Arnold Kling  

My Classroom, Con't

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Let me add some more color to my tone of comments post.

1. I do not mean to suggest that I have inherent credibility based on credentials or somesuch.

2. By "classroom" I mean to suggest decorum. By "my classroom" I mean to suggest that I have a claim to jurisdiction. The Internet as a whole is a free-for-all, but this blog is not.

3. I have a long history of wanting to see decorum in the comments section. I believe that insults and personal attacks detract from the comments section. See Gresham's Law of Comments.

4. Historically, I have been more willing to tolerate commenters insulting me than I have been willing to tolerate commenters who insult one another. But I have come around to the view that those who insult me also damage the comments section.

5. Wit and friendly sarcasm are fine. I do not have a precise definition of what counts as acceptable and what does not. You shouldn't be spending time figuring out where the edge of the line might be. You should spend time figuring out how to express yourself in a way that is convincing rather than demeaning to others.

6. In some ways, my opinion about what counts as a good argument is more important to me than any substantive position that might be under discussion. I am willing to change my mind on issues, such as Global Warming or the FairTax. But I have laid out some clear markers about what sorts of arguments would change my mind. I think that is a better way to approach a debate than to throw insults back and forth.


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COMMENTS (10 to date)
David N. Welton writes:

I actually prefer sites that are moderated, although it requires more work for whoever moderates it. It keeps the discussion more civil, and is not a 'free speech' issue in the slightest in a forum like this one, that does not make any claims about being open to everyone to talk about everything.

One of my favorite guidelines is "would I say that to his face?". If not, then perhaps it's better left unsaid. Of course, that limit is different for different people, but it's not bad as a rule of thumb.

Robin Hanson writes:

Way to go Arnold - blogs need more, not less, of this.

Rimfax writes:

Insulting comments also act as unintentional strawmen, undermining the arguments of those who agree with them. If you want a constructive argument from which you may gain some insight or which might actually change your mind, insulters will prompt you to close your mind to the perspective from which they advocate.

Ryan writes:

Another incremental victory for the Rationalists. Hopefully this leads to a surge in quality discussions amongst commenters.

Barkley Rosser writes:

Obviously, this means that you are a
@%*&$^+)#(=!!! I cannot say it more
clearly or more forcefully. This is
further evidence of the Fall of Western
Civilization..., :-).

I guess that I may be one of the offenders whose comments have prompted this review of rules of civility. I am sorry for any disruption I may have caused. For decades now I have been trying to be both civil and true to myself. It seems a very long quest.

Nature as I understand it is basically a food chain. Civility therefore occurs naturally only within certain communities of animals where cooperation helps more than killing or enslaving. I see the state as an engine of incivility, a means by which some humans feed upon the fruits of other humans' labor. Most of the beneficiaries of this transfer manage to remain ignorant of the forceful, uncivil nature of the state. But while the state exists thus among us it may be impossible to achieve complete civility in a public blog, since some few of us may speak out at any time about what is happening.

Nonetheless I am trying to learn how to be civil. I applaud your effort.

Curt writes:

Thank you, Arnold.

Dan Weber writes:

I can't help but think "chilling effect."

One of my greatest pet peeves is when management puts up a sign or sends out a message saying "somebody ate all the donuts. We know who did it. We will charge you money the next time it happens."

Poppycock. If you knew who it was, you would've contacted them. Maybe they think I did it? Maybe they don't know but they suspect, and maybe I'm the one they suspect, for whatever capricious reason. (I was the last one to comment on the flavors of donuts.)

Instead, we see incompentent management trying to create a culture of fear -- "we know who you are" -- which is disheartening on multiple levels, because not only are you worrying "am I the one being watched?" but also because you realize that management thinks this is a good idea.

... I'm not sure why that precise pet peeve came to mind. It might have to do with the "public attack against anonymous target" tactic.

A critical component of good management is "praise publicly, criticize privately." This feels like I'm watching you criticize multiple someones. With the added paranoia of "well, maybe they're talking about me."

Troy Camplin writes:

You're right Dan. Good analysis. I've been sitting here wondering if it was my comments that set this off -- and I even made some comments to that effect -- even though I have little doubt in my own mind that I said nothing offensive.

Morgan writes:

Tone is obviously a very subjective term and it is difficult to ascertain what exactly is the 'bad tone' comments to which he refers. For the most part the comments are totally appropriate for a forum on something that really matters, economics. If anything, I think that there are too many what could be best described as brown-nosing comments on the blog. I assume most of those are from some students actively looking for a better grade or a coveted recommendation.

Sarcasm is exactly what Libertarian Economics needs. The harsher and more cutting the better. Libertarian Economics has become way too complacent, self-congratulatory, inconsistent and satisfied with the status-quo. It has become a cheerleader section for business as usual instead of the revolutionary force it needs to be. Too many people think they are Libertarian because they benefit from the status-quo and think Libertarianism is a ready-made philosophy that justifies their wealth and privilege. They like to pick and choose Libertarian conclusions based on how it benefits themselves.

What Libertarian thought needs is more consistency and the ability to stop wasting time and energy creating crap models meant only to convince themselves of what they supposedly already believe or trying to convince people that major problems don't exist because their solutions would preclude a Libertarian Utopia.

If you really believe in Libertarian economics, than it is clear that our nation's present status-quo is by definition woefully inefficient. Applying Libertarian Economics to these issues should yield great strides in efficiency, wealth and national power.

Instead we are treated to endless drivel masquerading as studies and statistical models which are meaningless wastes of time.

My theory is that the vast majority of economics students and economics professionals come from wealthy backgrounds. It was certainly true of my studies and subsequent encounters. Perhaps this is natural based on interests and inclinations. But the result is that the vast majority of economists, Libertarians included, are complacent with the status quo because the status quo has been extremely kind to them. When you are the prime beneficiary of a policy, its difficult to find fault with it. Its a natural blindness, perhaps one that only some harsh, cutting criticism can open their eyes to.

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