Self-Fulfilling Ivory Towers

We live in the age of irony and paradox, a time driven by the data-fueled world of computers to destinations shaped by fancy and rhetoric. Everything we value is something we must be able to see and quantify, even as we attack and devalue the skills of vision and quantification. In a recent exchange in an unnamed social network, the individual with whom I have debating summarily dismissed my points with what will be (sadly) the endearing slogan of our era…

“I don’t trust any argument based on numbers.”

In our world, the vast and powerful fossil fuel companies that earn their enormous wealth through the application of geology, have found their most staunch defenders in the ranks of those people who hold that geology as blasphemy. The data that points to the irreparable harm that fossil fuel use is doing to our planet, to the only home of our species, to the Creation of the one God that these devout individuals profess to believe, is what the devout disbelieve. Apparently, the sun, and wind, and tides that we see, feel, and touch every day are less natural and Godly than the by-products of rotting plants and dinosaurs from epochs long-passed.

In the current thinking, scientists have become some distant form of Man, loosely related to the rest of the species and housed in a liberal panacea of tax-funded university compounds. From those compounds (and despite their comfortable existence), they have apparently decided to wage a sinister (and shockingly inefficient) war against the holy host of honest, red-blooded capitalist Ameri-Christians. While it isn’t immediately obvious why tens of thousands of mild mannered academics should suddenly decide to go super-villain and control the world, it is even less obvious why these super-intelligent types would seek to do so through the elaborate workings of Keynesian economics and Global Warming.

But there you have it…science, scientists, and those individuals who prefer explanations that explain all the facts of a case without the benefit of voodoo or products previously sold on QVC all together form the great problems of our times. Let’s face it, none of the problems below actually exist, they are all just the creative ramblings of the scientific elite (with some side help from, apparently, the Hollywood elite). In other words, the list below isn’t real…nothing to see here…move along.

  1. Air pollution-going to the country to “get a breath of fresh air” is just an expression
  2. Over-fishing-because the declining catches in old fisheries around the global are just plot-lines for Discovery Network shows
  3. Oil spills-because oil companies spill enough worldwide to mimic the Exxon Valdez, but its OK because it isn’t widely reported
  4. Habitat destruction-who needs lions and tigers and bears…or old-growth forests to take your grandson to hunt in, or clean rivers so you can eat the fish you and your grandson catch
  5. Garbage-because the Pacific Ocean is so large, its OK to have a patch of solid garbage the size of a state floating in it because no one will notice
  6. Income inequality-doesn’t exist because we all get what we earn…those Wall Street guys work a lot harder than nurses and teachers after all
  7. Corporate largess-they need their CEO’s to be well-compensated in order to attract folks who can get the most tax breaks while employing the fewest Americans
  8. Health care costs-about where they should be, after all, Rush Limbaugh is happy and we have some very pretty hospitals (and very well-compensated doctors and pharmaceutical sales geeks)
  9. Infrastructure-even though the best estimates say that America is $3 trillion behind in civil engineering funds, its OK because once we get the government out of that market, the market will do what the market has never done, anywhere, at any time in history
  10. Financial markets-no problems here, we have what the University of Chicago economics folks say is a “rational marketplace”…it never overvalues an asset, and demand-based recessions shouldn’t happen (so they don’t)

As we Americans begin our contemplations for another election season, it would be interesting to focus on who actually has facts to back up their arguments. Climate change is happening, and has already cost our world (and our nation). It is argued against by a set of individuals whose “facts” keep changing (remember, it wasn’t long ago that global warming wasn’t happening at all…now it “may be happening”, but if it is, it must have natural causes.)

The markets were supposed to regulate themselves, when they failed (spectacularly…I suppose if a grand theory must go down, it should do so in flames), it was the working class to blame for the markets not regulating themselves. The Austrian/University of Chicago/Freshwater types like to poo-poo the notion of fiscal stimulus, but had no trouble climbing on board such stimulus when it was directed at the very markets they said wouldn’t fail. The economists that tried for years to counter the Austrian nonsense with data were (and are) derided as fantasists, locked away in ivory towers and divorced from reason.

And now, just as the world’s climatologists are being proven correct on temperature with each passing year, economists like Krugman and Baker (and many others that few Americans have heard of), are being proven right on liquidity traps, inflation, and unemployment. People like Krugman keep being right more than they are wrong because they test their theories against the facts; they model their ideas. If their ideas fall, they abandon them. When the models of the Austrian School, and the University of Chicago types consistently failed to show even the slightest predictive value, the folks simply stopped testing them, and just slapped a passing grade on their own failing ideas.

It is, after all of this time, the conservatives who play-act at academia who are the frauds. The think-tanks of the rich and famous produce pseudo-science and pseudo-economics at the whim of their well-heeled corporate masters. They strut and stroll and produce position papers with little more than moxie and reheated bullshit, and then sell their putrid product to a public who have grown so tired of the yelling that they no longer recognize reason from madness. How terrible it is to live in a time without thought.


The Rational Middle is listening…