I’ve always defended Cristiano Ronaldo from haters, but today I’m one of those haters. And, I’m not exaggerating just how much of a hater I’ve become.
Believe it or not, after what will soon be a year and a half, I have something planned for economicthought.net. To some extent, it will act as a personal website — I will probably have my CV there. But, more than that, I’ve always wanted to have something like the Mises Daily system. At first, I might run a column once a week. If at some point I can interest others to write for the website, I’ll gradually work it up to an article per day (or more!). It would be mostly dedicated to economics, but other social sciences may be featured, as well: sociology, political science, philosophy, et cetera. Neither would it be restricted to a particular ideology or school of thought. I’m looking for some plurality in the points of view expressed in the articles (of course, for as long as I’m the only writer, the articles will reflect my own beliefs).
I’m not sure when the website will be up. I had a stroke of luck when my girlfriend just happened to have a degree in graphic design, with the added plus of plenty of webdesign experience. I’m having her design it for me. Then I have to negotiate with one of her co-workers, who does the actual coding, to see if I can get it done for an affordable price. I’m hoping that it will be done on the WordPress platform, as well, so that it’s easier for me to update then when I need to, and it’s easier to publish. At first, the website is going to be relatively basic: an article system and this blog. Even with only these two features, it might take some time to piece the whole thing together, given the shoestring budget. I originally thought of some kind of discussion forum, but those are always a pain to moderate, and there’s already one that seems to be taking off after the Mises.org forums were closed.
But, I’m glad I finally figured something out, because otherwise the economicthought.net page would probably indefinitely keep looking the way it does right now. At first, especially since this is my blog, the website is meant to sell me, in the sense that I can network through it. But, ultimately, I really want this to be a significant part of the Lachmannian “commerce of ideas.” And not one just restricted to academia, but one open to all and designed for all.
Paul Krugman has been particularly hard on Kenneth Rogoff and Carmen Reinhart, following the revelation of their excel error. He accuses them of political pandering, believing that they should have made a greater effort in catching misreadings of their work. Maybe this wasn’t Krugman’s intention, but I read his attacks almost as “you’re either with me or you’re against me.” In other words, if you aren’t attacking austerity then you must be pandering to austerity advocates. I think this is a bad misreading of R&R’s work. They were interested in bringing empirical nuance to the discussion on debt. I interpret their work as an internal criticism, and I think this type of work is extremely useful and constructive.
This whole ordeal reminds me a little bit of this blog. I spend a lot of time talking about subjects which interest libertarians and Austrians, and I tend to take a contrarian view. I do it because these are also the topics that interest me and I’ve developed differing views on them. I don’t do it to target libertarians for the sake of targeting libertarians. Yet, I often get responses that are similar to Krugman’s comments on R&R: you’re either with us or against us. If I disagree with some of anarchist political philosophy I must be a statist. If I think the gold standard is outdated I must be a Keynesian. This is a destructive way of looking at the world. It’s a method of categorizing something as “not worth reading,” just because the message doesn’t vibe with your current opinion.
Internal criticism is good. The reason people do it is because they think they have something to offer; they think that they can improve the set of ideas they’re criticizing. They are not doing it for the sake of undermining the school. It doesn’t mean they’re always right, as they could be always wrong. But, it’s worth pointing out where they’re wrong, because ultimately this type of dialogue will benefit your, and the other person’s, knowledge. More generally, there is always a benefit to participating in the ocean of ideas, even if most of these ideas run contrary to what you think is right. Becoming more knowledgeable isn’t about confirming your worldview. Rather, it’s about developing your ideas to better understand reality.
