Cherry-picking OK at Washington Post

The blogospheric response to George Will’s recycling of long-refuted talking points on climate change (a good summary here) has produced lots of insights into the way the mainstream media (particularly the Washington Post) works, and some reasons to be less regretful about its seemingly inevitable demise.

I was particularly struck by the opening statement in the latest contribution of WP Ombudsman Andy Alexander who states:

Opinion columnists are free to choose whatever facts bolster their arguments.

Really? Where I come from, citing supporting evidence and ignoring the existence of directly contrary evidence is called “cherry-picking” (when we are being polite).

Among other pieces of dishonesty, Will pulled together a string of quotes from the 1970s to make the case that there was a scientific consensus that the climate was cooling (with weaselly use of quotation marks, he sort-of avoided saying this in his own voice). But any competent writer (or ombudsman) would have discovered that very few scientists in the 1970s supported this claim, while some others predicted warming. The National Academy of Sciences looked into the question and concluded that we didn’t have enough data, or understanding of the global climate system, to make a prediction.

The fact that Will stuff has been recycled so many times makes the cherry-picking problem worse. Having been recycled dozens of times it’s been refuted almost as many. Thanks to the miracle of Usenet, resurrected as Google Groups, we can find examples going back at least to 1993.

None of this is a problem for the Washington Post, apparently. It’s perfectly happy to print claims about a non-existent consensus on global cooling. Perhaps the editors and owners ought to be more worried about the emerging consensus that the disappearance of the Washington Post would be no loss.

59 thoughts on “Cherry-picking OK at Washington Post

  1. Religion gives people training in believing without evidence. That is one reason why the American mainstream is so good at placing fond beliefs over facts and reason.

    Thus, I think the phenomenon lies deeper than poor editorial standards and execrable journalism (which latter is a tautology). The reason lies deep in the belief sets of the American people.

    Christianity (which the USA is so fond of in its fundamentalist form) establishes rights to all the specifics of its dogma by the doctrine of revelation. However, the doctrine of revelation is technically an “hysteron proteron”. More simply we might want to call it a circular proof; for scripture proves revelation and revelation proves scripture.

    (Hysteron Proteron – n. 1. Logic. an attempted proof of a proposition which is based on premises that can only be established with the help of that proposition. This involves a fallacy, since it inverts the true order of logical dependence.)

    The religious mind is trained to take a received text as wisdom without examining its empirical claims. This leads to a general devaluation of empiricism in all its forms and an encouragement of a psychological preference or fixation on adhering to passionate hopes and beliefs rather than examining objective evidence. Passionate beliefs continue to be held in the face of all evidence. Emotion is substituted for logic.

    In the USA, fundamentalist religion fused with fundamentalist capitalism and the self-justifying mythology of “Manifest Destiny.” Americans like George Will cannot accept that the endgame of “Manifest Destiny” is “Manifest Collapse”. Essentially, they are frantically trying to convinve themselves it isn’t true.

    Again, the psychological reason for this is the deep fear “I might actually be wrong” and the desperate belief that “If I can keep convincing others then I must be right after all”. There is always this sense of compulsive desperation in those who endlessly proslytise against clear evidence.

  2. Now now John, all columnists are prone to the odd spot of tendentiousness, even your good self.

  3. To be sure, this is an occupational hazard, but one I do my best to avoid. Will isn’t even trying.

  4. There is no such thing as an unbiased media. Most people treat 90% of the information generated by the mass media as fiction, the only people who don’t and take it seriously are other journalists and politicians.

  5. Where I come from, citing supporting evidence and ignoring the existence of directly contrary evidence is called “cherry-picking”

    I see. So what is it called when Professors of Economics focus only on the dominant Keynesian paradigm, and ignore thorough refutations from “heterodox” schools?

    Since they only teach Keynesianism and (some) Monetarism at economics departments throughout Australia, isn’t this also “cherry-picking”? Shouldn’t someone claiming to be an expert on economics be well-read and address all the competing schools (Marxist, Austrian, etc.) in their work? Doesn’t this demonstrate breadth of knowledge and willingness to address criticism in the interests of promoting truth in social science?

    Cherry-picking is a natural human fault. This blog proves it in bucketloads, as do all the academic departments of economics in this country. It is the only way that a mainstream consensus is able to preserve itself – by shunning minority viewpoints.

