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Moving On … To Another Venue
October 13, 2011 — 5:52 pm

[The tweets linked in this post that aren’t mine no longer exist on Twitter, because Andrew R. Hanson has moved his Twitter account from @arhanson to @andrewrhanson, eliminating his past tweets in the process.]

Not moving the entire blog, that is, but moving a discussion from elsewhere to here.

The other day, Andrew Hanson posted a blog entry recounting a series of Tweets between us. I would have been happy to make additional conversational headway in the comment section there, but I seem to have been blocked from posting additional comments.

Andrew quoted four of our Tweets; I’ll quote them all, for context. I almost never go to Twitter, so I don’t see other people’s Tweets unless I get an email notification. Some of the Tweets in the series below are therefore responding directly to a non-adjacent Tweet in the conversation, having lagged behind an email delay.

arhanson Andrew Hanson
@ericddixon RT @ModeledBehavior Arnold Kling: a conservative economist against teacher merit pay…

ericddixon Eric D. Dixon
@arhanson Kling doesn’t oppose merit pay at all; he thinks test scores are a lousy measure. And whaddaya know, I’ve always thought that too

arhanson Andrew Hanson
@ericddixon “A government-run system of teacher compensation, based on test scores, would in some ways be the worst of all worlds.”

arhanson Andrew Hanson
@ericddixon seems to oppose merit-pay systems based on test scores, e.g., NY and DC. Do you oppose them as well?

ericddixon Eric D. Dixon
@arhanson Govt is incompetent, and test scores are a lousy measure of teacher success. I’m not sure what part of this is supposed to be new.

ericddixon Eric D. Dixon
@arhanson I oppose public schools. Details of their implementation will never be better than second-best.

ericddixon Eric D. Dixon
Why do people have conversations via Twitter? #pointless

arhanson Andrew Hanson
@ericddixon Doesn’t really answer whether you agree w/ Kling on “worst of all worlds”; difference between second-best and least-best

ericddixon Eric D. Dixon
@arhanson Try speaking for yourself in the future.

arhanson Andrew Hanson
@ericddixon See my twitter feed/blog/policymic articles for personal thoughts:…

arhanson Andrew Hanson
@ericddixon just thought you’d find the piece interesting, not trying to start a twitter arg, no hard feelings

ericddixon Eric D. Dixon
@arhanson Maybe someday I will, if I have reason to believe you’ll say something worthwhile.

arhanson Andrew Hanson
@ericddixon Not all of us can be as intelligent as you, sir.

arhanson Andrew Hanson
@ericddixon Also, it’s unbecoming to give orders to people who aren’t your children or subordinates.

ericddixon Eric D. Dixon
@arhanson seems to think it’s OK to put words in others’ mouths in a public forum w/ faint qualification, pretending it’s all friendly convo

arhanson Andrew Hanson
@ericddixon has ruined my Twitterverse reputation!

In his blog entry, Andrew quoted four of those Tweets, following it with another quote by Arnold Kling, and Andrew’s own summation pointing out that he was correctly characterizing Kling, and I was not:

Arnold Kling on EconLog:

Against Merit Pay for Teachers (title)

That would be my position.

I guess me retweeting Modeled Behavior representing Kling as “a conservative economist against merit pay” whose self-titled blogpost is Against Merit Pay and says that’s his position counts as “putting words in others’ mouths”.

At least in the strange world of Internet arguments.

An exchange in his blog’s comment section ensued:

Eric D. Dixon Says:
October 13, 2011 at 12:23 am
So, now that I’ve seen this blog entry, and Justin’s comment on Facebook explaining an alternate interpretation of your comment that I had not previously considered, I think that I should make myself perfectly clear.

The Heartland article that you originally Tweeted at me had Arnold Kling arguing against a very specific type of merit pay — based on test scores within public schools. He says in that same piece that “I believe good teachers should be rewarded,” a view that would entail support for some form of merit compensation, if not in public schools, and if not based on test scores. Hence my contention that “Kling doesn’t oppose merit pay at all; he thinks test scores are a lousy measure.”

So, later, you pointed to another post at a different location titled “Against Merit Pay for Teachers,” stating that this is, indeed, his position. But he also follows that statement with additional text placing his position in a very specific context — merit pay based on test scores in public schools. Although the title of this post elides his opinion that “I believe good teachers should be rewarded,” the entry itself doesn’t contradict his view that he would favor merit compensation of some form in something other than public schools.

You also didn’t mention Kling’s full conclusion, which includes his suggestion that the public school system should be discontinued in order to achieve real student gains.

When you Tweeted this follow-up, leaving out the word “Kling” before the word “seems,” I assumed you were disingenuously trying to sum up my own unstated opinion to score unearned rhetorical points:

@ericddixon seems to oppose merit-pay systems based on test scores, e.g., NY and DC. Do you oppose them as well?

I see now that I was incorrect, but I still think it’s a reasonable reading of what you wrote — the obvious reading, even — so I objected to you putting words in my mouth.

This brings me back to my own Tweet from the other day, which most accurately sums up my take on this mess:

Why do people have conversations via Twitter? #pointless

Andrew R. Hanson Says:
October 13, 2011 at 10:33 am
As I told Justin’s friend Billy, I don’t really have any interest in discussing politics or philosophy with someone who can’t do it civilly without throwing out personal insults. For the record, I wasn’t looking for an argument, I just read the piece and remembered you and I had discussed merit pay earlier and that you respect Arnold Kling, so I tagged you on the retweet. I’ve had many discussions via Twitter with libertarians and other adversaries and never had an issue with someone insulting my personal integrity, let alone people I know and have hung out with.

Eric D. Dixon Says:
October 13, 2011 at 1:27 pm
Agreed, which is why I was so stunned to see from you what appeared to be clear, shameless trolling designed to provoke.

