Monday, January 19, 2015

The Triumph of Ideology Over Truth

None of us, of course, is free of prejudices, biases, and ideological/philosophical leanings. It is part of being human. But those of us who strive for critical thinking at least make an effort to recognize the aforementioned in our own thinking, and take measures to try to counteract their at-times destructive effects. I like to think that is what separates progressives from the reflexive ranters à la Fox News who substitute blather, invective and demagoguery for reason.

The New York Times' Paul Krugman has written a very interesting piece examining this issue, entitled Hating Good Government.

Krugman starts out by looking at climate change, and the fact that 2014 was the warmest year on record, a fact, however, that will make no difference in the 'debate.'
Evidence doesn’t matter for the “debate” over climate policy, where I put scare quotes around “debate” because, given the obvious irrelevance of logic and evidence, it’s not really a debate in any normal sense. And this situation is by no means unique. Indeed, at this point it’s hard to think of a major policy dispute where facts actually do matter; it’s unshakable dogma, across the board. And the real question is why.
To fully establish his premise, he next looks at the right's most prized article of faith, that tax cuts promote growth:
First, consider the Kansas experiment. Back in 2012 Sam Brownback, the state’s right-wing governor, went all in on supply-side economics: He drastically cut taxes, assuring everyone that the resulting boom would make up for the initial loss in revenues. Unfortunately for his constituents, his experiment has been a resounding failure. The economy of Kansas, far from booming, has lagged the economies of neighboring states, and Kansas is now in fiscal crisis.
So will we see conservatives scaling back their claims about the magical efficacy of tax cuts as a form of economic stimulus? Of course not. If evidence mattered, supply-side economics would have faded into obscurity decades ago.
Next, Krugman turns to health care reform, regarded by the right as an unspeakable evil promoted by the satanic Obama:
...the news on health reform keeps coming in, and it keeps being more favorable than even the supporters expected. We already knew that the number of Americans without insurance is dropping fast, even as the growth in health care costs moderates. Now we have evidence that the number of Americans experiencing financial distress due to medical expenses is also dropping fast.
Those facts, of course, will matter not a whit to the 'true believers' on the right.

Krugman then gets to the heart of the matter, the reason for this intractability that is impervious to facts:
Well, it strikes me that the immovable position in each of these cases is bound up with rejecting any role for government that serves the public interest. If you don’t want the government to impose controls or fees on polluters, you want to deny that there is any reason to limit emissions. If you don’t want the combination of regulation, mandates and subsidies that is needed to extend coverage to the uninsured, you want to deny that expanding coverage is even possible. And claims about the magical powers of tax cuts are often little more than a mask for the real agenda of crippling government by starving it of revenue.
And why this hatred of government in the public interest? Well, the political scientist Corey Robin argues that most self-proclaimed conservatives are actually reactionaries. That is, they’re defenders of traditional hierarchy — the kind of hierarchy that is threatened by any expansion of government, even (or perhaps especially) when that expansion makes the lives of ordinary citizens better and more secure.
We would be indeed foolish to think that such forces are not at work in Canada as well. One only has to look at the Harper regime's near-constant vilification of 'enemies, its suppression of science, its general demagoguery substituting for reasoned policy to see our sad domestic truths echo those of the U.S.

Not a time to be smug here, there, or anywhere.


  1. I read Krugman's piece with great interest, Lorne. It reminded me of Allan Bloom's book, The Closing of the American Mind.

    1. When you consider how they control the media (as per your post today), the denialists and the propagandists wield incredible power today, Owen.