education philosopher

Megan McArdle, Global Warming, and Accepting Authority

Posted in Uncategorized by KevinCK on November 23, 2015

This weekend, I did a google search looking for a particular article by a favorite journalist of mine, Megan McArdle. Something came up in my Google search that looked interesting enough to click on, a blurb on thinkprogress.org claiming that McArdle has admitted to having “outsourced her thinkning on global warming to the Cato Institute…”

Here’s the quote that thinkprogress believes is the smoking gun:

The first reason I don’t post a lot [on global warming] is that I’m not an expert, and I’m not planning to become one.  I’ve basically outsourced my opinion on the science to people like Jonathan Adler, Ron Bailey, and Pat Michaels of Cato–all of whom concede that anthropogenic global warming is real, though they may contest the likely extent, or desired remedies.

That doesn’t seem to me like the shocker thinkprogress wants it to be. They no doubt want to tarnish McArdle because she is what they’d consider a conservative journalist, and Cato is what they’d consider a conservative think-tank.

When you follow the link to McArdle’s actual article, she is aware that outfits like thinkprogress will consider her “admission” a cop-out. So, she offers this defense:

[H]ere’s the thing: I cannot be an expert on everything.  I don’t know what the speed limit should be, how we should redesign the military to counter 21st century threats, or the best way to allocate scarce water resources between competing claims, even though I recognize that in a modern society, these are all the proper concerns of the government; even though I think that these questions are important, I am willing to leave them to experts on traffic patterns, national defense, and water rights. So with global warming.  Time spent brushing up on the science is time spent not reading up on things where I have greater comparative advantage, like tax policy or the budget.

Okay, I don’t know about you, but that sounds stunningly reasonable to me, much more so than thinkprogress’s shocking headline spins it. And to be honest, this is one reason why I think we are hypocritical when we tell people that they shouldn’t accept authority, but always think for themselves. (more…)