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« Even Master Jugglers Fail Sometimes | Main | More Evidence that Governmental Error is Obvious Everywhere and that it is Coordination that is the Puzzle »


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Pete: a wonderful, dare I say, brilliant, commentary on Knight. You captured what enthralls and infuriates both of us.

His position on collectivism in the late 1930s still gives me fits in trying to understand it. The paper you and Karen Vaughn wrote does a good job at getting at parts of it, but I still think there is more, and I'm not sure what the sources of his conflicted ideas are. Is this part of his working out what it means to comparative social science a la Weber? Is it just part of the functionalist background that gave us the first chapter of The Economic Organization? Is it influenced by his friendship with Edward Sapir and incommensurability?

I don't know. I need to figure this out, of course, so we should keep talking about it!

I'm not sure if you'll like this or not, but Stiglitz actually. He is in the top three most brilliant economists I've come across. But he also makes some very odd claims - his whole the invisible hand doesn't exist thing. And what's puzzling for me is just like with your description of Knight I know he is not that naive (he's no Naomi Klein or someone like that), because he's demonstrated it elsewhere.

I'm even less sure if you'll like this, but it also reminds me of you. Simultaneous brilliant insights and deep command of the science with claims that want to make me bang my head against he wall.

Daniel --

I agree with you about Stiglitz. He is the leading theorist of the generation I was brought up on of thinkers. I would actually place him above Lucas, but that would lead us into a very intriguing conversation beyond blogs. I am completely obsessed in many ways with Stiglitz.

I actually had the great honor of interacting with Stiglitz before he went to DC back in the fall of 1992 and we even went to dinner together as he sent me a manuscript of his Wicksell Lectures to discuss. I later would review the book from that manuscript for the JEL.


Oh yes I know the review.

And it should go without saying I don't mean anything bad by suggesting I feel along the same lines about you. I would assume being classed in the ranks of Stiglitz, Knight, and Boulding wouldn't bother you all that much...

Knight did not like Mises and therefore would give him as little credit as possible. I think Knight found Mises's intellectual style offensive -- many people did. So if Knight were confronted with Mises's ideas or points he would find a way to disagree.

But Knight himself was a contrarian (but much more so than Buchanan). He hated to agree with anyone, including himself!

Knight had complex views on capitalism. On the one hand, he was for it and knew that freedom depended on it. On the other hand, he saw that the reasons it was failing politically -- and maybe even economically -- are "valid." People just don't like the inequality it creates, the coarsening influence of commercial culture, the skepticism that liberalism creates about our treasured certainties is terrible to face, and so on.

So Knight's view was a pessimistic view of human nature and the future. Mises saw all the horrors Knight saw but retained an ultimate optimism. I don't think science alone gives us reason for optimism or pessimism. The universe is indifferent.

Mario Rizzo.

It can be hard to distinguish between 1) an agent in the system making a within-system calculation and 2) an imagined observer of system calculating where the whole system is headed. In "capitalism" you have the former, not the latter. When the lion chases the gazelle, both animals are doing a lot of calculating, but the chase will end well for only one of these calculating beasts. Something similar is true of the calculating entrepreneurs of capitalism. In theoretical socialism, you have 2) and not 1). In real socialism you get 1) partially correcting for the failures of 2), but also partially undermining 2). Maybe Knight had trouble distinguishing 1) form 2)? If you don't make the distinction, then the calculatory rationality of capitalism is a knockdown proof that there is no "calculation problem" of socialism.

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