Demonstrating Cluelessness Via Tweet: An Advanced Lesson From Megan McArdle

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As part
of my response
to Megan McArdle’s attack on Ron Paul, I wrote:

It’s one
thing if these people could argue toe to toe with Congressman
Paul about the regression theorem, the proper methodology for
a science such as economics or the damage that Fed money printing
does to the structure of capital in an economy, but they can’t.
So they put on a carnival act of words in fear that if they actually
challenged Congressman Paul on his well grounded and deep economic
understanding, their confusion about basic economics would be
laid bare for all to see.

McArdle has
not responded in full to the three questions I placed in my post,
however she sent out a tiny tweet to me. She thumbs:

@wenzeleconomics
The brief answer is that no intelligent person thinks that the
key to any science is "all there" in the work of two
writers

This tweet
proves my point about how nervous they are about responding to specific
charges. Even in a tiny little tweet of 124 characters, she has
revealed a lack of knowledge so truly astounding that I can’t think
of 124 characters where one could reveal greater ignorance.

Her tweet is
in response to this in my post:

Don’t tell
me you can’t find Congressman Paul’s thoughts on this. As he has
said many times, he derives his understanding of economics from
the writings of Ludwig von Mises and Murray Rothbard. It’s all
there.

Now she builds
a nice strawman here. The "all there" is referring to
the three questions I posed in the post. The three points that I
raised are all discussed by Rothbard and Mises. So my point was
the answers to the three questions are "all there".

McArdle stretches
this to mean that I am saying that all of economics is in Rothbard
and Mises (and possibly that Congressman Paul thinks so also). Now,
there is a remarkable depth of understanding in the writings of
economics in Rothbard and Mises, but a comment like it’s "all
there" also contains a nuanced meaning which quite possibly
underscores a tin ear on the part of McArdle. It could simply be
a tribute to Rothbard and Mises in that their understanding of economics
is so great, which it is, that it’s "all there." Not meaning
that every correct word ever written by Rothbard and Mises are the
only correct words written about economics, but simply that the
depth of their writing is so great that one could say it is "all
there", but not mean it in a complete literal sense.

However, if
you want to take the vicious view that McArdle takes, I am an ignoramus
and think all economics is in Rothbard and Mises and no other, then
it is quite reasonable to say that McArdle has taken the most idiotic
clueless method of attack that one could take on this subject, since
Rothbard and Mises more than any other economists held the view
that economics is far more than a science where the "all there"
is in the work of two writers.

Rothbard was
unrelenting
in the dangers of the "Great Thinkers" syndrome:

Straussians
take a few what they call "great thinkers" – I’m
going to criticize that too, the concept of taking only great
thinkers – they take a few great thinkers, more or less arbitrarily
selected. How do they know they’re great thinkers? Well, everybody
says they’re great. Machiavelli, Aristotle, Dewey, whatever. Hobbes.

Then they
say, "Since this guy is a great figure, he must’ve been consistent.
Why does he have to be consistent? Well, he’s a great thinker?
Who am I, a schnook professor, to challenge the greatness of this
guy?" The assumption is this guy’s a great thinker.

Most of
these guys are very inconsistent. They contradict themselves on
every page. Keynes did this all the time.

Read
the rest of the article

December
18, 2010

2010
Economic Policy Journal

The
Best of Robert Wenzel

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