Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A note on Cafe Hayek and civility in the economics blogosphere

So Don has a new book coming out collecting his letters to the editors. It's called "Hypocrites and Half-Wits: A Daily Dose of Sanity from Cafe Hayek". I know people don't always pick their titles, but the point still remains that he could have protested that one (if it wasn't his) - he doesn't seem to have. As anyone that knows about Don is aware, Paul Krugman's columns are a regular target of his letters, so presumably Krugman is a major player in the field of hypocrites and half-wits. Certainly lots of people that disagree with Don are.

This is the guy that complains about people like DeLong and Krugman being mean-spirited hacks, ideological, and ill-mannered. This is the guy that few if any libertarian economists have come out and said "gee Don, I really don't think that's a nice thing for you to say about X, Y, and Z".

This is exactly why I think 99.763% of complaints about Krugman and DeLong are total B.S. and not worth worrying about. Can you imagine the uproar in the libertarian blogosphere if either of those guys published a collection of screeds against people they disagreed with, titling it "Hypocrites and Half-Wits"? If we had a situation where anyone out there actually showed any sign of being even-handed about blogging etiquette, maybe we could talk. But we don't, and it's ridiculous to pretend that we do. So what I do is just pay attention to the people I think are nice and worth paying attention to (and there are LOTS of bloggers I disagree with that I think are nice and worth paying atention to), and ignoring the rest to the best of your ability.

While we're talking about forthcoming books from economics bloggers, I'd remind people that Krugman's new book on the Great Recession is coming out soon too.

UPDATE: This does have consequences for public education and communication, of course. A book called "The Conscience of a Liberal" is going to get very different results compared to a book called "Hypocrites and Half-Wits". Cause people do judge a book by its cover. The former says "I have my own perspective and I think it carries ethical weight, and here's why". The latter says "if you don't agree with me you're a dumbass or worse".


  1. Would it comfort you if I said I'm not a fan of case Hayek? And if you really want to see some mean spirited stuff on libertarians, there is plenty to go around on the GM v MI, beltway libertarians, free banking, etc etc cyberwars.

  2. I haven't read Cafe Hayek in a while, but my vague recollection is that the letters-to-the-editor generally weren't filled with insults. I agree it's a terrible title and intend to go over and ask them to respond.

    1. They were often pretty spiteful though. I remember a typical 'you don't understand the broken window fallacy lol' one where he suggested blowing up the editor's car, house and possessions.

  3. I actually made it a point to regularly protest in Cafe Hayek's comments until they switched blogging platform. As much as I often agreed with Don in substance, I always found his style excessively abrasive and sometimes downright rude. (I think his style is partially to blame for the quality of the comment section prior to the comment platform change.) That said, I don't think it's fair to compare Don Boudreau to Paul Krugman. One of them is a relatively obscure professor, somewhat prominent but still one of many in the econ blogosphere while the other is THE Paul Krugman with a Nobel Prize, top selling textbook, regular TV appearance etc... People just pay less attention to Don than to Krugman. If you came out with such an insulting book, the econ blogosphere wouldn't react the same as if Krugman did.

  4. uhhh.....your blog is an ad hominum attack without the slightest attempt at refuting any of the letters. Sorry you don't approve of the title, which is aggressive, but could you at least address one of the issues at hand? Seems like you can't even refute one letter he writes!


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