Feed on

I’ve already been asked to do a half-dozen campus events, give a couple of interviews, and sit on a couple of committees. I’ve said no to all of them, and I will no longer be part of any of it for the foreseeable future. The same is true about what I talk about here for the most part. I’m done. What’s nice about being done is that it sort of puts my money where my mouth is – I’ve long argued with students that the world will progress despite our worst foibles, and given that this my belief anything I do or so is only adding to the din. Here is what got me today, courtesy of Alberto Mingiardi:

Libertarianism’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad idea
It’s called “spontaneous order.” And it’s eminently stupid.
I used to write page after page after page of posts, and take up hour after hour of lecture time engaging that kind of a piece. And wholly aside from going through the piece with a comb and engaging any actual real arguments that are made, I remember that the title says everything one wants to know about the state of “debate” and the kind of attitudes “smart people” have these days. Calling an idea “eminently stupid” is just really not an effective way to get thoughtful people to consider your argument, and the very early contamination of “libertarians” as being horrible because of a stupid idea is not exactly very sincere or charitable or reasonable for that matter. At this point one could attack the fact that he doesn’t actually understand the meaning of spontaneous order – or point out the weird use of a government promoted war on foreign soil as a refutation of a libertarian idea, or one could point out the the idea “spontaneous order” is not so much a proscription for laissez-faire inasmuch as it is a way to describe outcomes that are the result of human actions but not their grand design and that in fact invoking “spontaneous order” as a plan sort of invalidates the application of the term, or we could point out how scholar after scholar in the classical liberal tradition has taken pains to make it clear that not all spontaneous orders are good, and so on. But no one wants to discuss these sorts of nuances. No one wants to point out the value in an opponents insights, just as few actively seek out ways to challenge their own thinking. It’s all a giant nasty food fight where we are signaling what side we are on, for sure, but more than that, screaming out from the window about how much we hate other people. It’s rather nauseating. I am reminded of this every time I see some sanctimonious bumper sticker – I read them as people saying to me, “f you, I hate you” in as socially acceptable a way as possible.
So screw that. I am not getting drawn into hopelessly long futile back and forths about ideas that few people truly care about learning more about. I refuse to be drawn into some sort of intellectual charade. So don’t check here for the latest commentary on what is happening in the blogosphere or anything that is of much value. Again, go read the title of that piece again. And again. And again. That’s what people are broadcasting in public, what do you think it is like when it is out of view?
As they say, have a nice day.

9 Responses to “Why I’ve Given Up and Disengaged”

  1. Craig says:

    Well that link ruined my day.

  2. Gabriel Wittenberg says:

    I remember all of those Libertarians cheering Bush on before we invaded Iraq. Come on WC, you don’t have to read the garbage out there and write responses. I speak for myself here, but I’d be just as happy reading about your analysis of academic papers. You can write without reading whatever pithy critique of classical liberalism Olberman spits out. No need to be an angry white male!

  3. Harry says:

    That wasn’t Keith Obermann, it’s the guy at Penn who sounds like Keith Obermann,right? Who cares? OK, it is the famous Damon Linker expressing his feelings about John Locke, Hayek, and libertarians

    Now, I am one who is happy with whatever WC posts on TUW, given that he is a smart, busy guy. I think WC might be spending more time than needed reading loosely conceived liberal blog posts, but that is not for me to say; perhaps he might just tune in to NPR on the way home to get the liberal take on the news, if he has not already gotten that around the lounge in Harkness Hall. Certainly, logically, these writers should not get Wintercow down. Let us be charitable by saying they are in a different world, uninterested in exploring the subtleties of the deeper questions WC likes to explore.

    I am (and I assume many of WC’s readers are) happy that WC has effected considerable influence in his teaching at the U of R, and I hope WC knows it. There is a large roomful of people whom WC has taught that are now brilliant intellects and capable people. As Robert Reich would remind us, don’t forget the Multiplier!

    So WC does not have to join committees and take interviews. I still think WC should write a high school economics textbook, a college Economics 103 textbook, and a mass trade bestseller, if he can find the time, some of which he will have more of if he does not read and parse VOX.

  4. Scott says:

    Im afraid I have to agree with WC’s sentiment here. While I don’ t think the linked article is worthy of my time, it does capture the general character of the vulgar hate spewed by the opponents of liberty. It’s perspectives like these that make debate impossible – communicating with anyone who would publish such a title is more difficult than trying to reason with a hungry dog. And sure, this particular author is likely trying to garner attention by shocking the audience with a juicy title, but this level of ignorance, fueled with spiteful passion, is commonplace and omnipresent throughout any and all popular reading and discussion. If nothing else, it really takes the fun out of trying to have any sort of reasonable discussion on any policy, and ultimately impedes intellectual progress.

    Of course, nature will organize itself, spontaneously, and the meaninglessness of this ‘debate’ will only be realized perhaps generations from now. So whats the point in getting worked up?


  5. rfam says:

    There’s a guy who writes opinion over at Forbes who expressed a similar sentiment a couple years ago, it saddened me although he continues to write. You can’t quit, you know there’s a reason they call you stupid and its not because you’re stupid.

  6. alex says:

    i dont find these same hateful and simplistic viewpoints in actually talking to people as you see in the popular media. im surprised that even at uofr there arent more people interested in engaging. maybe im not smart enough to see how terrible the state of debate is, but when i try to engage, its rare that people call my views stupid. of, sometimes they imply it, but a couple patiently phrased questions does the trick.

    ive been reading this book of excerpts from various economists called ‘what do economists contribute’. im convinced by the idea that economists need to/should continuously combat the ignorance of the layman that inevitably crops up every generation, rather than retreat into academics. we need you, wc.

  7. Harry says:

    Great point, Alex. We always enjoy reading Prof. WC.

    Alex, it must have taken some effort to do no caps in your post. Cheer up!

  8. John says:

    Articles like the one in question are all the more reason why we need you WC. This blog (and your UR class) has helped so many people to see through the bullshit that is out there.

  9. alex says:

    tough to write comments via cell

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