Does Predictability Imply Bad Faith?
By David Henderson
Co-blogger Scott Sumner, on his own blog, has written a stinging critique of intellectuals. You can read it for yourself, but here’s the part I want to highlight and respond to:
It’s an embarrassment that the two sides of the debate [on ObamaCare] line up so predictably on a narrow technical issue. It says that intellectuals cannot be trusted to argue in good faith.
Notice that Scott does not say “some intellectuals” or even “most intellectuals.” No. He makes a categorical statement.
I’m one of those intellectuals who was so predictable. When the Halbig decision on ObamaCare, the decision that Scott discusses in his post, came out, I celebrated with this post. And yet, somehow, I still think of myself as someone who can be trusted to argue in good faith.
So let’s consider why I celebrated the Halbig decision. Was I happy that it could overturn a substantial part of ObamaCare, aka the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act? Absolutely. Was I happy that two of the three judges insisted that if the legislation didn’t give the IRS the power to set up regulations in states that did not have exchanges, then the IRS couldn’t do so? Yes, I was. I don’t see how, so far, this implies any bad faith on my part.
What would imply bad faith on my part? It would be if I wanted a court to come to a particular conclusion because I like the conclusion even if I think the court’s reasoning is bad. But, as I’ve said, I think the court’s reasoning–at least that of the majority–was good.
So where else would you look for bad faith on my part? How about other evidence? I’ve written almost 1900 blog posts. Maybe you could judge whether I have bad faith by seeing how I respond to criticism or by seeing whether I admit mistakes.
Or taking the issue beyond me, because, of course, Scott’s critique was not of me per se but of intellectuals, there are a number ways to judge whether someone has bad faith. You watch them in debates. You see how whether they answer questions directly or evade. You see whether they ever say “good point” or “touché” in a debate. Singling out one court case and not paying attention to the other ways in which one could judge strikes me as not a good way, not when there is so much other available evidence around.