Sunday, November 05, 2006

My Economist is Bigger than Your Economist

I was astonished to read in a little op-ed piece in Scientific American (one of the world's most overrated publications, BTW) by one Jeffrey Sachs that the corporatist politico-economic systems of "the Nordic countries" prove that "Friedrich Von Hayek was wrong": the welfare state does not lead to serfdom but to social justice and a "vibrant" economy, both! What? Wasn't I just reading an article (which I blogged a couple of weeks ago) by a man who had just won the Nobel Prize for studying these very questions -- where virtually the opposite thesis was asserted? What gives?

Well, these country-to-country comparisons are very messy but, roughly speaking, Sachs is wrong, is what gives. For a brilliant account of a lot of what is wrong with what Sachs was saying, see Tim Worstall here and especially here.

There is one mistake that Worstall did not point out and, call me petty, but it really cheeses me off.

There is a small typo in the first edition of Thoreau's Walden, which is corrected in editions that are carefully re-edited, but survives in a vast array of crappy ones (such as the shoddy Modern Library one, the really horrible Barnes and Noble one, etc.). Turning to that page is a quick and easy way to tell whether an edition is a good one or not.

Similarly, there is a quick and easy way to spot people who talk about Hayek and just don't know anything about him. Hayek was not a "von." Furthermore, even if he were, the word would not be capitalized. The fact that Jeffry von Sachs didn't even know what Hayek's name was, was an early indicator (in addition to his grossly obvious misinterpretations of what Hayek was saying) that Sachs was talking through his pantseat.

Few people in the history of the planet Earth have been as roundly denounced for being wrong during their lifetime, or as resoundingly proved to be right subsequently, as Friedrich August Hayek (his real name!). He should be honored for it, and I do so here!

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