"I disdain talk of "positive v. normative." You should, too. Such disdain is wise. Such disdain is enlightened."It's a sentiment I couldn't disagree with more. Taking the same "enlightened"/"disdain" tone (i.e. - I wasn't trying to be a jerk here, just borrowed the lingo), I responded:
"Disagree.We can see in the Buturovic and Klein articles how mixing positive and normative sorts of claims can get you into analytic trouble. But the other point - which I raise in my comment - is important too: acting like your preferences, values, and priorities have some kind of universal truth to them can lead to some extremely illiberal results. This is not relativism. Saying that we can't make an objective case against someone's normative views is not the same as saying that we can't make a case against them. Of course we can. This is the sort of "libertarian social engineering" I've talked a lot about in the past.
Mixing positive and normative is barbaric. You should agree. Path to enlightenment is their segregation. Nothing good comes from treating preferences and values like objective truth that all ought to obey. There's plenty of latitude for disputing truly heinous subjective values without squeezing liberalism down to some minuscule inflexible libertarian creed."
So there are two sides to this - not distinguishing normative from positive can lead to bad scientific investigation of positive questions, and not distinguishing normative from positive can lead to an illiberal (in some cases) or at least anti-subjectivist attitude towards pluralism.
People value different things, period. We may think some of those valuations are more acceptable than others. But that's our valuation of other peoples' valuations - it's not a proof that their valuations are illegitimate.
And certainly no set of positive findings in economics gives you a normative conclusion unless you bring your own values to the table about how to use and apply those positive findings.