A Review of My Review
By Bryan Caplan
Caplan’s solution probably wouldn’t work. Michael Lewis describes something like this in Liar’s Poker,
in which no one at his company ever mentions money, bonuses are kept
secret, etc. The hush-hush attitude only makes people more determined
to ferret out the information, and everyone at the company remains
obsessed with relative pay. Information wants to be free, Dr. Caplan!
But even supposing this “shame” system could suppress information about
inequality, I have a feeling it would just make people all the angrier
on those rare occasions when the fact of inequality made itself
apparent. A problem you’re not allowed to talk about is twice as
The bottom line, libertarians, is that people care about what they care about.
I’m tempted to respond with a reductio ad absurdum and say, “So we should also stop shaming racists? After all, according to your argument we’re just making racial antipathy worse.” But there’s a kernel of truth to Noah’s argument. In the short-run, shaming people often does amplify the resentment of the shamed.
Fortunately for anyone who wants to change anyone’s attitudes, there are two countervailing effects. First, people who keep their bad attitudes to themselves inspire less second-hand negativity in potential listeners. Second, in the long-run, sheeple gradually lose interest in views no one else openly supports.
On Noah’s story, liberals should actually like FoxNews for its cathartic effect. And no doubt that cathartic effect exists to some extent. If FoxNews went off the air today, its audience would probably be more resentful than ever… for a while. But the loss of social support would gradually make angry conservatives less conservative and less angry.