Friday, December 17, 2010

Demonstrating Cluelessness Via Tweet: An Advanced Lesson from Megan McArdle

As part of my response to Megan McArdle's attack on Ron Paul, I wrote:
It's one thing if these people could argue toe to toe with Congressman Paul about the regression theorem, the proper methodology for a science such as economics or the damage that Fed money printing does to the structure of capital in an economy, but they can't. So they put on a carnival act of words in fear that if they actually challenged Congressman Paul on his well grounded and deep economic understanding, their confusion about basic economics would be laid bare for all to see.
McArdle has not responded in full to the three questions I placed in my post, however she sent out a tiny tweet to me. She thumbs:
@wenzeleconomics The brief answer is that no intelligent person thinks that the key to any science is "all there" in the work of two writers
This tweet proves my point about how nervous they are about responding to specific charges. Even in a tiny little tweet of  124 characters, she has revealed a lack of knowledge so truly astounding that I can't think of 124 characters where one could reveal greater ignorance.

Her tweet is in response to this in my post:
Don't tell me you can't find Congressman Paul's thoughts on this. As he has said many times, he derives his understanding of economics from the writings of Ludwig von Mises and Murray Rothbard. It's all there.
Now she builds a nice strawman here. The "all there" is referring to the three questions I posed in the post. The three points that I raised are all discussed by Rothbard and Mises.So my point was the answers to the three questions are "all there".

McArdle stretches this to mean that I am saying that all of economics is in Rothbard and Mises (and possibly that Congressman Paul thinks so also). Now, there is a remarkable depth of understanding in the writings of economics in Rothbard and Mises, but a comment like it's "all there" also contains a nuanced meaning which quite possibly underscores a tin ear on the part of McArdle. It could simply be a tribute to Rothbard and Mises in that their understanding of economics is so great, which it is, that it's "all there." Not meaning that every correct word ever written by Rothbard and Mises are the only correct words written about economics, but simply that the depth of their writing is so great that one could say it is "all there", but not mean it in a complete literal sense.

However, if you want to take the vicious view that McArdle takes, I am an ignoramus and think all economics is in Rothbard and Mises and no other, then it is quite reasonable to say that McArdle has taken the most idiotic clueless method of attack that one could take on this subject, since Rothbard and Mises more than any other economists held the view that economics is far more than a science where the  "all there "is  in the work of two writers.

Rothbard was unrelenting in arguing about the dangers of the "Great Thinkers" syndrome:
Straussians take a few what they call "great thinkers" — I'm going to criticize that too, the concept of taking only great thinkers — they take a few great thinkers, more or less arbitrarily selected. How do they know they're great thinkers? Well, everybody says they're great. Machiavelli, Aristotle, Dewey, whatever. Hobbes.

Then they say, "Since this guy is a great figure, he must've been consistent. Why does he have to be consistent? Well, he's a great thinker? Who am I, a schnook professor, to challenge the greatness of this guy?" The assumption is this guy's a great thinker.

Most of these guys are very inconsistent. They contradict themselves on every page. Keynes did this all the time.
It looks as if he contradicted himself, say the Straussians, but he couldn't, because he's a great thinker and therefore consistent. So we have to look for the "deep inner consistency." The deep inner consistency amounts almost to astrology. It's numerology. Strauss will say if you take the fifth book of Machiavelli's Prince and compare it with the fifth book of the Laws, it's this number magic, you see, the five, you look for the deep things, really explain what he's saying. It's really bizarre.

Whiggism gone hog wild. And he desperately, actually, thinks everybody's great, and consistent as well as contributing to the edifice of thought.

So we have to realize, it seems to me, that it's just the opposite: many thinkers are great; other thinkers are lousy. Some developed truth; others sank into error. Therefore, analyzing economists, separating who these guys are, we have to ask, To what extent were they correct? To what extent were they bad? To what extent did they push economics in a wrong detour? Etc.
So understand what is going on here. McArdle attacks me for referencing only Rothbard and Mises and says that it is dangerous to think only two economists have all the answers. Well, golly gee, who the hell would understand this better than a Rothbardian?

