Saturday, April 21, 2007

In Defense of Parlor Games

The NY Times gives some publicity to my new paper with Matthew Weinzierl, The Optimal Taxation of Height.

Apparently, Professor Frank Pasquale of Seton Hall Law School does not like it:
in a nation where an ever-growing number of people lack basic health insurance, and a world where tens of millions live on a dollar a day and a substantial proportion of the affluent do nothing to relieve their plight, it’s really difficult to see how reductiones ad absurda contribute to the practical decisions we have to make about distributing resources. Parlor games don’t lead to good policy.
If this comment had come from someone inside the beltway, I would not have been surprised. Much of the Washington crowd has little tolerance for purely academic pursuits. But I would have thought that an academic like Professor Pasquale would understand that scholarly writing does not always have to focus on the pressing issues of the day. One of the luxuries of the ivory tower is the ability to reflect on fundamental questions of a more abstract variety. For example: "Do conventional models of distributive justice adequately capture of our intuitions about what is fair and what is not?"

Besides, as the erstwhile president of my high school chess club, I do not object to a good parlor game now and then.