Epistemic Humility

If it is not evident from many posts, TAFKAS is a regular reader of National Review.  And his 2 favourite contributors are Kevin Williamson and Jonah Goldberg – both great writers and even better analysts.  Enough of the free plug thought.

In a recent post, Goldberg made an observation about US politics that applies well beyond the US.  There were actually 2, but the second is Australia specific (will get to that shortly):

One of the reasons our politics are so ugly is that politicians and activists insist the impossible is not only possible, but easy. When the inevitable failure materializes, the same politicians blame it on nefarious special interests and a rigged system. This in turn leads not just to more cynicism but a desire for leaders who will tear down everything, the Constitution be damned.

TAFKAS took out the last sentence from the above paragraph because it related to Donald Trump and TAFKAS did not want to trigger the usual Cats.  However, and to repeat:

One of the reasons our politics are so ugly is that politicians and activists insist the impossible is not only possible, but easy.

  • Fibre to the home for $20.
  • 100% renewable energy.
  • Increased taxes to fund increased government spending will increase economic growth.
  • Perpetual economic growth requires the government sector growing faster than the private sector.
  • Government spending can fix everything and anything can be fixed with just a few more billion tax payer dollars.
  • Perpetual and large immigration can fix every social and economy ill.

When the inevitable failure materializes, the same politicians blame it on nefarious special interests and a rigged system.

Kevin Rudd blames the “Murdoch empire”.  Bill Shorten blames the big end of town.  The LNP blames the ABC.  The ALP blames SkyNews.  The Greens blame racism and while male privilege.

And on this game is played.

In his recent book, The Conservative Sensibility, George Will wrote about something that has been lost by our governing class, Hayekian or epistemic humility:

Hayek’s career was a long summons to epistemic humility, epistemology being the field of philosophy concerned with the nature and limits of human knowledge. A free market, which is a mechanism for generating knowledge by aggregating information, is a design—an artifact, a political construct, a choice. It is a deliberate arrangement by a central government to enable a policy of decentralizing decision-making. It is a social choice to have government facilitate social change by getting out of the way of the market.

One of the great truths about society is that most of the cumulative results of conscious human choices are not the result of any human design. Most of what makes up society, and most of what is most important in society, is the result of choices too numerous to count, not the planned intention of any individual or group of individuals. Hence the law postulated by Robert Conquest, the historian and poet: Everyone is conservative about that which he or she knows the most about. This is so because when one knows something well, one knows its complex antecedents and evolution.

Our representatives believe that government can fix any problem, and when government fails, it is solely because of a lack of funding.

TAFKAS makes these observations as the lead story on the SMH website by its “Senior Economics Correspondent” is:

Big surpluses on the way as tax take from lower-income earners grows

Yep.  To give the government a surplus, households need to go into deficit.

Oh and here is the other nugget Goldberg wrote:

A majority of Americans are concerned about climate change. But when the issue moves from virtue-signaling to actually paying for it, they blanch (as Australian voters recently did). According to polls, a majority of Americans are unwilling to spend more than $24 a year on electricity to combat climate change.

Shame Australian’s weren’t given a choice about paying for it.

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14 Responses to Epistemic Humility

  1. stackja

    Shame Australian’s weren’t given a choice about paying for it.

    BS was upfront. ScoMo less so. ScoMo has to learn to say no to non-fossil, or follow MT out the door.

  2. Karabar

    One wonders “Are they just so damned stupid that they don’t understand it is a hoax, or are they all part of the hoax?”

  3. Percy Popinjay

    Shame Australian’s weren’t given a choice about paying for it.

    Funnily enough, voluntary taxes are never popular or raise anything other than the most laughable, minimal amounts. Unless, of course, you have the misfortune to reside in Victoriastan and drive a car.

  4. Buccaneer

    It seems rare to find anyone who goes into politics who doesn’t, through rhetoric or action, think that somehow government is the answer to all the problems.

  5. nb

    It is a cause for wonder that an entire political movement could have absolute contempt for its key supporters – courting only the extremely gullible.

  6. Russell

    Ah but they were “given the choice to pay for Green Energy” in the 1990s and 2000s as an energy premium offsets used to plant trees. But the ratbag Greens had not brainwashed the populas that some climate disaster that was upon us. So nobody much participated at that time. So Greens then moved into subsidies of Their R Energy that everyone has to pay for now.
    I am wondering when this will occur with airline ticket prices. You can pay for offsets now but they a small change and not many people are that committed to the CC cause. What’s the bet that Greens will try to push for subsidies for Their “solar-electric” aeroplanes that all airline ticket customers will have to pay for.
    Dopey Pollies let it happen once – will they catch them again? Anyone offer me some odds?

