Wednesday, January 25, 2012

More agreement on something that doesn't get us anywhere

Arnold Kling links to David Colander writing: "Not only are economists as a group not humble enough, what lay people are presented as economist's policy recommendations are often the policy recommendations of the least humble economist. In summary, my argument is that lack of humility in conveying the limitations of their results is the most serious ethical problem facing economists; it played a much larger role in causing the recent financial crisis than did the type of payments highlighted by Inside Job. Thus, and any new code of ethics for economists should deal with that humility problem."

I strongly agree with this - it's very similar to some of the points made by Robert Johnson in my link below.

The problem, once again, is that we all have different culprits in mind when we read something like this. When I read this, I immediately think of the mostly libertarian economists who want to radically alter and re-engineer the society that has naturally emerged and evolved in the United States by dismantling the social democracy that we have.

I highly doubt this is who Arnold Kling is thinking of as he reads this passage.

In fact, the very people that seem completely lacking in humility to me probably seem like poster children of humility to him.

I'm not sure where this gets us... probably nowhere.


  1. George Mason is famous for producing people bursting with pride about their humility.

  2. Actually, I don't want to start with a blank sheet of paper and re-engineer society. I would rather gradually nudge it in a more libertarian direction.

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  3. Leaving people alone = radical social engineering! Daniel, you should go into stand up!

  4. Something tells me Arnold Kling isn't a radical Rothbardian, Daniel.

    1. Do you consider all Rothbardians radical, or are you making a special characterization for *some* Rothbardians?

      I am a Rothbardian, but I certainly wouldn't consider myself all that radical. Sure, I see the ultimate goal of humanity as doing away with a monopoly power-center, but I would be willing to settle for constitutional government (i.e. a move toward less state interference and control). A pragmatic Rothbardian, if you will.

    2. To continue, I would say that a great many prominent Rothbardians feel the same way. So much for Daniel's idea that libertarians want to "radically alter and re-engineer" society. I also find the use of the world "social democracy" by Daniel to be intriguing. It seems to me that supporting "social democracy" is a far site more radically altering and reengineering than what most libertarians hope for.

    3. Joseph,

      "Do you consider all Rothbardians radical, or are you making a special characterization for *some* Rothbardians "

      I view it as a continuum as opposed to a strict dichotomy. Certainly complete self ownership, absolute property rights, etc. is pretty radical, but here I am making a distinction between someone like say Block (or the guy with a lot of H's in his name) and the more 'pragmatic' in the ideology.

      I would perhaps quibble with the second comment a bit (i.e. I would argue social democracy is less of a radical departure from existing values than the strict Rothbardian form of anarcho-capitalism is), but I lack both the necessary alertness at this time of night or the desire to defend the excesses of the social democratic welfare state from critique in general. I'll just say that I'm in *general* agreement that a lot of the social democratic parties were very much trying to radically reengineer society at the peak of their power (a cursory glance at, for example, the policies of the Labour Party in post war Britain would tell you this). I would also say that the social democratic model is very vulnerable to that sort of action no matter what way you slice it.

  5. Ending the drug war would certainly be a dramatic form of social engineering; think of all the drug warriors thrown out of work!

    Ending the war on immigration...

    Ending agricultural subsidies...

    And so on.


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