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Friday, October 07, 2011

How to Avoid Dying from Pneumonia

Bob Murphy says a CNBC commentator has implicitly endorsed laissez-faire in writing:

A depression occurs “only once it becomes painfully obvious that the markets and economy are failing to respond to repeated bouts of policy stimulus,” one economist said.

So, Bob concludes, this means the way to avoid depressions is obviously not to engage in monetary stimulus. Similarly, if a doctor wrote:

Death from pneumonia occurs only once it becomes painfully obvious that the patient is failing to respond to repeated bouts of antibiotic therapy.

I imagine that Bob would conclude that one could avoid dying from pneumonia by avoiding antibiotics.

8 comments:

  1. Yeah, I probably would make a wise-guy post, if a doctor said that. You know what the word "only" means, right?

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  2. Gene uses a wrong analogy which hides the crux of the problem. By choosing Pneumonia and antibiotics which have a proven unchallenged cause and effect relationship you hide that it is actually not proven without doubt that fiscal stimulus can cure a depression lastingly.

    An analogy that would lead in the other extreme would be:
    Death from pneumonia occurs only once it becomes painfully obvious that the patient is failing to respond to repeated bouts of laying on of hands therapy.

    This way I compare fiscal stimulus to a clearly useless therapy and achieve the opposite effect. Both are futile to address what Bob wanted to say with it, since it is exactly the effects of fiscal stimulus that are debated.

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  3. "Gene uses a wrong analogy which hides the crux of the problem. By choosing Pneumonia and antibiotics which have a proven unchallenged cause and effect relationship you hide that it is actually not proven without doubt that fiscal stimulus can cure a depression lastingly."

    I am merely showing the form of Bob's argument does not work. I am not "hiding" anything or assuming any cause-and-effect relationship.

    My contention is NOT that stimulus is proven to work, nor does my argument assume that. My contention is that Bob has presented a faulty argument.

    "Death from pneumonia occurs only once it becomes painfully obvious that the patient is failing to respond to repeated bouts of laying on of hands therapy."

    You're total misunderstanding of what is going on here could not be made more obvious than by your choosing this example. This is not "the opposite extreme," it is the very same type of argument, and fails in the very same way: This argument would in no way prove that the laying on of hands is a failure!

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  4. 'You know what the word "only" means, right?'

    Yes, but do you, Bob? Only has *several* meanings. One meaning is "the only *possible* situation in which we see death from pneumonia is X."

    Another would be "the only *actual* situation in which we see death from pneumonia is X." Because, you know, every patient with pneumonia is given antibiotics, and every economy in a recession is given stimulus.

    Clearly, both CNBC and my hypothetical doctor were using "only" in the second, factual sense. And so your argument fails against either.

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  5. Gene, yes ok I understand what you mean now, and I think you are right here. I guess what Bob wanted to say was that it might be that fiscal stimulus is part of the problem. And if a supposed cure doesn't work as supposed people should start questioning it.

    Like in the case of taking stimulants to cure ones fatigue. At some point your fatigue will increase although you increase the dose of the stimulants until you maybe break down. First it seems they work, but finally they make it worse.

    But you are right, this is no prove that the supposed cure really doesn't work at all or/and that it aggravates the problem

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  6. OK, skylien, cool: my only point is that there are at least three valid conclusions one can draw:

    1) we didn't do enough of the cure;
    2) the patient was going to die anyway; or
    3) the cure made things worse.

    The mere fact that we only see patients dying after taking the cure does nothing to tell us which of the three is the case, if all patients get the same cure!

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  7. Right. Thats the crux.

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  8. Skylien, you and Gene are both wrong. I wasn't trying to "say" anything in my post at all. I was making a joke based on one possible reading of the CNBC quotation. Jeez Louise.

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