Well, I’m an extreme libertarian, but I realize we’re in a democracy, and in a democracy people can have views of all stripes and there’s no reason to argue about it.

This is a quote from Eugene Fama, in an interview with Jeff Sommer of the New York Times. I confess that I don’t get it. The fact that “we’re in a democracy, and in a democracy people can have views of all stripes” somehow means that “there’s no reason to argue about it.” And what would be a good reason to argue about it? If we were in a dictatorship?

Later in the interview, asked whether he believes in a “social,” aka government-coerced, safety net, Fama responds:

I think we need Social Security, things like that.

I’m a fan of Eugene Fama, as I think showed in my Wall Street Journal article on him when he won, deservedly, the Nobel Prize. But his and my views of the meaning of the words “extreme libertarian” are pretty wide apart.

Although Sommer did not challenge him on whether a forced distribution scheme from the young–and even the yet to be born–to the old is libertarian, even Sommer pointed out that Fama’s advocacy of nationalizing banks is not libertarian.

Maybe, contrary to the first Fama statement quoted above, there is reason to argue about these things–if only to clear up his own thinking about the meaning of words.

One huge caveat: I’m sure Fama has had, as have I, interviews in which the interviewer totally gets the quotes wrong. If that happened in any relevant way with these quotes, or even if they’re taken out of context in a way that distorts, then my apologies to Professor Fama.

HT to Tyler Cowen and Tom Nagle.