    Academics who have invested so much intellectual and emotional capital in a particular school of thought are loathe to admit they were wrong. Journalists just do this more blatantly.

    Until you figure out a way to change human nature, you won’t change cherry-picking.

  6. I should add that part of the reason that people “cherry-pick” is due to their high time preference. That is, people can cherry-pick even if they harbour no maliciousness or unethical desires.

  7. Sukrit. Whilst I think there is a dearth of interesting aspects of economics barely anyone is teaching (like history and philosophy of), I would suggest that in the most recent decade the Keynesian model has not been dominant at all but if they removed it entirely, they wouldnt have a semesters worth of the Monetarist model to teach and hence we would be (we are!) moving towards these waffly easy peasy globalisation style texts which drone on endlessly and have no real underlying model (at least none that is being taught to students). I dont suppose you have looked at high school and increasingly mainstream uni undergrad economics texts lately? Economics texts are shrinking, no two ways about it. Its a race to the nearest publisher to make a dollar out of students. Rigor has slipped down, kindness to students has slipped up, and market faith prevails. Kindness means not much maths.

  8. 6# Oh and no one has the time or the tenure to write decent textbooks because a paper a day keeps the Dean away.

  9. Let’s not overlook the general point that the WP has an ombudsman, however fallible,and Australia’s papers don’t. And in a comparable incident – I was complaining to the Age that a piece of antimuslim rhetoric they ran as an opinion article –

    “Coughlin… tries to rouse feelings against “the Islamic militias that have waged a genocidal campaign against the Christian tribes that predominate in the south of the country. There are 700,000 people in refugee camps in the Darfur province…” Here Coughlin is confusing the Sudanese Civil War, which did have Christians on one side and Muslims on the other but which ended in a negotiated peace two years ago … with the Darfur conflict, which is a considerable and continuing tragedy but which pits Muslim militias against Muslim villagers and Muslim rebels.”

    Th Age refused to correct it, and the Press Council refused to review it, on the grounds that it was an opinion piece. The status of facts embedded in opinion pieces is by no means settled here.

  10. Kindness means not much maths.

    If you accept the arguments of people such as Ludwig von Mises and F.A. Hayek, then I don’t think you would make that statement so casually. One of their concerns was that economists fail to understand the limitations of math. They fail to understand the complexities of political processes. They make unrealistic assumptions. This is not your average run-of-the-mill Joe Bloggs making claims that ‘economics is not a science’, these are critiques from people who know math, and often have degrees in math.

    Most economists grudgingly accept that their discipline is not as precise as the natural sciences. But not many fully understand the epistemological implications of this fact.

    Even the statistics that economists so carelessly use make many assumptions that often do not stand up to rational scrutiny (e.g. GDP). For example, would it make sense to compare the GDP figures in the command and control economy during World War II with the pre and post-war economy? Or the unemployment figures? In other words, is an economy where millions have been drafted into “employment”, where widespread price controls have muddled with the indices etc., in any way comparable to a normal peacetime economy?

    But many economists (like Paul Krugman) have without question adopted these figures, and have thus concluded that World War II “got America out of the Great Depression”. They have then made further claims that government spending on the scale of World war II would help cure the present economic crisis. All the while, they fail elementary tests of logic, NOT math.

    And I disagree that the Keynesian model is not dominant. Every economics textbook uses its analytical framework, and the recent splurge of government intervention (backed by a majority of economists) further demoonstrates its dominance.

  11. I am not sure if “Professors of Economics” focus only on Keynes and Monetarism. (Perhaps that formulation ought to be “Keynes or Monetarism”.)

    However, my overall point is that I think all schools of Political Economy should be taught to undergraduate Economists. After all, as J.S. Mill said, “He who does not know his opponent’s case knows little enough of his own.”

    The best way to teach Political Economy (in my opinion) would be to take a full historical approach. History begins as an empirical study. Naturally, point of view and interpretation have a large impact so history unavoidably is seen through a political prism as well as an empirical eyeglass.

    The historical approach to Political Economy would overview political-economies from hunter-gatherers to the rise of the first cities and then on to ancient empire, medievalism and feudalism, mercantilism, capitalism, socialism, communism and late stage capitalism.

    Ancient and medieval writings on economic matters should be overviewed and thence a formal study should commence from Adam Smith and proceed through his disciples, antagonists and other economists of note. No school should be negelcted.

