I’m Not Stoopid

Voters aren’t stupid. The world is just complex. Our society has gone far away from the days when we were expected to collect our own food from a foodshed that was walkable in under an hour. We are a society of specialists, but being a specialist doesn’t make one stupid. Rather, being specialists makes us better at the things we do than we are at the things we don’t do.

So we substitute trust relationships for wide but shallow expertise. If I’m sick, I see a doctor. These days, that’s often a specialist, an even more specialized job than merely being a doctor. We converse, and I ask questions. I will make the final call on the treatment plan, but I don’t have the expertise to know if it’s the right plan. I didn’t go to medical school, but presumably my doctor did. I have to trust that the information I get from my doctor is accurate. If my doctor has a hidden agenda, I can easily be talked into treatment plans that would benefit my doctor at my expense. I also must work to keep an open mind in that conversation, because whatever biases I bring into the conversation will impact my decision, possibly to my detriment.

Our representatives in government are necessarily political specialists. Many of them are also specialists in other fields. For instance, I know of a nearby school board president who is also a highly specialized structural engineer. If you need to know anything having to do with his particular engineering specialization, this is the man to see. So we have a government made up of political specialists, mixed with a somewhat random smattering of other specializations.

But we ask these representatives to vote on issues in areas in which they are not specialists. They have a few choices to make at that point. They can vote however the party leadership tells them to vote (thus getting advice solely from political specialists). They can vote however polls from their constituents dictate, or based on communications from their constituents (thus getting advice from the “hive,” or the most motivated members of the “hive”). Or they can seek out advice from specialists in the fields impacted by the legislation and vote based on the advice they get from those specialists.

Specialists are necessary for an ever-increasing percentage of voting issues, for precisely the same reason that specialists have become necessary in an ever increasing percentage of our daily life decisions. For this reason, we should be encouraging our representatives to seek out advice from specialists in ever more areas. We, as voters, should be doing the same.

But an odd thing has been happening with increasing frequency and intensity over the past decade. There is a growing backlash from the right against specialists. Why is this?

I suggest it’s because many people feel that both specialists and liberals are calling voters stupid. Sometimes it’s overt. The upshot is that the message of “it’s a really complicated issue” has become synonymous in many voters’ minds with “you’re too stupid to understand.” This fosters resentment of the specialists.

Let’s face it, if you went to a doctor and he told you “you’re too stupid to understand the treatment I’m prescribing; just do it,” you’d probably start looking for another doctor. If you went to a lawyer, and he told you “you’re too stupid to understand the law, so just accept this plea bargain,” you’d want a different lawyer. So it should come as no surprise that the same thing is happening in politics.

Global warming is complicated. Most of us are insufficiently educated to understand the entire mechanism. This doesn’t mean we’re stupid, but it does mean we are forced to trust specialists.

Keynesian economic policy is complicated. Most of us are insufficiently educated to understand the entire mechanism. This doesn’t mean we’re stupid, but it does mean we are forced to trust specialists.

Health care today is complicated. Most of us are insufficiently educated to understand the entire mechanism. This doesn’t mean we’re stupid, but it does mean we are forced to trust specialists.

See a pattern?

So what happens when you start attacking the very notion of field specialists? You’re forced to devolve. If you conclude that you cannot trust doctors, then you self-treat, and you’re devolving to health care of a couple centuries ago. If you conclude that you cannot trust economists, then you make poor economic decisions, and you’re devolving to an economy of a couple centuries ago. If you conclude that you cannot trust scientists, then you make poor science decisions, and you’re devolving to technology of a couple centuries ago.

Voters on the right are particularly well primed to accept the attacks on the notion of field specialists. With every passing year, more and more are hearing the message that the left thinks they’re too stupid. Why on earth would you vote for or with people who think you’re too stupid to make decisions? So when the Republican party started focusing on that message, beginning with Sarah Palin’s aw-shucks I’m-just-a-regular-guy persona attacking the “elites” (i.e., specialists who make you feel dumb), there was an audience ready to respond.

It’s a very shrewd strategy to win votes. But it’s horribly destructive to a trust relationship that builds up over the course of a century. It takes less time and energy to destroy a trust relationship than to build one, which makes this strategy doubly destructive.

When you undermine trust in field specialists, you necessarily destroy the foundation of our modern economy. It is exactly the strategy that the Taliban used, albeit with different justification. But Afghanistan is a 19th century economy, so it didn’t really cause devolution there. Afghanistan has little to offer the rest of the world besides minerals and agricultural products (opiates being the most profitable of them).

This isn’t all Palin’s fault. She was the spark, but many liberals lay the kindling over a long time. How often have we heard liberals calling conservatives, rural people, and voters in general stupid? I’ve seen it on this very site. It’s condescending, and it should come as no surprise that it’s a major turnoff to the recipients of the condescension.

I don’t have a good solution for this. But the path we’re on scares the hell out of me. I don’t want to live in a place where specialists are distrusted simply for being specialists.

What do you think?


About Michael Weiss

Michael is now located at http://www.logarchism.com, along with Monotreme, filistro, and dcpetterson. Please make note of the new location.
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53 Responses to I’m Not Stoopid

  1. Mr. Universe says:

    Ed. NoteYour friendly neighborhood blog adminstrator (me) is one of those people Michael refers to as calling uninformed voters ‘stupid’. I understand that people dislike being called out for making uniformed decisions or decisions based on misinformation given to them by partisan ‘news’ organizations, and I can candy coat it but in the end the result is the same; a lot of people are making uniformed decisions for motivations I don’t fully understand and some that Michael mentions.I suppose if a group of people were calling me stupid or condescendingly admonishing me that I was wrong, I’d get defensive. The ‘oh yeah?!’ reaction. Happens on this blog on a daily basis. I just don’t think there is a perfect way to tell someone that the consequences of their emotionally charged defensive decision making is going to hurt them in the long run. Particularly when there’s a partisan machine ready to blame all the bad things that happen to them on the other side. The ones trying to convince them not to do…well…stupid things.I get so frustrated that I’d just like to dump a bucket of cold water on them to shake them out of their running in circles and say, ” you do realize that this guy wants to privatize your social security and that you could lose it ALL if the market crashes which it might because this same guy wants to deregulate the markets so those investment companies can ponzi your social security away? THEY JUST WANT TO GAMBLE WITH YOUR RETIREMENT MONEY!But it’s never really that easy to do, is it?

