It’s a pattern laid out by Meghan McArdle in July 2010, Considering Elizabeth Warren, the Scholar.
Read the whole thing, but here’s an excerpt:
But while I found the thesis compelling, there were some problems with the book. The first is that Warren simply fails to grapple with what her thesis suggests about the net benefits of the two-earner family. Admittedly, I don’t quite know what to say either, but at least I can acknowledge that it’s a pretty powerful problem for the current family model; Warren kind of waves her hands and mumbles about social programs and more supportive work environments. There is no possible solution outside of a more left-wing government.
But the deeper problem is that some of her evidence doesn’t really support her thesis, and can be made to appear to support her thesis only by making some very weird choices about what metrics to use….
That’s a pattern I see over and over in her work. In her (in)famous paper on medical bankruptcies in 2001, Warren and her co-authors defined anyone with $1000 worth of medical bills as having a medical bankruptcy, and used that figure to imply that rising medical bills were pushing people over the financial edge. Now maybe they are, but you sure couldn’t prove it with that metric….
Does it matter? I think yes.
Warren has reached scholarly conclusions which she then parlays into a political platform. The interaction between the two is fair game in an election, as much as a candidate’s business or political experience.
More to come.
Update: A reader writes:
Good Afternoon Professor –
I follow your site regularly but never comment because of the “sign in” factor. Now and then I see something worth pointing out though. You write
“Warren has reached scholarly conclusions which she then parlays into a political platform.”
I think you have that backwards. I think Warren has a political platform which she doctors her data and “scholarly” conclusions to fit.
Have a great afternoon.
I think this reader may have it right. Which came first, the scholarship or the political platform?