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CHRISTOPHER TAYLOR'S BOOKS

Monday, April 21, 2014

THE PLANK

"I really feel there should be a word that means 'smart person who is actually quite stupid.'  Preferably it would be in German."

Over at Ace of Spades HQ, Drew M links a great bit about economics which has 12 economic truths from a Nobel prize winning economist.  These are a mix of common sense and basic economic fact that are useful for everyone to remember such as:
  1. Many things that are desirable are not feasible.
  2. Individuals and communities face trade-offs.
  3. Other people have more information about their abilities, their efforts,
    and their preferences than you do.
  4. Everyone responds to incentives, including people you want to help. That is why social safety nets don't always end up working as intended.
Now, the strange thing, as Drew points out, is that the person who he got this list from is Ezra Klein, hardcore leftist and Keynesian economist who strongly supports and cheerleads for the ACA, which violates many of these economic truths.  As Drew notes:
Imagine thinking, as Klein does, that these are four essential parts (there's 12 in total) of understanding economics while simultaneously thinking that ObamaCare doesn't go far enough and we should have "a more nationalized health-care system".
...
How can you read those words and think, "Yes! This guy nails it and oh by the way, society should be organized in such a way as to ignore everything he just said"?
Just about everything this economist says is in opposition to and destroys the ideas of the left on economics and government policy.  That's not to say this is some kind of absolute proof Ezra Klein is wrong on these areas (although it should be cause for serious doubt), because economics is very complex, and the larger the economy, the more exponentially complex it becomes.
But it is an example of how so often I've seen people who lean left will know one set of facts and understand one set of truths... then profess and hold to another, contradictory set.  Ezra Klein praises this economist's thoughts on the matter, then spends his time fighting for ideas that are in opposition to them.  Fellow Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman does the same thing: he knows the things he argues for in his NYT column are wrong and even idiotic, but he argues for them anyway, and appears to truly believe them.
Even when, at times, I've seen a leftist admit that they are wrong on a topic, often they will in short order be back to arguing what they admitted recently was wrong once more.  Its as if they hold these positions not based on reason, truth, and careful consideration, but upon what they feel or wish to be true.  As if emotion and desire drives their policies and approach to life rather than reality.
And while its easy to point a finger and give the Nelson Laugh to such behavior, I can't help but stop and think.
What am I doing that's like this?  In what area am I blind, where am I imposing what I wish to be true upon what is actually true?  Looking back I can see areas I defended the Bush administration when I should have been more skeptical - the encroachment of government on privacy in the name of fighting terrorism, for instance.  I admire those on the right who did sound a voice of alarm in these areas.
I did so not out of any love or allegiance to President Bush, but out of a concern for the war we were fighting and the enemy we are still up against.  But they went too far and I should have been more objectively thoughtful about it.
I don't doubt there are at least some other areas where I do the same thing.  In Christianity, this is expressed by Christ Jesus in Matthew's gospel:
And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye?  Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
-Matthew 7:3-5
This comes up in the Christian life often, whether its listening to a sermon and thinking "wow [insert person] should be here to hear this" or reading the Bible and thinking "[insert person] needs to meditate on this passage!"  No, we should think first about how it applies to us, not others.
Jesus was especially annoyed with hypocrites of a certain type.  He had no patience or tolerance for people who thought that they were morally superior to anyone else.  He was at his most caustic and condemning with those who presented themselves as holy and yet inside were rotten.
And when I think of Ezra Klein's blindness on this issue, I should first consider how this is a cautionary note for my blindness, too.  Because if I can't get the plank out of my own eye, how am I going to help see well enough to get that speck out of my brother's?
And if all I can offer to the world is condemnation, mockery, and finger pointing, why would anyone want to listen to what I have to say?

3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is very refreshing from you.

10:17 AM, April 21, 2014  
Blogger Christopher Taylor said...

Well I apologize if I come across abusive, condemning, and arrogant usually.

10:23 AM, April 21, 2014  
Blogger mushroom said...

You don't come off that way at all -- ever, that I've read.

But you do raise an excellent point. I, too, defended encroachment by the Bush Administration beyond where it should have been defended. I felt quite uneasy about a new federal department -- especially one with so fascist a name as Homeland Security. I should have been more skeptical.

The trouble with politics -- and I think this is probably Klein's problem -- Krugman really is an idiot -- is that you very rarely, if ever, get to support the guy who is right. You get a guy who is "mostly" right, or right on one or two things that you care deeply about, and you end up defending all the other baggage he drags in with him.

The one that gets me is the Second Amendment. A candidate/party who will fight against gun control will get my vote over one who will fold and go along, no matter what else we disagree on. For others, it is abortion, or health insurance, or social justice or crime. So we end up taking the bathwater along with the baby because it is a package.

11:48 AM, April 21, 2014  

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