Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Science versus Europeans

I loved the, er, fair and balanced tone of this article (via Marginal Revolution):

Obsolete and disproved Marxist and socialist thinking also remained strong within European universities, including in economics departments. Many young economists, scientifically oriented and so recognizing the superiority of free markets, found the climate intellectually stultifying [my emphasis]
What fun.

While the article makes a valid overall point - the centre of gravity of the economics profession really is in the US, and there has been lots of old-fashioned thinking in some European universities - it's subtly undermined by the kind of assertion in bold text above.

I wanted to find out more about who was writing this stuff - after all it has the implied approval of Tyler Cowen - so I clicked on 'About City Journal' in the footer of the article.


City Journal is the nation’s premier urban-policy magazine, “the Bible of the new urbanism,” as London’s Daily Telegraph puts it. During the Giuliani Administration, the magazine served as an idea factory as the then-mayor revivified New York City
Not quite conclusive - after all the Giuliani administration was relatively centrist, so maybe this is just a publication which happened to spring up during those eight years.

So I click on the name of the editor, Brian Anderson (who "...is a frequent guest on talk radio"), and then through to the Manhattan Institute, the organisation from which City Journal springs. Finally a bit more clarity:

For over 30 years, the Manhattan Institute has been an important force in shaping American political culture and developing ideas that foster economic choice and individual responsibility....Our work has won new respect for market-oriented policies
Nothing wrong with that - no doubt I would agree with many of their ideas. But linguistic clues like "economic choice and individual responsibility" strongly signal a very specific set of priors which should influence our interpretation of any article, and especially comments like the first quote shown above.

Naturally everyone has prior assumptions, and as I mentioned in a previous article this applies both to left and right. But to co-opt "science" to support your political position at the expense of a whole continent really is cheating.

1 comment:

PunditusMaximus said...

Eugenics was once considered the "scientific" approach, with similar lack of intellectual honesty and eventual results -- lots of dead people.