Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Engaged but not detached.

David Brooks writes about fellow pundits in today's NY Times ("Engaged or Detached?"). It's a great question. Who among us is "objective"?  Start by looking for those who make the loudest claims that they are objective.  It is a great goal, but is it ever really met? I do not know. I have great respect for many writers and thinkers. I am now reading Steven Pinker's How the Mind Works and am dazzled. The author is a truth-seeker but only human.  No reader should accept anyone's work as gospel.

My students have an easy time telling which of Arnold Kling's three axes I emphasize. I do not try to mask it and doubt that I could if I tried.

But I do not demean those who disagree -- as one lecturer on my campus was recently seen doing.  There are many more like this man.  Administrators who were put on the spot came up with the lame defense that the lecturer is a practitioner and has views that students should hear.  In reality, students at most major universities get a steady diet of "sustainability" and "social justice" and the like as if it were the one true faith.

In the non-Brooks world I operate in, the students who enjoy my classes (where the good that markets do is emphasized and where the cronyism behind the many train wrecks in our lives is highlighted) report that they hear things that they have never heard before.  Matt Ridley recently complained that he will not forgive his teachers for never telling him about the gains from trade and comparative advantage. "What were my school teachers doing not teaching me about this"?