Deceivers, Skeptics, and Enablers, 7/12
The Political Ecosystem
The political ecosystem consists of Deceivers, Skeptics, and Enablers. Deceivers have a gift for gaining power over others. Think Clinton, Obama, or Trump. Think of the purveyors of the folk versions of critical theory. Skeptics are those who see through the Deceivers and who stick with classical liberal values. Think Thomas Sowell, Robin Hanson, or Bryan Caplan.
Enablers are those who help Deceivers gain power. Think of people of strong partisan faith. They think that the candidate they are voting for is not a Deceiver. They take the professed intentions of political activists at face value.
In the 1970s, popular psychologists developed the idea of a dysfunctional family. The Dad might be a Deceiver, who promised to be a good father but on the way home from work would stop at the bar, get drunk, beat his wife when he got home, and then oversleep the next day, missing the start of work.
In this prototypical dysfunctional family, the wife would be an Enabler, sticking with the Deceiver and making excuses for him. She would blame his bad behavior on alcohol, on his boss, or on some other external factor. Rather than feel angry toward him, she would feel guilty that she had failed to reform him, thinking that maybe if she were more understanding, more loving. . .
The rest of this post is about Enablers. They include administrators who cave in to Woke Deceivers. They include partisan voters.
I think of Matt Yglesias and Ezra Klein as stereotypical enablers. They know enough to realize that some Progressive ideas are misguided. They probably can see that cities run by Progressives are badly run. But instead of being cynical toward Progressive politicians, they remain smug in their Progressive identity. No matter how badly policies turn out, they remain convinced that more Progressive political victories are the solution, rather than the problem.
I also classify Jonathan Haidt as an enabler. His Heterodox Academy stands for intellectual diversity and freedom of inquiry. But by blaming social media for the current climate on campus, he reminds me of the wife who blames alcohol for her husband’s misbehavior. It is as if once the retweet button is invented, people have no choice over how they use it. Like the battered wife who lacks the will to punish her husband, Haidt will not insist that universities must rid themselves completely of their DEI administrators, eliminate grievance studies departments, and expel students who shout down speakers.
In contrast, consider this from Joseph Manson, who is leaving the abusive husband (the California university system).
Why am I pessimistic? For a few reasons.
First, the younger faculty tend to be far more woke than their elders. Second, administrators and student protesters perform elaborately choreographed routines that inevitably end with the former enacting policies that they wanted to enact anyway, for which the latter’s public temper tantrums serve as a pretext. Third, now that standardized tests have been dropped from undergraduate application requirements, a growing number of students will be simultaneously unable to handle university level coursework, and predisposed to denounce their professors for heresy, having been chosen for admission on the basis on their leftist activism as high school students. Meanwhile, California’s K-12 schools are increasingly substituting mind-damaging political indoctrination for education.
John Cochrane recently linked to another discouraging article from professors in the University of California system.
I am afraid that Jonathan Rauch is also an enabler. His books The Kindly Inquisitors and The Constitution of Knowledge brilliantly articulate the values of free speech, intellectual humility, and free inquiry. But when we see Yale and The New York Times repeatedly and decisively reject those values, he still treats them with respect, as if they are still at heart the same institutions that they were when he was a boy. Even though Donald Trump has been out of office for a year and a half, Rauch still seems willing to see Trump as an excuse for the illiberal young brats and their Enabler editors at newspapers and universities.
The academy and the press used to be bastions of skepticism. Professors once defied the bully Joseph McCarthy. Now, left-wing McCarthyism rules the campus. The press used to question the official narrative coming from Lyndon Johnson or Richard Nixon. Today, those same newspapers denounce as “disinformation” anyone who dares to question the official narrative of Deceivers like Dr. Fauci.
When America was founded, the Constitution was the product of Skepticism. Government powers were limited. Power was divided. Most people could not vote. Even so, the President and the Senate were elected indirectly, not directly by the voters.
In the many decades since, the country has become more democratic. The final blows against Skepticism were the advent of mass media and selection of nominees by political primaries. We now have the same dynamic between Enablers and Deceivers that has given Latin American countries demagogic rulers like Juan Peron and Hugo Chavez.
We need to do much better.
An incisive post! You focus on the academy and public policy. I would emphasize firms and HR.
Do tenured radicals in schools and universities brainwash students and produce deceivers and enablers at-large in civil society?
Or, instead, do new technologies, broad prosperity, and Wagner's Law (inexorable growth of government) somehow generate a diffuse culture of deceivers and enablers in all institutions and organizations? In this case, tenured radicals are a dependent variable; i.e., an effect, not a cause or independent variable.
People like Yglesias and Klein are parasites (or symbiotes of the progressives, take you pick). Do they understand what you claim they understand? I doubt it, and it isn't in their financial interests to do anything about even if they did.