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Ought / is

T. Greer linked to this (long) article by Adam Elkus about the relation between academia and politics. Academia and politics are quite different institutions, made up by very different people with often antagonistic tempers. But they also have a lot in common, both claiming to have authority, and in most states they have tend to be integrated into the power structure. They make two of the three big pillars of the Cathedral.

Or so we tend to think of them, as a common tenet of neoreaction takes elite academics as perhaps the shadow power behind the Cathedral. Academics control the education system, and thus the brainwashing of common people. And they are also the “experts” that every media organ or politician cites when he wants to make a point. It would seem that academics are the ones setting the (evil) agenda of the Cathedral. Somebody on twitter recently asked if journal editors aren’t the most powerful people in the world, given that they decide what gets published in science journals, i.e. they get to decide what is officially true.

Yet when you think about it, it doesn’t make much sense. For one there are way too many academics, and being numerous is not a characteristic of a powerful class. Also modern academics are often compared with medieval priests, which also were in charge of setting official truth and brainwashing the masses. But hardly no one considers them the actual ruling class of the Middle Ages.

At least since the breakdown of the bicameral mind, the priestly class is not the ruling class in any society, even though it may have a fair degree of influence. This influence comes from their status as advisors to the actual rulers. And that’s what the article is about, academics resenting their lack of influence in the policy making process.

Academics, as I guess the medieval priests also did, regard themselves as having superior knowledge and expertise on things that matter. It’s only natural to conclude that they deserve to be put in charge of those things they have expertise on. Why should some snake oil salesman who happens to be friends with some rich guys have more power than someone who actually knows something about the matter at stake. A very logical conclusion to make, but of course it doesn’t work like that. Power is power and you don’t get power just by knowing about stuff. You get power by getting power.

Elkus writing is very disordered but he makes a very good point. Policy making is a saturated market, everybody wants to decide things, everybody wants to decide power. Academics though have no real leverage to make their voice heard. What they do have is technical knowledge to help the policy makers implement what they have already decided.

Policy is a condition or stipulation (e.g. Carthage must be destroyed, South Korea must remain independent) that must be satisfied by strategy. Strategy is a bridge between action and political payoff. Strategy, in turn, is implemented as tactical actions. (…)

 Because policy is “what must be” and strategy is “how we can make it so,” the dynamics that craft policy and strategy are different. While both creatures of politics, policy is at least in theory more related to the outcome of a messy political process. Why is it messy? A political process is essentially a struggle to decide what should be that plays out as a struggle between policy elites.(…)

[Strategy] questions are areas where social scientists and academics in general have historically provided great value. And in providing that value, academics have also stimulated advances in their own fields.  We owe a substantial amount of economic theory to the game theory and decision theory problems of World War II and the Cold War. Trying to find out how to best understand Japanese culture in WWII produced a landmark work of anthropology.  Thinking about specific communication, command, and control problems spurred landmark theoretical innovations in computer science. And we also owe Clausewitz’s On War to the “cognitive challenge of war” faced by the Scharnhorst school as it attempted to grapple with how to comprehend the shifts in warfare signaled by the “God of War” Napoleon Bonaparate.

This “what must be” and “how we can make it so” is a very useful framework, and it reminds me of the is/ought dichotomy by David Hume. Oughts are “what must be”, which Hume warns can’t be derived from an “is”, i.e. from actual facts. Which is a pretty shocking thing to say. If I can’t derive an “ought” from an “is”, it follows that I have to derive an “ought” from an “isn’t”. Which sounds very wrong.

The very reason that the is/ought dichotomy is so famous is just how wrong it sounds to normal ears. The more facts one knows i.e the more expertise one has, the more it wants to use them to make decisions with them, to set “oughts”. But unfortunately it just doesn’t work like that. David Hume was making a deep philosophical point, but perhaps he actually was talking about actual politics. The “oughts” are most often decided not by a careful appraisal of the facts, but through a “messy political process”. For all it matters, as a scientist you might as well assume that oughts fall down from the sky engraved in stone tablets, and all you can do is focuses on your “is”es, and try to find some which are of some practical use to implement the ought of the moment.