  2. shiloh says:

    Deviating from your main point …Or they can seek out advice from specialists in the fields impacted by the legislation and vote based on the advice they get from those specialists.ie corporate lobbyists who have $$$ to buy and sell politicians. A major !!! political problem.>As to voters being stoopid:birthers, 10thers, deathers, truthers, teabaggers, secessionists, 14thers, …ie easily swayed conservative lemmings ~ and why are they easily swayed, lack of education lola yahoo, winger catch-22 ;)>and are there stoopid Dems, liberal and otherwise?You Bet’cha!So yea Michael, be afraid, be very afraid!Again, America survives despite itself …btw, as regards to calling people stoopid ~ I call ’em as I see ’em 🙂 or as Colonel Jessep would say: You can’t handle the truth!

  3. shiloh says:

    My post went to the moderation waste bin because like Jeffrey, it was a dazzling piece of brilliance! :)or a reasonable facsimile thereof …

  4. Bart DePalma says:

    Conservatives have no problem with specialization, our problem is with the increasingly realized progressive dream of replacing representative democracy with government rule by experts.For example, in a free market, specialists will combine their talents to produce a dizzying array of goods and services for our consideration and then marketing specialists and third party review specialists will explain why the good or service will benefit or harm us. In the end, each of us makes our own decision which good or service to buy.In a representative democracy, we expect our representatives to obtain the advice of specialists in an area of concern, return to us and explain the options and which one the representative would recommend. We also expect every NGO and fellow citizen interested in the issue to provide their information and recommendations.When the public education is done, we expect our representatives to listen to us and then work to enact our choices. If the subject does not interest some constituents and they cede the decision to the representative, they have still made a decision.What conservatives AND Indis are in open rebellion against are our representatives enacting policies which we oppose. This is tyranny.In sum, the issue is not specialization per se, but rather who makes the final decision.

  5. Bart DePalma says:

    Can someone please retrieve my lengthy and thoughtful response from moderation purgatory before Michael accuses me of ignoring him again.;^)Thanks in advance. The move to blogger cannot take place soon enough.

  6. mclever says:

    I often hear the plea, “If only voters understood X!”Michael lays out a very clear explanation of why voters are unlikely to understand “X” at anything more than a superficial level, because they aren’t specialists in whatever “X” is. Makes sense. Specialists and “experts” are important in today’s complex world, and we rely on them for a myriad of things non-political. So, are people so reluctant to trust specialists or experts on matters in the political arena? I think part of the problem is that we can probably find an “expert” to support whatever inane idea we prefer, and it only takes one “Climate Change Denier” for those who politically oppose progress to cling to and say, “Oh yeah? Well, your expert is wrong about X, because my expert says Y.” On most subjects, we the voters lack sufficient information to make an educated distinction between two experts in isolation, so we rely on the media to accurately portray what the preponderance of specialists say.Perhaps this also explains my ongoing frustration with the modern media’s inability to do credible analysis or investigative reporting–they are media experts and not experts on whatever subject X might be. So, they play false equivalency games and treat all opinions the same regardless of expertise. Instead of informing, it just creates a greater cloud of disinformation that the voters can pick through for tidbits that support their preexisting opinions.In my frustration, I’m probably guilty of calling voters stupid, though I know full well they aren’t. My parents are both brilliant in their fields of expertise, but when it comes to public policy, I pull my hair out as they unthinkingly parrot Rush and Beck. I want to say, “Come on. You know better than that!” My frustration level mounts when I present concrete, expert evidence and straightforward facts that show that whatever Rush said was blatantly false, and they brush aside the evidence and say something like, “Well, maybe that expert is wrong about X, because I believe Y.” They’re not stupid, but they willfully ignore anything that doesn’t support their preconceived conclusions. (My example involves conservatives, but this denial mechanism applies to folks on the Left, too. Most people are slow to change an opinion once formed.)So, Michael is right in his diagnosis, but I don’t know what the prescription should be. Is there a nice way to tell people that they’re not expert enough to understand all of the details, so they need to trust the specialists? How do we re-establish trust and respect for higher education and deep specialization? Perhaps we need an Issac Asimov to explain everything in layman’s terms.The anti-education/anti-expert rhetoric scares me, too.:-(

  7. mclever says:

    Apparently, this thread is in 100% moderation mode…

  8. Bart DePalma says:

    Either Michael is cursed or he is triggering moderation somehow. 80% of my moderation problems are on his threads.

  9. shortchain says:

    Trust does not come easily to people in troubled times.

  10. filistro says:

    Sarah Palin isn’t stupid. She’s LAZY. A woman with enough smarts and native cunning to become one of the best-known people on the planet is hardly stupid. But she lacks the drive and committment to become well-informed, choosing instead to get by on superficiality and the groundswell of support from those who are attracted to her partly because of her looks and partly because she is overtly “the enemy of their enemy” and thus is their friend.Most of her supporters are the same.. not stupid but intellectually lazy. Should we not call this out when we see it? In these Internet days when all of us have the accumulated knowledge of mankind literally at our fingertips, there is no excuse for ignorance.

  11. mclever says:

    shortchain,I thought the last line in your most recent post on the previous thread was a good segue into this thread of Michael’s… You said, “Analysis and education tends to make people less conservative — and is, therefore, to be avoided at all costs.”You’re not directly calling voters stupid, but you are basically saying that conservatives aren’t educated enough. It’s true that the Democratic Party has an edge in higher-education degrees, but there are plenty of conservatives who are plenty well educated, too.So, it’s not just education that matters (though I certainly agree that it has an impact), but also a respect for those who are specialized in something other than one’s own field of expertise. This is easier for some of the “hard” sciences, such as nuclear physics, but it’s harder for subjects that are less concrete, such as economics. The esoteric math involved in proving some of the more complex economic theories boggles the minds of even some of the best economists. Non-experts want a simple answer of X or Y, when sometimes the answer is a little of both, but not too much of either, and the experts are merely arguing over the limits.When things get that complex, people at either end of the political spectrum are inclined to reach for simple answers that fit their existing beliefs.

