In response to my expression of disgust at grabbing a beer (or whatever beverage) with Elizabeth Warren – or, for that matter, with nearly every other politician you can name – several people have scolded me for rejecting the opportunity to possibly change that politician’s mind. This comment by James Gibbons is representative:
You should welcome the opportunity to sit down with her over a beer, especially an imported one, to tutor her on the benefits of free markets.
While I’m flattered by the compliment, I reject the premise that Sen. Warren or almost any other serious aspirant for high political office needs or wants or is capable of having her or his mind changed by tutoring.
Such office-seekers seek the power and gaudy glory that come from winning elections. Period. Each will say or do almost anything that that politician believes will improve her or his prospects of electoral victory. All that Elizabeth Warren now says and does is calculated to win elections; none of it is said or done with the slightest interest in actually improving the welfare of the country or of the world. It’s all said and done exclusively to improve the welfare of Elizabeth Warren.
And so my (or even more tellingly, much-better economics educators such as Deirdre McCloskey, Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams, Vernon Smith, Dwight Lee, Russ Roberts, David Henderson, Mike Munger, or Tyler Cowen) sitting down with Sen. Warren to tutor her on economics would be as futile as a Mormon missionary sitting down with the CEO of Anheuser-Busch to tutor that person on teetotaling. There is simply no way that either tutee is going stop doing what she or he is now doing: the personal gain in continuing to do what is being done is far too great to change.
Just as the only way to reduce brewery sales is to reduce the public’s taste for beer, the only way to reduce the economic idiocy spewed by the likes of Elizabeth Warren is to reduce the public’s taste for such idiocy. And on that front I do do my tiny part, or I sincerely try to do so. I do write for general audiences in an attempt to reduce the public’s taste for economic idiocy.
Although my own efforts, taken individually, have at best only the most minor of insignificant real-world consequences, my impact is (I boast) likely greater than zero. Perhaps, being arrogant and generous to myself, it’s on the order of 0.0000000001 percent effective. But were I to spend any time talking with the likes of Sen. Warren, that time would not be spent doing what I do. Therefore, because the prospects of my (or any other respectable economist) changing what Sen. Warren says and does on the campaign trail and in office are absolutely 0, by taking time to talk with the likes of Sen. Warren I would thereby divert my efforts from channels that have at least a remote prospect of generating positive outcomes into a channel that is utterly wasteful (and, in addition, one that would be for me utterly nauseating).
(By the way, Warren has already been instructed in sound economics, as she years ago attended at least one seminar, and perhaps several, conducted by the late, great Henry Manne’s Law & Economics Center.)