Rubin and Weinstein on the Intellectual Dark Web
By David Henderson
Arnold Kling’s post this morning on a conversation between Dave Rubin and Eric Weinstein sounded interesting. I have NEVER before watched a whole 2-hour interview, but I started early this morning and watched most of it before going to work. It’s interesting throughout. I realized that although Weinstein seems to be famous, I had only vaguely heard of him and didn’t know what the big deal was.
Now I do. He has a lot of thoughtful comments that are hard to summarize.
I’ll start by saying that his analogy between welcoming immigrants and having your dinner guests stay forever is not an example of a thoughtful comment. Arnold lays out why here and co-blogger Bryan Caplan has pointed out the problem with the analogy in the past, countless times, I believe.
That part is early in the conversation but it quickly gets better.
One part is where they talk about a report done by Rebecca Lewis for Data & Society that Weinstein pokes big holes in. He argues that the methodology she uses would be an embarrassment if used by even an 8th grader in a school report. I haven’t read the report and so I can’t say he’s right, but he does give an argument for his view.
At about the 1:10:40 point, he takes on economist Dani Rodrik who, according to Weinstein, says that economists should have a professional face and a public face and that they don’t need to be tightly linked. Weinstein’s example is of an economist saying, when talking to the public, that free trade and immigration are great and then, when talking to fellow economists, admitting some downsides. Weinstein comes down hard on this, calling it “academic malpractice.” I agree with him. I think one should say the same thing to the public that one says to colleagues, although at times you will need to simplify when talking to the public. Try, for example, walking them through why a skillfully set minimum wage on a monopsony could end up increasing employment. I do give that bottom line but I haven’t figured out yet how to do all the reasoning in a simple way that gets the lay listener or reader to that bottom line. You really need a graph.
Another highlight just after, at about the 1:11:40 point: We have not very intelligent adults sitting in positions of power telling us that we’re all idiots.
1:28:40: The whole concept of a “safe space” is not about people being triggered; it’s about a safe space for narratives.
1:40:40: Google is biasing search like an incompetent ophthalmologist. He gives a great example with race and gender in physics.
1:44:20: There are no authoritative sources that we use as a baseline any more. DRH comment: At the end of various courses I taught, especially ones that were public policy oriented, students who were pumped up about the course would ask me what newspapers and magazines they should read and what TV news shows they should watch where they weren’t getting spin. I answered that there are no such things. They need to invest heavily, read a lot, and triangulate like crazy.
1:45:00: The danger of letting the Sarah Jeongs of the world in.
1:45:50: Rubin refers to people who know better but are cowards or “acting cowardly.” Watch Weinstein’s beautiful comeback.
1:47:00: Weinstein cites Timur Kuran’s Private Truths, Public Lies.
One thing I found striking: Both Rubin and Weinstein are fairly optimistic that things will change.