Monday, November 21, 2016

Progressivism Indicted

Two interesting indictments of the progressive movement. First Mark Lilla, a historian at Columnia, with an op-ed in the New York Times:

It is a truism that America has become a more diverse country. It is also a beautiful thing to watch. Visitors from other countries, particularly those having trouble incorporating different ethnic groups and faiths, are amazed that we manage to pull it off. Not perfectly, of course, but certainly better than any European or Asian nation today. It’s an extraordinary success story.
But how should this diversity shape our politics? The standard liberal answer for nearly a generation now has been that we should become aware of and “celebrate” our differences. Which is a splendid principle of moral pedagogy — but disastrous as a foundation for democratic politics in our ideological age. In recent years American liberalism has slipped into a kind of moral panic about racial, gender and sexual identity that has distorted liberalism’s message and prevented it from becoming a unifying force capable of governing.

He concludes:
Some years ago I was invited to a union convention in Florida to speak on a panel about Franklin D. Roosevelt’s famous Four Freedoms speech of 1941. The hall was full of representatives from local chapters — men, women, blacks, whites, Latinos. We began by singing the national anthem, and then sat down to listen to a recording of Roosevelt’s speech. As I looked out into the crowd, and saw the array of different faces, I was struck by how focused they were on what they shared. And listening to Roosevelt’s stirring voice as he invoked the freedom of speech, the freedom of worship, the freedom from want and the freedom from fear — freedoms that Roosevelt demanded for “everyone in the world” — I was reminded of what the real foundations of modern American liberalism are. 
Pretty strong stuff, to accuse progressives of abandoning FDR's principles.

John Tierney levels the second indictment in The Real War on Science - The Left has done far more than the Right to set back progress (City Journal). He notes that conservatives don't have much impact on science on way or the other, and finds the Left presents two "huge threats" to science.
The first threat is confirmation bias, the well-documented tendency of people to seek out and accept information that confirms their beliefs and prejudices. In a classic study of peer review, 75 psychologists were asked to referee a paper about the mental health of left-wing student activists. Some referees saw a version of the paper showing that the student activists’ mental health was above normal; others saw different data, showing it to be below normal. Sure enough, the more liberal referees were more likely to recommend publishing the paper favorable to the left-wing activists. When the conclusion went the other way, they quickly found problems with its methodology.
He includes a long list of examples where groupthink and dogma have set back both social and physical science. And that leads "to the second great threat from the Left...":
...its long tradition of mixing science and politics. To conservatives, the fundamental problem with the Left is what Friedrich Hayek called the fatal conceit: the delusion that experts are wise enough to redesign society. Conservatives distrust central planners, preferring to rely on traditional institutions that protect individuals’ “natural rights” against the power of the state. Leftists have much more confidence in experts and the state. Engels argued for “scientific socialism,” a redesign of society supposedly based on the scientific method. Communist intellectuals planned to mold the New Soviet Man. Progressives yearned for a society guided by impartial agencies unconstrained by old-fashioned politics and religion. Herbert Croly, founder of the New Republic and a leading light of progressivism, predicted that a “better future would derive from the beneficent activities of expert social engineers who would bring to the service of social ideals all the technical resources which research could discover.”
This was all very flattering to scientists, one reason that so many of them leaned left. The Right cited scientific work when useful, but it didn’t enlist science to remake society—it still preferred guidance from traditional moralists and clerics. The Left saw scientists as the new high priests, offering them prestige, money, and power. The power too often corrupted. Over and over, scientists yielded to the temptation to exaggerate their expertise and moral authority, sometimes for horrendous purposes.
Those "horrendous purposes" include, but are not limited to: eugenics, insecticide hysteria, bad health science on salt and fat, and last but not least climate change.

Tierney concludes:
To preserve their integrity, scientists should avoid politics and embrace the skeptical rigor that their profession requires. They need to start welcoming conservatives and others who will spot their biases and violate their taboos. Making these changes won’t be easy, but the first step is simple: stop pretending that the threats to science are coming from the Right. Look in the other direction—or in the mirror.
I would suggest that it cuts both ways. Politicians should stop proclaiming themselves scientific experts. And voters need to be more skeptical of politicians' appeals to science, as well as their appeals to morality, religion, and tradition.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

None of the Above

Just wanted to go on record: I oppose both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump for President. Neither is offering to solve any of the problems facing the nation. Neither is offering to square foreign policy with American values and goals.

And no, I don't believe Trump will nominate conservatives to the Supreme Court. He supports gun control and abortion. He believes the Federal government should be stronger, and should control more of Americans' lives. Why would he nominate a conservative?

Besides the corruption, dishonesty, and cronyism, Clinton is every bit as dangerous as Trump. She has been wrong on every foreign policy decision that she's participated in. She has no sense of judgment, and will overreact to perceived threats and under-react to real dangers.

But Trump and Clinton aren't the problem. The real problem is us. Americans continue to demand lower taxes but refuse to cut entitlements. They insist on the best doctors, hospitals, and medicines, and scream over the cost, but largely avoid serving in the health industry themselves. They continue to re-elect their Senators and Representatives, even though Congress doesn't have a budget, acquiesces to every loss of freedom, and approves every foreign adventure.

It's clear to me that Trump/Clinton is exactly what Americans want. And they're about to get it, good and hard.