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Have you ever thought about where your emotion of disgust comes from? We all experience it. Whether it is looking at rotting roadkill on a hot day, or when a lover is cuckolded, or some other reason. I happen to experience it in my economic life a lot. In fact, I have been told by some commentators that my disgust borders on misanthropy. I’ll address whether I am a misanthrope in a future post, for now I wanted to focus on why I am often disgusted and what that might possibly mean.

In Anatomy of Disgust, William Ian Miller argues that disgust comes from one of two places:

  1. It is a biological reaction to something that is naturally bad for you – thus it is an innate feature of us as humans.
  2. It is a learned reaction – this is the view of anthropologists.

There have been dozens of studies which seem to confirm the first view. The second view has some support from the behavior of children, who do not seem disgusted by some of the things we tend to  be disgusted by as adults, such as various worms and bodily fluids. In terms of why bad economics, particularly that flaunted by “enlightened progressives” who think nothing of enacting “living wage” laws of $10 per hour, or padding the pensions of “overworked and horribly treated” public employees (yes, you may laugh now), or what other cockamamie idea that have which flies in the face of theoretical and empirical economics, and also thousands of years of unintended consequences from other similar cockamamie ideas.

Since my parents and schoolmates and teachers were all economic illiterates, I cannot find a reasonable way that I have learned to have this feeling of disgust. It emerged through my life, and I can remember some of it from an early age (mainly surrounding the way the Mets handled their payroll). So if we take the view that (1) is the correct origin of disgust, then it must be the case that the reason I react the way I do is that good economics is essential for the survival of our species.

The only problem with my theory is that self-styled progressives don’t find each other unattractive or unable to reproduce (although my bet is they reproduce less than non-progressives) – so if practicing good economics was essential to species survival, I would not observe this. But a walk around any college campus should be enough to provide some evidence that bad economic beliefs do not make one unsuitable for a mate.

Nonetheless, good economics is essential for the survival of those grounded in reason and science, and not in mysticism and unicorns. I cannot control my disgust although I do my very best to temper it for the sake of discourse. I would add that I do not get disgusted in the world of uncertainty, when proponents of a view that is alternative to one I hold, but to which neither party had evidence to support it, argue strongly for their position. For example, I feel like we would have gotten to the moon if NASA did not do it. Lovers of government do not believe so. But this is one that cannot be settled – and if my belief was proven wrong, that would not be damaging for the survival of reason and rationality, it would clarify my understanding of the collective action problem.

Contrast that to how “progressives” get disgusted by people like me. They are disgusted that I cherish freedom, that I allow people to make their own decisions, even if they might make mistakes, they are disgusted that I appreciate the spontaneous order of economic and social life and reject the top down construction of societies, they are disgusted when they learn that minimum wages do not help the poor, or that more money on foreign aid does not solve the poverty problem, or that subsidies for “green energy” not only do not work, they make the “problem” worse, and so on. Rarely if ever do I get data or empirical evidence shown to me – I just get an ad hominem attack thrown my way or a comment that “well, I need to think about it more.”

I sense that this supports the biological theory again. The “progressive” dismissal of good economics by marginalizing the writer, by using ad hominem attacks, by equating economists to racists, and Hitlers and all manner of things, is a biological reaction – it is a way to deny that their thinking is weak, dangerous and faulty – and helps preserve that wonderful candyland in their brains which allows them to continue living their lives and propogating without ever having to deal with reality. They are able to do this because the incredible wealth producing machine that is capitalism can stand a heck of a lot of damage before it stops working – so we continue to get richer despite the “progressives.”

Here is the last edition in this series.

5 Responses to “This May Have Me Banned from Polite Company, Redux”

  1. jb says:

    ” – and helps preserve that wonderful candyland in their brains which allows them to continue living their lives and propogating without ever having to deal with reality”

    That reminds me of one of my favorite William F. Buckley quotes “The ideology of conservatism is reality.”

  2. Michael says:

    A conservative write once mentioned how you tend to not see conservatives failing to comprehend how a liberal can think in a particular way because at some point almost all conservatives were more or less liberal. So I’d say the action is one that’s learned because it’s only as we really observed the failures of liberalism did and learn economics that we break out of our natural liberal tendencies. The disgust comes when people are blinded by their own thougths that they never really come to realize wat they are doing to people.

  3. Harry says:

    Your finishing statement was profound, IMHO.

    It is amazing how resilient our economy and our country is, under freedom. It seems at every turn there are people in power who bind us, yet so far enough people have figured out how to shed the shackles.

    Think about the huge cost of stupid regulation, which is manifest, as opposed to the occasional accidental beneficial regulation. (I’m thinking hard, now, but one that comes to mind is the design of interstate intersections.)

    But then I think about the FDA, and the trillions of dollars wasted to make sure nobody makes a dime selling snake oil. Trillions wasted, and many lives lost for want of Dave Kessler’s grudging approval.

    How about Chuck Schumer’s periodic calls for disgorging (I have a hook disgorger in my tackle box) more from Exxon when gas prices are high?
    In these circumstances one can understand how Wintercow can be upset by economic ignorance.

    Be happy, my friend. Although we have never gone through precisely the same thing before, we will get through it, probably with another great inflation. I hope it will not be fatally debilitating.

    My advice is to avoid all ten-year treasurys that yield less than ten percent.

    Keep your head down!

  4. Harry says:

    And as far as ad hominem attacks are concerned, you are a misanthrope, and cannot be trusted.

  5. Rod says:

    Your comment about the relative likelihood that progressives would not reproduce is inconsistent with the principle that liberal chicks are, in the main, easy. At least that’s the folklore for the folksingers.

    Some of us have always been conservatives and free-marketers, and not converted collectivists.

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