  12. filistro says:

    I’m going to suit up and see if I can retrieve the lost posts. If I don’t come back, please send a search party into the swamp to look for me.

  13. shortchain says:

    Bart,Your lengthy and thoughtful post is oddly inconsistent with a past discussion of scientific expertise, wherein you stated that you could find scientific experts to take either side of any case, and therefore did not trust scientists.This odd belief, expressed in this thread, that you, as a lay person, with no discernible expertise, can evaluate the highly technical and arcane arguments among scientists, is oddly at variance also with the conclusions of scientific research, which has repeatedly demonstrated that even scientists are quite easily fooled outside their areas of expertise — and even inside said areas, if they don’t actually put their minds and analytic skills into the effort.Michael,We have, sadly and predictably, reached — and blown by — a point in human progress where it is impossible for a person to be a master of all knowledge even in a relatively restricted sphere, such as the law, or nanotechnology. Change, or progress, call it what you will, moves too fast for a person to keep up, and the arguments get deeper and more arcane, the amount of background information required to understand the arguments gets more and more voluminous. So our experts know more and more about less and less.But there really isn’t any choice other than picking experts who have, in the past, been generally right, and taking their findings and analysis as a working hypothesis (but retaining a core of skepticism and having a “plan B”).Of course, what we have today is a situation where the part in that about “picking experts who have generally been correct” seems to have gotten lost, and too many people are simply picking experts whose results they like — or in the case of many conservatives, picking results they like and then looking for experts who agree with them.This will not end well, I suspect. But there’s always the hope that AI will come to fruition, or that the human mind can be enhanced to the point where it is possible to absorb information at the speed of light, and process it with the power of the human intellect.I’d advise against holding your breath. A plan B would be well-advised, I just don’t know what it would be.

  14. mclever says:

    @filistro: Sarah Palin isn’t stupid. She’s LAZY.I said much the same thing about GWB during the election in 2000 and throughout his Presidency. George isn’t stupid, but he’s intellectually lazy and disinclined to remedy that fault. He already knows as much as he wants to know about everything.To me, such willful ignorance is worse than stupidity. Ordinary ignorance can be remedied by information, but willful ignorance rejects all evidence and expertise except one’s own predisposition.This, I think, is part of what Michael is addressing. We are becoming a nation of the willfully ignorant, of people who reject the information of experts and specialists.So, how do we restore respect in the educational elite? How do we make smarts cool? How do we engender trust in the specialized opinions of experts?

  15. mclever says:

    Bart,“When the public education is done, we expect our representatives to listen to us and then work to enact our choices.”What decision do you want the representatives to make when the public’s opinion is based on an incomplete or inaccurate reading of the specialists’ advice?Or, in the case of something like Civil Rights, we expect our leaders to LEAD us, especially when we’re wrong.

  16. mclever says:

    Whatever moderation magic filistro worked, thanks!!Now, could you do it again? I know of at least two more comments in the moderation netherworld…Bart may be right… Michael’s threads are cursed!

  17. shortchain says:

    mclever,I posted before seeing your comment. As you can probably tell, I’ve spent some time pondering these issues. Not enough to become an “expert” — I’ve got my own area of expertise which it takes almost all my time to maintain — but enough to that I can scratch the surface.IMHO there is no way out of this impasse which does not require either a deus ex machina or a fundamental change in the technology of human learning. Note: I categorically reject as unworkable and, to use a single term, stupid, the attitude that we really don’t need to know all the technical and theoretical issues, all we need to know is “one big thing” (as Reagan was described as knowing). Complex situations require near-complete understanding or enormous luck in order to avoid being eaten alive by the Law of Unintended Consequences.Speaking of which, I actually know a fair bit about AI (worked in that for a while) and I’m distressingly familiar with the way education is proceeding, so you can appreciate the depth of my concern when I say that I advise you not to bet on success in either one.

  18. filistro says:

    I don’t take as bleak a view as the rest of you. I think mistrust of specialists is a brief and entirely understandable bump in the road from an agrarian to a highly technical and specialized society.I grew up (not THAT long ago 🙂 on an isolated ranch where we did everything for ourselves… dairy, food supply, security, clothing, road maintenance, veterinary services, even basic medical care for the family. This was the norm for almost everybody just a few generations ago.Is it any wonder we are having some difficulty as a society moving so abruptly from self-sufficiency to trust in a wide array of specialists? “Looking out for ourselves” is still deep in our self-image, our history and our DNA, and will be for a few more generations. But when people are born in future who have never known anything but trust in a wide array of specialists, it will come more easily to them.

  19. filistro says:

    I actually figured out how to get posts out of moderation! I’ll be in and out frequently for the next few hours, so if any of yours get caught just leave a one-word post saying “moderation” and I’ll go get ’em.Damn straight. (Man, I feel so POWERFUL!!! 🙂

  20. Michael Weiss says:

    Bart, you said:”For example, in a free market, specialists will combine their talents to produce a dizzying array of goods and services for our consideration and then marketing specialists and third party review specialists will explain why the good or service will benefit or harm us. In the end, each of us makes our own decision which good or service to buy.”If it were possible for each person to have an absolutely customized item to purchase, this would be nirvana. Of course, that’s not possible. Instead, it is necessary for suppliers to find concentrations and focus on those. The results, while not perfect for everyone, are generally good enough for most.In government, that notion is necessarily taken to an extreme. Relatively few people choose under what government’s jurisdiction they will fall. So government necessarily becomes a large compromise among many people, and thus he results, while not perfect for everyone, are generally good enough for the collective average. By the way, this is not necessarily “good enough for most,” as the compromises are more complex. Usually you know you’re in the ballpark if “everyone” complains, but about differing, opposing issues.”In a representative democracy, we expect our representatives to obtain the advice of specialists in an area of concern, return to us and explain the options and which one the representative would recommend.”And that has happened historically. Well, something close to that. In a republic (which we have), the representative should decide and justify the decision. This only works when specialists aren’t distrusted simply because they’re specialists.”What conservatives AND Indis are in open rebellion against are our representatives enacting policies which we oppose.”Of course. And it’s great to oppose policies based on informed opinions. What’s the opposite of “great” is to start with conclusions and look for specialists to justify the conclusion. There are always people willing to put their political ends above their field. The key is to recognize who they are, based on what amounts to democratic behavior of the field members themselves. This is why AGW looks so plausible.”This is tyranny.”You’ve said this before. You were wrong then, and you’re wrong now. You’ve been shown the very definitions of tyranny, and they have nothing to do with an elected official, who can freely be thrown out of office, enacting legislation that the governed dislike.The very Republican takeover of the House, about which you have crowed for weeks, is proof positive that what you have been calling tyranny has been anything but.

