Friday, October 16, 2015

When The Data Matter Part 2: “Bubbles”

     Among the greatest ironies of contemporary political discourse is the tendency among so many on the Left to insulate themselves against contrary ideas and information by never, ever leaving their bubble. The iconic story about such persons is the quote from Pauline Kael after the 1972 election:

     I live in a rather special world. I only know one person who voted for Nixon. Where they are I don't know. They're outside my ken. But sometimes when I'm in a theater I can feel them.

     But we needn’t look that far back to grasp the importance of the phenomenon, nor to worry about the trend in it.

     In The True Believer, Eric Hoffer notes the importance, to a mass movement, of insulating its allegiants against information that might shake their faith. He stops short of saying that such a “fact-proof screen” is absolutely necessary to a mass movement, but he strongly implies that such a movement is unlikely to coalesce without one.

     Reality produces both patterns and exceptions to them. Exceptions are “doubt fodder:” they can induce the sober-minded thinker to qualify his acceptance of important truths. Moreover, virtually every social, cultural, or economic pattern one could name suffers exceptions. Once in a great while:

  • A lawful, peaceable firearms owner commits a crime with a gun.
  • A third-generation welfare mother weans herself of government dependency.
  • A government-run school graduates a usefully educated and responsible young adult.
  • A Muslim absolutely rejects the parts of the Qur’an that promote deceit and violence.
  • A government program achieves its originally stated goal, rather than some covert statist agenda.

     Nevertheless, these are exceptions to strong patterns. In statistical language, they’re “outliers” to prevalent, easily discerned correlations.

     Exceptions matter. Indeed, they matter very much. They’re why jurors are supposed to ignore an accused person’s membership in this or that group and focus entirely on his behavior. But they should not be the linchpins of public policy.


     The choice between good public policy and bad often depends upon the amount of importance attributed to exceptions. Consider, as I allowed above, the phenomenon of the previously law-abiding and peaceable gun owner who commits a murder. Yes, it’s rare, but it does happen. Good public policy would acknowledge the rarity of such an event and refuse to taint other peaceable firearms owners with the crime. Bad public policy would strip all rights to firearms from all gun owners, regardless of their conduct.

     Similarly, consider the phenomenon of the sincere American patriot who is also an adherent to Islam. Granted, this is an apparent contradiction, as Islam forbids Muslims to have any allegiances other than Islam. Yet some such Muslims do exist, and will have nothing to do with co-religionists who support or sympathize with jihad violence or Islamic subterfuge against the Constitution. Bad public policy would exalt the exceptions and use them to “justify” the massive importation of Middle Eastern Muslims to the United States. Good public policy would recognize them as exceptions to a very strong pattern, and would screen would-be Muslim immigrants to our shores with great care.

     In the making of public policies that will affect huge numbers of persons, strong patterns should matter more than the exceptions to them. But for this to be the case requires that policy makers be aware of the patterns and consciously recognize them. Yet throughout the century behind us, a tragic number of persons in high government positions have behaved as if they were ignorant of critical social, cultural, and economic patterns, and have gone on to impose policies upon us that have done terrible damage.

     Such bubbles are among the most important factors rendering contemporary American government as pernicious and destructive as it daily proves to be. When they’re willfully assumed bubbles – that is, deliberate attempts not to perceive the patterns, or to ignore them – they constitute betrayals of the public trust.


     Social, cultural, and economic patterns arise from a variety of causes. Some of those causes have been effectively excluded from the public discourse by the forces of political correctness. But refusing to acknowledge them and shouting down those who dare to mention them doesn’t keep those causes from operating upon us.

     The responsible policy maker must be alert to patterns. He must couple his awareness of patterns to his understanding of incentives and the Law of Unintended Consequences. If, for example, it’s a well-established pattern that the expansion of the welfare system, or the increase of its munificence, causes the ranks of its dependents to swell and their average tenure in dependency to lengthen, he would resist cries for program expansions and increases in welfare payments. Being responsible, his aim is not to produce and perpetuate dependency but to prevent the streets from filling up with corpses. Thus, his awareness of the pattern would incline him to look for alternatives that lack the perverse incentives of “traditional” government welfare programs.

     But not all policy makers (surprise, surprise) are responsible, at least not in the sense intended here. A substantial number are quite willing to strengthen the incentives to lifelong government dependency and its vertical transmission through families. In many cases, it’s because they will away all knowledge of the pattern involved – i.e., they bubble themselves. Whether it’s because they’re encysted among “advisers” determined to protect them from the data or because their preconceptions cause them to recoil from acknowledging the patterns, the squalor, degradation, and squandering of human potential such programs engender and perpetuate are forbidden to impinge on their world view.