    Only when all this is done (3 years of study at least) should serious high-level mathematics, statistical studies and modelling begin. The broad humanist education must proceed the narrow (but deep) technical education of the economist.

    Otherwise we end up with those who are wizards at formal models (usually highly idealised and un-empirical models) but idiots in relation to history, the political aspect of all “economy” and the recurring ability of unseen empirical shoals to shipwreck vessels of an idealised, ideological or partisan nature.

    Cherry-picking is a natural human fault. Therefore we need to follow a rigorous intellectual discipline which ensures we attend to all the evidence whether of a confirming or a refuting nature.

    The true hypothesiser and investigator gets just as excited by refuting evidence as by confirming evidence; more excited in fact for solid, repeatable refutations are conclusive while confirming evidence is always provisional.

    If opinion writers ignore this requirement the best we can is ignore them. If enough people ignore them their papers will go defunct as they deserve to.

  12. For those who want to jump and say “so AGW theory is provisional”, I will say this.

    Yes, it is provisional knowledge albeit in the special sense that all well-studied observation based science is provisional. That is, we begin to be able to assign a high probability to its accuracy WITHIN certain overall paramaters. We begin to be able to make accurate predictions of empirical events.

    “Human knowledge and human power meet in one; for where the cause is not known the effect cannot be produced. Nature to be commanded must be obeyed; and that which in contemplation is as the cause is in operation as the rule.” – Francis Bacon.

  13. I would have to agree with Sukrit. Australian economics teachers are fine cherry pickers. I’ve seen both Keynesian and Neoclassical teachers do this, as if the macroeconomic debate solely rests with these two groups. Austrian, Marxian and Post-Keynesian economics are barely discussed, if at all. On the issue at hand, perhaps we could agree there is no consensus on warming or cooling and to decide scientific matters by vote is ludicrous anyway…

  14. OZtrian, if you make a statement like that* it shows you don’t understand what “scientific consensus based on peer reviewed evidence” is.

    *”On the issue at hand, perhaps we could agree there is no consensus on warming or cooling and to decide scientific matters by vote is ludicrous anyway…” – Oztrain.

    Your statement (which I assume contains no irony) displays such an abysmal lack of understanding that it requires either no answer at all or a very long one.

    Try reading Karl Popper’s “The Logic of Scientific Discovery.” It’s not the be-all and end-all of the subject area but it it is compelling. Better still, Popper is quite the (moderate) right wing liberal individualist so I am not just recommending one of my left wing hobby horse thinkers.

  15. Please, no more Austrian stuff in this thread. I have been sitting on a nearly finished post responding to Peter Boettke (see, not everyone ignores this stuff) and I promise to run it soon.

  16. Ikononklast, I understand perfectly. The whole talk of consensus in science is rubbish. A consensus can be demolished with one fact. The talk of “consensus” is merely a device to shut up the dissenters. Peer review is not infallable and many a “crackpot” has been proven correct with the passage of time.

  17. “many a “crackpot” has been proven correct with the passage of time.”

    But many more have been proved crackpots.

    Backing crackpot ideas because you like their political implications is not a good strategy. The Left learned this in its post-1960s flirtation with various kinds of irrationalism. The Right seems to be more resistant to the same discovery.

  18. 12# Ikono –
    on economics education

    “The broad humanist education must proceed the narrow (but deep) technical education of the economist.

    Agree and if we structured more undergrad courses that way Im sure you would get a lot more economics majors.

  19. I agree with you wholeheartedly Professor Quiggin, regarding the foolhardiness of backing crackpot ideas merely for political convenience. All I’m trying to say is that talk of consensus in science generally is rubbish. In this specific instance, whether for warming or cooling. I am not endorsing one view or the other. Clearly there are respectable, intelligent people on both sides of the debate (at least in my opinion), ergo, no consensus either way. I look forward to your post on Austrian economics.

  20. Many of the cherry-pickings in Will’s article are not facts. What is the WP’s position on fiction posing as fact?

  21. Sukrit, I do not know how much credence Ludwig von Mises has as an economist. But I do know that in the US, the Ludwig von Mises Institute is based in Alabama.
    One of this Institute’s favourites is Professor George Reisman, who wrote in an economic blog called “Market Science vs Government Science” on August 8 2008. In that blog he wrote: “Any financial support the state may provide to science is by means of taxes collected at the point of a gun, from people who know that they will be imprisoned if they do not pay the taxes and injured or killed if they resist being imprisoned. This is a remarkable foundation for the progress of science, much like a purported construction of a laboratory by gorillas.”
    That indicates how the Ludwig von Mises Institute promotes writers with a reasonable viewpoint.
    Sorry, but I don’t have much confidence in the Institute bearing his name.

