I have to say: Victor Davis Hanson should probably stop trying to write about the difference between right and wrong. (I know, I know. But this one is unusually terrible.) In response to the Obama speech, he objects that ‘racism is a universal wrong’. Furthermore, because there should be an “absolute sense of wrong and right that transcends situational ethics, context, and individual particulars”, it is not acceptable to attempt to mitigate charges of racism by pointing out parallel wrongs committed by others, or by adducing facts about the background of the racist; or by arguing that the racist has done good things, which ought to be weighed in the balance. Last but not least, it is apparently necessary to ‘disown’ all racists, regardless of prior personal attachment or loyalty.

Now, to note only the most obvious, flagrantly salient consequence of this rigorous refusal of ‘situational ethics’: Hanson has just provided an argument that Wright was absolutely right to damn America (right?) And the fact that Hanson is not saying so himself therefore gives me a chance to pull a serious face and say I am very sorry to see him falling prey to moral relativism and, if I may say so, kneejerk victimology. It must be all the rap music. [click to continue…]

Thank you Mr Mankiw

by Daniel on March 20, 2008

Greg Mankiw, in the New York Times, demonstrating the deft common touch for which Harvard economists are famous:

No issue divides economists and mere Muggles more than the debate over globalization and international trade. Where the high priests of the dismal science see opportunity through the magic of the market’s invisible hand, Joe Sixpack sees a threat to his livelihood.

Next week, presumably, Greg Mankiw writes on the subject of “Why is it that economists have so little influence in politics?”
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