The Bon Vivants of Doom And Gloom: Economist Nouriel Roubini and Author Nassim Taleb

I like how this reporter starts off his interview with Nouriel Roubini and Nassim Taleb. Of course what underlies this oxymoron is the "shoot the messenger" heuristic. Wikipedia describes "shooting the messenger" like this:

"Shooting the messenger" is a metaphoric phrase used to describe the act of lashing out at the (blameless) bearer of bad news.

In ancient times, messages were delivered in person by a human envoy. Sometimes, as in war, for example, the messenger was sent from the enemy camp. An easily-provoked combatant receiving such an overture could more easily vent anger (or otherwise retaliate) on the deliverer of the unpopular message than on its author, thus literally killing the messenger. In modern usage, the expression still refers to any kind of punishment meted out to the person bringing bad news, but has taken on an ironic dimension as well.

"Attacking the messenger" is a subdivision of the ad hominem logical fallacy.

Origins of the phrase

The advice "Don’t shoot the messenger" was first expressed (very obliquely) by Shakespeare in Henry IV, part 2 (1598) and in Antony and Cleopatra. (1606-07). Prior to that, a related sentiment was expressed in Antigone by Sophocles as "No one loves the messenger who brings bad news.".

No one likes to hear bad news. We all know that. But, the fact that Taleb and Roubini enjoy life has nothing to do with the conclusions they draw based on their economic analyses.

Just thought I’d point that out.

What they have to say is worth listening to. However, politics and ideology is where the rubber hits the road on economic policy – and this is where Taleb and Roubini have differing views. Listen to their comments about the role of government in the video above. If you have trouble viewing here, click this link to watch at PBS.

For my thoughts on these questions see my posts:

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