Prompted by this Cafe Hayek post, Washington University economist Ian Fillmore sent to me the e-mail below, which I share here with his kind permission.
I admire your perseverance in explaining (again and again) why industrial policy is such folly. Alas, I’m afraid that those who advocate for industrial policy have understood neither the arguments against it nor the evidence underlying those arguments. I suspect people believe in industrial policy because, for pre-rational reasons, they want to believe in it. They’ll look up the arguments later.
Now why do they want, so badly, to believe in industrial policy? That’s a great question. Perhaps if we could figure this out, we’d have a better idea of how to persuade them. Perhaps… but my cynical side wonders if people are entirely animated by pre-rational motivations, and their rational arguments are just window dressing that they use to justify things they were going to do, or say, or believe anyway. But then I remember my classically liberal commitment to reason and persuasion and repent of my evil ways.
So as I said, I admire your perseverance and your rejection of cynicism and despair. Keep up the good fight!