Richard Green v. The Most Interesting Man in the World

I am very fond of and have great respect for my colleague Richard Green. He is witty, urbane, infinitely generous to young scholars (and old scholars, for that matter), interested in many things, and, though I am hardly one to judge, a first-rate economist. (Other first-rate economists tell me he is.)

Well, Paul Krugman linked to Richard’s blog post calling out bad thinking entitled, appropriately enough: Opinions without Data.

Do you know what this means? This means Richard officially tops the Most Interesting Man in the World in terms of being the Most Interesting Man in the World.

Here’s the Most Interesting Man in the World, according to Dos Equis:

– If he were to mail a letter without postage, it would still get there.

Here’s Richard:

-When he rants on his blog, Nobel Prize winners link to it.

Who’s more interesting? NO CONTEST.

A little more seriously, in Richard’s case, he does a nice job of laying out the problem except for one thing: his caveat that he tries to be respectful of other people’s viewpoints. Strictly stated, in pluralist society, he’s not required by principle to respect viewpoints. He’s required–if we’re thinking about Locke or any of his followers, to respect other people and their right to have different viewpoints. You don’t have to respect, like, or indulge other people’s views. You do have to respect other people and their entitlement to difference. But you don’t have to treat their opinions like they are made of glass, or something special, particularly if you have heard them out and made a genuine attempt to include, listen, or understand.

Freedom of speech means that yes, you can voice an opinion, no matter how ignorant or repellent. But freedom of speech also entitles the rest of us to point out how wrong, ignorant, or repellent that opinion is.