Another piece of evidence for Hume’s point is that cognitive science has proved that most logical activity in the brain is not carefully making rational conclusions from actual facts, i.e. deriving ought from is, but rather strenuously rationalizing whatever preadopted conclusion your brain already had. Which is often the case in most academics, which chose their field of study and approach before having much expertise on it, and seldom change positions after years of ostensibly advancing their knowledge.

The article concludes that politicians set the ought, and they are quite happy ignoring the is unless the German Army can be seen through the window. But when that happens, the politicians will be quite happy to use the academics’s facts, if he knows about them, which he often doesn’t. To solve that he proposes a matchmaking service, a policy-making dating site.

Not a bad idea, but that’s like saying to a incel beta that all he has to do to get a woman is go register a profile at a dating site. It works for some, but the true solution to his problem is to learn Game. Elkus actually understands the problem when he says that academics who want policy influence must become Kissinger.

For sociobiology applies to all aspects of human society. The same way Game explains the actual dynamics of sex, Neoreaction explains the actual dynamics of power. Of course there are more women than there are powerful, so a consistent theory takes more time. But we’re getting there.


38 responses to “Ought / is

  1. VXXC December 20, 2013 at 20:37

    You’re ignoring that they are the State Religion and are more than Priests, but a veritable Cardinal Class. Nothing can be done without academic blessing, nothing no matter how horrible can be undone without a counter-fatwa. For instance NYC’s hideous crime problem required the Broken Windows theory.

    • peppermint December 21, 2013 at 04:09

      that theory is obvious. It came out then because it was needed then.

      why was it needed?

      because it wasn’t just working clas Whites getting beat up anymore, some Jews were getting beat up by negroes.

    • spandrell December 21, 2013 at 14:21

      Elkus point is that Giulani was in the market shopping for some theory to support his plan, and academics delivered. There’s tons of hungry academics out there so they will come up with anything the powerful might need.

      • Handle December 21, 2013 at 16:07

        It’s a feedback – a ‘simultaneous system’ in Econ-speak – and Academics can and do play both the short-term and long-term games at the same time.

        The Giuliani / Broken-Windows historical example actually makes the opposite point.

        What actually happened is a revolution in jurisprudence in the courts caused – no surprise – by several decades of work amongst liberal law professors. Historically, the courts were extremely deferential to the executive and legislative branches with regards to moral legislation and law enforcement. An individual had to make a strong affirmative claim of a clear violation of a well accepted right to get relief, and judicial invalidations of specific laws or techniques were quite rare. In other words, the courts were ‘conservative institutions’ that tended to resist radical change. Compare that to today, where the Canadian Supreme Court strikes down prostitution laws.

        The key to the revolution was the ‘rational basis review‘ test which in the U.S. originated in 1938 (no surprise) with theCarolene Products case.

        Under rational basis, almost anybody can challenge almost anything and the judges can knock down any law if they don’t think the state has made a ‘good-enough’ case for it, and that the benefits outweigh the costs. This turns the judiciary into the ‘super-legislature’ which it has effectively been for generations. It turns ‘Democracy’ on its head. The people don’t get to make the laws they want, they can only pass the laws that the judges agree are consistent with enlightened thinking. That’s why the Constitution keeps changing. It was ok to criminalize sodomy in 1986, it’s okay to criminalize abstaining from providing services to homosexual marriage in 2013.

        The key is that the court also gets to determine what makes a case ‘good enough’. It gets to decide what counts as argument or evidence or superstition, and what constitutes reason or prejudice. And the courts elevated ‘expert academic science’ to the role of gatekeeper of ‘valid’ evidence. That’s perfectly reasonable, except that’s real power, which is highly likely to be abused, which it was. So, all of a sudden, you needed academic scientific studies justifying or validating government policies, and more likely you had academics publishing ‘studies’ arguing conveniently against the validity of government policy. The utter bogosity of ‘environmental impact statements’ is just one good example of this. The Daubert standard of evidentiary sufficiency and expert witnesses present a similar and related issue.

        The Hayekian/Burkeian problem is, not everything good and wise that successful and sane societies have been doing forever was arrived at by means of ‘scientific studies peer-reviewed and published in academic journals’. This leads to the inherent division between ‘conservatives’ – who are supposed to favor a presumption of the wisdom of existing institutions and traditional practices and ‘progressives’ who look upon the entirety of the past with skepticism and antipathy. Rational basis review baked the progressive outlook into constitutional jurisprudence. Three quarters of a century later and Canada can’t even regulate whoring anymore.