  22. John

    The Left learned this in its post-1960s flirtation with various kinds of irrationalism.

    This is matter of opinion and probably not a suitable theme for blogs.

    It is not clear what “the Left” was, is or will be.

    Labels of ‘irrational’ are usually pasted by idelogues.

  23. OZtrian,
    There was a scientific consensus that Newton was correct for centuries. It turned out that he was wrong. That did not stop the theory providing very useful predictions for all of that time.
    I have never been a great fan of the global warming hypothesis, but that does not mean that I think that we should do nothing. The preponderance of evidence, my own picture of the risks involved in the many different possibilities and the political realities has convinced me that we do need to limit our CO2 (and other such gases) emissions. If we wait for all to agree that it is needed it may well be too late.

  24. I don’t think Mises can be blamed for the Mises Institute. For example, Mises supported democracy but the Institute is opposed. More generally, the Mises Institute is representative of some of the nuttier elements of Austrianism, though not the nuttiest.

  25. Talk of consensus in science is not rubbish. Consensus in science does not mean a simple popularity vote that a theory looks right or wrong on the face of it.

    Consensus in the hard sciences means things like;

    1. Reproducable results. A researcher describes his/her experiments and results. If these results have important implications then many others will repeat and extend these experiments. If the results are reproduced and validated time after time then the consensus is that this piece of knowledge is dependable.

    2. Successful predictions. If a theory is accurate it will enable successful predictions. If A is true then B must follow and so on. If B does follow in case after case then the theory is strongly validated.

    3. Re-checking observations and calculations. This might overlap a little with point 1 but while some individuals repeat experiments others will check observations for measurement error and check formulae and calculations for technical or mathematical errors.

    4. Appraising the validity of complex modelling. In AGW research, modern science cannot run the real earth through several thousand greenhouse gas scenarios with different parameters each time so complex computer climate modelling is used. Points 1 to 3 above are employed to appraise and refine the validity of these models.

  26. Impressive changing of the subject in this thread, whether deliberate or not.

    George Will grossly misrepresented the FACTUAL situation; it’s an entirely different category of behaviour from adopting a particular THEORETICAL framework. He stated that certain things were true when they were actually false; moreover he compounded his errors by repeating them even when it had been pointed out that they were wrong.

    Unless one wants to get thoroughly post-modern about things, there is a world of difference between misrepresenting objective data and engaging in partisan interpretation and analysis (which we all do).

  27. Andrew Reynolds says, “There was a scientific consensus that Newton was correct for centuries. It turned out that he was wrong. That did not stop the theory providing very useful predictions for all of that time.”

    It is not quite correct to say that Newton was wrong. In fact, he was right but only within certain parameters. The key parameter for close to accurate calculations in Newtonian mechanics is that the relative speeds of the bodies studied be very small compared to the speed of light.

    For everyday earth-bound purposes Newtonian mechanics is accurate to something like 99.9999%. I’m guessing but it would be something of that order. In most undergrad experiments measurement error would be considerably greater than that.

    Newton also made several idealising assumptions like his absolute frame of reference, the assumption of pure empty space* and the ignoring of friction and resistance.

    *It’s now thought that pure empty space does not exist in this universe. “Space” is a field (known as the scalar field or space-time continuum.) I’m giving my popularised-for-the-layperson understanding of cosmology here. Genuine cosmologists and astrophysicists please feel free to correct me.

  28. Ikonoclast,
    Newton was wrong – as Einstein and the Standard model will one day also be proven wrong. That does not, however, mean that they were/are useless. That is all I was saying – I was not attempting to besmirch Newton’s reputation (apart from anything else he also had a fair grip on monetary economics for his time).
    It is the nature of science to be wrong. The point is that, even when it is wrong, it is still very useful.

  29. At the risk of staying off topic too long…

    Newton was not wrong. That is an absurdly absolutist statement. If you want to be that pedantic then every piece of science which is not 100% right in all cases is wrong. Such a formulation means all science is all wrong all the time.

    Newton was right within certain parameters, certain tolerances. This is the area we call right or correct (as a verbal shorthand) in all the pure and applied sciences.

