Mathematics and Economics

Both Slate and Salon have run excerpts from Jordan Ellenberg’s book How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking,. A new one at Salon, Math vs. Reaganomics: Why GOP’s anti-tax hysteria falls flat, examines economic relationships, and Laffer curve, and tax rates. (And being too Swedish.) General lesson: simplistic correlations are attractive to ideologues, but life is usually more complicated than that.

Conclusion:

There’s nothing wrong with the Laffer curve—only with the uses people put it to. Wanniski and the politicians who followed his panpipe fell prey to the oldest false syllogism in the book:

It could be the case that lowering taxes will increase government revenue;

I want it to be the case that lowering taxes will increase government revenue;

Therefore, it is the case that lowering taxes will increase government revenue.

With an amusing aside part way through.

(Aside: it’s important to point out here that people with out-of-the-mainstream ideas who compare themselves to Edison and Galileo are never actually right. I get letters with this kind of language at least once a month, usually from people who have “proofs” of mathematical statements that have been known for hundreds of years to be false. I can guarantee you Einstein did not go around telling people, “Look, I know this theory of general relativity sounds wacky, but that’s what they said about Galileo!”)

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