        What happened with crime is that the courts threw out a lot of highly effective policies and tactics that no one had ever though they needed to scientifically justify. The liberals, meanwhile, put out book after book showing these things to be ineffective and counterproductive oppression having no origin except in bigotry, hate, and sadism.

        That’s what created the demand for academic justification of traditional policing. A politician doesn’t care, in the short term, what the ivory tower academics think about his crime policies – he’s much more focused on the electorate and the media. But the courts wouldn’t let anyone do it anymore without some academic saying it was justified. The courts distributed real power (really a delegation of some of the power they had inappropriately arrogated to themselves) to the professors.

        Since there weren’t (and aren’t) many good conservative academics in the public-policy fields, it took a while to play catch up. It also took a while for the judges, who lived and worked in the cities too, to change their minds in the face of the explosion in crime. But they had boxed themselves in. They couldn’t just reverse course, because they had set up this structure that forced them to have some academic cover ‘justifying’ the change in course, that is, making it seem as if the evidence and new enlightened understanding of the field forced their hands.

        Academics really failed to provide this service to the conservatives who were arguing against homosexual marriage. But that’s because 1. There are almost no academic that disagree with homosexual marriage, 2. The ones that do are too intimidated and/or unmotivated to be demonized (and probably fired) as the ‘homophobe professor’, 3. The conservatives really weren’t interesting in pursuing the case vigorously anyway. They just wanted it to appear to the base that they tried and the court forced this on them.

        So, yes, Academics can spot current demands to provide politicians with this kind of support in response to the courts requiring it. If they want to have some short-term impact they can read the judicial and legislative tea leaves and create the ammunition just in time for a politician to fire it in his shotgun in some journalist’s or judge’s face. “See this!? Science!” But it’s the system that requires such things that creates that opportunity.

        But, again, that is the short-term play. The long term play is molding the zeitgeist.

        There’s just a scarcity of short-term plays too, with a certain randomness to their occurrence. That’s why most Academics in fields that closely touch public policy are highly motivated by their self-flattering belief that they are trying to influence things in the long-term. See, e.g., Bryan Caplan and Open Borders.

        • spandrell December 21, 2013 at 16:43

          That’s interesting but it doesn’t explain European politics which ideologically have evolved the same way while retaining the supremacy of the executive over the judges. Gay marriage was approved in many European countries before any US state, and it was by parliamentary act, not by judicial decree.

          Academic in Europe are also welcome to justify any given law proposal, and often used as authority arguments, but it’s hard to see them as having any preeminence.

          • Handle December 21, 2013 at 17:13

            The issue isn’t approving gay marriage. It’s who has power – and who gets to trump whom.

            If people (or parliaments) agree with the judges and want gay marriage and approve it through executive or legislative processes, that’s fine. Judges don’t intervene if they think the other branches are quickly getting in line, and it’s just a matter of time.

            But if the parliaments tried to reverse themselves and the judges stopped then in the name of human rights, then who we we conclude help real power the whole time?

            In the U.S. it’s the judges who have power. And the judges have delegated some of that power to academics.

            • Dan December 23, 2013 at 16:59

              “If people (or parliaments) agree with the judges and want gay marriage and approve it through executive or legislative processes, that’s fine.”

              Handle — not very conservative today, are you? The traditional understanding of the law is that proper human law just flows from, and maps to, natural law. From this conception, laws are ‘discovered’ — not made — in relation to natural law this is already there.

              From this perspective, the new marriage ‘laws’ are not valid laws at all because they are not in conformance with natural law. As Thomas Carlyle would note, if you arrive at an incorrect law by a proper process even unanimous agreement cannot validate the law.

              • Handle December 23, 2013 at 17:46

                Natural law is a attractive and occasionally useful fiction. But it’s still a fiction. It’s like Universal Human Rights. We just make these things up. And these notions empower the modern progressive crusades much more than they encourage any respect for traditionalism or conservative governance.

                Unlike with physical laws of nature that govern the dynamics of matter interactions, it seems people can’t agree on any way to derive a consistent body of natural law.

                If you say loosely, “Natural Law is what makes things objectively better, unnatural law makes things worse,” then that is just consequentialism, and that’s even if we would agree as to what’s better or worse, which we wouldn’t.

