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For Whom Do I Write?

Commenting on this post, Bret Wallach asks who is my intended audience.  The question is good.  Here’s my answer: in almost everything that I write my intended, or at least my principal, audience is young people (say, 14-27 year olds).

I almost never write to change set minds.  Set minds are surprisingly difficult to change.  (See Jonathan Haidt’s important work.)  And most minds are pretty much set when their owners reach their late-20s – especially as regards matters and subjects to which those minds devote special attention.  Exceptions abound, of course, but very few 40-year-old “Progressives” become free-market conservatives, just as very few 35-year-old libertarians become “Progressives.”

So I almost never aim to change someone’s mind from a position that he or she has it set in.  Instead, I aim to offer my perspective, and to share what little knowledge and wisdom I possess, to people whose minds aren’t yet set so that, when those minds do set (as they all one day will), they will set with as much of the economic way of thinking included in them as is possible.

Someone who learns early on always to ask “As compared to what?” – someone who is early-on disabused of the romantic myth that government officials possess unique goodness, insight, and knowledge – someone who, while still young, is inoculated against the superstition that social order must be consciously designed – someone who, as a young man or woman, learns to question conventional pieties – someone who, while still a student, understands (as Thomas Sowell points out) that there are no ‘solutions’ to society’s problems, only trade-offs – someone who, early in life, learns the remarkable role that competition and market prices play to peacefully coordinate the plans and actions of hundreds of millions of strangers across the globe – someone who, while still in his or her intellectually formative years, learns that the economic problem is not an engineering problem – such a someone is more likely to be immunized for life against the disease of falling for 99 percent of what is said by politicians, as well as by the chattering and professorial class who seek power, either actual or only vicariously, by influencing politicians.