Friday, 4 December 2009

The Big Questions

Stephen Landsburg's new book arrived this morning. So far, slightly disappointing if at least generally entertaining. He's definitely better at economics than philosophy. My favourite sentence thus far:
In one recent survey, 39% of New Yorkers said they would leave the city "if they could"! Every one of them was in New York on the day of the interview, so we know that at a minimum 39% of New Yorkers lie to pollsters.
Ok, that's two sentences, but it's classic Landsburg.

1 comment:

The Man said...

I'm a fan of Steven Landsburg too, but this quote doesn't stand up on its own. From that information, we can't conclude that these people are lying to pollsters. They're using language in the ordinary way. If a friend calls you during the middle of a work day and says, "hey, why don't you quit your job and will go get wasted and start a rock band," you might respond by saying, "yeah, I wish I could. Sadly, I have a deadline to meet this afternoon."

Similarly, sure, technically, maybe you "can" just quit your job and move to a different state. And maybe you even will. But you "can't" in another, more important sense: you're stuck until you figure out how to escape, you have bills to pay, maybe you have family in New York, etc.

So this doesn't imply that they are lying, which requires knowledge that what you are saying is untrue. These people most likely believe what they're saying. If they could leave, they would. But they can't do it right this minute. I'd like to track that 39% group and see where they are now. Maybe there down here in Florida with me.