              • Dan December 23, 2013 at 19:43

                Handle, you write, “Natural law is a attractive and occasionally useful fiction. But it’s still a fiction. It’s like Universal Human Rights.” What you say is simply not correct. I blame myself for not being better with words.

                Taking a famous quote from Carlyle’s Latter Day Pamphlets:

                “Your ship cannot double Cape Horn by its excellent plans of voting. The ship may vote this and that, above decks and below, in the most harmonious exquisitely constitutional manner: the ship, to get round Cape Horn, will find a set of conditions already voted for, and fixed with adamantine rigor by the ancient Elemental Powers, who are entirely careless how you vote. If you can, by voting or without voting, ascertain these conditions, and valiantly conform to them, you will get round the Cape: if you cannot, the ruffian Winds will blow you ever back again; the inexorable Icebergs, dumb privy-councillors from Chaos, will nudge you with most chaotic “admonition;” you will be flung half frozen on the Patagonian cliffs, or admonished into shivers by your iceberg councillors, and sent sheer down to Davy Jones, and will never get round Cape Horn at all!”

                When I speak of natural law, I aim to mean what Carlyle meant. What he speaks of is assuredly not fiction.

              • Dan December 23, 2013 at 21:09

                “even if we would agree as to what’s better or worse, which we wouldn’t”

                Far be it for me to judge! But one certainly can measure laws against the aims of the laws’ original proponents. Did LBJ seek in his ‘Great Society’ to achieve 80% illigitimacy and astonishing dependency and crime and incarceration? Ted Kennedy said that the racial makeup of society wouldn’t dramatically change with his 1965 immigration bill; I think he honestly didn’t realize how preposterous a statement that was. Obama certainly did not intend what has happened with his healthcare bill.

                In each case “dumb privy-councillors from Chaos, … nudge … with most chaotic “admonition””

              • Handle December 24, 2013 at 23:37


                The statement, “Human law cannot repeal reality,” is insufficient to provide a definition of “Natural Law” consistent with the historical development of the concept. But, if you add, “… so stop trying, and stop fooling yourself – and everybody else – about that reality. Now govern accordingly,” then you arrive at a fair summary of the neoreactionary principle.

                Instead, what most Westernized people mean these days by ‘Natural Law’ is either ‘Consistent with Traditional Christian Theology’ or ‘Self-Evident Universal Human Rights’. Either you see those two categories as automorphic with ‘governance optimally aligned with human nature’ or you don’t. I don’t.

                For one, while I’m certainly guilty of overusing the term in a sloppy, clumsy way, I think ‘human nature’ encompasses a lot of behavioral attributes for which there are different degrees of heritability and statistical dispersion, both within and between population groups.

                If government is supposed to be tailored to the governed, and groups of people are different (which, duh, they very much are), then they should have different rules and ‘rights’ and regimes. But no meaningfully Universalist system (Rights of Man, Christianity, etc.) can ever accommodate that principle.

                I would submit, however, that what survived the evolutionary cultural tournament and emerged as ‘the natural / common law tradition’ amongst bourgeois Europeans will tend to share a lot of policy wisdom that overlaps with government according to the neoreactionary principle, at least for any sufficiently similar group of people.

  2. asipos December 20, 2013 at 22:45

    “…The same way Game explains the actual dynamics of sex…”

    What do you mean by ‘Game’? Game theory?

    • spandrell December 21, 2013 at 06:12

      I think you need a couple of months browsing

      • asipos December 22, 2013 at 20:21

        Sorry, I’m new to all this neoreaction/PUA/etc. stuff and I’m still trying to figure it all out.

        • spandrell December 22, 2013 at 20:30

          I wish I could point you to some easy summaries on the issues, but you can’t go wrong with Roissy for straightforward Game, and the last 2 years of Foseti for some easy to understand neoreaction.

          It takes time but it’s totally worth it.

          • asipos December 27, 2013 at 20:53

            I’m planning on reading Moldbug first, but it’s excellent for me. After beating the hell out of superlative futurology, I’ve got a new controversial ideology to delve into. It’s wonderful!

  3. Handle December 21, 2013 at 14:12

    Power is divisible in time.

