03 Dec 2012

One More on Epistemic Closure and Conservatives

Economics, Federal Reserve, Foreign Policy, Krugman 27 Comments

Last post on this and I will move on to greener pastures… There are two remaining ironies I would like to point out, in Krugman’s high-fiving of Bruce Bartlett for being so open-minded in his denunciation of those close-minded conservatives. (BTW a funny and apropos aside: I pass the Scott Sumner Turing Test.)

(1) Look at where Bartlett’s mea culpa ran: The American Conservative. It wasn’t HuffPo or Slate, it was The American Conservative. I asked the editor, Dan McCarthy, if he had any other good examples of running “hey guys let’s engage in introspection”-type articles, and he suggested this and this. Is there anything comparable on the progressive/Keynesian side? In other words, do progressive/Keynesian outlets ever run articles by former progressives-turned-moderate saying that maybe Dick Armey had a point after all? (I’m not doubting there are such pieces, I just don’t know any off the top of my head.) The only thing I can think of is Karl Smith having doubts about central banks, but even that was a (refreshingly honest) concern about real-world implementation, rather than doubting his underlying theory. In other words, Karl was worrying that maybe he and his Keynesian friends were being naive, not that they were wrong about the economics.

(2) Look at this open-minded Bruce Bartlett, just minding his own business and trying to help the conservatives/GOP. After detailing how he came to reject not just neoconservative nation-building but also “nutty stuff like the Laffer Curve,” and after openly embracing Keynesian demand-side economics, Bartlett then says:

At least a few conservatives now recognize that Republicans suffer for epistemic closure. They were genuinely shocked at Romney’s loss because they ignored every poll not produced by a right-wing pollster such as Rasmussen or approved by right-wing pundits such as the perpetually wrong Dick Morris. Living in the Fox News cocoon, most Republicans had no clue that they were losing or that their ideas were both stupid and politically unpopular.

I’ve paid a heavy price, both personal and financial, for my evolution from comfortably within the Republican Party and conservative movement to a less than comfortable position somewhere on the center-left. Honest to God, I am not a liberal or a Democrat. But these days, they are the only people who will listen to me. When Republicans and conservatives once again start asking my opinion, I will know they are on the road to recovery.

So Bartlett rejects everything the modern Republican stands for, calls their ideas “stupid,” embraces their worst enemies, and then says he will only believe they are on the road to recovery when they come to him and ask for his advice. Gosh, I can’t believe this strategy isn’t working, Mr. Bartlett. Why in the world would any think tank want to can a team player like this?

Incidentally, you can be very aggressive and challenge right-wing warhawks. I think Tom Woods did a great job on this; here’s a great speech and a written article, in which Tom confessed to being a recovering neocon warhawk. Tom doesn’t pull punches at all, but I bet he converted more people than Bartlett has done.

27 Responses to “One More on Epistemic Closure and Conservatives”

  1. Major_Freedom says:

    So Bartlett rejects everything the modern Republican stands for, calls their ideas “stupid,” embraces their worst enemies, and then says he will only believe they are on the road to recovery when they come to him and ask for his advice.

    …but that is not epistemic closure, because…um…wait, I got this…

  2. Bob Roddis says:

    Thanks to Bartlett, we now know that Dubya and Limbaugh and O’Reilly and Hannity are closed minded. Otherwise, we would have never figured it out.

    And because Dubya broke the bank with his crazy spending and money printing which led directly to the recent bust, that proves that Keynes and Krugman are right about there being a lack of aggregate demand and that the unguided free market runs off the track. I finally get it!

    • Bob Murphy says:

      You are a funny guy Roddis but I worry that other people in your daily life don’t relate to you.

      • Bob Roddis says:

        Everything’s usually fine until I bring up Austrian economics or other similar racist neo-Confederate stuff.

  3. Bob Roddis says:

    Speaking of even More Epistemic Closure:

    TimesPulse- – The most popular movies among NYTimes.com readers.

    Killing Them Softly
    Life of Pi
    Anna Karenina
    Beware of Mr. Baker

    • Major_Freedom says:
      • Bob Roddis says:

        Speaking of which, the MMTers were apparently bemoaning Lincoln bemoaning that he had to pay his soldiers with funny money. So I posted a link to a recent DiLorenzo article about the “Lincoln” movie and another one stating that Lincoln was still working on deporting all of the slaves after the Civil War right up to the day he was shot and another one stating that about 1/4 of the freed slaves died of starvation soon after.