  21. Bart DePalma says:

    filistro wrote: “Sarah Palin isn’t stupid. She’s LAZY. A woman with enough smarts and native cunning to become one of the best-known people on the planet is hardly stupid. But she lacks the drive and committment to become well-informed, choosing instead to get by on superficiality…”I do not believe you are stupid either, just too lazy to actually listen or read what Palin says to make a knowing assessment. Don’t feel to ashamed, you are not alone in your laziness…http://www.facebook.com/notes/sarah-palin/do-wall-street-journal-reporters-read-the-wall-street-journal/453294443434

  22. Bart DePalma says:

    BD: “In a representative democracy, we expect our representatives to obtain the advice of specialists in an area of concern, return to us and explain the options and which one the representative would recommend.”Michael Weiss wrote: “In a republic (which we have), the representative should decide and justify the decision.”:::grits teeth:::What you are proposing is an elected authoritarianism, not our Republic. The founding principle of this country is that the government enact the will of the people and not impose its will on the people. Try reading your Declaration of Independence, then proceed to the checks and balances in the Constitution and the Federalist Papers.Michael Weiss wrote: “The very Republican takeover of the House, about which you have crowed for weeks, is proof positive that what you have been calling tyranny has been anything but.”You are confusing substance with process. The government enacting policy against the will of the people is substantive tyranny. The people rising up and tossing out the tyrants in an election is an attempted procedural remedy to the tyranny. The latter is proof of tyranny, not evidence of the absence of tyranny.

  23. Bart DePalma says:

    Someone please retrieve my reply to Michael’s last post to me from moderator purgatory?Thanks.

  24. filistro says:

    Bart, after watching Sarah Palin in live, unrehearsed interviews that reveal the actual content of her mind… you are still gullible (or smitten) enough to believe she actually writes this stuff herself?Ahttp://www... Puppy love. It’s just so sweet, isn’t it? (My granddaughter thinks Justin Bieber writes his own songs, too. 😉

  25. Bart DePalma says:

    Fili:Palin is a woman of great charisma and drive, but average intelligence. Laziness is hardly a term I would apply to Palin, who just completed a campaign, a book tour, a documentary on Alaska while caring for her family.Frankly, your catty sniping at Palin hardly does you credit. If you disagree with Palin’s position on something, make your case without the incessant name calling.

  26. filistro says:

    @Bart.. make your case without the incessant name callingLOL!!! ROFL!!! ROFLMAO!!!!Oh Bart… (wiping tears from eyes).. truly, if you didn’t exist, I would have to invent you for my own entertainment.

  27. shrinkers says:

    @BartI don’t think you actually know what “tyranny” means. It sounds like a nice cuss word to throw at people you disagree with. But it is intellectually lazy to simply cuss people out without understanding the terms you use.Or is like with “socialism,” where you invented your own definition? Bart, the people who wrote the Constitution did not trust “the will of the people.” That’s why Thomas Jefferson railed against “the tyranny of the majority” (there’s that word again — really, maybe you should look it up). That’s why the Senate was originally not elected by popular vote. That’s why the President isn’t elected by popular vote, by by Electors who are chosen by the people of each State. And the whole point of the Bill of Rights was to prevent “the will of the people” from trampling on the rights of individuals and minorities.In a representative democratic republic, the people choose their representatives who are tasks with the job of making decisions on their behalf. Just as when you get surgery, you don’t expect the doctor to ask you during the procedure how many stitches to use to bind two arteries together, or how far apart to pry your bones when using the rib spreader. If you don’t like the decisions an elected representative makes, you replace him or her. Such replacement is not “proof of tyranny” on the part of the person you voted out. It is proof of democracy in action.You like painting yourself as a victim, as the target of “tyranny” simply because a democratically elected government makes decisions you don’t like. Again, I ask you to learn what the word means. It is not a synonym for “I disagree with you.” Maybe this will help:http://www.thefreedictionary.com/tyrannytyr·an·ny (tr-n)n. pl. tyr·an·nies1. A government in which a single ruler is vested with absolute power.2. The office, authority, or jurisdiction of an absolute ruler.3. Absolute power, especially when exercised unjustly or cruelly: “I have sworn . . . eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man” (Thomas Jefferson).4. a. Use of absolute power. b. A tyrannical act.5. Extreme harshness or severity; rigor.When someone in government submits to free and fair elections and then stamps down, such a person cannot in any sense be held to have “absolute power.” A decision that you personally disagree with is not, by virtue of you disagreeing with it, “Extreme harshness or severity.”And note, this definition says nothing whatever about “the will of the people.” And had you not gone out of your way to oppose the positions Obama and Democrats ran on in 2008, and then opposed every effort to implement those policies, which “the people” had thus chosen, your whining would seem at least to be less disingenuous.I must conclude you either don’t know what the word means — or you are intentionally misusing it. I suspect the latter, because you are not stupid. You’re just incredibly dishonest.

