Todd G. Buchholz published a book in 1999 called “New Ideas from Dead Economists” that pointed out that a number of ideas that are attributed to certain dead economists were in fact never associated with those individuals. Rather than rehash this book, the goal here is to compare politics to economics regarding monetary and fiscal policy. Matthew O’Brien, writing for the Atlantic magazine, recently wrote the article “What GOP Economists Don’t Understand About Milton Friedman” where he cites blogs and articles by economists like John B. Taylor, Allan H. Meltzer, and Andy Lapierre (not an “economist” per se) that might have taken what Milton Friedman might have thought as their own opinion. To be sure, left of center economists are commonly putting words in the mouths of long dead economists like J. M. Keynes. Mattias Vernengo shows using a couple of quotes from the General Theory to show that Paul Krugman was confusing Keynes with his Neoclassical Synthesis successors.
The point of this blog comment, is to be a bit more exploratory. I would like you to find an example of how an economist (dead or alive) was taken out of context by a blogger, journalist, or politician. You can look for the big names to do this, such as Keynes, Friedman, Hayek, Schumpeter, Smith, Ricardo, or anyone reasonably famous. Feel free to get creative and while I would like you to stick to monetary policy, feel free to look at other realms of economics. We have talked about Keynes likely stance of price flexibility, but you can look at comments on “Ricardian Equivalence”, “creative destruction”, “rules v. discretion”, or something else. Look on the Wall Street Journal or NY Times opinion pages for examples.