People always have a reason for their actions; it might be trivial or deeply buried but it always exists. Perhaps their choice flatters the ego, hides a fault or mistakes, advances an agenda, eases anxiety, or merely gives a moment of pleasure. Whatever the motivation, people make choices and decisions based on needs, wants and fears. Illogical and self-harming actions are only inexplicable to those who do not know the individual's motivation.
Megan McArdle announces Alan Krueger appointment to the president's Council of Economic Advisers and gives him her tentative approval. In the past, McArdle has spoken out against almost everything Krueger has supported and it's a little difficult to understand why McArdle is making one of her rare diversions from the economic elite's dogma.
It's also no bad thing that we have a labor economist at the CEA right now, when our failure to create jobs for the standing army of the unemployed is by far our biggest problem. It's not that I think there's some magical program for re-employing everyone that has been hitherto overlooked because the CEA didn't have Alan Krueger on hand (I'm sure Austan Goolsbee could--and did--get him on the phone any time he wanted.) But on the margin, it matters that someone who has spent much of his career studying labor market outcomes will be dedicating the next few years to helping the president devise economic policy. When issues come up, his mind will naturally see the repercussion for jobs. And that's exactly the focus we should have right now.Krueger is a labor economist, which automatically would put him on the wrong side of the indivisible line between labor (boo!) and capital (yay!) that McArdle has erected in her brain. She disliked the cash for clunkers program, which Kruegar worked on, and has spoken dismissively of supporters of increasing the minimum wage, saying they are confined to "movement think tanks" and "marginal academics." Kruger co-wrote a well-known study that showed increasing minimum wage did not increase unemployment.
We only have one or two small clues that might help us solve the riddle of the inner workings of McArdle's brain.
On other fronts, I think Krueger is an excellent choice. I've heard him speak in a number of off-the-record sessions, and I don't think that anyone is going to be mad at me for revealing that he was extremely impressive, with a grasp of labor market economics that seems to this non-economist both encyclopedic, and very nuanced. He's also very good at explaining those distinctions in a way that makes sense.Perhaps McArdle merely parroted the thumbs-up that Tyler Cowen gave Krueger. Or maybe it's just that McArdle is a sucker for power, and if she has basked in the glow of an important person she is theirs forever. Austan Goolesbee is far too liberal for McArdle's acceptance under ordinary circumstances but she was a student of his and knowing that she has been that close to power is utterly intoxicating to her. One cocktail party convinced her that David Koch was a rilly great man who never could have done something so underhanded as to bankroll and organize the supposed grass-root tea parties.
We will probably find out the reason in due time, as McArdle's commenters take to the inadvertent bait like sharks to chum, irate that she would support an Obama hire when everyone knows that the best government is no government (at least in between hurricane recovery and relief efforts).