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Brooks Wilson's Economics Blog: Evans on Mankiw and Ad Hominem Attacks

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Evans on Mankiw and Ad Hominem Attacks

Richard W. Evans of Econosseur compares Greg Mankiw's courteous debating style to Milton Friedman's in, "On Economic Debate--the ad hominem index."

Anna Schwartz is the author of a book review that came out in this month's (June 2009) Journal of Economic Literature on a recent biography of the economist and Nobel Laureate, Milton Friedman. One of her criticisms of the new Friedman biography is that the author missed one of the most important aspects of Friedman's personality--his style as an economic debater. She says,

For example, Friedman's style as a debater reveals an aspect of his personality. He was always courteous to his opponents in a debate, never attacked ad hominem. He concentrated on weaknesses of the opponent's arguments and invariably emerged as the victor in the debate...

I regularly read the commentary from both Mankiw and Krugman in their blogs and in the newspapers. Notice that Krugman's pieces include adjectives like "disingenuous", "evil", and "ignorant" in describing his opponents.

On the other hand, try to find an ad hominem point in any of the following Mankiw responses to Krugman statements (post 1, post 2, post 3). In fact, Mankiw goes out of his way to compliment Krugman on the points on which they agree (post 4, post 5, post 6). I couldn't find any citations in which Krugman compliments or cedes anything to Mankiw.

Evans' full post is worth reading, as is his joke page.

Although not strictly a debate, I have linked to a video of Friedman answering what was intended to be a tough question posed by Phil Donahue. It is a great example of a courteous and humorous response that devastated his opponent's position.

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1 comment:

  1. Jason Haddock4/7/09 12:02 PM

    Friedman was an incredible man, and an amazing pillar of conservative thought. His ideas and, as you point out, the WAY he approached his debates and dealings with opponents, were a strength that is not seen in today's political arena. We'd be in a much better place today if we had another Milton Friedman around to help guard and guide conservative values and agendas.