Monday, 3 May 2021
As a man thinketh
Assuming something that is not necessarily believed by oneself or by one's audience or by either is a regular practice in various intellectual pursuits.
In discussion of policy, appropriateness of the set objectives of a real or imagined audience will often be assumed by economists who are either attempting to proceed in a wertfrei manner or to argue for or against some ostensible means of accomplishing that set of objectives because of how those means would affect other matters about which the economist has a normative position. Thus, an economist who does not believe that an objective is right and proper may none-the-less assume that it is, to explain
- that some policy will not accomplish the objective; or
- that some policy will be most effective at accomplishing the objective; or
- that some policy might be very effective at accomplishing the objective, but would, will, or does come at unacknowledged costs of importance to some in the audience; or
- that some policy will be very effective in accomplishing the objective, and would, will, or does bring unrecognized benefits of importance to some in the audience.
One of the various things that I find uncomfortable about engaging in discussion of policy is that some people lose or never catch sight of the point that my assumption of objectives is not an endorsement of those objectives. However, I think that repeatedly assuming objectives in the context of being socially surrounded by people with those objectives will indeed lead some analysts to fall into the habit of presuming those objectives — of implicitly embracing those objectives — and may eventually lead them to endorsing those objectives overtly.
Unhappiness prevails amongst various libertarians and near-libertarians, concerning the comportment of what are called
beltway libertarians, who are scholars, intellectuals, and professional political operatives located in or near the District of Columbia, and who self-identify with
libertarian yet who have been silent about some of the most illiberal policies of our day, or contort themselves to argue that these policies are actually libertarian, or even assert that circumstances warrant policies that they acknowledge to be illiberal. For the most part, the liberal community elsewhere simply takes it that the
beltway libertarians have been corrupted by their context; I am here suggesting part of the mechanism of corruption.
 Normatively neutral.
 I use
illiberal in their original and proper senses.