Monday, June 25, 2012

Sun Shining, Carry an Umbrella

Today's headline in Bloomberg:
 Obama Health Law Seen Valid, Scholars Expect Rejection
The article goes on to describe a poll of 21 constitutional law scholars, 19 of whom (that is over 90%) assert that the Affordable Care Act is constitutional under existing precedent. Nevertheless, only 8 of the 21 (38%) expect that the Supreme Court will uphold the Act.

We have gone through the looking glass, have we not? One analogy that occurred to me appears in the heading to this post. Another example of the topsy-turvy world we are living in comes from North Carolina, where the state legislature is considering a bill that would require that a state commission limit its predictions of future sea level increases to past data, rather than relying on the best predictions that scientists are able to make today. In other words, the exponential increases that most scientists are predicting would be forbidden, while arithmetic increases would be acceptable. The headline might read as follows:
Sea Levels Seen as Rising, Scientists Expect No Change in Rules for Beachfront Development
This kind of thinking is not confined to judges' disregard of precedent, or politicians' disdain of science. We could also look at the Congressional response to budgeting and come up with a similar headline.
Republicans Decry Deficit, Expect Higher Defense Spending and More Tax Cuts

Once you get used to this head-in-the-sand method of problem-solving, you can apply it almost anywhere.  
Highways Seen in Urgent Need of Repair, Expect Funding Cuts
Student Loan Debt Skyrocketing, Expect Loan Rates to Double
Let's not stop there. We can solve most all of our nation's pressing problems by simply doing the opposite of what logic and experience would suggest: 

Obesity on the Rise, Expect More Demand for Supersize Portions
Wealth Inequality Worsening, Expect Higher CEO Pay and Tax Cuts for the Rich
School Performance Declining, Expect to Fire More Teachers
Unemployment Still High, Expect More Offshoring

Whatever problem you can name, those who know better than the experts have a solution. You think those solutions would make these problems worse? That must be because you insist on living in the evidence-based community. You need to change your way of thinking.


  1. There is so much that is misleading about this article I won't even comment other than to say I know you know better and that is what is so disappointing.

  2. The only thing misleading about this post is that I was much too kind to the people I'm talking about.

  3. As emotions have risen on opposite sides of political issues over the last deacde, the chance for a reasonable outcome falls. In the place of reasonable discussion we are watching arsonist burn down the other 'far side'. This is dametrically opposed to what you do professionally.

  4. Most of what I do professionally is act as an advocate, so expressing a point of view is not at all opposed to what I do professionally. But even when I act as a mediator, that does not require me to accept whatever bullshit one side or the other wants to tell me without questioning it.

    I'll give you an analogy to the Bloomberg story, which remember reports that over 90% of legal scholars who were polled think that there is no merit to the position that the ACA is unconstitutional, but most of whom nevertheless think that this Supreme Court may see it differently. I will frequently have someone in my office who has a long shot case. And their adversary will point out that all the law is against them, so they have a low probability of prevailing with their legal position at trial. My job as a mediator is to get people to recognize that reality. My job is not to take what everyone says at face value, and assume that everyone's point of view is equally legitimate.

    We need to recognize that the current Republican party is extreme. They ignore legal precedent and are trying to create a new reality. They have no respect for science. They have no respect for mainstream economics. They have no respect for empirical evidence of any kind it seems. They are wedded to an ideology, and they feel no obligation to present a working model for any of the solutions they propose. That is the only explanation I can think of for proposing solutions that will only make our problems worse. I mean, do you seriously think that our most pressing problem in America is that the very richest people are not allowed to keep enough of their money? The GOP does.

  5. Like you said, nobody should accept bullshit without questioning it.