Ideology always demands a simple answer.
Instructor of Ethical Leadership and Decision-Making
As I read Daniel B. Klein’s self-revealing apology for his prior polemical interpretation of the survey of “people’s real-world understanding of basic economic principles,” I was struck by the fact that he had overlooked the much larger implications of his missteps. As a professor of economics, he might rather consider that his field of study is much less than a scientific analysis of worldly reality and human behavior and much more like an organized ideology that rationalizes his underlying values.
Jeoffry B. Gordon
San Diego, Calif.
I can’t say I’m surprised. Pollsters have known for ages that if you slant questions just so, you can skew answers to match the results you want. Confirmation bias exists everywhere, true enough, but it exists rather glaringly in the world of partisan polling.
Still, I’m glad Klein wrote this up and published the retraction. It’s hard to admit when we’re wrong, and harder still to admit we’ve fooled ourselves.
E. D. Kain
Excerpt from a Forbes blog post
Daniel B. Klein replies:
This commentary is taken in good spirit, and I respond only to Jeoffry Gordon’s suggestion that my folly should tell me that my “field of study is much less than a scientific analysis … and much more like an organized ideology that rationalizes [my] underlying values.” Surveys show that most professional economists vote Democratic, and that upwards of 85 percent fall short of upholding what I would call a reasonably firm support for free-market policy positions. So whatever libertarian follies I perpetrate, they do not derive from professional economics.
Telling Anton’s Story
While covering the Libyan civil war last spring, Clare Morgana Gillis was seized by Muammar Qaddafi’s forces and held in captivity with two colleagues; a third, Anton Hammerl, was killed. In December, Gillis documented her ordeal for The Atlantic.
The moments of fear, the prolonged anxiety, and the inconvenience of Clare Gillis’s 45-day detention in Libya by pro-Qaddafi forces, several weeks of which were spent in the five-star Corinthian Hotel with full access to comfort and communications, are worthy of note. As she recounts, the widow of the South African photographer Anton Hammerl, upon learning of her husband’s death, implored Ms. Gillis to tell his story, as well as Ms. Gillis’s own. In the lengthy pages afforded to “What I Lost in Libya,” Ms. Gillis accomplished only the latter. It brings to mind Jon Krakauer’s writings of the 1996 Mount Everest climbing disaster, in which the loss of six climbers and two guides gave way to a tale of self. Although I read Ms. Gillis’s article several times, I still am puzzled as to what she lost.