I Am Baffled

I Am Baffled

Over the weekend, I wrote that Will Wilkinson was wrong to think that a general recitation of the virtues of free markets was sufficient to show that bailing out Detroit was a bad idea, and that in order to make his case, he needed to consider the specifics of this situation. Now Jonah Goldberg weighs in, using the dazzling exegetical skills that gave us Liberal Fascism:

“The position Hilzoy seems to be taking is simply this: experts — by which he means liberal experts — can always make the right call. Sometimes liberals decide to let markets work, sometimes they don’t. But the ideological principle is hiding in plain sight: liberal experts are always qualified to make these decisions.”

It’s a bit puzzling to read about what I mean by “experts”, since I do not use the word, or refer to the concept, anywhere in my original post. If Jonah Goldberg can explain why she takes what I say to have anything to do with expertise, let alone to endorse the idea that “liberal experts are always qualified to make these decisions”, I’d be fascinated to read it. I thought I was just making the point that most people who favor things like the bailout do so not because they are unaware of the virtues of markets, but because they think that there are cases in which these virtues are outweighed by some feature of the specific case at hand, and therefore that arguments that simply recite the general reasons why markets are good, rather than engaging with the details of the case at hand, are directed against straw men. But I could be wrong. I’d certainly love to know what part of my argument led Jonah Goldberg to think that I was actually saying anything about deference to experts, liberal or otherwise.

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