July 5

The Law of Proportionate Belief


I can’t write about Paul Krugman with out thinking about one of my favorite, but relatively unknown and unheralded, economic writers, Arnold Kling.
One of his pieces is a discussion of his Law of Proportionate Belief:

The Law of Proportionate Belief states that one should believe in a certain proposition or policy prescription in proportion to the valid arguments for that position.

In other words, the greater the evidence supporting a particular proposition, the more one can rely on its truth.
Low carb diets are a great example. As more and more scientific evidence mounts as to the superiority of such diets for weight loss, lipid lowering, high blood pressure correcting, and diabetes reversing when compared to low-fat diets, the Law of Proportionate Belief demands that one has to take these diets seriously as therapeutic modalities for the above disorders and not blow them off as fad diets.
How does Paul Krugman enter the picture? Kling writes:

But other economists are rather arrogant. Paul Krugman can hardly bring himself to compose a paragraph without violating my Law.

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  1. It doesn’t pay to get into internecine squabbles in another’s professional, so if Kling is batting Krugman around over economic esoterica, who knows and who can understand besides the economists involved?
    On the other hand, Krugman has been the single most clear-sighted and consistent political commentator on the follies of the current administration and the cowardice of those who should have been working to check and balance that branch of government, including his colleagues in the press.
    He has written well and abundantly on issues such as affordability of healthcare, our blindness to our social infrastructure, and the triviality of most media coverage of important events.
    I look forward to reading and learning from Kling’s writings, but he has a tough standard to measure himself against if Krugman is the standard used.
    I guess Krugman is clear-sighted (there’s no doubt he’s consistent) if you believe everything he writes.

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