Indonesia | Economics

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Calling ignorance by name

Today in the Jakarta Post, one opinion article began as such:
Criticism is an integral part of scholarly culture. However, criticizing an idea with little knowledge of it can be more dangerous than simply being ignorant.
Then, it pointed out the flaws of this article, calling its writer by name. Whooey...

Let me tell you first that the writer of the first article, Teguh Yudo Wicaksono, is a good friend of mine. Nonetheless, he knows that this doesn't grant him special treatments with regards to the battle of ideas in the public sphere. For the most part, I judge ideas, even those of my friends', by their merits (see, for instance, this and this).

Yudo, as we call him, is also a promising young economist who, judging from this Jakarta Post article, cannot suffer fools. It is this last part that impresses me the most. I put up this article here not because of his arguments (good as they were), but his audacity in calling the other's false ideas as "more dangerous than simply being ignorant."

His article is unlikely to end the debate on labour policy. But the following quote should raise the standard on which subsequent arguments will be judged:
One may be suspicious about a connection between the source of research funding and the results... However, the important issue here is that empirical evidence should be the basis for arguments.
His audacity reminded me of the Krugman interview I put up yesterday. Krugman believes that, the role of public intellectuals is is not so much coming up with new ideas, but "to serve as a watchdog to get rid of bad ideas and prevent their coming back". Which is to say, (Indonesian) public intellectuals need to do what Yudo did more often – to wit, to call ignorance by name.


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