Friday, October 12, 2012

Hoisted from Henderson's comment thread...

It's me, again on this Friedman thing, from Henderson's comment thread, but I think it's an important point so I'm reposting here:

"Why is everyone making this leap from Friedman being a guy we all agree is very insightful and worldly and observant to Friedman being a guy that has a special ability to comment on what's going on in a huge group of New Yorkers' heads - particularly on a question that Friedman is invested in personally (namely, the quality of the arguments in defense of libertarian-leaning conservatism in the 1960s).

Think of a liberal economist in the 1960s whose judgement you similarly respect. Do you think they'd agree with Friedman's assessment of intellectuals in New York? Probably not.

This sort of claim is largely informed by personal perspectives because it's not something you can pin down objectively. What people consider to be thoughtful arguments or unthoughtful arguments varies from person to person and it is almost by definition a function of your own views on the subject.

Now, if you want to say that there are people who straw-manned Goldwater that is without a doubt true and we don't need Friedman to tell us this.

If you want to say that there is a greater share of such people in New York City's intellectual circles in the 1960s that is also without a doubt true and we don't need Friedman to tell us this.

But Friedman went much farther than that in his assessment.

What's frustrating here is that I do think Friedman actually has a great message here, even if his assessment is most likely highly biased. I'm not trying to challenge Friedman's underlying message."

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