Writers Who Cannot Swim Should Stay Out of the Deep Water

I am a fan of astrophysicist Alex Filippenko, a famous prof at UC Berkeley. When I was homeschooling my stepson John Allen Hunley, we used a huge set of DVD’s in which Filippenko presents a fascinating intro course on astronomy and astrophysics. He is a wonderful teacher. My point here, however, is that in relation to what Filippenko knows and has accomplished in his field, I am a complete nincompoop. If I were to write a book aimed at showing how he has played a central role in bringing about a coup by astrophysicists to take over the U.S. government and turn its telescopes on the common people, everyone would rightly regard me as a total nut case.

Is Nancy MacLean’s book on Jim Buchanan any less preposterous? As Michael Munger has described in detail, MacLean has undertaken to portray Buchanan as the central figure in a Koch-funded conspiracy to destroy American democracy and replace it with a racist plutocracy. She has undertaken this fantastical enterprise notwithstanding that she lacks even a freshman-level understanding of the content and historical development of economics in general and public choice analysis in particular. In short, she has set out to write about one of the deepest thinkers of the past sixty-five years in economics and political philosophy without having a clue about these areas of study. Is it any wonder that she has produced a howler?

(P.S. Look for my book to be published soon by an obscure press without peer review. Tentative title: The Protocols of the Elders of Astrophysics.)

Robert Higgs is Senior Fellow in Political Economy at the Independent Institute, author or editor of over fourteen Independent books, and Editor at Large of Independent’s quarterly journal The Independent Review.
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