I’ve stated several times both on this blog and elsewhere that I have mixed feelings about the various occupation movements. On one hand I’m positively gleeful that people are finally waking up to the fact that they’re being fucked over and are finally speaking up about that fact. Then I look on the other hand and realize that a large number of people at these occupation, while understanding that they’re being fucked over, don’t actually understand who is fucking them over or how. The lack of understanding has lead to numerous public displays of total ignorance and conflicting messages.
Recently students in a Harvard introductory economics class staged a walkout and sent the professor a letter explaining their reason. The problem with the letter is that it’s dripping with irony:
As Harvard undergraduates, we enrolled in Economics 10 hoping to gain a broad and introductory foundation of economic theory that would assist us in our various intellectual pursuits and diverse disciplines, which range from Economics, to Government, to Environmental Sciences and Public Policy, and beyond. Instead, we found a course that espouses a specific—and limited—view of economics that we believe perpetuates problematic and inefficient systems of economic inequality in our society today.
There is no justification for presenting Adam Smith’s economic theories as more fundamental or basic than, for example, Keynesian theory.
It is my guess, although one based off of reason, that most, if not all, of these students do not support giving equal time to both the idea that the Earth is flat (yes, some people still believe this) and the fact that the Earth is a sphere in science classes. Yet they demand equal time be given to ideas that have been proven wrong (Keynesian economics) and ideas that have been proven correct (free market economics) in economics class.
The letter also espouses a complete ignorance on the topic of economics which is better explained in this article (although I wish the author wouldn’t have injected so much “us vs. them” attitude). What I find most disturbing and is pointed out in the article is the sheer unwillingness of some of these people to even listen to a dissenting opinion:
But that doesn’t matter to radical leftists. Logic in economics is irrelevant to them. As Mises explained, to defend their irrational theories they “attack logic and reason and substitute mystical intuition for ratiocination.” That’s why they protest viewpoints they don’t like instead of engaging with and critiquing them. And that’s why they shout down dissenters in their creepy chanting assemblies. Independent thought is a threat to them.
It’s apparently not enough that these students will never encounter a conservative or libertarian viewpoint in any of their other classes. No, they must be shielded from any professor whatsoever who might challenge one of their prejudices against the free market. Even if that professor once wrote, as Mankiw did, “If you were going to turn to only one economist to understand the problems facing the economy, there is little doubt that the economist would be John Maynard Keynes.” If he holds any pro-market views at all, apparently, he must be boycotted.
This is known as confirmation bias and everybody suffers it to an extent. When I last visited the Occupy Minneapolis crew I tried entering a discussion with another about the right of jury’s to use nullification. He disagreed adamantly and stated juries must base their judgement on the letter of the law. When I tried explaining this wasn’t the fact and used historical examples such as Wisconsin’s use of nullification to avoid upholding the Fugitive Slaves Act and various state’s using nullification to avoid enacting the REAL ID Act he stormed off and told everybody else listening to our conversation not to listen to me. He presented no historical or legal precedent supporting his side of the argument, he simply refused to listen to what I was saying because it disagreed with what he believed.
I leave you once again with the wisdom of Murray Rothbard:
Go ahead and debate economics all you want but before doing so rid yourself of your ignorance so you don’t look the fool when you open your mouth. Nothing is served by ignoring what your opposition says as you can not learn or understand your opponent unless you first listen to them.