It will be an integer, between -1 and 1

Those frustrating times when we think of the perfect comeback, but too late:

Bryan Caplan was presenting at the NYU colloquium on market processes. His paper relied on a notion of "rationality" that certainly could not pass philosophical muster.

In attempting to show the weakness of his notion of rationality, I commented, "Let us say that someone is working on the assumption that the Bible is the revealed word of God. Wouldn't it be rational for that person to act differently than your 'rational actor' would act?" (I was trying to point out that his notion of rationality could not rationally defend its own assumptions, and that given different assumptions, what constituted a rational action might appear quite differently.)

He responded, "What, we should pay attention to some book written thousands of years ago by some desert shepherds?" (I quote from memory.)

Let me note that Professor Israel Kirzner was sitting next to me in the room at the time Bryan said this. Caplan surely knew that Kirzner is an orthodox rabbi, so his response was pretty much a slap in Kirzner's face. I think I was too flummoxed by the degree of disrespect Caplan showed (to a much greater thinker than himself) to respond as I should have:

"Gee, Bryan, 2500 years from now, how many people do you think will be reading your work?"

The answer is in the post title.


  1. Rational equals reasonable ( heavy condescending tone with eye roll) which allows you to be insulting.

    I am by no means a great thinker.

  2. But of course his response is no response. If you believe stress causes ulcers or masturbation causes blindness that will effect your rational decisions too. If his only riposte is "but we now know that is wrong" his theory is in trouble.

  3. I've got one better: "Gee, Bryan, what two-and-a-half millennia from now, how likely do you think it is that your academic work will outshine your acting role in Ghostbusters?".


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