    To throw out the definition of “largely right within certain parameters” as being “right” in practical and complex matters is to throw out the usefulness of right/wrong as a semantic tool.

    Hence, you are thrown back on “useful” because you have destroyed a valuable practical semantic distinction.

  30. Sukrit: personally I think people should be taught how to ‘think’ and apply the scienctific model. You know evidence, hypothosis, create a model, test model against the past (validation), predict the future, check prediction vs real data, repeat.

    JMK would be horrified at the things said in his name. Remember his most famous quote “I got new data, of course I changed my mind, what would you do”. A mark of a true scientist.

    The greats: Adam Smith (and really read what he says, which no one ever does), Ricardo, Marx (vastly underrated and should be required reading for every economist), Keynes, Fisher (originally the times’ equivalent of a neo-classical booster, but recanted after losing all his money, then did his most brilliant work and set the scene for Minsky), Minsky (vastly ignored, arguably the US’s greatest economist).

  31. I always liked the idea of science always ending up ‘wrong’. Takes the pressure off somewhat. “Best idea so far” is good enough for me. Still leaves plenty of areas where you can be perfectly correct.

  32. George Will should stick to baseball criticism. He is better at it than political punditry. His heart has obviously not been in the job since Reagan quit office.

  33. jquiggin (thanks for the great site by the way, you have long been on my compulsary reading/learning list).

    The ‘Austrians’ have a major problem that Keynes saw straight though. You can only do it in a totalitarian State, with all the apparatus of repression.

    Collapse people’s earnings. Wiping out jobs and savings, reducing the working class to starvation, the middle to poverty. People tend to cut up a bit rough at that.

    Standing on high saying “it is for your own good and in the long run it will be better for you” only works if you have tanks and the concentration camps behind you backing you up.

  34. The biggest ideological debate in the 20thC was between capitalism and socialism. Von Mises in 1922 predicted the impracticability of full-scale national collectivist economic planning. (Impossibility in the case of a global socialist institution.)

    His prediction was confirmed with the collapse of national collectivist economic planning in the PRC and then the USSR. Concurrent events suggested the resilience of some forms of capitalism in developed and developing economies.

    That makes von Mises, judged by the key criteria of science, the most successful political economist of modern times. Give the guy a break.

  35. Sorry mate, not a chance. Piffle I call it (sorry I love that word). Piffle (everyone should use it regularly).

    The most succesful model we have ever had was the Keynsian model, later called the Social Democratic Model. Not perfectly applied (now if only we had applied his model for trade deficits and capital controls we would not be here in this mess).

    Controlled capitalism, channeled into worthwhile things. Doing the things it does best, while leaving a Public (maybe better call it a Commonwealth) system to do what it does best.

    Not a master, a trained dog.

    That period of Social Democracy saw the greatest growth in total wealth, equitably spent no less, the greatest innovation, the greatest growth in health, education and social and physical infrastructure ever seen (the numbers are easy to look up).

    You know we did something then we cannot do now .. we went to the Moon.

    Simply take the growth in height levels of the average person over that time. Now under the current system you have to take the fat levels.

    Amazingly we also had freedom as well (remember that thing), political, social and sexual. Women got rights. We actually embraced women, Aborigines, artists, musicians, scientists (sometimes we actually listened to them as well). Engineers were valued, rather than as we see them today, someone to cure and/or outsource.

    Thruthfully, at 11 years of age I was taken on a trip (my uncle was a nuclear engineer) through Hunterston A. Looking at that pile thorugh 6′ leaded glass (for a very limited and measured time). Now way back then, if someone had come up to me and said “we will still burn coal for electricty in 2009, actually we will increase the numbers”, I, at 11 years of age, would have laughed at you and said “only morons would do that”.

  36. Ikonoclast Says:

    Newton was not wrong. That is an absurdly absolutist statement. If you want to be that pedantic then every piece of science which is not 100% right in all cases is wrong. Such a formulation means all science is all wrong all the time.

    Newton was right within certain parameters, certain tolerances. This is the area we call right or correct (as a verbal shorthand) in all the pure and applied sciences.

    I’m afraid Andrew’s correct here, and you aren’t.

    It was known from Newton’s time onward that his formulation was only approximate, because it involved a constant, G, the value of which was not known to absolute precision. The problem doesn’t lie there, however. The problem was with the nature of time and space that are assumed in Newtonian mechanics (i.e. Gallilean relativity). It is on this count that Newton was undeniably, fundamentally wrong.

