Daniel Buck Mischaracterizes My Views

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

In a post that ran today on Gadfly, Daniel Buck attributes to me views that I do not hold, and mischaracterizes the content of the articles he links to by myself and Neal McCluskey.

I reached out to Fordham to ask for an opportunity to run a response, but they refused. I even offered to revise my response to meet concerns they might have, but they refused to allow me to run any response.

The premise of Buck’s article is that “the essential question” under debate in the exchanges he links to is: “Is school choice sufficient to reform American education?” However, the only people he names or links to on the side that supposedly answers “yes” to this question are Neal and myself. Buck links to one article by Neal, two articles by me, and a tweet by Neal. He neither names nor links to any other sources. And neither Neal nor I asserted that school choice is sufficient to reform American education.

In fact, I asserted the opposite. In both of the articles that Buck links to, I argued that one of the primary reasons school choice is so valuable is that it greatly increases the political leverage of other efforts to reform the government school monopoly. Obviously this is premised on the view that other reform efforts are necessary and good, a view that I explicitly endorsed repeatedly in both articles.

Buck is just making false statements about what Neal and I said.

In one paragraph, Buck describes views held by “libertarians” who are “disciples of Milton Friedman.” He does not name any names, and links only to an article by me. But I am not a libertarian. The libertarian idolatry of “markets” that Buck describes, in a paragraph that links to me as its only example, is actually a view that I have been arguing for some time the choice movement needs to move away from.

I will plead guilty as sin to having known, admired and loved Milton Friedman. But, as Milton would have been the first to insist, that does not make me his “disciple.”

Anyone can make an innocent mistake. I’ve made tons of mistakes in my career that were far more humiliating than this one. The best policy is to be willing to admit a mistake when you’ve made it; I hope Fordham adopts that policy soon.

9 Responses to Daniel Buck Mischaracterizes My Views

  1. Malcolm Kirkpatrick says:

    Forster: “The libertarian idolatry of “markets” that Buck describes, in a paragraph that links to me as its only example, is actually a view that I have been arguing for some time the school choice movement needs to move away from..”

    Why is “markets” in quotes? A sneer (“idolatry”, “rhetoric”) is not an argument.

    Forster: “This weekend I was delighted to participate in an hour-long school choice debate on Moody radio’s coast to coast network. The experience left me all the more convinced that choice advocates must continue continue to deemphasice the rhetoric of markets and competition, and emphasize instead justice, equal opportunity, diverity, and freedom. In that order.”

    If “justice”, “equal opportunity” “diversity” and “freedom” differ from “the market”, so much the worse for justice, equal opportunity, diverity, and freedom.

    “The market” names all uncoerced acts that humans perform within a legal/institutional environment which respects the system of title and contract law. To free marketeers, market advocacy means respect for individual sovereignty and the rejection of organized interpersonal violence as an organizing principle.
    Markets and federalism (subsidiarity) institutionalize humility on the part of State (i.e., government, generally) actors.

    Market advocacy equals rejection of State arrogance.

    • Greg Forster says:

      “Markets” was in quotes for the same reason “libertarians” and “disciples of Milton Friedman” were in quotes in the same paragraph – because I was quoting Buck’s article.

      Your reading of my other post infers much more than the post says or implies about the relationship between justice and markets.

      It is possible to read other people’s writing for a purpose other than triumphantly exhibiting every instance in which there is a lexically possible way to attribute to the text some kind of sinister intention or buried fallacy.

      • Malcolm Kirkpatrick says:

        Why, then, must choice advocates ” … continue to deemphasice the rhetoric of markets and competition, and emphasize instead justice, equal opportunity, diverity, and freedom. In that order.”?
        Why expect any government policy other than the system of title and contract law (“the market”), with a right to freedom of association and freedom of contract, to deliver more “justice, equal opportunity, diverisity, and freedom”?

      • Greg Forster says:

        There is no contradiction between talking about “justice,” etc. and governing in a way that respects the rights and freedoms of the market, as I believe I already said in the post that you ought to read more carefully.

      • Malcolm Kirkpatrick says:

        (Forster): “There is no contradiction between talking about “justice,” etc. and governing in a way that respects the rights and freedoms of the market.”
        Why then must school choice advocates “continue to deemphasice the rhetoric of markets and competition”?
        (Forster): ” … you ought to read more carefully.”
        Or, perhaps you ought to write more carefully.

