Age” o’ capitalism to truly be the vile Golden Age o’ Marxism! So that’s how we won the Cold War. Well, like they say: fight fire with fire. I just wish our wise ol’ conservatives would teach these young punks & their radical “free” markets how much better things were in the good ol’ red-blooded American 50s, when everything was swell; teenage women didn’t get pregnant all the time;—or a’least we pretend they didn’t—black people were still kept in fea… O, wait, we still do that; & we all held hands & chanted “This Land is My Land” before statues o’ Marx & Engels.

He then makes up some bullshit ’bout how robots & the Chinese are stealing all our jobs, but the latter’s OK, ’cause Chinese workers will ’ventually get bored & find something else to do. God damn it, Smith, are you mixing up reality with your favorite science fiction books? This is just like that microfiction you wrote ’bout the economy wherein every individual’s income distributions are randomized every so oft. You’re not going to be the Twilight Zone for economics, so give it up. For 1, economics itself is already as logical as the Twilight Zone.

Still, I couldn’t agree mo’ with his reverse Yakov Smirnoff joke:

In a globalized capitalist economy, you don’t get paid what you produce – in fact, you don’t produce anything without others to help. What you get paid is what you can convince other people to give you.

So quit bitching & start whoring yourself to your brethren. Shit, as we saw earlier, Smith’s been doing that for a while. Or would you rather live in 1 o’ those collectivist economies like the Soviet Union or 1950s America?

I didn’t think so.

Nevertheless, this point has been proven in a mo’, ahem, scientific—& I must say mo’ eloquent—manner elsewhere.

Other fine work:

  • An aptly-titled article, “Reality Might Topple a Beloved Economic Theory.” This apparently “disquiets” him, which is odd, as the many times it’s done so in the past hadn’t seemed to.

  • Here Smith rightfully points out how frivolous the Nobel Prize is, since they love giving those peace prizes to war criminals, & ’cause the winners are all fatties who stuff their face with chocolate—no offense to the fatties who stuff their face with peanut butter, ’stead; they’re still cool.

  • Here Smith outright acknowledges that he’s a troll, but just an obnoxiously generic 1—what he calls the true oppressed class! Mostly, this is just a ’scuse for him to spew pseudoeconomic nonsense to pretend he’s a special, brilliant snowflake. He is wrong.

    He also seems to think Lolcats & Rickrolling were creative. He is wrong ’gain.

  • Here’s a hilarious article that I’ll also take as trolling wherein he argues that Wall-Street people make so much money ’cause they suffer so much. For instance, you may have to tolerate being an asshole & causing other people harm—& nothing’s worse than having someone else inconvenienced. You may even be inconvenienced ’nough to punching your underling! Think o’ how your hand will hurt after hitting that li’l freak’s hard head!

    He also joins with ’nother Bloomberg writer in trying to sucker young people into giving up such lucrative careers in return for their “soul.” After all, “moral purpose can be worth a lot of dollars – just look at the low wages in the nonprofit sector.”

  • Here’s an article wherein he creams himself over a sexy cat fight ‘tween Krugman & some smarmy-looking bastard o’ which I’ve never heard. I’m particularly amused by Smith’s insinuation that Krugman has mo’ sweet-ass cred than Stephen Gould & John Maynard Keynes—Krugman, the same economist who claimed that silly fiction stories about imaginary hot dog factories are mo’ important than facts; the same economist who supported many o’ the causes o’ our current economic depression, while now shamelessly, hypocritically pretending to be on the forefront gainst the very economics he suported before–including the same inaccurate deficit & inflation scaremongering for which Smith hypocritically criticizes Austrian-schoolers.

    Actually, Smith later whines ’bout how tragic 2 rich people disagreeing has become & hearfully wishes they’d just get together & put their dicks in each other’s bums already, your flirtatious bickering isn’t fooling anyone, before Smith’s nerves give in to so much conflict & he faints. I’m always amused by the kind o’ things rich people find troubling. Surely you’ve had greater tragedies in your life, right? Like, maybe you had ice cream fall off its cone once–which, judging by this article, caused Smith to spend months ‘lone in his room with the lights off in deep depression (Some o’ us have learned the wise wisdom o’ optimistic advice from such sites as Careerealism & do not let such circumstances dictate our actions, but take the initiative ourselves, & spend months ‘lone in our rooms with the lights off without waiting for ice cream to fall off our cones, thank you).

  • Here’s an article wherein he conflates the worst war in human history to conservatives feeling a tad sad ’bout not being able to take out their bitterness on women & gays as much as they used to. This comes with a side order o’ an appeal to gross collusion ‘tween the 2 milquetoast political classes with the kind o’ smugness that conservatives despise liberals for harboring. This “compromise” is essentially everyone thinking the same way Smith does. ‘Course, anyone with the merest o’ political understanding will predict that conservatives, laissez-faire-libertarians (though in Smith’s defense, I don’t think he even tries to compromise with them, which shows that he has some taste), & leftists (who, in fairness, will hate anything, anyway) will tell Smith to fuck off & continue to hate him; but centrists & moderate liberals can get a warm fuzzy feeling o’ smug satisfaction @ their civility.