    In the immediate term, obviously the politicians hold immediate-power. But those who can influence the politicians (or the people that form the power base upon which a politician depends – the electorate in a democracy), hold short, medium, and long term power. The media and journalists have short-term impacts. The schools have medium term impact. But it’s the Academics with the best credentials that hold the keys to the long-term castle. Over the long-term, they influence all the other influencers, while being influenced mostly by themselves.

    There is tactical power, but also strategic power. Indeed, are we not all here at neoreaction because the progressives have been holding the levers of strategic power for a long time?

    Here’s a trial case. Where does the ‘ought’ (or imperative, ‘must’) come from with politicians sayings – and genuinely believing – ‘we must do something to reduce carbon emissions to prevent climate change’ – come from, if not the academics?

    The first time I can remember encountering the theory of global warming as an environmental problem was about 28 years ago when I was perusing junior level ‘Physical Science’ textbook at the local library. That was at least five years before I heard about it in school, or on the news, or I read about it a newspaper or magazine. And I had a subscription to Scientific American – so you’d think it’d be in there (though it was a very different and better magazine in the 80’s) But I don’t remember it starting to pick up until the early 90’s.

    To test my intuition, I went to Google NGrams and looked up global warming and climate change

    Sure enough, it was – fittingly – 1984 when these things started to emerge, and the early 90’s when they started to break out. Al Gore’s “Earth in the Balance”, which just barely touched on the subject in the first edition, (it’s been quietly revised in subsequent editions to make it appear as it he had more foresight) was released in 1992.

    But let’s consider the original academic alarmist/advocate, professor James Hansen. His first paper in Science on the subject was almost 33 years ago in 1981. His simulation-based paper and Senate testimony was in 1988. And it all starts to grow from there, from completely obscure and unknown – to utterly mainstream and fanatical. Just like with HBD and intelligence, the more time, data, and observations we collect, the more evidence we have that the alarmists are wrong, but the more hysterical and jihadist and censorious the climate alarmists become – to the point that Reddit just banned skeptics of climate alarmism!

    Ok, enough background. The neoreactionary point is that people don’t come to their ‘oughts’ by themselves of out of reason or thin air – they are influenced and told what to want. The politicians ‘oughts’ are molded in just the same way. Who are they molded by? The Academics.

    One definitely sees this in the law, where some law professor writes a radical and outrageous journal article that, over time, starts appearing in court decisions and eventually becomes the status quo that everyone is supposed to worship as sacred and if you don’t (that is, you hold the mainstream reasonable position of all good people who lived a few decades ago), then you are an evil fascist bigot.

    Now, it’s true, that not everything is possible and you have to win the war of the memes. And there is a feedback between the political and academic environment. For Hansen’s schtick to have started to work at the time it did required the previous existence of a culture of environmental panic (Nixon set up the EPA just a decade prior in 1970) and a way to channel government research grants to your particular field by means of public prominence. The first generation of politicians has to find the theory at least mildly plausible, but more importantly, politically useful. He has to have an existing constituency primed by education to respond intensely to certain messages, and it helps if he has the close-air-support of the media to pound a drum-beat of news stories supporting the alarm and the ‘need’ for political action to address it, and Hollywood to make movies about it.

    But the second and later generation politicians have believed that it’s the enlightened position since birth and anyone who still expresses any skepticism whatsoever ‘these days’ is an evil moron. They really believe in it, and they would be motivated to pursue it as a policy imperative even without the cynical motive of an electoral boost. The idea is now baked into the cultural cake of the zeitgeist, it’s the milieu and in the air the influence-elite breaths without even noticing it, and certainly without any reflection or awareness of history.

    This particular example is a good illustration of the reciprocal reinforcement (buttressing) functions of the cathedral all these progressive-controlled institutions – Academia, education, policy-science, government bureaucracy, journalism, media, entertainment. What Gottfried would call ‘the verbal professionals’ or what Nozick would term, ‘the wordsmith intellectuals‘. One could make the same case for law, foreign policy, and really anything.

    The point is that the Academic ‘is’ reliably turns into the Political ‘ought’ in about a generation. If influence is power, and long-term influence over politicians especially so, then Academics, while they may not hold ‘short-term power’, definitely hold ‘long-term power’. It’s like Keynes said,

    The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist. Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back. I am sure that the power of vested interests is vastly exaggerated compared with the gradual encroachment of ideas.

