Feed on

Comments coming from e-mail addresses that are not confirmed and that cannot be responded to are treated as spam. You are welcome to call my readers names, my students indoctrinated, me an idiot, but not if you are too mature to reveal yourself. I have nothing to hide. My students have nothing to hide. I encourage name calling of me and veiled threats. I really do. It really tells me all about the quality of the arguments you are just so cleverly keeping from the rest of us unwashed monsters. Classy.

Here is one recent one, from a U of R IP address but not an email that can be returned:

“Responding to students in the Campus Times? Really? I’m starting to understand why you’re such a joke in your own department beyond the handful of indoctrinated students that make up your immediate circle.”

Of course, it was a 100% guarantee that this sort of response would come one’s way. Since our thoughtful commentator has no e-mail address she/he is able to share, we’ll just offer them our congratulations for illustrating exactly the discourse that exists on campus. Feel free to call me names and insult me. That’s exactly what I do, read every post on this site and see how many times I’ve done it. Feel free to call your fellow classmates names, because you know exactly my relationship with them, what we study, and what is important to them. Yep. Classy I say, classy. Meanwhile, we’ll all anxiously await an actual intellectual argument.

By the way, for my readers who may be thinking that perhaps analyzing a Campus Times article is harsh, I will remind you that students stormed my colleague’s classroom last month. I’ll remind you that students are pushing to have water bottles banned. Students are responsible (something less than 10 of them I would wager) for the purchase of Eco-Bench. Students are responsible for hosting nasty anonymous websites where they exchange nasty comments about their classmates and their professors. Students are responsible for invading the intellectual honesty commons. Students go all over the world to represent the university and their fellow classmates and alums. Students work in the halls of congress, in the fields of the poorest countries, in the backrooms of power in the richest. What they say and do does matter. Or do we mean to suggest that actually we should treat them all like children? We cannot have it both ways? Do we get to pick and choose to treat them like adults? Do students not have to be responsible when publishing pieces that are self-contradictory (that’s the least of it, I encourage readers to go to the original piece and do some fact checking too, plus think about the energy intensity of wind among other factors – another post is coming soon in case you don’t want to do it yourself)? Do students not have to present evidence that is factual, especially if it is a matter of a few google searches to confirm it? Do we not require students to actually answer questions in our classes? Or is it just that economics is 100% corrupt, the total exception to everything that is right and good in the world and that no serious student ought to be corrupted by learning about scarcity? Right, sure.  Just ignore anything we say about “co-curricular learning” if you think I should exempt myself from even reading our student paper. Why even would I want to know how my students think and what is on their minds? Would it be better if I taught hundreds of students without having a clue about them, the big issues on campus, their commonly held ideas? My life would sure be a lot easier. I could have spent Friday afternoon golfing instead of reading the paper, the responses to it and writing a piece about it. After all, that’s really why we all work at the University, right? To indoctrinate students with shallow “analysis” and then head off on semi-retirement while regurgitating the same lines to unthinking kids day after day after day after day?

One can have no clue what the issue is? Is there a flaw in the analysis somewhere? Have I self contradicted? Do I teach that demand curves slope up? Do I teach that markets never fail? Do I teach that utopia is possible? Do I teach that ethical foundations do not matter? Do I teach people to ignore the poor? Do I teach people that we are materially poorer today than in the past? Do I teach that macroeconomies are always in equilibrium? Do I teach that wages and prices are perfectly flexible? Do I teach that behavior factors don’t matter? Please share, I’d be very grateful if you could provide the proper guidelines that I am permitted to teach economics within? Shall I just scrap it all – start by violating the scarcity assumption? Follow that up by saying that all value is objective? Follow that up by demonstrating the success of central planning? Follow that up by demonstrating just how enlightened and not self-interested businesses are? Follow that up by demonstrating just how enlightened and not self-interested politicians are? Follow that up by showing the mass of empirical evidence that shows immigration to be harmful, price controls to be beneficial, monopolies to be naturally recurring, long-lasting, destructive forces in the economy? Follow that up by demonstrating objectively the simplicity of financial sector regulation, energy regulation, safety regulation, drug regulation and demonstrating that the we can safely ignore any unintended consequences? Follow that up by showing that massive debt-to-GDP ratios are permanently sustainable because we can always just print money, that the crisis in Greece is capitalism’s fault, that Mao murdered millions because of free association, that Pol Pot murdered millions because of Walmart, that the massive rise on single-parent households is the fault of Exxon, that the mass incarceration of young black men for victimless crimes is the fault of voluntary market forces, that the government pension crisis, the unfunded mandate crisis, the decrepid state of our infrastructure is due to the privatization of the highways and rails, that the miserable failure of public schools is that they are actually capitalist schools in disguise, that a health care system that does not allow the sale of insurance across state lines, that gives special tax treatment to certain policies, that is paid for 50% by government is really a totally free-market model? Should I follow up those lessons by demonstrating that property rights are actually unimportant? After that, we’ll show how the minerals management agency has been a huge success, how the …

My office on campus is 236 Harkness Hall. It is open to any and all. Past angry people have been invited and welcome and future ones are welcome too. If you really just want to get off your chest how badly you detest my values (because of course you know them) or how badly you disagree with what my personal goals may be (because of course they must be 180-degree opposite yours) then the meeting should be quick – I’ll even kick out my mind-slaves to make the time for you. If you would actually like to seriously discuss something, you know, with an argument that doesn’t start with, “I know you to be a joke …” I’d be more than happy to take you to coffee (Fair Trade of course, because we know empirically that it has been good for poor farmers, for the environment and for us).