  28. Michael Weiss says:

    I was going to answer Bart, but shrinkers said almost exactly what I was going to say. So, instead, I’ll respond to this:”Why can’t you just start a thread for your debates with me instead of jumping from one thread to another?”Two reasons. One, as I said before, I’m not going to make an exception just for Bart. Two, you’ll abandon that topic in precisely the same way you abandon all others, necessitating a daily “Just For Bart” thread. You have your own blog for that.I wrote: “1) explain the holes in my argument: Government has been proven repeatedly to be capable of investing money more effectively than private industry.”To which you replied: “Let’s just compare Barrack Obama’s government subsidized electric car industry, GM and Chrysler to Ford Motor Co. Nuff said.”Nope. Not nuff. I said that government has been proven repeatedly to be capable of investing money more effectively than private industry. You respond with one example where it wasn’t proven (and not really disproven). It’s like me saying “blondes have been proven to be smart” and you show me an example of a dumb blonde. I never claimed government always invests better. So you weren’t rebutting my point; you were rebutting what you wish my point was. In other words, your rebuttal is truly worthless.You claim: “Creating wealth is providing value added goods and services folks are willing to purchase of their own free will in a competitive market.”OK, I now understand your definition. I’ll point out that it is a definition that is not shared by any credible economist. The definitions of words like “wealth,” “tyranny,” and many others that you use need to be the common definitions in order to have meaningful discourse.At least now I understand why you have so much trouble understanding those who post responses to you. You are literally speaking a different language. Then I wrote: “3) show me where the current economy is not supply rich and demand poor.”The example you gave is: “Businesses sitting on $2 trillion dollars in cash at little to no return rather than investing it.”Here we have another case of you using a word without understanding the common definition. In an economy, cash is not typically considered a supply item, particularly as it applies to recessions. I’ll explain why that is in the next comment, since I’m running out of room here.

  29. Michael Weiss says:

    Bart, here’s part 2.You said: “Overall, the private economy always invests better than the government.”This statement is contradictory, through the use of “overall” and “always.” Overall, private economy gets a bigger ROI than government in the short term. But that’s a far more restrictive statement than the one you made.I asked you to: “5) explain the mechanism by which supply drives an economic recovery.”Your reply:”1) Business cuts costs to return to profit.2) Labor costs go down because of competition among the unemployed.3) A combination of one and two allow companies a better ROI in the same depressed market3) Deferred demand has built up creating better potential ROI4) The markets have stabilized lowering the business risk.5) Because ROI in business job growth is now higher than sitting on cash, businesses will invest and hire, creating demand and products to satisfy that demand. As the economy grows, ROI and investment grows.”I love your hand-wavy “businesses cut costs to return to profit,” as if there’s always so much fat in businesses that they can do this without impacting demand for their products. It’s exceptionally naive.But it becomes clearer from step 2 that you’re expecting it to happen via wage depression. Wage depression naturally causes demand depression (if you have less money, you have less money to spend). This is the cause of deflationary cycles. You think inflation is bad? Take a look at what happens in a deflationary cycle.Step 3 (the first one) is only true for products that have a high degree of elasticity. In a strong recession, the only products that sell reasonably well are those with minimal elasticity. This is perhaps the biggest flaw in your explanation, unless it’s…Step 3 (the second one), where there’s all this deferred demand. The deferred demand can only be satisfied if the people who want the goods also have the means with which to purchase the goods. This is why we have a severe recession.Put another way, while there was a price spike in oil, ending July, 2008, and it had an impact of spiking prices on other goods as a result, prices of both oil and other goods have long since dropped below that spike point. But the economy hasn’t recovered. If the economy were weak due to price sensitivity, it would have recovered when the prices for oil and other goods had dropped. But it didn’t.So Steps 4 and 5 don’t happen, because neither of your Steps 3 happen, because the economy right now is not based on goods that have elastic demand, because we are in a severe recession.And, because neither of the Steps 3 happen, which ultimately prevents Step 5 from happening, businesses are sitting on cash. Which is why businesses sitting on cash is a sign of a demand problem, not a supply problem. Which is why our recession persists due to insufficient demand.

  30. shiloh says:

    Bartles Can someone please retrieve my lengthy and thoughtful response from moderation purgatoryHaving just read your first reply, lengthy yes 😉 thoughtful ?!?Define thoughtful? as it most mostly gobbledygook. btw, we expect are representatives to do what’s best for “we the people” as I could have saved you a lot of typing, eh. :)but, but, but as w/most of your replies, it was indeed lengthy …>Bart, are you enjoying your self-imposed break from 538?just wonderin’

  31. shiloh says:

    btw Bartles, again you don’t dictate the rules at 538 as you are just a guest.As you disingenuously talk about personal freedom ad nauseam, if one is upset how 538 operates you are free to leave at any time ie stop whining!!!but, but, but again, you can check out, but you can never leave! :-Psolo estoy diciendotake care

  32. Michael Weiss says:

    On more careful reflection, I do have something to add to shrinkers.”What you are proposing is an elected authoritarianism, not our Republic.”Not at all. The intent of having elected officials coming up for reelection on a scheduled basis is an incentive program. Elected officials are incented to benefit their constituents, because they will lose their jobs if they don’t.Our government was deliberately created to prevent rapid change from occurring. It takes six years to thoroughly flush the executive and legislative branches, and decades to do the same with the judicial.Whether this was intentional or not (there is ample supporting documentation to suggest that it was), this is the system we have. You may not like it, and that’s your prerogative. But don’t try to pass our system off as authoritarian or tyrannical.If the House, Senate, and President all agree on a piece of legislation, and the Supreme Court either explicitly or implicitly finds it to be Constitutional, then this means one of two things:1) The law is neither authoritarian, nor tyrannical2) We have a government that supports authoritarianism and tyranny.If 1, then you’re full of it. If 2, then you shouldn’t be focusing on elections. You should be focusing on a new Constitutional Convention.Which is it?

  33. Bart DePalma says:

    shrinkers wrote: “Bart, the people who wrote the Constitution did not trust “the will of the people.” That’s why Thomas Jefferson railed against “the tyranny of the majority” Among the Founders, Jefferson was the leading proponent of the government enacting the will of the people. The unrelated discussion about the “tyranny of the majority” as it applies to the checks and balances in the Constitution assumes the government is implementing the will of the people as it should, but argues that government should not be able enact policy without an effective super majority consensus of the people.shrinkers wrote: That’s why the Senate was originally not elected by popular vote. No. Under the original procedure for choosing the Senate, the people elected a state legislature who in turn chose the people’s Senators. There was never any intent for the Senate to impose its will on the people. Rather, the intent was to provide with State with a check in the federal government. This is the argument offered by some as a reason to repeal the 17th Amendment providing a direct vote for the Senate.shrinkers wrote: That’s why the President isn’t elected by popular vote, by by Electors who are chosen by the people of each State.See the last answer. Also, the Founders thought that the state legislatures were the most responsive to the people and granted them a variety of powers over the federal government.shrinkers wrote: And the whole point of the Bill of Rights was to prevent “the will of the people” from trampling on the rights of individuals and minorities.The Bill of Rights carves out an area of individual liberty that government may not abridge and is certainly not an argument in favor of the government imposing its will on the people.You are citing to the classical Greek definition of tyrant based upon the loss of Athenian democracy to a single tyrant. For the much broader American definition, check out the various quotations of the Founders. For example: “Single acts of tyranny may be ascribed to the accidental opinion of a day; but a series of oppressions, begun at a distinguished period and pursued unalterably through every change of ministers, too plainly prove a deliberate, systematic plan of reducing [a people] to slavery.”Experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms of government those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny. Thomas Jefferson “It’s not tyranny we desire; it’s a just, limited, federal government.” Alexander Hamilton

