Semi-Daily Journal Archive

The Blogspot archive of the weblog of J. Bradford DeLong, Professor of Economics and Chair of the PEIS major at U.C. Berkeley, a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research, and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (Sebastian Mallaby/Washington Post Edition)

A reason why I don't think the Washington Post will last a decade: the opening of Sebastian Mallaby's column:

Sebastian Mallaby - A Fix for Social Security? - washingtonpost.com: How Personal Accounts Could Please Both Sides: By Sebastian Mallaby: Monday, November 27, 2006; A19: The next six months could be a productive time for economic policy.... The [Bush] administration, now led by a practical Treasury secretary with the heft to sideline ideologues, may be willing to make concessions.... The most interesting debate will revolve around retirement.... Top administration officials... no longer regard "privatization" -- the diversion of payroll taxes into personal accounts -- as the starting point for negotiation. The solvency of Social Security, not a desire to promote an "ownership society," is their main concern...

The most important thing about Mallaby's opening is that he has no idea whether what he is saying is correct or not.

Sebastian Mallaby does not know whether or not the Bush administration's decision makers are more concerned with Social Security's solvency than with promoting an "ownership society": he does not know who the Bush administration's real decision makers are. Sebastian Mallaby does not know whether or not Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson has the "heft to sideline ideologues": Paulson will certainly try, but O'Neill and Snow tried before him and failed. Sebastian Mallaby does not know whether the Bush administration will be willing to "make concessions" on economic policy issues like Social Security reform: the Bush administration probably does not know itself, yet.

Mallaby hopes that all of these will be the case. And he hopes that by confidently asserting that they are the case, he increases the likelihood that they will become the case. So he confidently asserts that they are the case while still clueless about whether what he is writing is right or wrong.

Respect for your readers? Take care to inform your readers? Don't claim that things are true when you have no idea whether they are true or not?

That's not the business Mallaby is in.

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