My Response to Karier's Criticism
By David Henderson
In 9 of the last 14 years, I have written the Wall Street Journal article that appears the day after the Nobel prize in economics is awarded. I missed 1999, 2000, and 2002 because I was in Europe and not near my files. I missed 1998 and 2007 because I didn’t know enough about the winners. I’ve done it all the other years. I’ll be getting up early Monday morning to see if I know enough to write the piece and, if I do, to make my pitch to the Journal.
In his recent book, Intellectual Capital: Forty Years of the Nobel Prize in Economics, Thomas Karier asks a question about my thoughts on the 2001 winners that he didn’t bother asking me directly. He writes:
David Henderson, writing in the Wall Street Journal, acknowledged that markets can fail due a lack of information, but he warned against assuming that government can do any better. In his opinion, most government information was “almost useless.” Did Henderson really mean most government information or was he just being rhetorical? Perhaps he wasn’t fully aware of the immense wealth of government information covering economic data, basic research, public health, space flights, weather, and the census, to name a few areas.
Of course, I was being rhetorical, in the original sense of that word. I think that by “rhetoric” he means “bluster.” But rhetoric has to do with argument, and I was making an argument. I think most government economic data is worth little. He has a stronger point on basic research, the weather, and the census. I think, though, that this is a tiny percent of government’s information. So I stick with “most.”