  34. Bart DePalma says:

    Michael:When you make a proposition without proof and then dare me to disprove it, you have neither proven your proposition nor disproven my rebuttal with name calling that I am ignorant. Thus, your first post is a failure.MW: I asked you to: “5) explain the mechanism by which supply drives an economic recovery.”BD: “1) Business cuts costs to return to profit.2) Labor costs go down because of competition among the unemployed.3) A combination of one and two allow companies a better ROI in the same depressed market3) Deferred demand has built up creating better potential ROI4) The markets have stabilized lowering the business risk.5) Because ROI in business job growth is now higher than sitting on cash, businesses will invest and hire, creating demand and products to satisfy that demand. As the economy grows, ROI and investment grows.”M: “I love your hand-wavy “businesses cut costs to return to profit,” as if there’s always so much fat in businesses that they can do this without impacting demand for their products. It’s exceptionally naive.”And yet that is precisely what has happened after this recession hit bottom – businesses returned to profitability by cutting costs without an appreciable increase in demand. Calling me naive does not change that reality.M: “But it becomes clearer from step 2 that you’re expecting it to happen via wage depression. Wage depression naturally causes demand depression =”Quite the opposite. When a worker is unemployed, he or she earns nothing and in fact drains money from the economy through unemployment insurance while creating no wealth in return. If a business is willing to rehire the worker for 10% less than what he used to earn before becoming unemployed, you measure that against the zero demand demand and supply being currently produced by the unemployed person and not the prior wages before the recession. In short, the business is increasing the demand of that newly hired worker by the amount it pays the worker.MW: “Step 3 (the first one) is only true for products that have a high degree of elasticity. In a strong recession, the only products that sell reasonably well are those with minimal elasticity.”My point was that there is a deferred demand for items which do not sell well in a recession.

  35. Bart DePalma says:

    MW: Step 3 (the second one), where there’s all this deferred demand. The deferred demand can only be satisfied if the people who want the goods also have the means with which to purchase the goods. This is why we have a severe recession.”The vast majority of folks are employed during recessions. However, they save and defer consumption to ensure against unemployment. When businesses hire workers again, albeit are lower recession market wages, the employed have confidence that they will not become unemployed, stop saving against that eventuality and start spending again.On a related note, this consumer psychology is one of the reasons Keyenes erred in his assumption that consumers will spend money the government gives them rather than using it to pay down bills and savings.

  36. shrinkers says:

    @BartNothing in what I said defended the idea of anyone “imposing” anything upon the will of the people. Quite the contrary, in a representative democracy, the “will of the people” is expressed in their selection of elected representatives. And if those representatives do not make decisions of which the people approve, the people can choose other representatives next time. Since the people can freely chose their representatives, the word “tyranny” cannot apply.You brush off the actual definitions of words like “tyranny” and “representative democracy” and wish to substitute your own definitions. You seem to use “tyranny” to mean “policies that I (Bart DePalma) don’t like,” and representative democracy” to mean “government by pollsters.” There is nothing to stop you from creating your own definitions. But you are being dishonest when you pretend those are the actual definitions used by anyone else.As I said, you’re not stupid. You’re just intentionally dishonest.

  37. Michael Weiss says:

    Bart, you said:”When you make a proposition without proof and then dare me to disprove it, you have neither proven your proposition nor disproven my rebuttal with name calling that I am ignorant. Thus, your first post is a failure.”Don’t be an ass. I made an assertion, which incidentally was backed up by examples back in my ARRA article, and you rebutted it with a deflection. If you want to rebut my assertion that government has repeatedly been proven to make better investments than business, then you need to explain how the specifically cited investments government made in infrastructure (railroads, air transportation, highways) were not, in fact, better than comparable business investments.”businesses returned to profitability by cutting costs without an appreciable increase in demand. Calling me naive does not change that reality.”Your naivete is due to missing the bigger picture. They laid people off due to a demand drop. They hadn’t suddenly become more efficient. In fact, by reducing their manufacturing capacity, their cost per unit rose. But there’s no point in reducing the cost per unit if it results in units unsold. This is how businesses get stuck during recessions.”When a worker is unemployed, he or she earns nothing and in fact drains money from the economy through unemployment insurance while creating no wealth in return.”Money isn’t “drained from the economy.” You really don’t get how this works, do you? They don’t take the unemployment insurance and bury it in a hole in the backyard. If a person is truly unemployed, and not independently wealthy, then the unemployment insurance gets spent on the basics, and all of it gets spent. This keeps the economy going by softening the demand reduction.”My point was that there is a deferred demand for items which do not sell well in a recession.”Here again you are using a different language. Yes, there is some pent-up demand for higher-elasticity products and services, but it’s not pent up due to an oversupply of the products and services (obviously). It’s pent up due to insufficient money among those who would buy them.They don’t return to buying them until after the recovery is in full swing.

