Too Funny

by Will on September 2, 2010

Brad DeLong shares an amusing poll, that says a lot about how much credence one should give to poll results:

Above: the Public Speaks

Obviously a lot of people don’t know that John Stuart Mill was a 19th-century philosopher and economist, and Mary Wolstencraft an advocate of women’s equality in the early 1800s. Obviously there are a lot of people who have noopinion about the Harry Potter movies and the actors therein. Some of the people who don’t know about Mill and Wolstencraft are also people who don’t care about Harry Potter. But get them on the phone, talking to a stranger about their opinions, and some percentage of people from both these subsets will pretend to think that Mill and Wolstencraft were in the Harry Potter series and were good. Just because it somehow hurts their pride to say, “I don’t know.” People are funny.

P.S. I actually think more people should be made to read Mill’s “On Liberty” during their education. It deals pretty honestly with the difficult question of how you can in actuality maximize liberty. Wolstencraft is also worth reading, but the brunt of her argument is the consensus opinion today: what amazes you is that she had to make the argument at all.

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