Popper, Keynes and that nonentity Nassim N. Taleb

Here Gary North goes after not one, not two but three amongst the many whose beliefs I find profoundly wrong. Here we are dealing with Popper, Keynes and that nonentity Nassim N. Taleb, author of The Black Swan and Fooled by Randomness. On Popper:

To Popper, the sophomore’s retort is appropriate, despite its sophomoric standing. ‘In what way is Popper’s hypothesis subject to falsification?’ He should have written a lot of pages presenting criteria for how his theory of falsification could be falsified. I guess I missed that article. It surely is not in any of his books that I have read.

I read the main one, The Open Society and Its Enemies, in 1963. In that book, which Hayek helped to get published, is an assumption: The truly free society is a society without permanent truths (other than the truth of falsification, of course). Taleb summarizes the book’s thesis: ‘An open society is one in which no permanent truth is held to exist; this would allow counter-ideas to emerge.’ Again, it’s time for the sophomore’s retort: ‘How about ideas that deny Popper’s theory?’

On Keynes:

Keynes’ final book, The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money (1936), is one of the most garbled, incoherent, and poorly argued books that has ever reached the level of universally acclaimed masterpiece. It remains as unread today as it was in 1936. It justified the growth of state power over the economy — just what the politicians wanted to hear in the Great Depression.

The best evidence that the book is a political tract is its incoherence. Keynes wrote compelling prose throughout his life — just not when he wrote to promote British economic policy. The very incoherence of The General Theory is the tip-off that the author was self-deluded in arguing for nonsense, namely, denying that sellers will lower their prices when they find that nobody will buy at a higher price. Keynes’ arguments rest on this bedrock presupposition: ‘Sellers really do believe that no income is preferable to some income.’ He believed in permanent gluts.

And on Taleb:

Taleb describes himself as a fool. This is the most accurate assessment in his book. He is a fool for the reason that he repeatedly says he is a fool. He is fooled by randomness.

He is fooled by a few statistically unpredictable oddities found in nature, including the human mind, into believing that there is no ethical cause and effect in the universe. He is exactly what he claims to be: a consistent Darwinist. ‘One must be either blind or foolish to reject the theories of Darwinian self-selection’ (p. 94). As such, he hates moralists above all, as he says. Why? Because he hates the idea that morality, not evolution through impersonal natural selection, governs the universe.

The fact that his book is a best-seller indicates just how far gone morally the intelligent public is. Yes, the book is clever. True, it has a useful bibliography. No question about it, it has some great one-liners. But at bottom, it is the work of a suicide bomber. His targets are people who still believe that there is a predictable relationship between honesty and success, between hard work and success, between thrift and riches. In short, it is a hand grenade against people who think that Warren Buffett got rich through decades of entrepreneurial service to consumers, not by statistically improbable luck.

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