Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

An “Open Mind” Is of No Use When It’s Open to Lies | Mises Wire

Posted by M. C. on June 26, 2021

Not only did Leonard Read add to our ability to know what we are talking about with open- and closed-mindedness, he provided us an example, laying out things his mind was closed to—core principles which he believed were true, and solid premises from which to reason and evaluate behavior. He wrote…

Gary Galles

In our world, there is very little people agree upon. One thing that seems to be an exception is that having an open mind is almost universally well regarded, while having a closed mind is almost universally criticized. However, such rhetoric presumes that what we are open or closed to is the truth. That leads to some problems of understanding, because we are routinely exposed to a great deal of nonsense, which we do not want to be open to, as well as truth.

That is particularly important to understand in a period when Americans have been repeatedly told to “follow the science” (say on mask restrictions) to prove they are not just obstinately closed-minded, when the main purpose was to open people’s minds to falsehoods, while at the same time they have been browbeaten to close their minds to legitimate questions about vaccines, mandated closures, critical race theory, and more, with both types of arguments used to reduce our freedoms.

Leonard Read insightfully addressed such issues in “Open versus Closed Minds,” chapter 22 of his 1973 Who’s Listening? We should have an open mind to what he wrote.

Open-mindedness is almost everywhere hailed as a virtue…. A person of closed mind, on the other hand, is generally condemned as narrow, shallow, nit-witted…. But this, of course, poses the question: To what should one’s mind be closed and to what should it be open?

I would like my mind open to truths yet to be perceived and closed to all nonsense.

While no one knows overmuch, each of us knows some things…. A good rule: Close the mind on what one knows and understands and keep it open to what is not known and understood. In either function, one’s mind serves him as a guide … helping him to avoid the ditches and stay on the road toward his destination.

Read begins by explaining why someone being close-minded about something need not be an inverse indicator of their wisdom on the topic, and being open-minded on something need not be a positive indicator of their wisdom on the topic.

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Gary Galles

Gary M. Galles is a Professor of Economics at Pepperdine University and an adjunct scholar at the Ludwig von Mises Institute. His research focuses on public finance, public choice, economic education, organization of firms, antitrust, urban economics, liberty, and the problems that undermine effective public policy. In addition to his most recent book, Pathways to Policy Failures (2020), his books include Lines of Liberty (2016), Faulty Premises, Faulty Policies (2014), and Apostle of Peace (2013).

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