One thing I have noticed over the past couple of months is that a number of libertarian thinkers have a deep disdain for the “insights” of the man on the street.
From what I can tell one of the reasons Bastiat is so popular is because of his ability to use reason to dismantle the prejudices of the common man.
A current point that I am making at here at Modeled Behavior and in private correspondence is that Bastiat was actually “wrong” about a lot of stuff, and wrong precisely in that he did not acknowledge the effects the “man of the street” was talking about.
Now, when I say “wrong” here, I don’t mean that is logic was flawed. In most cases it appears to me that his logic is pristine. What was wrong were his maintained assumptions about the actual properties of the world. In particular, he has a bunch of maintained assumptions about money that are not actually accurate.
Money doesn’t behave the way he assumes it does. And, importantly he doesn’t take devote a lot of time to the discussion of money itself, he just basically assumes the core properties of an economy that would make money
non-neutral and then works from there.
Unfortunately those properties do not hold in real life.
Now, this connects to one of my long theses this way. If you find that you are ridiculing common sense, in a way that makes it seem as if common sense is baseless then you are probably missing something.
This is because common sense lies – as Hayek might have said – between instinct and reason. It has evolved over generations of folks dealing with each other.
And, importantly it does not depend on reason itself. People don’t have to have any understanding of why they believe what they believe for what they believe to be usefully true. That is, operating as if the world was this way informs you about the world.
A reasoned theory of the world should acknowledge this anchor. In some way our reasoning should accommodate common sense. Either as a special case, or as an approximation, or as a local maximum or something.
Otherwise, you have a hard time explaining why common sense has stood the test of time and cultural selection.