  2. Malcolm Kirkpatrick says:

    If there’s no contradiction, why must choice advocates deemphasize competition and markets?
    If, in a legal/institutional environment which protects title, enforces contracts, and respects freedom of association and freedom of contract, the profit motive prompts entrepreneurs to improve service, reduce costs, and to identify underserved niche markets are not ‘freedom, diversity, and equal opportunity” enhanced, relative to the State-monopoly school system?
    I have read your comment more carefully than most readers will, I expect. I followed the links three deep. I agree with much of what you write. You bring to mind a remark by Milton Friedman: “I’m on your side, but you’re not.”

    “Justice” means too many different things to contribute to a practical discussion. It’s an invitation to the Al Sharptons and Peter McLarins of the world to lead the discussion into never-never land.

    2500 years ago a student asked Confucius if any single word summarized proper conduct, and the sage replied: “Is not ‘reciprocity’ such a word?”
    Jesus gave approximately the same answer: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

    Measure for measure. Honest dealing. The market.

    • Greg Forster says:

      Well, demanding that the people whom you’re trying to persuade scrap all their existing definitions of the relevant terms and adopt your definitions instead (“markets” means “doing unto others as you would have them do unto you”) is certainly one communication strategy. I’m recommending the other one.

      • Malcolm Kirkpatrick says:

        Where do you see a demand?
        If we differ, where?
        (Forster): ” … your definitions instead (“markets” means “doing unto others as you would have them do unto you”) …”
        “The market” –follows– from the principle of non-violence and freedom of association and freedom of contract.
        If you live among people, there are basically three ways you can make a living: you can beg, you can steal or you can trade goods and services for other people’s goods and services.
        Vaclav Havel: “Though my heart be left of centre, I have always known that the only economic system that works is a market economy, in which everything belongs to someone–which means that someone is responsible for everything. It is a system in which complete independence and plurality of economic entities exist within a legal framework, and its workings are guided chiefly by the laws of the marketplace. This is the only natural economy, the only kind that makes sense, the only one that can lead to prosperity, because it is the only one that reflects the nature of life itself.”

        I have not demanded that you scrap your definitions of “justice”, “freedom”, “equal opportunity”, “diversity” or “market”. You have supplied none.
        Let’s see if we can find some common ground.
        1. For every locality A the term “the government of A” names the largest dealer in interpersonal violence in that locality (definition, after Weber).
        2. A law is a threat by a government to kidnap (i.e., arrest) assault (i.e., subdue), and to forcibly infect with HIV (i.e., imprison) someone, under some specified circumstance (see Holmes, “Bad man” theory of law).
        3. An individual B has a right to engage in activity X within locality A if the government of A has promised not to interfere with B when B engages in activity X, and, further, has promised to interfere with individuals C, D, etc. if they interfere with B when B engages in activity X.
        4. An individual B has title to a resource Y in locality A if the government of A recognizes a right of B to control Y which (right) includes the authority to transfer control over Y to individuals C, D, etc. on terms mutually agreeable to B, C, D, etc. (i.e., to sell the resourcs).
        5. A legal/institutional environment is market-oriented to the degree that resources flow between individuals through the system of title and contract law.

  3. Malcolm Kirkpatrick says:

    Don Boudreaux, “Quote of the Day”, _Cafe Hayek_ (ymd = 2021-08-25)
    “Among the foundational rules of the market order is that the law of property generally protects owners’ ‘physical’ interests in their properties but not properties’ market valuations. You may not reduce the value of my house by physically damaging it or otherwise interfering with its physical integrity, but you may reduce the value of my house by building another house down the street from mine.

    One economic consequences of this legal reality is what economists call “consumer sovereignty”: In our roles as consumers we do not, by purchasing goods and services from particular sellers, thereby legally oblige ourselves to continue to purchase goods and services from those same sellers. We all have the right to use our properties, including that which we have in our labor, in whatever peaceful and honest ways we can to earn incomes – implying that we all have a right to compete amongst each other for customers (including customers for our labor) – and we have a right to spend our incomes as we wish, including, of course, changing the ways in which we spend our incomes. In our roles as producers we must adjust our property uses to the pattern of consumer spending; in our roles as consumers, we are not obliged to adjust our property uses in ways meant to maintain the market valuations of anyone’s properties.

    Among the most important discoveries of economics is that the above rule of property – again, what economists call “consumer sovereignty” – over time leads to much higher market valuations of properties generally than arises when government protects some owners from suffering market-driven declines in their properties’ market valuations.”.

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