David Friedman on Robert Frank
By David Henderson
I posted a few days ago on the debate between David Friedman and Robert Frank about income distribution. Since then, Robert Frank has replied to David Friedman and David Friedman then replied to Frank. Well worth reading for two reasons. First, the tone and decorum that both Friedman and Frank demonstrate is an admirable model for debate. Second, David homes in on the points about relative vs. absolute well-being and I think he wins this one. One excerpt:
He [Frank] has now twice–in his most recent post and the one that preceded it–first agreed that what matters in health care is the absolute level and then proceeded to put his argument in terms of the relative level, not how good the health care is that someone can get but whether or not he can get “the best” health care.
Also, one of the ways of judging a debate is by what arguments the person being debated against leaves unanswered. Frank had made quite a strong charge against Friedman, writing:
David also believes that a society in which people were concerned about relative position would oppose policies aimed at reducing poverty. …
He goes on to suggest that my argument implies that “the rich ought to be in favor of grinding down the poor…” These remarks betray a curiously dark conception of human nature.
David never disputed that it was a dark conception of human nature. His point was that it was Frank’s, not Friedman’s conception. Frank does not address that in his response.