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Robert Frank, Liberal Icon

In my review about the resurgence of Ayn Rand-ism on the right, I cited an op-ed by Cornell economist Robert Frank. I called Frank's central point, that luck plays a huge role in success, "seemingly banal." It occurs to me -- I haven't heard from Frank or anybody about this point -- that that line sounded dismissive. I didn't intend it that way at all. Sometimes very bvious points nonetheless go unmentioned in a public debate, and Frank usefully brought that one to the surface.

I also referred briefly to his subsequent appearance on Fox to defend his op-ed. The appearance is really remarkable, and I don't think I managed to do it justice. The way Frank calmly made his points in the face of a tirade by a blustering, self-satisfied, demagogic host was a tribute to both the power of reason and its generalized absence on cable television in general and Fox in particular. If I knew a young, apolitical intellectual, and wanted to convince him or her to identify as a liberal rather than a conservative, I would probably show this segment: