24.10.16

THE SOCIAL ENGINEERING VICE.

Joel Kotkin cautions that a bad Republican-by-courtesy presidential candidate who loses badly does not mean a mandate for more Governance by Wise Experts.  Follow both links, read and understand, and follow additional links if you wish.  Politics is downstream from culture, and it's fifty years since the Consciousness Revolution led to the destruction of presidential politics as it is currently playing out.  The correction might also take fifty years.  But there are rumblings of a correction, if you know where to look.  Thus Mr Kotkin.  "Relative few Americans have much patience with such things as “micro-aggressions,” “safe spaces,” the generally anti-American tone of history instruction whose adherents are largely concentrated in the media and college campuses. Fewer still would endorse the anti-police agitation now sweeping progressive circles."

Writing for The Guardian, David Runciman sees a deeper divide, this in the two potential fatal flaws of representative governance.
In the long history of intellectuals worrying about democracy and its failings, two basic fears keep nagging away. The first is that democracy will mean rule by the poor, who will use their power to steal from the rich. The second is that democracy will mean rule by the ignorant, who will use their power to do the dumbest things. Both these worries go back at least as far as Plato. The ancient Greeks understood full well that democracy meant letting the have-nots get their claws into the haves. For Aristotle, that’s what the word meant: it was rule by the poor (the demos) over the wealthy. But if class conflict came with the territory, the deeper fear was what the masses might do out of sheer foolishness.

For Plato, democracy suffered from the basic defect of putting decision-making in the hands of people who were not competent to decide. Politics was a skill – and most people were simply clueless. Worse, that made them prey for hucksters and demagogues who would promise the earth and get away with it. Democracy was fertile ground for fantasists with a taste for power.
Thus, the Fatal Conceit of the latter-day Platonists (the self-styled progressives) is in creating that cadre of Wise Experts who are going to protect the masses from their own foolishness.  And if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor.  I like the idea of limiting and enumerating the powers of government, something that neither major party shows much interest in.  That way, there aren't as many things the Wise Experts can screw up, and the opportunities for those in the masses who give in to their sheer foolishness to live at the expense of everyone else are fewer.

In focussing on the possible effects of an education divide within partisan divides, Mr Runciman misses this.
These days the rich find it quite hard to get away with the presumption that their wealth is proof of their virtue. When they seek protection from the system, it is pretty clear what they are up to: they are looking after their interests. But when the educated look out for themselves they can dress it up as something ostensibly better than that: expertise.
The good news is, expertise often goes wrong. If you like your insurance policy, you can keep your insurance policy.  Fortunately, there's an easy response to the advocates of Governance by Expertise, one suggested by D. McCloskey as The American Question.  If you're so smart, why aren't you rich?

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