As for Mises, he believed that economic writings of others should not only be read, but read in their original languages. Bettina Bien Greaves recounts:
I'll never forget Mises saying in his seminar, again and again, that languages are important.
Mises great work, Human Action, made references in so many different languages and to so many obscure theories of others that a companion glossary, Mises Made Easier, was put together.
Rothbard wrote a 2 volume history of economic thought. In this writing, he points out that economics started way before Adam Smith and hailed the Spanish Scholastics and the School of Salamanca. He wrote about Richard Cantillion, who he considered the founding father of modern economics,of the brilliance of Anne-Robert Turgot, and on and on.

Thus, to tweet to someone like me, who mentions Rothbard and Mises, and to say, you know economics goes beyond Rothbard  and Mises, is a combination of sheer lunacy and ignorance that is hard to match.

Yes, Ms. McArdle the Austrians do know that economics goes beyond Mises and, Rothbard. I pull from my shelf:

Hayek, Kirzner, Machlup, Morgenstern, Lachmann, Cantillon, Turgot, Bastiat, Menger, Bohm Bawerk, Robbins, Haberler, Schumpeter, Hazlitt, Hutt, Keynes, Robinson, Marshall, Rueff,  Mill, Bayer, Marx, Cannan, Knight, Jevons, Lange, Friedman, Philippovich, Hicks, Galbraith, Ricardo, Fisher, Samuelson, Wu, Block, Higgs, Salerno, Boettke, Cowen, Baum, Murphy, Dilorenzo, Say, Rizzo, O'Driscoll, Thornton, Harper, Krugman, Greaves, Ebeling, Mankiw, Anderson, Garrison, Sunstein, Thaler, Butler, Soros, Raico, Shackle, Woods, Hoppe, Sowell, Maltsev, Levitt, Stein, Roubini, Armentano, Erhard, Gordon, Hulsmann, Taleb, Bernanke, Sabrin, Kinsella, Ropke, Klein, LeFevre, Greenspan, Sennholz, Rubin,Williams, Solow, Roberts, Browne, Laffer, Wanniski, North, Hummel, Fetter, Reisman, Butler, Schmoller, Reich, Wieser, Shenoy, Walras, Stiglitz, Mundell, Phelps, Becker, Buchanan and on and on... We read them all, when they are right and when they are wrong, so we can understand the thinking and refine our own arguments.

For you to say to an Austrian that economics is more than just two writers, is like saying to an NFL football player, "Jeez, I hope you wear a jock strap out there."

You have embarrassed yourself in a tweet far beyond any other tweet I am aware of.


  1. "The brief answer is that no intelligent person thinks that the key to any science is "all there" in the work of two writers"

    I wonder what she would say if the two writers were Newton and Einstein.

  2. Interesting analogy, as Einstein fixed Newton's incorrect Law of Gravity.

    @RW: Tell me the Krugman book is autographed (I know the Murphy one is).

  3. You and Gary North should be a tag team, he has his opponent and you yours.
    Keep up the good work Robert.

  4. Megan McArdle can't be taken seriously after her remark that Ron Paul doesn't understand monetary policy. For several hours I tried to understand what she may have meant that I didn't catch. Finally concluded that she doesn't understand that Ron Paul is taking exception to monetary policy that he understands perfectly.

  5. Megan McArdle seems to have a history of spouting off about things she really does not understand. Here is an author responding to MM's review of his book--a book which MM clearly has not read or is simply unwilling to treat fairly and rationally. If she is not willing to give Sex at Dawn a fair read, good luck getting her to read Rothbard, Von Mises, or Paul.

  6. A grand tip of my hat to you Mr. Wenzel. This is by far the best pwnage of the month so far.

    I eagerly await McArdle's response. My guess is none will be forthcoming.

    Ah well, the yuks may have to end here. :(

  7. @Mark, that's hilarious.

    McArdle: "For example, like a lot of evolutionary biology critiques, this one leans heavily on bonobos (at least so far). Here's the thing: humans aren't like bonobos. And do you know how I know that we are not like bonobos? Because we're not like bonobos."

    I wonder what it would be like to go through life, believing my every opinion is a self-evident conclusive fact. Here's the thing: Ron Paul is wrong about economics. And do you know how I know that Ron Paul is wrong about economics? Because Ron Paul is wrong about economics. Q.E.D.

    Did anyone notice she linked to her Dec 19, 2007 article in the Atlantic, "Why is the gold standard crazy?" It's a catalog of faulty economic reasoning written in no less than the very month the Great Recession began. My favorite quotes: "Americans don't save because . . . well, have you tried the Wii? It's awesome." And: "...the longer the Federal Reserve has been in existance, the more stable the economy has been."

