Taking Dean Baker Seriously
By David Henderson
My book review of Dean Baker’s short book, Taking Economics Seriously, is just out in Policy Review. Although I liked a fair amount of the book–see my review–Dean restricted himself with his implication that unless a large number of people hold a view, the view does not have to be taken seriously. I wrote:
Let’s stipulate that the people whom Baker sees arguing against specific regulations rarely argue against regulation in general. It doesn’t follow that the “real issue” is the structure of regulation. Take a historical example: slavery in the United States, which was a form of extreme regulation, one that government used in order to give and enforce property rights in humans. It might be hard for us to believe today, but it is nevertheless true that in 1830, very few people argued for complete abolition of U.S. slavery. Abolitionists had a bigger presence in Boston than in the rest of the United States, but even in Boston they were rare. Should we conclude that the real issue was only the structure of slavery and not whether some people have the right to own others? The reality is that we can’t, simply by looking at the dominant players in Washington, conclude anything about what “the real issue” is. Instead, we need to consider, and judge, the various positions and arguments themselves, regardless of whether their advocates have strength in numbers.
Fortunately, as I note in my review, Baker doesn’t stick to this stricture. He himself proposes large doses of free trade in medical care even though few people in the United States are so advocating.