Art Carden  

An Invitation to Bryan Caplan and Vivek Wadhwa: Care to Debate?

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I still haven't watched the Intelligence Squared debate on immigration, but I have followed the fallout here on EconLog. I propose that we settle this...with a debate.

I invite Bryan Caplan and Vivek Wadhwa to Samford University for a debate on the following proposition:

"Let anyone take a job anywhere."

There are obviously a lot of details to work out. I would need to secure funding, an on-campus venue, a moderator, and a steel cage, and we'd have to work out the logistical details. I hope Bryan and Vivek will be willing to participate, at least in principle.

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COMMENTS (14 to date)
NZ writes:


If I were in Caplan's or Wadhwa's position, I'd be really annoyed by that "steel cage" remark. They both have strong feelings about the topic and how the IQ2 debate went down, but by alluding to the melodrama and antics of pro wrestling you're making it seem like they're two roided out muscle-heads ready to tear each other's faces off over it, with you conveniently posited as the calm, reasonable moderator (even in your call for a moderator).

I know I hate it when I have a mature but passionate disagreement with someone and then a third party comes in and goes "Whoaaa guys, take it easy!" It degrades the whole thing down to an infantile level. It's manipulative and obnoxious.

RPLong writes:

Judging by the comments section on this blog the last few days, I'd guess that the steel cage is for the audience, not for Caplan and Wadhwa.

mobile writes:

A whole on-campus venue? I was just going to suggest that they get a room.

Tim writes:

I'd be really annoyed by that "steel cage" remark.

All I can say to that is "Lighten up, Francis."

NZ writes:


I've been skimming the last few days, not paying close attention, but the comments section doesn't seem to have been overly emotional either. For instance, Wadhwa came back and responded to some of the comments, but while the exchange was frank and assertive, it never seemed like it got out of hand or anything. If it had happened in realspace, I don't imagine any of the comments would have entailed a raised voice or threatening demeanor.

Can you cite examples to the contrary? (I'm not asking in a challenging way, I'm just curious if maybe I missed something.)

RPLong writes:

NZ - EconLog has an excellent comments moderation policy that tends to separate the wheat from the chaff. Frank and assertive is the EconLog equivalent of a molotov cocktail! ;)

Or a cage match, if you prefer...

Here's an interesting link on the etymology of the phrase "hash it out." As you can see, the English language is full of all kinds of colorful phrases that attach violent images to constructive debate. I'm sure Prof. Carden intended something similarly innocent with his allusion to a "steel cage." :)

NZ writes:


Frank and assertive is the EconLog equivalent of a molotov cocktail!
Right, that's a relativistic view I guess. But why react to frank and assertive as though it's literally a molotov cocktail?

I get that Carden was trying to make a colorful joke, but it had that twinge of "Whoaaaa guys let's settle down" that is so obnoxious. It not only belittles the legitimate debate Caplan and Wadhwa were having, it is also dishonestly manipulative because it posits Carden as the reasonable moderator. It's a pathetic, underhanded conversational trick.

Vivek Wadhwa writes:

I'm in! With or without the steel cage. We may need it for the audience, though. I've found some of the people who are harassing me on Twitter to be the problem children--not Bryan, who is a gentleman and a scholar. :)

Handle writes:

I'll debate either one of them in the DC metro. I might need that steel cage to protect myself though - like a shark cage.

Aaron Zierman writes:


I think that you're reading far too much into the steel cage remark. Perhaps it bothers you on a personal level, which is fine, but I'm fairly sure it is not intended nor received in the manner which you describe.

Also, Carden does call for a moderator (not himself), and in my opinion he does not set himself up as the reasonable moderator in any sense. To me, it's more that he'd simply love to have more debating (which is generally a good thing).

JohnB writes:

I'm glad that Mr. Wadwa appears to be agreeing to this debate. I would very much like to see it. From what I saw in the last debate, I think Bryan's views are much more logical and consistent and this will show if they face head to head.

Ross Levatter writes:

Art, this is a BRILLIANT idea! I'm glad to see Vivek likes the concept and hope Bryan signs on as well. If nothing else, the fact both men will do a good job defending their opposite positions should demonstrate to Intelligence Squared it needs to do a better job clarifying its debate propositions and assuring that the speakers it chooses have an unequivocal understanding of them.

Hi, NZ.

As an aside: I believe that RPLong's molotov cocktail quip was a poke at me in my role as moderator for EconLog. Our civility policies are very strict about prohibiting name-calling, derision, or other forms of rudeness. Disagreement with someone's ideas is welcome, but commenters must engage in rational debate in a calm, civil manner without getting personal about it.

RPLong was joking to the effect that anything that steps outside the line of civility here doesn't make it into the comment section because I intercept it and email the commenter reminding him that rudeness is not allowed. Consequently 'frank and assertive' end up being pretty strong attributes for an EconLog comment as compared to the flame wars in comment sections that one might encounter elsewhere online.

For the record, I had a pretty good belly laugh over RPLong's depiction of the effect of the rules here--and implicitly, of me.

NZ writes:

@Aaron Zierman,

You're right, I could be reading too much into it on a personal level (though I did qualify this by saying "If I were in Caplan's or Wadhwa's position"). I suppose I could backtrack and ask, Does anyone else get a similar feeling? Maybe it's just me.


I got all that, I was saying that just because the extremes of 0 and 100 are chopped off, doesn't mean we have to treat 30 like the new 0 and 70 like the new 100. We can still treat them as 30 and 70. And probably should:

I respect and trust both your judgment and the civility policies you use your judgment to enforce. Nevertheless, calling 30 the new 0 and 70 the new 100 seems like it could eventually lead to chopping off anything under 49.99 and anything over 51.01.

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