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April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review June 27, 2007 / 11 Tamuz, 5767

Straight Thinking 101

By Walter Williams


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http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Just about the most difficult lesson for first-year economics students, and sometimes graduate students, is that economic theory, and for that matter any scientific theory, is positive or non-normative. You might ask, "What's this business about positive and normative?" It's easy. Positive statements deal with what was, what is or what will be. Normative, or subjective, statements deal with what's good or bad, or what ought to be or should be. Confusing the two leads to considerable mischief.


The statement "Scientists cannot split the atom" is a positive statement. Why? If there's disagreement with the statement, there are facts to which we can appeal to settle the disagreement — just visit Stanford University's linear accelerator and watch atoms being split. The statement "Scientists shouldn't split the atom" is a normative statement. Why? There are no facts whatsoever to which we can appeal to settle any disagreement. One person's opinion on the matter is just as good as another's.


How about the statement "Gasoline prices are unreasonable"? If some think they're reasonable while others don't, the argument can go on forever without resolution because there are no facts to which we can appeal to settle the disagreement. However, there are facts that tend to back up the statement: Buyers of gasoline prefer lower prices while sellers prefer higher prices.


By the way, years ago, Mrs. Williams would arrive home complaining about unreasonable grocery prices. After airing her complaints, she'd ask me to unload her car full of groceries. Having completed the chore, I'd ask her whether she was unreasonable, suggesting that it was my opinion that only an unreasonable person would pay unreasonable prices. The conversation never went far in a pleasant direction.


Having explained the difference between positive and normative statements, I tell my students that in no way do I propose that they purge their vocabulary of normative statements. Normative statements are excellent tools for tricking others into doing what you want them to do. I simply caution that in the process of tricking others, there's no need to trick oneself into believing that one normative statement is better or more righteous than another.


A related term that doesn't make much economic sense is the term "need." The implication of an absolute, crying, dying or urgent need is that one cannot do without the need in question. Students sometimes say they absolutely need a car or a cell phone. At that point I ask them, how in the world was it that Gen. George Washington could defeat Britain, the mightiest nation on earth, without a cell phone or a car?


The problem with the term "need" is that it suggests there are no substitutes for the item in question. Thus, people will pay any price for it; however, the law of demand says that at some price, people will take less of something, including none of it. In response, a student might say, "Diabetics can't do without insulin" or "People can't do without food." I say, "Yes, they can; diabetics have been doing without insulin for thousands of years." In some poor African countries, people do without food. Of course, the results of doing without insulin or food are indeed unpleasant, but the fact that the results are unpleasant doesn't require us to deny that non-consumption is a substitute for consumption. Again, I tell my students not to purge their vocabulary of crying, dying and urgent needs; just don't trick yourself while you're tricking others.


You say, "Williams, it doesn't sound like economics is a very compassionate science." You're right, but neither is physics, chemistry or biology. However, if we wish to be compassionate with our fellow man, we must learn to engage in dispassionate analysis. In other words, thinking with our hearts, rather than our brains, is a surefire method to hurt those whom we wish to help.

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© 2006, Creators Syndicate.

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