Larry Kudlow and Economics in the Trump Administration

Noah Smith (along with a fair section of the Internet) has some concerns about Larry Kudlow as chair of the Council of Economic Advisers: he’s overconfident, too much of a partisan, and fixated on nonexistent problems (e.g., inflation).

.. This is one of the important contributions that economics can make to public policy: the understanding that the world is complicated, and the dedication to uncovering rather than masking that complexity. In a presidential administration, you would expect this perspective to come from the Council of Economic Advisers.

.. What concerns me is that he has been working as an economist for decades—that is, he makes money by thinking and talking about economic issues—yet his conception of the discipline seems limited to the simple, theoretical relationships of Economics 101.

Most of Kudlow’s thinking about economic issues appears to boil down to three ideas.

  1. The first is that tax cuts increase economic growth—a mantra that conservatives have repeated for decades, yet is not supported by reviews of existing research.
  2. The second is that expanding the money supply will necessarily generate high inflation, on which basis Kudlow predicted a “major inflationary plunge” just as the Great Recession was beginning.
  3. The third is that an expensive currency—what politicians call a “strong dollar,” but Kudlow calls “King Dollar” (with the capitals)—is good for the economy.

.. That’s the essence of what I call economism, the subject of my new book: a worldview that assumes that society operates according to a small set of fundamental principles, and that public policy can be shaped on that assumption.

.. With Kudlow as chair of the CEA, Donald Trump is giving up even the pretense of trying to understand economic reality, instead doubling down on a handful of abstract slogans that have little to do with our current challenges. That’s hardly surprising, given that Trump is basically just an extreme caricature of contemporary conservatism