Strategic Opinions

Robin Hanson sez:

Our opinions are part of this dominance/submission signaling system.  The higher we feel in status the more we feel free to express distinctive opinions and expect others to agree, or at least not greatly disagree.  Which is why we are so reluctant to agree with others we compete with, even when they make good points.

I eagerly admit that this is a good point. But! I don't think everybody plays this game. There is an opinion elite heterodoxy game and there is a hoi polloi orthodoxy game. In some groups, contrariness is an effective strategy of marginalization, not elevation. But this is a game I'm sure Robin and I, in our different ways, are playing. I guess that's one reason why I sort of pity people who are rigidly doctrinaire or partisan: it's so intellectually submissive. Unless, of course, you pioneered the doctrine.

Author: Will Wilkinson

Vice President for Research at the Niskanen Center

3 thoughts

  1. Will, are you able to use your influence at The Cato Institute to have a survey of macroeconomists taken? It would be very instructive to know what they think of the stimulus plan.

  2. I’m a little depressed that you want to give comfort to the people who want to dismiss modern economics because it can’t answer everything.
    You need to distinguish between the scientific proposition that Say’s law doesn’t automatically hold and therefore aggregate demand can be propped up by monetary or fiscal instrument with the more tortured question of how best to do this and whether government can deliver what would be technically ideal. The former question has been answered, and truthful macroeconomists will tell you Hayek was wrong and Keynes right, even if they prefer Hayek’s politics. The latter question is more a matter of practical judgment than economic science. Naturally, ideology becomes a bigger predictor than expertise at that point.

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