Monday, October 24, 2011

Quote of the Day

From Jerry O'Driscoll:

"I am always amazed how people can misread plain and simple texts. Of course, many rely on second-hand accounts rather than reading original texts."

He's talking here specifically about Hayek and Coase. Hayek is an interesting case, because you can find him saying a lot of things over his long life. But certainly it's clear the sort of misreadings that O'Driscoll is referring to. I, of course, spend a fair amount of time marveling over misreads of other texts, and I think the point here that reliance on second-hand accounts drives a lot of it is generally right. When you're surrounded by people who say that Keynes thinks savings is bad, loves big government, thinks we should increase consumption, that's what less inquisitive people will start believing. This isn't to say that some of the misreading isn't deliberate, malicious, or ideological (we've had confirmation of the role of ideology recently) - I'm absolutely positive it is. But that can give birth to a lot of more innocent, second-hand misreadings.

Take this read on Keynes from Ron Paul that I heard on the radio over the weekend:

Yes, apparently Keynesianism is now about removing property rights in the energy industry.


  1. "how real free markets work"

    On the one hand, whenever one complains about concentrations of power, pollution, whatever, libertarians tell us, "Well, that's because we have never had a real free market!"

    On the other hand, although we have never had them, we know how they work, and they are responsible for every improvement in human life over the last 300 years.

    Why not just say "unicorns"?

  2. "I am always amazed how people can misread plain and simple texts."

    I'm not. Since people started writing it has been going on. Communication, dissemination of ideas, etc. is always far more problematic than it seems; writing it down doesn't really make the process any easier.

  3. re: "Yes, apparently Keynesianism is now about removing property rights in the energy industry."

    I'll admit that this managed to get a good laugh out of me.

  4. I didn't listen to the speech, so bear that in mind while reading this.

    I'd say that for Keynes he tends to get lumped in rather unfairly with FDR; and that is a bad deal for Keynes. FDR engaged in some rather foolish, and ultimately unpopular, public policies (though he had a hard time damaging his overall popularity as President). There seems to be some historical memory with regard to them; and that memory attaches to Keynes too (even if Keynes had little to no influence on the first or even second administration of FDR).


All anonymous comments will be deleted. Consistent pseudonyms are fine.