    I would be distancing myself from these statements, not quoting them three years later.

  8. Well then, Robert, you're obviously not an "intelligent person"!
    HA! HA! HA!.......
    Is Ms. Megan gettin' paid for all that thinkin' and her words? Nice work has she got.
    Sheesh! Now I've had a good Friday laugh. I'd better get back to work.

  9. Keep on her Robert - until she tries to actually defend her statement that Ron Paul knows less about monetary policy than the average Congressman (a statement displaying mind-splitting ignorance). Maybe in the process of TRYING to do so, she'll actually learn something about monetary policy - a win for the Austrians.

  10. One thing backers of the Fed will never admit is that they are part communist. After all, centralization of credit in the banks of the state, by means of a national bank with state capital and an exclusive monopoly is one of the 10 pillars of communism. Not surprisingly, these same "capitalists" and "conservatives" are quick to defend public education, the IRS, net neutrality and the interstate highway system.

  11. "Congress should act to remove taxpayer support from the housing GSEs before the bubble bursts and taxpayers are once again forced to bail out investors who were misled by foolish government interference in the market."
    -Ron Paul in the House Financial Services Committee, September 10, 2003

    Now I don't know much about Ms McArdle, but I'm curious as to where she gets the cajones deride a man who predicted the housing bubble collapse 5 years before it occurred.

    Perhaps she can site similar quotes from her "average Congressman" who she claims are more knowledgeable that Dr Paul predicting the calamity even earlier?

  12. At first I wondered why this women didn't have the common sense to withdraw before revealing more clearly her ignorance, but then I realized that this isn't the first time someone has shouted "the empress has no clothes." She is undoubtedly feeling very exposed and vulnerable at this point, rather like the Obama administration. As you, Bradley Manning, and Julian Assange are all seeing, it is a dangerous position to put someone in. When one has no credibility left to loose one, has no reason not to become a terrorist striking out at anyone within reach. (This is the reason the West, which doesn't understand well the concept of saving face, is so much more susceptible to terrorism than the Far East, which understands it obsessively.)

  13. When she saw the words 'it's all there' she fit it to preconceived notions of what she believes an Austrian economist must think instead of reading it in context. That too is consistent with her history of intellectual laziness and the lack of curiosity she practically brags about in her writing.

  14. Awesome, Robert!!

    She will doubtless never ever answer because she cannot ever answer without addressing real moral challenges (explain how it is moral for a small group to steal the savings of others by devaluing the currency... explain how if one owns his own life, it is anything but robbery to take an arbitrary sum in tribute, set by fiat, and imposed upon him simply because he is alive and was born into an area you stole from some other folks who were there first.... etc.).


  15. Isn't it obvious that she has never read Mises or Rothbard and has only a superficial understanding of the subject?

  16. She is so unspeakably ignorant that she has no idea how ignorant she is.

  17. It is possible that Megan McArdle will never understand. However, this discussion is very important in that some people who previously didn´t understand but are open to learning will actually do so. Thank you, Robert, for your dedication.

  18. Beautiful work here. I appreciate expertise in every form which propels mankind to his proper destiny and away from oblivion. The fuel for that is the freedom to exercise one's Natural Rights. The psychopaths in control of our country appear to think bringing us to a screeching halt is a good thing. It is, in fact, most evil.

  19. Boy, the joys of being ignorant. Well. Is it ignorance or just a paycheck to "be" ignorant?

    Hard telling.

    If she gives you a coherent and intelligent response I would be floored.

    You know, I'm not as smart as her. I follow Judge and Ron Paul. Well, I take that back. I also follow Lew, Woods, Mises, Rothbard, Tucker, Kinsella, and a whole lot more.

    I guess by her standards that makes me super, super intelligent. Because no one could get their super intelligence from "just" two people. haha.

  20. Here is my problem with this. Although Alinsky was absolutely correct that ridicule is the nuclear weapon of persuasion, MY view is that it should not be applied to a PERSON, only to ideas as the person will defend them self - natural - and will attract sympathy, all people you will lose as converts. Having said that, you - and North - have written brilliant articles using ridicule on 'deserving' subjects (How is it that both of these were women?). AN-y-how, what moved me to write was THIS comment -"Larry Gies said...

