Challengers vs. Bargainers

Arnold Kling comments on Daniel Klein’s language of libertarians.

Klein uses as an example of a topic the minimum wage. A challenger is someone who will say that the minimum wage should be abolished, while a bargainer is someone who sill say that the minimum wage should not be raised.

In terms of understanding an issue, I find that both challengers and bargainers help me work through an issue; each can offer useful perspectives, so long as they are done thoughtfully.

Kling worries that challengers lack intellectual humility. I guess my take is that this trait may be correlated with being a challenger, but challengers need not adopt this stance.

For example, a challenger could say: “I’m seventy percent certain abolishing the minimum wage would be a net benefit to the poor; given this, I’m a hundred percent certain that it would be good if ten to fifteen states abolished the minimum wage. If the data proved that I was right, then I’d forcefully argue for all states to do so.”

In short, you can combine a challenge stance (no compromise on policy) with humility (small pilots of  policy adoption).

Perhaps this is cheating – and you in fact become a bargainer once you don’t push for 100% adoption right away. But I’d like to think there is room for this type of stance within the challenger category.

This, of course, is my stance with charter districts. I very skeptical of district autonomy, and I’m generally not willing to compromise on the issue. However, I’m not pushing for 100% adoption of charter districts overnight.


Kling also writes:

I am mostly a bargainer. However, when I write posts using challenger language, I get a lot more praise and mention among libertarians. In fact, I have tried to keep myself from being influenced by such reinforcement … For example, I imagine that Paul Krugman evolved into the writer he is because he could not resist the positive reinforcement he received for expressing anger and certainty.

This is something I struggle with as well. My least nuanced posts often get the most retweets.

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