Stupid Professor Tricks

Professors often seem dependent on strawmen to supercharge the motivatation of their otherwise undistinguished arguments, and since being a professor means never having to know any history of economic thought, lots of these strawmen are invented and then projected on famous economists from the past. Indeed, fake “Hayek” positions are becoming more popular among academic than even are fake “Adam Smith” positions. The latest bogus “Hayek” position comes from Daron Acemoglu, Davide Cantoni, James A Robinson, and Simon Johnson, academics at Harvard and MIT. You really have to read their article to get a full sense of their strawman, but if you’ve read Hayek’s The Constitution of Liberty or his Law, Legislation and Liberty, an any of his special essays on this topic, you now that Hayek allows for all sorts of “design” within the institutional backdrop of evolved institutional structures like language, or money, or law, or government, etc. Hayek even proposed the implementation of several dramatic institutional designs. In other words — if you’ve actually read Hayek — the following statement of Professors Acemoglu, Cantoni, Robinson, and Johnson is a laughably fraudulent strawman:

“Hayek (1960) .. claimed that the institutions of a society had to evolve organically and could not be designed.”

Note well that left wing economist Mark Thomas — who loves to bash Hayek with no sign that he’s ever read the man’s work — happily spreads the bogus meme.

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4 Responses to Stupid Professor Tricks

  1. Mark Thoma says:

    That’s funny. Speaking of no signs of having read anything, some of my “bashing” includes:

    Tim Duy: In Defense of Hayek

    Tim Duy comes to the defense of Hayek:…

    On the Road Again

    Here’s Easterly’s response .. in … defense of Hayek…

    There’s lots more bashing like that on my blog!

  2. Greg Ransom says:

    I’m happy to find that you posted such stuff 3 years ago Mark. I wasn’t a regular reader of your blog at the time.

    What I do recall is 2 months ago when you chose to highlight Jammie Galbraith’s distasteful little story about his father’s falsely premised nasty insult of Hayek before Hayek’s Vienna peers.

    A bushel of off-base and frequently nasty volleys at Hayek and Austrian macro, and a handful of Hayek defenses here and there across the years. sounds like balance to me.

    And then, of course, there are all those tasteful, well balance, and gentlemanly Krugman pieces ..

  3. Greg Ransom says:

    Mark, I also note that you passed along Jeffrey Sachs’s factually bogus attack on Hayek without comment, and the pieces you site “defending” Hayek were published on your blog after you’d gone ahead and passed along Sachs’ bogus Hayek bashing for the “edifcation” and entertainment of your readers.

    Some very good economists called Sachs out on his bogus Hayek-bashing charges — charges you saw fit to rebroadcast — and you thought best to cover for your original unjustified hit. That is all. This isn’t Medal of Honor behavior, it’s cover your ass behavior.

  4. John says:

    Yes, it looks like Mark Thomas is an unrepentant “cover your ass” type of guy, even when simple admission and honesty would cover the ass much better. Not to worry though Mark, a great portion of humanity is in the very old habit of doing the same thing. Kind of childish. But that’s where we are. Advanced degrees, university titles and prestigious positions really don’t guarantee that the pursuit of truth will be the driving force.

    Remedy for Mr. Thomas. Get naked and streak naked around Harvard Square.

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