    Megan McArdle can't be taken seriously after her remark that Ron Paul doesn't understand monetary policy. For several hours I tried to understand what she may have meant that I didn't catch. Finally concluded that she doesn't understand that Ron Paul is taking exception to monetary policy that he understands perfectly."
    I think that she is correct IF what she means is that Paul does not understand why INCORRECT monetary policy - always perused by governments - is still the best way to go forward. This is based upon the TRUTH that government serves Satan (hate) and not God (love). It is impossible for it to do otherwise. Do pigs (not PIIGS) fly? Did Monty Python ACTUALLY make sheep fly (news flash - that was trick photography)? So, readers, if you want continued unsuccessful monetary policy, keep operating within a 'citizen' meme. For good policy, turn your back on hate. John Boanerges Redman

  21. Good luck Wenzel (hee hee) but know that the ancient Greeks had a saying:

    "Against stupidity the Gods themselves contend in vain ..."

  22. This also brings up the means by which the Banksters and those above them maintain control.

    Really, in a rational world, would she even have employment? She'd be a frustrated bitchy mom in a pre-divorce state in a suburb somewhere.

    However, in this world, she's a hack for those who can pave the way for her to fulfill their ends.

    She has sold herself out - and probably without even realizing it as Greenspan most probably did - to the whole Anglo-American Circles, Skullsmen, CFR, Bilderburger, Trilateral, interlocking corporate boards, Wall Street ... etc. etc. conglomerate.

    Ain't it wunnerful!

    There's nothing hidden now!

  23. Unfortunately, McArdle has had her sense of embarrassment surgically removed. One only has to look at how she answers her critics after she is called out on her on the panoply of gaffs she has produced.
    There is a whole community on the web in devoted to discussing her intellectually weak positions,on the blatant falsehoods, poor math skills and petulant, adolescent outbursts. I don't agree with the conclusions of many of these critics (who argue for government social programs) but the back-and-forths between Mcardle and this group can be hilarious.

    To me, she is the example of 'those wrong headed, intellectually lazy Libertarians' the main stream media keeps around to discredit legitimate arguments coming from the free market, anti-government camp.

  24. hey Rob,

    came by way of

    All we have to be concerned with is one thing, and one thing only.

    No one. I mean NO ONE will ever remember who this Koch-sucking grantwhore is, in 10, 20, 30, 50, or 100yrs.

    Chances of Dr. Ronald Ernest Paul being remembered as a crucial impetus for kickstarting the American R3VOLution 2.0?

    A certainty. Period.

    She should enjoy her 15secs (internet age, no such thing as 15min, anymore) while it lasts. As someone who's never published a single notable, or economically significant article, investigative report, a treatise, or even a book for that matter, is so smug and adamant about her economic street cred?

    Um, based on what??

    I'd say throw her into the sandbox of statist delusional cretins the likes of Cheney, Krugman, and John Yoo.

    I feel sorry for her parents that their daughter grew up to be such an arrogant imbecile.

    Pardon the crassness Rob, I regret I cannot be as patient and genteel as the Doc himself, whom I respect with all my heart; a work in progress, not as enlightened I suppose.

    Perhaps you should challenge her, in the same way Bob Murphy is doing with KRUDman.

    It's time to put up or shut up, for the statist mooks, likre McA.

    Hell, chances are, none of this will matter come next year when the probable currency crisis will make all her fraudulent pseudo-quackademia, moot, when a little thing called reality come-a-knocking.

    Besides, I'd say tough sh*t to her: she won't have a choice but deal with it, as the Doc will chair the subcomm. Like Rand, all the Pauls' detractors are just gonna have to deal with the truth for once.

    Now how about them apples.

  25. "he derives his understanding of economics from the writings of Ludwig von Mises and Murray Rothbard. It's all there."

    So this pretty boldly and plainly says just what McArdle thought it said. The fact that now Wenzel is trying to wriggle out of having said it does not make her wrong.

  26. I have taken it upon myself to quote a "great thinker" Ron White "you can't fix stupid". There isn't much more you can say about Megan.

  27. Callahan's mind hasn't been the same since I beat shit out of him in that London park.

  28. Pretty unnecessarily lenghty response. Like geoih my immediate thought was that all of Relativity came from Einstein and all of Quantum Mechanics came from Schroedinger and Heisenberg. Furthermore economics is NOT a science especially free market economics as it fails to work when you attempt to apply the type of experimental controls that science requires.

    These two points alone are sufficient to show McArdle's assertions as coming from "no intelligent person".