Re: Woods, Storck, Fleming et al.

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Regarding Professor King‘s comments on my post, another thing comes to mind. Suppose a person interested in economics also adheres to the Roman Catholic doctrine of papal infallibility. This means you believe when the Pope speaks ex cathedra (from the Chair of Peter), solemnly defining a dogma concerning faith and morals to be held by the entire Church, it is impossible for the pronouncement to be incorrect. Thus, it may be relied upon concerning one’s own moral conduct.

Now, clearly some pronouncements by the Pope are, under this doctrine, infallible; others are not. How do we know whether a given pronouncement is ex cathedra or not? There has been much written on this, but wouldn’t it be reasonable, to recognize that a given pronouncement cannot be, indeed must not be, one of the ex cathedra, infallible pronouncements, if it is known to be false? If I, as a mathematician, know that pi is greater than 3.14, and the Pope declares it to be exactly 3.14, then I know not only that the Pope is incorrect; but also that his statement was not ex cathedra.Likewise, if the Pope makes some statement based on fallacious economic reasoning–e.g., he espouses some kind of socialist system as being more efficacious or efficient than capitalism at achieving prosperity–then this statement also cannot be infallible. The point is, if we know something is false, we know it cannot be infallible; so having knowledge, gained through reason, can be used as a simple test to determine whether a statement is ex cathedra or not.

No doubt there are more sophistocated, established tests for determining when a papal decree or teaching is infallible or not. But this is a simple one, useful in some circumstances. Storck et al., by claiming that obviously false propositions are infallible, are in fact undermining the idea of infallibility.

In any event, they are trying to take a shortcut to establishing truth–trying to use authority, rather than grapple with the substance of Woods’s economic views. They do not even mount a serious argument trying to show that or why socialistic-economic pronouncements of certain popes are indeed ex cathedra; they just seem to assume this, because it would shut up Woods.

And this is the tactic modern socailists are increasingly adopting: the “shut up” tactic. As the collapse of communism and spectactular failures of the welfare state have become more visible and manifest, it has become ever more difficult for liberals to argue for outright socialism with a straight face, and increasingly difficult for them to justify their socialistic policies such as affirmative action, antidiscrimination laws, minimum wage, political correctness, and so on. Therefore–since they have virtually no arguments left anymore; the failure of their policy prescriptions has become too obvious– they have increasingly, in their desperation, increased their tone and resort to ad hominem and attempts to literally silence the opposition by force. Thus, the modern phenomenon of being labeled racist or anti-semite at the slightest, mildest challenge to prevailing mainstream orthodoxy (to the extent where if someone is called a racist or anti-semite, the prima facie conclusion has to be that the person is probably not), and the resort to antidiscrimination laws and their penumbras and emanations which indeed exert a severe chilling effect on free speech. The “liberals” are the biggest threat to free speech, yet have the chutzpah to pretend to be defenders of liberalism.

10:45 am on June 24, 2004