  38. shiloh says:

    Damn straight. (Man, I feel so POWERFUL!!!Like Mr. U, do you feel like god!btw, Jesus is comin’ again, and boy is he pissed! :-P>Bush43 was the perfect example of the Peter Principle, as one rises to their level of incompetence!“As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.” ~ H.L. Mencken (1920)Interesting was watching HBO’s Boardwalk Empire last night and Harding was just about to get nominated in 1920 and Nucky, the central character who was a wheeler dealer corrupt local politician from NJ said after hearing Harding got the Rep nomination on the 10th ballot, “That imbecile, is going to be president of the United States.” B)So let’s recap, shall we:(2) presidents from Ohio, Grant/Harding, although they were personally clueless, their administrations were totally corrupt. And (2) Garfield/McKinley were assassinated!Did I mention America survives despite itself!and so it goes …I hereby state, and mean all that I say, that I never have been and never will be a candidate for President; that if nominated by either party, I should peremptorily decline; and even if unanimously elected I should decline to serve. (1871) ~ I will not accept if nominated and will not serve if elected. (1884) ~ William Tecumseh Sherman

  39. Michael Weiss says:

    Bart, you said:”The vast majority of folks are employed during recessions. However, they save and defer consumption to ensure against unemployment.”Both true statements, which helps to further illustrate why it’s a demand problem, not a supply problem.”When businesses hire workers again, albeit are lower recession market wages, the employed have confidence that they will not become unemployed, stop saving against that eventuality and start spending again.”And the deeper the recession, the longer it takes for that confidence to return.”On a related note, this consumer psychology is one of the reasons Keyenes erred in his assumption that consumers will spend money the government gives them rather than using it to pay down bills and savings.”It’s not a bad assumption at all. It all depends on whether the nondiscretionary consumer spending is covered or not. If someone doesn’t have enough money to cover nondiscretionary spending, then all of the government money will be spent. If that person does have enough to cover, then the government money will be spent on either debt reduction or stored as savings.This is why the money should be needs-based.

  40. Michael Weiss says:

    My apologies for the diversion off-topic.Back to the main topic of the article, what I am most concerned about is the devolution to equivalence. That is, I fear that we’re reaching a point where everyone’s specialist is treated as being equally “correct.”This runs counter to centuries of improvement in specializations, where theories undergo rigorous testing by other specialists in the same field, and over time a survival-of-the-fittest model leaves the less-accurate theories by the wayside.Now, what we’re seeing with increasing regularity are “experts” who have agendas, proclaiming “truth” while being unwilling to subject themselves to open scrutiny of their data by people of similar field knowledge, but differing opinions (or merely skepticism).For example, the Discovery Institute has a panel of “experts” whose theories collapse under minimal scrutiny, yet every time there’s a discussion in the press about evolution, one of these “experts” is trotted out to proclaim evolution a flawed theory.Similar behavior is exhibited with global warming, and economics.This, by the way, is why I am particularly concerned when people suggest that a majority of voters are rejecting Keynesian economics. They don’t even know what it means, let alone the mechanism by which it is supposed to work. Even many lay economists misunderstand it. And yet supposedly the voters rejected it?Moreover, even if they do reject it, that hardly makes it false. If a majority of voters rejected the notion that the earth traveled around the sun, it would have zero impact on the earth’s movement.Reality is not determined through polls. When people lose sight of this, their culture cannot survive. It will necessarily lose to cultures that choose not to divorce themselves from reality. Winning cultures over the long haul are those that choose to embrace learning, discovery, and challenging existing assumptions. I’m sure there are anthropologists who could do a better job than I could at providing the supporting evidence, though.

  41. Bart DePalma says:

    Michael Weiss wrote:BD: “businesses returned to profitability by cutting costs without an appreciable increase in demand. Calling me naive does not change that reality.”M: “They laid people off due to a demand drop. They hadn’t suddenly become more efficient.”You call me naive? While layoffs are part of most recessionary cost cutting, they are certainly not the only the only ones.M; “In fact, by reducing their manufacturing capacity, their cost per unit rose.”Not if you sell capital plant and reduce your overhead.M: “But there’s no point in reducing the cost per unit if it results in units unsold.”:::patience, Bart, patience:::I guess I need to draw this out in crayon for you.We live in the Land of the Free (LOTF).In LOTF, nine people work and one is unemployed.The total amount the residents of LOTF are willing to spend on hamburgers during a recession is $100.Sam’s Wonder Burgers reduces the unit cost of its burgers from $2 to $1 and the residents of LOTF can afford to buy twice as many Wonder Burgers. Now Sam has to hire the unemployed resident of LOTF to meet the new efficiency driven demand for Wonder Burgers.BD: “When a worker is unemployed, he or she earns nothing and in fact drains money from the economy through unemployment insurance while creating no wealth in return.”M: Money isn’t “drained from the economy.” You really don’t get how this works, do you? … the unemployment insurance gets spent on the basics, and all of it gets spent. This keeps the economy going by softening the demand reduction.What precisely is your education in economics?Business will pay a worker to create supply in excess of the pay.When the government takes money from a business who would otherwise use it to pay a worker to create supply and gives it to an unemployed worker for creating nothing, it is a net drain on the economy.Demand without supply is simply unrequited love. Supply is what makes up GDP.

  42. shiloh says:

    I guess I need to draw this out in crayon for you.Bartles being condescending which, as a rule, he resorts to when he’s totally flummoxed/discombobulated!Bart, don’t make me post all the nonsense you have spewed the past 2+ years at 538 making you look like a complete idiot! B)solo estoy diciendo>Again, go find a nice winger blog like redstate, where all the teabaggers agree w/each other 24/7 as it would be a much better fit for you ie a never ending conservative circle jerk! :-Ptake care

