(1/2)Nirvana fallacy in Chicago economics: assume there’s a perfect solution to a problem. . —@RichardAEpstein


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Photo: Mahavira's Nirvana, or Moksa. Note the crescent-shaped Siddhashila (a place where all siddhas reside after Nirvana). Folio 53r from Kalpasutra series, loose leaf manuscript, Patan, Gujarat. c. 1472.

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Richard A. Epstein, Defining Ideas/Hoover, in re: Harold Demsetz, economist of the Chicago School for a decade, overlapping with Milton Friedman, Gary Becker, et al. He cared naught for status, pedigree; all was intellectual. He was extremely smart. Most of his great papers were written in his early Chicago days. Listening to him argue with himself was a pleasure; an intellectual treat. Even rational choice economists find some decisions difficult; he later moved to USC. Nirvana fallacy*: the view of public policy that “implicitly presents the relevant choice as between an ideal norm and an existing ‘imperfect’ institutional arrangement. This nirvana approach differs considerably from a comparative institution approach in which the relevant choice is between alternative real institutional arrangements” —i.e., the government knows best. “Barnacles are an inherent feature of sea life; comparing the perfect against the bad is rather like nirvana.” Don’t use an advocate’s perception but look at real life. See: The Greatness of Harold Demsetz, by Richard A. Epstein. Monday, January 14, 2019. https://www.hoover.org/research/greatness-harold-demsetz * The nirvana fallacy is the informal fallacy of comparing actual things with unrealistic, idealized alternatives. It can also refer to the tendency to assume that there is a perfect solution to a particular problem. A closely related concept is the perfect solution fallacy.

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