Why Do People Keep Calling Tyler a Market Fundamentalist?
By Bryan Caplan
I’ve often catalogued the errors of my dear friend Tyler Cowen. (See here, here, here, and here for starters). But I can’t stand to see him attacked unfairly. The unfairest of the unfair: The strangely common charge that Tyler is a “market fundamentalist.”
I first noticed this in 1999, when the JEL reviewed Tyler’s In Praise of Commercial Culture:
Yet Cowen’s core claims are poorly served by his arguments, many of which rest more on his fervent faith in the near infallibility of market forces rather than on empirical evidence, interpretation, and analysis.
The same charges frequently pop up on his blog. The latest instance:
When are the free market fundamentalists such as Tyler going to admit
that the failure to regulate under existing law is the proximate cause
of the mortgage mess and consequent freezing up of the credit markets?
If you attentively read Tyler – or carefully listen to him for a few minutes – you’re almost sure to hear him complain about some market failure or other. In fact, there’s almost no market failure charge that he won’t give a serious hearing. He won’t scoff at you (even on the inside) unless you tell him about the wonders of East Germany. (He has to draw the line there; he saw it with his own eyes in the mid-80s).
Truth be told, Tyler is probably philosophically closer to Obama than he is to Milton Friedman. So why can’t the world criticize him for what he actually believes? The best explanation, I suppose, is that his critics are so intolerant of free-market ideas that even Tyler’s vestigial libertarianism blinds them with rage.