Robin Quixote

His windmill:

The most powerful insufficiently-appreciated insight I’ve ever learned is the one intellectual legacy I’d leave, if I could leave only one: we are often wrong about why we do things.

Some context is appropriate here:

I have a colleague here at GMU econ who recently expressed to me his strong feeling that we academics should usually accept such standard explanations unless we see clear strong evidence to the contrary. That is, if an academic journal has a statement of purpose or aim or mission, then we should believe what that statement says about the main social function of that journal in the world — if it says the journal exists to advance knowledge, that is what we should believe. He thinks we should similarly accept official purpose statements of hospitals, universities, charities, and government agencies. (He might not accept mission claims by firms, e.g., “Wal-Mart’s mission is to help people save money so they can live better”; apparently only admired non-profits deserve such deference.)

I have enormous sympathy for this mission. My allusion in the title isn’t that this enemy is imaginary but that it’s a battle that is perhaps unwinnable.

What social outcome would accompany such a legacy? Who wins if Robin’s wish comes true? I would fear that too many have a vested interest in remaining sly rule-benders to give such views too much prominence.

Anyway, Robin’s got more than one strategy for being remembered, though he’s made his first choice clear.

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