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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

No. 000021 Why a No Comment Policy: "Never debate the ignorant in front of the uninformed: the crowd can't tell who won the argument" Syrian Proverb



One of the great delights of our new Social Media is that one can, for the first time in history, observe in action and sometimes interact with the best thinkers of our times.

This efficiency is stunning. Before the printing press, to access knowledge one had two choices. You could attend a university where classes consisted of the teacher reading from one of the few books owned by the university (often the Bible). Or, one could travel to the seat of government, literally to sit on the benches of the courthouse square or tavern to learn by word of mouth.

The printing press permitted knowledge to be disbursed beyond the university, making it much cheaper to acquire knowledge. The efficiency of a book it that it permits the reader to acquire the knowledge and experience of others cheaply and immediately.

What is fun is that as soon as printed books began to become availalbe people immediately used them to re-create the older university experience. The American example was Benjamin’s Franklin’s Junto Club.
At age 21, with his printing business established in Philadelphia and his circle of friends expanding, Benjamin Franklin formed a weekly discussion group with twelve men who shared his drive for learning and conversation. Named the Junto (derived from the Spanish to join), the club met every Friday evening in a tavern or house to discuss “Morals, Politics, or Natural Philosophy [science].” Soon the group gathered books from the members’ personal libraries into a lending library for the Junto ⎯ the beginnings of the first lending library in the colonies.
One of my strongest Munger filter’s asks, Is the person with whom you are interacting a participant in the Junto Clubs of today?

Twitter, for example, permits one to follow and interact with the best (and worst) thinkers, one of whom is Nassim N. Taleb. What makes following Professor Taleb robust is that he flavors his statistics with a constant flow of common wisdom (aphorisms) in style of Will Rogers or Mark Twain. From Taleb on Facebook.

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In comments Professor Taleb continues, “A Syrian lady from near Amioun (Marmarita) said it. I forgot the original I translated. It was not in Arabic, in Levantine.

The debate to which Professor Taleb was referring was his May debate with Larry Summers, whom Taleb doesn't like due to his lack of skin-in-the game. Professor Taleb recently authored a paper entitled “Skin in the Game.

The audience: hedge fund managers at SkyBridge Capital's SALT 2014 conference in Las Vegas.

Mark Twain, of course, filled the Mississippi Valley with his wisdom on the same subject, “Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience.”

Of course, there is an opposing view, held by contrarians like Tyler Cowen who are about selling books. Cowen offers the myth that  our Founders intended that "citizen" or "amateur politicians" would debate "ideas on the floor of Congress.”

Why then, Cowen, do we insist that our doctors and lawyers be experienced?