The Loss of Jeffrey Friedman
we thought much alike
Ilya Somin remembers Jeffrey Friedman, who died suddenly of heart failure (he had a congenital heart defect).
Jeff argued that widespread voter ignorance was a serious danger. But, unlike them, he claimed that most such ignorance was inadvertent "radical" ignorance, rather than individually rational behavior (as believed by most economists and other social scientists). He also argued that similar radical ignorance afflicted expert decision-making on public policy, and conventional social scientific analysis. He thus concluded that markets generally produce better results than government, not because of superior incentives, but because they offer better opportunities for trial-and-error learning.
The subtitle of my book Unchecked and Unbalanced, which I often refer to as “widely unread,” speaks of the “Discrepancy Between Knowledge and Power.” Ten years later, Friedman wrote Power Without Knowledge. So you can see we how our thoughts align. His book taught me the concept of naive realism, which Gurwinder describes as
We know others are biased, but think we see the world as it is. Thus, teaching people about biases & fallacies doesn't make them doubt their own beliefs, it only makes them even more doubtful of their opponents'.
If you go to the econlib search page and search for “Jeffrey Friedman” (be sure to use the quotation marks) and for “search areas” select econlog, you will find many posts. Most, but not all, are by me. They are worth reviewing.
Friedman did not want me to write a review of his book. He was afraid that having it reviewed by a libertarian would hurt its chances for getting a favorable reception among academics.
One thing that Friedman preached against was reductionism, meaning finding a psychological explanation for an opposing point of view, rather than taking it at face value. But it strikes me that his fear of getting a review by a libertarian was implicitly reductionist, in that it implicitly assumes that left-wing faculty are too team-oriented to evaluate ideas based on substance.
My intellectual outlook has more in common with Jeffrey Friedman’s than with anyone else. In a better intellectual environment, the views that Friedman and I hold would have much higher status than they actually do. In short, they are
everyone is prone to cognitive mistakes
cognitive mistakes are best mitigated through trial-and-error learning processes
the market, although quite fallible, offers a more reliable trial-and-error learning process than technocracy
I am deeply sorry about his loss, and I wish the best for those who were close to him.
In My Tribe is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
"In a better intellectual environment, the views that Friedman and I hold would have much higher status than they actually do."
Jeffrey's untimely death is a huge loss.
I agree that fossil fuels will continue to be used for a longish time, but I think it is important to create incentives (and I know of no better one than a tax on net CO2 emissions) to emit less. Of course this is not an alternative to mitigation. There will be need for lots of investment in mitigation if we stopped emitting CO2 tomorrow. And I mean by removing obstacles, cost-benefit based regulation of each technologies respective risk.