    That seems indeed to be how it works. If the demonstrated ability to consistently achieve the ‘gradual encroachment of your ideas’ and to the point where they become governmental imperatives popular with the public in a generation isn’t long term-power in a democracy, then what is?

    • spandrell9 December 21, 2013 at 15:26

      I think Elkus point was that academicians are a dime a dozen, and politicians pick whatever theory fits in whatever they’ve already decided to do, rather than, as you say, just follow whatever the Academic meme war has concluded.

      Global warming just seems like yet another excuse for bureaucratic expansion, tons of make-work, big budgets and a push for world government, all of which are easily explainable by public choice theory.

      • Handle December 21, 2013 at 16:26

        That there is are positive political side effects to the belief keeps it alive and popular – these are viruses that have to help their hosts to spread – but these people aren’t cynical Machiavellians, they really, sincerely believe in this nonsense. I could say the same for the anti-HBD position. They really believe it’s oppression and racism and the schools and so forth.

        The fact that advocating for ‘better schools’ activates and supports the whole public-choice-cathedral-complex is incidental. These people really don’t think, “Between you and me John, I think the Chinese kids are just born better at math than the Somalians, and that there’s nothing anyone can ever do about that. But I keep lying about it because it’s strategically beneficial to the party, my politics, and my paycheck.”

        There’s always the Upton Sinclair quote, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!” but that illustrates a motivated – but still real – non-understanding, not a private understanding but cynical public denial. Most people who believe in Academic-origin memes like climate change and human neurological uniformity believe so even without personal motivation, and don’t we often say in the case of perpetually racism-guilty whites – to the point of their own detriment?

        • spandrell December 21, 2013 at 16:38

          My model is not that they’re overt cynics who spread lies consciously in order to make money for themselves. I know that, although it’s not unheard for either.
          But it’s funny how all they say always works for their benefit, huh. What a coincidence. You never find a politician quoting an academic saying that government is evil and they should all go home.

          My model after meeting my fair share of politicians is that they develop a sixth sense towards sensing what 1. sells well with the public 2. sells well with their peers, and once they’ve established that it does, they really believe it. They don’t really believe it after careful consideration and reading sources for and against it. They just test some memes through trial and error in all those parties, and if they see that really believing in it is gets them good stuff, they go on really believing without really thinking about it again.

          • Handle December 21, 2013 at 17:00

            I think that’s a decent model. I find ‘the ability to come to really believe them’ part to be psychologically fascinating. With religion, some people aren’t real converts, they just really want to believe or belong, but their kids, growing up with the beliefs indoctrinated from birth, get the real deal.

            But in this case, one goes from cynical to zealous convert potentially within a few years. I suppose it helps to have a ‘recent studies now show even more evidence’ phenomenon, helping you along your path, along with the social incentive mechanisms.

            • spandrell9 December 21, 2013 at 19:26

              Yeah, I always think I get it, but then I just don’t get it.
              I think most people misunderstand what “believing” is about. It’s not about thinking, it’s about not thinking. If you just stop thinking and let the tribal mind do its stuff, you’ll absorb the popular memes by party osmosis. After that unleash the rationalization hamster and voila, you got FAITH.

              • Handle December 21, 2013 at 19:40

                That’s an important insight. I also wonder what accounts for the people for whom this doesn’t work (or at least not in the conventional popular way). Just quirky. Is there a moment of escape?

              • asdf December 22, 2013 at 06:40

                It isn’t about “not thinking”. It’s about realizing the limits of reason. We know reason is mostly just rationalization. When we come to a conclusion based on sound reason we don’t want to later rationalize our way out of it. Having faith often means having faith in a truth you came to under more clairvoyant moments.

                • spandrell December 22, 2013 at 06:55

                  That may apply to your Christianity, but I’m talking in a more general sense. Most people don’t consciously stop reasoning because of a perceived need for something else. It’s more of an unconscious process.

              • Baker December 22, 2013 at 09:42

                You should distinguish “thinking” and “rational thinking”. People can certainly think into believing something, but just that it is not rational reasoning.

              • spandrell9 December 22, 2013 at 10:21

                My model is that belief comes first through unconscious noticing of tribal cues, and the “thinking” is post-hoc rationalization, even though it might seem to your conscious self as being the cause of the belief.

              • Baker December 22, 2013 at 11:18

                In your model, this “thinking into belief” is still a vital process in instilling the belief system into one’s life. Without this rationalization one feels his tribal desires but cannot realize it. You need the rationalization to form a belief.

