Tom Woods VS Friedman?

This article will discuss the ongoing Austrian V Chicago Economics debate and voice my rare disappointment with Tom Woods.

First of all let me say that I am a huge fan of Tom Woods in general, but on this issue he disappoints me.

David Friedman is an avid proponent of a unique brand of post-monetarist kind-of-but-not-really-Chicago-School Anarcho Capitalism. Bob Murphy is an avid proponent of Austrian Economics. Some Austrians are ancaps and others are for a minimal size state. The two had a debate which I have written on in the past. The debate is here.

As I have written before, I think Friedman won by a landslide. Tom Woods thinks otherwise, as shown in his recap of the debate here. Woods did one thing which made me very happy and proud of him. Woods maintains solid integrity by openly admitting his bias in favor of Murphy.

Here’s what I think Woods gets right:

  1. I think Woods is right to point out that the official, brochure-stated framework of the debate was to include discussion on justification for libertarianism.

Here’s what I think Woods gets wrong:

  1. Many of Murphy’s statements on morality do seem to confuse the delineation of Austrianism, Libertarianism, description and prescription.
  2. Friedman’s non-address of morality does not constitute a loss when Murphy poorly addressed the issue. If two men are playing basketball and one man shoots and misses while the other never shoots, there is no winner or loser. It may be said that it is more honorable to shoot and miss, but in that case honor is other than actual victory.
  3. Woods seems to miss Friedman’s intelligent critique of Murphy’s accurate geometric metaphor. Murphy accurately portrays Austrianism as an axiomatic, deductive, philosophical and logical field of inquiry. He accurately likens this to Geometry. This metaphor is not lost on Friedman, but apparently Friedman’s important retort has been lost on Murphy, Woods and a large portion of the audience. Friedman’s reply was that Geometry does not accurately reflect reality. This is essentially an external validity criticism. Austrian economics may be internally valid without being externally valid. In deductive logic the conclusion follows necessarily from the suppositions or premises. Friedman’s criticism is like an attack on the premises of Austrianism, not an attack on the logic from premise to conclusion. Friedman’s criticism is backed by real examples, including the very example of Geometry! Geometry is not directly applicable to the physical world and this is an important point. It underscores the point that Austrianism may not be applicable in the real world even if it is logically consistent and internally valid.

I also think Tom’s bias shown through in a weak interview with Friedman, which is available here.

Tom chose not to engage Friedman in an adversarial process. Perhaps this was at Friedman’s request or mutual agreement, I don’t know. For me, however, this choice constitutes a missed opportunity for a potentially very productive meeting of the minds. I think this because I consider Tom Woods to be a greater Austrian scholar, debater and communicator than Bob Murphy.

In conclusion I would simply like to float the idea of a friendly debate between Tom Woods and David Friedman. I respect both of these guys, but the split they represent trickles down through real society. We need to resolve this.

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