I’ve had people try to refute economic arguments I’ve made by appealing to something along the lines of, “I’ve heard that before … or that argument is SO pedestrian.”
Well, the truth is boring isn’t it? Critics who employ such tactics rarely follow up with an analysis of what is so objectionable in what I write, they just try to use the “this argument is dull” argument as a trump card to end the “discussion.” The reality is that this line of argument does not show my position to be false – and in fact, most truths, particularly the wet-blanket economic ones, are very likely to be uninspiring to people – particularly those who believe in unicorns and candy falling from clouds.
What is a Progressive or NeoConservative to do in order to persuade me that some argument I’ve made is troublesome? How about drawing on facts that are indisputable? How about relying on a body of research? How about pointing to some evidence that I should look for if in fact my position were wrong and theirs were correct?
When I argue that downward sloping demand curves rear their heads in all manner of applications, a lame rebuttal is to say, “well, lots of economists always say that.” Thus, if cars get better mileage, people may drive more. If sex gets safer, people may have more sex. If drugs and liquor become less harmful, people may consume more of them. What I’d like to see is empirical evidence showing that people do less of something when costs fall. What I’d like to see is a general equilibrium analysis of how a change in this market might affect behavior in other markets. What I’d like to see is a theory which explains why alcohol consumption or sex, etc. is any different than purchasing gasoline. I rarely see it.
And to be honest, the fact that I rarely see such serious argument is becoming dull to me – which should tell you something, no?