        Curiously, no one attempted any refutation of these various factual allegations but I was informed that I was a racist because my heroes Rothbard, Rockwell, DiLorenzo and Tom Woods were all associated with the racist League of the South. Curious bunch of folks,those MMTers.


        At the top left of the MMT page, you can learn that Schiff and the Austrians were wrong about everything.

      • guest says:

        I agree, that is extremely relevant.

        Here’s the title to your link, so people won’t accidentally pass up an opportunity to watch it:

        “Thomas DiLorenzo on Spielberg’s “Lincoln” (Part 1)”

        There are three awesome parts full of awesome.

        Such as this quote:

        Letter to Horace Greeley by Abraham Lincoln

        If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union.

  4. Blackadder says:

    Among the many strange things in that article: Bartlett starts off attacking Bush for being insufficiently conservative and then ends by describing himself as center-left (and Obama as center-right!)

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Yeah tell me about it. “I describe myself to the left of Obama, and I can’t understand why Fox News isn’t falling all over itself to book me.”

  5. Tel says:

    From Tom Woods:

    “I am getting more and more convinced that the war-peace question is the key to the whole libertarian business,” Rothbard noted privately in 1956. I am equally convinced. If we can’t get this right, who cares about the Department of Education or the minimum wage?

    The thing is, let’s suppose the whole of the USA hit economic collapse, soaring inflation, social breakdown, and the surviving population suddenly realized that the Christian Libertarians were right all along, and so they picked up their bibles and turned into genuinely nice guys.

    While that was happening, totalitarian statists like Iran would go “Woo hoo” and be off clobbering some other bunch of people… or if not Iran, then someone else. Like it or not, the world is based around a whole bunch of powerful militaristic governments in standoff against each other, and those powers are growing. The Iranians send their missiles over to the Palestinians for testing, they make notes about distance, speed, etc. Then Israel’s “Iron Dome” knocks out some of the missiles so both sides go back and make some tweaks, then six months later they have another go at it.

    The USA recently tried a supersonic liquid-fuel missile called “waverider” and it didn’t work. However, the USA are already behind, because the current leader is (believe it or not) an Indian / Russian join effort called “Brahmos” which can toss a 300kg warhead over a distance of 300km at almost mach 3 (with plans for mach 5 and mach 7 coming up in the next few years). It has full satnav, can follow a complex path to create confusion, and supposedly is OK to fly just 10m above the ground. China have also been experimenting with similar devices, presumably without much success (but they know it can be done, so they won’t give up).

    Then there’s drone bombers, and Iran are already having a go at building their’s, you can be sure a bunch of other countries are doing it as well.

    So of course your average working stiff has nothing to gain from all of this. Worst case he gets sent to war and dies, best case he stays home and pays high taxes to support the military. Problem is that powerful people have something to gain by keeping weaker people afraid… and with the gear that’s out there we have a lot to be afraid of.

    I don’t expect the UN to fix it for that matter, they have a bit of an incentive problem because if world peace suddenly broke out, people wouldn’t need the UN anymore. Besides that, it’s pretty clear that the UN ends up attracting more of the power hungry “I’ll run your life for you” type wannabe overlords, in it for the free cheese and crackers, with a massive sense of self importance (i.e. exactly the kind of people who start wars in the first place).

    Libertarian theory is a great idea for peaceful people who want to be peaceful to one another, but historically those people have never been the ones running the show.

    • Michael says:

      I think you just came up with the new catchphrase for US foreign policy: “We drone bomb you, so you don’t have to do it yourself!”

    • Matt Tanous says:

      Right. Peace is Utopian, but ending war through war just MAKES SENSE. http://sphotos-b.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ash4/315793_305835702850004_9061602_n.jpg

      The solution to the dictators in Iran and other nations is actually peace. Remove the scapegoat of the US, and the people’s suffering will lead to revolt. The dictator only has one throat to slit.

      • Ken B says:

        Worked for Hitler, worked for Stalin, worked for the Khmer Rouge, worked for Pol Pot, worked for King Leopold.

