Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Principle Wonks and Policy Wankers

One irritating term that needs to be retired is "policy wonk." Have you noticed that everyone who is described as one just happens to be a liberal idiot?

I think this is because it is analogous to being a tree wonk and thereby systematically missing the forest. What we need is more righteous principle wonks. Ronald Reagan is an obvious example of a principle wonk: freedom, low taxes, strong defense, limited government, etc.

Obama is often described as a policy wonk, but, like Reagan, he is and always has been a principle wonk. It's just that his brand of ideological wonkery champions false and deviant principles: income redistribution, expansion of the state, weakness abroad, racial grievance, feminist penis envy, climate change, illegal immigration, etc.

I'm guessing that so-called wonks on both sides start with principles (either explicit or implicit) and then find the data they need to support them. Which is unnecessary if you simply begin with the correct principles, and let reality take care of the rest.

For example, we don't need a study to prove whether, say, equality before the law is a good idea. Even if someone were to come up with data showing it to be a harmful idea (for example, because it provokes envy of people who accomplish more with their freedom and equality), we still wouldn't reject it.

But for several decades now, the wonkers of the left have been busy eroding the very principles that uphold our civilization, under the guise of "policy." They then elevate policies to principles, which renders them incapable of thought (because they are excluded from the ground of reality).

To cite an obvious example, marriage is perhaps the most important pre-political principle of civilization. Until just a couple of decades ago, no one considered it to be in the realm of political policy. Even if someone showed us data suggesting that it isn't harmful to deprive a child of a mother and father, we would reject the whole idea on principle, because it is self-evidently loony (not to mention in defiance of biological reality).

The minimum wage is another example. If one understands the principle of supply and demand, then it is impossible to be fooled into believing that an increase in the cost of labor will have no effect on its demand.

Likewise socialized medicine: it does not work because it cannot work. Why? Among other reasons, because it destroys the information necessary to rationally calculate prices and thereby allocate scarce resources. No amount of government benevolence can replace the information it destroys through socialism, because, for all practical purposes, the amount is infinite (and certainly unknowable by any human being or group of human beings).

An economy is an infinitely complex, self-organizing, information processing organism. The ham-handed, truth-destroying, visibly grubby hand of the state sees to it that prices cannot reflect costs, which creates further distortions from which the state then proposes to rescue us. Same deal with the college bubble. Subsidization by the state increases demand, which increases cost, which calls for more subsidization.

In The Gospel and the Mind, the author demonstrates how the abandonment of Christian principles leads directly to intellectual insanity. This no doubt sounds polemical, but the insanity is here, and it has a rational explanation. It didn't "just happen." Rather, it happened because certain principles were abandoned and others adopted.

Beginning at the beginning, we must ask ourselves if the human mind is capable of knowing truth. If it isn't, then there can be no rational principles at all -- or no rational reason to put our faith in them.

To put it another way, we must inquire into whether it is possible for our minds to be "saved." As Green writes, if we are redeemed by Christ, then this must include the whole man, including the intellect. I would go further and say that, since the intellect is what truly defines man and sets him apart from the animals, then salvation bloody well better include it!

What is the alternative -- that Christ redeems our bodies but not our minds? No, that is the way of the left: the so-called "sexual revolution," for example, liberated the body (as if it can be isolated from the person). How did that work out? Any time a leftist uses the word "liberation," it's time to reach for your revolver, because your intellect is being liberated from your soul, in preparation for your power being liberated from your person and your money from your wallet.

The state not only has a vital interest in our being unable to think things through, but in denying access to the very principles that make this thinking-through possible. Or just say public education. If you don't believe me, then believe the refreshingly candid Jonathan Gruber. An honest liberal could never do all these wonderful things for to us.

A public, secularized education deprives us of the overall vision whereby knowledge finds its proper place. Absent this hierarchical vision, knowledge can just as easily become demonic, or even just sterile, and certainly dis-organizing.

As Green writes, the Christian vision of God, man, and cosmos "provides the necessary substructure, or precondition, for meaningful and enduring intellectus (understanding)." This doesn't necessarily mean our principles are correct, but it does mean that they are explicit and consistent.

These principles touch on ontology (the nature of being), on anthropology (the nature of man), and on epistemology (the nature of knowledge). Is a liberal politician ever explicit about his principles? If he is, then he cannot be consistent -- and certainly not electable -- which is why he doesn't go there.

"Without certain key theological realities and commitments," writes Green, "the cultivation of an enduring intellectual and cultural life becomes increasingly difficult, if not impossible." Of note, this does not imply that the left is beholden to no "theological realities and commitments." Rather, we just have to find out what they are, because these strange gods will explain the falseness -- and resultant dysfunction -- of everything else about them.

To be continued...

24 Comments:

Blogger Magister said...

And it's the "principles" that are supposedly coercive, not the actual coercive policies.

The Left is mendacious to its very core.

11/12/2014 09:00:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Funny - I hear "wonk" and can't help thinking it's etymologically linked with "wonky" - which says to me that a wonk is a person who is just all wrong. Which isn't how it's used, I know, but when the descriptor fits...

11/12/2014 09:14:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

Speaking of words, Bob I thought you coined "eff the ineffable!" Or that it only dwelt here. Ran across it last night in Metaxas book.
Did he rip off the unripable?

11/12/2014 09:23:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Ran across it in one of Robert Anton Wilson's books recently; he ripped it off Bob way back in 1979, at least...

11/12/2014 09:30:00 AM  
Blogger Paul Griffin said...

the abandonment of Christian principles leads directly to intellectual insanity.

To continue a bit from my thoughts yesterday, if you're not willing to fight off those mind parasites, to resist those temptations, then sooner or later, those things become your default mindsets, your overruling driving forces, and you are in control of yourself, mind included, only inasmuch as those things are willing to give you a few minutes to yourself between jags...

