Tag Archives: critical discussion

#livingwage movement just can’t handle the truth @LWEmployerNZ

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Looks like the living wage movement will not be taking up my challenge for a public debate anytime soon.

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JS Mill on the importance of never saying that the science is settled

You’re an ideologue; no, you’re the ideologue!

I find that people who call out other people and opposing analysis as ideological are themselves ideologues. They cannot see political differences as other than ideological cat fights.

This is rather than an honest difference of opinion over the effectiveness of different options to achieve a common end as Milton Friedman explained:

I venture the judgment, however, that currently in the Western world, and especially in the United States, differences about economic policy among disinterested citizens derive predominantly from different predictions about the economic consequences of taking action – differences that in principle can be eliminated by the progress of positive economics – rather than from fundamental differences in basic values, differences about which men can ultimately only fight.

Hayek attributed to his opponents nothing more than intellectual error. Hayek (1948) believed that:

we must recognize that it may be genuine error which leads the well-meaning and intelligent people who occupy those key positions in our society to spread views which to us appear a threat to our civilization. Nothing could be more important than to try to understand the sources of this error in order that we should be able to counter it.

Hayek (1968) continues:

The worst mistake a fighter for our ideals can make is to ascribe to our opponents dishonest or immoral aims. I know it is sometimes difficult not to be irritated into a feeling that most of them are a bunch of irresponsible demagogues who ought to know better…

we ought to realize that their conceptions derive from serious thinkers whose ultimate ideals are not so very different from our own and with whom we differ not so much on ultimate values, but on the effective means of achieving them.

William Baumol and Alan Blinder described the role of economics in policy debates as follows:

While economic science can contribute the best theoretical and factual knowledge there is on a particular issue, the final decision on policy questions often rests either on information that is not currently available or on tastes and ethical opinions about which people differ (the things we call ‘value judgments’), or on both.

Lester Thurow said that differences in the valuation of outcomes is at the basis of most disagreements:

Liberal and conservative economists most frequently disagree on who ought to be hurt and who ought to be helped. Their technical disagreements on who will be hurt and who will be helped are much less frequent.

Karl Popper argued that who made an argument is of little value. He said that the growth of knowledge depended not on the ethics of the individual scientists but on the critical spirit to scientific community as a whole. The critical scrutiny of others polices the truth:

The genuine rationalist does not think that he or anyone else is in possession of the truth; nor does he think that mere criticism as such helps us achieve new ideas.

But he does think that, in the sphere of ideas, only critical discussion can help us sort the wheat from the chaff.

He is well aware that acceptance or rejection of an idea is never a purely rational matter; but he thinks that only critical discussion can give us the maturity to see an idea from more and more sides and to make a correct judgement of it.

Peter Drucker championed a business rule of never making a decision until there is disagreement; only then do you know what you are planning to do:

Unless one has considered alternatives, one has a closed mind.

This above all, explains why effective decision-makers deliberately disregard the second major command of the textbooks on decision-making and create dissension and disagreement, rather than consensus.

Decisions of the kind the executive has to make are not made well by acclamation.

They are made well only if based on the clash of conflicting views, the dialogue between different points of view, the choice between different judgments.

The first rule in decision-making is that one does not make a decision unless there is disagreement

Alfred P. Sloan said at a meeting of one of his top management committees:

“Gentlemen, I take it we are all in complete agreement on the decision here.”  Everyone around the table nodded assent.

“Then,”continued Sloan, “I propose we postpone further discussion of this matter until our next meeting to give ourselves time to develop disagreement and perhaps gain some understanding of what the decision is all about”.