Reinhart and Rogoff Defend Themselves

Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff have posted an open letter to Paul Krugman to try to correct some of the misrepresentations of their scholarship that continue to be repeated by people who should know better.

Reinhart and Rogoff’s letter begins by making some points about the critique of their work by Thomas Herndon, Michael Ash, and Robert Pollin that should be very familiar to readers of Econbrowser. Among these is the observation that, even if one accepted all of the particular methodological criticisms raised by Herndon and co-authors (which I personally do not), the results are in fact virtually identical to those reported in a follow-up study by Reinhart, Reinhart, and Rogoff published in 2012, which study interestingly was never mentioned in Herndon, et. al.’s critique.

Apart from these technical issues through which we have previously waded in detail ([1], [2], [3], [4]), Reinhart and Rogoff’s open letter also addresses some of the even more irresponsible personal attacks that have been leveled against them.

An example of these is the claim most recently repeated by Paul Krugman in the New York Review of Books that

Reinhart and Rogoff had not made their data widely available– and researchers working with seemingly comparable data hadn’t been able to reproduce their results.

But you can’t get away with this kind of careless mudslinging in the internet age. Reinhart and Rogoff used the Wayback Machine to get a copy of Carmen Reinhart’s web page exactly as it appeared to the world in October 2010. Try it yourself– you can click on the links to download whatever spreadsheet you like, or you can use the Wayback Machine to find versions that were publicly reported as of various historical dates (both at Reinhart’s own page, as well as the database’s subsequent migration to the public website for their book).

Another often-repeated and equally groundless charge has been that Reinhart and Rogoff failed to distance themselves from politicians and pundits who maintained that Reinhart and Rogoff’s research lent support to austerity measures as the preferred short-term fiscal policy. You can find countless vociferous repetitions of this false allegation in the comment sections to items [1]-[4] linked above. But again it is straightforward to use internet archives (as Reinhart and Rogoff now have) to uncover the actual public record of what they did and did not say at various historical dates. For example, in an interview with the BBC in July 2011 Rogoff stated:

The current strategy that calls for years of austerity and recession in the periphery countries is just not tenable.

Or see this reported summary of Carmen Reinhart’s position in The Guardian in April 2010:

The world’s best known female economist has warned cutting the deficit the Tory way would send the UK back into recession.

You will find links to literally dozens more examples of statements like these in the Reinhart-Rogoff open letter.

Not that facts matter to those who took up the cudgels. The smear campaign had only one purpose– to distract people from thinking clearly about the consequences of the current high debt loads of many of the world’s countries. On this fundamental question you can also find much to help set the record straight in Reinhart and Rogoff’s open letter.

But be forewarned– there are many folks out there who still think that if that if they just keep shouting lies and nonsense loudly enough they can prevent you from hearing Reinhart and Rogoff’s true message.

About James D. Hamilton 244 Articles

James D. Hamilton is Professor of Economics at the University of California, San Diego.

Visit: Econbrowser

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