Monday, November 12, 2012

Conservatives Reality Problem

From Forbes:

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Team Romney’s polling cluelessness comes after years of conservatives demonizing pointy-headed academics, including scientists. On subjects like evolution, global warming, the biology of human conception, and even macroeconomics, conservatives have been increasingly bold about rejecting the consensus of scientific experts in favor of ideologically self-serving pronouncements. That attitude may have contributed to their loss of the White House in 2012. It will be much more costly for the country as a whole if it doesn’t change before the GOP next captures the White House.


I think global warming is a more complex issue than some people on the left acknowledge. But rather than accepting the basic scientific reality of climate change and making the case that the costs of action outweigh the benefits, many conservatives have taken the cruder tack of simply attacking the entire enterprise of mainstream climate science as a hoax.

On macroeconomics, a broad spectrum of economists, ranging from John Maynard Keynes to Milton Friedman, supports the basic premise that recessions are caused by shortfalls in aggregate demand. Economists across the political spectrum agree that the government ought to take action counteract major aggregate demand shortfalls. There is, of course, a lot of disagreement about the details. Friedman argued that the Fed should be responsible for macroeconomic stabilization, while Keynes emphasized deficit spending.

There's a reason I continually pick on John Taylor's continual comparison of this expansion with the Reagan expansion: he should know better.  As a Stanford PHD and well respected economist, his statements should conform to provable reality.  Yet he continually argues that an expansion rooted in interest rate policy is directly comparable to a post financial crisis expansion when nothing could be further from the truth.  And his continual insistence on making the comparison should lower his position in public discourse such that he is no longer counseled for his advice.

This leads to a general problem with the conservative movement in general: facts which run counter to their beliefs are "created by liberals" and are therefore ignored.  The latest example of this is the CBOs study that tax cuts don't lead to economic growth.  This has been accepted in the economic world for some time.  Yet, Republicans complained and, as a result, the CBO withdrew the study to avoid controversy.  This is just the latest example. 

I've tried debating conservatives and frankly have now thrown in the towel.  The reason is simple: they live in an alternate universe where austerity and tax cuts lead to monumental growth, global warming is a liberal conspiracy and creationism is a valid scientific theory.  None of these things is even remotely true, yet you'd think each was in fact standard dogma.

Barry over at the BP had the best take on this:

5 Don’t live in a bubble. Large swaths of the conservative movement seem to live in a world of their own creation. The balkanization of media outlets allow people to read only that which they agree with. This selective perception and confirmation bias creates a self-reinforcing alternative universe. Facts don’t matter; data and science are irrelevant. You only hear exactly what it is you want to hear. 

Outlets like Fox News and pundits like George Will and Dick Morris were forecasting a Mitt Romney landslide. Don’t like the polling data? Create a site called “” to provide numbers you do like. As it turned out, UnskewedPolls was the least accurate polling aggregator this election cycle. If you spend most of your time rationalizing why the polls are inaccurate and the media are biased, you will probably be surprised at what happens next. As smart investors know, this sort of bias can be very expensive.

 It's great that this problem with reality is finally coming to bear.  Smashing it will, in the long run, greatly benefit our national discourse.