Saturday, August 13, 2011

Don Boudreaux Writes Good Sense As Usual

DON BOUDREAUX, whose blogging at Café Hayek (HERE) and his constant letter writing to US papers, I often admire, writes (11 August) of a problem he has with an urge to reply to every absurdity on economics he sees or is reported to him by a reader. He reports of an instance of this recently:

I confess to suffer occasionally the urge to address every such absurdity that crosses my path. And I sincerely appreciate the Cafe patron sending to me the above link. But some such ravings – such as the above – are simply too ridiculous. Just as every verbal ejaculation by every New Age therapist professing the healing powers of crystals and stones need not be addressed by serious physicians, every shriek by pundits on the economy who know absolutely nothing about the economy need not be addressed by serious economists.”

I completely understand what he is writing about because I get the same feelings in my daily dose (20 to 50 items) of “Google Alerts” on mentions of Adam Smith and also the same from a separate list of Alerts on mentions of the “invisible hand”.

The absurdities I regularly note are often beyond parody. And just as regular are those that are apparently written by commentators claiming familiarity with economics and with Adam Smith and “invisible hand” (though it obvious many have not read either of Smith’s books, or their memories are failing).

Mostly, I rise above the temptation to respond the every one of the fantasies sent to me in my attempt to maintain the serious integrity of Lost Legacy and the serious attention of my serious readers.

I am glad that Professor Boudreaux suffers from the same problem of editorial selection, and the measures he takes to deal with the wilder shores of absolute nonsense about economics, while in no way belittling the seriousness of those correspondents who send clips to him.

Here is my version of Don’s typically clear statement of his personal editorial policy:

“I confess to suffer occasionally an urge to address every absurdity about Adam Smith and/or the misuse of the metaphor of “an invisible hand” that crosses my path. And I sincerely appreciate Google’s daily listings and the occasional readers who send to me links to items they have read (many of which, fortunately are absolutely relevant to Lost Legacy's mission). But many such pieces are simply too ridiculous to warrant a comment on a serious Blog. Just as every verbal ejaculation by every New Age therapist professing the healing powers of crystals and stones need not be addressed by serious physicians, every shriek by pundits on Adam Smith who know absolutely nothing about him or his use of the invisible hand metaphor need not be addressed by Lost Legacy.

I confess that when serious senior economists, or serious affiliates of other social sciences, write about either Adam Smith or the IH metaphor, while sailing close to the wind of absurdity (er, a metaphoric expression!) when misrepresenting Adam Smith, I sometimes wonder whether I should take their assertions seriously or respond. Well, I confess, I often do respond while struggling to keep my comments well within the (invisible!) bounds appropriate for members of the Republic of Letters.

(Thanks, Don, you have made me feel better already.)

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