Monday, November 24, 2008

Wisdom from the Gossip Crowd

Last week, Dan Klein had met with a group of students on a draft of his recent paper. During the discussion he had raised a question that all students with the love for liberty usually ask themselves , "How come I get it? How come all these other people I know get it, but the everyday citizen does not get it?" The "it" being government intervention within our personal lives being more harmful and not as efficient as the market.

Those in the room shared his agony with the question and for me coincided with the question, "Why does the battered wife not leave her beating husband?"

The solution was simple when I sat around a table with my cousins and my wife and heard a discussion of a guy who felt he owned the world going out with other girls and yet his girlfriend stays by him. When the remark was made that his girlfriend was stupid for staying by him, I heard the words that made me understand why people still don't get "it". "She believes she can change him."

That was it; so simple and yet so profound. Most people believe that the government has problems, they will agree on this and will even have claims to back up this argument. Yet when push comes to shove, they side with government leaving all the liberty minded individuals to ask why. So why is it they stick by the government who never keeps their promise; they believe that they can change it. Perhaps they don't trust the market because they don't feel that they can impact the market in any form compared to the measure of impact they can have within government.
What do you think? Or should we commend such a spirit of hope?


  1. Ian,

    Thats a great analysis! I hadn't thought about drawing the analogy of a battered wife, it makes sense. My issue is that this makes the problem a psychological one, which leaves a lot to be desired.

    I remember in class, Boettke would often pose the rhetorical question - why are there no folk songs for capitalism? Yet, what I wondered was never "how come I get it....but the everyday citizen does not get it?" What I wondered was why economist's don't get it? The more you learn about economics at GMU, the more you learn that not even economists understand economics. Perhaps, this is why your everyday citizen feels he can have such a strong economic opinion, w/o even taking econ 101. Or more importantly, perhaps all they took was econ 101 and they were taught that the government has a role in "fixing" the market.

    In my work, I have seen far too many economists make this case, and they are the one's speaking into the politician's ear, writing best sellers, getting interviewed on mainstream news networks, and even winning nobel prizes. Now, maybe the Battle of Ideas has been won, but I would argue that the Battle within the Economics profession is still waging, and Austrians are loosing. Hopefully, the new wave of good economists (Leeson, Coyne, etc. and perhaps some of you) can change this.


  2. Joseph,

    I apologize for the late response as I don't get updates from this blog when someone comments.

    Agreed there is still an argument within the economics profession.
    Although it seems the Austrians are losing, I see the wide spread of those leaving GMU with PhDs as a show of force.

    The programs are expanding across the country and I think more politicians are rising who support our view. We are still gravely outnumbered but with the large number of conferences, seminars, and think tanks that support our view, I think we are definitely going in the right direction.