7 Responses to “PSA: For my 6 Readers”

  1. Harry says:

    Mike, you are the greatest professor, and I mean it. I had some great professors, life changers for assorted reasons, and some high school teachers who were better than the high priced teachers in college. The best of them worked hard just like Rizzo, to make every class about teaching me and the others who would listen. How very lucky was I to have the World’s best math teacher.

    One time I was entering a limousine, outside a building on Fifth Avenue, I and my crew on the way to the airport. The building housed my client, and Olglivy and Mather. I ran into a former student. After shaking hands, he told me that I taught him well, as in the best thing that ever happened to him, and this was one of the best things that ever happened to me. I remembered him from when he was in my class, and still remember his raising his hand.

    Wintercow, being a far more energetic teacher than I, has some of the most motivated, thoughtful, students one could possibly meet. My impression is that they are better having met Riizzo, who gets up every day asking himself for a fresh idea.

    Sleep well, Wintercow, in a big pile of clean straw.

  2. Andrew says:

    I majored in political science and I remember the first day of poli sci stats sophomore year Prof. Clarke said something to the effect of “I’m about as leftist a person as you’re going to find, but my ideology doesn’t matter because this class is entirely about numbers.” I remember at the time I bought this totally, and though I’m a little more jaded now, I still agree with the basic principle. Of course, most classes touch on many more complex societal issues than just standard deviations and regressions, etc., so it would be folly to think that all these classes can be taught in a vacuum. For example, I think you’d agree that it would be irresponsible for anyone to pretend that tariffs didn’t create inefficiency, or that the principle of scarcity doesn’t exist. I also think it’s equally problematic to say that there’s no line to be drawn between academic subject matter and ideology. I like to think of the health care debate we always seem to be having in this country. As you pointed out the other day, if you were to provide health care to everyone, unavoidably someone’s liberty will be reduced because they’ll be stuck paying for something that is going to someone else. This is an unavoidable economic fact. But I do think the question of “is it good or bad for the government to do this?” is largely a question of values, albeit informed by the data we collect. So in that sense I think your response to the “wind article” was right on target because it addressed the student’s argument on the terms of its own logic, and not by some pre-defined ideology. As always, I could have done without the sarcasm, but that’s just my preference!

    As for the “readers who may be thinking that perhaps analyzing a Campus Times article is harsh,” I suppose I sympathize with their point of view. You are, of course, coming with a much higher level of experience and education than the students writing these columns. So is picking on this student maybe a little unfair? I would say so, but only because the intellectual expectations between you and them are not the same. When I recall my time at U of R, it was understood that the Campus Times opinion page was a bit of a mixed bag, both in ideological stance and in quality. I may or may not have written my share of stupid stuff there, but seeing it in print and getting feedback from my peers helped me realize why it was stupid. If a professor had done the same, that may have been a little much for me to handle. This may just be because I’m a wimp, but I’m sure that’s true of many other students. College is an intellectual stomping ground, and students need the freedom to fail safely.

    Maybe I don’t take undergrads that seriously, or at least, I don’t take the undergrad version of myself that seriously. And so on that point I agree with you that some students have too much influence. I recall my time in the “Green Movement” on campus 3 or 4 years ago, and I’m scared to think of what it would have been like if we had had the power to make the university purchase something as ridiculous as the green bench. (Clearly I’m a little dismayed by where things have taken a turn to recently). But the fact of the matter is that some “adult” in an a cushy office somewhere must have agreed that the green bench was a good idea, and that is where the ultimate responsibility lies.

  3. xyang says:

    Sometimes it takes me two or three weeks of dedicated study to realize that one of my conjectures about a particular social issue was wrong – which makes me wonder how all the other college students can be so opinionated about everything. I am beginning to see the appeal in the idea that political expression is primarily motivated by the desire to establish and maintain a particular social identity, rather than any serious beliefs about policies.

    It seems plainly impossible that so many humans are able to handle complicated arithmetic, memorize thousands of historical facts, know everything about the top players of their favourite sport, master the extremely convoluted grammar of the English language, and yet cannot acquire a political outlook that is more sophisticated than “They (the capitalists/economists/revisionists/whites/males/Koch brothers) are the bad guys, and we are the good guys.”

    Perhaps there IS a role for morality in politics after all – to say what you truly believe in, to be silent about matters that you do not understand, and to be glad to be corrected by someone with an opposing view. None of which characterizes a regular college student.

  4. Speedmaster says:

    >> “Responding to students in the Campus Times? Really?”

    I would have thought a large part of the point of the Campus Times columns was as a catalyst for discussion?

  5. Jacob says:

    Do you know your RSS feed won’t come up in Google Reader? Google thinks your latest post was in December. If you fix that you’ll increase your readership for sure.

  6. Alex says:

    It takes a big person to leave an anonymous comment on your site.

    In any case, this indoctrinated student is getting more and more confused at how such a weak intellectual climate can exist at an allegedly top research institution.

    Maybe our nameless hero can help me solve my cognitive dissonance. One more brainless comment is all it will take.

  7. Michael says:

    I know that in my own “department”, I’ve been getting a large amount of respect for views expressed similar to the ones here. This cite maybe a little homogenous in its comments, but I wouldn’t stick it under a particular ideology. I don’t always agree with Wintercow, but he provides a useful sanity check and also unique commentary on current economic events.

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