Friday, February 13, 2009

E-mail about the book "The Tyranny of Dead Ideas"

While I was at work today, I received an e-mail from the Milken Institute. The e-mail was to inform me of a seminar that is going to occur in Santa Monica. I don't know why I get these; when would I be able to attend a seminar in California? But I digress. The forum was to discuss the book titled: "The Tyranny of Dead Ideas" and it was written by Matt Miller. The purpose of the book is to discuss, and challenge, "conventional" wisdom.
When I began reading the description of the book, it sounded quite interesting, and to some extent it still does. However, when I got to the section that listed these supposed "conventional" wisdoms, I asked the question, when are these considered conventional thoughts? Here is a list of the topics discussed in the book:
  • Our kids will earn more than we do.
  • Free trade is always good, no matter who gets hurt.
  • Employers should be responsible for health coverage.
  • Taxes hurt the economy.
  • Schools are a local matter.
  • Money follows merit.
While I find it particularly difficult to think that most people hold most of these thoughts, there is one that particularly jumped out. As an economist, from my own personal experiences and from what I read, I would not say that it is the conventional wisdom of most people that free trade is good. If you doubt this, you should read some of that Bryan Caplan's work. In his book "The Myth of the Rational Voter" Bryan finds that the general public tends to be significantly biased against foreiners, and free trade policies. He addresses these topics when describing a phenominon he describes as an "Anti-foreign bias".
We can already tell from the last portion of the point where they say: ... no matter who gets hurt.
It would be just as easy for them to say: Free trade is not always good, no matter who benefits. By using the original wording, they are making it implicitly clear that people are hurt by free trade, why ignoring the fact that some people benefit from free trade.
While I can guess that I would not agree with Mr. Millers view points, I would still find some of the topics he brings up could be quite interesting. Too bad I won't be able to go to the seminar.

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