Not long ago, over lunch, I asked Robin who he wanted to see rise and fall in status, as a result of his book with Kevin Simler. As for who should rise, he cited the book’s epigram to me:
To the little guys, often grumbling in a corner, who’ve said this sort of thing for ages: you were right more than you knew. —Robin
So yes the little guys, but I also stress the cynics as well, or maybe it is the gentle cynics who go through life with a smile.
And who should decline in status? Robin’s lunch answer was again to the point: policy analysts. Policy analysis, while it often incorporates behavioral considerations, when studying say health care, education, and political economy, very much neglects the fact that often both the producers and consumers in these areas have hypocritical motives. For that reason, what appears to be a social benefit is often merely a private benefit in disguise, and sometimes it is not even a private benefit. Things that feel good aren’t always good for you, or for the broader world. Here is Robin’s take on that:
Our new book, The Elephant in the Brain, can be seen as taking one side in a disagreement between disciplines. On one side are psychologists (among others) who say of course people try to spin their motives as being higher than they are, especially in public forums. People on this side find our basic book thesis, and...