You cannot think, properly speaking, when all of your hardware has been hijacked by a parasitic obsession. The only thinking you do will be in the service of pursuing the things the parasite wants, or justifying whatever things you end up doing, trying to fend off the guilt and shame that tend to go hand in hand with an addiction.

11/12/2014 10:05:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I believe the first person to Eff the Effin' Ineffable was Alan Watts back in the 1950s, and I think I gave him attribution in the book, which I can't check at the moment since I am at work, far away from the slackatoreum.

11/12/2014 10:23:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Just in case he misses it elsewhere: Thank you, Ben! I got the package. I could not be happier. I not only greatly appreciate it, I could not have imagined that's what it would be.

11/12/2014 10:28:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

No amount of government benevolence can replace the information it destroys through socialism ...

That is so true, and it kind of goes to the Gruber thing about the stupid population. There are going to be those who say that Gruber's right, but it's because people are too stupid to know what is good for them.

It's hard to be smart when you are not told the truth or even allowed to discover the truth for yourself -- which, I think, is more how a real free market works.

11/12/2014 11:05:00 AM  
Blogger Paul Griffin said...

If one understands the principle of supply and demand...

Heck, most folks seem to have a very hard time processing the fact that more goes into the production cost of a product than raw materials. Try explain how prices are actually set and why, and you're likely to get an emotional reaction, probably anger. It's hard to talk about these things when words like "profit" and "corporation" have become emotional trigger words.

I'm starting to worry that "understanding the principle of supply and demand" is getting to be an impossibly tall order...

11/12/2014 01:20:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Just reading in this fantastic book by Sowell -- Black Rednecks -- how throughout history, economically illiterate people have had an irrational hatred of "middleman outsiders," Jews being only the most conspicuous example.

Marx could make the argument that profit is theft because the fallacy seems to be almost hardwired into people. I'm thinking that, like envy, it must have been adaptive at come point in our evolution....

11/12/2014 01:26:00 PM  
Blogger Paul Griffin said...

it must have been adaptive at some point in our evolution...

On an individual level, I would think it functions as a very attractive defensive mechanism, deflecting feelings of inadequacy or impotence when we do not rise to the heights of power, money, and influence in our particular spheres that we feel that we should have. It could easily become a group reinforced fallacy, because it's not hard to find other people who also aren't alphas who are willing to agree with you. It's a way to say that it's not really my fault, it's that damn Jew's fault, or that damn Capitalist's fault, or whoever. As long as it's not my fault. And so we veer back into that insanity we were just talking about...

11/12/2014 01:41:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I think if people evolved in small, family-like bands of 25-50, it would make sense that you don't try to profit off each other. It reminds me of Woody Allen's line about how his grandfather sold him his watch on his deathbed.

11/12/2014 02:32:00 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

Lol!

11/12/2014 02:37:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

The state not only has a vital interest in our being unable to think things through, but in denying access to the very principles that make this thinking-through possible. Or just say public education. If you don't believe me, then believe the refreshingly candid Jonathan Gruber. An honest liberal could never do all these wonderful things for to us.

A public, secularized education deprives us of the overall vision whereby knowledge finds its proper place. Absent this hierarchical vision, knowledge can just as easily become demonic, or even just sterile, and certainly dis-organizing."

Indeed. This is why republicans and libertarians must push for school choice because trying to fix public education itself is useless.
If anything, public education should be eradicated for the very reasons you pointed out, Bob.

Unfortunately, eradicating public indoctrination won't happen quickly, so the best we can do is provide access to far better alternatives to parents.

Most parents, I believe would happily send their kids to schools that actually do provide the compacity for children to learn.
This would starve the public education leviathan eventually.

11/12/2014 06:11:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

No one is more harmed by the education establishment than blacks. But the left is totally dependent upon them for electoral viability, so they keep them down in these awful schools.

11/12/2014 06:17:00 PM  
Blogger Joan of Argghh! said...

Inasmuch as Jesus undertook the task to pull us off-center and really see ourselves, He restores us to our proper realm of mental health. It's not an accident that the lore of vampires and witches is an inability to create a reflection. They're entirely incapable of seeing themselves. Others, having no outside perspective, are doomed to live inside the round room of their self-regard and the only reflection they experience is off the rubber walls. They are a harm to themselves and others. We have no choice; we must either lock them up or elect them to public office.

11/12/2014 06:26:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Can't suspend too many Students of Color.

If liberals really believe in "disparate impact," shouldn't whites be able to sue the NBA?

11/12/2014 06:27:00 PM  
Blogger Joan of Argghh! said...

Blacks don't understand their "Black Privilege" when it comes to sports.

11/12/2014 06:35:00 PM  
Blogger Joan of Argghh! said...

And I'm a racist for pointing that out. I denounce myself.

11/12/2014 06:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Skully said...

What about the little people? Personally, I think the NBA would be much more interesting if little people were playing.

11/12/2014 07:00:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Good point. If anything, they should ban tall people, otherwise what's the point of having the basket up above your head? Either that or make it low enough that everyone can slam dunk.

11/12/2014 07:11:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

For too long, little people have been kept down by the Man, man.

11/12/2014 08:41:00 PM  
Blogger Rogelio Bueno said...

Midget basketball. I love it. Apologies little people but if you can have midget wrestling and midget car races, why not basketball? It's bound to get better ratings than women's basketball.

11/13/2014 08:26:00 AM  
Anonymous nightfly said...

In hockey, they have the net right down along the ice where everyone can get to it. As a goaltender I can tell you that it really doesn't help some people...

11/13/2014 09:23:00 AM  

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