  7. NuThink

    @Buccaneer

    somehow government is the answer to all the problems.

    It certainly is the answer to the pollies finances and super and easy and priority access to the troughs. And the ability to have a non UBER driven non self drive vehicle, all within the guidelines BTW. It is all about the equalizing your style of living to your ego.

  8. Dr Fred Lenin

    Shumility ? A politician who suffers from shumility ? A rare item my friends .
    Old Aussie saying ,if you find a good politician , shoot him before he goes bad .

  9. Bruce of Newcastle

    National Review = never trump nincompoops

    Sorry TAKFAS but they’ve not done anything like enough to be rehabilitated.

  10. C.L.

    One of the reasons our politics are so ugly is that politicians and activists insist the impossible is not only possible, but easy. When the inevitable failure materializes, the same politicians blame it on nefarious special interests and a rigged system. This in turn leads not just to more cynicism but a desire for leaders who will tear down everything, the Constitution be damned.

    Exactly right. It also leads them to want to punish those who stand in the way of their lies. This has become the major cultural feature of our times.

  11. Iampeter

    Williamson is an unreadable hack, but Goldberg is much better. He falls into the category that I call, best-you-can-get-from-hopeless-conservatives. That’s not a complement though. He’s writings are what I would expect from a bright, political science, university student, not someone who has spent a career writing about politics. He’s on the right track, but doesn’t really get the fundamentals anymore than other conservative writers.

    That bit you quote from him is a perfect example of what I’m talking about.

    One of the reasons our politics are so ugly is that politicians and activists insist the impossible is not only possible, but easy. When the inevitable failure materializes, the same politicians blame it on nefarious special interests and a rigged system. This in turn leads not just to more cynicism but a desire for leaders who will tear down everything, the Constitution be damned.

    None of this is really saying anything. What does he mean by “ugly?” That politicians are behaving uncivil, or that we are moving towards authoritarianism? Also, if it’s the former, what does it matter? Who cares if our politicians are rude as long as they know what they’re doing? But that would require Goldberg knows what politicians should and should not be doing and why. But he doesn’t. He mentions the “constitution” though. For some reason.
    Also, believing the impossible to be possible is also not the cause of any issues. The issue is that no one in politics knows anything about politics, but Goldberg, who also doesn’t know anything about politics can’t really call that out.
    In other words, if you read that paragraph and nodded along pretending it said something then you are just part of the mob pretending the naked emperor is wearing fine clothes.
    Someone who knows what they are talking about would’ve written that paragraph something like this:

    Due to the total lack of political literacy today, our elected officials spend their time engaged in childish melee’s, fighting over bizarre trivia and technicalities, while universally advancing the cause of rights-violating government that will turn this country into something like Venezuela sooner or later.
    It’s high time we rediscovered the proper role of rights-protecting government, as laid out by the founders of the constitution, and start demanding our elected officials start working towards taking us back in this direction….etc, etc…

    Such a paragraph opens you to challenges of what are “rights,” what does the constitution have to do with it, what does a rights-protecting government even look like, etc..

    All questions, Goldberg and conservatives in general have no idea how to answer…

  12. Louis Hissink

    Achieving the impossible is also utopianism. Utopians may be categorised into physical and metaphysical groups. Marxists fall into the first group. Religious folk into the second group, if one assumes heaven or paradise is a metaphysical utopia.

    People who believe in utopia will thus have no problem believing in impossible things. It’s a cultural thing.

  13. CameronH

    Karabar, Your comment:#3168204, posted on September 26, 2019 at 4:59 pm
    “One wonders “Are they just so damned stupid that they don’t understand it is a hoax, or are they all part of the hoax?”
    They mostly understand but thought it was a good idea at the time to exploit it for political and financial purposes. The ALP don’t really care about the damage it does because they don’t care if Australia burns to the ground as long as they are rulers of the ashes, (a take from Game of Thrones).

    The LNP are a mixed bag. The financiers and chancers like Turnbull see it as a good opportunity for their grifter mates in the investment community and the rent seekers in the RE industry to skim a fortune of the poor long suffering tax payers. Many of the rest think that they can control whatever they create and stop it when it usefulness is over. They still do not understand that once a bureaucracy and attendant programs are started they only grow. All of them are always taken over by left wing ideologues and then become an arm of the left/green assault on our society and civilisation. Think the AHRC whose sole purpose is to advance post modernist/cultural marxist identity politics.

    Now that the whole think is out of control and real damage is being done they find it hard to back away because they have been a party to the destruction. I am unsure how we stop this before irrepairable damage is done.

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