     If we could cleanse our governments of every last statist and malicious person in them, but without touching the well-intentioned but bubbled ones, we would achieve virtually no improvement in any of the maladies currently afflicting these United States. That might have been what was on his mind when Milton Friedman said that it’s less important to put “good people” into government than to create conditions that would impel “bad people” to do the right things.

4 comments:

Dystopic said...

This is a very important point. Yet most Leftists I've spoken with believe the exceptions to be the rule! I.e. they will say things like "people rarely become dependent on welfare," which is patently false. They will say "most Muslims are good people" which may actually be true, to a certain extent, but misses the point that even good Muslims tend to be loyal to their religion BEFORE the Constitution or the law of the land.

Indeed, one idiot I blogged about recently suggests that sane white people with guns are more of a danger than the mentally ill, gang bangers, etc... It is so at odds with the how the world actually works that it's difficult to even know where to begin.

Leftists are very well insulated against the real world, I suspect.

1104wrhmr6r said...

Consequences are another thing that Liberal/Progressives are well insulated against in their bubbles as well. And consequences are the conditions that make the bad people walk the straight and narrow path.

Col. B. Bunny said...

That may be your best post of all time, Fran. Or of that period of time covered by my memory these days, viz., your best post of the last week.

Regardless, it captures the essence of modern government. Action is predicated on the most ridiculous outlier phenomena. It's the rare American politician who will point out that the adherents of Islam have been responsible for 30,000 killings since 9/11. The focus will always be focused on particular Muslims who take daily showers and haven't detonated a car bomb in Minneapolis. Yet. THAT Muslim is the focus and HIS personal comfort and convenience become the highest good.

Making decisions on the inevitability of Islam working its magic in ANY concentration of Muslims wherever located in the entire world is verboten. If Muslims gathered in any numbers in Point Barrow, Alaska, within a week of their reaching a critical mass of five they'd start bitching about non-halal food and raping local infidel whores.

Ergo, good public policy will keep Muslims out of Alaska and anywhere else in the West but the equal protection clause and First Amendment are so distorted and weaponized that we are forbidden from acting on or recognizing the mortal threat that Islam and its adherents are.

Reg T said...

I'd like to add to that, Col. As you know, no true, orthodox muslim will deviate from the commands and directions of the qur'an and hadith. Any who - in their heart - truly wish to coexist with non-muslims, are themselves _not_ muslims. Their own "religion" brands them apostates, whose death is sought - as ordered by the qur'an - even more fervently than the death of infidels. For they have "known the 'light' of islam and turned away from it".

We already know that there are many who _pretend_ to be "good"muslims, getting along with their non-muslim neighbors and/or co-workers, using taqiyya and kitman to mislead and dissemble. This they are allowed, even encouraged by the qur'an and hadith, in order to further the goals of islam. When they come to live in sufficient numbers - as in the banlieu of Paris, for example, the mask is stripped off, and they begin to display the violence and aggression that is so fundamental to islam.

Those _very few_ who truly have no wish to kill the infidels, to enslave and rape their females of every age (preferable pre-pubescent) and to enjoy those "pearls", those "beardless boys" (bach bereesh) in "boy-play" (bacha bazi) which includes raping them, they are not muslims. They may identify as muslims, but they follow neither the qur'an nor the hadith. Their own people, other muslims, tell us openly that those who do not follow the commands of the qur'an are NOT muslims. And they will be killed, when the time is ripe.

Further - those few I just wrote of must have some reason for clinging to islam. I contend that a major reason is because there are some facets of islam they still wish to pursue: the virtual enslavement of their wives and female children. The right (per the qur'an) to demand that their wives serve them, including such sex as they might wish to get from a woman, at their whim. The right to punish - including killing - their female children who "dishonor" them. Like the muslim who recently killed his five year old child who forgot to put her hijab on before she started eating her meal. He picked her up and slammed her repeatedly upon the floor until she was dead.

Bottom line: talk to me not of "good muslims". It is probably the most obnoxious, the most disgusting of all possible oxymorons. Many good people, good Christians, even, are ignorant of the acts that even "good muslims" are capable of, and often do. Some of us find it difficult to believe there aren't _some_ good muslims in this world. It would seem almost beyond belief that this could be so. Some of us know, but still deny the facts, in the goodness of their own beliefs and desire to succor and forgive even the worst of men, if they will only repent.

Somehow many of us still believe in unicorns. I believe unicorns are more common than good muslims. And, by their own admission, what we would label a good muslim is anathema to a true muslim, who knows that person is no muslim at all. Until more of us awaken to this fact, we are all at peril. When enough of us _do_ understand this, we will begin to deal with the problem. Hopefully in a complete and permanent fashion.