It’s been a while since I did my last free market double standards post, which received some flak. To be honest, I think some of the criticisms were fair. Having said that, I don’t search for these contradictions just to wind up libertarians (though that can be a desirable side effect); generally they are quite obvious once you look past the way the right frame the debate.
I think the nature of many right wing arguments lends itself to contradiction: the shape shifting free market, which seems to mean something different to everyone; the nature of reactionary arguments, which causes people to make bizarre claims about proposed policies (see 5). Many right wingers also, despite themselves, end up supporting Republican candidates, which of course lends itself to all manner of contradiction (18).
I’ve also got some more economic theory ones in here. In particular, I’ve noticed economists ask some tough questions about new models, seemingly forgetting the various responses they have to the same criticisms of their own models (or if they don’t have responses, forgetting to apply these apparently pertinent criticisms to their own models). There are no links when I consider a point to be well established.
Anyway, enough preamble – let’s commence:
1. Libertarians emphasise that people didn’t consent to the state. They do not ask questions about whether people consented to the existing property distribution.
2. Mises and other libertarians thought socialism is about supposedly superior men running the world, which is wrong. Mises also said:
You have the courage to tell the masses what no politician told them: you are inferior and all the improvements in your conditions which you simply take for granted you owe to the effort of men who are better than you.
in a letter to Ayn Rand (p. 996).
3. NGDP targeting proponents will generally reference the Lucas Critique during discussions of modern macro. However, I have yet to see one apply the critique to NGDP targeting, when it is actually incredibly pertinent.
4. NGDP targeters defend supposed incidences of Central Bank’s inability to control NGDP (like 2008) by arguing that the CB must announce a policy rule for it to work, but simultaneously hold up Israel and Australia – where the CB has done no such thing – as examples of NGDP targeting working.
6. Austrians generally present businesses as smart and forward looking, but their business cycle theory effectively asserts business decisions will be wildly thrown off by temporary short term interest rates changes.
7. Milton Friedman emphasised that regulatory capture would create a lot of problems, but also suggested looking at the amount of regulations, rather than their actual enforcement, as a guide to the ‘level’ of regulation. So he simultaneously endorsed the bizarre idea that regulation is a dial we can turn up and down, and the idea that it’s really more complicated than that.
8. Milton Friedman argued that businesses have no social responsibility, but should not engage in fraudulent behaviour, and “stay within the rules of the game.” Which is a form of social responsibility.
10. Anarcho-capitalists are against the state, preferring insurance companies to provide what are commonly known as ‘public goods.’ They also have no trouble with monopolies. So if an insurance company that uses force is the only game in town (and owns all the land), how is that different from a state?
11. According to libertarians, if you can possibly leave a job, your freedom cannot be impinged during the job. Of course, many of us are free to leave our countries but libertarians still complain about coercive legislation.*
12. Libertarians are often resistant to the applicability of behavioural economics. Yet companies use behavioural insights in advertising and marketing to expand profits, something that’s usually a sign of efficacy in a libertarian world.
13. Libertarians generally oppose fraud in abstract, but many have the same knee-jerk reactions against prosecuting any specific instance as they have to most questioning of business practice.
14. David Smith (and other austerity defenders) tried to pin the decline in UK output on bank holidays. But this implies a day contributes a significant amount to output, so during every working day the economy must have boomed!
15. Again, austerians such as David Smith can’t decide whether to defend austerity by insisting it’s working (see 14) or whether it isn’t happening at all.
16. Economists complain a lot about sticky wages causing unemployment. But as of yet, I have yet to see one volunteer for a pay cut!
18. Greg Mankiw’s textbook analysis of the financial sector implies asset bubbles do not have a major effect on the real economy. But he also attributes Clinton’s boom to the internet stock bubble, implying the exact opposite.
19. Generally economists argue they shouldn’t be expected to make accurate predictions about the future. But when one of Steve Keen’s specific predictions did not come true, they took it as grounds to dismiss him (btw, bonus points for reading that entire thread and staying sane).
20. Economists, though few endorse a ‘hard’ version of Friedman’s methodology, will generally reference a derivative of it when pushed. However, when criticising alternative models, they raise questions about their internal mechanics.
What is original in the book is not true; and what is true is not original.
*Note also that Hayek roughly endorsed my position on this, but AFAIK he never drew attention to the workplace.