The Fallacy of Equivocation at the Economist

In a remarkably shoddy example of anti-market propaganda emanating from the Nottingham Business School, the Economist runs a screed that starts out with the debatable but reasonable premise that business leaders exaggerate their omniscience. It somehow ends up with the unsupported conclusion that business schools should abandon economics, finance, and the pursuit of profit for the cant trio of “sustainability,” “social responsibility,” and “leadership for all not for the few.”

The crude equivocating shifts from intellectual humility to moral humility to altruism would qualify for an F in any class on composition, much less philosophy. The vague assertions about “business excess” (entirely unsupported or even defined), the implicit attribution of these excesses to the teachings of business schools (ditto), and the wild leap at the end (replacing business school education with an agora-like setting in which sophists mingle with scientists and philosophers with philistines to figure out what are “social needs”), all conduce to a massive loss of reader brain cells per sentence. This article might be useful as a sort of mine detector–anyone who finds it congenial is best separated from responsibility for educating or commenting on business or economic issues.


6 Comments on “The Fallacy of Equivocation at the Economist”

  1. Anu says:

    With all due respect, I find your views are out of touch with what a lot of the population thinks.

    • stevepostrel says:

      I’m afraid you are confusing your assessment of the conclusion of the article with an assessment of the quality of the argument leading to that conclusion. (While, sadly, it may be true that a lot of the population can be fooled by fallacies of equivocation, I don’t think that’s what you meant.)

      You can find many more-persuasive and better-argued cases for reforming MBA education than the one linked above; some of these even come to similar conclusions about the nature of the desired reforms. If one were to refute the Economist piece and claim thereby to have refuted the conclusions it draws, that could fairly be indicting as attacking a straw man. In other words, those who agree with the piece’s conclusions ought to be equally upset at its shoddy quality.

      • Anu says:

        It’s well written article that highlights what I experienced during my two year MBA. Lots of students in it for individual success. There were a lot of courses designed to create bankers and consultants. I don’t think there was a structure in place that helped me think more broadly about the impact business has or could have on society.

  2. Steve Phelan says:

    Sadly, European and Australian business schools are over-run with these anti-business types. I attribute it to low relative starting salaries for business academics, which does little to attract pro-business types.

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