In response to this post about rent-seeking, Z A employs a few rant tactics that I think are common barriers to productive discussions. He (assuming Z A is a he) starts with a straw man fallacy.
Economics being the dismal science that it is, I still do not ascribe to the notion that all points are valid and that any moron on the street that tries to form a thought or opinion about the macro-economy has a valid or sound point.
No one, but Z A, has made this argument.
However, if ‘any moron on the street’ expresses an unsound thought or opinion about the macro-economy (or anything), I think it is more productive and compelling to explain why their point is unsound rather than discounting it because of who they are.
As my Mom would say, if you can’t say anything nice, it’s best not to say anything at all. That’s a good rule. I’ll modify to promote productive discussion. If you can’t or are unwilling to show why a point is unsound, don’t say anything at all.
Z A then moved on to explain why he values credentials:
Knowing what someones credentials are in most any case does help in knowing how much they have actually studied that subject.
However, it does determine whether their reasoning is sound or not.
I’ve been in my share of discussions that degraded to a battle of finding credentialed folks who agree with your position, then onto the crediting and discrediting of those credentials. That’s simply not productive.
I agree with what commenter, Grant Davies wrote in response to Z A:
I have always found it more important to weigh the value and the validity of what is presented…
An argument from authority or appeal to authority is a common fallacy (something where the conclusion does not necessarily follow from the premises).
The key form of this fallacy is assuming something is right because an expert says so, but the expert isn’t really an expert in that field.
A second form of this fallacy is assuming something is right because an expert says so, but the topic is something where there is not a great deal of consensus. This is where you get into the ‘battle of experts’ on issues that have experts on all sides.
I believe there is a third form of this fallacy, as well. Experts can be wrong. Experts, after all, are people, so they are subject to the same biases, preferences, simplifications and groupthink as the rest of us.
Experts may well be right about something. I don’t discount what they say just because they are experts. However, I have enough experience with experts being wrong that I have learned that skepticism is useful.
If something is true, I want to know why it’s true, not who believes it’s true or what credentials they have. What’s wrong with that?
Later, Z A wrote:
I could write for hours about the incorrect assumptions and arguments on here but what good would it do if the people I am writing to do not have clue one about real economic theory and thought or the history of those things?
Z A chose to write nine similar paragraphs on my blog about this subject. How did it advance the discussion on the topic?
Why not simply choose just one of these incorrect assumptions, state his case on why he thinks it’s incorrect and perhaps teach us a few things. Or, perhaps, maybe someone would respond to his points and he could learn something. My guess is that the latter is what Z A fears the most.