    Maxwell started the unravelling of Newtonian mechanics, Einstein delivered a couple of killer blows, and quantum mechanics lopped off its head. We now know the conditions under which Newtonian mechanics can be useful, but before the 1920s or 30s, we didn’t.

  37. funny that isnt it jack,

    and the same bankers backed both sides…

    but i wonder, was that the greatest struggle?

    or was the twentieth century really a century where the moneyed elites reasserted their control over the vast masses in all countries, regardless of supposed governmental systems,

    after a worrying period in the 19th century where the peoples and their egalitarian ideals started to look very menacing indeed

  38. i dont think keynes saw quite straight through that problem oldskeptic,

    in fact he flirted with it for a while until hitler gave it a bad name

    …therefore, I am inclined to the belief that, after the transition is accomplished, a greater measure of national self-sufficiency and economic isolation among countries than existed in 1914 may tend to serve the cause of peace, rather than otherwise.

    …Even countries such as Great Britain and the United States, which still conform par excellence to the old model, are striving, under the surface, after a new economic plan.

    …a deliberate movement towards greater national self-sufficiency and economic isolation will make our task easier

    …Now, if the functions and purposes of the state are to be thus enlarged, the decision as to what, broadly speaking, shall be produced within the nation and what shall be exchanged with abroad, must stand high among the objects of policy.

    national sef-sufficiency or autarky, is of course exactly what hitler was aiming towards

  39. Oldskeptic –

    could it get worse? Only so recently talking Dow 7500 on LR average? Well I was out but I did say overcorrection poss. So what do you think now?

    This is getting ugly.

  40. Oldskeptic#31
    says “Adam Smith (and really read what he says, which no one ever does)”,

    If it happens that all great economists are misinterpreted after their deaths, there was none more so than this one.

  41. Re Keynes and the Nazis

    “Greater” national self-sufficiency can stop well short of autarchy. Keynes in 1946 regarded free trade as containing much truth (I’m puzzled myself about where K drew exact the line, I confess), provided the global and national monetary systems were set right.

    Second, of course it is easier to implement Keynesian policy if you have centralised political power and the leadership thinks it’s a good idea, but this is not advocacy of authoritarian government.

  42. Oldskeptic,
    You seem to exemplify those who speak on a topic without actually reading anything by any of the people who actually understand it.
    The comment where you said…

    The ‘Austrians’ have a major problem that Keynes saw straight though. You can only do it in a totalitarian State, with all the apparatus of repression.
    Collapse people’s earnings. Wiping out jobs and savings, reducing the working class to starvation, the middle to poverty. People tend to cut up a bit rough at that.

    … is exhibit one. Apart from the apparent breach of Godwin’s law in the last paragraph of that comment, this quoted piece is the true “piffle”. No Austrian school economist worth his or her salt would believe that these are needed, wanted or even envisaged under a free market system.
    Sorry, but you get an “F” for understanding on that one. Start with something (anything) by Hayek and you may start to gain some understanding. As it is, you comment on this area is merely laughable. Mill’s quote on knowing little of you own case applies very well to you.

  43. Andrew, I think you misinterpreted. I think Oldskeptic said something completely obvious, and that you probably wouldn’t disagree with.

    a) full and complete central planning and regulation doesn’t work, leads to unrest, requires totalitarianism to control, and

    b) full and complete abscence of central planning and regulation leads to the same result. The totalitarianism would be privately funded, of course, but the effects are the same.

  44. he also had a fair grip on monetary economics for his time

    bit of an understatement no?

  45. No SJ – I would most assuredly not agree with that. Nor, I think, is that what oldskeptic was saying. If I am not mis-interpreting, he is saying that the “austrians” are looking to “…[c]ollapse people’s earnings. Wiping out jobs and savings, reducing the working class to starvation, the middle to poverty.”
    I would agree with your “a”, but not your “b”, although a complete lack of government is not what I, nor (AFAIK) is any Austrian.
    I think, being a man of his time, he would have agreed at least partly with a mercantilist position, although I may be wrong on that.

  46. Again, I did ask for no more on the Austrian stuff. Please wait for my coming post on this

  47. Andrew, that’d be the “no true Austrian” fallacy, wouldn’t it?

    So Hayek can assert that any step toward socialism leads to totalitarianism, but the reverse cannot be argued, because a true Austrian would know where to stop.

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