Posted by: Tobias | January 24, 2009

How do you know?

From an otherwise boring article on how the Chicago School is dealing with the current economic crisis:

Deirdre McCloskey, now an economist at the University of Illinois, Chicago, remembers laughing with fellow Harvard undergraduates in 1963 at Friedman’s claim that free markets allocate resources better than governments. She says Harvard-trained bureaucrats enjoyed prestige following World War II. She switched her support to Friedman after the Vietnam War destroyed her faith that such bureaucrats knew what they were doing.

Friedman, who stood 5 feet 3 inches (160 centimeters), was a fierce debater, McCloskey recalls.

“He always asks, persistently, ‘How do you know?’” McCloskey, now 66, wrote in the Eastern Economic Review in 2003. “It’s a terrifying question, because most of the time we can’t say.”

One of my resolutions for this year: ask that exact question more often.


  1. To be honest, I feel that already now, you’re asking that question kind of often (which is indeed sometimes terrifying…) 😉

  2. Heh, that may well me true. And yet, I still have the feeling that the factual basis for a lot of the stuff people (including myself) commonly talk about is pretty thin most of the time. And so I’ll continue and intensify my efforts, both to force myself to actually look up some facts every once in a while and… to annoy other people.

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