Continuing on my musings about a “Green New Deal” (see Part I here), since it seems to be the flavor of the week for those who seek emergency powers over me and mine in order to steal my stuff, I think here in Part II it might be fun to talk about ignorance. To be sure, nobody wants to be called ignorant; everybody wants to be seen as the smartest person in the room and looked to for wisdom. A prominent senator in an interview recently said, “…we need to speak to the heart (…) We have a really hard time doing that (because) we Democrats know so much, that is true. And we have kind of have to tell everyone how smart we are and so we have a tendency to be very left brain.” This is called the Dunning-Kruger effect: “In the field of psychology, the Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which people of low ability have illusory superiority and mistakenly assess their cognitive ability as greater than it is.” Quite literally, the smarter you are the less confident about what you think you know about the world around you. Nobel Prize winning economist (see, this is what is called ‘appeal to authority’) Friedrich Hayek once wrote, “The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design.”
So much of the problem with socialism is the dim-bulbs who think they know more than they actually do; and so confident are they in themselves due to ‘the spotlight effect’ (overestimating how much people notice them) that they believe it is their historic task to seize the levers of power through control of the government to advance ill-founded ideas which ‘confirmation bias’ and ‘belief bias’ have made to them self-evident. The problem of course is that the things of which they are so sure are in fact hotly contested by really smart people who look at the data and come up with different conclusions.
So the socialists resort to bad argumentation as they try to make their case to a skeptical public using all the rhetorical tricks in the book (probably without knowing it). It goes something like this. First they start with the ‘straw man’, attacking a position that their opponent doesn’t really hold. “You don’t care about the environment, all you care about is profit. You are happy to see the world destroyed.” Of course, this puts the opponent immediately on the defensive, attempting to explain why they really do care about the environment, which looks to the casual observer reactive and serves to drive home the point of the attacker. Then they continue with a ‘causal fallacy’, “The reason that the environment is degraded is rising CO2 levels, and the only way to solve this is with emergency government action.” This stems from the aforementioned (and below-mentioned) biases, using the fallacy of ‘appealing to authority’, “You know, the UN panel on climate change said it!” and continuing with ‘bandwagon fallacy’ “And everybody agrees, who are you to disagree? Its time to get with the program” which taken together do not allow us as a civilization to truly debate the environmental challenges from different points of data interpretation, in order to find a workable solution. And then, quickly to hammer home the point they go on, “Have you seen the slums of Dhaka?” they say, “which will be flooded and all those little children drowned!” in an ‘appeal to pity’ which distracts from logical arguments. Nobody wants to see children drowned – how do you counter that? They then wrap up their case with a ‘false dichotomy’, presenting only two options one of which is so ridiculous as to be risible (back to ‘straw man’), “Either we adopt the ‘Green New Deal’ in its entirety or the planet will become uninhabitable and all humanity will die.” Then they end on a personal note, an ‘ad hominem’ attack, “Of course you don’t care, you with your big house and your expensive car. You with your white privilege are just a pawn for big business; a thief and a liar and probably a criminal. You should be in jail!” And the argument is done, both sides furious and less likely than ever to seek real debate.
Of course these problems are a direct result of our failing public education system which produces graduates who have a very real difficulty thinking, because they have never been taught the building blocks of thought itself. Back in the days of classical education there was one ideal for education. To achieve this ideal students learned languages (Latin and Greek), grammar, logic, rhetoric, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music. “This ideal—the man who would think truly and act rightly—was the goal of Greek education. This was the education of the Romans and the Greeks (and everyone who lived in the Hellenic world, including the Jews). It was the education of the Christian Middle Ages, of the American Founding Fathers, and of their Puritan predecessors. It was the prevailing education into the early 20th century before it was gradually thrown out over a period of about 40 years.”
What does this all have to do with environmentalism? Cue the “New Deal” references which are a result of ‘group-think’ product of ‘in group bias’ whereas people unjustly favor the opinions of those with whom they agree, eschewing real research which proves they are wrong though the ‘backfire effect’ by which people double down when challenged. As discussed before, the “New Deal” itself was not only bad policy, but fundamentally dangerous to our democracy. We are resilient and strong, a freedom-loving people who do not suffer fools lightly, yet still we almost lost our republic. There is no reason, outside the biases and fallacies previously discussed, to believe that socialism through a “Green New Deal” will lead us to any different place than it led Venezuela – that is bonfires of human flesh beside a bread line. In Venezuela Heinz Dieterich, the father of 21st Century Socialism presented Venezuela’s socialists with a seductive new theory which he called Economy of Equivalencies in which he attempted to solve the age-old ‘local knowledge problem‘. “(…) Dieterich argues that the element that makes the practice of an economy of equivalencies possible in the 21st century is the rapid advance of information technology. It is, in fact, the information revolution that allows the immediate calculation of the billions upon billions of transactions each purchase or sale would require. In his mind, the price then would be pure and he would have solved the problem which led ‘Value of Labor’ to fail.” Did Dieterich succeed?
No, which is quite obvious today by Venezuela’s collapse.
Do we believe, then, that socialist green-planning can also solve the local knowledge problem; that the massive spreadsheets centrally planning a “green revolution” can account and adjust for all variables in a dynamic and changing world? No, we who are students of history and who seek knowledge for the betterment of ourselves and our world cannot rightly be expected to believe that. What then, if not some massive socialist takeover of our republic, will save the world? In Part III of this series I’m gonna try to present some principles (not actual ideas – I am not a scientist myself) by which we can arrive at workable solutions. Because it is workable solutions that are most missing these days.