Speaking at Cato on The Price of Everything

by Russ Roberts on November 24, 2008

in Books

On December 1 at noon, I’ll be speaking on The Price of Everything at Cato here in DC, with comments by Nick Gillespie. Followed by food. No charge, somehow. Register here before Friday the 28th.

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T L Holaday November 24, 2008 at 9:16 pm

I hope you'll consider charging people to ask questions. A by-the-word tariff would disincent speechmaking. Or perhaps award the microphone by auction, so that market forces would cause only the highest-valued questions to emerge.

Ryan Fuller November 24, 2008 at 10:02 pm

Does this mean there really IS such a thing as a free lunch? :)

Russ Roberts November 24, 2008 at 10:22 pm

T L Holaday,

You should read Hayek's The Fatal Conceit. I think the relevant quote is on p. 18.

T L Holaday November 25, 2008 at 9:16 am

Alas, my son took my copy of The Fatal Conceit. Google Books has not scanned it yet, and the Amazon preview is "Look Inside" not "Search Inside" so I cannot get to an arbitrary page. I lacked the foresight to scan page 18 myself and must suffer the consequences.

By the way, what's the current standing of The Fatal Conceit? Is it considered canon?

According to Cubitt, when Hayek received a copy of the published "The Fatal Conceit," he told her that Bartley's changes were so significant that he hardly recognized it. (source)

Juan Carlos November 25, 2008 at 5:54 pm

"For valid causal conclusions, we need an experiment; we need a control group and a
treated group. When all we have are non-experimental data, correlation is in the data but
causation is in the mind of the observer.

With only temporal orderings and no experimental evidence, we do what empirics do: we
rely on stories. To each temporal ordering we attach a predictive narrative or a causal
narrative or both. We draw firm causal conclusions from the temporal orderings when
the causal narrative is compelling and when there is no equally compelling predictive
narrative. This is literature and wisdom, not science. "

and then here is my favorite part:

"So there you have it: It’s faith-based decision making, which is much influenced by the rhetorical skills of the advocates."

That's a pretty harsh assessment of economics as a field of study. at least of macro. Nevertheless, I think Leamer has a point. It seems that the only people with valuable things to say about this crisis are finance experts

I have taken 4 macro courses so far, 3 as an undergraduate and 1 as a graduate student
One would expect that the graduate macro course would provide the most insights into what is going on, but, strangely enough, it was the first macro course that did (at least these days there is talk of fiscal stimulus, tax cuts, more spending…)

in graduate macro it was Solow and Ramsey, then RBC's then New Neoclassical Synthesis….

What knowledge I have of the current situation comes from online blogs and articles of mostly FINANCIAL economists. none of whose knowledge is to be found in standard macro textbooks

Lowcountryjoe November 25, 2008 at 9:02 pm

I hope you'll consider charging people to ask questions.

Why not just steal a page and refuse to answer questions.

Mesa Econoguy November 26, 2008 at 8:53 pm

Microeconomists are wrong about specific things, while macroeconomists are wrong about everything.

P. 18:

“Among the most important of these innate characteristics which helped to displace other instincts was a great capacity for learning from one’s fellows…”

“Moreover, the structures of the extended order are made up not only of individuals but also of many, often overlapping, sub-orders within which old instinctual responses, such as solidarity and altruism, continue to retain some importance by assisting voluntary collaboration, even thought they are incapable, by themselves, of creating a basis for the more extended order.”

I wish I could attend.

LowcountryJoe November 28, 2008 at 8:40 am

Started reading The Price of Everything once again and am enjoying the read after getting deeper into it. I still like [as of right now; I'm in chapter 11 -- the Weaver of Dreams] The Invisible Heart better. The dialogue between characters was better in the Invisible Heart and more believable. But probably the most striking contrast between the two books is the amount of humor that you inserted. For example: the subtle humor on page 156 when Ruth is doing her NY Times crossword puzzle and she, of all people, is stumped by one of the answers. You had quite a few placed into IH and in this book you, not so much. See, for me, that stuff is really funny because it is so well-placed and unexpected. Why the reduced amount in this book?

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