Tom Woods spoke last night at the UConn School of Business, opposite Tom McInerney, ING Chairman & CEO Insurance Americas (which received $3 billion euros in bailout money from the Dutch government). The topic was “Too Big to Fail?: Perspectives on Government Intervention During Economic Collapse.” Reports from audience members overwhelmingly agree that Woods absolutely wiped the floor with McInerney. Woods, of course, was well prepared and presented a coherent economic case for his position, and was entertaining to boot. McInerney, by contrast, ate up some of his time on personal anecdotes about the school, like a typical Dale Carnegie back-slapping schmoozer, before getting to a dry and boring Powerpoint obviously prepared by some lackey. McInerney reportedly played lip service to the idea that no company should be bailed out–but, of course, “this was a special circumstance.”
The extent to which he was outmatched, though, was revealed in this almost embarrassingly funny episode. McInerney had mentioned that Bernanke was a diligent and knowledgeable student of the Great Depression. So, when it came time for the Q&A, one audience member asked Woods to briefly explain the Austrian view of Great Depression and how it might differ from Bernanke’s view. After Woods did this, McIerney took the stage, and as if he were about to unload a devastating blow against Woods, said to him, “this might seem like a bit of an attack. Don’t take it too personally.” And then…. he began to rant about … the relatively small size of the country of Austria. I kid you not.
Some audience members began to laugh; others cringed, as McInerney dug his hole deeper while under the illusion that he was unleashing a deadly zinger. Woods kept trying to stage whisper that Austria had nothing to do with the school of Austrian economics, but McInerney, undeterred, plowed on. Thus, when Woods took the stage he said, “this might seem like an attack, but don’t take it too personally…” And then Woods commented that we may as well say we shouldn’t listen to Milton Friedman, since the GDP of Chicago is pretty low.