Saturday, June 30, 2007

Traveller's Dilemma: Kaushik Basu responds to readers' questions

Remember Kaushik Basu's article on Traveller's Dilemma, and its implications about libertarian assumptions? [We looked at it here.] In a fairly detailed follow-up, Basu answers readers' questions. The criticisms and questions come from many angles, and you will have to read them yourself; I just want to highlight a juicy quote about economists:

As Fred Pryor noted with equally profound insight and cynicism, "An economist is someone who sees something working in practice, and asks whether it would work in theory."

To which Basu responds:

Pryor is right about economists but wrong in suggesting that that is the defining characteristic of an economist. All science works that way. The fact that apples fall downwards was the end of the matter for the lay person but a puzzle to scientists because it did not fit their theoretical presumptions. If I may add an adage to Pryor's: A scientist is someone with the capacity to ask questions which seem obvious to others.