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Rebuttals to Bryan Caplan's Critique of Misesian Economics?

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Sukrit posted on Thu, Sep 16 2010 10:31 AM

Where are the rebuttals to Brian Caplan's extensive critique of Austrian economics? I realize this has been asked previously, but let's see if we can make this the ultimate bibliography compilation.

"Austrian Theorizing: Recalling the Foundations" by walter block http://mises.org/journals/qjae/pdf/qjae2_4_2.pdf [This is the main direct rebuttal, but only addresses some of the points]

"Realism: Austrian vs. Neoclassical Economics, Reply to Caplan", by Walter Block http://mises.org/journals/qjae/pdf/qjae6_3_4.pdf

"Rejoinder to Caplan on Bayesian Economics", by Walter Block http://mises.org/journals/jls/19_1/19_1_5.pdf

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I remember reading some of these back and forth arguments and it made me wonder if, at the Ph.D. level, do they ever change their mind over issues? Or do they simply offer their counterpoint and move on? How open minded are economists? Do they regularly concede points here, change their mind on an important theory there, or once you're settled into a philosophy, you sort of stay there for life? I know rigid thinking is rather natural, but in areas like social sciences or non-sciences, I wonder if changing fellow experts' minds if damn near impossible to do. Even in the hard sciences where you have experimentation to settle arguments, I know that people are slow to accept results that clash with their long-held beliefs. I wish I could find that quote I used to see on a screen writing forum that summed it up in a pithy way. 

So do these experts concede anything at the end of the day or simply trade barbs and continue on their way?

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Sukrit replied on Fri, Sep 17 2010 6:58 AM

Sure, academics often change their mind according to the way in which government funding flows. If the government's research priorities are in one area (e.g. pro-climate change) they'll shift their focus. The more time they've spent arguing a particular way, the more embarassing it is for them. It does happen though, which is why Milton Friedman was able to persuade a lot of the profession about some of his free-market stuff.

In every debate - whether academic or non-academic - the key point to remember is that you're not trying to persuade your opponent, but rather convince open-minded onlookers.

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Just a quick note on Bayesianism, because I know Caplan is a fan.

If p(h|e) > p(h) then p(h-if-e|e) < p(h-if-e)

This is important, because h entails h-if-e, but e does not entail h-if-e.

Probability calculus is used as a substitute for induction, and so e is normally expected to support h as a whole. But this is not so. That part of the h that is not entailed by e is actually counter-supported by e. Whether p(h|e) > p(h) is true depends on the absolute value of p(h^e|e) being greater than the absolute value of p(h-if-e|e), but since p^e is entailed by e, the support is entirely circular, i.e. support is not ampliative.

Put in more concrete terms: the totality of evidence gathered in support of a hypothesis actually reduces the probability of all other predictions from it, because the support is not distributed evenly among all the logical consequences of the hypothesis. In fact, that part of the hypothesis that cannot be deduced from the evidence is undermined.

To be clear, this is not a criticism of Bayesian probability per se, but Bayesianism. The latter is a spurious philosophy of science, while the former is a perfectly respectable branch of mathematics. It is only when h is interpreted as a scientific hypothesis, rather than a specific event that such troubles arise.

A criticism that can be brought against everything ought not to be brought against anything.
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search function lols http://mises.org/Community/forums/p/3841/52586.aspx

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