        • Matt Tanous says:

          All of those dictators had foreign enemies to blame in the West. Hitler’s rise was entirely thanks to the US entry in WWI, for instance. Stalin’s power was first supported by Churchill and Roosevelt before the Red Scare and the proxy wars. And so on.

          • Tel says:

            And before WWI there was the Afghan War, the Boer War (the one where the British rounded up women and children and put them into concentration camps), several Napoleonic Wars, the Anglo-Russian War, and in the USA there was the Mexican War, the Civil War, random killing of Indian tribes, etc.

            That’s just a handful, regular wars have been the common state for humanity since the first chimp came down from a tree and slapped another chimp.

            • Major_Freedom says:

              Not all of humanity.

              • Tel says:

                It doesn’t take all of humanity to start a war, it only takes enough. That’s precisely the problem… some poor bugger inevitably gets dragged into it despite having nothing to gain and no reason to be there.

                Ask your local Indian tribe whether their ancestors were enthusiastic about European immigration. You would be the first one to take an interest in their opinion because no one was asking at the time.

      • Tel says:

        No, the reason to go to war is always get them before they get us… but it only takes one nation to start something, and it takes every nation to be peaceful. Peace is fragile.

        Go and find examples of successful revolution (without outside assistance) there are very few. The slave revolution in Haiti (hasn’t exactly led to a great nation), and the French revolution (but within a few decades they had Emperor Napoleon who once again went back to war), and the American revolution (turned out well for a while, but now has slid back to a war footing once again), and maybe Ghandi but although the Indians are independent they are still very British at heart, and as I pointed out they also are in the process of a buildup because they feel threatened by China.

    • guest says:

      I can see how Brahmos would benefit, aerodynamically, from 3 blades, but 5 and 7 blades seem like overkill.

  6. Ken B says:

    Haidt is an example on the left. One of the interesting things about his book is that you can see him grapple with, and be persuaded by, some libertarian ideas he had previously just dismissed.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Ken can you give me the link to his mea culpa piece at DailyKos or wherever? (I’m not being sarcastic.) My point above wasn’t that Bartlett defected, my point was that he defected and was allowed to urinate on everybody at a site called The American Conservative. So it’s weird to point to that piece as evidence of how epistemically closed conservatives are.

      • Ken B says:

        Well Haidt made quite a splash at the American Psych Association demonstrating to them in a speech a statistically impossible-by-random-chance skew in their political affiliation. And he wrote articles in the NYT for sure. I don’t have links. He hasn’t ‘gone libertarian’ but he has clearly accepted much libertarian argument.

        His book is terrific. I say that even though his whole digression on group selection is both wrong and unnecessary for his argument.

        While I’m plugging books … A favorite of mine is Arguing About Slavery by William Lee Miller. It’s largely about JQA fighting the congressional gag in the 1840s.
        And this year Roger Williams by J M Barry. A wonderful account of his life and the start of religious freedom in America, connecting it to the English civil war and common law.

  7. Teqzilla says:

    The biggest irony of the whole thing is that Bartlett’s article, heralded as proving what blinkered fools conservatives are, was filled with obvious nonsense only left wing ideologues could find plausible. He has since had to retract the eye catching claims that he was banned from Fox and the wall street journal after it emerged that he had been interviewed on Fox about his anti bush book and had been referenced numerous times by the WSJ after his supposed ban.

    This should be unsurprising, I mean, where outside of Bruce Bartlett’s head is he such a big deal that Rupert Murdoch trembles at his name? Why would Fox ban Bartlett from appearing when all their big shows are centered on conflict and they regularly feature critics of the republicans who are far higher profile than he is? Why would the wsj bother instituting a blanket ban on mentioning someone that there would hardly ever be cause to mention?

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Teqzilla this is awesome. I saw the asterisk in his TAC piece about the WSJ saying there is no such ban, but you’re saying people documented that he actually had been on the places where these bans allegedly occurred? (I.e. the WSJ person could’ve just been lying to cover his butt.) Where did you see this?

  8. Anonymous says:

    “Incidentally, you can be very aggressive and challenge right-wing warhawks.”

    I watched a Walter Block speech over the weekend where he said over his 40 years(of speech giving) it is much easier to garner mainstream conservatives to his point of view than any leftist, and I would think Block would be especially adept at converting leftist since he was once a socialist.

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