  43. Michael Weiss says:

    Bart, you said:”While layoffs are part of most recessionary cost cutting, they are certainly not the only the only ones.”And I didn’t say that they were. But then you go and talk about selling off excess capital to reduce overhead. The problem is that you have to have a buyer. In a recession, any potential buyer is in the same predicament. What company with excess capacity is going to go out and buy more capacity?And thus, they’re all left with varying degrees of excess capacity that they can’t unload, which is why cost per unit sold doesn’t drop.In your made-up example, Sam reduced his unit cost through magic, apparently. In the real world, cost reductions come through increases in economy of scale or scope; or through innovation or squeezing the employees.In a recession, the increases in economy of scale or scope cannot happen. This leaves innovation or squeezing employees. Innovation happens all the time, though it requires investment in research and development. This is fine to do when you have some sort of notion of when economic expansion will return, but it’s not worth doing until then, because you don’t know when/if you’ll have to resort to dipping into cash reserves to keep the doors open. So, inevitably, R&D investments drop in recessions. That doesn’t mean nobody’s doing it, but it does mean far fewer are doing it, and to a lesser degree.So we’re left with mostly squeezing the workers, through combinations of lower pay, fewer benefits, and layoffs. It shouldn’t be a surprise that this is exactly what we’re seeing in the economy.”Business will pay a worker to create supply in excess of the pay.”No. Business will pay a worker to generate revenues in excess of the marginal cost. As supply increases in a market with elastic demand, the per-unit sales price drops. So in order to hire an employee, there needs to be sufficient demand to support a price at or above the marginal cost of hiring that employee.But demand drops in a recession. So the per-unit sales price at the same production rate also drops. This is why the marginal savings of laying an employee off is greater than the revenue loss caused by the corresponding production drop.”When the government takes money from a business who would otherwise use it to pay a worker to create supply and gives it to an unemployed worker for creating nothing, it is a net drain on the economy.”But, fortunately, the government isn’t paying for the unemployed out of current tax revenue. Thus, it is not a net drain on the current economy.Incidentally, what would you propose the unemployed do in order to make ends meet? Serious question.”Supply is what makes up GDP.”Yes. And this is why GDP is not useful as the sole metric of the health of an economy.

  44. Bart DePalma says:

    Michael:You get the last word.

  45. shrinkers says:

    You get the last word.Bart conceded!Well done, Michael!Of course, Bart will be back in a day or two, spouting the same silliness, and trying to convince himself that increasing supply can solve a problem of too-much-supply, and that giving money to people who already have too much to do anything with it will encourage them to invest at a time when there is a shortage of demand.Because, after all, Bart’s opinions about economic (gleaned from Glenn Beck) are as good as those of any expert.

  46. shrinkers says:

    re: “tyranny” — I just realized, Bart, that you must either be a scoundrel or a coward. And either way, you are a traitor to the Republic.See, you’re trying to convince us that the duly-elected Democratic majorities in the House and Senate, and the President, for the last two years have committed “tyrannies” comparable to what was faced by the founders of our great nation. The response of our founders in response to tyranny was to take up arms. Yours is to blog.Now, either you are aware that your statements are Dadaist hyperbole with no actual meaning, or you are a coward of the greatest order. If you are a coward, then you are allowing tyranny to prosper in order to save your own skin. That, my friend, is the very model of a traitor.Conversely, if you are aware that your rhetoric is mere over-the-top pandering, then you are encouraging others to see our legitimate government as illegitimate. You are, in fact, advocating rebellion by comparing our President to a tyrannical ruler such as King George, even though you know your assertions are groundless. That, too, is treachery.Is there a middle ground? Are you aware that even this alleged “tyranny” can be escaped merely by a trip to the ballot box? If so, then it is no “tyranny,” for the essence of tyranny is that it cannot be escaped. You’re merely back in the rabble-rousing camp of traitors, engaging in accusations far beyond the pale of reasonable discourse.Which is it, Bart? Are you a base coward, or a lying scoundrel?

  47. Mainer says:

    I’m surprised that none of you have even touched on the whole recent political slam of calling some one a flip flopper. Now when some one simply changes their position not based on facts but on perhaps polls that indicate they are pushing a dead horse then ok slam that but when a politician moves their position after being presented with new or better facts then they are still slammed as a flp flopper. So it is now considered good for a politician to not become more educated on an issue and have their positions reflect reality.Bart your whinnnnnnnnes to just be left alone might well have worked when we were an agrarian society and had unlimited open territory but this is 2010 and there are more than 300 million of us competing for space and resources. What you want is simply not going to happen. Sorry old man but you were born a couple hundred years too late. Oh and that time machine you ordered…..sorry back ordered just not enough demand to justify making one and besides they laid off most of the workers and R&D was gutted so that the CEO could still get his bonus so there were some techno glitches and we out sourced all our knobs to China to save 4 cents each and they have a problem with falling off and……..

  48. shortchain says:

    Michael,Of interest: this on the relative benefits of liberalism versus conservatism to business. (Found via the mahablog.)

  49. Michael Weiss says:

    shortchain,I was initially concerned as I read that article, since it made a lot of pronouncements without explanation. It was much better after the “fold.” The mechanisms are well explained.And, of course, the author mentioned how Keynes was also aware of the tendency of people to try to save during recessionary times, provided they can.

  50. Bart DePalma says:

    shrinkers:Conceded? My friend, I learned a valuable lesson as an attorney years ago. When you have made your point to the jury or judge, just shut up rather than irritating them by beating a dead horse incessantly.The necessity to continue ad infinitum here is even less given that there is not a chance in hell I will change the minds of a group of committed ideologues such as yourself.I post at lefty blogs for fun and to have committed opponents test my arguments. I probably should credit these blogs in my book as you folks have provided me a valuable service by allowing me to test my ideas and forcing me to beef up my proofs on occasion. However, even this has limits.

  51. shrinkers says:

    When you have made your point to the jury or judge, just shut up rather than irritating them by beating a dead horse incessantly.Probably a good strategy. Of course, in this case, the point you made was that you haven’t got a clue about economics. So, as shiloh would say, When you’re already in a deep hole, stop digging! Words to live by 🙂

  52. shiloh says:

    @Bartles ~ just shut up rather than irritating them by beating a dead horse incessantly.One has been beating a dead horse incessantly the past 2+ years at 538.solo estoy diciendo>and speaking of a dead horse, Bart is also 538’s most incessant, ad nauseam whiner, not a close call 😛“Our Republic Has Stumbled, But Has Not Yet Fallen”My descriptive phrases do not begin to do justice to the damage these policies are doing to the country.April 23, 2010 10:46 AMI wonder whether I live in America anymore when the government imposes its will in opposition to the people. That is what ruling classes do, not representatives of the people.May 2, 2010 4:21 PM~~~~~but, but, but this is part of 538’s main appeal ie Bart’s consistent whining! B)btw Bartles, you can have full credit 😉 for your socialism pamphlet er tome on your current life’s obsession: Barack Hussein Obama the freely elected 44th President of the United States of America! :)Hey, it’s better to give than to receive as I’m sure you would agree …take care

  53. shiloh says:

    Moderation is an interesting concept if used moderately …Just sayin’

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