Bryan Caplan  

Beyond the Pale

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Mankiw writes:

Kinsley and Libby share two, significant characteristics: They are both very smart, and they both care deeply about public policy. I am willing to bet that if they ever sat down over a cup of coffee, they would like each other quite a lot.

Of course, they would disagree about things, maybe about most things. But that is okay. No gentleman would dislike a person simply because he held different political views.

I broadly agree, but I've got my limits. I get more than my fair share of emails from Nazis and Communists (yes, literally), and I don't respond to them.

To be frank, I dislike Nazis and Communists. Personally. Their views are so irrational and depraved that I conclude that they are probably just evil.

How about you? Who do you consider beyond the pale?


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COMMENTS (18 to date)
SheetWise writes:

Who do you consider beyond the pale?

The two leading Democrats. Not all Democrats/socialists (I can't tell them apart), but certainly the two frontrunners.

Since I know they're not stupid -- and they must know their policies will hurt people, I conclude that they are probably just evil.

ryan writes:

The other party in a real estate deal. Basic neoclassical economics says that if I'm having trouble deciding between two options, then they must be roughly identical in value, I must be indifferent, and so I shouldn't worry too much. But in this case, I find myself just annoyed. On the upside, it gives me a little more "research through introspection" to support my "economics of spite" model.

Dan writes:

I would say that at least many Communists are just morally lazy and haven't thought through their beliefs, much like most religious believers. There are all kinds of reasons to buy into an evil belief system (laziness, gullibility, ignorance), so I wouldn't go so far as to call everyone who believes in Communism (or even Nazism, at least in 1930s Germany when the intellectual pressure to agree was overwhelming) evil.

That said, I have little more desire to engage with ignorant and irrational people than with evil people.

Carl Marks writes:

WHAT, you don't like engaging in discussion with evil people. I would love the opportunity to talk to an intelligent and well-read person that operates from an evil point of view. People who advocate higher minimum wage laws just because it will put people out of work are a rare breed. These people don't come around often, and I would love to learn more about how they think.

Discussions could be extremely interesting. We may disagree over whether a policy should be adopted, but there should be little quarreling over the effects of policy

plinius writes:

If I had to stop talking to "communists" and people with deluded political ideas, I'd have no friends left....

Jim writes:

Who do I consider beyond the pale? Hmm, maybe people who always blame the poor for their poverty and attribute any of their own success to hard work and personal brilliance.

Kinsley's problem with Libby is that he is seriously misinformed about the facts of the Valerie Plame incident.

There was no plot to 'sully' the reputation of Joe Wilson (not that identifying his wife as a CIA employee would accomplish that anyway). There was simply an effort to correct the falsehoods that Wilson was spreading around through gullible journalists like Nick Kristoff.

Buzzcut writes:

I've run into real live Communists before in places like Ann Arbor and Madison. Rather than evil, I would characterize them as insane.

If you believe that Communism is real, achievable, and inevitable, you are insane. There is no way around that.

The fact that a significant minority of people in places like Ann Arbor or Madison are out and out Communists says... I don't what.

SheetWise writes:

"People who advocate higher minimum wage laws just because it will put people out of work are a rare breed. These people don't come around often, and I would love to learn more about how they think."

But they're not advocating a law just because it will put people out of work -- they're advocating a law they know will put people put of work because their supporters believe it won't.

I don't think these people are as rare as you think. In Without Conscience, Robert Hare puts them at about 4% of the general population -- with crime and politics their best opportunities. He pegs them at 20% of the former group. My guess is they're better represented in the latter.

blink writes:

Byran, I am curious how you identify Nazis and Communists. Do emailers begin, "I disagree with you because I am a Nazi..." or "According to Communist principles..."? Do you infer that they are Nazis or Communists from the views they espouse – a shibboleth of sorts? Perhaps they are distinguished by a detestable style of argument?

I suggest ignoring anyone who: 1) replies with ad-hominem attacks (i.e. bad style); or 2) invokes an indisputable authority as evidence (including “because the Bible says…”). Short of this, why ignore any particular group? That someone addresses the content of an argument seems sufficient warrant for a goodwill exchange, regardless of the person’s stripes. This is what I take Mankiw to mean by a “gentleman.”

Brad Hutchings writes:

My list today:
1. GPL advocates
2. MBAs
3. Safety Nazis
4. People who think it's cool to blow stuff up on the 4th of July within 30 feet of my living room window and then have the nerve to ask me to quiet down my dogs.

drobviousso writes:

Hypocrites. I can stand lairs, thieves, murderers, and cowards, but when someone moves into "do as I say, not as I do", that's usually it for me. This covers Communists pretty well, I think.

That's not true. I also can't stand someone who, for whatever reason, refuses to empathize with other people. Not the 'I feel your pain' type of empathy, or 'racism is bad', but the smug, sure of themselves type of empathy that refuses to consider the position and motivation of someone else. This usually ends up ascribing other peoples actions to meaningless and useless pejoratives like "evil", "bad", "stupid", or "greedy". This covers Nazi's.

Also, idiots who think that no poor person is poor because of their own choices, and who thinks that every person of median income or more thinks that they are rich because of nothing but hard work.

Eric Falkenstein writes:

I think really effective evil people are generally under the delusion they are doing God's work in some way, helping the greater good, rationalizing their indiscretions as 'broken eggs' or deserving. So someone who is upfront about how they would restrict certain groups liberties (gays, kulaks, Armenians, blacks, women), are in some sense refreshing for their candor, and as I know very few articulate people with these beliefs, I guess if they were educated and interesting, I'd like to hear their explanation.

The people beyond the pale are those who merely repeat the limited number of thoughts they have. Once they have demonstrated this tendency, I don't bother with them, because they have nothing to say of interest.

TGGP writes:

Over the internet, I don't consider anyone "beyond the pale", but a lot of people are annoying and pointless to interact with. That could be a result of my not believing in morality (in an objective sense), but I'm guessing that I would have qualms about personally interacting with all sorts of horrible people, and even non-horrible but just dislikable people. On the other hand, I have much less faith in introspection than Caplan and the Austrians, despite some of my other Austrian leanings.

Karl Smith writes:

I'm not a big believer in evil

I grew in a Communist household - hence the name.

I have talked quite extensively with Nazis on the Internet and they are not completely unreasonable. Indeed, the serious ones are pretty grounded in logic. They simply have a wildly different preference ordering.

This is sort of how I feel about Pat Buchanan. I think he misses a few things about trade but for the most part he is one of the savviest talking heads around and I typically agree with his logic. We just have completely different view of the good. For example, I think Pat would gladly sacrifice GDP growth in exchange for cultural stability.

8 writes:

Mindless statists. I have a problem with everyone looking to restrict freedom, but with theocrats, and even communists, I can see where they're coming from. I understand their goal, they can articulate it, and they have a reason. Maybe if I showed them their goal was good, but their method wrong, they might change their mind.

People like Bloomberg on the other hand. Trans-fats, smoking, ice cream trucks, and tourists with video cameras have all become targets. Why?

Food nazis, safety nazis, smoking nazis. I don't understand them. They don't have a philosophical position, they're just mindless control freaks.

mik writes:

[Comments deleted for supplying false email address.--Econlib Ed.]

Snorri Godhi writes:

Left-wing academics, but ONLY in English-speaking universities. Not beyond the pale, but if they do not separate the personal and political spheres, I cannot be expected to like them independently of their political views.

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