David R. Henderson  

Taking Dean Baker Seriously

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My book review of Dean Baker's short book, Taking Economics Seriously, is just out in Policy Review. Although I liked a fair amount of the book--see my review--Dean restricted himself with his implication that unless a large number of people hold a view, the view does not have to be taken seriously. I wrote:

Let's stipulate that the people whom Baker sees arguing against specific regulations rarely argue against regulation in general. It doesn't follow that the "real issue" is the structure of regulation. Take a historical example: slavery in the United States, which was a form of extreme regulation, one that government used in order to give and enforce property rights in humans. It might be hard for us to believe today, but it is nevertheless true that in 1830, very few people argued for complete abolition of U.S. slavery. Abolitionists had a bigger presence in Boston than in the rest of the United States, but even in Boston they were rare. Should we conclude that the real issue was only the structure of slavery and not whether some people have the right to own others? The reality is that we can't, simply by looking at the dominant players in Washington, conclude anything about what "the real issue" is. Instead, we need to consider, and judge, the various positions and arguments themselves, regardless of whether their advocates have strength in numbers.

Fortunately, as I note in my review, Baker doesn't stick to this stricture. He himself proposes large doses of free trade in medical care even though few people in the United States are so advocating.

COMMENTS (3 to date)
Elliot writes:

I also don't like the idea of dismissing arguments because they're out of the mainstream. What is the point of writing a book like this if you can't offer interesting new ideas?

I noticed a typo.

"Baker makes no mention of the fact that free-trader Milton Friedman put forth an even more radical proposal 38 years ago in his classic, Capitalism and Freedom. "

Capitalism and Freedom was published 48 years ago, in 1962.

Mercer writes:

I think Baker is the best of the left wing economists. I don't know why other people have not talked about is health care ideas. Medicare is the federal budget's biggest problem. If American doctors are losing money with Medicare patients they should support Baker's proposal for seniors to use Medicare dollars to receive treatment from doctors in other countries.

David R. Henderson writes:

Re 38 vs. 48 years. Thanks: I'll contact the editor. And I was a math major!

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