Friday, March 20, 2009

Peter Singer

Bear with me here, I've had a couple of beers.

Some people who know me think I'm overly in awe of the talented people I know or know of.

The Bayesian in me tells me to update my opinion to be less in awe, and I do, a little.

My awe though is part of my broader capitalistic ideology. Many people freak out over inequality, they present the fact that the richest earn hundreds of times more than the poorest as though it were self evidently ridiculous and appalling. I believe some people are fantastically productive. I think it's plausible that some people are well over 100 times more productive than me.

Applying that to academics, top academics have been studying and working for 80 hours a week for over 20 years, and they are way smarter than me to begin with. These people know a lot.

Peter Singer is one of those people. He's devoted his life to trying to do the right thing. He's most famous for his animal rights advocacy but he's also written books trying to get people to help end world poverty. And yet when Tyler Cowen asked him why immigration isn't even in the index of his latest book, Peter Singer admitted that he hadn't ever really considered it as a way of helping the poor. This didn't stop him from making up some bullshit reasons why it's not such a great idea. My point is not so much that he's wrong about the specific reasons he suggested, just that he seemed to know less than what is contained in the comments to any Marginal Revolution immigration post.

I confess I was shocked.


GT said...

It is shocking.

Gary Baumgarten said...

Peter Singer will be my guest on News Talk Online on at 5 PM New York time Friday March 27.

Please go to my blog then at and click on the link to join the chat to talk to him.