David R. Henderson asks

by on July 31, 2008 at 7:26 am in Education | Permalink

This is from the comments and in the context of the financial market bailouts:

"Why aren’t you free-marketeer crusaders screaming your heads off?!"

My answer is that I have been. Reporters have interviewed me about it and sometimes they report my "screams" and sometimes they don’t. Re Tyler’s blase response, I’m reluctantly coming to the conclusion, after having read his site almost daily for over a year, that Tyler is not a free-market crusader. He’s a first-rate economist, but his passion seems to be almost solely about the analytics rather than the policies.

Am I wrong, Tyler?

I would note a few points:

1. I have very much favored the "bailouts" to date.  I don’t favor that they were necessary but of course that latter attitude may or may not be libertarian in its derivation.

2. My tone stems from my personality, namely that I rarely get mad.  And in any policy debate, I don’t assume that the people on my side intellectually are somehow morally superior or more honest.  In any particular case I usually give that 50-50.  It’s also worth noting that perhaps we shouldn’t judge partisanship from tone, just as we shouldn’t judge linguistic fluency from the quality of a person’s accent (which we tend to do).

3. A good blog should be subversive and help you see the faults in the author’s own positions.  Ask whether the blogs you are reading in fact provide that service.  Self-subversion ought also, in the long run, to benefit liberty and other important values.

4. I think very often in international terms, so I see even most left-wing Americans (e.g., Ezra Klein) as having a relatively similar world view to my own.  Why focus on the local political conflict when so many presuppositions are shared?  When it comes to all-important questions about "how should we live?" it may well be that Ezra and I are pretty close together.  We should attach greater value to those commonalities of perspective.

5. I am very libertarian compared to the American center but moderate compared to most libertarians.

I am not sure I have answered David’s question.

1 Bill Gardner July 31, 2008 at 7:35 am

“I am not sure I have answered David’s question.”

That is for him to judge, but you have captured much of what makes this blog valuable.

2 Andrew July 31, 2008 at 8:01 am

What’s more hilarious than a 99% libertarian criticizing a 98% libertarian more than he criticizes a 50% libertarian?

A 50% libertarian crticizing a 98% libertarian for not being 100% libertarian.

3 meter July 31, 2008 at 8:46 am

More than anything, I appreciate your (Tyler’s) tone and the fact that you aren’t easily riled. I wish I had your ability to remain detached from things that incense me which, lately, is quite a lot.

Having said that, I wonder if there is anything that merits a more vocal disdain in your world, economically speaking.

I would like to know what one or two of those things are.

4 meter July 31, 2008 at 8:50 am

One other comment:

“And in any policy debate, I don’t assume that the people on my side intellectually are somehow morally superior or more honest.”

Yes, but what about consistency? Don’t you see any inconsistencies between your views as expressed in various media on free markets/limited government and supporting a bailout?

5 katiet July 31, 2008 at 9:29 am

I appreciate your open-mindedness and willingness to not be completely wedded to an ideology, even if that comes off as inconsistent.

who’s next to go in the Tyler love fest?

6 David R. Henderson July 31, 2008 at 9:42 am

Thanks, Tyler. You did answer my question. I think you answered by basically agreeing with me. You aren’t as libertarian as many of your readers, including me, would like you to be.

As for tone, I have always appreciated your tone. It’s refreshing, and it’s one of the things that brings me to your site every day. As you know also, though, because you know me, in advocating “screaming,” I’m not saying that one should move in the world with a tone of moral superiority. I hate that almost as much as you do. If you look at my articles on antiwar.com, you’ll see me “screaming” in my way–with calm reasoning about facts that gets me to different conclusions from those in the mainstream. In other words, I think you incorrectly went from the criticism of your not “screaming” to the criticism that you should have a tone of moral superiority. I never advocated that and I don’t.

Best,

David

7 odograph July 31, 2008 at 10:04 am

Nice post Tyler, but one other perspective on blogging is that blog-hosts have only some influence on the blog-communities they create.

Yours may be the best available libertarian blog, and so attract both libertarians and those who would beard them in their lair.

(I was highly libertarian in my 30’s, but much more moderate as I approach my 50’s. My frustration with human institutions probably spiked in my mid 30’s 😉

8 Andrew July 31, 2008 at 10:13 am

First, I think you cannot be intellectually sensitive and be a good academic. Now, a good academic is rarely a good libertarian (that’s my second point). But I have my qualifier coming up and the one thing I’m really worried about is popping off at one of the professors who I think is a ______. Suicide. I’d enjoy every second. They aren’t chosen for personality, but temperament helps. Anyone can try to be a professor, most select themselves out primarily based on temperament. I’m marginal. We’ll see. Most people just don’t know what it’s like to be challenged and critiqued every day. At bottom, I think that’s why tenure exists. Noone could do it their whole lives. Or, the few who could would have to be paid a lot.

Second, it’s not a love fest for me, but I am bemused and frustratd by all the strife between the purists and the pragmatists. There are very few people who espouse an appreciation for the division of labor within the movement. Ironic to me that the left is much more tolerant of the different ways and different plays their allies choose to move the ball forward. A lot of this is personality-based and will be diluted as the movement grows, if the movement grows despite this.

Third, I (try to) place a lot of my emphasis of standards for other people on what they say they will do. Has Dr. Cowen ever said he was a fire-breathing libertarian free market crusader? If not, then he can only be blamed for not being one, not for letting anyone down. I think the options are to have him or not, not to have him how we’d like him.

9 James Hanley July 31, 2008 at 12:49 pm

“Tyler is not a free-market crusader. He’s a first-rate economist, but his passion seems to be almost solely about the analytics rather than the policies”

Not that I don’t like Alex, but this is why I like Tyler better. Analyis is preferable to crusades. (Although I, too, have been called a free-market crusader, but not entirely accurately.)

10 Robert Olson July 31, 2008 at 3:15 pm

“3. A good blog should be subversive and help you see the faults in the author’s own positions. Ask whether the blogs you are reading in fact provide that service. Self-subversion ought also, in the long run, to benefit liberty and other important values.”

There are many different types of blogs. So, while I think it is a virtue in this blog, I don’t believe it’s prudent to say that EVERY blog should have this particular trait. Like, for instance, a Twitter (is that considered a blog?).

11 Paul N July 31, 2008 at 7:27 pm

Rather than “subversive” I would use the word “contrarian” to describe Tyler. Part of staying cool and keeping your readers entertained is keeping them guessing, which Tyler does well, even if it comes off as slightly disingenuous sometimes. Orthodoxy bloggers are usually boring, even if they’re right.

12 Unit July 31, 2008 at 11:35 pm

It’s funny because I’m hearing a lot a colleagues on the left complaining about the bailouts. Maybe this would be a good time to make a solid case against them (the bailouts) and then recruit as many people as possible, no?

13 Bob Murphy August 1, 2008 at 11:14 am

Let me give the obligatory plug for “radical” libertarianism: We’re not disappointed with someone who says, “I love classical music, but I pop in Abba when I’m in a saucy mood.”

Rather, we don’t understand someone who says–and I don’t know if this is how Tyler would describe it–“Yes, stealing from innocent people is usually wrong, and politicians usually have their head up their butts and should let market prices work, but in times of crisis stealing becomes morally justified, and the politicians become smarter than industries of professionals.”

14 Harvey Keitel August 2, 2008 at 9:17 am

Hey, are all those poor schleps getting screwed by the bailouts ever going to write a hefty check to Mercatus? No way! But some of the investment bankers getting saved just might.

Tyler is just responding to market incentives, so give him a break!

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