The Common Insights of Economics and Judaism

In his 1974 lecture upon receiving the Nobel Prize, the Austrian economist and political philosopher Friedrich Hayek expounded on the problem posed by what he termed “the pretense of knowledge.” To Hayek, economists and policymakers often go astray when they presume to have far more knowledge than they do, or even than they could possibly have. This insistence on intellectual humility shares much, according to the economist Russ Roberts, with Judaism’s. Furthermore, explains Roberts, one finds in the Talmud statements that very much reflect modern economic theories of specialization, and the development of halakhah itself in some ways mirrors the Hayekian notion of “emergent order.” (Interview by Jonathan Silver. Audio, 52 minutes.)

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More about: Economics, F. A. Hayek, History & Ideas, Judaism, Religion & Holidays


How to Save the Universities

To Peter Berkowitz, the rot in American institutions of higher learning exposed by Tuesday’s hearings resembles a disease that in its early stages was easy to cure but difficult to diagnose, and now is so advanced that it is easy to diagnose but difficult to cure. Recent analyses of these problems have now at last made it to the pages of the New York Times but are, he writes, “tardy by several decades,” and their suggested remedies woefully inadequate:

They fail to identify the chief problem. They ignore the principal obstacles to reform. They propose reforms that provide the equivalent of band-aids for gaping wounds and shattered limbs. And they overlook the mainstream media’s complicity in largely ignoring, downplaying, or dismissing repeated warnings extending back a quarter century and more—largely, but not exclusively, from conservatives—that our universities undermine the public interest by attacking free speech, eviscerating due process, and hollowing out and politicizing the curriculum.

The remedy, Berkowitz argues, would be turning universities into places that cultivate, encourage, and teach freedom of thought and speech. But doing so seems unlikely:

Having undermined respect for others and the art of listening by presiding over—or silently acquiescing in—the curtailment of dissenting speech for more than a generation, the current crop of administrators and professors seems ill-suited to fashion and implement free-speech training. Moreover, free speech is best learned not by didactic lectures and seminars but by practicing it in the reasoned consideration of competing ideas with those capable of challenging one’s assumptions and arguments. But where are the professors who can lead such conversations? Which faculty members remain capable of understanding their side of the argument because they understand the other side?

Read more at RealClearPolitics

More about: Academia, Anti-Semitism, Freedom of Speech, Israel on campus