Saturday, March 31, 2012

This is an excellent way of putting it, Ryan

I never thought of putting it this way before! When we economists veer into normative claims, its natural to talk about each other in the same way that we talk about the normative values of others: namely, in terms of preferences.

Ryan Murphy discusses the same Boettke/Smith piece that I criticized yesterday and puts their views in preference relation terms: "The fundamental problem for me is what I would call their lexicographic preferences for Public Choice arguments over other issues."

Well said! Lexicographic preferences make sense if we're talking about a subsistence diet or a small hut for shelter. It doesn't necessarily make sense when we're talking about policy tradeoffs.

That still doesn't exhaust my concerns with Boettke's approach to talking about robust political economy. One of my biggest concerns is that he bases his whole argument on the assumption that the people he's arguing against idealize central bankers or politicians - when in reality nobody idealizes central bankers and politicians. Just because we think they have a role to play doesn't mean we think they're angels. I'm firmly a Madisonian on this: if your preferred institutions rely on men being angels, you need to look for other institutions.

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