The destructive, closed-minded “with us or against us” mentality is also evident in some of the reactions to websites like “The Skeptical Libertarian” and “Bleeding Heart Libertarians.” Some people think BHL takes the concept of social justice too far (something akin to Hans-Hermann Hoppe calling Friedrich Hayek a “social democrat”). Recently, THL was heavily criticized by some (extreme) libertarians for criticizing some of the uninformed things extreme libertarians say, rather than criticizing the state. The problem is that many of those who dislike these website’s messages are the same people with a destructive outlook, so the way they respond is by mocking them and refusing to engage with them. The truth is probably that everyone is a little right, but without constructive (and, yes, oftentimes critical) dialogue it’s much more difficult to know where this more accurate position lies. Everyone loses, whereas everyone could have gained (a better understanding of our world).
Destructive mentalities have destructive spill-offs. The Mises Institute (MI) is too often the victim of an internal intellectual blockade, where people linked to it are ridiculed — how many times have they been accused of exhibiting cult-like behavior? To some extent, some of this is justified, because a lot of people related to the MI tend to think in terms of “with us or against us.” But, let’s be real, we all have our low points, and we have all, at some point, made similar mistakes. Something that comes with the turf is learning how to be the “bigger person.” Someone interested in learning should be capable of forgiving and forgetting. There are many knowledgeable and capable people at the MI, and without them the libertarian/Austrian movement would be worse off. The alternative is a kind of intellectual trade war, where all sides build up resentment towards each other and refuse to interact.
The worst part of all of this is the impact on young minds. The people we most often see exhibit destructive behavior are young, “amateur” Austrians and libertarians. These people at are a prime learning age, where they should develop the skill set to think critically about the topics which interest them. This includes being open to multiple, often contradictory, sources of information. We see the exact opposite in young people who refuse to engage with bleeding hearts or non-Rothbardians, because they think those who don’t completely agree with a certain set of theories must be intellectually corrupted (e.g. there’s one person who frequently comments on Austrian-oriented blogs who accuses free bankers of having been brainwashed at school). They must be getting this worldview from somewhere — usually from intellectuals which influence them. Likewise, there are others who don’t visit the M.I., or are turned off to Mises and Rothbard, because of how some academics talk about these “extremist” scholars. Nevermind that Mises and Rothbard were both brilliant thinkers.
Krugman, in his critique of R&R, emphasizes the role academics play in informing the public. He may have a point, but how can we inform the public if our beliefs are still incomplete? How can we inform the public if our beliefs on debt aren’t accurate? In a sense, R&R were helping the public by making academics themselves better informed. Of course, Krugman has looked over this contribution, and he’s (as is the public he informs) much worse off because of it. The same is true of anyone else who has approached other intellectual contributions with the same mentality. It may be that there are a lot of wrong theories floating around, but by engaging them we help correct these misconceptions. Just as important, it’s likely that nobody is completely right, meaning that even ideas you find wrong have a high probability of having some correct detail you’ve so far overlooked. Engaging others’ knowledge allows you to take these nuggets of insight to improve your own. Open intellectual dialogue is Pareto optimal.
For the events in Boston and tomorrow’s date (I don’t know how many people get the “4:20″ reference).
It’s hard to believe in retrospect (and especially me, someone born three fourths of a decade after Bon Scott’s death) that there was a point where Rush was such a little known band (“…Rush, have you heard of them?;” “nah”).
Mercatus has an index of the 50 U.S. states indexed by “freedom” (the scare quotes are just there because there are multiple components that go into the “freedom” aggregate). My state, California, is ranked #49, one behind New York. I suppose since we haven’t gone about trying to ban soda yet (although San Fransisco is our vanguard in that respect) we’re not dead last. But, maybe this is an extreme example of what I wrote yesterday: I accept the costs of living in California because of the benefits (all of which are completely subjective). I could certainly move to another, “freer” state, but I really prefer not to (although, maybe I wouldn’t mind living in Virginia — I have some family there).
Edit: There is also a print edition with more detail.
A new study finds that brain reorganization, not brain size, characterizes the evolution of the brain. This is, from what I understand, extremely close to what Hayek described in The Sensory Order. Hayek’s work in theoretical psychology, which he conducted even before much of his research on imputation and the business cycle, would go on to inform his conceptualization of spontaneous order and social complexity.