        • spandrell December 21, 2013 at 16:51

          And by the way you’re mentioning global warming or crime, but the article is about the military, which you’re supposed to know something about. Doesn’t his argument make sense, i.e. politicians set strategy without academic input, but they might listen to their tactical advice?

          • Handle December 21, 2013 at 17:37

            Actually, if anything, my military experience colors my biases towards, not away from, the outsized influence of certain academics on our higher level doctrine and decision-making. There is definitely a precautionary chilling effect on decision-making if things go wrong later and someone can accuse you of ‘not following the expert advice’ or even ‘not getting the experts (or likely academic opposition) on board’ (like Petraeus did with Sarah Sewall).

            So, perhaps I overestimate the power of academics, but the military has contributed to that, not diminished it.

      • Candide III December 21, 2013 at 17:02

        Academicians may be a dime a dozen, but they are not quite fungible. Imagine you are the Secretary of the Treasury, and you have a crazy pet idea for the budget you are just dying to put into action. Like as not, you can find a professor or two in West Dakota State or Smalltown U. who preaches a compatible theory, but if you try trotting them out in support of idea, you will merely become a laughingstock of the Beltway, losing influence, credibility and political points. No, if you are the Secretary, you need a professor from a really first-rate school, with good reputation, and not just a lonely one, but with a gang of acolytes to sing in the choir and to hire assistants from. (The cost of such an academician will not be nickels and dimes, either.) So a politician’s or a bureaucrat’s choice in academicians is actually rather more limited than it appears from mere statistics (hello, Carlyle).

        That’s not to say public choice theory is irrelevant or what you say is untrue. Bureaucrats gonna bureaucrat. The question is will they bureaucrat global warming and destruction of family rather than industrial policy and buildup of social capital. Doubtless causation runs both ways, but in the modern Cathedral the academic→bureaucrat direction is much more important.

        • spandrell9 December 21, 2013 at 19:30

          Well Richwine’s Harvard credentials didn’t help him that much. But he still has a job… so yeah I guess Harvard trumps a lot.

          Still to the extent that bureaucrats have a choice, they will select academics whose theories are beneficial to the bureaucrat. Of course academics will also tend to self-select towards producing bureaucrat-friendly theories, so it’s all a self-reinforcing clusterfuck of Lisenkoism.

          Damn I need a drink.

  4. Giacomo December 23, 2013 at 02:10

    a motivated – but still real – non-understanding, not a private understanding but cynical public denial

    This distinction is neither important nor clear-cut. The incidence of Machiavellism is important.

    It’s only natural to conclude that they deserve to be put in charge of those things they have expertise on

    The test is to investigate academic topics of political importance oneself, and to compare the merits of mainstream and contrarian experts.

    One find that Keynesianism, e.g., is tripe. Since this theory and its relatives are espoused by most economists and barely criticised by others, I conclude (in the simplest terms) that academics are no more to be trusted with arbitrary power than any other bourgeois. To what extent academics are victims of the system is difficult to establish, and less important.

    The comments above are erudite but not parsimonious. Harmful concepts, such as “policy”, are not really questioned. This is typical of progressive discourse.

  5. Pingback: Lightning Round – 2013/12/25 | Free Northerner

  6. Alrenous December 28, 2013 at 15:53

    Somebody on twitter recently asked if journal editors aren’t the most powerful people in the world, given that they decide what gets published in science journals, i.e. they get to decide what is officially true.

    Me, via Nydwracu.

    There are too many academics, yes. There are remarkably few journal editors.

    The point seems to be responsibility laundering. The bureaucrat can say, “Oh, I’m just following Science.” And the editor can say, “Well, I’m just following the reviewers.” It’s all very algorithmic and impersonal and doesn’t allow for anyone’s personal judgment. Only, the editor A: has desk rejections and B: chooses what reviewers to send it to and C: chose who can review in the first place by publishing their papers. And D: the Homestuck principle of scientific management. The excessive population of academics is part of the machine, because it provides so many papers it’s trivial to simply pick the one that supports whatever the journal editor wants.

    E: I don’t know how editor succession works, but I expect it’s essentially anointing by the previous incumbent. Like any real power, nobody talks about it in the press.

    Also, what Handle said.

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