An open letter from a real scientist to Steven Levitt

This comes from Real Climate, or more specifically, from Steven Levitt's colleague at the University of Chicago: Raymond T. Pierrehumbert, Louis Block Professor in the Geophysical Sciences.

OUch.   It makes me utterly ashamed to be an economist.

Update: Joe Romm is relentless.   It seems to me Levitt and Dubner should have eaten copious quantities of humble pie on day one.  They didn't. Why not? 

Maybe because they aren't quite the hard-headed objectivists they paint themselves to be? Here are some interesting musings from Andrew Gelman on the role of ideology the likely underlies a lot of this, and especially its internal contradictions.


  1. Are appraisals set by Dept of Ag or come from elsewhere? Are appraisals by definition at the midpoint of surrounding land values?

    Please explain this comment: "If the appraisals are unbiased then setting the maximum rate equal to the appraisal effectively throws out half the land the program is targeting, ultimately making the program much more costly for the government and less environmentally beneficial."


  2. Claudia,

    That's a good question. The appraisal process is err... extremely complicated. And far from transparent. I'll hopefully write about it someday. So the "if" in "if appraisals are unbiased" is a big one.

    There is also some talk of changing the appraisals, probably toward being more unbiased (toward the midpoint of surrounding values).

    The second part of your question I think is explained by the first sentence in the associated paragraph. If the appraisal is below a landowner's willingness to accept, s/he won't submit a bid. So if the typical appraisal is on target, about half will be too low.


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