Friday, January 4, 2013

Geez, this is like the Buturovic and Klein fiasco all over again...

Bryan Caplan on women and libertarianism.

If you think consequentialism, being more thinking rather than feeling, and being well informed about economics is going to make you a libertarian something is very wrong with the way you are speaking to this issue (and probably economics too).

The other day, in response to Steve Horwitz and Sarah Skwire's post, I joked that the lack of libertarian women was a sign that they were more intelligent than men... but at least I was joking. I think Bryan actually believes his post (which I know is more nuance than my joke)!

16 comments:

  1. That was one of the key pillars of Myth of the Rational Voter. Attack the empirical evidence he presents there, sure, but I don't think you can set it aside just by saying "something is very wrong with the way you are speaking to this issue."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I haven't read it, but my understanding was the evidence presented in the Myth of the Rational Voter is that the voting public is generally ignorant of economics. I have no doubt of that. That seems like a different proposition from this, though.

      Buturovic and Klein's follow-up research suggests that these sorts of claims are weak indeed.

      Delete
    2. If people want to make a weaker statement about the tendency to be liberals that seems more plausible to me (although even then these are still normative judgements we're talking about so I'm not sure that's the best way to put it). But to say that sort of thing about libertarianism makes no sense.

      He starts with this much broader claim about liberal beliefs, but then he moves into this much less easily justified claim about libertarianism as if he hasn't just pulled a massive bait-and-switch on his readers.

      Delete
    3. The correlation between libertarian political beliefs and economic education predates Caplan. Pejoratively it is referred to as excessive systematizing or even an autistic mindset.

      My memory is slightly faded regarding Klein's revisions. But I think Caplan's evidence is that in academia you have a biased sample of people with advanced degrees. Liberal people with advanced degrees select academia over other alternatives, but more education makes you think like an economist. And with only a couple exceptions, the questions Caplan asks are libertarian. I wouldn't classify it encapsulating a liberal mindset. When trying to poke holes in his argument, I suggested he was just capturing the view of the hyper-informed centrist who religiously reads WSJ and NYT.

      Here is a lot of his empirical work: http://econfaculty.gmu.edu/bcaplan/pdfs/whatmakespeoplethinklike.pdf

      Delete
    4. Right but thinking like an economist and thinking like a libertarian are two very different things! I am looking at table 2, right? Does the economist sound like a libertarian to you? I could see libertarians answering that way on a lot of questions but doesn't seem like the economist is any more likely to be a libertarian or liberal or conservative, based on number 2.

      To get at a libertarian impulse you really need a question about beliefs about the proper role of government, and while I could see economics inoculating all but the strongest deontologists against socialism, I don't see how economics helps you pick libertarianism out of the liberal tradition.

      I am entirely amenable to the claim that more education makes you more likely to think like an economist, a biologist, a physicist, a mathematician, and any number of other scientific or scholarly fields.

      Since I still take the human capital model seriously (although not exclusively), I have no problem with that!

      Delete
  2. Markets are only 'rational' based on implicit value judgments and other premises. Perhaps if Bryan and his ilk were more 'hard headed' and 'thoughtful' they would realise those premises existed.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 'rational' has a very specific and explicit definition when used in the context of economic theory. You're not the first to equate it with a value judgement, but you're wrong.

      Delete
    2. I didn't equate it with a value judgment, what I meant was that their support for markets is only a 'rational, thoughtful' position based on value judgments.

      My use of the word rational was not in a economic context.

      Delete
    3. Ah, I see. Then, I don't understand what assumptions and value judgements you are referring to. "Bryan and his ilk" discuss quite explicitly many of the principles, value judgements and assumptions they make which lead them to a preference for markets. I have found that among libertarians, Bryan Caplan is actually one of those who engages most often in such discussions. Do you have specific examples in mind as to what those hidden assumptions and value judgements are and what leads you to believe that those are actually a basis for the beliefs of libertarians in general?

      Delete
    4. As far as value judgments go, I'd say:

      - A belief in the rule of law, for laws libertarians approve of. This crops up in a couple of specific beliefs - for example, the distinction libertarians often draw between tax avoidance and tax evasion rests on the rule of law. Similarly, Friedman's 'profit maximising within the rules of the game' argument rested on the law as a moral boundary. Generally, libertarians don't seem willing to entertain the 'wrong for a man to steal a loaf of bread to feed his starving family' line.

      - A preference for efficiency/production/consumption over other goals such as equality. I don't think this one needs much explaining. Most libertarian judgments about growth, competition etc. stem from this one.

      As for other premises, there is the distinction between positive and negative liberty; the distinction between 'economic regulation' and enforcement of property and contracts and the similar government-market dichotomy. I don't want to derail too much but I find once you look at these distinctions - on which many libertarian arguments are built - with a close lens, they blur or fade away (re: positive/negative liberty, think about the poor guy stealing bread. Is he not constrained by the law, same as someone whose taxes have been raised?)

      Delete
  3. "If you think consequentialism, being more thinking rather than feeling, and being well informed about economics is going to make you a libertarian"

    ... it makes you a Libertarian with higher probability than in the control group or something ...

    ReplyDelete
  4. Woman are less likely than men to be Libertarian because women are less likely to be alienated and socially dysfunctional.

    ReplyDelete
  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  6. See, this is why I like reading your blog, Daniel. That had never even occurred to me. But you're right, Bryan *is* saying, with a straight face, the opposite of your joke!

    ReplyDelete
  7. The idea that libertarians are more thinking than feeling is a false premise to start from.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. See http://scholarsandrogues.com/2012/12/13/libertarians-engineers-and-climate-disruption-denial-part-1-libertarians/

      In particular, the parts about the rational ethos of libertarianism and about systemizing over empathizing.

      Delete

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