    That this smug self-congratulation for moderate liberals comes after their utter fucking failure in American legislative branch is even funnier. Yes, keep telling yourselves you’re successful, liberals. Hee, hee, you’re so cute.

  • Finally, we have a ludicruous article praising a ludicrous study that “proves” that economists are not ideological by flaunting their political & linguistic ignorance–that is, after a tacky, irrelevant photo o’ some woman holding up scales. Said study is reams o’ arbitrary mathematical postmodernist nonsense meshed with an arbitrary text-searching test that only checks which words are used, not their actual content. So, for instance, if a paper talks ’bout mental illness, it’s apparently left-wing, while if it talks ’bout bank notes or the Federal Reserve, it’s right-wing (p. 14). That this paper seems to only focus on Democrats & Republicans & already makes assumptions o’ what are “neutral” political activities, which they refuse to include in their data, shows not only that the evidence is partly based on the conclusion–not necessarily nonfalsifiable, but certainly absurd–but that this study’s writers are ignorant o’ politics, as well as language (p. 12-13).

    In truth, the methodology & the conclusion o’ the paper ironically demonstrates the very bias economists in general truly have: centrism. The paper focuses purely on Democrats & Republicans, with those who fall between them considered “unbiased”–which ironically relies on the biased view that the Democrats & Republicans are an objective measure for determining the “biased” sides. This is unsurprising, as economists are superstitiously fearful o’ being viewed as “biased,” & thus try to fake nonbias through simply regurgitating the “centrist” mainstream hivemind. This same philosophy affects the writers o’ this very study, leading them to mistake “centrism” as “nonbiased,” when it isn’t. This can clearly be proved by comparing US politics to other countries’ politics & noting that what is “centrist” in the US may be radically different from other countries’ centrism; & thus, in reverse, that those “centrisms” may be “biased” toward the left or right. In essence, this study tests bias by harboring a bias for the US way o’ thinking. If an economist were to think in a way mo’ like ‘nother country’s dominant ideology, that economist would be evilly biased, while an economist who regurgitates US dominant ideology would be “unbiased.”

    But fuck that boring noise: read the comments for that article & feast on… whatever nonsense these people are blubbering ’bout. The great part o’ the insane asylum known as the internet is that it’s impossible to tell which parts are passive-aggressive sarcasm or authentic delusions–can you discern which is which on this very blog?

    In particular, I’m glad Noah Smith linked this brilliant critique o’ New Republic (though I disagree with Prof. deBoer’s callous indifference toward the well-being o’ Stalin’s cat). I would like to see that kind o’ high-quality analysis from you for once, Smith.

  • O shit, how could I forget Smith’s laughable attempt @ foreign-policy analysis with his scaremongering ’bout the upcoming World War 3 gainst the vile Chinese.

    A few succulent bits:

    [A]bout 40% of the world has resolutely refused to adopt U.S.-like systems, and democracy has actually been in retreat since slightly after the turn of the millennium, if you believe Freedom House.

    I don’t, tragically ‘nough, since I can’t imagine a political system that’s virtually never existed ever to be in decline. I love how people who lusciously praise America’s “democracy” are so ignorant o’ the US’s actual political philosophy or what “democracy” even is. Even laissez-faire libertarains o’ all people have bothered to actually graduate high school & learn that the US isn’t a democracy, never was 1, is a republic, which keeps the dirty poor from asserting themselves, yadda yadda. This isn’t obscure shit hidden in badly designed websites by anarchists; any high school history textbook mentions this shit. Smith should read basic history for a mere second before spewing propaganda so he actually gets the propaganda right.

    He then spews data & a few caveat points without any analysis o’ how it matters. Mo’ importantly, nowhere does he actually ‘splain why 2 countries with nuclear weapons should go to war with ‘nother country with nuclear weapons, despite the absence o’ such even in the far bitterer Cold War.

    @ the end he admits that this is all bullshit he pulls out his ass, but then he self-fallatingly declares, “But just in case this is where things are headed, it pays to be honest with ourselves about the facts.” I agree: in case o’ events that have no reason to ever occur outside o’ fantasy literature, we must memorize random data in case China demands us all to win a China quiz or else they’ll send their UFOs down & conquer us all like they did in the teevee movies.

    The comments have a variety o’ sentiments–none o’ which are deeply considered, shockingly. The most fitting would have to be Anonymous’s “What kind of bullshit is this?” even if it comes after the unapt praise for Smith’s economic posts; though, admittedly, learning ’bout (laissez-faire) libertarianism being a Jewish conspiracy o’ Marxists must come as a close 2nd.

    There are mo’ scaremongering, too. Clearly, Smith is obsessed with living out his fantasies o’ living in his favorite Tom Clancy thrillers, even if it requires him to pretend that nuclear weapons have never been invented.

Posted in Politics