Tuesday, May 4, 2010

social norms >> policy

Yep yep. This is one of those "duh" things that people forget because we don't know what to do about social norms, but we do know what to do about policy, so we spend all our time and energy fighting over policy and forget the rest. But culture is just vastly more important.

(That, along with the fact that paying attention to politics is an utterly depressing use of time, makes me interested in studying the mechanics of social norms rather than other more traditional kinds of economics.)

Of course, policy is endogenous to culture, but culture influences policy far far more than policy influences culture. Therefore, Brad DeLong is being obtuse. (He doesn't elaborate in detail but I'm pretty sure the endogeneity is his objection. That would take more than one of David Brook's columns to discuss; I'm sure he's not just too dumb to realize it...)

MYglesias is also missing the point, but if he convinces people to stop listening to Brad DeLong, I'm ok with it... Of course when you take away people's freedom of choice, rendering irrelevant the culture that might inform their choices, then policy dominates culture, as in North Korea. Now can we ignore the trivial uninteresting cases and get back to the real issue please?

(Sorry to sound so snarky, but that's what happens when I'm forced to look at DeLong's blog. He puts more effort into insulting people than informing people. He and Krugman must be best friends.)

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