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Sophisticated dumbness

Robert Tracinski, RealClearMarkets.com, 26-03-2013.

The problem with a reductio ad absurdum argument is that sometimes your opponent accepts the absurdity and just runs with it. (...)

For years, we've argued against the minimum wage by taking its premise to the logical conclusion: if you can make people better off by mandating a higher wage, why stop at $7.25 an hour - why not make it $25 an hour? Hello, Elizabeth Warren.

The new senator from Massachusetts, the great hope of the Progressive left, just proposed exactly that.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts Democrat, suggested raising the minimum wage to $22 per hour is only logical if you look at the numbers.


I've spent all of my adult life hanging around with really smart people, and I can tell you that there's nobody as dumb as a smart person. That's because, when they decide to adopt a dumb idea, they don't just bumble their way into it. They build whole systems of other dumb ideas to support that one central dumb idea, and because they're smart, they build complex and sophisticated systems of dumbness. They write dumb plays and dumb novels and dumb poems. They create dumb theories about psychology and economics. They originate entire dumb new philosophies.

So yes, Elizabeth Warren is a good example of taking a dumb idea to extremes. But she ain't got nothin' on guys like Karl Marx and Immanuel Kant.

The issue here isn't native intelligence; it's irrationality. The Warrens and Marxes and Kants follow stupid ideas to their absurd extremes because they are committed to maintaining a belief in a fixed idea regardless of evidence. Kant wanted "to deny reason in order to make room for faith." Marx wanted to smear Europe's rising new capitalists as parasites and exploiters. In Elizabeth Warren's case, she is just following up on her resentful rant about how entrepreneurs "didn't build that." She already gave us fair warning that she wants to ignore the productivity-enhancing investments of the capitalists and entrepreneurs and attribute the entire product of their effort to the hapless "little guy" (and his government champions). Her absurd pronouncement about a $22 minimum wage is the logical result.

There's another old saying, attributed to Voltaire, that if we believe absurdities, we will commit atrocities. We need to shoot down Elizabeth Warren's economic absurdity before it becomes an economic atrocity.

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