George Lakoff: ignorant half-wittery

George Lakoff is a professor of linguistics at Berkeley. Berkeley being a fine university this does of course mean that he very much more than simply an adequate linguist.

However, excellence in one field does not, necessarily, flow over into excellence in another. For example, excellence in linguistics clearly does not flow over into knowledge of cost benefit analyses, the oil business or matters economic:

Cost-benefit analysis only looks at monetary costs versus benefits, case by case, not at the risk of massive death of the kind that has been gushing out of the Gulf.  Death, in itself, even at that scale, is not a “cost.” Only an outflow of money is a “cost.”

This is ignorant half-wittery. For only a few weeks back we had another shouting match on the left about how evil BP were in applying a cost, including in their cost benefit analysis, to the possible death of their employees.

Coon says that during the discovery process, he found another email from the BP Risk Management department that showed BP put a value on each worker when making its Three Little Pigs calculation: $10 million per life.

So, there we go. You can shout at BP because they do not consider death a cost which needs to be included in a cost benefit analysis or you can shout at BP because they do include death as a cost which should be included in a cost benefit analysis.

Apparently you can do both in fact, never mind the facts, just have a good shout. It\’ll make you feel better, no?

And just to show that this isn\’t just some idle and insignificant blogger whining away on the internet, here is an American professor, an expert in his field….the valuation of life in cost benefit analyses….talking about the field in which he is expert.

No, I wouldn\’t look to Kip Viscusi for information on linguistics either, so why anyone takes George Lakoff seriously on cost benefit analyses I\’m not sure.

7 thoughts on “George Lakoff: ignorant half-wittery”

  1. I’ve become a great fan of clever Mr Carr of the Indy. I’m looking for more lefties to whom to apply his recent wonderful insult “He has a lively face, especially in an electrical storm.” Will this bozo of yours do, Tim?

  2. “excellence in linguistics clearly does not flow over into knowledge of cost benefit analyses”

    Linguists talking crap outside of their field of expertise, otherwise known as “Chomsky Syndrome”.

    Mind you aren’t a lot of Lakoff’s contributions on linguistics a bit of a joke too, I seem to recall Stephen Pinker tearing apart his 2006 book on how to frame political debate.

  3. See also under Chomsky, Noam. Also a linguistics guru iirc.

    btw don’t our own Department of Transport use some such method to decide whether to improve roads, ie how any deaths, therefore what they cost, therefore it’s worth doing or not, depending?

  4. Oh, and the USA’s Environmental Protection Agency put it at $7.22 million in 2008.

    Thus proving that oil workers are worth more than any Tom, Dick or Harry.

  5. “Mind you aren’t a lot of Lakoff’s contributions on linguistics a bit of a joke too, I seem to recall Stephen Pinker tearing apart his 2006 book on how to frame political debate.”

    Actually his work on metaphors – stuff that is firmly in properly in the field of linguistics – is really good (as Pinker acknowledges) but his forays into politics aren’t convincing.

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