Friday, November 02, 2012

Tea Leaves

You know that I am notoriously bad at the horse race aspect of elections, but my reading is that Obama is going to be re-elected.  I am distressed not so much that people disagree with my assessment of how the country should be run - though that is indeed important - but at my usual metacomplaints about the field on which we play: the important stories buried by those who fancy themselves the guardians of the republic; the lack of ability of liberals to step back and even consider the possibility that they might be at fault; the confirmation bias and self-righteousness on both sides, but more distressing in those on the left who seem unconcerned with the necessity of even addressing those issues.

For that is all that I am capable of understanding, after all.  I read economists and am persuaded one way or another; I encounter arguments for and against healthcare legislation or military interventions or trade agreements; I read about scandals and weigh their relative importance.  Yet I know that these issues all have complexities far beyond me, and crucial information that I am not considering.

However, I can tell who is playing fair and who isn't.  I am qualified to judge that.  No political party ever does very well at this - nor should we suspect that any ever will. But I don't see how that particular balance scale looks at all even these last few decades.  Fallen humanity.  And I fear we will not ever do better.

12 comments:

james said...

We can judge more than that.

In some things I know I'm missing crucial information: Benghazi, for example. (Is the rumor of gun-running a cover for something else?) I hear one side and another about Afghanistan, and all I know is that the Pakistanis hold most of the aces and that neither Afghanistan nor Pakistan is a country in the western sense.

But I can look at Libya and say with confidence that we botched our role in the Kadaffy overthrow. Never mind whether we should have wanted him gone or not (I gather he was relatively harmless by then), if we wanted him gone we should have seized the moment when the momentum first started going against him.

I can't keep the economic jargon straight in Youngest Daughter's textbook, but in the end all the words are are labels for simple measures. I can't use the fancy econometrics, but I'm pretty sure $spent > $income means trouble. Borrowing all the time tells of systematic problems. And so on with the other copybook headings.

Experts are all very well, and when the devil is in the details you have to rely on them, but we cede too much of the landscape of discourse to experts.

From Murphy's Laws of Combat:
The important things are always simple.
The simple things are always hard.
The easy way is always mined. (So sometimes you do need the experts.)

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