Libertarians, Part 1

I had a 2.5-hour conversation on 10 August 2009 with my friend, Teemu Pihlajamäki.  We hadn’t spoken in a couple of weeks and therefore had many thoughts that were ready to harvest. Part 1 – Blogs

  • He asked me why I wanted to start a blog.  I’ve had several abortive attempts to start blogs in the past, but they all failed, because I was too ambitious – I wanted to express my complete, finished, perfect worldview on all subjects.  I now realize that I can contribute to the world of ideas without having decided everything.  I can be comfortable with a high level of agnosticism on many subjects, while still sharing some small perspectives or insights on issues, and not having them simply die in my head or in my notes.  I can put them out there to participate in the world of ideas.  I want to be a branch, not just a leaf in the tree of knowledge.
  • Teemu worried that by publishing anything you get identified with a set of views, which makes it difficult to take your views back in the face of contradicting evidence.  Publishing, therefore, is dangerous because it crystallizes your ideas and arrests your intellectual development.
    • For example, even if he encountered good evidence contradicting climate change Al Gore would have a hard time taking back what he’s said, changing his views, without losing all credibility.
    • I pointed out this occurs more often with public figures, whereas academics can change their minds about things more easily – take the example in Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion of an old British professor who passionately believed one thing and then when presented with contradictory evidence in a lecture by an American, he came up and said “I’ve been wrong these 15 years”, and everyone in the lecture hall applauded.
    • I also pointed out a recent economist article alleging that it’s more acceptable to flip-flop on issues of public policy if you’re an economist:
    • “Today’s economists tend to be open-minded about content, but doctrinaire about form. They are more wedded to their techniques than to their theories.”
    • Outside of academia, however, we both agreed that it helps to be declarative and certain if you want to be heard, as The Onion once lampooned.