Has Tyler Cowen Updated His Priors on Wealth Concentration and Inequality?

Noah Smith has documented the “anti-Piketty crusade” by Tyler Cowen, Chairman and General Director of the Koch-brothers-funded Mercatus Center. (The post seems to have gone missing from Noah’s site [pourquoi?]; here’s Google’s cached version.)

The latest from Cowen is here, joining in the right-wing chorus desperately trying to debunk the long and widely documented increase in wealth inequality (documented by many researchers using many data sources and many methodologies).

Cowen and the GMU crowd are big fans of Bayes, so I thought I’d ask him if all that research had shifted his beliefs. He replied, though not to the point, it seems to me. The conversation:

Steve Roth May 25, 2014 at 4:55 pm

Bayesian prior: wealth inequality in the U.S. (or, choose your country) has been unchanged since 1980. (Call this “50/50″.)

New information: read every study of wealth inequality from the last ten or fifteen years.

Does Tyler Cowen move his priors from 50/50? How far? This post seems to suggest: no, and zero. That right?

Tyler Cowen May 25, 2014 at 5:02 pm

Try reading the excerpted paragraph at the very end of the post.

Steve Roth May 26, 2014 at 2:09 pm

Of course I did read that (more than once). But I don’t think it answers my question.

Does all the research on wealth inequality and concentration that you’ve read over the last decade or two (including that based on the somewhat sample-challenged SCF data) shift your priors from “50/50”?

Maybe he didn’t see my last comment, almost a day later, and that’s why he hasn’t replied.

Cross-posted at Angry Bear.






2 responses to “Has Tyler Cowen Updated His Priors on Wealth Concentration and Inequality?”

  1. Mike Sankowski Avatar

    What a typical Tyler confusing answer. Even in the answer he cannot be direct, because a genuine answer would be exactly the same but only adding the word “no” to the beginning.

    Note, that again, he’s saying “its hard to tell”, even though the answer is pretty clear that the SCF is showing some sort of increasing inequality. It just happens to not be exactly what was claimed before – so of course Tyler takes this as disproving both points being made.

    This guy is the biggest hack on the internet. His mode is to claim we can’t tell what the data says whenever the data seems to disagree with his point of view.

  2. Asymptosis Avatar

    @Mike Sankowski

    Again: very good description of a brilliantly executed misrepresentative and obfuscatory rhetorical strategy.