Tag Archives: epistemic closure

Progressives should brush up on their econ

There’s a study out that suggests that being more liberal correlates with a worse understanding of basic economics.

  • 67% of self-described Progressives believe that restrictions on housing development (i.e., regulations that reduce the supply of housing) do not make housing less affordable.
  • 51% believe that mandatory licensing of professionals (i.e., reducing the supply of professionals) doesn’t increase the cost of professional services.
  • Perhaps most amazing, 79% of self-described Progressive believe that rent control (i.e., price controls) does not lead to housing shortages.

I found this through an Andrew Sullivan post, which links to a Marginal Revolution post, which points out that the survey seems weighted towards the kinds of misunderstandings that liberals are prone to, while leaving out ones that conservatives would be prone to.

Still, I think it’s interesting — and maybe because it illustrates how ideology affects a person’s factual knowledge, regardless of the ideology. This is a feature of the recent debates about right-wing “epistemic closure”, and I would like to see more discussion about these blind spots, as well as thoughts on how to minimize them.

There are all sorts of areas of disagreement between the right and left where there’s really no chance for agreement — often because the issues are so complex that reasonable arguments could be made for any number of positions. But then there are certain well-understood facts that we should all agree on. And those are the casualties of epistemic closure.

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Bad optics

My experience with Confederate Yankee (who deletes dissenting comments but only when the commenter has a point) has prompted me to read more conservative blogs in an effort to avoid my own epistemic closure.

As a result, I’ve read an eyeful about the Tea Party’s tax day demonstrations, which by all accounts (even those outside the conservative media) went pretty well. The movement has become a little more mainstream, and the crazies have been reined in. Which has led conservatives to blog feverishly about how the mainstream media is still trying to push the story that Tea Party members are racist nuts. I’m not sure that charge is true, but it’s at least arguably true. The point remains: the Tea Party wants to be judged fairly, as a whole, and not by their worst elements. I can get behind that.

Nevertheless, it’s hard to ignore reports like this one, wherein Colorado embarrassment and former congressman Tom Tancredo wants to send Obama back to Kenya among other madness. Ok, yes — most tea partiers are not hateful lunatics. But isn’t this kind of embarrassment the price you pay for billing yourselves as a grassroots, populist movement? If you don’t want to take the rap for craziness, then you have to marginalize the crazies in your movement, yes?

Because at the very least, including unrepentant xenophobes and homophobes and many other types of phobes is “bad optics”. This is a concept that conservative bloggers like Instapundit and Confederate Yankee understand at least as far as it concerns Obama.

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