David R. Henderson  

David Henderson vs. Mark Weisbrot on January 17

Pregnancy Substitutes and Econ... Morning Commentary...

On Sunday, January 17 (tomorrow), I'll be debating Mark Weisbrot on the big issues: capitalism vs. socialism. You can listen to it live here at 11:00 a.m. PST (2:00 p.m. EST). I was supposed to debate Harold Meyerson, who writes often for the Washington Post, but he backed out on Friday. I had been looking forward to debating Meyerson ever since I criticized a piece he wrote here.

The host and questioner is Marty Nemko.

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COMMENTS (13 to date)
Tom West writes:

I've seen a couple of these debates and can only hope that in this case the Socialists are better represented than in either of the debates I saw.

The trouble with getting high public profile people to debate is that those who are prominent are far better at making set piece speeches (where there is little chance of rebuttal) than carefully picking apart the weaknesses of the other's arguments.

(Even in a political arena, debates are far more about activating your base by attacking straw-men than trying to reach everyone.)

I'll listen with hope, but if the Socialist side refuses to distinguish Capitalism and Fascism, I'm turning it off.

David R. Henderson writes:

Tom West,
Which debates did you see? Whom vs. whom?

Sam Wilson writes:

I'm really enjoying the debate. Weisbrot seems to have a bit of a tendency to drift off topic from time to time, but for a one-hour tour of multiple subjects, both sides have brought up plenty of good points.

The first half hour was better than the second.

Unit writes:

I was surprised by the last minute recap by the host. Quite eclectic!

agnostic writes:

That went a lot better than I'd expected. Is this another instance of the bogosity of arguments and the lower light/heat ratio stemming more from the theory-heavy vs. data-heavy split, than from the left vs. right or libertarian vs. socialist split? That was the takeaway from which econ textbook authors were the most clueless about the Soviet Union's growth potential compared to the US's.

Weisbrot didn't sound like that autistic knee-jerk Keynesian guy who Russ Roberts debated recently, Josh Bivens.

I'm glad you got that dig in there about better data (on how to measure inflation) forcing us to re-write history, rather than throw out an improvement on our measurements in order to preserve our view of history.

Josh Weil writes:

Mark kept trying to pinhole the other side as people who utilize government action to favor wealthier interests. He's bound to fail since he's going after a straw man.

There's this thing called freedom that opposes all plunder. It may seem surprising, but it works remarkably well. I thought David did a great job presenting that case.

Michael writes:

The show is archived here (27.4MB):


Nicholas writes:

You cited some books or publications during the debate, which I did not catch. There was one in particular from Liberty Fund which sounded interesting at the time, but I cannot even remember the topic. Could you mention it here on your web site? Thank you.

It was a good debate, not the rude conflict that seems to even find its way onto public radio.

David R. Henderson writes:

Dear Sam, Agnostic, Josh, and Michael,
I didn't hear the Josh Bivens debate with Russ and so I can't comment. What I liked about Mark W. was that he was a gentleman. I didn't think he was that good on content, though. I think he wasn't very empirical and I also think my throwing in bits of history and data surprised him. On energy, for example, I doubt that he knew, as readers of the OPEC article in The Concise Encyclopedia know, that it was formed in response to Eisenhower's discriminatory quotas on oil imports. Also, even though we were both told to prepare for a question on energy, all he talked about was global warming.
What I liked about my own performance was my facts and energy. What I didn't like was my breathing. We were told in advance about the time constraints and so I tended to try to stuff in as much as I could while looking at my watch. Mark, by contrast, had a more relaxed presentation.
I agree with Josh that he tried to make the point about people "on the other side" favoring policies that redistribute wealth to the rich. Whenever he said it, he didn't talk about me or libertarians: he talked about conservatives. So I didn't take the bait: I'm not a conservative.

David R. Henderson writes:

Here are the things I remember citing:
1. On education, E.G. West, Education and the State.
2. On the financial mess, Russ Roberts's podcast interview of Charles Calomiris.
3. On how infant mortality is measured, John C. Goodman, Lives at Risk. BTW, I screwed up on the point about infant mortality. A doctor friend who was listening and who knew the data e-mailed me in real time and I planned to correct it at the end, but then in his final statement, Mark introduced new content and so I decided to respond. I could have gone over time but I wanted to keep my word to stay roughly within the time constraints, as Mark had done.
Here's the correct fact:
"In the United States, if a 28 week premature infant is born, efforts are made to save it. If these efforts fail, it is counted as a death in the infant mortality statistics. In Europe, if a 28 week premature infant is born, no efforts are made to save it. The infant dies and it is called a miscarriage. It is NOT counted as a death in the infant mortality statistics."

Tom West writes:

It was an interesting debate, and I'd have to give it to David for (1) his better preparation and (2) his willingness to specifically address and rebut points that Mark made.

For a debate, Mark spent far too much time attacking the Republican's "redistribute to the wealthy" policies when both sides were in agreement. I suspect that he thought his opponent was going to be a Republican rather than a Libertarian.

However, both sides acquitted themselves quite well, so I'm happy.

Which debates did you see? Whom vs. whom?

These where debates held at Convocation Hall at the University of Toronto in the mid-80s (separated by a few years apart). The first debate was the worst because the capitalists where hard-core Randists, which should have been easy meat. (You just find the most absurd position Rand took, ask them if they agree. If they don't, they get expelled from the movement because if A is A, then everything follows logically without room for dissent. If they do agree, they look absurd.)

Instead, the socialism side had a pair of high ranking NDP'ers (not leaders, but high up), who ignored every questionable assertion and odd logic of the capitalist side and ended up equating capitalism with Nazism, which was just plain embarrassing.

The second debate wasn't as big a deal, but was rather lackluster. In that one both sides seem to forget it was a debate, so it became more about reading speeches.

Your debate was definitely the most debate-like and enjoyable of the three.

Nicholas writes:

Thanks Mark. It was the Calomiris reference that I was particularly interested in, though the facts about US vs. European perinatal practices is interesting too. Are precise adjusted figures available about the comparative death rates for newborns, or is it impossible to determine?

Nicholas writes:

Sorry, I meant to say "Thanks David".

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