Play the Hand You're Dealt
By David Henderson
In response to co-blogger Bryan Caplan’s post about being on the Fox News Channel (FNC), one commenter wrote:
The Fox News Network, and Carlson in particular, are basically running propaganda operations for the Trump administration. While regular readers understand that you have many disagreements with Fox show hosts, nonetheless, your interview was used to further their nihilistic propaganda goals.
I wish everyone would boycott Fox, but if they allow you to make your case against immigration restrictions, for example, it would be worth appearing since you’re no easy foil.
Note his implicit assumption that every FNC viewer already agrees with Bryan that all subsidies to higher education should be ended. I talk to a lot of FNC viewers and not one of them yet has agreed with Bryan’s policy view. They, as much as American viewers in general, seem to have a romantic view of higher education.
But imagine that 90% of FNC viewers already agree with Bryan and 10% don’t. I think 90% is way too high, but let’s go with that. Imagine there are 1,000,000 viewers of Tucker’s show on a typical night. That means Bryan is talking to 100,000 people who don’t already agree with him. When does Bryan get a chance to do that? Not often.
Moreover, of the 900,000 people who agree with Bryan, how many can come close to articulating that view point as well as Bryan? Maybe 100 at most? (Probably more like 10.) So that means he can give good intellectual ammo to 890,900 people. If even 1% of them really get it and start to make Bryan’s argument, that’s 8,909 people who will be going around making his argument.
Something else is interesting about this commenter’s view of the world: that people like Bryan have a number of networks trying to get on his dance card. It’s just not true. The opportunities we get are few and far between. When we get them, we take them. We play the hands we’re dealt.
This reminds me of a discussion I have with a good friend of mine when we see one of our favorite actors in a lousy movie. She will wonder why the actor took that gig rather than being in a good movie. I point out that besides the fact that it’s often hard to know in advance what a good movie is, people in the business want to be in the business. If great opportunities aren’t coming along, they will choose from the opportunities that present themselves. They play the hands they’re dealt.
For an earlier application of “Play the Hand You’re Dealt,” see this.
I have a recent example of playing the hand you’re dealt that might also be an example of something the commenter thought I should turn down. The woman who runs the local Republican Women’s group has asked me to speak for 15 minutes next Thursday on the recent change in the federal tax law. The commenter whom I mentioned above would likely say, “Why speak to the converted?” My answer is that (1) probably not all of them are converted, (2) probably very few of them understand some of the important implications of the tax law, and (3) even the ones who do understand would probably learn more about it and pick up some intellectual ammo. There’s also a fourth reason. When I ran into her at the July 4 parade last year, I asked her why I haven’t been invited back to speak for the last 2 or 3 years. She answered that I’m not pro-Israel enough and that unless I became pro-Israel, I would never be invited to speak again, except, possibly, to debate a guy who’s pro-Israel. So I jumped at this chance to speak on an area of my relative expertise without speaking on an issue (Israel) on which I’m not informed enough.