Economics 21 has a pretty concise takedown on why Elizabeth Warren should not serve as chair of the Consumer Financial Protection Agency. It highlights concerns about her work on family income and bankruptcy, as well as her position on bank nationalization. Here, Adam, has been critical of her position on high interest lending as well.
Across the blogosphere her defenders have scrambled to poke holes in all of those arguments. My take: E. Warren is no fool. I don’t think she publishes hack reports and I have little doubt that there is a fair defense of her methodology.
That having been said, Paul Krugman is no fool either. He comes to the table with some of the most trenchant analysis available. However, I wouldn’t want Paul chairing the Commission on Partisan Bias. Paul has strong priors and the intellect to defend them. However – and I know I am risking a smack down from Delong – one cannot help but walk away from Paul’s writing feeling that he has been too clever by half when it comes to his take on partisan issues.
You know that Paul is smarter you. You know that his data instincts are keen. Yet, you also know that confirmation bias is real and that as such strong priors and formidable analytical skills can be a dangerous mix. Few people are sharp enough to poke holes in his argument and despite his best intentions he is not going to be able to reliably poke holes in his own.
Likewise, having the formidable, and seemingly strong priored Warren at the head of CPFA is dangerous. She seems to have strong beliefs and the analytical ability to plow through anyone in her way. A cold-hearted pointy head would make a better referee.
That’s not to say that passion has no place in intellectual discourse, but it is why its important that passions balanced. It doesn’t matter how good your intentions are, confirmation bias and a lack of diversity will leave glaring blind spots.