Me Versus the Economic Consensus
By Bryan Caplan
Tyler Cowen has a challenge for me:
Dan’s key point is that you, in fact, differ radically from the professional consensus (as Arnold writes as well) and that the argument is self-undercutting if you simultaneously erect expert consensus as a relevant benchmark. I don’t see that you have yet replied to this.
I only embrace a presumption of expert competence; it’s where I start, not necessarily where I finish.
Still, Tyler is entirely correct to say that I’m not an average economist. How do I account for the difference? In large part, I think that other economists have failed to fully free themselves from anti-market bias; they are too hasty to declare “market failure,” and too willing to take the public’s complaints about markets seriously.
Unfortunately, there is no easy way for me to make this case to economists who don’t already agree with it. When I point to the errors in the public’s thinking, I can build upon what the typical economist already recognizes. But to convince the typical economist that the typical economist is too anti-market is far more difficult. I wish I knew how to cut this Gordian knot, but I don’t; the best I can do is argue issue-by-issue, and see if I can make a dent.
In any case, I don’t think that anti-market bias explains all of my differences with the average economist. Another large chunk comes down to different values. As I’ve said before:
Consequences aside, I’m a staunch libertarian. I’m extremely meritocratic. I disagree with the aims, not just the methods, of egalitarianism. I look down on patriotism and piety of every kind. The list goes on.
As a moral realist, I think my values are correct, and everyone should share them. But I don’t have many arguments that would convince someone who disagrees, so I rarely try to do so.
Bottom line: When I write, my goal is to change the mind of someone who doesn’t already agree with me. To accomplish this goal, I find common ground – points where my intended reader and I already see eye-to-eye. This hardly implies that, in the absence of common ground, I have to change my mind.