The Smear Economists

If there is ever a movie about the desperate attempts by Keynesians and other money cranks to shelter their absurdities from criticism with resorts to character assassination, it should have a trailer that goes like this (be sure to read this in a movie announcer voice):

In a world full of bigotry that can be so subtle that it doesn’t even exist, one man will stoop to anything to smear Austrian economics. They call him Noahpinion.
In a freak accident involving servers, Noahpinion gained the power of Politically Super-correct Hearing. Where ordinary people can only hear discussions of money and central banking, Noahpinion’s finely tuned ears can detect the hateful Overtones: a constant broadcast of anti-Semitism that Austrians emit whenever they talk, and which they thought they could hide in a hypersonic frequency. Not with Noahpinion on the job!
Noahpinion is joined in his quest by his mentor, the powerful telepath Professor D. With his Political Super-correct Telepathic Vision, Professor D can peer into the minds of Austrians, and see the anti-Semitic Deep Point of View underlying their monetary doctrines. He sees the images flitting through their synapses of “good German engineers” and “bad Jewish financiers” that those dastardly villains thought they could hide in the dark confines of their neo-Nazi minds. Not with Professor D on the job!
Together, they are The Keynesian Smear Bund. And they fight a never ending battle for Untruth, Injustice, and the Money-Printing Way.

“Noahpinion” is the blogging name of “economist” Noah Smith (he doesn’t seem to identify as a Keynesian; I used a bit of poetic license above), who recently wrote a dirty-fighting, slanderous hatchet job on Austrian monetary economics in BloombergView (the editor of which is James Greiff at, in which he actually did accuse Austrian economics of having anti-Semitic “overtones.” This word is a favorite among smear bund hatchet men, and it is a telling one. When they can’t convincingly claim to hear actual bigoted content in the words of their targets, they resort to confidently professing to hear bigoted “overtones”.

“You can’t hear them? Oh well, that’s because they’re ‘overtones’. They’re like dog whistles. It’s how bigots communicate with each other. But trust me, they’re there; I’ve been trained by the ADL to detect these kinds of things.”

The only “evidence” Smith offered for this accusation was to hyperlink the word “overtones” to a freaking cartoon on YouTube.

The damning connection apparently is that the cartoon has some half-baked nonsense about the Rothschild banking family. This, as I’ve written elsewhere, is how insane and pernicious PC hysteria is. Are you opposed to the U.S. empire and its unconditional support for Israel in its regional aggressions? Well, so are these random anti-Semites over here. You must be an anti-Semite too! Are you opposed to central banking? Well so are these anti-Rothschild conspiracy theorist cartoonists over here. Your entire tradition of economic thought must have anti-Semitic overtones then!

Noah Smith should be absolutely ashamed of himself to stoop to this kind of tactic. Do you have a conscience Noah? Do you have any faculty of self-reflection?

“Professor D” in my movie trailer script above is a reference to Keynesian “economist” Brad Delong who has been just as shameless in exactly this regard. In 2012, DeLong, rather than honestly grapple with the actual point of view of Austrians, concocted a strawman “deep point of view” that he professed to see, which allegedly underlies Austrian monetary doctrines. He darkly warned his readers that:

“…in its scarier moments some of the trains of thought emanating from this deep point of view slide over to: ‘good German engineers (and workers); bad Jewish financiers’”

“Pst, hey, did you know Austrian economics is connected to the Holocaust? You don’t see that? Oh well, it has to do with their “deep point of view.” Trust me, the connection is there; I’m a tenured academic at Berkeley.”

Smith complains that the “overtones” he hears “are conveniently papered over by the fact that two of its founding figures (von Mises and Murray Rothbard) were Jewish,” and yet offers exactly zero arguments why such a defense is a “papering over.” Indeed, as Rothbard himself wrote, almost as if he were responding directly to Smith’s rhetorical trick:

“All my life, I have heard anti-anti-Semites sneer at Gentiles who, defending themselves against the charge of anti-Semitism, protest that “some of my best friends are Jews.” This phrase is always sneered at, as if easy ridicule is a refutation of the argument. But it seems to me that ridicule is habitually used here, precisely because the argument is conclusive. If some of Mr. X’s best friends are indeed Jews, it is absurd and self-contradictory to claim that he is anti-Semitic. And that should be that.”

Mises and Rothbard were not just founding figures of the Austrian school, they also are, among Austrians, the school’s most beloved figures. Many Austrians were devoted friends of Rothbard, some older Austrians even reverently studied under Mises, and many are now the dearest of friends with other Jewish Austrians like Walter Block and David Gordon. Sneer all you want, Noah, but it actually is absurd and contradictory (not to mention despicable) to accuse a tradition of “anti-Semitic overtones,” when the people in that tradition have two Jewish scholars, not only as predecessors, but as dearly remembered friends and cherished heroes.

Of course the source of this character assassination is likely desperation. Smith and DeLong know that their mainstream, Keynesian, and anti-sound-money charlatanry is, in the view of the public, tired, discredited, and waning, while the Austrian school is waxing. Smith betrays his recognition of this rapid spread of sound economic ideas when he sniffs at it as a spreading plague of “brain worms.” Smith and DeLong don’t have the intellects to fight Austrian ideas fairly, so they resort to smearing Austrian critiques of their precious policies and institutions as motivated by anti-Semitism, in a desperate attempt to convince their readers to ignore those critiques.

“Never mind them, everything’s fine! The Fed’s money printing is going to turn this economy around any day now. Don’t listen to their arguments; they’re motivated by anti-Semitism. Just keep voting, shopping, and leave the money stuff to us. Nothing to see here!”

Sorry Noah. Sorry Brad. Your smears won’t save your falsehoods.

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