I was interviewed earlier today by a reporter for an on-line financial publication concerning my proposal for partial adjustment of publicly traded companies' taxable income towards their financial accounting income. He had gotten the lead from my talk to the National Tax Association the other day.
The interview mainly concerned what I am ostensibly doing to promote this proposal. I tried to tell him up front - I'm not exactly promoting it; rather, I'm saying that it deserves to be considered, but might or might not prove to be meritorious on balance once all of the underlying empirics were nailed down.
He reacted to this with blank incomprehension, evidently regarding it as something to put behind him so he could get on with the interview. In effect, I suppose he viewed it much the same way as you or I would if a car dealer were to say "I'm not saying you should buy this car - just that it's among the cars you should consider." Yeah, right.
I am not exactly in that type of business, however. Indeed, to me it would be more anomalous to claim that a given proposal which raises various open empirical issues definitely IS meritorious, than to say that it is of interest and MIGHT be meritorious. After all, what could possibly be the good-faith basis for opining so definitively? We're not supposed to be George W. Bush out here in academia, issuing pronunciamentos based on the dictates of our guts.
This is one of the problems with playing the public intellectual role. On the one hand, you may have a responsibility to share what you know and believe. And there can be professional benefits to doing this, if only to one's reputation or vanity. But if you cross over, then at some point you are done as a legitimate thinker.