Arnold Kling  

Discovering Alan Fiske

Tyler Cowen on Economic Turbul... My Education Rant...

Columnist Andrew Cassel writes

The rules of supply and demand aren't inherently more difficult to fathom than those that apply to, say, politics, or cooking, or sports.

Yet while most people have no trouble wrapping their brains around these subjects - indeed, millions will be eagerly absorbing their finer points this weekend - (What are you watching: Meet the Press, celebrity chefs or college football?) - few have a similar appetite for economics.

And now I know why, thanks to Alan Fiske.

Thanks to Tyler Cowen for the pointer. I cited Fiske in Learning Economics.

I was turned onto Fiske by Steven Pinker's The Blank Slate, a book that I believe every intellectual ought to read (certainly Tyler has read it?). I wrote this essay, which credits Pinker with the insight that Fiske's theories explain why economics is difficult to understand/accept. If he were writing for an academic journal, Cassel would not owe me any citations, but he certainly owes one to Pinker.

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COMMENTS (5 to date)
nobody writes:

Tyler has not only read it, but I believe he had lunch w/ Steven Pinker.

David N. Welton writes:


I liked the idiotarian essay, but there is a detail I would like to mention, that is in my area of specialty, open source software. You are perhaps correct that open source lacks monetary incentives to be more user friendly. However, notwithstanding that problem, open source software has continued to make inroads into user friendly terrain. For instance, the Ubuntu Linux distribution is very easy to use and set up. We use it almost exclusively at work, even for non-technical staff, who don't seem to have any more problems with it than they would with windows (and perhaps less, because they are unable to install virus-infested crap on the machines).

Open source software is certainly a fascinating field, and I think something of a challenge for economists to come to terms with. There is no doubt whatsoever that open source works, and works very well. What started me on a path to learning more about economics was my curiousity about how it works in the long term, how it can sustain itself, and... how it can be explained, something that I do not think has been done in an entirely satisfactory way.

Interesting stuff, indeed!

liberty writes:

Regulation Magazine of Cato recently also discussed the evolution of market instinct. I think you can read it here:

RogerM writes:

If someone could show me how to test Pinker's theories, I might be more interested. Until then, they remind me too much of eugenics, just people airing their fantasies.

Andrew Cassel writes:

I'm happy to acknowledge both you and Pinker, since both led me to Fiske's work. (Though I forget whose reference I read first.) As you know, journalism's conventions are different than academia's; and since I went to the source (interviewing Fiske by phone for the column) it wasn't necessary to retrace my steps in print. Plus they only give me 700 words...


A Cassel

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