Eric D. Dixon Says:
October 13, 2011 at 2:23 pm
I also missed the part where I insulted your “personal integrity.”

Anonymous Says:
October 13, 2011 at 2:32 pm
Dude, get over it. Not everything is as dramatic as you seem to think. You’ve written your nine-paragraph essay. Move on. I won’t send you hyperlinks in the future. Lesson learned.

For the record, I did find the link interesting, even if I wasn’t immediately ready to draw the same lesson from it that Andrew was. I didn’t object until it appeared that he was trying to put words in my mouth, not Kling’s, in a public forum, summing up an opinion that I had not stated. Although his Tweet still clearly reads that way to me, he says that’s not what he meant, and I take him at his word. If he had meant it the way it reads, though, I would indeed consider it a purposeful misrepresentation, and therefore a breach of personal integrity — certainly worthy of rude dismissal, even if that’s not a particularly effective rhetorical strategy. I’m glad that’s not the case.

And although I wish I hadn’t jumped to that conclusion based on the obvious reading of what he wrote, I don’t think it was an unreasonable conclusion. Glib tweaking, if not outright trolling, has been at least an occasional feature of Andrew’s debating style the entire time I’ve known him. For instance, one time Andrew altered a Wikipedia article during the course of a Facebook debate to define a term the way he wanted, using my own out-of-context words as the text of that definition. I immediately changed it back and added a note to the discussion page for that entry. It was a joke on Andrew’s part — perhaps even a good joke — but I have trouble humoring people who are glib about serious ideas, especially in a public forum.

Still, although I may have handled the Twitter situation rudely in response to what I viewed as a clear personal slight, a rude dismissal is not the same as insulting personal integrity. Andrew deleted a Facebook comment in which I called him a “nice guy with terrible ideas,” which is also not an insult of his personal integrity. I’m not a fan of Andrew’s ideas, it’s true, in the same way that I think that Paul Krugman has terrible ideas, Cass Sunstein has terrible ideas, and John Maynard Keynes had terrible ideas, ones that make the world a markedly worse place the more they’re heeded by people in positions of power. That’s why I argue against those ideas whenever I have time and inclination. Still, I know that Andrew is sincere in believing his ideas to be as careful and beneficial as he can make them. That sincerity is a marker of his integrity, whether or not I agree with his conclusions — which I do indeed believe to be largely terrible.

It also seems that Andrew thinks that I and other libertarians have terrible ideas, else why would he argue against them so frequently? He might not use the word “terrible” — perhaps “misguided” or “ill-conceived.” But, really, is there a huge difference? We’ve vastly disagreed on almost every policy issue we’ve ever discussed, immigration being one notable exception. I don’t mind being thought of by others as woefully wrongheaded, though, and have never considered it a personal insult. Validation from others is nice, I guess, but largely irrelevant to my personal values.

At any rate, no, I don’t make a habit of reading Andrew’s blog entries, and will almost certainly continue that aversion in the future. This is the first one that I’ve read in more than a year. This doesn’t mean that I think Andrew’s a bad guy, or even that I couldn’t learn from his thought process, conclusions aside. Life is short, though, so I spend my reading time elsewhere. It’s not Rotten Tomatoes, but it’s a system that has worked for me so far.

— Eric D. DixonComments (2)

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  1. This fellow sounds like a crum bum. Why don’t you just say so?

    Comment by David M. Brown — October 16, 2011 @ 2:15 am

  2. He’s generally a nice guy. We have a few things in common, like some commonality in our taste in movies and music, and I’ve always enjoyed hanging out with him when he’s not talking about politics, economics, or philosophy.

    Justin pointed out to me that he’s continued commenting at Andrew’s blog entry, and I see that Andrew says he didn’t block me from commenting there. The last time I tried, it didn’t work, and I didn’t try again — so it was probably just a temporary technical glitch.

    Andrew has said a few things in that thread that I think require additional comment, though:

    I don’t view Eric or Billy as intellectually honest. Both seem unwilling to engage others’ ideas or give compelling representations of objections to their views. […]

    I’m not saying that Eric didn’t misunderstand, but, as you can tell from his response and the entire Twitter feed, he is entirely focused on me as a person and my character, not the things I say or the arguments I advance, which is why I know it’s pointless to have a discussion with him. But, this is willful ignorance in my view.

    I take acccusations seriously. The reason I commented on his blog post in the first place was to explain and retract my accusation that he’d disingenuously put words in my mouth, despite the fact that his Tweet plainly read that way. Typos happen.

    I wrote the blog entry above for two reasons:

    First, to counter his accusation against me that I had insulted his personal integrity — a claim that I think is false for the reasons elaborated above.

    Second, to explain why I’m not engaging his ideas — because I’m not interested in them. For those who know us both, that’s never been a secret, and I’d have told him the same in person if he’d ever asked. That may constitute willful ignorance, at least regarding additional elaboration of Andrew’s views specifically, but I do think it’s honest. Time is a limited resource, and nobody has time to engage everybody’s ideas. There has to be a bar, and Andrew’s ideas don’t meet my bar. That’s all.

    One more thing:

    Eric put words in my mouth when he said that I was trying to draw some lesson from the Kling post, something I never did, and that I was wrong about that lesson. All I did was tag him with a hyperlink and ask him for his thoughts. As I mentioned in my last comment, I didn’t offer any opinion on the Kling piece.

    True enough, although I know Kling’s conclusion about merit pay has some overlap with Andrew’s own stated views about merit pay, and assumed that’s why he shared the article, I have no reason to think Andrew drew any lesson at all from Kling’s piece. Sorry about that, Andrew.

    Comment by Eric D. Dixon — October 16, 2011 @ 5:38 pm

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